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Classic Television Rundown: Six Feet Under, Season Two, Episode Four: "Driving Mr. Mossback"

Six Feet Under
Season Two, Episode Four: "Driving Mr. Mossback"
Written by Rick Cleveland
Directed by Michael Cuesta
Lisa: I'm not still in love with your brother. I used to be. I used to think that one day he would realize I was the one for him, but he never has. Do you think he ever will?
Episode four of the second season, "Driving Mr. Mossback" is a difficult episode to write about without seeing it as a subtle turning point of the series. Events of this particular episode take our characters to places that define their character arcs through the rest of the series. Looking at the episode from the context of a viewer going through for the first time makes this a pretty uneventful time. For that reason, I'm going to do the best I can recapping the event as it is, then going into an extended discussion of other stuff at a slightly later section of this blog post. Bear with me.

For one, the Death of the Week (the title character, Mr. Mossback) takes place in Seattle, which, as we know, is where Nate was living pre-Nathaniel's death. Naturally, this means Nate will find a way to make his way to Seattle so we, the viewer can see a bit of his life pre-the events of the show. This helps to make the second season a continuation of the first, filling in the lines of things that were alluded to in the first season.

Which brings us to Nate's visit to Seattle with his sister Claire. Claire and Nate fly to Seattle together (while enjoying some fairly entertaining brother-sister bonding time over their combined love of Sleater-Kinney) and end up staying at a former fling of Nate's, a woman named Lisa (played by noted movie actress(*) Lili Taylor.) Lisa is, from what we can tell, a free-spirited woman, one wholly concerned with the environment, being a vegan, working at the organic foods co-op, and being a general weirdo. She tries to herd ants by telling them to leave! She's a weirdo. We also learn that she's obviously still in love with Nate(**), while Nate still obviously keeps her at arms length while getting a lil' sumpin' sumpin out of her when he needs it.

(*)Ransom, yo!
(**)Not at all related, but this week's episode of Parenthood had Peter Krause in his finest yelling form. Parenthood hasn't made Krause yell quite as much as he did on Six Feet Under, so it was a refreshing reminder of what a great yeller Krause is. I mean all of that with total sincerity. He's really great at yelling.

While in Seattle, in the drive-thru of a fast food establishment to get Claire some non-vegan food (which she secretly flushed down the toilet), Nate's brain starts going haywire:
Yeah, I'll have a double-doub -- um, uh, a chubby, a double chubby, a chubby chubby, a double double, a double chubby, a chubby chubby, a chub...I'll have a double. I'll have a double chubble chubby cheeseburger.
It is a haunting, foundation-shaking scene that is still effective for how shocking it is. Naturally, this means Nate has to tell Claire about his AVM, which he still downplays to the effect of being totally dishonest with himself. Yikes.

David, meanwhile, is back at home while David asks him to do a favor by babysitting his niece Taylor, who we met in the last episode. While babysitting, we see how much of a natural David is with the kiddies, and how surprisingly likable Taylor is, despite being, on paper, one of those annoying precocious children. When Taylor is at the dinner table with Ruth and David and mentions something about how Keith's sister calls him a "fudgepacker", David tells her that those kind of words are hateful. The whole exchange, despite working as what seems like a shorthand way of getting David and Keith to reconcile, somehow works due to the charm and chemistry of David and Taylor. Aww.

Brenda, as her life continues to get unwound post-Billy, gets roped into a stakeout situation with her mother, as they spy on her dad to find out who he is currently sleeping with. We get an idea of what kind of crazy shenanigans went on in the Chenowith family growing up as Brenda and Margaret spar over what constitutes a true emergency, and what a functional relationship should be like. Yeesh. At night, Brenda fantasizes about the dude she met at the bar in the last episode. Ruth and Rico basically exist in this episode for contractual reasons, as they both tend to not really have anything of interest going on here.

After Nate and Claire return home from their fast food adventure, Nate sits in bed, while Lisa, obviously attuned to the way Nate expresses himself, gets him to tell her the truth about his AVM. In a rare moment of displaying vulnerability, Nate breaks down and Lisa, ever the nurturer, embraces him in a truly loving moment. The next morning, Lisa finds one of Nate's shirts, they have a brief exchange about whether she should hold onto it for sentimental purposes, and they say goodbye. Oh yeah, it definitely seems like the two of them did it.

The episode ends with Claire and Nate driving home, while the sound of the background song that fades into the ending credits for the first time in the series plays. This is one sense that a first-time viewer should have that the episode is "transitional" -- a slight tweak to the presentation of the episode, in an episode that seems like it will make more sense in the context of the entire season.

Grade: B


You still with me? Okay, good. So...Lisa, am I right? I think it is true to say that Lisa is the most controversial character to be on Six Feet Under. In one regard, I think she is one of the more interesting characters on a TV show: someone gratingly unlikable, yet someone whose only flaws are related to her clinginess. And obviously, the reason this episode feels very much like a turning point, is because of the result of Nate and Lisa's hookup: the eventual birth of Nate and Lisa's daughter Maya. Now we get to the crazy stuff, Six Feet Under. Now we get to the crazy stuff.

Memorable Quotes and Trivia
  • ""Is one of them 'not in front of the kids'? Oh, wait. I guess not, since there was that time I watched you in the hot tub with some old guy with a hairy back." -Brenda, on her mother Margaret's rules for their open marriage. Yeesh...
  • Hey, P.Arty! Happy birthday!
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

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