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House: "Birthmarks"

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House

"Birthmarks"

Season 5, Episode 4

Wilson is an idiot.

I got a guy I work with at the library hooked on House over the summer. We've talked about the series as he goes through the seasons (benefit of working at a place with an extensive DVD collection), and while we generally agree, there's one point on which I don't sympathize: he hates Wilson. Loathes him. Thinks he made the worst Puck ever.

I've been re-watching the series, and while I still don't agree with Mr. Guy, I think I can see where he's coming from. In general, Wilson serves as excellent ballast for our lead; he's not quite as brilliant, and not quite as cunning, but he's smart in his own right, and he's comparatively mature enough to see through House's games. The problem is, Wilson is constantly playing games of his own–and what makes that a problem is that he never acknowledges them as games. Over and over he tries to fix House, and at his worst, he operates under the smug assumption that he is the adult, and he knows what's best for both of them.

This isn't exactly true, as "Birthmarks" does a terrific job of showing. I don't doubt that Wilson is more of a grown-up than the Merry Medster; but the self-righteous refuge he takes in that fact makes it, as they say, "diagnostically irrelevant." Whatever problems their friendship has, it's not a simple matter of bad guy/saint.

But put that on the back burner for a moment. We're four paragraphs in, and I still haven't mentioned the big hook this week: House's father is dead. Oh, and an adopted woman vomits blood while on a trip to China to find her birth parents. Really, though, the dead dad thing should probably be the focus here.

House says he's fine, which, as everyone knows (especially House), mean he's lying. So to force him to the funeral, Cuddy drugs him under the pretense of a SARS vaccine and Wilson kidnaps him for a long drive. Wilson claims he's doing this because Mama House called him and asked him to make sure "Greg" made the occasion. Whatever the motivations, House isn't going to make it an easy trip.

Back at the hospital, the team tries to figure out what's killing the adoptee. She's got a troubled history; smoking, heavy drinking, and a pair of white parents who are at the end of their ropes dealing with a perpetual addict daughter. The mystery here is pretty good; there's a tie back into House's major problems (his effed up relationship with Daddy, his conviction that Daddy isn't really his daddy after all) that's maybe a little too neat, but given the strengths of the episode as a whole, I didn't find it distracting. The real meat of "Birthmarks" is the House/Wilson road trip, but it was great seeing Foreman talking with Chase and Cameron about the case; there's the usual phone-discussions that we always see when House is out of the hospital, but when he gets cut off mid-metaphor, the Classic Coke team tried to work out what he meant. New Coke has its moments (Kutner got to do the patient-bond this week), but I miss the originals.

Hey, though–road trip! When Wilson is picked up for an outstanding warrant in Louisiana, we finally get to hear how he and House met: during a medical conference, Wilson broke a mirror in a bar, and House bailed him out of jail. It's a nicely understated scene, playing with our expectations (the cop wasn't the only one who thought House instigated the fight) before resolving in a satisfying fashion. There's more stuff after that, including a House-delivered eulogy that manages to be somewhat respectful without compromising his integrity, and it all builds to a final confrontation in the back room of the funeral home. Wilson goes on yet another one of his big speeches about how House has to ruin everything and destroy everything, and House finally calls him on his crap.

One of the most interesting things about their relationship, especially when it descended into the depths of season three, is how it's never been entirely clear if it was supposed to be a healthy one. You couldn't ever be sure where the writers were going with it, and the worse things got, the shakier it seemed. Why the hell would Wilson put up with that kind of abuse? He's never going to fix House. He's like a girl who marries a murderer and thinks he'll change when she hides the knives.

Well, we finally got an answer, and while it does go back to that whole "change without change" problem, it's about as solid an answer as one could hope for. Wilson hangs out with House because House will never leave him. Ever. After Amber died, Wilson freaked out over the possibility of loss, and started pushing away everything that meant the most to him, including his best friend. But really, you can't get rid of House. It's part of his charm. All relationships are difficult to quantify, but I think more of it than we're willing to admit comes down to a connection that we can neither understand nor permanently resolve alone. House is a twerp and Wilson is an idiot, but they're friends, and in the long run, that's the bit to remember.

There was more going on in this episode–duh, dead dad–but I'll leave that for the comments. Besides, House's parents were on the show for one episode in the second season. While House's comments about his father's abuse have popped up from time to time, it's never been a story thread that's really clicked; maybe because we don't really care what made House. He is who he is–I'm much more concerned with the present, and I think he'd agree. Or maybe he'd just mock me for taking intellectual cues from a fictional construct.

Grade: A

Stray Observation:

--How great was the kidnapping? And well planned, too; Wilson even bought floor mats.

--Seemed a little too neat that the PotW's addiction problems could be solved by removing the needles in her brain. (Also? Creepy.)

--House: "We're all screwed up by our parents. She has documentation."

--So, Wilson is back for good. Resolved faster than I would've thought, but hey, why dawdle?

--Looks like everyone who was gunning for some Thirteen-on-woman action will get it next week.