By EW Staff
Updated March 06, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

Image credit: 6 Feet Under: Larry Watson THE SUPPER CLUB The gang gets together for a tense dinner in ”In the Game”

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+

SARAH SMILE Claire and her aunt (played by Clarkson) bond in ”Back to the Garden”

18 The Invisible Woman
Writer Kaplan Director Podeswa Kickoff Death A fortysomething single woman chokes on her dinner while home alone. Plot Ruth, distraught that nobody came to the woman’s funeral, declares that she wants more intimacy from her family. David tentatively begins dating a public defender, and Claire learns Parker cheated on her SATs. Historic Moments Keith kills a man in the line of duty and turns to David for comfort; Brenda decides to start writing a book, and — not coincidentally — ramps up her sexual experimentation. Fresh from watching Melissa have sex with a john, Brenda proposes marriage to Nate. Creative Casting Adam Scott (”High Crimes”) as David’s new boyfriend, Ben. Critique From the outset, ”Six”’s subject has been, in one form or another, the difficulty of forging connections — but it’s never tackled it quite so forthrightly or as movingly as in this episode. Conroy’s finest hour is also one of the series’ best. A

19 In Place of Anger
Writer Taylor Director Engler Kickoff Death A drunk, disgruntled employee falls off a boat on a company outing. Plot Ruth’s loopy sister Sarah comes for a visit and bonds with Claire, encouraging her to become an artist. Kroehner woos Nate and David by flying them to Palm Springs. Best Line ”God, there is so much emotion to navigate where family is concerned. Vicodin, anyone?” (Sarah, capping a tense family dinner) Historic Moment Brenda gives a massage client a, um, happy ending. Creative Casting Patricia Clarkson as Sarah, in an Emmy-winning turn. Critique The contrast between free spirit Sarah and uptight Ruth is a touch too pat, but Clarkson’s performance is splendid. And Griffiths has a great moment when, after she gratifies her client, her face goes from pleasure to guilt to shock in the space of a split second. B+

20 Back to the Garden
Writer Jill Soloway Director Daniel Attias Kickoff Death A lawyer’s foray into autoerotic asphyxiation goes a bit too far. Plot Claire visits Sarah and flirts with Toby, the earnest son of two aging hippies. Rico suspects Ramon is romancing Vanessa, only to walk in on his cousin’s tryst with a male coworker. Introduces Stark Sands as Toby. Best Line ”I got this for you. It doesn’t need watering or caring about in any way.” (Brenda, handing her mother a housewarming cactus) Creative Casting Molly Parker (”The Center of the World”) as a rabbi who befriends Nate; Jeffrey Ross as a stand-up comic who does shtick while sitting shivah. Critique After the season’s slow start, the characters’ plotlines now begin humming, and everyone gets at least one great scene. Case in point: Ruth singing along to her sister’s tape of Joni Mitchell’s ”Woodstock” is one of ”Six”’s most touching moments. A

21 It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Writer Scott Buck Director Alan Taylor Kickoff Death A motorcyclist dressed as Santa Claus waves at some kids — and gets sideswiped. Plot On Christmas Day, the first anniversary of Nathaniel’s death, the family reminisce about the last time they saw him alive. Ruth finds Nikolai with his legs broken after a break-in, and decides to take him in while he heals. Best Line ”Ever since my last boyfriend tried to kill himself and robbed a store and shot at a guy before disappearing off the face of the earth, she wants to meet everyone I date.” (Claire, on her mother) Historic Moments Brenda allows a stranger to grope her in a store; her mother springs Billy from the mental hospital. Critique Aside from one nice shocker — the return of Billy — this is an oddly low-energy episode. Still, the details about the all-night biker funeral are the sort of quirky arcana that ”Six Feet” exists to uncover. B+

Image credit: 6 Feet Under: Larry Watson THE HAPPY COUPLE David dreams of a camera-ready relationship with Keith, in ”Someone Else’s Eyes”

22 Someone Else’s Eyes
Writer Ball Director Cuesta Kickoff Death A construction worker drops his lunch box from a high girder, killing a pedestrian. Plot Lisa informs Nate that she’s pregnant with his child. Meanwhile, Brenda seduces the author of a book titled (appropriately) ”The Lie of Romance.” Historic Moment David decides to move in with Keith, despite the fact that Keith’s posttraumatic stress is making him irritable and controlling. Creative Casting Leeza Gibbons as herself: David fantasizes that the talk-show host interviews Keith and him as ”one of the year’s happiest and sexiest couples”; Dina Meyer (”Starship Troopers”) as a combative widow. Critique As with the preceding episode, ”Eyes” has one big jolt — in this case, Lisa’s revelation — but the rest of it is slack, as if the series were hoarding its drama for the season’s final episodes. B

23 The Secret
Writer Kaplan Director Alan Poul Kickoff Death An elderly Thai man collapses while taking out his recyclables. Plot Karla kills a homeless man in a hit-and-run, and Keith turns her in. When Claire submits a photo portfolio of corpses for a school project, Nate yells at her for exposing Fisher & Sons to litigation. Historic Moments Nate decides that he wants to be part of his child’s life; Melissa and Brenda have a falling-out after a swingers’ party. Critique Karla’s hit-and-run is among the season’s more garishly ill-advised plot twists, especially since the rest of ”Secret” is smart and subtle drama. In a striking, melancholy sequence set to the chanting of Buddhist monks, everyone is depicted alone and miserable — just the sort of agreeable romanticization of depression that ”Six Feet Under” does best. B+

24 The Liar and the Whore
Writer Cleveland Director Arteta Kickoff Death A whiny nursing-home patient chokes to death — possibly assisted by her fed-up roommate. Plot Nate tells Brenda about the baby; after careful consideration — and seducing a pair of teenage stoners — she takes him back. Introduces James Pickens Jr. and Beverly Todd as Keith’s father and mother, who try to take Taylor home with them. Best Line ”Whatever you’re going through, I hope you don’t blame me.” (Ruth, to Claire) Historic Moment Ruth pays off Nikolai’s debt to some loan sharks. Creative Casting Glenn Fitzgerald (”40 Days and 40 Nights”) as Aaron, a nihilistic cancer patient, befriended by Nate. Critique It’s good to see the Nate-and-Brenda plot progress, but the pair of weak subplots (Keith stands up to his dad! Fisher & Sons get sued!) feels imported from run-of-the-mill network dramas. C+

25 I’ll Take You
Writer Soloway Director Engler Kickoff Death An elderly woman dies under the hair dryer at a salon. Plot Everything comes to a head: Nate reads Brenda’s novel and figures out that it’s not fiction, prompting a vicious fight; Lisa has a baby girl; Ruth realizes Nikolai doesn’t love her and dumps him; Claire decides she wants to go to LAC Arts; on a domestic-abuse call, Keith snaps and beats the husband, which results in a police brutality investigation; Rico inherits $149,000 from this episode’s corpse; Kroehner files for Chapter 11. Best Line ”Someone who’s completely not in touch with herself now has a whole new vocabulary to not be in touch with herself with.” (Brenda, of her mother’s turn toward New Age spirituality) Critique This episode could have gone over the top, veering as it does between exceptional sweetness (Rico’s memories of Nathaniel) and extraordinary bitterness (the Nate-and-Brenda screaming match, which is on a par with Tony and Carmela’s throwdown from ”The Sopranos”’ season 4 finale). But both are handled with deftness and precision, and the underused Freddy Rodriguez gets an overdue chance to take center stage. A

26 The Last Time
Writer Robin Director Ball Kickoff Death Aaron dies in Nate’s arms. Plot Nate’s AVM requires immediate surgery. Claire breaks down during her college interview, realizing that art is her way of coping with her dad’s death. Best Line ”I just don’t want him cruising me in the afterlife.” (David, explaining why slightly too-gay-friendly Father Jack won’t be conducting his funeral) Historic Moments Rico helps the Fishers pay for a new drainage system in exchange for a partnership; Brenda leaves town. Creative Casting Larry Drake (”L.A. Law”’s Benny) as a funeral-home inspector. Critique Not as emotionally tumultuous as the preceding ep, but the ensemble’s at its best as everyone copes with Nate’s surgery. A lovely reminder that this show, which often plays like a comedy, can also be unexpectedly moving. A