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Classic Television Rundown: Six Feet Under, Season Two, Episode Eleven: "The Liar and the Whore"


Six Feet Under
Season Two, Episode Eleven: "The Liar and the Whore"
Written by Rick Cleveland
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Ruth: Maybe it's for the best.
Nate: Or maybe it's not for the best. Maybe it just is, and I just have to live with it.
It's been a while since I've rapped atchya regarding Six Feet Under, folks. And since then (August 29, 2011, to be exact), some of the castmembers of this show have either continued in their current new series or joined new series. Peter Krause continues to play Nate-but-not-as-free-spirited Adam Braverman on Blogulator favorite Parenthood, Michael C. Hall continues the march toward total irrelevance in the zillionth iteration of serial-killer-killin' in Dexter, Jeremy Sisto gets to play a regular, likable dude in ABC's new Suburgatory, and now the incomparable Frances Conroy graces our HDTVs with her capable acting in the sorta-Blogulator favorite American Horror Story, bringing the most grace she possibly can to scenes where she has to do things that would make Ruth Fisher blush. So, it's a little bit weird with 3/4ths of the Fisher family and 1/4th of the Chenowith family actively on other shows that I like, and makes me really wish for a wacky Six Feet Under reunion.

Especially after watching the eleventh episode of the second season, and seeing how gradually things have evolved for the members of the Fisher family. If there was a central theme of this episode that one could point to, it would be the various attempts our beloved characters made to break out of behavior cycles that hold them back.

Nate and Brenda, as they are somewhat the central characters to the second season (and, really, the series), had the, if not biggest, most central-to-the-story cycles to break out of, both together and separately. When Nate and Brenda talked to (sexy) Rabbi Ari (the hottest Rabbi ever!) about honesty in marriage, Nate took this as his opportunity to reveal to Brenda about knockin' up Lisa. As is typical of Nate, he does this because it is the "right thing to do." Of course, to Nate, this is a positive step toward breaking out of his dishonesty cycle - he thinks that by simply coming clean with Brenda about his impending child, he's finished with his personal betterment. He's wrong. This is clearly a behavior cycle that, thus far, Nate has yet to recognize, and he probably should realize it, but fails to do so. D'oh.

Meanwhile, this revelation spins Brenda into yet another step into her "dark sexual journey" (as one of the show producers referred to in commentary tracks from season two) and reflects back on the source of her pain: having witnessed her messed-up parents and their never-ending stream of sexual partners. Poor Brenda, who clearly has intense, complex issues that she's been dealing with, especially with a mostly healthy Billy at peace with Ma & Pa Chenowith's marriage renewal vows. Oh, baby boomers - will you ever stop being self-indulgent?

If I may be so bold to make a wacky comparison, Nate and Brenda's season two story arc seems to be somewhat of a parallel to Sam and Diane's story arc in season two of Cheers. Okay, yes, a completely different type of show, with different issues each couple deals with, but if the first season of Six Feet Under was about Nate & Brenda finding love in this crazy, screwed-up world they live in together, then season two is about how two people can't live with each other and can't live without each other (but also, can't live with each other.)

David and Keith are also trying to bust out of their negative cycles, albeit with slightly better, more constructive results. David is sick of Keith treating him like a doormat and calls him out on it. Keith, meanwhile, is being treated like a doormat himself by his Dad, who is clearly not comfortable with their role in niece Taylor's life. Keith tells his dad off and lets him know that they will continue to be in Taylor's life. It's not perfect, but it works.

Claire and Ruth are also trying to break out of slightly more light-hearted cycles, with Claire subconsciously trying to stop being a jerk to Mom and learn to have an adult relationship with her. It takes a few 'Shrooms (is that how you spell it? The drug? Anybody?) but Claire has a hilarious / heartwarming hug with Ruth in which she tells her how much she loves her and then gives her some jingly pants. Ruth, meanwhile, can't stop trying to be everyone's savior, taking a bunch of cash and giving it to the nefarious people who tell Nikolai that he owes them $87,000. When Ruth did this, my notes said, "Ruth, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! WHAT!??!! YOU REALLY GAVE THIS SKETCHY GUY $87K????? WHY?!?!?!?!? WHYYYYYYY?!?!?!?!?" It's true, Ruth. This is a bad decision. That's a lot of money. Yargh.

Some other plot machinations take place, like the woman who Nate showed the totally chopped up body of her husband to serving Nate with a big fat lawsuit (that happens to also be backed by Krohener. Snooze.) (She, however, was played by Harriet Sanson Harris, who played the unscrupulous agent for Dr. Frasier Crane on Frasier, and is pretty delightful. So that was good.) And the dead body of the episode was a patient that Vanessa worked with at her hospital. In fact, the revelation that the dead person died via hot dog asphyxiation (hey, why not) and possibly due to her mean room neighbor neatly reflected the action in the main characters' lives pretty well.

In the end, Nate's conversation with his mom as noted in the Quote of the Week above summed up the episode pretty well: sometimes stuff happens that isn't for the best, but it just is, and you just gotta do something about it. In the end, Brenda decides that, despite everything Nate has put her through, she still loves him enough and wants to work through those things with him. How one decides to deal with those things is one of the central tenets of this series, and one of the most engaging parts of the series in general. Yes, the show is much better when it focuses on the simple things.

Grade: B+

Miscallaneous trivia and memorable quotes
  • "You can't fuck for shit when you're on 'Shrooms." -Taylor
  • "I'll be back. Like Terminator, no?" -Sketchy guy looking for Nikolai's money
  • "Sometimes, truth is irrelevant." -Brenda
  • "I don't know what I feel. I don't feel anything." - Brenda, after Nate drops the baby-bomb on her.
  • "Would you like me to pick you up a frozen pizza and some videos?" -Ruth, to Claire. LOLZ!
  • Director Miguel Arteta directed four episodes of the first season of HBO's new Enlightened, which from what I've seen is thematically similar to this particular type of Six Feet Under episode - all about how stuff happens to people and what people do about it. Oh, and he also directed the "Rubber Man" episode of American Horror Story, which is not at all thematically similar to Six Feet Under. Except, y'know, the ghosts.
  • I do love how understated everything is in this episode, especially how understated Nate's somewhat Soapy reveal of his love child was presented. Good directing, Mr. Arteta.

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