House: Season 5 - Simple Explanation (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from current television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we take a look at the latest episode of House: Season 5 entitled Simple Explanation (as aired on Sky1 on Sunday, August 30, 2009).
What’s the story? The team deals with an older woman who has been tending to her dying husband but is stricken down with an unknown disease that threatens to kill her before her husband. However, they must overcome their own emotions when a tragedy strikes one of their members.
Was it any good? Did anyone see Dr Lawrence Kutner (Kal Penn)‘s suicide coming? If you’d read ahead, yes, because it was widely reported that the actor had chosen to quit the show to take a job in the administration of President Barack Obama
But the manner of his departure hadn’t been signposted. The previous week’s episode had seen him as optimistic as ever… thereby providing plenty of shock value when news of his death became apparent.
Kutner shot himself and was discovered at the start of the episode by Drs Foreman (Omar Epps) and Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) lying in a pool of his own blood at his apartment. Crucially – and thankfully – we didn’t see the act. Neither did we get one last glance at Kutner.
The act, however, sent shockwaves through the hospital as each character attempted to deal with it in their own inimitable way, while attempting to diagnose the case of the week involving a dying man and his mysteriously stricken-down wife.
The case was compelling, particularly as it provided a nice “guest of the week” appearance from Meat Loaf.
But it played second fiddle to the real mystery at the heart of the episode – attempting to discover why Kutner had taken his own life. There was no note and no apparent motivation. None of his colleagues had been able to predict or see it coming.
As a result, tensions were high among them. House (Hugh Laurie) took the news hard, even going so far as to blame his colleagues or anyone that got in his way (incouding Kutner’s step-parents).
Foreman retreated away from Thirteen to deal with his grief in private, while Thirteen was subsequently forced to come to terms with it by herself. A nice moment at the end of the episode provided a reunion of sorts, as Foreman offered Thirteen his hand at Kutner’s funeral.
Most intriguing, though, was the reaction of Dr Chris Taub (Peter Jacobson), who had been Kutner’s closest friend and confidant. Taub seemed angry and almost distant from the emotion of it all, insisting that Kutner had taken the coward’s way out, refusing to blame himself for not seeing it, and pressing on with the diagnosis and treatment of his latest patients.
Jacobson arguably stole the show on this occasion. An increasingly complex character, and not always the most likeable of souls, we awaited his breakdown patiently. When it came, it was alone and tearful… and mid-music montage. But it was nicely performed and not over-played.
House, on the other hand, treated the incident like another puzzle, even going so far as to insist Kutner had been murdered. As ever, his spiky interplay with his friends and colleagues was exemplary, providing the real meat and veg of the episode. And, as ever, Robert Sean Leonard also shone as his put-upon confidant, Dr Wilson.
The reasons for Kutner’s suicide never became apparent, either, leaving his story up in the air. Whether we’ll ever find out is open to debate, but it ensured that Penn’s exit remained with you, like a ghost in the room, for some time afterwards.
In true House form, however, the episode refused to pander to the more traditional need for closure. It revels in the complexity of its characters, all of whom are damaged individuals in some way or form.
Simple Explanation‘s legacy will probably be that the scars from Kutner’s suicide will linger for some time. Penn will be missed. But House remains as compelling as ever…
What did you think?
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