Are they digging too many plots? Sunday's episode was packed with so many good story lines, it left Nancy Miller feeling a bit embalmed
Peter Krause, Rachel Griffiths, ...
Credit: SIX FEET UNDER: Larry Watson

Are they digging too many plots?

Maybe it’s an effort to help ease the economy?s state of rigor mortis, but the makers of ”Six Feet Under” want to make sure you get your money’s worth. Pound for pound, ”Six Feet Under” packs into under an hour what other shows spread out for an entire season.

Directed by Kathy Bates (the 1990 Best Actress Oscar winner for the aptly titled ”Misery”), the March 10 episode had an even larger tangle of plots and subplots than usual, a coil of live wires that seem poised to spark bigger, greater stories for upcoming episodes. Two frayed ends that might cause further friction were Keith’s (Mathew St. Patrick) run-in with his negligent sister at his 9-year old niece’s heartbreaking ”birthday party” (emphasizing this cop’s violent tendencies — remember his off-duty assault in the homophobe in the parking lot?) and Ruth’s (Frances Conroy) toe-dip into cult religion with The Plan ceremony. Aside from Claire’s reliably funny one-liners, Ruth was responsible for the best laugh-out-loud moment this time around, when she inquired about her investment money by ”speaking FIERCELY from the I.”

Speaking of investment money, Ruth isn’t the only one upset with the Fisher sons’ expenditures. Was it wrong of the brothers to turn down Rico’s request for an $11,000 loan? (Only to then buy that horrific $20,000 ”coffiteria”?) Nate (Peter Krause) made a valid point when he told Rico that they’re an employer not a bank. But now that Kroner has unleashed Mitsy, the Southern Belle from Hell, the Fisher boys can’t afford to turn anyone against them. In the case of frustrated Rico (Freddy Rodriguez), who’s bummed off his sister-in-law for a few bucks, it might be too late.

Last night’s malingering corpse, Joshua Peter Langmead, the 20-year-old football star snuffed out by sun stroke, practically rattled chains like the Ghost of Christmas Past to underscore Nate’s latent fear about his precarious brain condition. After much howling and weeping, Nate finally admits he’s scared he might die in the prime of his life. It’s a wonder he didn’t burst a blood vessel by not telling anyone about his condition, though he fooled us for a moment in the post-party confession he almost braved with the chronically self-absorbed, increasingly depressed Brenda (Rachel Griffiths). Before he decides to rely on Brenda, Nate should take also take note on their current status. She’s no longer interested in sex, yet eagerly spreads caviar for her ex.

Undoubtedly, there was no shortage of action. Yet with so many cannons going off (like Claire’s break up with Gabe after discovering he stole embalming fluid for the most unappealing drug twist ever!), I was nearly numb by the end of the show, even for the pivotal scene between Nate and David. Shoulders shaking, Nate tells David about his AVM condition, and more important, how terrified he is. Perhaps Bates, exhausted by so much activity, decided to pull away and fade us out of the scene instead of giving us the close-up we expected. Or perhaps ”Six Feet Under” wants us to feel like funeral directors often do when dealing with the dearly beloved of others: Despite our fondness for these prickly characters, we’re still outsiders; yes, we’re entitled to view their most poignant moments — but only as long as it’s from a distance.

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