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

Six Feet Under
Season One, Episode Six: "The Room"
Written by Christian Taylor
Directed by Rodrigo Garcia
Mr. Jones: You don't know nothing about love. Some pretty little thing catches your eye, and the next thing you know, it's been fifty-six years, and you have shit all over yourself at a movie theater and she's the only one to help you clean it up. That's love.
At first glance, "The Room" (no relation to the 2003 Tommy Wiseau film of the same name) does little to further the story arc of season one of Six Feet Under. Nate does some navel-gazing about his daddy, David continues to stay away from being gay, Claire finds out that Billy is crazy, and Ruth has relationship problems, set to the backdrop of an old man dealing with the death of his wife of fifty-six years.

Then again, like we've learned throughout the first five episodes of the series, appearances can be deceiving. And so it is with what ranks with one of the best episodes of Six Feet Under's run.

The Fisher family is hurting in this episode. Nate is hurting over the things he wasn't able to share with his father before he passed; David is hurting over his identity and his feeling of betrayal regarding his mom's relationship with Hiram; Claire is hurting over the fickleness of men; Ruth is hurting over her lost romantic connection with Hiram. Even Brenda feels a little hurt when she learns that Claire has enjoyed Charlotte: Light and Dark for a while.

Nate, while going through the Fisher family's books, discovers that Nathaniel made numerous business arrangements that paid such things like organic marijuana, free oil changes, and a rented room for which he apparently spent time alone. This leads to Nate spending time in the room of question, contemplating his father's relationship with him. Though he learns through some of Nathaniel's friends that he was always proud of him, the time he spends with Memory Ghost Nathaniel(*) is more complicated than that.

(*)I'm struggling to find ways to say Richard Jenkins is the ace in the hole of this series. But, he is. Richard Jenkins rawks.

Hearing about how his dad, a mysterious figure to him throughout his life, was a different person than he expected is startling. Learning that his friends often heard stories of how proud he was of Nate was downright hurtful. The voice of reason in this scenario became Brenda, who reassured Nate that Nathaniel was entitled to his own life and that he was proud of him.

David, having broken up with Keith over his non-revealing of his sexual orientation, begins developing a mean streak: coldly rejecting Tracy's advances and hooking up with a nice guy he meets at a club, whom he gives a fake name and fake general background. Plenty of groundwork has been established in the first five episodes so that when we spend a little less time with David than we usually do, we still understand what he is doing and why he is acting the way he is. Again, Michael C. Hall is just really, really good at playing this character.

Claire and Ruth have their own relationship troubles; Claire being her budding relationship with Brenda's bipolar brother Billy, and Ruth with Hiram, the flower-dresser from down the street Nikoli, and her own relationship with her past. All of it is very well-executed and, even if not advancing the plot much, allows us to inhabit the characters' worlds very well.

Mr. Jones, who lost his wife Haddie in the opening scene, starts the episode as comic relief. And at first glance, Mr. Jones is not much more than a crazy guy disrupting the already wacky family dynamics of the Fishers. But eventually, everybody in the family has their own interaction with him, where he imparts his own wisdom upon them.

The episode was directed beautifully by Rodrigo Garcia(**); its staid, solid cinematic touches give the episode more gravitas than any other to this point in the series.

(**)Garcia also ran In Treatment for its first season. One can basically see how his direction here led to the many fantastic scenes of that show that exist solely in conversation. Something can be said about two people talkin' 'bout stuff.

In the end, a moving musical montage shows:
  • Nate showing Ruth old pictures that he found;
  • Mr. Jones, passed away by his wife's casket;
  • David, seeing a cop pass that is not Keith;
  • Brenda and Claire bonding over the crazy people in their lives;
  • and, Ruth running into Hiram's arms.
And a pitch-perfect ending to another episode of Six Feet Under, where, at first glance, nothing much happens but life, man. Life. Damn.

Grade: A

Other memorable quotes:
  • "When are you gonna stop caring what I thought? 'I never knew my father!' Get over it. Please. Life is just too fucking short."--Nathaniel, to Nate
  • "Life is wasted on the living." -Nathaniel, to Nate, again. Whatta genius, that Memory Ghost Nathaniel.
  • "So what's the meaning of life?" -Nate "Do you really wanna know?" -Nathaniel. Man, what a give-and-take those characters have, even if one of those characters is not physically real.
  • "You can't take advantage of me because I'm old, I'll kick your ass!" -Mr. Jones, to David, regarding the question of whether he would like to buy an extra burial plot next to his wife. Bill Cobbs should be pegged as The Shat's grumpy friend in CBS's $h*! My Dad Days because he's excellent as a grumpy old dude.
  • "Bitch, I don't need your permission!" -Mr. Jones, to Claire. Haha.
  • "Everyone's alone. You're born alone, you die alone, goddamn it." -Mr. Jones. Heartbreaking. And true.
  • "What if Cindy Crawford were to walk up to you and say, 'Just use me for sex!'"-Tracy "I would say no." -David "Liar!" -Tracy. Tracy's initially annoying come-ons to David turn sad when he somewhat cruelly rejects her (of course, doing so without giving her the real reason why he turns her down.) Ah, so much sadness and insecurity in this episode!
  • "I can't have you skulking around with that look in your eye. That sex look." -Ruth, to Nikoli. She gives him a patented Ruth-slap.
  • "I am surrounded by these relics of a life that no longer exists." -Ruth, on the strained baby carrots that she finds.
  • Ruth and Hiram's slightly-scandalous relationship is the kind that is rarely shown on television for the 50+ set, let alone any age-range. Their back-and-forth, with Hiram meeting her at church and tenderly wishing he could see her again is so sweet that a less-patient show would likely try to ruin it by, oh, making said person be secretly crazy. Oh wait, we'll get to that in this series much later...
  • Father Jack is played by Tim Maculan, who also shows up to torment Michael C. Hall on Dexter.
  • "Get over it. Please. Life's just too fucking short." -Nate, to David, upon showing him the room. The prodigal son is not so different from his pops, eh?
Finally, YouTube links for the whole episode for your enjoyment.

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  1. Blogger chris | 12:08 PM |  

    Cue Blogulator reader and friend P. Arty to comment on how this is the best SFU ep ever.

    And I believe he may be right.

  2. Blogger qualler | 1:37 PM |  

    It's definitely the best episode of the series up to this point, and...thinking off the top of my head.....one of the top three best eps. What will be the best? We'll find out, 57 posts from now!!!

    p.s. Lady Amy gave up watching midway through the third season, so I just told her the rest of the stuff that happens. Her jaw TOTALLY DROPPED! Actually, she was just like, "Oh."

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