THIS WEEK'S EPISODES: "Familial" | "An Open Book" | "The Room"
I thought these three episodes of Six Feet Under got progressively better, so I’m going to move quickly to get to the last one in this batch, “The Room.” In short: Brenda and Nate’s sexytimes were interrupted not just once by Ruth, but again, by Brenda’s parents. Nate got more committed to making the family express its emotions. David got dumped by Keith, and deserved it, then had an awkward time meeting new guys.
In the first extended sequence between Ruth and Claire, the two took a trip to see their respective cousins—a sickeningly sweet mother-daughter pair. It was a nice thesis-antithesis-synthesis setpiece: Ruth, distraught that she and Claire had grown so far apart, was at first enchanted with their relatives' relationship—the polar opposite of Ruth's relationship with her own daughter. But when the cousins' shallow perkiness began to wear thin, coupled with the threat of forced spin class, Ruth joined Claire in disgust, and the pair made a daring daybreak escape.
Speaking of, Claire has become a lot more likable. She’s gone quickly from "spoiled, annoying teenager" to "relatively naive girl who’s in short succession dated two atrocious dudes." In “The Room,” she's at her best yet, begrudgingly letting herself be used as a pillow by the grieving, cranky, flatulent widower. Claire, to Ruth, somewhat justifying her recent outbreaks: “I know stealing a foot is weird. But living in a house where a foot is available be stolen is weird.”
The case of who burned down that house has grown cold, by the way. The only reasonable suspects would have been Claire or Brenda, and both have denied it. So the culprit is either someone we know acting way out of character (this could include Claire or Brenda lying), or someone tangential or whom we’ve yet to meet. Of course, it's entirely possible that we’ll never find out; given that Six Feet Under's surrealist cutaways haven't yet had actual impact within the real world, I think it’d be neat if we end up with option #3.
So on to "The Room," which explored drastically hidden lives. We’ve seen a slow mystery develop around Brenda (“Nathaniel” tattooed around her back, taking an emergency call after hooking up with Nate in the house across the street, arranging a blind date between her parents and Nate), and the root cause is that she was a child prodigy. I guess that makes sense?
It turns out Brenda’s childhood genius meant that she was treated like a science experiment while growing up, and that her story became a book beloved by troubled teenage girls around the country—including Claire. This is a point of tension between her and Nate, but surely it's come up in every serious relationship Brenda’s ever had, so you’d imagine she’s learned to deal with it somewhat.
We also saw Nate discover a side of his father that he never knew. Nathaniel smoked pot, he traded funerals for favors, he was funny, he told people he was proud of Nate, and most importantly, he had a secret room where he listened to records—but what else he did in there isn’t clear. Nate imagined his dad having friends over, bringing a hooker there, shooting people from the window, but they’re all conjecture. I enjoyed seeing Nate mull over what it means that his dad told people he was proud of his oldest son:
Nate: You could have told me you were proud of me.
Nathaniel: You were never around for me to tell. Which is exactly what I was proud of you for.
Nate: You think running away was the best thing I ever did.
Nathaniel: Maybe. Maybe I was just covering up for how embarrassed I was when you left.
Nate doesn’t know how his dad really felt about him, and it seems like he never will. That the death of a loved one leaves a lot of loose ends was echoed in the side plot of the old man who’d lost his wife. These one-shot characters are starting to function like a Greek chorus for the Fisher family, nearly anonymous, but echoing what they can't say themselves.
Questions & Miscellanea:
... When David gave Kroener’s Matthew his semi-vicious threat, did you hear what was playing in the background? Love that song. Big Love fans, you probably remember Lilo singing it on a talk show.
... Bleach-blonde porn star Sandra Oh: Hot or not?
... The actress who played fictional porn star Vivica St. John in "An Open Book" is a real-life former porn star who used the stage name Veronia Hart. Hart was an inspiration for Julianne Moore's character in Boogie Nights.
... Between Nathaniel’s tendency to trade funerals for favors and David’s readiness to comp the old woman’s embalming fees, it looks like Fisher & Sons isn’t nearly as tightly run a business as it seemed.
... I’m standing by my gut reaction to the old widower: that he was used to illustrate, as I said above, the loneliness and lack of resolution people feel when a loved one dies. But since he ended up dying so soon after his wife, do you think the show is hinting that death offers some sort of order, after all?
Ed. note: You can stay up-to-date on DVD Club news and find a listing of all related discussion stories in the TV.com Summer DVD Club Archives.
Follow TV.com writer Kevin Collier on Twitter: @KevinCollier