A House Puzzler

Here’s a puzzler for people who have seen the latest episode of the TV show?House.? In this episode (“A Pox on our House“), why did the writers choose to give the sick family a mini-Brady Bunch structure – a recently married husband and wife who each bring to the marriage a child from a previous relationship?? And what does this have to do with the Bible?

Im Patient.

I give up.


So, the closest Biblical allusion I can think of is the conflict between Hagar's and Sarah's sons, Ishmael and Isaac (the son of the bond-woman will not be heir with the son of the free woman). In other words, there is an inherent insecurity in not being the child of both parents.

That is a little more complicated, given that Sarah recommended Abraham sleep with Hagar and they were both living at the time they were cast out.

But, that's part of the drama of the TV Show: as the Dad dies, his kid has the fear of abandonment by their new mother.


As Jesus died, he turned to John and said, "Behold your Mother!" (about Mary) and "Behold your son!" (refering to John).

In a similar way, the dad in House hands off responsibility for his kid as he dies.


So the idea that the disease was somehow sexually communicated between the man and the girl would be less icky and more likely to float in viewers' minds, heightening the mystery?


Well, regarding Pablo's theory, the Bible does explicitly prohibit engaging in congress with your step-kids, even if you aren't related to them.

I don't think that is necessarily prohibited by US law, though it probably depends on your state.

Did I miss something?


I did not notice mention or need for sex to spread either smallpox or the pox that it turned out to be.


I have no idea why it has anything to do with the bible, but whenever House has strange family relationships, it's generally to explicity write genetics in or out as a possibility.

"He and his father both have it, it must be genetic! No, wait, they aren't actually related."

"She has it, but her mother doesn't, so it can't possibly be genetic. No, wait, her mother was bitten by a mouse during her childhood, so she's immune."


What does this post have to do with economics? Not clear why this blog is called "Freakonomics," given its subject matter.


Unlike our dear friend above (SP), I LOVE these kinds of articles! Freakonomics would grow boring in a hurry if it's all about "marginal returns" and mundane economic matters.

This is the spice that I come looking for at Freakonomics.

If I can't live without academic theories or what have you, I'll find some other website to meet that need. This is the one I go to for cool stuff.

I'm looking forward to "critiquing" whatever Bible answer is given...hehehe. Of course, I also look forward to learning something interesting!


The rule in scriptwriting is to raise the stakes wherever possible and sometimes where it's not possible. By having a Brady Bunch type blended family, there's more emotional oomph at the end when the step-mother, grieving over the death of her husband, commits to her stepson. You wouldn't get that layer if it were just a widowed mother taking care of both her kids.

I see no Biblical allusion.

The medical absurdity in that episode was particularly annoying because so many of the viewers wear proof on their arms. Smallpox vaccines were stopped in America around 1958-59. They were stopped world wide in 1980. So depending on where you were born and how old you are, you have a scar. Hugh Laurie, born in England in 1959, was probably vaccinated, though his character House, depending on exactly how old the character is supposed to be, might not have been.

The bit about the virus surviving in glass for 200 years didn't bother me. The bit about the CDC having fits about sending doctors into the room with the patient was absurd. They'd have just looked for someone who was old enough to have been vaccinated.

Polio would be a good subject. WHO came so close to eradicating it like they did smallpox, but now it's on the rise again.



The modern family is supposed to be a parallel with the slave family, where the man gives his son to the other man before he's taken to be thrown overboard and says, "He's your father now." Similarly, the modern man gives his son to his wife before he dies.

By the way, in the first scene of the 18th century Dutch slave ship, why does it have electric lights on the back?


I haven't read it much, but I understand the Bible tells us that God is omnipresent, so he has everything to do with everything.


Someone above mentioned Sarah and Abraham. I too can't think of a better example than that. I think divorced people SHOULD NOT remarry until their children are OUT OF THE HOUSE.


Matthew R.

I don't watch "House," but from the brief description above I'm thinking of Ruth, the daughter-in-law who decides to take care of her widowed mother-in-law, even when Ruth's husband (the m-i-l's son) dies, and thus they have no formal relationship anymore.

Since I have not seen the episode, I could easily be completely wrong.

Eric M. Jones

For a good discussion of the particulars, see:

The Rikettsialpox that the father and daughter had might have survived in a bottle on the ocean bottom a few hundred years, but it is a stretch. The disease is not contagious, resulting from an insect bite. Sex is not a factor apparently.

Anyway, the whole thing was good TV but questionable medicine.

As for the biblical thingy...really.....No matter what, you can get an argument. Let's see, killing slaves by drowning, ordering barbeque, Lepers, whatever....