TV Article

''Six Feet Under,'' episodes 5-8

Six Feet Under | EX FACTOR Brenda with her former beau, in ''Crossroads''
EX FACTOR Brenda with her former beau, in ''Crossroads''

05 An Open Book
Writer Ball Director Kathy Bates Kickoff Death Aging porn queen Viveca St. John accidentally electrocutes herself in the tub. Plot Nate meets Brenda's parents over dinner (unaware that she won't be joining them) and has his first charged encounter with her brother, Billy. Introduces Joanna Cassidy (''Buffalo Bill'') and Robert Foxworth (''Falcon Crest'') as Brenda's loopy folks, shrinks Margaret and Bernard Chenowith; David Noroña as Claire's guidance counselor, Gary Deitman. Historic Moments Nate finds out about the book ''Charlotte Light and Dark,'' a psychological case study about Brenda as a troubled child genius, and learns David is gay when he spots him having lunch with Keith (the couple later splits). Creative Casting Real-life ex-porn star Veronica Hart as Viveca. Critique Bates brings a deliciously warped sense of humor and visual style to Ball's titillating script; bonus points for wittily incorporating clips from ''Oz'' (which Bates has also directed) and ''Gilmore Girls.'' A

06 The Room
Writer Christian Taylor Director Rodrigo García Kickoff Death An old woman dies in her sleep. Plot Nate learns his dad was a pothead who bartered funeral services for weed -- and finds a secret room in a seedy apartment Nathaniel rented to blow off steam. Introduces Nikolai (Ed O'Ross), a Russian florist who plants a kiss on Ruth. Best Line ''My friends and I were all over this book, like, three summers ago, before they all turned into pretentious drama nerds and totally abandoned me -- thank God.'' (Claire, discussing ''Charlotte Light and Dark'') Historic Moment Claire meets Billy and promptly makes out with him. Critique García (the son of Gabriel García Marquez) proves an inspired choice to direct this haunting episode, with its surreal scenes of Nate getting high with his dead father and flashbacks to Brenda's bizarro childhood. A-

07 Brotherhood
Writer Williams Director Jim McBride Kickoff Death A 29-year-old vet succumbs to Gulf War syndrome. Plot Ruth takes a job at Nikolai's flower shop, and Billy goes off his meds. Introduces Robbie (Joel Brooks), Nikolai's gay assistant, and Parker (Marina Black), Claire's party-girl classmate. Historic Moment Nate tells Brenda he loves her for the first time, leaving her speechless. Critique A preachy tone overwhelms this low-key and largely uneventful episode. Brenda's travails with needy brother Billy are taking screen time away from the Fishers; one dysfunctional family is enough, thanks. C+

08 Crossroads
Writer Andries Director Allen Coulter Kickoff Death A freshly divorced woman dies in a freak limo accident. Plot Kroehner secretly hires Rico to reconstruct the limo lady's now-concave head. During a dry spell, Nate rents out space in the house for a seniors' square-dancing class. Claire bonds with Parker on an outreach hike. Best Line ''Come on, David, I watch 'Will & Grace.' I have gay-dar.'' (Nate, after setting up his brother with the dance teacher) Historic Moment Rico learns that Kroehner burned down its own crematorium for the insurance money -- and quits Fisher after the brothers refuse to make him a partner. Critique One of the series' richest hours ever: Among the myriad highlights are Nate's drug-fueled meltdown over Brenda's exhibitionistic ex-boyfriend and Ruth's sexual fantasy about Nikolai as a conquering cossack. Coulter's seamless direction rivals his finest work on ''The Sopranos.'' A

Originally posted Mar 04, 2003
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