After a long winter break, “House” is back with one of the best episodes of this season. Season 8 of Fox’s once great medical drama has been decent overall, but not nearly as exciting as earlier seasons. “Better Half,” though, is a perfect example of why loyal fans continue to watch House’s antics week after week, year after year.
The episode focuses on a thirty-something man named Andres (Ivo Nandi) who is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Suffering with him is his loving and devoted wife, Natalie (Melanie Lynskey), who must constantly inform Andres of where they are and what is going on. Even though Natalie appears completely supportive, there is something in her eyes that shouts she is worn out. While meeting with a doctor who specializes in the disease, Andres flies off into a fit of rage (not too uncommon according to Natalie), but then he begins coughing up blood.
Next thing we know, Foreman is informing House of his new patient and, to House’s dismay, that Foreman will be “helping out” with the diagnosis since the hospital is running a trial on an Alzheimer’s treatment. With Taub out taking care of a sick kid, House needs another team member. And so, the power struggle begins. Most interesting is that Foreman has received notice from the court that House’s ankle bracelet (a result of his early release from prison) could be removed if approved by Foreman. Unbeknownst to House, Foreman is deliberating on just how much freedom he is willing to give him.
Elsewhere in Princeton-Plainsboro, Wilson is doing a routine examination on a young woman when she informs him that she and her husband are asexual, meaning they neither desire nor engage in sexual activity at all. Though he understands it is a legitimate sexual orientation, Wilson is nevertheless taken aback and decides to share the news with House. In true House fashion, he bets Wilson that he can find a medical reason to explain her asexuality. Few things are more fun on “House” than when these two brilliant men make immature, unprofessional bets in regards to their patients and coworkers.
Meanwhile, the team is trying to figure out what is causing Andres’ sickness and if it relates to his Alzheimer’s at all. House and Foreman continue to struggle for power, with House typically winning and gloating as he points out that he is always one step ahead of Foreman. To demonstrate, every time he is right about something, he instructs a team member to remove a card from under a chair or table on which House has already written what would happen.
Soon, it becomes clear that Andres’ effect on Natalie is greater than she lets on. Andres’ personal assistant, Joseph (Ryan Alonsio), shows up at the hospital and it’s clear that the two are more than just friends. Natalie admits that they have talked about taking it further and what would happen if or when Andres dies, but nothing more has happened.
This prompts a discussion between Chase and Adams regarding duties as a spouse and what should be allowed in situations such as this. Both doctors have been divorced, but they have seriously different outlooks on the subject. Chase thinks that if one spouse’s illness is preventing the other spouse from living his or her life, then he or she has every right to leave. We find out a little bit more about Chase’s childhood (which has been pretty secretive up to this point) and how his alcoholic mother was incapable of caring for him or his sister. Chase pretty much raised his sister himself while also taking care of his sick mother. His feelings are clearly coming from a place of experience.
Even though his focus is supposed to be on Andres, House is still attempting to discover why the young couple thinks they are asexual. After bending the rules of the bet a little bit, House invites the husband in for a routine flu shot and proceeds to take blood to run a test. Even though Wilson says this negates the bet, what House discovers is enough to make Wilson forgive the ruse.
The husband, Randy (Brian Skala), has a tumor growing in his brain that has been there since before puberty. It causes a decreased libido and impotence, making him think he is naturally asexual. When Wilson explains the situation, his wife, Kayla (Corri English), is relieved since the treatment would reverse those side effects. Kayla chose to become asexual for Randy and has been struggling with the decision for a long time.
An unusual twist to this episode is that Foreman, not House, discovers what is causing Andres’ rage and bleeding. He complained of a sore throat a few weeks ago and Foreman realizes he must have taken Advil for it. He of course forgot he took Advil, so he took some more. So on and so forth. This led to a severe reaction that exacerbated his condition. He will still suffer from Alzheimer’s, but he’ll be healthy otherwise.
In the end, Foreman chooses to allow House to have his ankle bracelet removed. Only time will tell how big of a mistake that was.