I think the term "Very Special Episode" went out of vogue sometime around when Family Ties went off the air. Tonight's House had all the trappings though: an extended running time (eight extra minutes), a shot of melodrama added to the usual formula, and a possible exit for a major character. How did it all play out?
I've been a fan of Zeljko Ivanek since Homicide and loved his work on Emmy-winning work on Damages, not to mention his scene-stealing in John Adams. Don't get me wrong, Ivanek is good in his role as a patient who takes House, Thirteen, and others hostage to secure a diagnosis. But the role as written is so functional, the character so single-minded, that we never get to see Ivanek really strut his stuff until the very end. As usual, the point of this episode was to comment on House: his cynicism, his estrangement from others, and what he's doing about it.
House is actually pretty noble for most of this episode, trying to treat the patient and get hostages released with no one getting hurt. (I liked the use of Cuddy's wall as a board for the differential) I won't spoil the ending for those with TiVo, but late in the episode there is a moment when House could end the crisis but doesn't take the chance because the patient hasn't been diagnosed. While it seems absurd this behavior is actually entirely consistent with House's character, and anything less would be a disappointment.
But the real star tonight is Olivia Wilde's Thirteen, who as we've already learned this season seems to be running out the clock after that Huntington's diagnosis. Thirteen is forced by the hostage taker to take all of the meds that he takes as an insurance against poisoning, and the drugs combined with her disease leave her near death. Again no spoilers, but by the end of the episode Thirteen has in effect become the anti-House - choosing life and human connection over self-involved misery. I wasn't really surprised by the way anything resolved itself in this episode, but there's real potential in the House-Thirteen relationship. How will one doctor's attitude towards sickness and her own life (as she undergoes a Huntington's clinical trial) influence the other? Maybe something special came out of this week's House after all.