<I>House</i> House

Well beyond the immediate aftermath, Kutner's shocking suicide will have lasting repercussions for House, the remainder of his team, and others in the brilliant doc's orbit. But who will be affected, and how? In a conference call with reporters, House creator David Shore, executive producer Katie Jacobs and Kutner's portrayer, Kal Penn, answered burning questions about the latest episode of Fox's hit drama.

Was Kal Penn — who asked off the show to take a job with the White House — taken aback by Kutner's suicide?
"Everyone is always taken aback with every episode of our show," Penn told TVGuide.com. "But obviously yeah, you're connected to the character you play ... so there was more than a little bit of shock and loss when I found out. I was probably as shocked as the audience."

Were other exit storylines batted around?
"We considered many ways to have [Kutner] leave," says David Shore. "Ultimately, this was the story that allowed us to really have the greatest impact on everybody, House in particular." 

Were the producers surprised that their suicide secret (mostly) kept?
"Absolutely startled, yes," says Shore. 

Who will be most affected by Kutner's death?
"The greatest impact is ultimately with House," previews Katie Jacobs, "because he's unable to rest with the idea that he did not see it coming and cannot explain it... . He has no resources, no family [to help him cope]." 

Might this twist somehow lead to more screen time for the somewhat MIA Jennifer Morrison and Jesse Spencer?
In a word, yes. In addition to seeing House's team, Cuddy and Wilson reel from the death, "We are going to see, perhaps surprisingly, Chase and Cameron's reaction to it. [We] are going to bring [them] to the forefront a little bit." Says Shore, "We will see some fallout with Chase and Cameron in an interesting way. [They] do not have a unified reaction."

Will Kutner be replaced on House's team?
Not any time soon. As Shore stresses, "Kutner is irreplaceable."

Was House onto anything, suspecting as he did that Kutner was instead murdered?
Nope — it was definitely a suicide. Anyone searching for clues suggesting otherwise is, like House, "looking for more answers where there may not be more answers," says Shore.

Was that Penn playing dead when Foreman and Thirteen discovered Kutner's body?
Yes. Penn says the director "wanted it to be as authentic as possible, so that [Omar Epps and Olivia Wilde] were fully in that moment." 

Was Penn creeped out to have "his" death memorialized on Fox.com?
"Not really," he says. "When I heard that it was going to happen, the first thing I said was, 'Don't put any of my real family photos on the website.' It's very, very clear that it is a Lawrence Kutner memorial page."

Is Katie Jacobs at all regretting her vote for president, now that Penn is leaving House for the White House?
"It may be the only reason why I didn't want Obama to be the candidate," she says with a laugh. "I was in a state of denial. I was just trying to avoid the reality that we would have to face this moment." 

And if Penn was leaving the show for any other reason...?
Jokes Shore, "If he had come to us and said, 'I've been offered a great part on CSI,' then yeah we would have [killed Kutner via] autoerotic asphyxiation or something like that. But we were thrilled for Kal." 

Crave TV scoop? E-mail senior editors Matt, Mickey and Tim at mega_scoop@tvguide.com.