A particularly trying patient provokes House’s usual lack of sympathy for religious beliefs. His team are willing to follow House's lead, but Chase feels free to disagree.
Warnings: Written during season four, and thus may contain spoilers for any episode up to and including 4.14.
Martyrdom has always been a proof of the intensity, never of the correctness of a belief. ~Napoleon Bonaparte
"It's not Kuru," Chase said, breezing into Diagnostics. Foreman, freshly poured coffee in hand, gave him a sympathetic half-smile as they passed each other in the doorway, but didn't stay. Chase's problems, his expression clearly said, were Chase's problems, and Chase should be competent by now to deal with them.
"Dude: it's Kuru," Kutner said. "I've got his passport. He's not only been to Papua New Guinea, he spent Easter in the Philippines and Christmas in Italy. He even still had his boarding passes stuffed in his wallet."
"Does anybody else find that weird?" House asked, steepling his fingers and addressing the ceiling.
Taub shrugged. "Lots of people don't clean out their wallets that often," he said.
"Or maybe he was keeping them as souvenirs," Thirteen suggested, sounding bored.
"Not the ticket stubs," House said impatiently. "The travel."
"You mean the money," Kutner guessed shrewdly.
"He doesn't dress well," House pointed out, "and doesn't appear to be well off. And yet he's made, what, three major trips in a year?"
"It isn't that strange," Chase argued. House rolled his eyes.
"I realize budgeting isn't the sort of skill your upbringing instilled in you," he said, "but you can do basic math, right? Someone find out what this guy does and how much he earns."
"He does freelance work," Kutner said. "I already asked. And it doesn't pay well, but yeah, it probably covers the travel. If he scrimps. So he's not a drug mule, if that's what you're thinking."
"But why the travel?" House asked.
"Does it matter?" asked Thirteen. "I thought what mattered is that he has travelled, so it could be Kuru."
"Be serious," said Chase. "It's not Kuru. Do you honestly think any first-world traveller would have participated in cannibalistic funereal practices? If any of the Fore even still do that, which I'm sure they don't. And come on: this guy's probably seen the same Discovery Channel documentaries everyone else has. He's not stupid."
"He's stupid enough to have travelled on his own dime to Papua New Guinea to do missionary work," House pointed out.
Chase flushed. "He's devout," he said. "That doesn't make him stupid."
House sighed exaggeratedly. "I'd have thought that when you left the seminary, it would at least have had the benefit of sparing the poor from having you condescending to do good works to them. Guess not. Go ask him about his trip. See if he ate anyone interesting."
Chase shoved back his chair and left, wordlessly.
"Anyone else going to be massively disappointed if this isn't Kuru?" House asked cheerfully, and all three doctors sheepishly raised their hands.
"So why are we here again?" Thirteen asked, looking through the patient's closet.
Kutner whistled. "Check this out," he said, almost admiringly. "Man, this guy is universally loathed. He must be a full-time bastard on the internet."
Taub stood behind him, reading over Kutner's shoulder as he flipped through Selvaggio's inbox. "That's not email, that's hate mail," he said, frowning.
Kutner scoffed. "You think he doesn't deserve it?" he asked. "You've met him. These people are probably exercising restraint."
"Whether or not he deserved it is beside the point," Taub said. "Think about it: this takes one of the symptoms off the table."
"It's not paranoia if they're really out to get you?" Kutner said, and Taub nodded.
"I think we've been misreading him," he said. "He's not delusional. He really has managed to make a lot of people hate him, even if they weren't in his room yesterday. So maybe the anger wasn't a symptom, either, just a habit."
"What does that leave us with, then?" Thirteen asked. "Confusion and a fever? That could be anything."
Chase was frowning at the patient's chart. "Your white count is slightly elevated," he said, but more to himself than to Mr. Selvaggio.
"Perhaps I'm sick," Selvaggio said dryly.
Chase looked up at him. "How do you feel?" he asked gently. "Apart from your nose, I mean."
The patient scowled. "I feel as if a lot of semi-civilized so-called professionals are looking down their noses at me, my education, and my faith. Which is no more than I expected; your training predisposes you to unwarranted scorn."
Chase refrained from rolling his eyes, but barely; a close observer would have read annoyance and dismissal in his eyes. His qualifications, in his opinion, were nothing to take lightly, and hardly a reason to sneer. His voice remained perfectly pleasant, though, and his habitual expression of affability was firmly in place as he smiled and answered, "I meant physically." In the face of such a determined refusal to fight, Selvaggio relented slightly.
"Awful," he admitted. "I've had a headache for days, and I feel dizzy and disoriented and just unwell. There's something physically wrong, I'm sure there is. If you people would extend me the courtesy of paying attention to that, instead of concocting lies and casting aspersions on my mental health, you might be of some use to me."
Chase hesitated, then asked, "When you were in Papua New Guinea, did you eat...anything unusual?"
"I'm a vegetarian," Selvaggio said wearily. "And, incidentally, literate. I know what Kuru is, and I don't have it--and if you knew anything about present-day tribal funeral customs you'd know that."