In this age of spoilers, I'm always impressed when a TV show manages to pull off something shocking. So kudos to House for keeping a secret; that made what happened in Monday's episode mean even more. To say more would risk ruining it for those who haven't seen it, so if you're ready to chat, just read more.
If you'd asked me which House character would be most likely to commit suicide, I never would have said Kutner. Taub, sure. Foreman? Wouldn't have been surprised. Thirteen? Definitely. Even Wilson and Cuddy have gone through things this season that could drive them to the edge. But Kutner? He's the goofy one, the Guiness Book of Records crawling champ, and the surprisingly good doctor who — in his last act on House's team — let Taub take credit for one of his discoveries. And maybe that's why it's so interesting for him to commit suicide: There is no simple explanation. House, whose entire idea of himself is built around solving mysteries, can't crack this one.
As he tries to figure it out, House does some truly terrible things. Telling Kutner's parents it's their fault? That's awful, and even though he does look a little shamed when he realizes how far over the line he's gone, that's not a thing you take back. He's ruthless in his investigation, breaking into Kutner's apartment multiple times to search for clues (to the shock of Wilson, though I don't really know why: House's primary motivation is never kindness). And in the end, there's nothing — no outward signs of pain, no diary. House even believes for a while that Kutner must have been murdered; he can come up with a better explanation for that than for why Kutner would take his own life.
Watching the rest of the doctors deal with Kutner's death reveals a few interesting things: One, Foreman doesn't know how to get and give support in a time of crisis. He's used to dealing with things alone, so he rejects Thirteen at first — but finally steps forward at the funeral to take her hand. Two, Taub would rather wait with his dying patient than mourn the death of his friend. But this episode also made me sad that Kutner (and Kal Penn) didn't get to do more on the show. The fact that Kutner is a blank slate may be why his suicide is intriguing, but it made me feel much less than Amber's death did last year, simply because Amber was such a rich character and Kutner (other than a few key touches, like his childhood trauma or his geekiness) was always on the periphery. I'm sorry to see Kutner go, and I wish we could have known him better first.
Some other thoughts:
- It's impossible to separate what happened from why, so here's the quick answer: Kal Penn asked to leave the show to go work in President Obama's White House.
I'll be talking to him, and to House producers David Shore and Katie Jacobs, later today, so leave any questions in the comments.Update: Here's more on that.
- The patient-of-the-week story barely held my attention given everything else that was going on, but I will say there seemed to be some pretty significant ethical lapses going on re: potentially letting patients die rather than treating them appropriately. An intentional side effect of Kutner's suicide? Or did the writers figure we wouldn't spend a lot of time picking apart the case when there was so much else going on?
- So who's looked at Fox's Kutner memorial yet? It's a very web-savvy thing to put together, but at the same time, something feels very eerie about it. And I wish there were some info about prevention of actual suicides (which I'm glad they included at the end of the show).
- Everything in this episode was so dark! Especially at the beginning, that upped the eerie feeling; the first shot back in the hospital after Foreman and Thirteen find Kutner felt particularly ghastly.
Were you shocked by Kutner's death? Sad to see him go? Wondering what this will mean for the rest of the season?
Photos courtesy of Fox