Six Feet Under

Season 1 Episode 5

An Open Book

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Jul 01, 2001 on HBO
out of 10
User Rating
221 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Jean Louise McArthur - "Viveca St. John"
September 9, 1957 - February 17, 2001

David is trying to fill the void his father left in more than the business. He wants to become deacon at the family church, but Keith is having a problem with it. Ruth has a difficult time with a group of mourners for a porn star. But she and Claire try to have more bonding time and visit their cousins. Nate has dinner with Brenda's parents, psychiatrists Bernard and Margaret, without Brenda. He also meets her brother Billy in an unorthodox manner.


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  • Favorite So Far

    Not sure why others dislike this episode at least compared to the other ones, it's my favorites so far. The death of the porn star added a comedic element that helped to contrast with the more serious, character-developing parts. Claire, Brenda, Dave, and Ruth each get their time in the limelight and they are all starting to grow on me. Perhaps it took awhile - five episodes - but it's not bad. Looking forward to the next one.moreless
  • Nate learns a little more about Brenda while David's relationship grows more intense with Keith

    For the first time in the first season, I felt as if the "death of the week" schtick was a little hokey. I think of "Six Feet Under" primarily as a drama with some dark comedy undertones. However, having a porn star die and become somebody who is to be mourned at the Fisher home is basically setting us up for genitalia jokes, porn jokes and everything else in between. That's not to say that the humor didn't fit the tone of the show, it just felt unnecessary and wasn't exactly my favorite scenes.

    But anything that the show gets wrong in those sections it more than makes up for with character development. We get to see Nate meeting Brenda's parents, a couple of rich, semi-pretentious people who inform Nate of all kinds of tidbits of information, including the fact that Brenda was the subject of a book where her parents had psychologists look at her and investigate all the peculiarities about her. It sort of helps focus Brenda's character a bit; up until now, she's been this anomaly, a very strange woman who meshes well with Nate but is very secretive. I've slowly grown to like her more and more, and this new information helps a bunch.

    We also get more incredibly consistent David Fisher build-up. There was a great scene where David and Keith are having dinner at the same restaurant as Nate and Brenda, and when Nate approaches and asks if they work out together, David basically comes out to his brother, holding Keith's hand and taking a huge step forward in their relationship. But on the drop of a dime, when Keith asks David to go with him to a gay policeman/fireman convention, David's hesitation sends Keith into a fury. The two basically break up and David is left behind with a broken heart.

    In the background of all of this was the dead porn star, who effects the characters in multiple ways. Ruth is disgusted by the whole ordeal and finds her ideals compromised by it. David sees visions of Vivica St. John, where she questions him in the difference between being gay and being a porn star. I find these little visions, whether they're with Nathaniel Fisher or anybody else to be well done when it could be lame with other shows (last week's with Paco was particularly inspired). We also meet a new character: Brenda's brother, Billy, who we soon learn is technically the "Nathaniel" tattooed on Brenda's back. How he'll effect the rest of the show should be interesting. There's also a plot with Claire and Ruth, but it's that sort of hour-long sitcom-y type of situation, where they try to bond with each other.

    Perhaps this wasn't my favorite episode, but it certainly was fun to watch. The writing is just so top-notch that it's hard to dislike an episode of the show.moreless
  • 105

    Good episode of Six Feet Under, but I felt as though this episode was just a way to keep the ball rolling, like continuing the plots. Nothing really big or eventful happened here, but we did get a lot of character development, and this episode also made me realize what a great ensemble we have here.

    I didn't like how this whole episode was solely focused on Nathan & Brenda, or her parents just because I don't find her as interesting as everyone else does, but that's just me. Claire continues to be my favorite character with David not falling far behind.

    Claire's plot was nice, her interacting with her mom, and realizing how sad her life is, it was a nice feel good ending for them. Things for David were a bit unresolved, but they really got to get past this. Every episode has contained some sort of argument between David and his boyfriend, it's enough already. Good episode overall, I think the dead person of the week intrigued me the most.moreless
  • Entertaining, good, but it felt too long.

    This was a good episode all considered, and certain elements were outstanding, but there were parts that just seemed to go on forever and ever.

    Once again Brenda's character let me down. Yes, there's a certain amount of mystery surrounding her, but she's just awfully annoying. And her parents - oh please. It was horrible. The scenes with them and Nate were meant to be funny, but they were not, in my opinion. I liked David's storyline, but this argue-not argue thing with Keith is going to get very old if the writers continue to overdo it. And while ultimately Ruth and Claire trying to make their relationship work again was good, the dinner scene was stupid. The funeral of the week was only ate up about 5 minutes of the overall show, and it had it's (funny) moments, it didn't really add anything to the episode. Though, the death scene was once again "cool".

    Overall, 52 minutes long episode as usual, but certain scenes made it feel much longer, which isn't good. But, then again, other scenes made up for that.moreless
  • Review

    I honestly don't think that a series could ever start as well as Six Feet Under has. Maybe its the additional ten minutes of the show because the show is shown on HBO, I dont know. I just feel so an attachment to the characters and it has only been five episodes. There was a lot going on in this episode as well with Nate and Brenda having a pretty heavy fight when Nate meets her parents on his own, but seem to get back on the right track later in the episode. Even though she wasnt directly apart of the devolopment, I felt through the information her parents gave that I really got to know her character a little better. David is another interesting character and his relationship with Keith (so far) seems to be very on and off style. One episode they're good, the next they aren't. David still doesnt know what he wants and still fears public opinion on his gayness, even though he did manage to come out to Nate in this episode which I think will open the book for the next couple of the epsiodes. Love the titles that the show uses as well, all have multiple meanings in a single episode.moreless
Peter Krause

Peter Krause

Nate Fisher

Jeremy Sisto

Jeremy Sisto

Billy Chenowith (Episodes 5 -13, recurring otherwise)

Mathew St. Patrick

Mathew St. Patrick

Keith Charles

Frances Conroy

Frances Conroy

Ruth Fisher

Lauren Ambrose

Lauren Ambrose

Claire Fisher

Freddy Rodriguez

Freddy Rodriguez

Federico Diaz

Veronica Hart

Veronica Hart

Viveca St. John

Guest Star

Sandra Oh

Sandra Oh

Porn Starlet

Guest Star

Cristine Rose

Cristine Rose


Guest Star

Joanna Cassidy

Joanna Cassidy

Margaret Chenowith

Recurring Role

Robert Foxworth

Robert Foxworth

Bernard Chenowith

Recurring Role

Tim Maculan

Tim Maculan

Father Jack

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (13)

    • Ruth: Come on, Claire.. get up! We're leaving!
      Claire: It's only 5am in the morning.
      Ruth: Yes, but if we don't go now... we'll have to go to Spinning Class.

    • Claire: I know stealing a foot is weird, but, hello, living in a house where a foot is available to be stolen is weird.

    • Nate(After seeing David with Keith): Oh my god! I think David's gay!
      Brenda: I think David's lucky. Did you get a look at that guy?

    • Nate (Introducing Brenda to David and Keith): This is Brenda, my uh .. my girlfriend.
      Brenda: I prefer the term "fuck-puppet".

    • Nate: Thanks for buying me breakfast.
      Brenda: Thank you for finding my G-spot this morning.

    • Brenda: It is a fucking law of physics that the very act of observation changes that, which is being observed.

    • Nate: Oh god! So you're kind of scarily brilliant. I can handle that. What I can't handle is the way you keep mindfucking me for your own personal entertainment.
      Brenda: Well I'm sorry I'm not some well-behaved little nothing that never challenges you.

    • Ruth (Watching "The Nutty Proffesor"): This is an entire movie about expelling gas.
      Claire (Chuckling): I think that's why people like it.

    • Claire (To Ruth): Hi, there's this thing called knocking. It's like protected in the first amendment.

    • Ruth (While being in therapist's office with Claire): Why would you come into this man's office and tell him were never happy?
      Claire: I don't know. Because i grew up in a house that was usually filled with total strangers who were crying all the time.
      Ruth: Oh boo-hoo! I grew up in a two-room apartment over a barber shop, and I spent my teenage years taking care of my grandmother after one, and then both, of her legs were amputated. Life's hard!

    • Ruth(About Tracy): She seems nice.
      David: She seems nuts.

    • (Ruth walks out of funeral horrified)
      Ruth: Nate! What the hell is going on in there?
      Nate (not paying attention): A funeral.
      Ruth: For whom, a prositute?
      Nate: No... a woman who was the star of adult videos.
      Ruth: Oh... I'm just glad your sister's at school.

    • Viveca: You think God cares that you're gay?
      David: Do you think God cares that you f*cked 20 guys at once?
      Viveca: So you equate being a fag with being a whore.
      David: I think God cares when there is real love involved.
      Viveca: Oh honey, I loved every man I f*cked while I was f*cking 'em.

  • NOTES (4)

    • Music featured in episode: Bobbie Gentry - Fancy, Six Feet Under Choir - Oh For A Closer Walk With God, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Dove Sonno from 'The Marriage of Figaro', Giacomo Puccini - Humming Chorus from Madam Butterfly, Cowboy Junkies - A Common Disaster, Antonio Vivaldi - Concerto #3 in G Major for Violin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Divertimento in D Major for Strings.

    • In a scene, David and Keith are watching Oz, another HBO television series which aired from 1997 to 2003. The episode they are watching is season 4 episode 1. Kathy Bates, who directed this episode, also directed an episode of Oz.

    • The program Ruth, Claire and their cousins are watching is the WB's "Gilmore Girls".

    • - German title: "Wie ein offenes Buch" (= "Like an Open Book");
      - Italian title: "Funerale a luci rosse" (= "Red-light Funeral").


    • Nate: Oh, come on, what do you think I am? Some sort of aging Peter Pan who's gonna disappear at the first sign of something a little more permanent?
      Peter Pan is a little boy who doesn't want to grow up, created by J. M. Barrie. The character is a metaphor for escaping adulthood responsibilities.

    • Claire: Jesus, Mom, I'm starting to feel like Anne Frank!
      Annelies Marie "Anne" Frank (1929 - 1945) was a Jewish girl who wrote a diary retting her life during World War II. After some time hiding with her family from the Nazis in Amsterdam they were betrayed and transported to German concentration camps, where most of her family died – except for her father. After her diary was published, she became famous worldwide.

    • Ruth: (movies she rented) Runaway Bride and The Nutty Professor.
      Runaway Bride is a 1999 romantic comedy staring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. The movie joins these two actors ten years after the movie that made Julia Roberts into a star, Pretty Woman.

      The Nutty Professor is a comedy staring Eddie Murphy who plays seven different characters in the movie. The scene that Ruth was appalled by and Claire was laughing at is the family dinner scene when Professor Sherman Klump takes Carla (Jada Pinkett Smith) and his father starts breaking wind, embarrassing everyone. This movie is a remake of 1963 movies written, directed, and starring Jerry Lewis.

    • Keller (on TV): Oz didn't make you a bitch. You were born one.
      David and Keith are watching Oz on HBO.