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Hostage Crisis

''Six Feet Under'': Claire is empty and Nate is depressed, but lonesome David is the one whose life is forever changed

Michael C. Hall, Six Feet Under | MOVING VIOLATION David gets taken for a ride
Image credit: Six Feet Under: Doug Hyun
MOVING VIOLATION David gets taken for a ride

''Six Feet Under'': An act of kindness costs David dearly

Excuse me a moment. Typing when you're hyperventilating is a little tricky.

It's hard to believe this episode was initially shaping up to be another dreary visit to the Fisher house. Claire had descended into petulant self-absorption, Nate was busy wallowing walrus-like in grief, and spineless Ruth was taking abuse from everyone. Again. And oh yeah, Rico's pet stripper was fixing to destroy his whole life. Like we haven't been waiting for that to happen all season.

And then David had to go and do something nice. And incredibly, unbelievably, stupid. In fact, so stupid I momentarily wanted to find writer Scott Buck and smack him upside the head.

When Jake (Michael Weston of ''Coyote Ugly'') climbed into David's van, I had to sit on my hands to stop myself from changing the channel. As a plot contrivance, a too cuddly to be true stranded motorist seemed lazy and obvious, but maybe I've just lived in Los Angeles too long. No one in his right mind picks up a hitchhiker here, even one with a broken-down car, puppy-dog eyes and a sweet story about a disabled grandma (in fact, especially not one with sweet story about a disabled grandma). Call a tow truck or a friend for him? Sure, that's what cell phones are for. But when the guy asks for a lift, most Angelenos are rolling up their windows and locking their doors faster than you can say Ted freakin' Bundy. Hey, it's a big ugly city, people.

Granted, David was pining for his newly closeted ''honey'' Keith, who had private-jetted off for his celebrity-bodyguard job, and David did get busy with that frisky blood-pumping (in more ways than one) plumber, so maybe he can be forgiven for thinking any stray man held the promise of oral pleasure and not a bullet in the spine. And as it turned out, thanks to a little crack cocaine, David wasn't even wrong about the oral-pleasure part. Still, I assumed this notoriously buttoned-up funeral director had danger radar at least slightly more developed than that of your average second grader, even if he was using an organ entirely separate from his brain to make important decisions about his personal safety. If anyone should know the consequences of a bad decision, it's a guy who handles corpses for a living.

When Jake finally produced his gun, I assumed this predictable mugging would be swiftly wrapped up like a really pessimistic TV movie about the dangers of being a good Samaritan. A chastened David would be educated to the consequences of pursuing zipless quickies, and we could get back to Claire and her empty, sulky photographs without further ado.

But the writers weren't letting us, or David, off the hook that easily, and the result was one of the most emotionally grueling episodes of television since Vincent D'Onofrio got halfway stuck under a subway train on NBC's ''Homicide: Life on the Street.''

As the two men let Jake's Hunter Thompsonesque crack quest carry them willy-nilly across Los Angeles, I found myself sucked into the little twerp's sociopathic mood swings right along with his hapless, bloody-nosed hostage. Call it Stockholm syndrome via pay cable. Even though I knew full well this gun-wielding nut was five cans and a swig short of a six-pack, I couldn't help hoping that every time the affable, fun-loving side of Jake's personality emerged, it would stick around just long enough to let David out of the van. He couldn't shoot his new best friend, right? I know, he had just pistol-whipped his new best friend, but still.

Considering that most sociopaths on TV drool and paw the ground like rabid wolverines, watching one with a wider spectrum of moods than a simple on-off crazy switch is something of a shock. Jake's absorbing narcissism still left room for a strange, twisted affection, and at times David and Jake seemed like two old friends cruising the streets, albeit with one having drained the other's checking account at gunpoint.

It wasn't until David and Jake drove down that desolate Long Beach alley that I actually started to believe that this might really, truly be the end of David Fisher. Considering how rarely a core character gets bumped from a series without five or six ''very special episodes'' leading up to the big send-off, it's a testament to the talents of creator Alan Ball and Scott Buck, that writer I originally wanted to smack, that they actually managed to snow me. Or maybe I'm just a pessimist who's seen way too many body-in-an-alley episodes of ''Cold Case Files.''

In any case, I can't wait to see how this grim night derails David's life, especially since Keith began promising a boring 2.5-kids, steam-shower, settled-down existence. A crack- and sex-addicted funeral director with posttraumatic stress disorder could throw the entire show into juicy dramatic chaos. Nate would have to go back to work, Keith would descend into a spiral of rage, and Claire would be forcibly snapped out of her dull-witted art-school navel gazing. Sounds good to me.

What did you think of this episode?

Originally posted Jul 16, 2004