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March 6, 2007
Episode Number
3.15 Rating
Guest Star(s)
Final Diagnosis
Zebra Factor
"Depression in cancer patients, it’s not as common as you think. It’s not the dying that gets to people, it’s the dying alone. The patients with family, with friends, they tend to do okay. You don’t have cancer. You do have people who give a damn, so what do you do? You fake the cancer, then push the people who care away."

Half-Wit is a third season episode of House which first aired on March 6, 2007. House becomes intrigued with the illnesses being suffered by a young piano playing savant. However, his team is more worried about him when they learn he is traveling to Boston for experimental treatment for brain cancer and work overtime to ensure the diagnosis is correct.


During a performance, a savant pianist starts hitting the wrong notes for the first time in his life. He soon stops playing and complains that his hand hurts, and he exhibits the symptoms of dystonia.

The pianist is taken to Princeton-Plainsboro. House wakes up his team early in the morning. They discuss how the patient became mentally handicapped after an auto accident when he was ten. House is fascinated how a ten year old with no musical training became a musical genius. He orders a lot of tests.

Foreman does the physical exam, and finds the patient has many cognitive difficulties but is otherwise responding normally.

House meets the patient and plays the opening bars from "I Don't Like Mondays". The patient copies him perfectly. He also has perfect pitch. The patient is in excellent health, but House wants him to stay. House starts playing a piece he once started to compose, and the patient finishes it.

House gives the patient a functional MRI while playing music to him, but the patient's brain shows nothing special until they get him to pretend he's playing a piano. However, this indicates he has a heart condition that makes the arteries in his arms constrict. The patient needs surgery.

Cameron finds a letter which indicates that House might be looking for a new job. Foreman remembers the blood sample, which is common for people getting medical clearance for employment. Cameron and Chase go to search House's home for clues.

The surgery does not go well and the patient goes tachycardic heart attack and has to be defibrillated.

Cameron and Chase find a phone number for Massachusetts General Hospital. They report to Cuddy, who calls Mass General. She soon figures out he's not looking for a job, he has spoken to their oncologist who specializes in brain cancer.

Cuddy speaks to Wilson who says it's not unusual for a patient to show no outward symptoms or not tell anyone.

The patient realizes that the testing procedure is going to hurt and resists being tested.

Cameron asks Wilson what is up with House. She is afraid she has to look for a new job.

Wilson finds House playing the piano. Wilson figures out House is envious of his patient's abilities. Wilson tells House he knows about the cancer. However, House is optimistic. Chase tells House the patient is bleeding internally and that he had a seizure even though he's on anti-seizure medication. House figures out from the way Chase is stopping to swallow while he’s talking that Chase knows about his cancer diagnosis, as does the rest of his team. Wilson admits to telling Cameron. House suggests hurting the patient's brain on the theory they can't do much more damage anyway.

Cameron tells House she doesn't want to work at Princeton-Plainsboro if he's not there. She kisses House passionately. However, she was just trying to get close enough to get a blood sample, but House catches her. He finally gives Cameron his medical file, which is hidden under another name. The team reviews the file and confirms the diagnosis—the prognosis is death in about a year.

The patient has another grand mal seizure. The team finds out House's treatment is not designed to reduce the cancer, only treat depression. House wants to work on the patient, who shows one side of his brain working harder than the other. House goes to see the patient to do an angiogram, and tells him about his team's efforts. He asks his patient if he enjoys his life. He says he likes the piano.

Foreman is calling brain cancer doctors, but House catches him and tells him he's wasting his time. House tells the team the patient needs a brain biopsy because there are collections of blood throughout the white matter of the patient's brain's right hemisphere. He wants them to take small samples from various locations. The team is not supportive because they liken it to working blindfolded. However, Foreman suggests doing an EEG from the inside of the brain—dangerous, but it might show them where to do the biopsy. House agrees with Foreman, and Foreman is surprised. He explains the procedure to the father, who consents to it.

They drill holes in the patient's skull. Foreman gets the results, but wants to tell House he admires him because of his faults. House brushes him off. The EEG showed the patient's entire right hemisphere is brain dead.

House admonishes the team for letting half the patient's brain die. The seizures are getting worse. The patient can't recognize anything seen through his right eye. However, he still has the ability to play the piano. This indicates that the right side of his brain has probably been inactive for years and the patient most likely has an autoimmune disease. Foreman goes to run tests for the most treatable possibilities.

Chase comes in because he wants to hug House, and does so after warning House of what he is going to do. When House asks him if he is crying, he lies that he is not, and leaves. Although the patient is getting better, House wants to improve the patient's cognitive abilities.

House goes to Cuddy in the middle of the night to tell her the diagnosis, Takayasu's arteritis. He tells her that the right side of the patient's brain is restricting development of the left side, and suggests removing the entire right hemisphere. Cuddy allows House to discuss it with the father. He also accepts a hug because of his illness and takes the opportunity to feel up Cuddy.

House speaks to the father about removing the right side of his son's brain. He tells him the seizures will stop altogether, and that he may not be able to play the piano again. The patient's father is opposed, but House tells him his son may develop new abilities that will allow him to lead a better life.

Meanwhile, the team is doing tests on House's samples, hoping to find a way to beat his cancer. Although the results don’t appear promising, Chase sees something that doesn’t look like it should be there.

The father goes to speak to his son. He asks if he is happy, but his son doesn't understand the question. The father agrees to the surgery, which goes without incident.

The team show up at House's home with good news—he doesn't have cancer. However, House tells them the truth—the file was someone else's. He only wanted to get treatment to try out the pleasure drugs they were going to inject him with to battle his supposed depression. House sends them away and goes back to bed as they've already told Mass General the new diagnosis and ruined his plan.

Wilson asks House if he really is depressed. Wilson is astounded that he faked cancer and then pushed away the people who cared, something real cancer patients don't do. He suggests that House go to get pizza with a friend if he's feeling down.

The patient recovers from the operation. He can't talk, but otherwise seems fine. However, he then demonstrates a new skill—he buttons up his shirt—that he didn't have before the operation. House notes he looks happy.

After work, House sees his team at a bar enjoying a drink together, and starts to open the door.

Clinic Patient Edit

A patient comes in complaining about a sore foot. House gets a patient to help him tie off one of his own veins so he can take his own blood. He tells the patient she has a blister on her foot, but he also figures out that she is bulimic and has to stop vomitting. House then orders the lab to test the blood, but doesn't tell them whose it is.

Major Events Edit

  • Chase and Cameron break into House's apartment and find out that he's in contact with another hospital.
  • Everyone comes to believe that House has brain cancer.
  • Cameron and House share a brief kiss.
  • In the end, it is revealed that House wasn't even dying in the first place.

Zebra Factor 6/10Edit

Takayasu’s arteritis is somewhat rare in the United States, particular in persons of European ancestry. It is far more common among women of Asian ancestry.

Trivia and cultural References Edit

  • This episode guest-stars musician and actor, Dave Matthews as Patrick, the talented piano player, while Kurtwood Smith appears as Patrick's father. It should be noted that Dave Matthews' song, Some Devil was played in the episode Love Hurts while Kurtwood Smith is well known for appearing in Dead Poet's Society in the late 80's as the gruff and overbearing Mr. Perry alongside Robert Sean Leonard (James Wilson), who portrayed his character's son.
  • The song that House has Patrick play to make him stay is I don't like Mondays, by The Boomtown Rats. It was written by Bob Geldof.
  • The song that House and Patrick play on the roll-up piano in Patrick’s room is The Entertainer by Scott Joplin. It was written in 1902 but was reintroduced as the main theme to the Academy Award winning film “The Sting” in 1973.
  • The song that plays during the ending scene of the episode is "See the World" by Gomez.
  • House is registered as Luke N. Laura in the hospital index. This is a reference to General Hospital's Luke and Laura, two characters whose marriage was a focal point of the series.
  • When Cuddy hugs House, he grabs her rear and says,"One small feel for man. One giant ass for mankind." This is a reference to Neil Armstrong's famous words that he said after landing on the moon,"One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind."



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