House is insane. No, really. Not the usual brilliant-maverick-doctor-who-just-might-kill-the-patient insane. Not even the sky-high-on-vicodin kind of insane. This is a step above and beyond anything we've ever seen, and it's going to push the show straight into uncharted territory as we make our way toward the season finale.
If you've watched the last two episodes, you know that House has been hallucinating Amber, alive and well within the confines of his mind. Now, we've seen House hallucinate before. A lot, actually, which is not so surprising when you consider the fact that his addiction to Vicodin is part of the show's main premise.
In Three Stories, we learned that House saw visions when he crashed while recovering from his infarcted leg. In the second season's finale, No Reason, House hallucinated nearly an entire case after being shot. And, perhaps most notably, after the fourth season's finale bus accident, he reconstructed the entire incident (plus some bonus fantasy moments) in his own mind. So the presence of a hallucination itself isn't really shocking. And, when you think about it, the fact that Amber's been helping with the case isn't that surprising either. After all, in House's Head, stripper!Cuddy helped with a differential too.
But never before has House been outsmarted by one of his hallucinations. In No Reason, he was able to figure out that the timeline he was living didn't make sense, thereby returning himself to conscious thought. In House's Head, he was well aware of what was and wasn't real. But while House may know that Amber is the product of his own mind, her intentions are a mystery to him. In House Divided, he frequently asks her to clarify what she's saying, or to tell him what is going on. When she leads him to trick Chase into giving the patient a cochlear implant against his will, House can't explain to anyone else why he did it.
And Amber's sudden presence isn't the only thing that's happened over the past few episodes. House's behavior has changed drastically since Kutner committed suicide. Suddenly he's questioning himself, lying awake at night, and coming up with theories more irrational than any he's ever had before.
If you put all of these things together, I think they make a pretty clear picture: House is paranoid schizophrenic.
Maybe it was brought on by Kutner's death, or the traumatic brain injury he suffered in the bus accident last year. Maybe it's the product of years upon years of isolation and drugs. Maybe he's finally fallen victim to the brilliance of his own mind.
The signs are all there, with Amber herself being the most blatant.
In Simple Explanation, House came up with the theory that Kutner had been murdered by the man who killed his parents years before. Even for House, who seems to find the most tenuous links between causes and effects, this is extreme. He was aware that the man was in prison, and aware that Kutner had been killed by his own gun, with no signs of an intruder in his apartment. Yet House stuck to the theory long enough to research it until it met a factual dead end. At the time, everyone thought it was his way of coping. Now, at least to me, it looks more like the beginning of a paranoid delusion.
In House Divided, Amber spends the entire episode driving a wedge between House and everyone else. She insults the team, and tells House that "some people just work better alone." She tries to get Chase in trouble with the cochlear implant, suggests killing Foreman in order to circumvent his authority, and insists on having Wilson attend the bachelor party against his will by staging the whole thing in his apartment. Finally, there is the incident with Karamel's strawberry body butter almost killing Chase. House is convinced that Amber planned the entire party around this intention, and since she is a part of him, that the motive must be his own.
If that's not a paranoid delusion, I don't know what is. Even his hallucination--his own mind--is out to get him and the people he cares about. This is House's worst fear. Not only is he losing his ability to do his job--listening to Amber almost led to the patient's death as well--but he's actively hurting the few people who do matter to him.
So, where is all of this leading? To that game-changing event Shore and Jacobs have been promising us since January.
Now, one could argue that Kutner's death was a game-changer in itself, but I think it was only the first domino to fall.
We know that next week, House attempts to quit Vicodin, because he thinks it's to blame for Amber's presence. But clearly that doesn't work, since she's also in the season finale. We also know that House's pain has been worsening this season, as revealed by his conversation with the chronic pain patient in Painless, and from his stint on methadone in The Softer Side. Where does that leave him at the beginning of the finale? With worsening pain, without his usual coping method, and with Amber still around.
And that big shocker? I think House is going to want his leg amputated, and I think he's going to ask Chase to do it.
The summer after season three, some sides went around in which Chase, Cameron, and Foreman discuss House's decision to have his leg amputated in order to relieve worsening pain. When that didn't happen in season four, we all assumed those sides were fake. But now that scenario makes sense. Especially when you consider that we have press releases stating that he's willing to do "the unthinkable." To House, the unthinkable would be finally giving in and forfeiting his leg. Add to that this promo pic, whose caption says that Cameron is watching Chase perform "a difficult surgery." Really? He does crazy impossible surgeries for House's patients all the time, and she's never needed to watch before. That leads me to believe that this difficult surgery must be on House himself. Which would fit in perfectly with everything Shore and Jacobs have been telling us about the beginning of next season being different.
The end of the finale will find House alone, without drugs, without his leg, and still hallucinating. Where does that lead? The psych ward, apparently.
I can't wait to see.