Six Feet Under: John P. Johnson
Liane Bonin
August 01, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”Six Feet Under”: Romance blossoms and withers

”Fun” is a word I don’t usually associate with ”Six Feet Under,” which so often seems determined to squish the happiness out of its characters like a mean kid with a box of jelly donuts. But could this week’s episode have been any more of a kick? Lisa appeared as an onion-throwing petunia, spirited Bettina came back to put George in his place, and Ruth’s sister Sarah talked about chasing Julia Roberts and her husband around Taos ”like they were wild boars.” Where can we start a campaign to add Lily Taylor, Kathy Bates and Patricia Clarkson to the cast on a weekly basis? C’mon, any takers?

And yet, despite the comedic high points, so much happened in this episode. Some of it good, much of it devastating.

I almost want to send a memo to the Fisher family: ”Guys, when David says he’s fine, he’s not. Really. I know he looks fine — he’s very convincing — but he’s not. And don’t take him to the movies for a while. Thanks.” Claire meant well including David in her not-quite-a-date with Edie, but when the trailer for ”The Clearing” (which looks pretty good, doesn’t it?) popped up and David fled the theater, you’d think she might have put two and two together and realized he was suffering a little post-traumatic stress. Really, the guy works with cadavers — how many time-sensitive emergencies can he have?

But I understand why Claire was a little distracted, with Edie pulsating sex appeal just inches away. Even if Claire felt confused about her feelings, she was well aware her deepest desires would be exposed when she showed her portrait of Edie in her photography class, which is like a therapy session run by people who really, really hate you. Kudos to Claire for finally confronting her conflicted desires head-on by demanding Edie rip off her clothes and get into bed at the end of the episode. Whatever happens, it couldn’t be less fun than doing the deed with Russell.

On the other end of the diving-blindly-into-sex spectrum is Rico, who did the one thing he really shouldn’t have by getting it on with Sophia. Yes, Vanessa had already accused him of having an affair with the manipulative stripper, so he figured he had nothing to lose. But Sophia, with her fake lupus and other shameless lying, is no safe haven for Rico. When he should have been begging Vanessa’s forgiveness, he was busy getting jiggy with a woman who sees him as nothing more than an ATM with legs. I have a sneaking suspicion that Vanessa’s sister Angelica will be back to mete out some hard, cold justice to the brother-in-law she loathes, so Rico would be better off bracing himself for some womanly wrath rather than rolling around on the carpet with his pants around his ankles.

Nate’s had his pants around his ankles quite a bit lately in his quest to ”just have fun,” but it was nice to see a glimmer of his conscience emerge after an onion-flinging Lisa (Lily Taylor) urged him to dump Brenda for her own good. Even though Lisa (how cute was that petunia costume?) changed her tune by the end of the episode, her initial instructions were excellent beyond-the-grave insights. Joe is a nice guy, and Nate needed to stop offering Brenda a place to sexually act out her fear of commitment. Having been on the receiving end of Brenda’s betrayal, he knew how much it stung. Unfortunately, it turns out Joe wasn’t any more forgiving of Brenda’s bed hopping than he was.

Poor, poor Brenda. It took guts to confess to her motel rendezvous with Nate to Joe (although her refusal to ‘fess up to her lover’s identity showed she couldn’t be completely honest with Joe). But watching Joe fall back into the sofa as if he’d been punched upon hearing the bad news made it clear who the real victim was in this sordid scenario. There he was, surrounded by packing boxes, so eager and ready to start a new life with the woman he loved. Of course he wasn’t willing to see Brenda’s confession as ”a new start” (nice try, Bren). Yet again, our neurotic future shrink messed up a good thing. Hope she hadn’t unpacked the heavy stuff yet.

Someone who may want to think about packing, though, is Ruth. George has gradually morphed from a kindly lover to a withholding jerk, and seeing his obvious contempt for the adorable Sarah (Patricia Clarkson) and Bettina (Kathy Bates) should have been Ruth’s cue to start filing divorce papers. No wonder she burst into tears when she dropped by Sarah’s house following a hellish ”fossil hunt” with George. When you’re married to a guy who grudgingly shares his water when you’re shriveling like a prune, a friendly face must feel like salvation.

Weirdly enough, Keith seems to have found a new friend in his bodyguard client, Celeste, who appears to collect gay men like designer halter tops. But Keith’s decision to confess his homosexuality to his colleague Javier (Bobby Cannavale) looks like a big mistake. Though the moment was yet another one of the episode’s comedic highpoints (”I have a lot of sex, and it’s really, really gay” is a line for the ages), it opened up a can of worms with this apparently bi-curious coworker.

I have a bad feeling about Javier, but more than that, Keith should avoid any more distractions. David needs him. And given how desperately David wants to hide his wounds, Keith will have to be listening very closely to get the message. We can only hope he does before it’s too late.

What do you think? Was this episode bloomin’ fantastic?

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