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'House M.D.': Wilson's friendship put to the test again

November 30, 2009 | 11:28 pm
I admit that lately, I've been slightly underwhelmed by "House." I've felt that some of the hard-earned character development has been discarded in favor of advancing the plot, or as an easy means to an end.  But tonight's episode, "Wilson," renewed my confidence in producers David Shore and Katie Jacobs. Sometimes a fresh perspective makes all the difference, and a Wilson-centric episode was well-deserved. 

I was hooked the first minute, when Wilson is awakened on his day off by House strumming a guitar in the living room, singing George Michael's "Faith" at the top of his lungs. I love when they show off Hugh Laurie's considerable musical talent.

For his day off, Wilson plans to go hunting with Tucker, a former patient, close friend and, according to House, "a self-important jerk."  Wilson is unfazed by the comment.  "Seems to be what I'm attracted to," he quips.  Wilson 1, House 0. 

Even in his very own episode, though, things don't go Wilson's way, and his plans are ruined when Tucker suffers a frightening paralysis of his hand — frightening because he was holding a gun at the time.

As Tucker, Josh Malina ("The West Wing") is one of the most intriguing patients we've seen on "House," and that's saying a lot, considering the caliber of the series' guest stars.  Upon being admitted to the hospital, Tucker is quickly surrounded by three beautiful women: ex-wife Melissa, daughter Megan, and his much younger "new adventure" of a girlfriend, Ashley.

Noticing Ashley's cold sore, Wilson has "a House moment" and diagnoses Tucker with transverse myelitis, an infection that could have spread from her to Tucker's spinal cord. House, however, is sure that Tucker's cancer has returned, and he and Wilson go so far as to wager $100 on it. Of course, it's never the first guess, or the second (a fungal infection). During surgery, Chase finds that Tucker has pneumonia, meaning that his immune system is compromised.  At that point, House gets impatient and just tests for cancer.

It turns out that Tucker is afflicted with what he cleverly calls "ironic leukemia" — cancer that was probably caused by his previous chemotherapy.  Wilson administers more chemo to fight the new cancer, and the double dose causes Tucker's liver to shut down.  It's hard for Wilson to face the fact that his treatment may have dealt his friend a death sentence, and when the only viable donor liver becomes unusable, Tucker boldly asks Wilson to donate.

As his doctor, it's unethical, but as Tucker points out, Wilson is also his friend.  It's difficult for Wilson to shrug off his role as a medical practitioner first, though.  With Wilson usually in House's shadow, it's easy to forget what an incredible doctor he is, since his role as Official House BFF has to come first.  This episode reminds us that he's skilled and observant.  When a patient suddenly quits bragging about his grandchildren's report cards and Little League skills, Wilson takes note and orders up some tests that save the man's life.  Such a subtle change may have eluded more self-involved doctors, but not Wilson.House-Ep610_Sc46_3035

In last week's interview, Robert Sean Leonard mentioned that though  Wilson may seem bright and shiny compared with House, Wilson's actually "a very strange, dark guy."  Cuddy reminded us of Wilson's three ex-wives this week when she asked Wilson if she could get in touch with one of them — Bonnie, a realtor.  Cuddy is moving in with Lucas, and she dodgily seeks Wilson's blessing and, indirectly, House's.  Wilson, loyal as ever, gives her neither.

Despite the episode's title, everything really does come around to House.  Wilson's P.O.V. gives us a brand new perspective on his relationship with House. In most episodes, we're invested in House's patient, but this time, our focus is on Wilson's.  Thus, House carelessly bumping Wilson's patient out of the O.R. to make room for his own seems even more callous and inconsiderate than these types of shenanigans usually do.  Wilson's quiet acceptance of the act tells us a lot about Wilson.  He's learned to choose his battles: After House calls him a doormat for considering the liver donation, he's not such an easy sell.  He tosses House's "cane-shaped margarita Jell-O shots" into the trash and demands that House leave the apartment.

It was no surprise to me that Wilson decides to give up a lobe of his liver.  Perhaps some of his decision is based on his guilt, but to me it seemed that friendship ultimately motivated him to make the donation. If there's anything that we've learned about Wilson over the years, it's that his loyalty to his friends — self-important jerks though they may be — knows no bounds.

Wilson asking House to be with him during the operation was possibly my favorite scene so far this season.  House relies on Wilson every day — for guidance and companionship, but also for his freedom from the institution.  "House has a deal with his psychiatrist that released him from his care. It was kind of dependent on him having someone to look after him, that he didn't live alone," Robert Sean Leonard mentioned in last week's interview. It's easy to forget that Wilson needs House just as much. Leonard and Laurie portray their characters' friendship masterfully. House and Wilson are easily the most important people in each other's lives, but even in poignant, game-changing moments such as this, they remain stoic and stubborn as ever.

Wilson's small smile as he slipped under the anesthesia and saw House watching the operation from the observation window brought a smile to my face, as did the montage of scenes with House at Wilson's bedside. I loved it when Wilson decided to outbid Cuddy on the loft she was thinking of moving into with Lucas. "She hurt my friend. She should be punished," Wilson quipped.

Last week's Thanksgiving episode was such a lonely experience. I'm glad that "House" will go out on a less depressing note for 2009. Of course, things aren't perfect, but as Wilson told his patient earlier, "In oncology, familiar pain means all is well."  My interest in the show is revived, and I'm looking forward to getting back to the diagnostics team in the future episodes.

What were your thoughts on tonight's Wilson-centric episode?  Did you find it a refreshing change of pace? How do you feel about House and Wilson's new digs? What are you hoping to see more of when "House" returns?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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

Photos: Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) commandeers the diagnostics team (Olivia Wilde, Peter Jacobson, Jesse Spencer, Omar Epps); Wilson asks House (Hugh Laurie) to be there for him during a surgery. Credit: Fox

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