House: Simple Explanation
by Hemal Jhaveri, posted Apr 7th 2009 9:41AM
(S05E20) Whoa. So, who saw that one coming? As I mentioned last week, my DVR cut off and I never saw the teaser for this week's episode so I had no clue we were in store for this. Let's get into the nitty gritty after the cut so people who haven't yet seen the episode can avoid the major, epic spoiler.
So, Kutner killed himself. I'm frankly at a loss as to what else to say about this. We open the episode with Taub covering for a missing Kutner, since he hasn't bothered to show up to work. Now, right then is when I thought something had gone wrong. There were rumblings of a major surprise for this episode, so I was on the look out for anything different. When Thirteen and Foreman broke into his apartment, I knew it was going to be bad news. For my part, I expected to discover that Kutner was somehow ill, and everyone, including House, had missed the signs. I just didn't expect this kind of illness.
As with all suicides, in television or reality, those that are left behind spend the aftermath scratching their heads and wondering what they could have done differently and how they could have missed the signs. In this instance, it's the viewers and the doctors, including House, who are left in the exact same position.
Watch the scene here:
Update: Now, in the hours since last night's episode, the rumor mill has been churning over time. People have been speculating on the motives behind Kal Penn's departure and come up with some whoppers. Searches for the phrase "Kal Penn Death" are popping up all over Google. As far as I can tell, Kal Penn is not dead or even remotely sick in real life. In fact, Fox has scheduled a 1:30 press junket with the actor, so it's a safe bet he's alive and kicking. Also, he wasn't written off the show due to any friction with the other cast members or producers.
The truth is much, much nicer. According to an interview with EW's Michael Ausiello, Kal Penn has left House (and Hollywood) to work in the Obama White House. He tells Ausiello that during his time volunteering for the Obama campaign, he got to know the President pretty well and "expressed interest" in working for the administration. Now, Kal Penn will be the associate director in the White House office of public liaison. Not sure what that entails, but it sounds pretty fancy. Basically, he'll go from working with Hugh Laurie to working with President Obama, which makes him the luckiest guy on the planet.
As viewers, we're thrown into the same space as the doctors, each of us wondering what, if any, clues we might have been given that lead to this action. The truth is that we weren't given any clues. If anything, House's nod to Kutner's correct diagnoses in last week's episode would have been our only clue that something was off. House never delivers such praise. It didn't feel a like goodbye then, but watch it again, and it does.
Does Kutner's death make any sense at all? No. But, of course, most suicides don't. And that's the point of the episode. There's no simple explanation, and House is wasting his time searching for one.
Say what you will about Thirteen, but the look on her face when she saw Kutner's body was chilling. The best actors can convey everything with just a look and she did exactly that. Taub responds to Kutner's death by cool detachment until he finally breaks down in the end. Foreman withdraws from everyone. Cuddy unfortunately had the coldest reaction. She seemed unfazed by it and only concerned about House. Wilson was empathetic as always, but much more so then I expected.
Perhaps House's reaction is actually the most sane. And Wilson, for once, was wrong. House isn't just interested in the puzzle of Kutner's death. This is really House's way of grieving. Yes, he can't rest until he solves the puzzle, but this may be the only case he can't really figure out. House spends his time digging through all the clues of Kutner's life trying to make sense of his final act. Of course, he can't. No one can. It's a devastating blow to everyone, doctors and viewers alike. The final funeral scene, set to the haunting 'Lose You' by Pete Yorn, was also well done.
For my part, I'll miss Kutner a great deal. Kal Penn was fantastic in this role and House will be missing something critical now that he's gone.
Also, it's a shame that Meat Loaf was wasted on this episode. He was another sympathetic patient, but one who got totally lost in the shuffle.
Anyway, this is really an episode that begs a discussion rather than a review. Does Kutner's death work as a dramatic decision for the show? What happens from now on? Is Wilson right and House is really worried that he's losing his gift? Were there signs that we all missed? Thoughts?
NBCU Photo Bank / Robert Voets, CBS / HBO / WB
Kosta Alexander, Getty Images
Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Hulton Archive / Getty Images