The two-hour Season 6 premiere of House picks up right where we left of last season after Dr. House suffers from multiple hallucinations — including one where he had sex with Cuddy — and enters Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital. Now a patient himself, House must not only physically detox from the Vicodin, but mentally face his inner torments with the help of Mayfield's staff and patients. But since House is not much for following rules, the ornery doc fights the hospital's traditional treatment plan at every turn.
The episode begins with a disturbing sequence of House wincing in pain and vomiting on himself as his body withdraws from Vicodin. Once the drugs leave his system, he looks more like his old self and begins to pack his bags. He tries to leave (which technically he's allowed to do since he entered voluntarily), but Dr. Nolan (Andre Braugher), the hospital's chief of staff, recommends that he stay since he believes that House's issues run deeper than just Vicodin. House brushes him off with a sarcastic comment, but he quickly changes his tune when Nolan tells House he won't write him the recommendation needed in order for House to resume practicing medicine. House begrudgingly agrees to enter a therapy program and moves into his new home in Ward 6.
He first meets Dr. Beasley (Megan Dodds) — a chipper young doc who runs the ward. House, being the closed-minded man he is, tells Beasley right off the bat that he's going to make everyone's life there so miserable that their only choice will be to write him a recommendation just to get him out of their hair. Always with the first impression, that one.
House then meets his new roommate Alvie — a bipolar former Mayfield patient who's returned because he stopped taking his meds. Alvie compares himself to the "Woody Allen character in Annie Hall — but a Puerto Rican version and not as neurotic." Despite House's sardonic demeanor, Alvie (Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony-winning star and writer of Broadway's In the Heights) takes to his new roomie very quickly and begins to follow him around like a puppy dog. He has to be one of the most vivid characters we've seen on the show in a while.
During his first group therapy session, House uses his keen powers of deduction to size up everyone's issues aloud in the jerkiest way possible. As a result, he's punished for his behavior by being locked up in a white padded room. But as soon as House gets out, he starts antagonizing the patients again by corroborating their fears (e.g., crowding the claustrophobic, calling the anorexic fat, telling the suicidal patient she's a failure). He gets dragged back into the padded room.
After doing more solitary time, House tries a new strategy of rallying the patients against the "real jerks": the doctors. He manipulates his fellow patients to jump around and make a scene until they get what they deserve (in this case it's ping-pong paddles). But House's plan is foiled when Nolan hands over the paddles willingly, leaving House annoyed that Nolan gave them what they wanted instead of putting up a fight. This guy really knows how House's mind works.
With his sights set on Nolan, House catches a glimpse of him through the window meeting with a mystery woman in the parking lot. House memorizes her license plate and convinces Alvie to break into Nolan's office, check his calendar, and see the woman is. When House learns there's an X drawn across the middle of the day, he assumes she's a woman Nolan doesn't want anyone to know about and thinks this is the blackmail ticket he needs to get his recommendation letter. He begins to "cheek" his medications and trade them with another patient so he can use his phone card to call Wilson to get him to run the woman's license plate. Wilson tells House that Nolan called him and warned him that he'd likely receive a call from House and that he shouldn't enable him, so Wilson hangs up. House may have finally met his match.
House tries an entirely new approach of cooperating and being a model patient to make everyone believe he's making progress. He participates in therapy and socializes with the patients, but he still won't swallow the drugs. One of the doctors suspects he isn't taking his pills and has him take a urine test, which he fakes with the help of another patient. But when he finally tells Nolan that he's doing fabulously without taking the drugs, Nolan reveals that they were placebo pills, which meant that he knew House was just faking the whole time — and the urine test only confirmed it. This guy is good.
House bumps into a woman he met earlier named Lydia (Franka Potente). She comes in frequently to play the piano for her sister-in-law (known in the ward as Silent Girl) in hopes of snapping her out of her catatonic state. At House's recommendation, she brings a cello to the hospital (Silent Girl used to play one in an orchestra), but it's too heavy to carry up on her own. House suggest she lets Steve (Derek Richardson), one of the patients who thinks he's a superhero named Freedom Master, carry it up to help build his self-esteem after the doctors drugged him and gave him a harsh reality check.
The three of them go outside, where House and Lydia are shamelessly flirting, but lifting the cello doesn't seem to boost Freedom Master's morale. House somehow convinces a smitten Lydia to let him "steal" her car so he take Freedom Master to an amusement park where they can "fly" on a wind machine. After experiencing weightlessness in the air, Freedom Master is elated that his "powers" have returned. But when they get to the parking garage to return to the hospital, Steve steps on the ledge thinking he can fly and jumps.
Next thing you know, House is waiting in an emergency room, where Nolan arrives and tells House that Freedom Master is lucky to be alive and that he's transferring House because he's done with his antics. But the whole experience has been a turning point for House and he finally admits he needs help.
House begins one-on-one talk therapy with Nolan. He admits he wants to be happy, but doesn't want to take drugs because he fears he'll change and lose his edge. After some convincing, House finally agrees and takes the pills — for real this time.
As part of their therapy together, Nolan makes House attend a donor party at the hospital and tells House his goal is to open up to strangers. House tries it, but ends up fabricating stories. He even gets Lydia to help him mess with the guests. At the end of the night, Lydia opens up to House and the two share a kiss.
When Lydia returns for visiting hours the next day, House asks her why she kissed him (considering she's married with kids), and she nonchalantly replies because she likes him. House is all aflutter by the answer, but his bubble bursts when a broken-down and bandaged Freedom Master is rolled into the room in a wheelchair. During group, House is distraught by Freedom Master's setback, but has a epiphany. He remembers Freedom Master used to say her could save Silent Girl by giving her voice back, and House thinks he was referring to a music box located behind the glass wall. House demands that the orderly bring it out and give the music box to Freedom Master. But it doesn't work; both Silent Girl and Freedom Master remain silent.
That night, House finds Lydia crying in an empty dark room in the ward and assumes it's because he pushed her away earlier. She tells him she's crying because she thinks she's pathetic for bringing the cello and continues to wait for Silent Girl to come out of her trance. He holds her as she cries, and the two begin to dance to music only we can hear. It's a pretty tender moment. He takes her into an empty office and the two end up having sex on a chair. They embrace when it's over, and for the first time, we see a tear fall from House's eyes.
During therapy, House tells Nolan he's doing well and actually means it. He even let himself have a little fun by rapping on stage with Alvie during the talent show. He tries to apologize to Freedom Master again, but still no response. Then, as House pushes his wheelchair past Silent Girl, an amazing thing happens. Freedom Master, who still has the music box from House in his lap, reaches over to give it to Silent Girl. She takes it, and the doctors watch in awe as she opens the box, speaks for the first time in years to say thank you. Freedom Master, now attentive, replies, "You're welcome."
House greets Lydia at the door to bring her to the room where we see Silent Girl playing a beautiful song on the cello as the entire wards sits and listens. It's definitely a touching moment.
But when House learns from Nolan that Silent Girl is heading to a rehab facility in Arizona, he demands an overnight pass to see Lydia. She tells him she's moving there because her husband is there on business a lot and now they now have nothing holding them back. House tells her he doesn't want her to go; she says she can't break up her family. She apologizes for not coming to say goodbye and shuts the door.
Nolan finds House in the parking lot by his car later that night and House tells him he feels lost. Nolan says he is going to write his letter to the medical board, but House thinks he's just saying that to make him feel better. Nolan explains two things have happened: First, House connected with someone strongly enough to miss them. Secondly, and most importantly, House also recognized the pain and came to talk to him instead of hiding in the Vicodin bottle.
At his goodbye party, House blows out his candle and says his goodbyes, giving Alvie a big hug. Then, completely out of character, House dunks his face into the cake to get a laugh out of everyone. He exits the institute and boards a bus bearing a strategically placed ad that reads "Prepare to Succeed." House takes a seat and cracks a smile as the camera pulls back to reveal that he's wearing a smiley-face T-shirt.
What did you think of "Broken"? Did it feel too separate from the series or was it a necessary storyline to address? What do you think Princeton-Plainsboro will be like with the new and improved House?