Jack Nash and his young daughter, Daisy, amble through a busy subway station, as Daisy patiently explains to her dad how sea lions are different from seals. "A sea lion has ears. I'll show you when we get to the zoo." But before their train arrives, someone screams: a woman lies prone on the tracks, seizing. No one does anything. Jack looks around, sees the train approaching and jumps down to help her. "Lady, are you OK?!" But she's unresponsive and he can't move her. There's no time left as the train is almost upon them; Jack throws himself on top of her and the train passes over them. The crowd on the subway platform is stunned. Did the two survive? When the train finally passes, everyone thinks the worst when they see Jack lie motionless, with the woman beneath him. Then, his hand moves and he slowly rises, to the applause of the crowd. Jack helps the woman up, and sees Daisy on the platform. She looks worried. "I'm OK!" Jack tells her. "Daddy?" Suddenly Jack wobbles and then collapses on the tracks.
"I found this case in the ER." Masters is full of energy this morning: "White male, mid-thirties, loss of consciousness. Abnormal EKG. And . . ." she says, smiling, as she passes Jack's folder around to the team in House's office, "he's the 'Subway Hero.'"
House is impressed with her enthusiasm, but wonders why she wouldn't lead with the most interesting symptom - Jack's heroic act. Masters is confused. "A guy did a wonderful thing. Can't we just take that at face value?" "You are adorable," House tells her. "Faced with almost certain death, a normal person rides the pine." House says Jack's problem is neurological. "Sympathetic stimulation stresses the brain, triggers a response in the heart." He wants the team to go look for masses.
Jack's getting the hero's treatment in his room. "Everyone keeps going out of their way, asking if I need anything. It's kinda nice," he says to Masters and Chase. He begins to recount for them what he remembers from the subway station, mainly just images and flashes, when a professional-looking woman races in, worried. It's Jack's wife, Eva. He asks her how Daisy is.
"She's not so good, actually," Eva tells him, annoyed. "She watched her father jump in front of a train. She's still shaken. She can't stop crying. Why would you do that to her?" Masters tells her that Jack saved a woman's life, but she's unmoved. "You could have died. Did you even think about your family?"
"I need your advice." House is pacing in Cuddy's office. "Dinner with your mom on Thursday . . ."
Cuddy cuts him off. "That's my birthday!"
"I know. I'm definitely coming. But Wilson's got tickets to the Hong Kong Film Festival. And ever since his break-up he's been a mess. I haven't been able to tell him that I'm not going. So, maybe if you happen to see him, you could mention how important this is . . ."
Cuddy thinks for a minute and shakes her head. "You should go."
"What? I can't! It's your birthday."
"It's fine. It's sweet that you care about your friend. And frankly, as you will find out sooner or later, my mother is a handful." House leaves her office.
"I need your advice." House is pacing now in Wilson's office. "This film festival . . ."
"I have had these tickets for two months!"
"I know - I'm definitely coming. But Friday is Cuddy's birthday and her mom's coming down, it's a whole dinner thing. I thought, maybe if you see her, you could mention how upset you've been."
"You have to go. Your girlfriend's birthday? It's not even a question."
"She has one every year. How often do you break up with the love of your life? OK, for you it's more often than most, but still." Wilson says he'll survive, and House leaves his office, promising to make it up to him.
Taub is driving home at night when his eyes catches . . . himself, on a giant billboard advertising Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital. Rachel teases him about it when he walks in the door. "I thought you said they were taking a picture with a bunch of doctors together?" "They did," Taub says. "I have no idea how it ended up just me." Rachel tries a little gentle flirting while Taub rifles through the mail, but he's less than enthusiastic. "I don't know. Things have been a little tense around here since the whole 'online boyfriend' thing," he tells her. Phil's not her boyfriend, Rachel says, and she tells Taub she's not the one with the problem. "No, you're the one with feelings for someone else." She sighs, and kisses him. "You're still my husband. And I still love you. And I want things to be OK between us. Also you're a famous model now, that's pretty cool. Sexy, even," and they continue to kiss.
Masters and Chase are exploring Jack's heart in an operating room, but Masters is nervous. "So, I've advanced through the carotid bifurcation . . ."
"Are you asking?" Chase says.
"Yes," she says. I'm asking. I've only read how to do it, and practice is different than theory. Just tell me how to do it."
But before they continue, Jack's blood pressure spikes. His body's been stressed by the procedure. Chase says if they wait a minute, he'll regain equilibrium. But it's not working. Chase tells her to get the crash cart. "He's in cardiac arrest. Maybe your second time will go better."
House has called the team to a bus stop outside the hospital to perform Jack's differential. A bus stop with a giant poster of Taub's head on one side of the shelter. "So," House says, "we finally know what Taub would look like if he were life-size." So why did Jack have a cardiac arrhythmia? Masters says it proves she was right: Jack's problem is his heart, not his brain. But the rest of the team is still fixated on the ad. Chase says he can see part of his elbow in the picture. "They chose you and cut out Chase?" Masters asks. Taub says Marketing thought he had a more trustworthy face. "For real?" Foreman asks. Masters tries to get back to Jack, while House scribbles on the poster. She says both of his cardiac incidents occurred after stress. "Vasovagal syncope?" Taub says it would have manifested earlier, but what about drugs? Masters says that he was clean. Autonomic nervous system dysfunction, Foreman suggests, could cause arrhythmia and fainting. House turns around and the team sees that he's drawn a Hitler mustache and hair part on Taub's poster. "Inappropriate? I mean, because of the Jew thing?" House wants the team to biopsy Jack's pituitary gland.
"Adrenal venous sampling makes more sense, and is a less invasive procedure," Masters says. House glares at her. "Which you don't care about because you just want to check the pituitary because you still think there's something wrong with the guy's brain?" Chase says he doesn't have any symptoms for pituitary disease, so they can't just stick a needle in him because House doesn't believe in heroism. "Fine," House says. "Do it your way. You'll waste half a day, but I'm sure he's in no hurry to get better."
In Jack's room, Chase is explaining to him and to Eva that the autonomic nervous system controls involuntary actions, like Jack's heartbeat. If they're right about his condition, it's manageable. But Eva is distracted. "Do you think we could consult with him?" She asks, pointing to Taub in another room. Chase asks if she saw the ads. "Look, no offense," Eva says. "But you were wrong yesterday. And they wouldn't have made him the face of the hospital if he weren't really good, right?" Chase is speechless, but he gets Taub, who's happy to step in.
House is exploring other people's food in the refrigerator in the doctor's lounge, and is surprised to see both Cuddy and Wilson staring him down when he turns around. He's busted. "I forgot, you guys talk. No offense to either of you, but dinner with your mom? Come on, I'd have to act like a decent human being. And you know what a strain that puts on me. And you - ever since you broke up with Sam you've done nothing but mope and whine. It's an unbelievable bummer."
"And just what is so exciting," Wilson starts, "you have to blow off both of us to do it?"
"I just want to sit on my couch, in my underwear, drink scotch and watch 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey.' By myself. I just want one night off. Is that so much to ask?"
"Yes!" according to both Cuddy and Wilson. Cuddy says he has to choose one of them. He chooses Wilson, but Cuddy's got a surprise. "Good! Because he's coming to my birthday dinner."
Eva and Taub are talking outside Jack's room. She says Jack's not exactly the "hero type." He's still in a band he started in college, and they've been performing gigs around the country, hoping to be discovered, for 16 years. She feels like a single parent. "I love him so much. But I'm at the end of my rope." Taub says if it turns out that his heroism is unrelated to his illness, then maybe there's more to Jack than she thought.
"Do you think Taub really comes across as the most trustworthy doctor here?" Chase and Foreman are in the lab, performing tests. Foreman just laughs. "I knew it was bugging you." Chase can't believe they cut him out, but Foreman says the "pretty boy" doctor is great for the ladies, but doesn't exactly inspire confidence in patients. "No one wants an underwear model performing their splenectomy." So why didn't they want Foreman? He says it's because he's black. Also, Jack's cortisol levels are normal; they were wrong. Chase knows what that means: House will assume that means he's right, and make them biopsy the pituitary gland.
Chase and Foreman are performing the biopsy. "You seem pretty calm for a guy who's surrounded by racists," Chase says. "80 percent of the Princeton population is white," Foreman says. "Some are racists, some aren't. But white works with both demographics." Chase wonders if it might have more to do with the fact that he always looks like he wants to punch someone in the face. Suddenly, Jack's O2 stats start to drop. He's not breathing. Chase suctions out a mucus plug. "Fluid in the lungs," Forman says. But pneumonitis doesn't fit with anyone's theory.
Back in House's office, Masters says that their tests have ruled out the brain, leaving the heart and the lungs. Chase says pneumonitis could be caused by bacteria, a parasite, or even some kind of obstruction. But House wants to know about the girl Jack saved. "There's another reason besides being sick that he'd risk his life for a stranger - she's not a stranger." Maybe what everyone assumed was an epileptic seizure on the train tracks was actually a symptom of the same illness Jack has. He does go out of town a lot on tour. Masters thinks they should take a sputum culture to test for pneumonitis, since the most likely cause is infection. But House says Jack's white blood cell count isn't significantly elevated, so it's more likely a toxic exposure.
"Why is your assumption of his guilt more valid than my assumption of his selflessness?" Masters asks him.
"Because," House says, "my assumption is backed up by millions of men - and Taub - who've cheated on their wives. Find the girl and their love nest. Every hero has his kryptonite."
Chase and Taub break into the woman's apartment to check for toxins, and Taub is grousing about it. "God, you're a drag today," Chase tells him. "Let me guess: back to fighting with the wife?" On the contrary, they had sex twice last night, and once this morning. So why is Taub so down? "Rachel hasn't wanted this much . . . intimacy in a long time. I don't think it's me she's hot for. It's this Internet guy. She's just happy, and that's turning her on." But Chase has hit gold: the woman has a CD of Jack's obscure band. "She does know him. The question is: how'd they get sick." Taub holds up the "kryptonite": a can of roach spray.
House is in the clinic, reviewing test results with an older, blonde woman. EKG, thyroid, liver and kidneys seem fine. She's perfectly healthy. "I wish that you would take a second look," she asks him. "I'm tired all the time, and when it's cold I get this weird pain in my shoulder."
"I have a pain in my leg. You don't hear me complaining. Except for just now."
"How do doctors get this idea that you're better than everyone else?"
"Probably all that pulling people back from the brink of death. That's just a guess."
"My own daughter is a doctor. She makes a hobby of dismissing my concerns."
"She sounds smart." House gets up to leave.
"Did she tell you to say that?"
House turns around. "What? I've never met your daughter."
"That's hard to believe, since you're currently schtooping her." Uh-oh.
Chase and Taub tell Jack about the roach spray. He wants to know where they found it. "In Chloe's apartment," Taub tells him. "Who's Chloe?" Jack asks. Taub says they don't care about his personal life, and they won't tell his wife, but Jack insists he has no idea who Chloe is. And then in walks Chloe, with Masters. Jack asks if she's OK. She says she's fine, but she had to come see him to thank him for saving her life. "You're welcome," Jack says. Meanwhile, Chase and Taub are confused: so he really didn't know her before the accident? "You're like my guardian angel," Chloe tells Jack. But he says he's just a guy in a band. "Maybe you've heard of them?" Chase says. "Suicide Season?" Nope, one of the nurses gave her the CD. She hasn't even listened to it yet. That's enough to convince Masters that they don't know each other, so she gives him a cup to cough into for a sputum culture. He tries coughing but nothing comes up. Masters offers to help by patting his back, but he starts screaming in pain and holding his head. But it's not his head that's hurting - it's his ears.
House is reading the tale of the "Subway Hero" in a local paper in his office with the team. "He didn't jump because he was sick OR because he knew that girl," Masters says. "Even you have to admit that now." He does, sort of. "But that doesn't make him a hero. It makes him an idiot. The only reason that headline doesn't say, 'Moron Crushed by Train' is luck." Masters thinks the ear pain fits with her infection theory. He's not buying it. "You have a better idea?" she asks. "Nope, so I'm going to pick one at random. Acoustic neuroma." Foreman agrees that a tumor in the ear makes sense, especially if it's putting pressure on the breathing centers in his brain, which would cause the lung problems. And the lungs explain the heart. House orders an auditory evoked potential test. Suddenly Taub's pager goes off, and he's got to go.
House is in Cuddy's office. "I have been going out of my way to be nice to old Jewish ladies for months now, on the off-chance one of them could be your mom! You couldn't have mentioned she's a shiksa?"
"She converted when she married my dad."
"See, now is too late."
"I'm not blaming you for this. She's the one who ambushed you, to find out what you were like because I never tell her anything."
House thinks he "obviously" can't come to dinner now. Cuddy's not going to let him off the hook. "I need you to come to that dinner for two hours, keep your mouth shut, and behave like an adult. Yes, you will be in hell. But I will feel better having you there. That's what a relationship is. We average our misery."
Taub's page was Rachel, who wanted to grab him for a quickie in an exam room. "That was . . . unexpected," he tells her. She says she's in an especially good mood because she and her sister finally resolved a long fight about whether to commit their father to a care facility. "You never mentioned anything about your sister," Taub says. Rachel tells him she talked a lot about it with Phil. Taub gets up to leave. "Are you in love with him?" he asks. "I've never met him," she says.
Chase, Foreman, and Masters are administering Jack's auditory test. Everything has been normal so far. Masters is convinced she's right about the infection, and wants to try and draw fluid closer to the sources of infection she could get better cultures and prove it. "I'm going to set up for an ear drainage and thoracentesis."
Jack is reading the story of his heroics in the paper, with Eva by his bedside. "This whole thing has made me wonder if things could be different. I have spent so much time away from you. I think that I have been afraid that I would screw things up. That I couldn't be the man you and Daisy needed me to be." He picks up the paper and smiles. "But maybe I'm better than that. I am going to quit the band." Eva smiles and starts to cry. "I think we'd like that," she tells him.
Masters and Chase come in to draw fluids. They lean Jack forward to give him some lidocaine to numb his back. Jack breathes in quickly and smiles. "This is weird. The pain in my ear is gone." He says when they put the needle in his back the pain went away. "What does that mean?"
It's Cuddy's birthday dinner, and Cuddy, her mother, Arlene, House, Rachel, and Wilson are at the table. Arlene asks if Rachel's going to eat anything but crackers and cheese. Cuddy says that she's going through a picky phase and it won't kill her. "You're her mother," Arlene says, smiling, continuing to eat. "All I know is when you and your sister were growing up, you ate what we ate. No excuses." House has had just about enough, but stops himself. Cuddy says that Rachel had eggs and lots of fruit in the morning, so she's fine. Arlene tells her that explains why Rachel was so unmanageable in the park earlier. "Must've been all the sugar." Wilson steps in: "Actually, the whole 'sugar makes kids hyperactive' thing is a myth." Arlene stares him down, still smiling. "It's a study," he says. "I'm sure it's very interesting," Arlene says. "I didn't read any studies. I just raised children." She turns to Cuddy. "It's not your fault. How are you supposed to keep up with what she eats all day? You're never home." House's phone rings, not a moment too soon. He gets up to take the call.
"Tell me you need me," House says to Chase once he's out of earshot of the table. Chase tells him Jack doesn't have cancer. "God that's awful!" House yells so everyone at the table can hear him. "I'll be right in!" But Foreman says they don't need him to come in; they just need to figure out why Jack's body thinks his ears are on his back. House thinks: "Because his ear used to be something else. When you're a fetus, your cells are close together. When you grow, they spread out and specialize. Sometimes the body screws up, and they keep the old area codes, report to the same pain centers." It's referred pain. So they just need to find out where the message is coming from. Thyroid? Liver? Masters chimes in to point out that referred pain doesn't rule out infection.
Cake and coffee time at the birthday dinner. "So, say you two got married," Arlene looks at House, "would you convert to Judaism?" Cuddy says they haven't gotten that far. House tells her he's an atheist. "Honey, half the Jews I know are atheists. It's about community." And why does Cuddy call him "House" when his name is "Greg"? "It makes it seem like you're not serious," Arlene says. "I'm just trying to help you think about the future. You're a certain age now. The parade of boyfriends can't be as amusing as it was. You need to settle down. Like your sister." And then: "I just don't want Rachel growing up thinking you're a slut."
"OK, I got this!" House has reached the breaking point. "First of all, Mom . . ." But suddenly Arlene's eyes close and she looks like she's passed out. Cuddy and Wilson race to her, but House doesn't seem too concerned. Cuddy looks at him: "Did you sedate my mother?!" House is pretty pleased with himself that it kicked in just in time. "She'll wake up in a couple of hours, good as new. Think of it as my birthday gift to you. You told me to keep my mouth shut. This was the only way I had a chance." Wilson starts to agree. "Your mom is quite a ha-, quite a . . . handful," he says, shakily. "I feel . . . oh, you've got to be kidding me!" House has drugged Wilson, too. "Sorry," House says. "I honestly thought you'd be worse." Wilson falls forward. "That was my gift to myself," House says.
Masters finds Taub in the cafeteria. Jack's thyroid levels are normal, and Foreman's performing a liver biopsy. Taub is clearly still upset about his wife. "She wants to do it all the time, but it has nothing to do with me. I'm just a piece of meat." Masters is a little confused: "She likes someone else, and you've slept with other people. Why are you still together?" Taub says he loves her. "We've been together for 22 years. I've never loved anybody else. I don't know how to not be with her." Masters gets a text from Foreman: Jack has diffuse inflammation in his liver. Looks like autoimmune hepatitis. They'll start him on steroids.
Jack, Eva, and Daisy are in his room. Jack's teaching Daisy some guitar chords. Suddenly Jack starts seizing and falls back into his bed. Eva screams for help.
By the next morning, Jack has seized three times. "If there was nothing wrong with his brain before," House says, "there sure is now." They're all outside Jack's room - because Arlene is parked in House's office at the moment. And Jack's got a raging fever, which means Masters was right all along: it's an infection. But the culture results are still days away. Maybe toxic fumes from the subway made him pass out, and exposure to rat urine led to leptospirosis? Foreman says it can turn into meningitis. Masters protests that she can't confirm any of that yet, and they don't have time to choose wrong. "Since it's the only idea on the table, I say it's a winner," House tells them. "Start him on doxycycline. No, wait. I'll do it. You guys have to go back to the office to tell me when Bubbe's gone."
Later, House is in Jack's room when he wakes. "Am I gonna die?" Jack asks him. "I hope not. 'Cause then I'd have to go back to my office," he says. "Of course, if you do kick it, then you get to be famous for another two, maybe three weeks. But you know, in a few days, a panda bear will give birth to triplets and we'll all move on. Oh, I'm sorry - you actually believe that you are a hero. You should get yourself some tights and a cape, and run around Gotham pulling babies out of burning buildings. Maybe you'll keep getting lucky. You're still the same guy you were last week."
"Hey, um - how long are you going to sit there? Hiding behind a sick guy, that's heroic." House gets up to leave.
In his office, House finds Arlene with her feet up on his desk, reading a file. House begins to explain himself.
"I don't need you to explain anything," Arlene says. "I think we both know that I owe you an apology." House is dumbstruck. Arlene continues: "I don't even remember going to bed last night. I must have had too much to drink. I do know I can be difficult."
"You were a little bitchy . . ."
"In the clinic you were a complete schmendrick! But once you knew I was Lisa's mother, you held your tongue. That's because you love her. I still think you're a pain in the ass with a God complex, and I'll kill you if you hurt her, but I'm glad she has you."
Arlene says she's got to catch a train. "I thought you were staying until Sunday?" House asks. "I'm coming down with a cold," Arlene tells him. "Every time I stay with Lisa or her sister one of those rugrats get me sick. Children are awful." And with that, she leaves House's office. But that gives House an idea.
House is in Jack's room, and puts his hand on Daisy's forehead. "Did she have a rash recently?" he asks Eva. "Feverish? Itchy?" But Daisy says no. Hmm, maybe he was wrong. "What's she doing here anyway? It's the middle of the morning. Shouldn't she be in school?"
"I'm keeping her out for a few days. There's been a little outbreak of - "
"Chickenpox." House smiles. "Sorry, but if I'd let you finish that sentence that would have been much less impressive. Chickenpox is no big deal for kids, but it's a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad deal for grown-ups."
"You think Jack has chicken pox? He doesn't have blisters. He's not itchy, and Daisy never got it."
"I know. Again, that's why it's so impressive that I figured it out. Five percent of cases present without blisters. The kid was just a carrier." House walks over to Jack. "I'm going to start you on anti-varicella gammaglobulin, which will save your life . . . but it won't make me a hero."
Eva comes by to see Jack that evening. "How are you feeling?" "Like I'm not going to die," Jack says, smiling. "I can't wait to take you home," she tells him. But he pauses: "The guys called." It's just a few gigs, he says. Three weeks, tops. Taub is outside the door, watching them talk. Later Eva comes up to Taub by the nurse's station. "Three weeks isn't so bad," he says. But Eva says it's never just three weeks, there's always just "one more tour." "And the pathetic thing is," she says, "that I let myself believe that he could change, he could be this other guy. There's nothing worse than loving someone who's never going to stop disappointing you." She walks away, leaving Taub to think about what she said.
Masters finds House in his office to tell him that the culture confirmed chickenpox. "FYI, turns out your hero is a loser," he tells her. "He's going back on the road."
"He still risked his life for that woman."
"That was impulse. It was easy. Dealing with family is hard."
Taub walks in the door to his apartment, sees Rachel, and tells her he thinks they should get a divorce. "You have feelings for him, and I can't handle that. But it's my fault you needed someone else. I keep hurting you."
"We love each other," Rachel tells him.
"I know. But are you happy?"
She starts to cry. "No."
"Then, what are we doing?"
Back at the hospital, House and Cuddy are sitting on the couch in Cuddy's office. "You know," House says, "you turned out remarkably close to normal, considering the genes in play." He hands her a bottle of the sedatives he gave Arlene, with a bow on top. "In case your mom comes back. Happy birthday." Cuddy laughs and asks if he's coming over later. He can't, it's bowling night with Wilson. "Oh, screw it, I'm coming . . ."
"No, no, no, I'm not going to be responsible for that," she says. "You drugged the man, you go bowling with him."
House is at Wilson's office door. "Hey," Wilson says, "You ready?"
"Here's the thing . . ."
Taub is in his car, looking for one of his billboards. When he finds one on the side of a building, he pulls up with a bucket of paintballs and starts chucking blue paint all over the giant picture of himself.
Meanwhile, House is happily sitting on his couch by himself, in his pajamas, drinking scotch, and watching "The Real Housewives of New Jersey."