The Use of Elevators in the TV Show “House M.D.”

House, MD, ran for eight seasons on Fox for a total of 176 episodes, from 2004 – 2012. It received numerous nominations and awards throughout its span, during which an average of 14.2 million viewers tuned in each season.

The main character, Dr. Gregory House (portrayed by Hugh Laurie), is the overbearing and manipulative genius who is the head of the diagnostics department at the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital in New Jersey. In House’s own words, he “takes cases other doctors fail to diagnose.” House also walks with a cane, due to a severe leg injury early in his career. It is because of this injury that he is addicted to Vicodin – a powerful pain killer.

As I am currently binge-watching the entire series on Netflix, I began to notice that there are multiple elevator scenes. House uses elevators to his advantage and to serve his own agenda.

In this post, we will take a look at just three of these scenes and how the elevators were crucial to the plot.

Saved by the ding

One of House’s ‘finer qualities’ is his ability to avoid people. The elevators are a great tool for this! There are too many scenes throughout the series to list, but one in particular stands out. It is Season 7, Episode 14 (“Recession Proof”). By this point in the series, House has made some major positive changes in his life. He is no longer addicted to Vicodin and is in a relationship with the love of his life – Lisa Cuddy (portrayed by Lisa Edelstein). Cuddy is also the Dean of Medicine, aka his boss. About four minutes into the episode, House is arriving at the hospital and is headed toward the elevators. The doors open and he sees Cuddy among those in the elevator. He quickly hides in the crowd as she exits. House then enters, but Cuddy turns around to see him inside the elevator. She calls out his name and begins to quickly approach him. Then something happens that everyone can relate to: the elevator doors close just a moment too soon. House’s impeccable timing got him out of a conversation with his girlfriend.

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Breaking the rules

There is no denying that House is a genius. Everyone he works with can agree the diagnosis is “x” but House claims it is “y.” House is correct more often than not. It is difficult for him, however, to do the tests and procedures he wants done when his colleagues and his boss completely disagree with his theory. Often, Cuddy just tells him “No.”

In Season 2, Episode 16 (“Safe”), a young teenage girl is rushed to the hospital after having a seizure while spending some “quality time” with her boyfriend, who snuck in through the window.  After several failed diagnoses by House, the parents ask Cuddy to oversee their daughter’s case. This does not please House. As the patient’s condition continues to worsen, Cuddy decides to take immediate action and orders she be rushed to the Intensive Care Unit for intense drug treatment for botulism – their best guess at this point. After questioning the patient’s boyfriend, House comes to the conclusion that the patient has a tick (transferred from the tall grass her boyfriend came through that night), which is pumping toxins into her body. House’s theory is denied.

If only there were a place to secure the patient and lock everyone else out while he searched for the tick.

House and Foreman intercept the patient in the elevator.

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The girl’s life is only minutes from ending, but House believes he is right and uses the elevator’s emergency stop button to give himself time. Once again, House was right and thanks to the emergency stop button, was able to buy enough time to find the tick and save the girl’s life.

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Capricious Elevators

Whether it’s avoiding people or solving the case his way, House uses elevators to get what he wants. He also needs the elevators to simply get around. With his leg in constant pain, climbing the stairs with his cane is not only difficult, but extremely painful. In Season 5, Episode 14 (“The Greater Good”), Cuddy has had enough of House.

As House enters the hospital to begin his day, he notices a sign on the elevators that reads: “Temporarily out of service for scheduled maintenance.” The look on his face is probably similar to the one we all have after reading such a sign.

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He proceeds to slowly climb the stairs. He arrives at his office, exhausted, only to realize his employees all used the elevators just moments earlier. Something was suspicious. He confronts Cuddy, who responds: “Elevators can be capricious; sometimes it just seems like they’re out to get you.”

So – a simple prank from Cuddy or Fate herself? You decide.

Thanks for reading,

– Caleb

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