POW: Amber (a.k.a. Cutthroat Bitch), a saucy young diagnostician.
SUS: Racing heart, runny nose, jaundice, back-rash, pole-leg.
Fate: Death by drug-poisoning, kidney failure and heart-stoppage.
So end of the line for CB, who ended this season as SP (short for "sweetie-pie"). I'm not sure I like saying goodbye to such a rich character so soon, nor was I necessarily crazy about how much her personality changed from the start of Season Four to the finale. All of that said: What a way to say goodbye. Anne Dudek's performance here–particularly in the scene where Wilson explains Amber's condition and she realizes she's going to die–was stark and powerful, and matched by Robert Sean Leonard's performance in the scene where he shuts off her life support. Just sad, lovely stuff.
And yet, the best scene in tonight's episode was neither of those; it was the scene where House gets his brain zapped so that he can finally remember why he was on a bus with Amber right before the big crash that messed both of them up. The answer? He called Wilson to give him a ride home from Fred Durst's Bar–where he was too hammered to motorcycle home–and Amber came instead. Nothing surreptitious, nothing sordid she even left a note on Wilson's pillow saying where she'd be (which he discovered after she died). In House's mind though, he steps cautiously through his memories of that night, while Wilson looks on in the corner. House has never been so self-conscious about his loutish behavior. He was fairly sure he hadn't done anything untoward, but he wasn't totally sure, and having to watch himself with Wilson riding shotgun was a painfully awkward experience. (Except to the home viewer; for us it was high drama.)
Elsewhere in the episode, the diagnostic team struggles with how to treat someone they actually know, and each of them has individual moments of epiphany. Taub corners House to ask–rogue-to-rogue–whether he might've been sleeping with Amber. Thirteen gets called out by House for her timidity in the face of her own mortality, so she finally tests herself for Huntington's, and gets a "positive." And Kutner reveals that his persistently light spirit is due in large part to the fact that his parents were murdered when he was a kid, which meant he had to learn to overcome sorrow early. (Kutner had perhaps the most touching moment in the episode's closing montage, in which he sat alone on the floor of his apartment, watching TV and eating cereal, just like a little boy.)
But as always, House is ultimately about House, and how he lives with himself. In a callback to the season-opener's "go into the light" business, House imagines himself bathed in luminescence, telling the now-dead Amber that there's no justice if he survives a bus crash and she doesn't. Is this the prelude to a Season Five where House is chastened and–once again–on the verge of change?
Well, that's the formula for this show, anyway. And at the moment, it's still got some kick in it.
Grade: A (including last week)
-Was there a political comment intended by the "Vote For Change '08" bumper sticker in the ladies' restroom? And if so, is that comment pro-change or anti-change?
-Songs by Iron & Wine and José Gonzalez tonight it's like House is doing this month's Popless right along with me.
-It's hard to point to a "line of the night" in such a somber episode, but I did like when the dream-Amber asked House if he was all right, and he replied, "I can't really say yes when it's a hallucination asking."
-House's imagination is sexy