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'House' recap: And the Emmy for best pustules goes to ...

November 15, 2010 |  9:30 pm

BordaFade in: Dutch slave ship off the coast of Bermuda, 1793. Slaves are sick. The ship’s doctor fears the worst. The Dutch decide to throw the infected Africans overboard one by one, to halt the spread of the disease.

Wait, is this “House” or “Amistad”?

Turns out, it’s “House” with “Amistad” roots.

Flash forward to present day Bermuda. A couple waits for their son and daughter (his son, her daughter — it’s a blended family) to resurface from a diving outing. They emerge with a sealed glass jar from a sunken ship. As the teenage daughter, Julie, is handling the jar, it breaks in her hands and cuts her. Gee, who knew that glassware made, you know, back when George Washington was president, just wouldn’t be very sturdy now?

The girl develops pustules (ew, yes, that word is oddly onomatopoeic). She ends up in a quarantine room at Princeton Plainsboro. Dad, Mom and son, Roger, end up in an adjoining quarantine room.

Then we hear two of the most dreaded words in the English language. No –- not Sarah Palin. Smallpox. (OK, that's one word, but then the Sarah Palin joke wouldn't work.)

And I thought the big drama this week was going to be how Cuddy was gonna bring the hammer down on House for faking a blood test last week. (Although judging by the last scene, a sex embargo may be in House's future.)

Of course, there’s a team-wide effort not to utter the “S” word in front of poor Julie. Could be measles or tetanus, they tell the girl. But having Martha M. Masters (3M) on the team is like having a person with medical Tourette syndrome. 3M is, of course, the first to utter the word “smallpox,” alarming the girl. That woman has no speed bumps between her impressive mind and her mouth.

The B story this week involves Wilson trying to persuade a very young chemo patient to undergo her treatment even though Mommy has forgotten the tot’s stuffed animal at home. Sam makes a cameo — the last time we saw her, she was Kyle Busch-ing Cuddy into a wall at a Go-Kart track a few weeks back. Her bedside manner with kids resembles W.C. Fields’.

In the shadow of a possible smallpox outbreak, PPTH is put into lockdown. We see guys and gals in white hazmat suits. The CDC is called in. A guy named Dr. Broda is in charge, whose main job is to stand up when House says sit down. Seriously, would it kill the guy to try any of House’s suggestions? (Well, as they say, there is no drama without conflict.)

Broda and his team take the girl’s tissue and blood samples and have them airlifted to Atlanta. But they’ll have to wait 18 hours for results.

Because House knows that if he spitballs with his team in front of 3M, whatever they say will be relayed by 3M to patients, he yanks individual members and walks with them down the hall, volleying ideas. Yeah, eventually 3M catches on. She’s a genius, remember?

House has a maritime museum in Bermuda forward the Dutch ship captain’s log to him. Instead of using a hospital contract translator (what fun would that be?) he goes to a live online porn site (all girls over 18!) and pays a woman of online repute to translate the captain’s logs.

What the woman describes is African men becoming sick with fever and shaking. And who wouldn’t believe a Dutch-speaking online sex worker? Could it be malaria or dengue fever? Cervical TB? Some kind of meningitis?

Meanwhile, Dad comes down with smallpox symptoms, and has to be culled from the herd into his own glass room. Starts with a headache, then nose bleed, then –- wait for it –- pustules.

What may have caused this? House backreads Dad’s admission file. Turns out he had kidney cancer six years before. Perhaps it’s returned, and compromised his immune system. When the hospital vaccinated the family for smallpox, he got the virus.

But wait, there’s blood in Dad’s urine. It’s red, not brown, proving that it’s not smallpox.

Gambling with his life that he’s right, House busts into Dad’s quarantined room to give him an Interferon shot for the kidney cancer.

Cuddy brings House a hazmat suit, slipping it through the quarantine room's safety box. It’s moot, because even if House weren’t exposed when he entered the room, he will be when he switches his air supply.

The Interferon doesn’t work. Dad’s fever goes up, the pustules spread. House urges him to say goodbye to his family. Which he does, and dies.

3M gets a brainstorm. She solicits the help of the Dutch-speaking online sex worker, to further translate the sunken ship's captain’s log. Turns out the captain had a couple of cats. One lost its hair, and died -- ah ha! 3M points out that ships didn’t have the luxury of transporting anything that didn’t have a purpose. The cats must have been brought aboard to kill mice. Mice carry mites, which carry Rickettsial pox. Which is curable.

Look for evidence of Rickettsial pox on Dad’s body. House does, and there it is. A small splotch on his back.

A little doxycycline, and House -- and the girl -- will be all better.

Except for that possible sex embargo thing.

-- Linda Whitmore

Photos: Dr. Borda (Dylan Baker, left), consults with House (Hugh Laurie, in quarantine) and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein). Credit: Patrick Wymore / Fox