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Humpty Dumpty

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Humpty Dumpty
275px-House-Humpty Dumpty
September 27, 2005
Episode Number
2.03 Rating
Final Diagnosis
Zebra Factor
House: "Right, I’m a racist. Too bad that idiot will never know for the rest of his long, long life."
Foreman: "Every slave master thought they were doing the black man a favor. Negro can’t take care of himself. So we’ll put him to work. Give him four walls, a bed and civilize the heathen. I’ll tell you what, stop doing us favors. If you’re right and we end up back in the jungle with lousy blood pressure medicine, it won’t be on your head."
―Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty is a second season episode of House which first aired on September 27, 2005. Cuddy’s handyman Alfredo falls off the roof while repairing it. However, apart from the normal trauma, he appears to develop other very serious symptoms. Cuddy puts herself on the case, but her lack of objectivity and her concern about the patient being able to maintain his livelihood makes House confront her about the proper course of treatment. Meanwhile, Cameron quizzes Cuddy about why House is still working for her, and Chase asks House about his history with Cuddy. Finally, Foreman has a rather difficult problem with a patient who believes the doctors are trying to stick him with inferior medication.


Cuddy convinces her Latin American handyman to stay to fix her roof although he says he feels sick. He uses his asthma inhaler before climbing the ladder. He then promptly falls off the roof. As she rushes him to Princeton-Plainsboro in an ambulance she notices the two outer fingers of his right hand are darker than the others, and he complains they feel like pins and needles.

Cuddy discusses the case with House and Wilson. House thinks it might be a clotting program and orders his team to perform tests. Cuddy wants to do the work herself, but House points out she hasn't worked as a doctor in years. Although she is very concerned, Cuddy accepts Stacy's advice to stay away from the patient to avoid the possibility of admitting liability and being sued.

The patient is worried about getting back to his other jobs. Chase notices the patient's hand is getting worse. The tests show that it‘s probably DIC. The patient needs a blood thinner and Cuddy orders human activated protein C, the usual treatment for severe sepsis. House reminds her how dangerous it is, but she overrules him. However, Cuddy tells Stacy that she is worried about overruling House. On the other hand, House tells Wilson he was just manipulating Cuddy - he agrees with the course of treatment given the severity of the patient’s symptoms and the fact the other blood thinners weren’t helping. Unfortunately, the patient starts suffering the side effects of the treatment - there’s bleeding in his brain and his arm becomes paralyzed.

The patient has surgery and is able to move his arm again. However, his fingers get darker, he has a fever, and his x-rays show lung infiltrates. Cuddy is still concentrating on the fall, but House is convinced that the patient was sick before he fell. When House dismisses pneumonia because there was no sign of breathing problems, Cuddy admits that the patient told her about his asthma before the fall. House admonishes her for not telling them - they could have started blood cultures. House orders antibiotics and an environmental scan of the patient's home. Cuddy goes to do the scan on the patient’s home, but House tells his team they are going to break into Cuddy's house instead and to protect them, he’s coming along.

Stacy asks Wilson what House is up to. Wilson admits House's plan to break into Cuddy's house.

House makes a bet on how fast he can break into Cuddy's house. Chase and Foreman take the bet, and House finds the key under a vase next to the door. House finds fungus growing under her sink.

Meanwhile, Cameron and Cuddy are searching the patient's house. Cameron asks why Cuddy hasn't fired House. Cuddy is coy, says she doesn’t hate House, and says the real question is why she hired House in the first place. She admits she knew House when he was in medical school and she was an undergraduate. Cuddy describes him as a legend. They find a dead rat in a trap.

Meanwhile, the patient's lung function is declining - it isn't pneumonia. Cuddy thinks it could be rat bite fever. House thinks it is the aspergillis they found in Cuddy's house. Cuddy is furious that he broke in, but changes her tune and admits he's right after looking at the patient's X-rays. They start the patient on anti-fungals.

The patient's younger brother comes to Cuddy asking to work for her despite the patient's wishes. Cuddy refuses, but the brother admonishes her for not visiting his brother.

Stacy finds House dodging clinic patients. She's worried about Cuddy. Stacy points out that, unlike House, Cuddy cares about patients. She asks House to go easy on Cuddy.

The patient says he is getting better, but the darkness appears to be the same and his brother says that he hasn't urinated in over a day. Cameron is afraid the patient's kidneys were damaged by the medication they gave him. The patient's mother overhears Cameron tell House she thinks he may be dying.

The tests show that it wasn't aspergillis or rat bite fever, and they rule out several other possibilities. Cuddy still believes his problems are related to the fall.

House goes to the patient, who is arguing with his brother. House smells decaying flesh and realizes that the patient is feeling intense pain in his bad hand.

House starts arguing for amputation, but Cuddy is opposed because the patient will lose his livelihood. Stacy doesn't want to hear the argument - she wants to hear them agree. When they leave Stacy’s office, House points out to Cuddy she isn't being objective - she‘s focusing on the patient‘s livelihood instead of medical realities. They finally agree to recommend the amputation despite Cuddy's reservations. Cuddy goes to tell the patient he needs an amputation because the bacteria in his gangrenous flesh will eventually spread to the rest of his body. She also tells him the amputation won't cure him, it will only buy him extra time. The patient is still worried that his younger brother will have to quit school to work. However, the patient agrees to the procedure.

Stacy finds Cuddy. Cuddy tells Stacy that she always wanted to be a doctor, was second in her med school class, but would have killed the patient if House hadn't been looking over her shoulder. She agrees that she's been so eager to advance her career that she hasn't really been practicing medicine.

The procedure goes well, but at the end, Chase notices that the fingers of the patient’s left hand are getting darker as well. The patient's lungs start giving out too. House thinks it is a heart infection that is spreading piece by piece. However, Cuddy points out he was negative for endocarditis. House points out that it might be Psittacosis, a disease spread by birds that would be negative on a blood culture. Cuddy points out that the doxycycline will kill him if they‘re wrong. They start investigating what he does when he doesn't work for Cuddy. House speaks to the mother in Spanish - he wants to know where the patient works Saturday nights. She denies he works Saturday, but House overheard the patient and his brother talking - the brother was planning to cover for him. House figures it is a cock fight given the lack of candor. Cuddy and Foreman go to the cock fight and find the patient's younger brother working there and handling chickens. House has already decided to put the patient on medication for the Psittacosis. The patient asks why he got sick. Cuddy tells him his asthma made him susceptible and that the disease can be transmitted by breathing in dust. The patient thanks her for saving his life.

Cuddy is still feeling bad about cutting off his hand. House comes in and tells everyone they're being sued by the patient. Cuddy tells Stacy to settle the case. House tells Cuddy to get over her guilt, but that her guilt and willingness to make things better makes her a lousy doctor but a good boss, and that's why she hired him. He then asks why everyone thinks they have had sex and if there could be anything to it.

House talks to Wilson, who agrees that there is no way anyone could have diagnosed the disease any earlier than they actually did, but yet Cuddy feels guilty. Meanwhile, Cuddy's roof is leaking.

Clinic Patient Edit

Foreman has an African American patient with high blood pressure. Foreman wants to give him hypertension medicine that is targeted to his race, but the patient refuses, believing that the establishment gives African Americans sub-standard medicine. Foreman gives him a prescription for the proper drug anyway.

Later, the patient goes to see House, saying he didn't take Foreman's prescription. House wants to give him the same drug, but the patient insists on the same medicine white people get. House finally agrees to give him the same medicine Republicans get.

Foreman finds out about House's change of the prescription, but House admits he tricked the patient and gave him the same thing Foreman recommended. However, Foreman is not impressed - he thinks that House is patronizing the patient.

Major Events Edit

  • Cuddy and House reveal they knew each other at the University of Michigan
  • Foreman clashes with House over the medicine for an African-American clinic patient.
  • House shows that he can speak Spanish.

Zebra Factor 8/10Edit

Although Psittacosis commonly affects many species of birds and is ubiquitous in the environment, reported human cases are very rare in the United States, averaging about 10 cases a year. The disease is most common in owners of large pet birds like parrots or macaws, which is why Chase made a reference to the patient not owning one. However, as the disease’s symptoms are often mild (and it is often asymptomatic) and resolves spontaneously, it may be mistaken for other infections and could actually be more common.


The title is taken up from the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty that tells the story of character that falls off a wall and is so badly injured he cannot be put together again by All the king's horses and all the king's men, mirroring the teams difficulty in putting the patient together after he falls.

Trivia & Cultural ReferencesEdit

  • At one point House refers to his group as the Scooby Gang, a term also used on the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer to refer to Buffy's friends. Michelle Trachtenberg, who plays Buffy's younger sister Dawn, appears later this season in "Safe."
  • More about Cockfighting.
  • Once again, this title is often difficult to translate into other languages as the rhyme is of English origin. In Germany, the episode is known as “Irrtum” (Error). In French it is "Culpabilité" (Guilt). In Brazilian Portuguese it is "A Queda do Telhado" (Fall From the Roof).
  • Although the series is set in New Jersey, specifically the Princeton area, when we see Cuddy out for her run at the start of the episode, the street signs give away the filming location as Los Angeles.



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Humpty Dumpty
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