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'House': The Drama Was in the Journey

Where will the finale find Dr. House?

By Deanna Barnert
Special to MSN TV

After eight seasons of patients, machinations and Vicodin, "House" bids adieu Monday, May 21, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FOX. During his tenure on FOX, Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) solved cases no one could solve, saving countless lives. The anti-hero also destroyed a few along the way, and hasn't actually made much progress. Life and great drama are about the journey, however, not the destination. And this study of human nature, brilliance and addiction has been one fascinating ride.

Bing: More about Hugh Laurie | More about 'House'

House first entered the prime-time scene on Nov. 16, 2004, in a pilot titled for one of his central tenets, "Everybody Lies." In that first case, the pill-popping doc prescribed treatment based on an unproven diagnosis, which made his patient sicker but armed him with clues. He was verbally abusive, refused to meet the patient and sent Dr. Foreman (Omar Epps) and Dr. Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) to break into the patient's home.

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In the midst of it all, he also had to bargain with hospital chief Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), who took away his MRI privileges until he agreed to fulfill his clinic duties.

When House and his team finally diagnosed the patient, she refused treatment. House deigned to meet her to convince her she was a fool, but couldn't change her mind. With the mystery solved, however, he was content walking away, especially after his steadfast pal Dr. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) accused him of caring. Empathetic Dr. Chase (Jesse Spencer) ultimately came through with a less invasive cure, saving the patient.

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Thus, House's diagnostic MO was set. The manipulative, arrogant doc would do anything to solve the mystery ailments that crossed his desk at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital. His distaste for the mundane, which included his patients, left those around him to pick up the interpersonal slack.


The complicated genius is a familiar archetype of medical and crime procedurals today. House was one of the first. As he tested his colleagues and friends with manipulative yet enlightening methods, some gained importance in his life, including Cameron and "13" (Olivia Wilde).

Cuddy and Wilson weren't immune to House's mean streak but remained his constants. After the disgruntled widower (Elias Koteas) of a former patient shot House in the Season 2 finale, Cuddy even stepped in medically and "rebooted" his brain. House was liberated from the pain and Vicodin for a time.

Season 3's Detective Tritter (David Morse) was one of many victims who retaliated against House's blatant contempt. When Cuddy insisted House apologize for insulting the clinic patient, House instead inserted a rectal thermometer into Tritter and left it there. A battle ensued. Tritter targeted House's Vicodin use, and it didn't help matters when House stole Wilson's prescription pad to get his fix.

There was an arrest, a trial and a rehab stint. But as always, House's enablers came through. Cuddy and Wilson, in particular, covered his tracks. It proved hard to abandon a doc who saves hopeless patients, and viewers weren't the only ones strangely attracted to House's harsh and perspective honesty.

Personally, however, House's addiction and fear of intimacy kept him stagnant. He could easily depend on the pills: Giving himself to others would prove disastrous, time and again.

Amid House's penchant for dysfunctional relationships and hookers, Cuddy seemed his one chance at love. Though he was highly disrespectful toward her, the tension between them was always palpable. Viewers would learn Cuddy was the doctor who years ago ignored his wishes and performed the procedure that saved his life but left him in chronic pain and addicted to Vicodin. There'd also been a one-night stand during House's med school days.

House spent years dipping Cuddy's pigtails in the proverbial ink, but the relationship shifted at the end of Season 5. Faced with Vicodin-induced hallucinations, he asked Cuddy to detox him. His sobriety came with a revelation and a kiss. Or so it seemed. Upon realizing the entire detox was a fantasy, House checked himself into rehab.

House quickly lost interest in getting sober but faced his addiction to save his medical license. When he returned to work, Foreman was running the team. That obstacle was easier to surmount than proving to new mom Cuddy that he was relationship material. House ultimately won her away from her fiancé Lucas (Michael Weston), but not before popping a few pills.

In spite of this backslide, "Huddy" finally made a go of it. As they struggled to balance their personal relationship with House's methods at work, he seemed to be snarking successfully through the adjustment.

When faced with Cuddy's cancer scare, however, House disintegrated. He showed up in the final hour, but not before getting high. That was the last straw for Cuddy, and any hope for reconciliation came crashing to an end when House drove his Dodge into her dining room.

House landed in jail, but it was business as usual, even in the clink. His medical acumen got him parole. And with Foreman now hospital chief, the final season brought fresh underlings to test. House also married a hooker, fell for her and sabotaged yet another relationship with game-playing. On the personal front, he was still trapped.

Wilson's cancer presented House one last chance to deliver for someone he loves. After their illegal at-home treatment failed, House reverted to duping Wilson to convince him to keep fighting. Ultimately, he actually accepted Wilson's decision and promised to help his best friend enjoy his final months.

But House may have flushed that possibility down the toilet with Foreman's hockey tickets. His turmoil over Wilson manifested in a few blowups and one prank that escalated into serious hospital damage. In the penultimate episode, House was informed he was heading back to jail. His six-month sentence is longer than Wilson's expectancy.

After a one-hour retrospective special, the finale, "Everybody Dies," catches up with House six months later. He will face Wilson's end and one final patient: a drug addict. Addiction is the only disease House hasn't been able to beat thus far. With "House" creator David Shore promising a bittersweet ending to this journey, this could finally be the turning point. Or not.

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The two-hour "House" series finale airs Monday, May 21, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.