The Softer Side

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"The Softer Side"
House episode
Episode no.Season 5
Episode 16
Directed byDeran Sarafian
Written byLiz Friedman
Original air dateFebruary 23, 2009
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"The Social Contract"
House (season 5)
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"The Softer Side" is the sixteenth episode of the fifth season of House. It aired on February 23, 2009.


A 13-year-old boy named Jackson collapses after playing in a basketball game. He is admitted to Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, mainly because of his genetic mosaicism (46, XX/XY); when he was born, it was found that half the cells in his body are male and the other half female. The parents decided to raise their child as male and lately began giving him testosterone, disguised as "vitamins". After a variety of tests, nothing is found, but Jackson suffers fluid build-up in his pericardium and his palms turn red.

Meanwhile, Cuddy, Wilson, and the team are all puzzled when House appears to be in an especially good mood. He took the case from Cuddy without a fight, has done clinic duty without incident, and even indulged the parents' wishes of performing a pointless test. In the middle of the diagnosis, House is found apparently asleep, but the team discovers he is not breathing. Foreman resuscitates him by twisting his nipples, but House shrugs off the incident as an accidental vicodin overdose.

A search of Jackson's room reveals a poem he wrote, which leads the team to believe that he is depressed and suicidal. Thirteen, who has been sympathizing with Jackson, forces the parents to tell their son the truth about his genetic condition, which greatly upsets him. While speaking with Jackson, however, Thirteen realizes her mistake when she learns that the poem was written as a school assignment.

After an apparent break-up which was an act to keep their jobs, Foreman and Thirteen realize Taub and Kutner know they are still together. However, they all find out that House, surprisingly, has failed to notice this. Foreman, along with Wilson, begins to suspect House has been high from heroin use. Wilson tests House by offering him a drink, but House defiantly finishes the drink. When Wilson confronts House, who is inducing himself to vomit out on the street, House confesses that he has been on methadone and that the leg pain completely disappeared. Cuddy is nonetheless upset that House is taking a dangerous drug, but she is dismayed when House quits his job after being given a choice between his job and his medication.

When Jackson vomits blood, the diagnosis reaches systemic scleroderma, which is very difficult to treat. However, Thirteen notices that the treatment seems to be working too quickly. House returns when Cuddy agrees to provide methadone prescriptions, and solves the case. It is revealed that Jackson was dehydrated when he collapsed, since his kidney function was impaired by the large amount of energy drinks he had before the game. When House agreed to an MRI upon the parents' request, the injected contrast was not filtered out by the kidneys and damaged multiple tissues, causing all the symptoms. Jackson is to be cured with dialysis, and he reconciles with his much-relieved parents.

In the end, Cuddy gives House his regular dose of methadone, but House refuses to take it. He insists that the lack of pain and his brighter mood interfered with him doing his job, but Cuddy accuses him of simply being afraid of change. House leaves his office with his cane after throwing the medicine in the garbage can.


  • The song that plays while House is shaving for his interview is "$300" by Soul Coughing, from the album El Oso.

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