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'House' writers' room: The cut of Masters' jib

April 20, 2011 |  4:34 pm

Jib Co-executive producers Liz Friedman and David Foster talk about "Last Temptation," this week's episode of "House."

This week we get to see Masters at home: her bedroom, her morning routine, her roommate, etc. How did you come up with her the paper airplanes, chanting the anatomical parts, etc.?

We wanted something in her room that represented Masters’ background as a mathematician. We thought of paper airplanes because of the semi-famous paper airplane contest at MIT, where students use all of their considerable engineering knowledge to see who can build the best airplane. As for chanting the anatomical parts, it seemed right that Masters would wake up every day ready for action and immediately start preparing for the challenges ahead. Masters isn’t just smart, she’s also incredibly driven.

Please talk a bit about putting Masters through the ultimate ethical dilemma, the one that really forced her hand to break the rules.

We wanted to put Masters in a situation where following the rules was clearly going to lead to a disastrous outcome. And we liked that the same drive and ambition which draws Masters to the patient initially are what put these two women at odds later in the story. The patient is committed to her sail, to the point that she’s risking her life. Which creates a conflict for Masters: do what’s considered ethical and let the patient (in all likelihood) kill herself or follow House’s lead, break the rules and save the girl.  House has been trying to get Masters to break the rules since she started, she’s resisted at every turn, we knew it’d take an extraordinary situation for her to finally give in.

Who inspired the character of Kendall?  

There were many inspirations from Tania Aebi to Abby Sunderland to the young Dutch woman Laura Dekker who’s currently solo circumnavigating the globe. (Here’s her blog:  They’re all truly extraordinary young women with incredible drive and talent, which reminded us a lot of Masters.

Masters kind of sees a bit of herself in Kendall, doesn’t she? But then, she’s also felt sexually attracted to patients in the past, and at times, preachy. She tends to get sucked into their lives.

Masters does get involved with her patients. This is a common, and wonderful, trait in medical students. I think many doctors would welcome the time and opportunity to get involved in their patient’s lives the way medical students do.

I was really put off by the patient’s parents. Was there a debate as to whether parents would allow their child to delay cancer treatment in order to sail around the world? I’m not a parent, but their stance was a bit counterintuitive to me. 

The parents are in a tricky situation. If they oppose their daughter too much, she will go to court and have herself declared an emancipated minor, effectively cutting the parents out of the situation all together. While they may not agree with her decision, they are forced to go along with it to remain involved with their daughter. And let’s face it, most of us aren’t raising our kids to sail around the world alone even when they’re healthy. This family has a unique dynamic.

Who came up with the chicken/golden retriever story line, and why?

We were looking for something fun and, well let’s just say it, stupid for House and Wilson to be doing.  The notion being that House is recovering from his break-up with Cuddy and Wilson, as his closest friend, is looking out for him, spending extra time with him … and helping him have some totally immature fun.   We were in a meeting with [creator] David Shore and after some discussion of the Canadian TV show “Kenny vs.Spenny” (where two friends make stupid bets with each other) we decided “who can keep a chicken in the hospital the longest” fit the bill.

I’m still mulling: Why did Kendall fall on her boat in the opening scene if the cancer is in an arm bone? She never talks about any arm pain. 

The cancer in her arm caused a paraneoplastic syndrome that made her a bit unsteady on her feet, hence the fall. Kendall’s long days of training gave her many aches and pains. Kendall ascribed her arm pain to just one more bruise that she got sailing.

Thanks for clearing that up, Liz and Dave.

-- Linda Whitmore

Photo: Masters (Amber Tamblyn) gets a taste of the dark side, and she doesn't like it. Credit: Michael Yarish /Fox