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Classic Television Rundown: Six Feet Under, Season One, Episode Three: "The Foot"

Six Feet Under
Season One, Episode Three: "The Foot"
Written by Bruce Eric Kaplan
Directed by John Patterson
Amelia: Does it feel any different?
Ruth: No.
Because it's something I've thought about and enjoyed and haven't touched upon in these recaps yet, let me start by saying: How great are the Six Feet Under opening credits? (Answer: really, really great.) Credit goes to composer Thomas Newman for composing a theme song that is alternately playful and deathly. Credit also goes to the creators HBO has historically always had great credit sequences, but these are among the best, in my opinion.

Speaking of HBO, you may have noticed that the network has gotten away from the 13 episode season of a dramatic series in the past few years. Though there doesn't appear to be a published rhyme/reason to why this has occurred, there are a few likely reasons: 1) It saves HBO money, 2) It allows more time on the year-long schedule to schedule multiple shows.

This has a few consequences, some good, some bad. The good is that HBO, circa 2010, has much more on the slate than HBO did circa 2001. In 2001, when Six Feet Under first came on the air, the only other serialized cable series of note were HBO's own Sopranos, and that's about all. Today, HBO has multiple dramatic series that are set to air or in development, with seasons stretching somewhere between 10 and 12 episodes. (Except for the last season of Big Love, which only lasted nine episodes.)

Which is a long way of saying that a 13 episode season, by today's standards, feels a little stretched out. Which causes episodes like "The Foot", which serve not so much to advance the plot but to give the viewer a reason to hang out with the characters and get to know them a bit more. Which is basically what "The Foot" does.

It starts with an imaginary-breaking-into-song sequence for Claire (played by Lauren Ambrose, which, like it does for the other cast members, gives her an opportunity to display her vocal and dancing skills) in sheer joy at her hookup with the truly disgusting Gabe (see last episode's recap). This is something Six Feet Under leans on quite a bit throughout the series -- the sudden leap into the characters thoughts via wacky imaginary scene.

Lo and behold, Claire's happiness is short-lived when she finds her car (the old hearse) vandalized, with phrases like "toe sucker" spray-painted on her doors. Though she is the "most original girl in school" as Gabe put it, he could not help but tell his friends that she did, indeed, oblige in his weird foot fetish. Luckily, Claire lives at a mortuary and grabs an errant foot from the patient of the week and throws it in his locker. Oh Claire, when will you learn?

David spends some time with Keith while pondering his future with Fisher and Sons. Because of the exit strategy proposed by Krohner funeral services (the aforementioned "business of death" stuff that I was bored with right away), David considers ways to get out of the business by selling his ownership. In that sense, we learn more about how David feels trapped in his life, being secretly gay without the cajones to out himself to his family(*).

(*)Claire, though, is the only member of the Fisher family to easily realize that he's gay, which we realize in a funny and touching scene near the end where she searches for the missing foot with Keith, the "big black sex cop."

Nate, though, realizes that maybe he was too quick to dismiss the idea of working in his family business. He's becoming firmly ensconced in an intense relationship with Brenda and has quickly learned that he's actually pretty good at comforting people with recently deceased loved ones. When the family of the most recently deceased (Thomas Romano, killed in a giant food mixer accident(**)) finally sees the dead body, they quickly find comfort in Nate's gentle, human response to their grief. A perfect combo, in that respect, with David the perfectionist and Rico the excellent restorative artist.

(**)Three episodes into the show, and we have yet to see somebody just die of old age. People die much more dramatically in TV land, don't they?

Ruth, though, has perhaps the most compelling story of the week. Lost in a funk after a few weeks past her dead husband, she re-adjusts pillows with her friend Amelia, who continues to tell her to just cry, to just let it out. Ruth, however, does not feel compelled to force her grief -- she let's it happen naturally. She takes Amelia to the horse track, wins $4,000, then loses $9,000. Doesn't sound like much, but by just spending this time with Ruth, we learn to appreciate her character some more.

So in the end, some business occurs with Krohner, with the house across the street having been purchased by the evil corporation, but the house mysteriously burns down, leaving Fisher free from direct competition for the time being. Meanwhile, how did the house burn down? Perhaps that is a question that will be addressed in future episodes.

After the mostly brilliant first two episodes, we were bound for an episode that slowed things down and just allowed us to spend time with the characters. That means no ball-bustingly beautiful scenes like the ones that closed the first two episodes, but it also means spending more time with Michael C. Hall, Peter Krause, Lauren Ambrose, and Frances Conroy. Though by today's television standards, what with Mad Men in its fourth season and perhaps laying out its finest season yet, Breaking Bad pushing boundaries further with excellent acting, writing, and cinematography, and even HBO's current cream of the crop like In Treatment, Treme, and (reportedly) soon to be Boardwalk Empire rocking the house, Six Feet Under seems almost minor, it's easy to remember why we were wrapped up in this show in the first place.

Grade: B

Other memorable quotes / trivia
  • "Mom, apparently you want a child with an eating disorder." -Claire, after Ruth asks her if she is bulimic. This is a running joke throughout the first few episodes -- Ruth hopelessly guessing what problems Claire is going through.
  • "Dude just cruised you. Bitch. Right in front of me like I'm not even here." --Keith, on the dude that passed him in the fan store.
  • "You could tell me what you're dealing with, or you could be dealing with that crazy-ass motherfucker." --Keith, playing good-cop bad-cop and using David in the bad cop role while discussing the missing foot with Gabe. Keith has some great lines in this episode.
  • Richard Jenkins again appears in this episode as Nathaniel. Hooray!
  • "When someone sees you as you really are and wants to be with you, that's powerful." --Keith, talking with Claire about what he sees in David.
  • This episode was directed by John Patterson, who sadly died in February 2005. Among the other memorable episodes of TV directed by him include the first five season finales of The Sopranos, as well as the memorable third season episode "Employee of the Month", and two episodes of the woefully underrated Carnivale (perhaps a future entry in the Classic Television Rundown!)
And now, enjoy the episode in full below, for as long as the episodes stay on YouTube.

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