Six Feet Under

Season 1 Episode 12

A Private Life

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Aug 19, 2001 on HBO
out of 10
User Rating
201 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Marcus Foster Jr.
March 5, 1978 - June 5, 2001

Rico and Vanessa finally have their new son. Brenda tries to handle her brother's obsessiveness and suggests he give her back her house key and start back on his medication. Billy does not react too well to this. David's feelings about his secret come closer to the surface due to a hate crime against a gay man, that the funeral home now must deal with. Ruth tries to get her son to bring up the subject, but has a very difficult time. Nate has a freakish encounter with Billy. Claire and Gabe continue their odd-ish relationship.


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  • Intense

    Ugh, this episode was so intense. I always feel like I write such short reviews on this site but it's just because I don't want to spoil anything. This show packs emotional power in every scene even if it's of the quiet kind - while Brenda and Billy's scene scared the heck out of me, Dave and Ruth's had me almost in tears too. Wonderful work and I can see why so many people adore this program.moreless
  • 112

    Things come to a boil on the penultimate episode of Six Feet Under's first season. All the things that have been building this season really came to light here. With Billy being psychotic, Brenda facing her demons, David going through his hardships and slowly self-destructing. I knew that there had to be a reason why Claire & Billy hooked up for an episode, things just tied in amazingly with the whole situation relating to Nate & Brenda somehow, also love the fact that Billy took pictures, the maze that Nate had to go through was definitely creepy.

    The scene between Billy & Brenda near the end was definitely intense. Scratching out a tattoo with a knife? Now that's crazy. I liked Brenda's development near the end with her finally committing her psychotic brother. I really hope this story line isn't over, only hope to see things get more intense in the next episode.

    I never liked the Claire & Gabe relationship, but in a way, I think they got some redemption. The scenes between Claire and her counseler were the absolute best though, I always imagined something happening between the two of them, now that I would like to see. David's story line is so heartbreaking, he finally came out to his mom, but it's just depressing seeing him not being able to live his life. Overall, a superb penultimate episode, definitely pumped for the finale.moreless
  • Bit disappointed, to be honest!

    I knew the score of this episode before I actually watched it, so I had very high expectations, as this is the highest rated episode of season 1. But quite honestly, this episode didn't do very much to earn that rating.

    Most likely it's David's fight with his own conscience that brought up the episode's score. But the problem is that this has been done before, plus the first time it was done it was simply better.

    I thought this whole "accept or not that I'm gay dilemma was just a few episodes too late. It seems like a struggle that should've happened much earlier or simply shouldn't have happened at all. However, David telling the truth to Ruth and his prayer to god was 2 great scenes.

    I thought the way the whole Billy thing was handled was great. Creepy, bizarre, but by the end, Brenda did the right thing. Billy is just crazy.

    The rest of the episode was really nothing special, very average, unfortunately the Ruth scenes still hardly do a thing. Overall, the episode had some interesting points, but it almost feels as if it's a long drawn transitional episode.moreless
  • Review

    I thought Nate / Brenda / Billy and David scenes were all done very well with Claire and Ruth failing to live up to the importance of the episode. I never have felt a connection to Ruth and I have said it in many of my reviews for this show. She brings nothing that I look forward to seeing week in and week out. Nate and Brenda come full circle in this epsiode as Brenda kicks Nate out of her life for a little while, but Billy and his odd behavior take it to a level that we haven't seen before. I dont know how the actor that plays Billy portrays him so well, but really has me believing that this guy is crazy. Kudos on the amazing acting performance brought in week after week by him. This epsiode sort of sets the stage for the finale, though this episode felt very finale-ish. David finnaly comes out to his mother, Brenda and Nate seem to have come to the conclusions about Billy and where he needs to be and it seems like Claire and Gabe are even back on the right path again. The only thing that I think the show goes from here in the finale is to question all of these things that we have just learned. I think the next epsiode should focus a lot on David / Keith and enhance how deep Nate / Brenda really are. Overall, I would say its the most overrated episode of the first season, but still well put together.moreless
  • Simply Amazing Written by Kate Robin Directed by Rodrigo Garcia

    After my consistent harping/whinging/moaning (take your pick really)about wanting David to come out about being gay finally comes to pass as the homophobic killing of Marcus Foster forces David to confront his own fears about his lifestyle and sexuality - and oh my God,this episode is laced with unmissable twists and turn of events from start to finish.

    The death of the week is a particularly brutal affair as Marcus and his boyfriend are attacked by a group of bible bashers who beat the former to death.

    Worse still, the deceased's own father is heavily in denial of his son's sexuality and almost seems to sympathise with his murderers, sending David's mind in a whirl and when Federico makes a somewhat homophobic comment, David is forced to admit to his employee about his own lifestyle.

    As much as Federico's has been growing on me I couldn't help but be disappointed by his negative attitude (Where i come from we don't talk about that.When a man feels he has to do a thing like that he still stays with his wife and kids"). The fundamentalists at Marcus' funeralare just an awful reminder of how backward our society still is these days. Couldn't help smiling when David punched one of them though. Atta boy.

    Michael C. Hall pulls in arguably the best performance from all season and literally dominates "A Private Life" through out as David goes through so much here. Marcus' ghost provides a perfect catalyst for David to reassess most of the decisions he's made regarding his dealing of his sexual orientation and finally plucks the courage to tell Ruth. Okay, i've made something of a mistake.

    While MCH gives the best performance that doesn't go to say that everyone else doesn't do their best with the powerful material by writer Kate Robin here. Frances Conroy's reaction to David's confirmation to Ruth as David finally tells her is simply stunning as she gives her son the love and support he so desperately was clamouring for.

    Earlier on in the episode she asks Robbie (who is also gay - no surprise there) for advice regarding David, got answers she neccessarily didn't like and was forced to give intimate information on her and Hiram's first time. Very intimate. The episode's finale in which David prays to make him a good person will bring a tear to your eyes while Keith provides some kind words that makes you wish the boys were still a couple.

    But it's not just David that will you enchanted with this episode. There is some strong stuff between Claire and Gabe as their relationship seems to makes some kind of progress when she gets Gabe to open up after doing the same with her guidance counsellor. Maybe there is hope for him yet.

    One person who is getting hopeless happens to be none other than Billy as he goes from creepy to downright psychotic. He first lures Nate into a warehouse, hangs obscene photos on the walls (Nate and Brenda doing it, Billy making out with Claire),makes it look like he's done away with himself and threatens Nate.And if that wasn't bad enough he then breaks into Brenda's house, bleeding (it appears he's carved out the "Isabel" tattoo from his back) and wants to save his sister by removing her "Nathaniel" tattoo. Brenda's attempts of reasoning fail and when he tries to stab her, she has to knock him out and have him committed to an institution.

    The other plots were also as rewarding. Nate and Brenda finally seem to getting over the rift that Billy put between them or are at least making steps towards doing so anyway. Nate also tells Ruth that he woild want to settle down with Brenda, but she makes it difficult for him due to her somewhat detached attitude. Isn't that why he was attracted to her in the first place?

    Also in "A Private Life"

    Death of the week: Marcus Foster being beaten to death by homophobic brutes. Bastards.

    Gabe:"You're a freak"

    Claire:"Yeah, well so are you"

    Gabe:"Is that supposed to make me feel better?"

    Brenda looked very weary in this episode, even before Billy attacked her. Either Rachel Griffiths was under the weather while filming this episode or really knows how to get in touch with Brenda.

    Federico:"Okay Cinderella, we're gonna have to work overtime to get you ready for the ball because men don't make passes at girls with big gashes".

    Was it me or was there more classical music in this episode than usual?If so the it's this week's standout music.

    Gary:"Dating anyone?"

    Claire:"Dating? You mean like getting drunk and screwing?"

    Gary:"If that's what it is" Claire:"That's what it is and no, i'm not".

    Claire was a member of the Jazz vocal and submitted a disturbing article for the literary magazine. I wish I had Jazz vocal when I was in high school.

    Nate (on the phone):"Brenda pick up the phone. Don't just sit there and say 'fuck you'".

    Billy (to Nate):"Oh no, it's just plain fun. You know when you mix up the letters in 'funeral', you get 'real fun'. How much do you love that?"

    We got to see Claire's finesse for art here with her drawing.

    Claire (to Gabe):"Isn't it comforting to know that being miserable is still better than being an idiot?"

    Marcus looked kinda older than he should have when fully done.

    Fundamentalist:"It's my right to tell the truth. God killed Marcus Foster and i'm here to celebrate"

    David (after punching him):"God just shoved your lungs into your stomach and i'm here to celebrate". Wow, oh my God, wow.

    Chronology wise it's June 5th 2001, the day I turned 16 and two days after the show in the real world premiered on HBO. Irrevelant I know but I still had to throw it in there anyway.

    If the previous eleven episodes haven't converted you into watching this series, then "A Private Life" sure as hell will. This episode is still extraordinary. Golden Globe, GLAAD, Emmy's anyone? Just give this episode the recognition it well and truly deserves as this is testament that Six Feet Under is really a show that breaks the confines of modern television. There are so many gay characters on TV these days, but none of them are as fully fleshed out and as complex as David. Like i said earlier on, using Marcus' ghost was truly an inspired way of getting David to face his fears as well as confront. Is finally comfortable with being himself? Maybe not but this episode is a good starting. It's only a shame that he didn't tell the do-gooders at his church but that's probably imminent. There aren't as many pieces of episodic TV that leave me emotionally exhausted but this one of the very few. I swear to God it's type of episode that once you've seen it you need to see again and again because it's such powerful television at it's ultimate best. If next week's episode, the season finale is half as good it'll be well worth watching.moreless
Brian Poth

Brian Poth

Marc Foster

Guest Star

Arthur Taxier

Arthur Taxier

Marcus Foster

Guest Star

Joan McMurtrey

Joan McMurtrey

Patsy Foster

Guest Star

Joel Brooks

Joel Brooks


Recurring Role

Justina Machado

Justina Machado

Vanessa Diaz

Recurring Role

David Norona

David Norona

Guidance Counselor

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions