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'House M.D.': Everybody sees dead people

October 20, 2009 |  6:57 am
Doctors whispering to ghosts in the night ... a corpse coming back to life in the morgue ... a bowl of sludgy, green putrefied dead guy. No, you're not watching a Halloween marathon of "Tales from the Crypt"; it's just Monday night's "House" episode.

In one of the coolest cold opens I've seen in a while, an agile criminal demonstrated his parkour skills while scrambling away from a team of New Jersey police officers. As with any good cop chase, the perp ended up on a rooftop, while the police were on another rooftop. Donny (Jon Seda), one of the officers, decided to take a running jump at the criminal and, miscalculating the obviously impossible distance, fell 30 feet to the pavement below.

While Cameron treats him for his injuries at Princeton Plainsboro, Donny's partner reveals that Donny regularly takes reckless risks because he's convinced that he's a ticking time bomb. Donny's father and grandfather both died of heart failure at age 40 -- and Donny is 39 years and 51 weeks old. It raises an interesting question -- if you believed you had an inevitable expiration date, what kind of investment would you make in your own life? What sort of legacy would you want to leave behind? 

The promos for this episode promised "one of the most bizarre twists in 'House' history," and they delivered. After Donny is found dead on his bathroom floor, House and Foreman conduct an autopsy.  They only get as far as the Y-incision before Donny screams and, yes, wakes up.

I admit it: I jumped! I expect the dead guy to wake up when I'm watching a B-movie horror flick, not a show like "House" that makes an attempt at realism. Turns out, Donny's heart hadn't completely stopped -- it had just slowed down enough that the EMTs pronounced him dead. 

Medical professionals take note: If an autopsy ever needs to be done on my body, please make sure I'm dead before you take a buzz saw to my chest. Thanks.

Donny has taken the whole "life is short" concept to the extreme. Once House discovers Donny's aneurysm, Donnie's new lease on life is almost scarier to him than his death sentence. He's suddenly got a lot of time that he wasn't expecting to have. It was sweet to see him reach out to the son he'd previously dismissed. 

Of course, we're still trudging along through the Chase-and-Cameron saga. I thought that this story had a ton of potential when it was first introduced. Chase's decision to deliberately misdiagnose (and effectively kill) genocidal dictator President Dibala gave an edge to his character. 

Last week, Chase scrambled to save himself from the medical review board. He was willing to get both Foreman and himself tangled in a web of lies just to cover his own butt. There wasn't any hint of remorse for what he'd done; just fear of getting caught. This week, Chase is singing a new song. 

I'd be more sympathetic to his regret if there had been any sign of it last week, but it's just popped up out of nowhere! Suddenly, he's unfocused at work, he's confessing to (and arguing with) a priest, he's getting drunk and coming home late without calling. I'm over the woe-is-me story. He made a decision, and now he needs to be an adult about it. 

I can't see any way for this to end well for him. Either he continues to spiral downward or he confesses and probably loses his medical license. Somehow, I don't think Cuddy would give Chase the pass she's given House in terms of letting him play doctor before he's technically licensed to practice.House-Ep606_Sc32_2129

As for Cameron, I think she's being too passive about this whole thing.  She knows Chase is lying, but she keeps letting him get away with it.  "All right, I needed to get wasted, I did, and now I'm better," he slurs after stumbling home at 2 a.m., and she just walks away. Come on, Cameron! Your husband is being incredibly shady. Say something! Get mad!

Finally, let's discuss House and Wilson and the secret whispers. I do think that House and Wilson as roommates gives this otherwise dark season a much needed boost. Their unconditional bromance somehow manages to be consistently lighthearted, even when the story line involves Wilson talking to his dead girlfriend. 

Don't worry, Wilson hasn't gone all Izzie Stevens on us. He's just ... not quite over Amber's death, and talking to her at night helps him sleep.

House spent most of this episode believing that Wilson's late-night "P.S. I Love You" monologues were actually voices in his head. I'm hoping that soon we can stop revisiting the idea that House has lost his marbles. It's one thing to have House battling addiction and depression while practicing medicine. It's an entirely different story if we have to constantly be worried that he's going to hallucinate on the job.

I found House's aborted attempt to address his feelings about his late father surprisingly endearing. "Hi Dad," he says. "I've been focusing on the wrong thing. There were some good times." It's been more than implied that House's father was abusive and that House's childhood was a generally painful one. It's nice to see that the writers are still coming back to that point.

Now that House is more actively seeking his own contentment, I'm glad he can acknowledge his father's impact enough to "talk" to him. That said, I also appreciated it when House stopped abruptly. "Wilson!" he yelled down the hall. "This is stupid."

After all, he's still House.

I'm really interested to hear all of your thoughts about this episode. What would you do differently if you thought you were definitely going to die at 40?  Do you think Wilson's "shrine to Amber" was sweet or creepy? Are you tired of Chase's dead president drama yet? What do you think about House and Wilson as roomies?

Let's get a dialogue going in the comments below.

-- Carina MacKenzie (follow me on Twitter @cadlymack)

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Top photos: Foreman (Omar Epps), Chase (Jesse Spencer) and Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) examine remains in the morgue. Credit: Fox

Lower photo: Foreman (Epps) and House (Hugh Laurie) begin the autopsy on Donny (Jon Seda). Credit: Fox