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October 23, 2014

House, from another point of view

by Nick Zaino, posted Mar 31st 2009 3:25PM
HouseWriting an episode of a show as literally seen through another character's eyes, a point of view episode, seems like an obvious stunt. That is, unless you can pull it off as brilliantly as House did last night. The episode unfolded mainly through the POV of a man with "locked-in syndrome," played by guest star Mos Def.

The big advantage of telling a story that way is, obviously, to get inside the head of one person, and get their insight into everything that's going on. Unfiltered, in real time. Scrubs plays with the point of view all the time, but when you stick with one long enough, it changes the feel of the story. In the first episode of season five, "My Intern's Eyes," Scrubs used the point of view of an intern, Keith, to show how awkward and frightening Sacred Heart could be. That was a great transition as J.D became an attending. We got to see J.D.'s new role, plus get a reminder of how the show began. The best of both worlds.

Emmy-winning writer/director Ken Levine has seen this trick before -- he wrote an episode of M*A*S*H that used it in 1978. In fact, he took umbrage at the House episode on his blog having just seen the preview. The main similarity between the episodes is that they both show the patient's first-person point of view. And Levine deserves credit for great work, but as some of his commenters point out,, it has been used since then in movies like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and House didn't really steal the story.

Last night's House epiHouse, as seen by Mos Defsode relied on a first-person camera perspective plus a voice-over from Mos Def as a kind of voyeur, similar to "My Intern's Eyes," but more consistently. As a result, we got to see Foreman and Taub spill their guts a bit, using the supposedly "frozen" patient as an ad hoc shrink. He also got a few great, smaller reactions from the patient about House's relationship with Cuddy ("If she turns around, she's into him") and Taub.

Plus, a great twist in the very last minute using "locked-in syndrome" as a sort of metaphor. Unfortunately for Hemal, our writer who reviews the show regularly, her DVR ended early and missed this wonderful, subtle ending [SPOILER ALERT - DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE EPISODE] in which House's vision blurs, similar to his patient's vision earlier, and Wilson, in trying to convince him to keep seeing a psychiatrist to help him sort out why he keeps pushing people away, tells him he will end up alone as the elevator closes. It recontextualizes the entire episode in neat little epiphany, and I will be interested to see how that carries over into the next episode.

The episode looked different, felt different, and was the best I'd seen from the series in a while. It was the kind of thing that makes you happy to turn on your TV.

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thepassenger

I don't mean to be a grouchy nitpick, but it's spelled Cuddy. The show's in its fifth season; seems like a TV blogger should know how to spell characters' names, or at least know where to look up such info (like, say, the show's official site).

April 08 2009 at 11:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
scott

yeah, this was one of my favorite hours of TV so far this year. Mos is pretty great in anything... he shined in this.

March 31 2009 at 6:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to scott's comment
malren

While I loved the episode, I thought he was weak. His voice acting was wooden and emotionless most of the way through, sometimes distractingly so. He works when you can see him emoting, but his voice acting was terrible.

April 01 2009 at 2:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cander

That MASH episode is still one of my favorites. Can't wait to get to see this episode of House. Still trying to catch up on the season.

March 31 2009 at 4:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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