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'House' writers' room: Lucky Thirteen and the big house

April 14, 2011 |  4:40 pm

"House" supervising producers Sara Hess and David Hoselton talk to Show Tracker about "The Dig," Monday's episode.

Martini Olivia Wilde (Thirteen) took a hiatus to make some movies. Thirteen’s cover story was that she was entering Huntington’s testing in Rome. In writing her back into the show, why choose a prison stint?

SH: Thirteen’s cover story was very quickly discovered to be a lie. The prison stint was an idea that came out of the writers’ room … as soon as it was pitched, we could all see the teaser and how the story could start. Then it was David’s and my job to figure out how we could use that beginning to tell the most interesting story and reveal something about who Thirteen really is. 

I’ve seen about 80% of the episodes since Season 1, but I don’t ever recall Thirteen mentioning a sibling. Was he invented for purposes of the plot?

SH: Not exactly. She’s never mentioned a sibling before, but internally we had actually been pitching around the idea of a brother for a while now, in conjunction with various possible stories. Thirteen doesn’t voluntarily reveal much about herself, so it was perfectly plausible to us that she’d have kept this hidden. 

Talk a little about hoarding as a plot device. What made that bubble to the surface for this ep? I know the team has busted into some really filthy houses (there was an ep with a cop who kept pigeons, and his apartment looked like a landfill), but I don’t think we’ve encountered a hoarder before. Did you have to do any homework before you write about it?

DH: This episode is about secrets -- Thirteen’s incarceration, House’s hidden emotional scars, Taub’s affair –- and the patients’ story is a reflection of that -– their lifestyle, their house, their miscarriages.   

My wife is a psychiatric social worker and she recently attended a seminar on the treatment of hoarding and sparked the idea for the POTW. Hoarding disorder was just recognized by the DSM as a unique disorder, distinguishing it from OCD. Like many behaviors there is a spectrum of dysfunctionality -- everyone knows someone who hoards things and most of us harbor some hoarding-like habit – but true hoarding disorder can be devastating: isolating and paralyzing.  End of PSA.

As with any episode we had to do a lot of research –- books, documentaries, medical consultants, and of course, our beloved internet.

Who came up with the idea of the Spud Gun contest, and why? It’s all over the Internet, yet I’d never heard of it until “The Dig.”

DH: It was either that or punkin’ chunkin’ (Google it!) and Thirteen looks way cooler brandishing a potato cannon.

SH: In our research we also came across something called chess boxing, and I'm still kind of sad we didn't end up doing that. Maybe one day.

Why did House shoot Harold? (Other than he was just doing what we all wanted to do.)

SH: Well, he's just been called on the carpet by Thirteen, who tells him he's a heartless jerk who deserved to be dumped by the love of his life. And then along comes Harold, who's been taunting him for five years now, with the final straw. I don't know about you, but I'd be tempted.

Talk a bit about how you came up with Ehlers–Danlos syndrome as the springboard for the entire plot.

DH: Sometimes there’s a very practical story reason for choosing one illness over another. In this case the wife lost something emotionally profound that precipitated her hoarding: a series of miscarriages.  EDS is a relatively rare syndrome that is often misdiagnosed but one of its many symptoms can be a tendency to miscarry.    

Taub and Rachel, together again? Seems that when they’re together, he cheats on her, but when they’re separated, he can’t get enough of her. What would a couples therapist say about this?

DH:That they’re pretty messed up. The bottom line is that Taub truly loves his wife and he always has –- it’s just that he happens to be an inveterate cheater.

SH: That was always what made Taub interesting for us as a character … not that he cheats or has cheated on his wife, but that he genuinely loves her, has never really loved anyone else. And she loves him, they have a deep and longstanding relationship. They’re perfect for each other.  But he’s got this Achilles heel. OK, it’s actually an Achilles something-else, but children could be reading this.

Who knew?! Thanks Sara and Dave.

-- Linda Whitmore

Photo: House (Hugh Laurie) offers Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) a martini upon her release from prison. Just what the doctor ordered. Credit: Jordin Althaus / Fox