Six Feet Under

Season 1 Episode 1


Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Jun 03, 2001 on HBO

Episode Recap

Just after the credits, the episode opens with a fake commercial for a funeral coach ("sleek, sophisticated, seductive"). In the pilot every break is preceded by a fake commercial – the concept will be abandoned as soon as episode two.

Nathaniel Fisher Sr, owner of Fusker&Sons Funeral Home, is singing in his car (a hearse), smoking, when the phone rings. It's his wife Ruth, calling to ask him if he could stop somewhere to buy soy milk for their son Nate who is coming home for Christmas. She can tell he's smoking although he denies it. He throws his cigarette through the open window and hangs up; as he's lighting another one he doesn't see the bus coming from his right.

Back in the kitchen Ruth – unaware of the accident – cuts her finger with a knife. Her other son David complains that buying a new hearse was a total waste of money, and Ruth replies she'd rather have her husband buy a fancy new hearse than leave her for another woman – or a man. At this, David looks uncomfortable.

At the airport, Nate is chatting with a woman he apparently met on the plane. He gives her his cell number and she offers him to give him a ride. Nate says his father is picking him up but she replies she was not talking about that kind of ride...

While supervising the viewing of one of the funeral home's "clients", David gets a phone call from his younger sister Claire. She says she has to go see a friend before she heads back home to – unwillingly – attend the family dinner.

Nate and his new friend are having sex in a cupboard at the airport.

Ruth gets a phone call informing her that her husband is dead. She goes crazy and throws everything she can get her hands on onto the floor. David finds her sitting on the floor and she tell him "The new hearse is totaled. Your father is dead. Your father is dead and my potroast is ruined".

Still in the cupboard, the girl refuses to tell Nate her name and Nate's phone rings. It's David telling him that their father died. A few minutes later, Claire is taking drugs (crystal meth) with her friends when she gets David's call. She promises she'll go pick up heir mom to drive her to the morgue.

While driving Nate to the hospital, the mysterious woman tells him about her family: parents (both shrinks) who stayed together because of their children and a manic-depressive brother. Nate tells her about his own family. We learn that Claire was very young when he left so he doesn't really know her.

In Claire's car (the old hearse, only painted green) a very distressed Ruth suddenly asks her daughter if she is having sex or doing drugs. She says she can't remember the last time Claire and she talked about anything important.

David meets a woman at the viewing he is supervising and we learn that he was hoping to go to law school one day, but won't be able to do it now that his father is dead. He screams and makes everybody jump.

Nate and the woman arrive at the hospital. The woman introduces herself to Ruth: Brenda Chenowith. Ruth tells Nate she needs him to identify the body because she can't do it, and Claire confesses to him that she's high on crystal. He tells her he's sorry that she's having a bad drugs experience, but she is going to have to deal with it because he's the one who has to identify their father's body. And so he does. But the morgue employee turns into Nathaniel and tells Nate that although he has tried to escape the death business his whole life, it's not going to happen: "Nobody escapes". Nathaniel turns again into the morgue employee and Nate identifies his father's body. He meets the others in the hallway and Ruth asks him if a lot of reconstruction will be needed – David is not very skilled at that, contrary to Frederico, the funeral home's employee. Claire is in a hurry to go and Nate thanks Brenda for driving him. She leaves after wishing him the best.

Nate, Ruth and Claire are in Claire's car. Nate thinks she is driving too fast and forces her to pull over. Claire tells him he can't tell her what to do since he's not her father but she lets him drive.

David is waiting at the house and gets mad at Nate when he finds out that the family didn't bring the body back and he has to do it himself.

Claire is watching TV in a state of shock and Ruth brings her some food but she says she is not hungry. "We have to eat, Claire. We didn't die!" Ruth replies.

David is at the morgue, evidently very distressed. Second fake commercial, for Living Splendor embalming fluid ("Only real life is better").

Flashback: a young Nate enters the restoration room, where a fully alive and luxuriant-haired Nathaniel is working on a body. Young David comes in and Nathaniel offers Nate a pair of gloves so that he can touch the body, but Nate (understandably) runs away. Then it's adult Nate watching Frederico take pictures of the body on the table: Nathaniel Fisher Sr. We learn that Nathaniel apparently did a lot for Frederico and Frederico feels he owes him something. David is there and gives Nate the cold shoulder, but then his phone rings and he leaves the room in a hurry. It's a man calling him to say he is preparing something "totally decadent and fatty for dessert". His name is Keith and David tells him his father just died. Keith seems really concerned but David hangs up.

Meanwhile, Frederico is proudly showing Nate pictures of his masterpieces, restoration-wise. He then shows Nate a photograph of his son and says his wife is pregnant again.

Nate tries to cheer Claire up; they decide to go to the grocery store. While he's choosing fruits, his phone rings (again). It's Brenda. Nate jokes about her psychological family background but she gets angry and hangs up on him. Later Claire collapses and cries in his arms.

Third fake commercial: Wound Filler cosmetic molding putty.

Nate, Ruth and Claire are in the kitchen the next morning and Ruth shouts at Claire without any reason. David is working on Nathaniel (and he uses Wound Filler!) when Nathaniel appears behind him, complaining that it's David and not Frederico who "does" him. David is not surprised to see his father and promises Frederico will come later. From the dialogue that ensues, we understand that David resents his father for making him become a funeral director. Frederico comes in and hears David talk apparently to himself, much to David's embarrassment.

Nate is running in the street and sees a bus coming. He throws himself under the bus's wheels and we see him die and join his father at the morgue for a game of (naked) poker. Then he's back in the street – it was just his imagination.

Viewing time. Nate and Claire argue and Nate is apparently unhappy about his life. He shouts at a poor lady trying to show some sympathy.

Ruth is in her room and Nathaniel appears, in his burial clothes. He says he knows everything...

Back to the viewing room; Keith arrives in his policeman uniform and David does not seem so happy to see him. Keith asks: "We can fuck but I can't be a shoulder for you to cry on?". Ruth arrives, worried by Keith's outfit. David introduces him as a racquetball partner.

Ruth starts crying over Nathaniel's body and David leads her into the next room; Nate does not like it and explains to Claire how once in Sicily he witnessed a burial with women crying their eyes out in public.

Nate joins Ruth and David just as Ruth confesses that she cheated on Nathaniel with her hairdresser.

David goes to see Keith to complain about what his mother did and we learn that they met at church. Keith flicks his hand through David's hair but David is embarrassed and tells him to stop – but Claire has seen them.

Meanwhile, Ruth and Nate are talking. Ruth says she's ashamed but Nate assures her Nathaniel and even God will probably forgive her. Nate's phone rings but he can't pick up; then we see Brenda holding a phone and hanging up. She is in her kitchen and her brother comes in, crying like a baby.

Fourth fake commercial: Franklin's new leak-proof earth dispenser. "We put the fun back in funeral".

Talking about funeral, now is Nathaniel's burial. Everybody is at the cemetery. While the casket sinks into the earth, Nathaniel is watching from a distance. Nate refuses to use Franklin's earth dispenser and takes a handful of soil: he finds the whole funeral too clean, antiseptic. He says their father is gone, "and that sucks. But it's part of life and you can't really accept it without getting your hands dirty". Ruth imitates Nate and starts crying. Brenda arrives; Claire sees Nathaniel sitting on top of the hearse.

After Ruth has left with Frederico, David gets mad at Nate because he's the one who had to do everything concerning the funeral and Nate can only criticize. David still resents Nate for leaving the house and letting David take all responsibilities for the family. Then a guy called Matt Gilardi comes to talk to David; he wants to buy the funeral home on behalf of Kroehner Service International. David basically tells him to get lost and leaves.

Claire and Nathaniel are chatting about the advantages of being dead. Brenda joins Nate and gives him her number in case he wants to go on a date some day.

David arrives at Keith's place. He's crying and throws himself in Keith's arms and kisses him.

Flashback: young Nate an David are playing in front of the house; Ruth is watching them and Nathaniel sprays water over them with a hose – then Nate wakes up.

The next morning Ruth asks Nate to stay in Los Angeles for a few days longer. He accepts.

Nate is running in the street when he spots his father waiting for the bus. Nathaniel gets on the bus and looks at Nate through the window. Nate stands still on the pavement while people pass by. The end.
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