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''Six Feet Under,'' episodes 14-17

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Six Feet Under
6 Feet Under: Larry Watson

14 In the Game
Writer Ball Writer Writer García Kickoff Death A teen starlet OD’s at her movie premiere. Plot Ruth has her kids and their significant others over for dinner — which is, unfortunately, when the second tab of Ecstasy finally shows up. Nate, blissed out, imagines a game of Chinese checkers between Life and Death. Best Line ”If you don’t get out of my f—ing house right now, I’ll call the L.A. Times and I’ll tell them about the lipo scars on your ass.” (Brenda, to an abusive massage client) Historic Moment Nate’s diagnosis of AVM is confirmed. Creative Casting B-level teen idol Shawn Hatosy (”A Guy Thing”), as a B-level teen idol. Critique Though the episode is a bit heavy on the fantasy sequences, Krause’s Ecstasy yammerings are hilarious, and Hatosy’s brief cameo as the worst that young Hollywood has to offer is priceless. A-

15 Out, Out Brief Candle
Writer Andries Director Bates Kickoff Death A football player collapses from heatstroke. Plot Robbie introduces Ruth to The Plan, a self-help workshop/cult. Rico asks Nate and David for a loan to help buy a house, but they opt to spend the money on a casket display wall. Introduces Keith’s drug addict sister Karla (Nicki Micheaux), and her daughter Taylor (Aysia Polk); Ricardo Antonio Chavira as Rico’s cousin Ramon. Best Line ”I am speaking fiercely from the I!” (Ruth, spouting Plan jargon) Historic Moments Nate tells David about his AVM, and Gabe confesses to Claire about the convenience-store holdup. Critique Still setting up the plots for the season to come, the tension in ”Candle” only flickers. Still, it has its pleasures, chief among them the razor-sharp parody of self-help seminars and another visit from Kroehner bitch-on-wheels Mitzi. B

16 The Plan
Writer Robin Director Rose Troche Kickoff Death A man dies from cancer in the hospital. Plot Brenda flirts with a stranger in a bar. Ruth gets frustrated with The Plan and unleashes a foulmouthed tirade at a seminar. Gabe asks Claire to help him run away, and then shoots at a fellow motorist before disappearing. Historic Moment A widow who claims to be psychic informs Nate and David that a child will be coming into one of their lives. Creative Casting Mare Winningham as the psychic widow; Grant Show as the stranger in the bar. Critique There’s a whole lot of the Claire-and-Gabe saga in this one, and it doesn’t quite work: The show is at its best when it plays it close to real life, and this story line smacks a bit too much of gangster-movie melodrama. B-

17 Driving Mr. Mossback
Writer Cleveland Director Michael Cuesta Kickoff Death An old man dies quietly on a bus trip. Plot While fetching this episode’s corpse in Seattle (the man was afraid to fly), Nate reconnects with his crunchy-granola old flame Lisa. Brenda’s mother discovers her husband is having an affair. Introduces Kellie Waymire (”Enterprise”) as Melissa, Brenda’s prostitute pal. Best Line ”I’m beginning to think you don’t ever want to talk to me again, and if that’s the case, well, then we really need to talk.” (Ruth, leaving a phone message for her estranged sister) Historic Moments Nate tells Claire about his AVM after having a seizure; Keith takes in Taylor when Karla skips town. Creative Casting Lili Taylor as Lisa. Critique A case study in the fine art of scene-stealing, this episode is a showcase for Taylor and Joanna Cassidy, both of whom create enjoyably annoying characters who stop just short of parody. B+