House is sitting in a conference room staring at a list of his patient’s symptoms on a board. Amber, a former fellow (who has demonstrated herself to be a lot like the selfish and caustic House), walks in. She is dating House's best friend Wilson, and House is sure that her involvement is shadowing an ulterior motive—most likely to get her job back with House himself. Amber walks over to stand between the board and House.This scene occurs in a recent episode of House, Fox's television series about the aforementioned savant-but-acerbic doctor who solves the most mysterious of cases. Throughout the series, House’s blunt and skeptical view of human nature and faith is often a subject for exploration and challenge. House believes we humans always act in our own self-interest (and frequently shares that view in crass ways like in the above scene). Often, House has it right. That is definitely part of our human condition; we are bent that way. But House also comes face to face with another part of what it means to be human: our draw towards self-sacrifice, love, and other virtues—those echoes of who we were originally created to be. The above scene is one of those latter moments, and this one becomes a turning point for House.
Amber: You wanted to see me?
House (picking up his coffee cup): And you came.
Amber: I feel pretty confident it will be something interesting.
House: Solve this case and the job is yours.
Amber: Is there a “drop Wilson” clause attached to this?
House: Standard contract all employees sign.
Amber pulls out a chair and intentionally places it in front of House and between the board listing the symptoms. She sits in it, her back still to the board, and looks at House for a moment.
Amber: Why do you have to believe I have an ulterior motive?
House: For the same reason that I believe that crack whores are going to have sex—for crack.
Amber leans forward, looking straight at House.
Amber: All my life, I thought I had to choose between love and respect—and I chose respect. And with Wilson, I know what it’s like to have both.
House looks at her, silent.
Amber: And that beats the fellowship.
She stands, puts the chair back and turns around. She sees the board and looks over it briefly and then walks to the door. She pauses.
Amber: Could be DIC.
House looks over at her, his expression thoughtful.
House: You’ve changed.
Amber: I hope so.
House (referring to the board): Normal platelet count rules out DIC. Good try though.
Amber smiles. House smiles back. She opens the door and leaves.
--from “Don’t Ever Change” episode of the 4th season of Fox's House
In this episode, House and his team are trying to figure out why a 30ish woman, who recently converted to Hassidic Judaism, fell ill during her wedding celebration. What trips up House is that only a short time before, his patient was a record producer living the fast life (including drugs). He can’t accept that she’s so radically changed her life, embraced a radical faith, given up her career and married a man who she barely knows (but both of whom nevertheless shows deep affection and care). He spends much of the episode trying to find a medical or biological reason for her change: “Religion is a symptom of irrational belief and groundless hope,” he says at one point. “People don’t change,” he says over and over again.
The turning point for House, however, comes along another line. His best friend Wilson is dating Amber. He’s sure that Amber’s choice to get involved with Wilson is a cover for something else, most likely having to do with either him or getting her fellowship back. However, in the above scene, he’s faced with the possibility that she’s really changed. That revelation ripples into his ability to solve the medical case (which ends up suggesting his patient's decision to enter into a radical relationship with God was an indication that she had indeed changed and had nothing to do with her biological or medical condition). It changes House and the way he views people, and that is pretty radical when it comes to House, as it is for any of us.
But what I love about this scene is that while it focuses on the power of love and respect of one person on another’s life, it echoes the power of the love we experience and the value we discover when we walk with and come into contact with God. Indeed, it is echoed and played out (albeit more subtly) in his patient’s life. This is what love—real love—does.
House isn’t the only one affected by all this. Taub, one of the fellows on House’s team, also expresses skepticism of the Hassidic couple’s religion, decisions and worldview (though not as deeply as House). But as he watches the couple’s faith and care for each other (even though they’ve only just met), he’s moved and backs off on his skepticism, allowing that there may be something to their faith and way of life. Their faith (and the love for one another that seems to grow from that) radically shapes who they are—it is who they are. And that rattles Taub’s worldview.
The changes in the lives of others invites both House and Taub to reconsider their own beliefs and views of the world. In both instances, it is love that has made the difference in those lives—one the love of another human being and the other both the love of God and another. This is how love works. Being loved by others and loved by God are inexorably connected, as we see in Jesus’ summary of how we were made to live: Love God and love others. The one draws us to the other.
House keeps me hooked with episodes like this. Well done.
(Images: Fox) housectgy