I’ve been binge-watching House.

(I’m currently on Season 4, episode 7, for perspective on my first-viewing experience.)

Toward the end of the first season, House is forced into a Sophie’s Choice scenario in which he has to fire one of the three doctors on his staff.

The requirements to call out the obvious choice are paying attention and not having a boner for Chase.

Having a rich personal history of killing darlings and picking favorites, I have a knack for devising multi-factor ranking systems. In doing this I don’t just see who is better at what, but I can confirm my suspicions regarding what a character might want.

I think of five things with regard to how House might see other doctors, though he probably wouldn’t use these words:


  • Cheer
    • optimism: there’s a cure, we can fix it
    • bedside manner: House doesn’t have it, needs someone to speak human to people
  • Hustle
    • ambition: he needs his people to want to be better doctors, and not just because it’s a teaching hospital, even though that’s a great deflection
    • speed: aside from House’s ambulation being retarded, he can’t tolerate people who are overly hesitant
  • Ability
    • accuracy: performing tests and procedures correctly
    • knowledge: whiteboard scenes are the best gauge of whether a doctor understands implications of a condition
  • Drugs
    • anything that has to be ingested, including nutrition
  • Surgery
    • anything invasive

Personality traits for the first two, medical capabilities and training for the latter two, and ability is a blend of knowledge and application.

For House’s team, what does he think he needs for his team? Clearly they’re all important to some extent, but if a given person is closer to his priorities he likely can’t do without them for the purposes of doing his job.

The most common thing I’ve heard him say when defending a doctor is saying that they are a good doctor. I think he is often suggesting that he forgives personality flaws for sufficient ability, much as he enjoys the same privilege. He cites his reason for studying medicine is the deference to a member of an untouchable class in Japan because he had necessary medical knowledge.

Most important quality: Ability.

On the other hand, for a person to even be considered for House’s staff, they’ve already achieved quite a bit in their professional life. I would argue that by virtue of his staff already being very good doctors he’s not that interested in their political quibbles.

While ambivalence isn’t unusual for House, Cameron really got nothing from him after Foreman beat her to publishing a past case for recognition.

Anyone who is easy to manipulate through professional avenues is someone House can’t manipulate emotionally. That’s a less valuable resource for him.

House not allowing Chase to write on the whiteboard is a clue that he believes Chase has the weakest functional ability on the team.

Least important quality: Hustle.

Cheer is the second-least important, because as I’ve said, personality flaws are forgiven for sufficient ability.

Drugs and Surgery

There is probably a slight bias for drug specialities given House’s drug-seeking behavior. Without his Vicodin, House’s own capability is diminished, so by indirect inductive reasoning his staff needs to be able to provide for him.

Measure My Staff

Rather than assign numerical values, there are few enough contestants that we can just list each of them in descending applicability for each value.

  • Cheer: Cameron, Chase, Foreman
    • While I think the writing for Chase is trash, he and Cameron have the most success in speaking to patients
    • It’s plainly obvious Foreman is perpetually annoyed. The actor does a fantastic job of conveying frustration in having to slow down to be human/relatable to get what the character needs
  • Hustle: Chase, Foreman, Cameron
    • Chase earns a reputation of willing to do anything to save his job; biggest kiss-ass
    • Foreman beats Cameron to publishing a paper
    • Cameron most willing to walk away from a better job to preserve her principles; she also delays the most, arguing against treatments to debate ethics
  • Ability: Foreman, Cameron, Chase
    • Foreman only looks incompetent because House wants it that way
    • Cameron has the worst credentials of the three, but that isn’t how House reckons Ability
    • Chase hasn’t done much of anything to step out of his father’s shadow, preferring to use indignation to fail to bully people into respecting him
  • Drugs: Cameron, Foreman, Chase
    • Confirmed after the fact: Cameron writes prescriptions for Wilson after his practice is interfered with by Detective Tritter.
  • Surgery: Chase, Foreman, Cameron
    • Cameron’s specialty is immunology, with relatively few surgical solutions.
    • Chase is an intensivist, and we later see him working directly as a surgeon.
    • Foreman again simply splits the difference, best existing as a conversational resource.

Below I have House’s “needs” presented in descending order at the top, and in ascending order at the bottom.

House Needs: A    ; D , S     ; C, H
Foreman is:  A    ; H , D , S ; C
Cameron is:  C, D ; A         ; H, S
Chase is:    H, S ; C         ; A, D
Anti-Needs:  H, C ; S , D     ; A

Obviously Chase being the easy pick was predicted by the writers because the choice was immediately vetoed and it became between Foreman and Cameron.

While I predicted Cameron to be let go, it was still early enough in the show that I experienced doubt in my determination. I wasn’t sure yet how far the sexist angle would be taken.

Here I Go Again On My Own

As I begin the fourth season and House is going through the reductive hiring process, I don’t feel the above list of priorities will help me predict who he chooses. Hustle is more important during a deliberately-conducted competition, for example.

While the original team felt a desire to distinguish themselves to save their jobs, the fact of already having their jobs necessarily made the Hustle demand coming from House himself much lower.

Least Important Quality: Cheer

House does just seem to delight in tormenting new people.

While surgical interventions are still going to be necessary for some patients, I’m going to expect cases that don’t, because there are simply too many cooks in the kitchen. House will still want somebody with surgical experience on his team; it ranks higher than Cheer.

I think Ability is still the most important factor, and has achieved its primary significance through repetition. House will determine ability through Drugs (differential diagnosis) and Hustle (showing favor to people who try shit out without explicit permission).

Tentative Priority List for the Housger Games

  1. Ability
  2. Drugs
  3. Hustle
  4. Surgery
  5. Cheer

A list of needs that wasn’t considered in the first team elimination arc is that of roles, because we didn’t see House consider anyone to replace who he’d fire because he was trying to figure out a way to keep who he already had.

Classist Party Roles

  • Sith Apprentice
  • Surgical Specialist
  • Tits
  • [[Token Black]]

Foreman was the Sith Apprentice to House in the original team, and in the fourth season under Cuddy is basically reiterating the role for her while continuing to, uh, house destiny.

Chase was the Surgical Specialist, and Cameron was explicitly labeled the Tits due to her insecurity over her lesser credentials/political pedigree.

Token Black is a red herring. If Foreman were actually gone from the show, I’d have more faith in Mormon getting hired. I think he’s taking Hustle too far. House is sure to smell subterfuge, sneaky tactics to win are worse to him than deceiving people into quitting, even though they seem like the same thing.

Unfortunately I’m not that sure about how important each role is to House. I would assume he favors his Apprentice more, but I do generally think he wants his team to feel a degree of equality.

House is the lord (little-L), but they are equally the vassals of his genius except Chase.

The Likely Team

  • Sith Apprentice: Indian
    • Best evidence is putting Foreman in his place
  • Surgical Specialist: Jew
    • Hid a surgery by giving a woman bigger boobs
  • Tits: 13
    • Had the best rapport when speaking to House alone, of the actual doctors

There are meta-narrative clues that they’ll probably win, too, but I won’t get into that.

Showing My Work

I’m going to skip lumping the values into tiers because I don’t know enough about the characters for that much nuance, also it’s ugly.

Target:  A D H S C
13:      A D H C S + tits
Indian:  A H D C S + sith apprentice
Jew:     A S D C H + surgical specialty
C.Bitch: H A D S C + tits
BigLove: H A C D S + token black guy
Grumpy:  H D A C S + sith apprentice
Bosley:  D H A C S + sith apprentice
The Vet: C H A D S
Twins:   C D A H S + double tits
Gymnast: D A S C H + tits lite
Namer:   D C A S H
Wheels:  D C S H A
TinFire: S D C A H
Walmart: C S H D A

I didn’t notice any other surgical applicants, so the Jew guy was basically safe from the beginning. He was nearly “arbitrarily” fired right at the beginning; I read that as a manipulation by House. I think he deliberately padded out the applicant population, predicting Cuddy would have issue with the pool’s size regardless of how small he started it.

Most of the Tits were eliminated in a single episode, leaving a chronic backstabber competing against someone House either genuinely enjoys talking to or at least is much more curious about. 13 made a mistake in treating a patient, which isn’t grounds for a poor working relationship, unlike someone who merely wants to win all the time.

Sith Apprentice has the most appearances on the list but Grumpy and Bosley were both already eliminated before I wrote this.

Unless Big Love steps up in a big way soon, he’s the odd man out.