Monday, April 06, 2009

House, "Simple Explanation": No such thing

Spoilers for tonight's "House" stunner coming up (and by that, I mean immediately, so avert your eyes, RSS readers) just as soon as I put on my sunglasses to the strains of a Who song...
"Sorry for your loss." -Cuddy
"Thanks. But it's not my loss." -House
"Then I'm sorry you don't think it is." -Cuddy
Well, dammit. Rest in (fictional) peace, Lawrence Kutner.

I'd have been slightly more shocked if I had just put on the episode live, instead of buffering it like I usually do, which gave me a chance to see hints on the web that Something Big was happening on tonight's "House." But still... whoa. This is now the second show I blog regularly where a regular character has been bumped off in the opening 10 minutes (*). One more and we've got a trend. (Assuming that, in this day of Twitter and insta-punditry, you still need three for an official trend.)

(*)No talking about who the other one is, or what show it happened on, in the comments; either you know and can discuss it in the appropriate post, or you don't know and then we're violating the No Spoilers rule.

On the one hand, I'm upset that they had to kill off Kutner instead of Thirteen or Foreman, and that they did it after barely giving Kal Penn anything to do for the better part of two seasons. On the other, I think this story only works because they never did anything interesting with Kutner. If Thirteen kills herself, we know why (fear of a slow death from Huntington's). Foreman has enough angst in his life to make it make some kind of sense. Even Taub can be explained to a degree: not only is his professional life a wreck, but the show had just established a that he attempted suicide when he was younger.

In real life, there so often is no rational explanation, no simple cause-and-effect for suicide. But for dramatic TV purposes, there usually is some kind of ready-made excuse of the kind that would satisfy people's morbid curiosity (House) or help salve their guilt (everyone else). Here, because Kutner was such a relatively blank slate, you could read anything and everything into his death, and it might be true or it might be unrelated.

Still, it feels like a waste -- or like the writers realized they hadn't done anything useful with Kutner in all this time and decided to make suicidal lemonade out of superfluous lemons.

The performances tonight were uniformly great. Robert Sean Leonard was his usual brilliant self in the moment where Wilson realized House's true motivation in going to the apartment, as was Hugh Laurie at showing House experiencing a rare moment of shame in front of Kutner's parents, but you expect that from them. Even Olivia Wilde and Omar Epps were good together this week, and you know how I usually feel about them.

But "House" often provides good showcases for its cast. What concerns me is a flaw that's been present in the series for a long time, but in particular during this past season, wherein nothing has any kind of long-term consequence. Obviously, Kutner's dead and he's not coming back, so on that level there will be consequences. But based on how the show's been operating for a good long while now, I don't see his death having any real impact on House, and only slightly more of one on the others. And if I'm right, then Kutner was sacrifice for the sake of a Very Special Episode -- and for an incredibly creepy cross-promotional website (that I'm not going to bother linking to, or else it might help encourage future sites along the same line) -- and that's a waste of a good actor, if not a memorable character.

What did everybody else think?

68 comments:

Anonymous said...

I really thought this episode sucked. Yeah, Kutner was a blank slate, but that also meant his death had almost no impact on the viewers. Or at least on me. I've seen on other boards where people are saying he was their favorite character, but I can't understand why. In two years on the show he never did anything memorable and didn't have a particularly distinct personality. Sure, you could read something really deep into his suicide about how there often aren't any warning signs, and blah blah blah, but an inexplicable off-screen death? How much effort did that take to come up with? It really just seemed like lazy writing by a writing staff that clearly never knew what to do with his character. I mean, Amber was on the show for a lot less time than Kutner, but her death had a hell of a lot more impact because you felt like you actually knew who she was before she died and got some insight into what was going on with her when she died. Very disappointing episode in my opininon.

Also, did anyone notice that when Foreman called 911 he said Kutner was a 28-year-old male but that the ad for the website at the end of the episode said "Lawrence Kutner 1975-2009?"

bettyd said...

I agree that the website - not the suicide prevention one - listed at the end was creepy.

I was pretty surprised at this, since it seemed like a likable character to remove from the show. I thought a few shows this year showed off Kutner, particularly with Taub, whom I love.

Did anyone else think the filming of this show was a bit dark - like wipe off the lens or smoke in the room dark? It was distracting to me.

Lastly, I'm glad that House did not find any reason for the suicide. I was checking the back of the photos for something, or somehting hidden in a picture frame, but nothing was found. That made the epi more interesting with the lack of explanation.

Iffer said...

As it happened my first thought was the show runner was saying f-u to the fans who have been complaining and clamoring for 13, Foreman and even Taub to go away. Kutner was the only one of the new people I liked besides Amber and they killed her too. Kutner has proven to be the smartest of them. He has solved the most mysteries. He was the only one I could root for.

On a second pass I can see how this show is supposed to be about House. And this is the ultimate mystery to challenge him -- one that may not have an answer.

But in the end as pissed as I am I am much more likely to stick around to see how/if House reacts.

I thought the show was being killed through the first part of this season. I was ready to quit. The last few have better. But I will be surpised if the show ever gets back to being one of must watch lives. If they fail to advance House and it goes back to patient of the week and House is always an ass-- which I expect -- I will quit on it sooner rather than later.

Anonymous said...

I think you articulated it better than I could but I'm going to post anyway. While this would only work with Kutner and I liked how the death was handled without any answers (suicide can often be like that), I'm ultimately left thinking what a waste of a genuinely fun, different character and a truly great actor. This is the second time they've killed off one of the better, unique characters that came from the Survivor arc in season 4. They've turned a somewhat optimistic, curious, patient character into a depressing one by capping off his life with a suicide.

And I'm mostly bothered by what you alluded to - this didn't seem to change anything, nor do I think it really will. House was still just searching for answers, 13 and Foreman were morose, Taub was avoiding, Cuddy was concerned about House and Wilson was trying to find meaning in House's behavior.

And due to all that it felt like a cheap ploy for drama that was more sensational than good.

Mac said...

They definitely either turned down the lights or muted the color palette for this one. Understandable.

Stiff Shots said...

If Fox really wants to make this a trifecta, they should off Quagmire on FAMILY GUY. :>

On a less morbid note: anyone else notice that Meat Loaf's character was named "Eddie," as in his "Rocky Horror Show" character?

Anonymous said...

Also wanted to add that I heard this death was a decision made because the writers were trying to respond to the fans wanting more Cameron and Chase. The writers have obviously been having a hard time balancing those two with the new cast. While I don't see how it works - killing off the least used character to make room for Chase and Cameron is nonsensical - from what I understand the upcoming episodes and season 6 do intend to use them a lot more. Coincidence maybe, but if there is truth to that, what a shame. I think Cameron and Chase are pretty useless in the face of such a fun character.

Carmichael Harold said...

This episode reminded me of nothing more than the almost inevitable point when long-running, formerly great TV dramas begin to spin off their axis (the John Goodman era of West Wing, ER and the helicopter, etc.). I've felt that the show was flailing a bit this year, but now I'm convinced it's run out of ideas.

Maybe in a couple of seasons they can bring Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits on board to remind me why I liked it in the first place.

Mac said...

In POTW news, I almost felt bad doing my Meat Loaf imitation when he wanted to die to save his wife ("I would do anything for love... but I won't do that!") but I did it anyway. I'll miss Kutner, though.

AndyW said...

I'm in the "that sucked" brigade. I keep being tempted to write off "House" - maybe this will finally get me to do it.

It's just so lame. Did Kal Penn get bored with having nothing to do on the show? They didn't even have him do a walk-on at the beginning to establish that it was the same old Kutner leading up to the big, lame moment.

And the B plot was boring, too.

"House" has some amazing actors, sure, but they can only stretch the material so far... and that sound you hear is the plot breaking.

Jordan said...

If you want to talk about a tv suicide really coming out of nowhere, Crosetti takes the cake. I remember Meldrick dropping it on that Asian woman who came looking for him and wondering if I missed an episode. Then he (Lewis) went serching for a murderer or a reason but came up empty (were those aired out of order?). Man that was a good show.

Andrew said...

On the spectrum of TV suicides, Crosetti on Homicide is at the high end and the Chief on Rescue Me is at the low end. Overall, I'd say the execution in this episode was well-handled, but how it's handled in future episodes will determine how I truly feel about it. The no answers approach to it reminded me of how Homicide wrote Crosetti out way back when, but Homicide made a point of it having a lasting impact on the characters (Lewis in particular) for several years thereafter. That's the proper way of handling such a story. If they merely pay lip service to it in the next couple episodes and then get back to business as usual, then it'll just be a cheap stunt like on Rescue Me.

LA said...

Not only is there a continuity error with Kutner's age on the Fox "obit" website, there is also a glaring spelling error.

"Dr. Kutner was born in Freemont, California."

It's Fremont.

Way to keep it classy, Fox.

David J. Loehr said...

Not only that, but the fake article on the "obit" website lists him as a 33-year old male.

Of course, it's not as tasteful or respectful as any of the fake sites put out by the HIMYM folks...

Jason Snell said...

I really liked Kutner. Fun character, good actor. Better than any of the other assistants, really. Bold choice to kill him... not the decision I would have made, to be sure! Oh well. Be well, Kal Penn, and find another gig on a good show... or do movies.

Alanna said...

I have to wonder if Kal Penn wanted out. In fact, I remember being surprised that he chose to become a regular cast member on a network series. Of all the characters not named "House", he came in with a fairly successful film career of his own, and I'm sure he'll have plenty of other opportunities.

I just wish the media hadn't posted so many articles recently touting an "unexpected suicide" on either House or another show I can't remember. From the moment they wondered where Kutner was, I saw it coming. Then again, it did keep me watching throughout the hour instead of switching over to my first choice, Chuck. Thank goodness that one is saved on the TiVo.

And yes, the darkness was most likely a stylistic choice. Distracting, but I guess it fit the mood.

BigTed said...

The lighting in this episode really was dark -- in every scene -- to the extent that I was a little afraid it was going to turn out to be some kind of dream sequence.

I agree that Kutner was one of the better characters on "House," and could have been used a lot more. It was also the best role Kal Penn's ever had -- for someone who lectures on the role of Asian-Americans in the media, he's certainly spent more than enough time playing dopey stoners and sex maniacs. (Not that I begrudge him his "Harold and Kumar" fame.) As Kutner, he managed to lighten up the medical stuff with a certain boyish humor that made him one of the most appealing members of the cast.

In the end, I think they did this mostly for shock value, and to shake up the rest of the cast. The writers have to know how repetitious "House" can seem, so they do anything they can to force the characters to deal with something new. (Not that they seem to change much in the end, anyhow.) Really, like everything that happens to anyone on this show, it just came down to how it affected House.

SteveInHouston said...

Kutner's suicide surprised me, but I can't say it had any sort of lasting sense of loss and despair.

Contrast that with Omar Epps' maybe/maybe not suicide way back when on ER. That one stuck with me for a lot longer.

By the end of the episode, it felt more and more like a public service vehicle than a particularly meaningful exploration of suicide, even the more "irrational" versions of the act.

Heather said...

I was angry they killed off Kutner. He and Taub were the only people on House's new team that I liked. They didn't give him anything except that he lost his parents and he likes to blow stuff up. I can see how this is great for story, but really, it does seem a little cheap. At least, for me.

PS I heard that Kal Penn did not want out and this was just for story. URGH.

But at least like you said, they did make good stuff out of it. The performances were better than usual and the coldness of certain members of the team really indicated the reactions. My eyes did get teary when Taub finally burst into tears.

How about Meat Loaf? His story was overshadowed by Kutner's death, which is sad. It was good. Unnatural House when they come just too late. Mirrors Kutner's death, yes, but still.

dez said...

And due to all that it felt like a cheap ploy for drama that was more sensational than good.

While I agree, I still cried when Taub broke down. Then Fox pissed that emotion away with the Kutner memorial website. Bunch of tools.

To the other post upthread, yep, I noticed the "Eddie" thing, too. RHPS foreva!

HBO2003 said...

1st Reaction to the suicide was that the writers wanted Chase or Cameron back in the group. I spent all the time thinking which one would make more sense during the B story scenes. When the episode ended I hadn't figured out what Chase would bring that his charachter already didn't show. I think the Cameron/Thirteen dynamic could bring some new life to the show if they go that route.

Kutner was my favorite of the new group because he was House Jr. Over the last two months while 13/Foreman/Taub were messing up cases because of their other storyline problems Kutner was saving the day( and House was noticing). He seemed to only care about answers like House while the others were busy thinking of feelings or consequences to their own lives.

I keep going back to the ending montage a few weeks back where they show Taub with his wife, 13/Foreman, whatever House was doing, and then Kutner eating cereal watching Tivo alone.

Sad to see him go ( probably cause he wants back in movies full time) but I did like the way they shocked the audience tonight.

SR said...

I don't think the writers intended the "mystery" to have a solution, but...I feel like a few weeks ago there was a conversation in which Kutner told Taub he considered him a friend, only to have Taub indicate that he didn't think their relationship was all that deep. That happened, right? Somebody back me up here.

Having that in mind made Taub's weeping at the end seem that much more tragic. Of course Taub should have been hit the hardest by the suicide, and of course he tried to stay in denial until he had nothing else to occupy his time.

As for the Fox memorial, yeah, it's a bit tacky. But I don't think it's in bad taste. I worked on a cable network website where we did something similar for the death of a main character in a science fiction show. Though in that case she died valiantly in the line of duty, so perhaps a fan memorial seemed more apt.

Oaktown Girl said...

For awhile it seemed as though it was being hinted at that maybe Taub had something to do with Kutner's death. But maybe that was simply my interpretation because I dislike Taub so much.

With the exception of the Anne Dudek character (I can't remember her exact "Bitch" nickname at the moment), I haven't cared for the whole new group House's team. I preferred the show with the tautness of the original group. But the Kutner character was definitely smart and interesting. And since they bothered to put him in the show, it's a shame that they used him so little.

mjs said...

I'm not going to bother with my opinion of Kutner's suicide - too long and too complicated, nobody wants to hear it - but just thought I'd pass on the info I read somewhere else:

Kal Penn left House voluntarily ... because he got a job working in the Obama administration! Excellent.

Way to go Kal but I hope you haven't given up acting for good.

Count Screwloose said...

I liked Kutner, too, but when Penn asked to leave the show they had to write him off one way or another. I imagine this will help them get to put the characters where they wanted them to go anyway, albeit more dramatically. My guess is that House's frustration over being unable to "solve" Kutner's case will lead to a full-blown nervous breakdown that has him questioning everything he thought was true.

Or, you know, not.

Bruce Reid said...

I really think by this point that the supposed subversion of television rules in having suicides be unexplainable, out-of-the-blue phenomenon has in fact become the default. It's certainly more standard than how that other show handled that other death; now there was an undermining of audience's expectations.

But I did like the no-win situation of the patients' dilemma being based on their mutual withdrawal from the relationship. One could agree with House and read their actions as self-serving guilt or side with Taub that it only proves their love was genuine at some point and to some degree. Which is the type of complexity this show does well, refusing to slot all our rough-edged, sharp-angled human behavior into smooth, preformed holes.

Well, until another overlong mopefest of a montage ended things.

I agree the real question is where does the show go from here, but feel things have been getting steadily stronger and more assured since the season's weak start. So color me cautiously optimistic.

Tommy Christopher said...

Alan,

I think the Kutner suicide will resonate for a long time, or at least I hope it does. House builds its character arcs slowly.

I loved this episode until the cheesy, husky-voiced promo guy hyped the Kutner memorial site as though it was a Sham Wow

belinda said...

Yes. The episode had everything for me to feel emotional and sad about Kutner, which means I might be just a cold hearted bitch, but as you said, this really made me feel like this was one of those VSE emotional ploys (not too unlike last week's episode, which also had all the inklings of a great episode, but left me cold for the most part because of its similarity to MASH and The Diving Bell..., or that 13 episode that focused on her backstory or whatever) - instead of feeling for the characters, I'm just left feeling frustrated that I haven't connected with the characters on the show for a long while now. I certainly wouldn't think much of not seeing Kutner (or any other character except perhaps House and Wilson, should it have been someone else) around anymore next week, and that simply doesn't happen in a show that I love watching.

The most upsetting part for me was hearing that Kutner was on their team for two years. I haven't realized he'd been on this long in the show and that the writers basically wasted 2 years of what could have been an interesting character that the audience could have cared about. In the same vein of the problems with the new team, I wouldn't have cared if Taub or 13 killed themselves either. And because of the lack of screentime and/or interesting plots, I wouldn't have cared if Cameron, Chase, or Foreman killed themselves either (ok, maybe just a little more, because the effect on House would be more specific. But not even really that much, because of the lack of screen time between House and them for the past 2 years). And Cuddy has become too much of a typical female lead (as the love of House) for me to care either.

I hate to say this about a show that I've enjoyed so much in the past, but this episode, kind of highlighted my frustration of feeling like the show's lost its grip on what made it work for much of the past 2 years. It's the first time I really, truly don't feel invested in anyone in the show anymore, and if I don't, then what is House but yet another medical procedural show with a charismatic leading guy?

amysusanne said...

>>PS I heard that Kal Penn did not want out and this was just for story. URGH.<<

PS, doesn't seem to be the case. URGH.

http://tinyurl.com/dnjqbd

I liked Kutner. A lot. And I think last night's episode definitely worked. I'm just not sure how much lasting impact it'll have considering that we're so late in the season. Combine that with the fact that it'll no doubt be filtered through the "it's all about House" lens and it won't even matter which character died. Still, I thought it was well done.

Anonymous said...

I would like to mention something non-Kutner, and not because I didn't like him, because I did. I was most bothered by the idea of transplanting Eddie's liver and thereby killing him, into his wife. I am not a physician, but that seemed to me to be the most unethical thing any doctor would do. It is basically murder, don't you think? That was glossed over later on in the show, but I truly don't think that would ever happen IRL. Opinions?

Anonymous said...

(*)No talking about who the other one is, or what show it happened on, in the comments; either you know and can discuss it in the appropriate post, or you don't know and then we're violating the No Spoilers rule.

What if we don't know what you're talking about but would like to? How do we get in on the secret that we're not supposed to talk about?

Alan Sepinwall said...

A word of warning about the Ausiello link where Penn, and then Shore and Jacobs, explain Kutner's departure: Ausiello randomly throws in a spoiler about an upcoming storyline near the end of the Penn interview.

Alan Sepinwall said...

What if we don't know what you're talking about but would like to? How do we get in on the secret that we're not supposed to talk about?

If you care that much, I did say it happened on a show that I blogged about in the last week.

amysusanne said...

Thanks for adding the warning, Alan. I think I've read that so much that it's stopped registering as a spoiler to me.

Chris Littmann said...

I get Google Trends in my RSS Reader and I'm sort of astounded to see the way this is dominating the internet today (and the conversely, the relative lack of comments here).

Sometimes hearing the backstory behind a development like this almost makes it seem even worse. But this is sort of the stone thrown into the water, and I'm more interested in the ripples it causes than anything. It is a bummer to lose Kal Penn, who I enjoyed when they gave him face time. That's sort of my rambling way of saying I reserve judgment on this suicide until I see how it shakes out for the rest of the cast/season/story.

Anonymous said...

Found this on Kal Penn
understand it was your decision to leave House. True?

KAL PENN: Yes. I was incredibly honored a couple of months ago to get the opportunity to go work in the White House. I got to know the President and some of the staff during the campaign and had expressed interest in working there, so I'm going to be the associate director in the White House office of public liaison. They do outreach with the American public and with different organizations. They're basically the front door of the White House. They take out all of the red tape that falls between the general public and the White House. It's similar to what I was doing on the campaign.

Will you actually be working in the White House?

PENN: This particular office is in the executive building. The White House has two buildings: the actual White House and an old Navy building called the Old Executive Office. (Entertainment Weekly)

jackie said...

Well, what a show. My emotions have run the gamut. From a pure storytelling viewpoint, I didn't like the choice of Kutner to die. He adds an element to the team and to House's relationships that will be sorely missed and hard to replace. The Kutner/Taub dynamic was a joy. I think the show did need a trim, but Foreman or Cameron seem much better choices. No need for a middle manager on the team and Cam's arc has been done and done and done . . . nothing new there.

However, if Kal Penn wanted to leave and the creative decision was just how to write him off, I think it was brilliantly done. Suicide really doesn't always come with an easy answer. I fully expect the rest of this season will be showing the fallout to this episode, and the fallout will be tremendous. However, I also fully expect it to non-schmaltzy and one we have to do our part in connecting the dots.

Alan, I think this entire season has been fallout from the end of last season. House's three lines in the bus: I don't want to lose Wilson, I don't want to alone, I don't want to be in pain--have each had deep exploration. Yes, we have to connnect the dots, but the shape is there.

I expect the end of this season to shape next season. I don't think we'll have an issue with fallout.

Oh Kutner, I will miss you.

Wordnerd said...

I'll miss Kutner way more than I've missed Cameron & Chase.

I also realized that using a pop icon from the '70's is distracting as hell - the Rocky Horror connection kept working against (or with) the snippets of Meat Loaf songs running through my head. Very troubling.

Wordnerd said...

Forgot to mention that the website promo with the obit took away any sense of drama that the episode might have had.

Nicole Marie said...

That ad for the website was so tacky I was a bit appalled...tacky and lame.

The whole episode seemed kind of off a note or two; Kutner's character hasn't really done enough (he hasn't really had any storyline and has barely interacted with anyone one on one except for Taub) that I could understand anyone except for Taub being especially affected by his death. As I result, I was kind of befuddled by the whole episode.

Wilson barely had any interaction with him (did they ever even have a one on one scene?), so I didn't get why he was all worked up. And it seemed especially out of character that Foreman needed time alone to deal with his grief for the death of a co-worker he barely knows--that totally seemed just for the point of servicing his boring romance with 13.

I see your point about knowing reasons why other characters might have killed themselves, but by not knowing a character, it also makes it difficult for his death to have an understandable impact.

Tosy And Cosh said...

I just wanted to mention how impressed I was with the direction on the scene where they discover the body. From only showing Kutner's feet, and not leting the camera in the room with 13 and Foreman, so that all we saw was their feet sliding in the blood, until, horrified, they slumped back into view, to the smeared blood on 13's mouth, all of it was just extermely well-done and chilling, in a clinical, dispassioned kind of way.

Anonymous said...

If you check out the website, which some people did, apparently Kutner interacted with Wilson on occasion by sharing short stories he had written with him. I just read TWoP and it's been mentioned there a few times. There are other parts of Kutner's life shared on the site that were never shown on the show itself. Anyway maybe that's why Wilson was upset?

Aaron said...

Chiming in as a commenter did this morning. Kal Penn to the White House article:

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2009/04/07/actor_kal_penn_joins_white_house_team/

"His role will be to connect Obama with the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, as well as arts and entertainment groups."

M.A.Peel said...

I just rewatched "Lock In." When Kunter finally figures it out, he is at Mod Def's bed, and urges him to move a finger. He says it will be hard, but that Mos has to try harder. Kutner then says, "I'm sure you have lost hope, since we've been wrong before, but we have it now."

In a nutshell, emphasizes that there were no signs from Kutner of despair. Just the opposite in fact.

Melrose said...

I believe that the writers weren't planning to kill him (or anyone else, for that matter) off the show. Kal Penn left the show because he was offered a political job in the White House.

SOURCE

Anonymous said...

So this absolves the writers then, huh? Not planned, just jumped up on them a bit. Good for Mr. Penn for making the sacrifice monetarily for something he believes in. And good luck on his new work.

Anonymous said...

Melrose is right. i, too, read that Kal Penn (who campaigned for Obama during the elections) apparently always wanted to go into politics, and sees this as his time. Judging by the abrupt end to his character - and the fact that they didn't show him in the episode at all - I'm guessing his decision was a pretty sudden one, and the writers were scrambling.

Still, I feel they could have handled it better. Maybe he dies in an accident, maybe he moves away, gets a better job etc. But why suicide? And one without any explanation. Yes, I know people are going to say that suicides aren't always explainable, but in a show, that philosophy doesn't work.

Also, is it just me, or was this episode's production quality not up to normal House standards? Watch an old episode of House, and then watch this one - you'll see what I mean...

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'm on a conference call right now with Kal Penn, Katie Jacobs and David Shore. A few highlights:

-Kal, as we all know by now, left the show for a job in the Obama administration. The producers wanted to keep him, but couldn't begrudge him the opportunity.

-All three seemed surprised when I suggested Kutner hadn't had much to do of late, saying they felt he had a lot to do in terms of making diagnoses and bantering with Taub. I then reframed it as him not getting much to do on a non-professional front (as opposed to everybody else in the cast), and Shore said that gave them the opportunity to tell this story. If Kutner had had a girlfriend, or if we ever knew much more beyond what had already been revealed about his backstory, they wouldn't have done it, because Shore wanted his reasons to be unknowable.

-Asked if this will have a long-term impact on House himself, Shore said, "House says that nobody changes. And I sort of agree with him. This will prompt him to question the choices he makes, and will prompt him to try and change. Whether he succeeds or not is an open question."

Anonymous said...

"If Kutner had had a girlfriend, or if we ever knew much more beyond what had already been revealed about his backstory, they wouldn't have done it, because Shore wanted his reasons to be unknowable."

I don't agree with this. If they had revealed his girlfriend, his short stories with Wilson, etc., I think his reasons still could have remained unknowable AND I would have felt more about the death. As it was, he wasn't fleshed out enough to make a heavy emotional impact like Amber did. Still sad, but not nearly as much.

Sarah said...

Alan, will you be posting the transcripts of the press conference later?

Shore doesn't have a clue about us as viewers, he was also surprised when you asked him about Thirteen getting too much screentime this season back in January.

I won't be missing Kutner, I barely knew him.

It's sad when a character is written off a show, but not this time, I think the cast needed to be trimmed significantly, too bad Olivia Wilde didn't get a spot in the White House, her departure would have improve the show's balance among the cast.

I think Peter Jacobson did a great job in last night's episode, he was still interested in curing the patient despite his personal lost and only after the diagnosis he allowed himself to cry over Kutner's death.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, will you be posting the transcripts of the press conference later?

No. Too much else to do, and every major media outlet in the country was seemingly on the call, so if you need the other quotes, they'll be out there soon. I have a bunch of other things to do and will be using some of what I already posted as fodder for a column on Monday about the death of Kutner and what it says about the state of "House." (Basically an expanded version of this blog post.)

amysusanne said...

I don't think Taub was at all interested in diagnosing/curing anybody, he was avoiding reality. I think that was the whole point, right? He was focused on that instead of dealing with Kutner's death and when the case was over and done with, it all hit him. I though that Olivia and Omar finding the body and Taub finally breaking down were the two most powerful moments of the episode. Someone mentioned above how well directed the initial scene in Kutner's apartment was and I agree. The way thirteen slid in the blood and the way she and Foreman both launched into "doctor" mode and then sort of collapsed in defeat when they realized he was gone...that whole bit was very well acted and very well directed.

dez said...

There are other parts of Kutner's life shared on the site that were never shown on the show itself. Anyway maybe that's why Wilson was upset?


Would have been better to have that knowledge within the show--even a throwaway line from Wilson to House about it--than find it out after the fact.

Ariadne said...

Is David Shore really as clueless about his own show as he appears to be? Does he not realize the amount of screentime Thirteen/Foreteen sucks up? How could he not notice that Kutner hasn't had a single 'A' plot in all two seasons?

In real life, there may not be a simple explanation for suicide but there always is an explanation. The 'living in two worlds' crap House was spewing was just that, crap.

Shore didn't have the guts to cut the cast although he badly needed to and Kal Penn gave him an easy out, reminiscent of Cameron giving House an easy out during the Vogler arc of season 1. But it's the show's loss. Of the new team, Kutner was the best and most entertaining character, as Amber was of the original candidates, and now Shore is stuck with three characters who are too similar to House himself to generate much in the way of interesting interactions. None of them are enthusiastic or creative thinkers like Chase or Kutner, none of them put the patient first or will fight for an ethical position like Cameron.

The best of the episode I thought was Wilson telling Cuddy that she doesn't care about him, only what he can do for House, Chase cutting through Taub's crap and Cameron cutting through House's (and getting the diagnosis). The show needs more of these three characters instead of the never ending Thirteen/Foreman and House/Cuddy soap opera. It also needs better story telling.

I thought Meat Loaf and Colleen Camp did a very good job with the material. Too bad their story got lost in the drahmah.

Ariadne said...

M.A. Peel said:
In a nutshell, emphasizes that there were no signs from Kutner of despair. Just the opposite in fact.

Exactly that. Since the last six episodes were written after the December writers conference, they knew in Locked In that they were going to have Kutner commit suicide and yet they wrote him as being the opposite of suicidal, going for the cheap shock value rather than the good story telling one.

Anonymous said...

Strangely enough, I have to be the odd one out and say that I think the episode worked. I have a feeling that part of the reason is that I'd seen absolutely no spoilers and heard no rumors and therefore was absolutely shocked. If the plotline is a trend (which, maybe it is) it hasn't been happening on any show I'm watching, so it felt fresh to me.

It left me feeling stunned and, just like House, wanting a reason. If that's what the writers were going for, mission accomplished.

The fake obit ad at the end? Really, really bad idea. Totally took me out of the mood the show set. And I didn't really care for the B story - mostly because it felt like it took time away from what I wanted the show to focus on.

amysusanne said...

>>How could he not notice that Kutner hasn't had a single 'A' plot in all two seasons?<<

He didn't say anything that implied that he thought that Kutner had had A plots in two seasons. The examples that Alan listed that they gave show me that they were well aware of where Kutner fit in the story. Whether or not you or anyone else thinks Kutner fleshed out, important or a fully intergrated member of the cast is clearly in the YMMV department, but in order to be any or all of the above one doesn't have to ever appear as the lead character in an A plot.

@Dez, totally agree. Although I don't consider anything on that website to be canon or based in much fact so I'm choosing not to even acknowledge the stories or girlfriend. If there weren't so many weird contradictions I might put more stock into it as an extension of the show, but beyond the weird age issue (which doesn't match Kutner or Kal Penn's age) it seems that his birthname is different from what we heard last night. I'm guessing that nobody involved in the show put that site together. At least I hope they didn't. I don't mind the writers trying to convince me after the fact that there was this whole Kutner life we knew nothing about, but that site is just silly.

Anonymous said...
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Alan Sepinwall said...

Thank you for being the 800th person to link to the Ausiello interview in this post. If you can't have the good manners to read the previous comments, nobody's going to be reading yours, either.

Anthony Foglia said...

I'd have been slightly more shocked if I had just put on the episode live, instead of buffering it like I usually do, which gave me a chance to see hints on the web that Something Big was happening on tonight's "House."

It could have been worse. I tivo House to watch on the weekends. And today at work, when I check Google News, there's a nice big spoiler on the page.

I'll miss Kutner. He was my favorite of the new cottages, because he seemed easy-going average guy (maybe a bit of a doofus), but was smart enough to still come up with the final diagnosis.

Stef said...

In POTW news, I almost felt bad doing my Meat Loaf imitation when he wanted to die to save his wife ("I would do anything for love... but I won't do that!") but I did it anyway. I'll miss Kutner, though.

Mac, I'm glad I wasn't the only one! :-)

I'll also miss Kutner, and the Kutner/Taub interplay has been some of my favorite stuff this season. Good luck to Kal Penn in his new job.

And I want to give a quick shout-out to Colleen Camp - just cuz I always get a thrill with an unexpected sighting of a Clue cast member. Best movie based on a board game EVER!

Ariadne said...

AS:If Kutner had had a girlfriend, or if we ever knew much more beyond what had already been revealed about his backstory, they wouldn't have done it, because Shore wanted his reasons to be unknowable.

amysusanne, Kutner never had a real patient plot in the two years he was on the show much less any personal story. Even in Emancipation, Thirteen grabbed it away from him.

But even if he had, there is nothing in knowing his personal history that would negate making his reasons for committing suicide "unknowable". People with complex lives may still never reveal their reasons for a suicide.

Besides, since Kutner did it a short two months after the man who shot his parents died as as far as we know nothing else had changed in his life, that's kind of a wild coincidence if it wasn't because of that. So we know the precipitating event even if we know nothing about Kutner and why he did it.

amysusanne said...

>>amysusanne, Kutner never had a real patient plot in the two years he was on the show much less any personal story. <<

Neither I nor Shore claimed that he did. The point that I was making is that you don't have to be the focus of the story to be a part of the story.

Nicole Marie said...

There are other parts of Kutner's life shared on the site that were never shown on the show itself.

Showing links between characters on their tacky obituary website is a lazy, nonsense excuse for bad writing. It seems like the writers had specific plot points they wanted to hit in this episode and did it whether they earned them or not.

They needed Wilson to be upset about Kutner's death was so that he could have that interaction where he said Cuddy didn't care if he was upset.

They needed Foreman to be upset so they could use it to annoy us with more development in Foreteen's relationship.

There were a lot of ways the show could have made his suicide have an understandable impact on the characters (and viewers) without giving some Freudian explanation for his death, but instead they're using the "wanted it to be out of the blue" as an excuse for shoddy writing.

Pamela Jaye said...

My ability to dodge the spoilers was getting less and less as I attempted to find some quote that NBC has noticed the efforts on behalf of Chuck, so I finally managed to finish what I finally started a couple of hours ago.

I agree that the entire ep had a blue cast to it. The color was so odd, and the random comments I almost managed not to read led me to believe that, like with another character, earlier this season, he couldn't really be dead. But of course, he is.

Sigh.

I noticed Cameron looking at the fingers and wondered what she had come up with.
I don't remember or care, but it was the answer.
I have feelings I can't share cause i'm not sure what they are.
I hear a weird noise from the other room I should check out.

At least now I don't have to run around the web dodging spoilers anymore (at least not this one, anyway)

and I still have those Gilmore Girls DVDS I must finish.

Anonymous said...

I would've loved it if, when House and Wilson were in Kutner's bedroom, they would've reenacted Bunk & McNulty's crime-scene re-examination from season one of The Wire:

House: Well, fuck me . . .

Wilson: Fuckity-fuck-fuck-fuck

H E Pennypacker said...

Hmmm - so Kal Penn essentially does a Denise Crosby and the character's death ends up becoming the only interesting thing about that character

bombaygirl said...
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