Three Stories

"Three Stories"
House episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 21
Directed by Paris Barclay
Written by David Shore
Original air date May 17, 2005 (2005-05-17)
Running time 44 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Season 1 episodes

"Three Stories" is the twenty-first episode of the first season of House, which premiered on Fox on May 17, 2005. David Shore won an Emmy in 2005 for Outstanding Writing for A Drama Series for this episode. It won the Humanitas Prize in the '60 minute' category for the year 2006.


Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) agrees to lecture on diagnostics in place of the sick Dr. Riley, in exchange for two hours free from clinic duty. On his way over to the lecture hall, he encounters his ex-girlfriend, Stacy Warner (Sela Ward), whom he has not seen in years. Stacy wants him to treat her husband whom she believes to be sick. House's lecture consists of three different scenarios, all previous cases House has diagnosed; all three patients complain of leg pain.

The first patient is a farmer, who was bitten by a timber rattlesnake. However, when the anti-venom is given, he suffers an allergic reaction. The results of venom testing leads House to believe the farmer's symptoms cannot be from a snake bite. Out of options, House informs the patient of his impending death. The farmer quickly changes priority, wondering what will happen to his dog. House deduces that the bite was caused by his pet, and that this was not the first time it happened. Dr. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps) and Dr. Robert Chase (Jesse Spencer) return to the farmer's field and take a sample of the dog's saliva, revealing a form of strep bacteria, more commonly known as the flesh-eating bacteria. The farmer's right leg is amputated, and his dog is euthanized, but he is given a prosthetic new leg as well as a new dog.

The second patient is a female volleyball player. Dr. Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) believes the patient suffers from tendinitis, due to her thyroid gland causing a depressed mental state, in response to the patient's boy problems, resulting in the inflammation of the tendons. While tests confirm tendinitis, the Thyroxine the patient is given to level her moods does not work and the team becomes stumped when the patient develops hypersensitivity to touch and raised calcium levels. Chase theorizes parathyroid adenoma and an MRI is done to confirm. The scan reveals she has osteosarcoma, a cancerous tumor on her femur. Cameron warns the patient and her parents that, depending on how large and ingrained the tumor is, amputation might be the only way to recovery. Fortunately for the patient, her leg is not amputated and she makes a full recovery.

The last patient is Carmen Electra enjoying a round of miniature golf, however, as House's lecture continues, the patient is revealed to be a male golfer with extreme right leg pain (Electra was a part of House's fantasy). While being examined, the patient grabs a syringe of Demerol and self-administers the injection. The students deduce the patient was here just for narcotics. When he tells the students that the patient begins urinating blood and waste, they are stumped as to the cause, which greatly angers House. Cameron shows up at the lecture, diagnosing muscle death. As Foreman and Chase also arrive, House states an MRI was done to confirm, revealing an aneurysm that clotted, leading to an infarction. Cameron deduces the patient in the third scenario was House all along.

A flashback shows House eventually diagnosed himself with muscle death. Stacy, his girlfriend at the time, goes along with Dr. Lisa Cuddy's (Lisa Edelstein) suggestion of amputating his leg. House refuses, and wants to restore the circulation, which could save his leg, but also comes with pain and severe risks. House goes into cardiac arrest, claiming to have died and seen visions of the other two patients. Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) enters the lecture, and asks House if he believes his visions were real. House claims he thinks the visions at the point of death are chemical reactions in the brain, as he finds it more comforting to believe that life "isn't simply a test". Back in the flashback, House has Cuddy put him into a chemically induced coma, during which Stacy exercises the health care proxy that House gave to her and decides (against his will) to take the middle ground of having the dead tissue removed without amputating his leg. While the students debate the ethics of this choice, Cuddy enters, and House discovers the lecture has run twenty minutes over. House tells Cuddy that Dr. Riley is vomiting due to the ingestion of lead-based paint, which House tasted when he drank from Riley's homemade coffee mug during the lecture.


The episode was written by series creator David Shore and directed by Paris Barclay.[1][2] As the episode differed from Shore's earlier work, Shore was unsure how the episode would be received,[3] as he stated in an interview with Canadian Jewish News, "it was either the worst thing I had ever written or the best. Honestly I wasn't sure."[4] Shore's narrative device of "false flashbacks" was largely influenced by the 1968 French science fiction film Je t'aime, je t'aime as well as Alfred Hitchcock's 1949 film Stage Fright.[2] Fans have compared "Three Stories"'s storytelling to the thriller The Usual Suspects (1995), which was directed by House executive producer Bryan Singer.[2]


"Three Stories" was first broadcast in the United States on Fox on May 17, 2005. The episode was watched by 17.68 million viewers, making House the 14th most-watched program of the week.[5] Shore received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series.[6] Shore was "shocked" when he heard he was nominated. He had been nominated for an Emmy Award twice before, as a producer on Law & Order, but felt this nomination was more personal and individual.[7] Shore won the Emmy Award,[8] and, in addition, also received the 2006 Humanitas Prize in the 60 Minute Category.[9] "Three Stories" is also responsible for the show's Peabody Award win in 2005.[2] Barclay was nominated for a Directors Guild of America Award, but lost to Michael Apted, who had directed the Rome episode "The Stolen Eagle".[10]

Critics reacted positively to the episode. Matt Zoller Seitz placed the episode second on his list of 2005's best individual television episodes, calling it a "high-point" for the show.[1] Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune praised the episode for its "twisty, smart and moving storytelling".[11]

In 2009, TV Guide ranked "Three Stories" #66 on its list of the 100 Greatest Episodes.[12]


  1. 1 2 Seitz, Matt Zoller (December 18, 2005). "The perfect 10 - The shows weren't all winners, but these episodes were keepers". The Star-Ledger.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Challen, pp. 172-174
  3. Frum, Linda (March 14, 2006). "Q&A with 'House' creator David Shore". Maclean's. Rogers Communications. Retrieved January 2, 2007.
  4. Challen, Paul (2007). The House that Hugh Laurie Built: An Unauthorized Biography and Episode Guide. ECW Press. pp. 98–99. ISBN 1-55022-803-X.
  5. "Weekly Program Rankings". American Broadcasting Company. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  6. "The 57th Primetime Emmy Awards and Creative Arts Emmys Nominations" (PDF). Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 26, 2009. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  7. Staff (July 15, 2005). "Hatcher won't hear trifecta talk". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on September 16, 2008. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  8. Associated Press (September 19, 2005). "Full list of Emmy winners". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  9. "Winners of the Humanitas Prize 60 Minute Category". Humanitas Prize. Archived from the original on September 14, 2009. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
  10. Hiestand, Jesse (Jan 30, 2006). "'Brokeback's' Lee wins DGA Award". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  11. Ryan, Maureen (May 29, 2005). "No fear in the 'House,' even though 'Idol' won't be there". Chicago Tribune. p. 15.
  12. "TV Guide's Top 100 Episodes". Rev/Views. Retrieved July 4, 2016.
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