TV Article

''Six Feet Under,'' episodes 18-21

Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, ... | SARAH SMILE Claire and her aunt (played by Clarkson) bond in ''Back to the Garden''
SARAH SMILE Claire and her aunt (played by Clarkson) bond in ''Back to the Garden''

18 The Invisible Woman
Writer Kaplan Director Podeswa Kickoff Death A fortysomething single woman chokes on her dinner while home alone. Plot Ruth, distraught that nobody came to the woman's funeral, declares that she wants more intimacy from her family. David tentatively begins dating a public defender, and Claire learns Parker cheated on her SATs. Historic Moments Keith kills a man in the line of duty and turns to David for comfort; Brenda decides to start writing a book, and -- not coincidentally -- ramps up her sexual experimentation. Fresh from watching Melissa have sex with a john, Brenda proposes marriage to Nate. Creative Casting Adam Scott (''High Crimes'') as David's new boyfriend, Ben. Critique From the outset, ''Six'''s subject has been, in one form or another, the difficulty of forging connections -- but it's never tackled it quite so forthrightly or as movingly as in this episode. Conroy's finest hour is also one of the series' best. A

19 In Place of Anger
Writer Taylor Director Engler Kickoff Death A drunk, disgruntled employee falls off a boat on a company outing. Plot Ruth's loopy sister Sarah comes for a visit and bonds with Claire, encouraging her to become an artist. Kroehner woos Nate and David by flying them to Palm Springs. Best Line ''God, there is so much emotion to navigate where family is concerned. Vicodin, anyone?'' (Sarah, capping a tense family dinner) Historic Moment Brenda gives a massage client a, um, happy ending. Creative Casting Patricia Clarkson as Sarah, in an Emmy-winning turn. Critique The contrast between free spirit Sarah and uptight Ruth is a touch too pat, but Clarkson's performance is splendid. And Griffiths has a great moment when, after she gratifies her client, her face goes from pleasure to guilt to shock in the space of a split second. B+

20 Back to the Garden
Writer Jill Soloway Director Daniel Attias Kickoff Death A lawyer's foray into autoerotic asphyxiation goes a bit too far. Plot Claire visits Sarah and flirts with Toby, the earnest son of two aging hippies. Rico suspects Ramon is romancing Vanessa, only to walk in on his cousin's tryst with a male coworker. Introduces Stark Sands as Toby. Best Line ''I got this for you. It doesn't need watering or caring about in any way.'' (Brenda, handing her mother a housewarming cactus) Creative Casting Molly Parker (''The Center of the World'') as a rabbi who befriends Nate; Jeffrey Ross as a stand-up comic who does shtick while sitting shivah. Critique After the season's slow start, the characters' plotlines now begin humming, and everyone gets at least one great scene. Case in point: Ruth singing along to her sister's tape of Joni Mitchell's ''Woodstock'' is one of ''Six'''s most touching moments. A

21 It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Writer Scott Buck Director Alan Taylor Kickoff Death A motorcyclist dressed as Santa Claus waves at some kids -- and gets sideswiped. Plot On Christmas Day, the first anniversary of Nathaniel's death, the family reminisce about the last time they saw him alive. Ruth finds Nikolai with his legs broken after a break-in, and decides to take him in while he heals. Best Line ''Ever since my last boyfriend tried to kill himself and robbed a store and shot at a guy before disappearing off the face of the earth, she wants to meet everyone I date.'' (Claire, on her mother) Historic Moments Brenda allows a stranger to grope her in a store; her mother springs Billy from the mental hospital. Critique Aside from one nice shocker -- the return of Billy -- this is an oddly low-energy episode. Still, the details about the all-night biker funeral are the sort of quirky arcana that ''Six Feet'' exists to uncover. B+

Originally posted Mar 04, 2003