On ''Six Feet Under,'' Brenda runs back to her ex, and Claire saves the day when David panics after realizing how close he came to ending up in his own funeral parlor

By Liane Bonin
Updated July 26, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Six Feet Under: Doug Hyun

Six Feet Under

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”Six Feet Under”: Brenda runs back to Nate

When Thomas Hobbes wrote of life as ”solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” he was ranting against giving individuals permission to run amok. But Hobbes’ pessimistic diatribe against unbridled freedom also seems to be a pretty tidy description of happenings at the Fisher house.

Life has definitely been solitary and brutish for David lately and short for most of the customers. (Doesn’t anyone ever die of natural causes in L.A. anymore?) I don’t know about Hobbes’ whole anti-anarchy thing, but if any cast of characters ever needed the strong arm of government, or a live-in shrink, or just somebody with a lick of common sense to stop them from merrily pursuing their self-destructive tendencies, it’s this one. Not that that would be any fun to watch, but still.

Let’s start with Brenda. I knew her happy fantasy of babies and reasonably priced Craftsman houses with original woodwork would have to crumble sooner or later, if only because such breezy normality is as out of place on this show as an autopsy would be on ”Everybody Loves Raymond.” But perhaps Brenda’s passion for Joe could have fizzled more gradually, with the two of them engaging in the kind of nitpicking and passive-aggressive hostility that makes dinner at the Fishers such fun. Maybe a possibly pregnant Brenda could have tortured her nice guy from across the courtyard by demanding pickles and ice cream at 4 in the morning. Heck, maybe she could have stuck her fingers into an operating box fan to make herself feel suitably miserable.

Instead, she apparently chose to go skipping back into the arms of the sulking, self-absorbed Nate, leaving Joe to be emotionally eviscerated in a future episode. I think the box fan would have been the smarter call.

Then again, if Brenda would so casually toss aside stand-up guy Joe based on what appeared to be a big bummer of a visit to Bed, Bath and Beyond (I’ve had problems picking out bedspreads before, but come on), maybe she and Nate deserve each other. My sympathy for him has fluctuated in inverse proportion to his lack of empathy for anyone other than himself, and let’s just say I have less sympathy for Nate right now than I do for Kenneth Lay.

I don’t know if one of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief is regressing into a whiny preadolescent twit, but if so, that’s where Nate seems to be stuck. Playing with puppies is cute, but clinging desperately to a faux childhood as your brother falls apart? Not so much. The idea that alpha-methyltryptamine-addled Claire, the only character on the show for whom self-absorption is not only age-appropriate but pretty close to a job description, was the only sole Fisher capable of coming to David’s aid attests to a pretty sad state of affairs. But hey, maybe recreational drugs really do raise your consciousness level.

Of course, if anyone could be forgiven for making a stupid, self-destructive decision this week, it was David, who called 911 for help before asking for even a hint of emotional backup from his loved ones. It’s been tempting to think of Keith as the strong one in their relationship, but David, in his own anal-retentive way, has always been tougher than he looks. It takes a heck of a lot of inner strength to be that square all day long.

So we shouldn’t have been surprised that David managed to convince his lover and family he was fine, nor that they, fixated on their own problems, would want desperately to believe it was true. Keith may have flapped his gums about quitting his security gig to stay home, but David must have sensed the lingering resentment that would have entailed. And who can blame David for keeping the sordid details of his kidnapping a secret from his family? Considering Nate is playing with puppies and Ruth is coming unglued over George’s old girlfriends and nasal irrigation, David undoubtedly thought he’d get more compassion from a tree stump or Dr. Phil.

Still, there’s hope that David has started the long, wobbly path to improvement simply by asking for help. Ironically, that admission may have the added benefit of pulling Nate out of his own navel. The scene of the two brothers standing side by side in the funeral home may have verged on Lifetime-movie territory, but after last week’s harrowing episode, I’m not complaining.

I wondered if there would be more cringe-inducing bloodletting and name-calling this week when Vanessa accidentally discovered Sophia’s existence, but Rico somehow managed to cover his cheating tracks yet again, compounding his many sins with another big stinking lie. Still, I can’t imagine this ”Charity begins at the home of a hot, single stripper” fib will hold up for long unless Rico gives Vanessa a monumental blow to the head or briefly cuts off her oxygen supply. That Vanessa even let this obviously fishy excuse slide suggests that, despite being a raging, clinically depressed harridan last season, she still has a deep affection for her husband. I’d bet if he had confessed all a few episodes back, he might have gotten off with a month on the couch and a whole lot of groveling. But at this point, I can’t imagine a scenario for Rico that doesn’t involve divorce papers, alimony, and Rico sleeping in the Fisher basement with the stiffs. Maybe next time he’ll make contributions to the Red Cross instead.

Is the series showing vital signs or flatlining?

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Six Feet Under

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