At the start of “House” Season 8 Episode 8 “Small Sacrifices,” a man is having himself nailed to a cross as an apparent extreme act of religious devotion. However, along with the usual agony this involves, he starts to vomit blood.
This is unfortunate in two ways. First, he is ill and is going to the hospital. Second, he is going to have House, the most notorious and militant atheist in episodic television drama, as a doctor.
It seems that the patient’s daughter was diagnosed with a particular form of cancer that was incurable, giving her only a couple of months to live. So he promised God that he would have himself nailed to a cross every year that he allowed his little girl to live. That was four years ago, and the daughter is cancer-free.
House is, naturally, somewhat skeptical about the divine intervention explanation. A misdiagnosis perhaps? Wilson, the oncologist, suggests spontaneous remission, which sometimes happens.
In any event, there are side problems developing. Cuddy is still making House sleep on the couch for lying to her. She needs an apology, which she will not get because House does not believe he has done wrong. Wilson suggests lying and apologizing anyway. House instead wants to trick Cuddy into lying to him, making things even.
Taub is irate that his wife Rachel is carrying on an intense but chaste friendship with someone she met at a wives-whose-husbands-have-cheated-on-them support group. He knows he deserves it, but decides to whine about it anyway.
Wilson wants to ask Sam to marry him again. This turns out to be a mistake.
All of these personal issues climax at a wedding, of all places. House succeeds in getting Cuddy to lie to him, but somehow it makes her more, not less, mad at him. Taub whines a little too much to Rachel. Sam responds to the marriage proposal by moving out on Wilson.
Meanwhile, it seems that what ails the patient needs embryonic stem cells to cure. The patient refuses the treatment on religious grounds. Here the writers drop the ball as to motivation. People who oppose embryonic stem cell therapies do not do so because God tells them to. They oppose it because they believe that embryos, from the moment of conception, are human beings and that to destroy an embryo, in effect killing someone, is immoral even to save another life.
That would have made a more interesting discussion. However, House tricks the patient into thinking that God has reneged on the deal. He takes the treatment. Then House admits that he lied and notes that God has not punished anyone for his sins. The patient responds that God is merciful.
God is wrathful, proof of God, exclaims House. God is merciful, proof of God.
God, the patient tries to explain, is not about proof or evidence, but about faith and, he now realizes, about love.
Finally, House gives the apology to Cuddy. She softens. It is, of course, an insincere lie.
Source: House, Small Sacrifices, TV.Rage