“House’s Head” is episode 4.15 of House M.D. It originally aired May 12, 2008, on FOX.
The Basic Plot
The titular Dr. House must diagnose a patient he cannot remember after suffering minor brain damage in a bus accident. His patient was also on the bus, but due to his memory loss, House cannot remember who they are, or what symptoms they exhibited.
He must work his way through various bus crash victims, and use several unconventional forms of memory stimulation to work the case.
What Makes It a Concept Episode
House episodes usually revolve around the good doctor trying to diagnose a patient. However, he typically knows who the patient is. His brain is also usually working at full capacity (minus the normal dose of Vicodin). The impairment of memory loss, and the unconventional use of methods like hypnosis and sensory deprivation to get inside House’s head qualify this as a concept episode.
In dealing with memory loss, partial recall, and the mixing of new information with resurfaced (old) memories, the episode does not follow the show’s established procedural pattern. Although they do eventually figure out who the patient is, and what they have, the process itself diverges considerably from a normal House episode.
Additionally, the sequences that go into House’s head are highly stylized, which is an unusual approach for this series. House typically adopts strong realism in terms of visual style and editing. However, the episode earns the aesthetic revamps, and they add tremendously to the final product.
Why It Works (or Doesn’t)
This episode works, mainly because they seamlessly pull off what they are trying to do. There are all kinds of ways in which this could have gone horribly wrong – the stylized sequences could have been distractingly over-the-top. The mixing of new information and resurfacing memories could have been clunky and jarring. The red herrings could have felt contrived and pointless. And the reveal of the actual patient and their diagnosis could have easily been underwhelming, or unmoving.
None of that turns out to be the case; which is probably why this episode won a pretty prestigious award for television directing. (See below)
Also, bonus: it contains one of the best strip-teases scenes ever put on film (IMO), for whatever that is worth.
Rankings & Best-Ofs
Digital Spy put it at #9 (along with its companion episode “Wilson’s Heart”) on their “House: The Best Episodes of Hugh Laurie’s Medical Mystery Drama” (2017)
Screener included it on their unranked retrospective “House Series Finale: A Look Back at the Best Episodes” (2012)
It is also ranked #1 on IMDb’s “Top Rated” episodes for House M.D. with 9.8 out ten stars.
Nominations & Awards
Hugh Laurie (Gregory House) was nominated for an acting Emmy for his performance in this episode.
Greg Yaitanes won the Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for this episode.