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Classic Television Rundown: Six Feet Under, Season Two, Episode Nine: "Someone Else's Eyes""

Six Feet Under
Season Two, Episode Nine: "Someone Else's Eyes"

Written by Alan Ball

Directed by Michael Cuesta

Billy: And I think it really is impossible for somebody to see themselves. You need someone else's eyes. I need somebody else to see me.
There's a theory that's been in my mind that says that episodes of Six Feet Under written by showrunner Alan Ball are among the less-good episodes of the show. Now that I have put this theory to the front of my mind, I have some theories about why that's, well, one of my theories.

Theory 1: American Beauty is kinda on-the-nose and heavy-handed (although a part of me still likes it a lot.)
Theory 2: The series finale is kinda on-the-nose and heavy-handed (although a bigger part of me loves it.)
Theory 3: Ball comes off as kind of a douche in his interviews.

After reflection, it seems as those three theories are all valid, and yet, I've found myself not disliking the Ball-written episodes very much at all. Perhaps it's a function of the big plot-twisty types of events that seem to happen in episodes he writes, but episode nine of season two, "Someone Else's Eyes", is a fine example of how Ball is, for better or for worse, a quality writer.

As evidenced by the quote-of-the-week above, the title of the episode supports the content of the episode, and, in this case, also the dialogue of the episode. First off, Billy, who dropped back into the series in the last episode. Having started reeling Claire into his orbit, he invited her over to take some photos of him, which resulted in a little bit of Billy-freaking-out-ness and a little bit of Claire coming to realize her budding artistic talent. Granted, Nate, whose last interaction with Billy was one where he almost got stabbed, he was none too pleased to hear about his little sister's interaction with him. As Billy set off in his thematic (and, granted, a little too American Beauty-esque) monologue about how he can't see himself, Billy served as a pseudo center to the episode.

Brenda has, in recent weeks, had difficulty seeing herself, what with all her random sexual encounters, fantasies, and general distance from her new fiancee Nate. Whether these difficulties are a result of her disconnection from her family, her bipolar brother, her (quite clearly) manic depressive mom, or brilliant-yet-jerky pops, what matters is her continued downward spiral into self-doubt. In a Six Feet Under-esque moment at the local bookshop, she finds a (imaginary) book called "Your Brother's a Wacko and Your Fiancee is Going to Die".

Keith needs help seeing his sister Karla, and David helps him come to realize that Karla needs rehab. David and Keith start moving toward moving in together, including David's (imaginary) visit to the Leeza Gibbons show. David's desire to be the perfect gay couple is pretty fantastic, and he remains the most likable fella on the show. Ruth also helps Nikolai see his own business from her eyes, as his gettin'-beat-up in the last episode was revealed to have happened because of some bad business practices. Ruth's story at this point of the season seems to be the most on-hold and boring, in part because I'm assuming the Ruth-and-her-sister fireworks are coming later.

Oh yeah, and killer, gut-punch plot twists. Nate, while shopping at Whole Foods, runs into Lisa, who he visited / slept with in episode four, "Driving Mr. Mossback" where she revealed (gasp!) that she's expecting a baby for which he is the father(*). Given what a huge "new" problem this is for Nate, the way this scene was dropped in the middle of the episode without warning(*) added to the gut-punchiness of the episode.

(*)And, amazingly, without showing Lili Taylor's name in the opening credits. There are generally rules about how actors are credited in episodes of shows, which end up spoiling what should be great surprise moments, like what seemed to happen on a weekly basis in the last few seasons of Lost. I didn't enjoy seeing "surprise" guest stars show up in the opening credits, so I ended up doing my best to not see the names on the screen below. It's hard to do.

I do find myself rolling my eyes a lot at some of Ball's dialogue, but the man has a talent for writing compelling characters. This week's episode of Six Feet Under showed that, flaws and all, he crafts good TV. Alan Ball, I find myself shaking my fist at you less and less the more I re-watch this show.

Grade: A-

Memorable quotes and trivia:
  • "You want to die alone? Go right ahead." -Nathaniel
  • Director Michael Cuesta also directed the pilot and a few other episodes of Dexter. The creepy shots of people way close to their face is something he did here and in the Dexter pilot.

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