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Six Feet Under: That's My Dog

Jake: "I must have been a serious asshole in a previous life."
David: "I don't think it works that way. Things just happen."

David was lucky. David was stupid. David was lucky and stupid.

Despite an outstanding performance by Michael C. Hall, I didn't much like this episode. Yes, I could tell what it was really all about: David's insecurities. Life wasn't safe for him without Keith. David could cheat. David could pick up a stranger and get killed. Something awful could happen, and it most certainly did.

Why did David swallow Jake's stories? Why did a smart guy like David even pick up a hitchhiker at all? Yes, okay, for sex. And throughout the experience, David kept fantasizing about it turning sexual, because that would have changed everything and made it safe for him. Jake encouraged it by giving David mixed signals, almost like he could beat David up, take his money and still be his friend. Every time David played along, though, Jake went off on him. It ended with them following a dog remarkably like the one Nate followed in the previous episode, and it was still the wrong dog. David's life flashed before his eyes, ending with the Bus of Death. Why didn't Jake follow through and kill David? Was he mostly talk? Does he kill them sometimes, and David just got lucky?

Nate's bereavement group and Claire's class critique had a similar flavor. (To each other, not to what happened to David.) Claire's group told her that her self-portrait was vacant and empty. Nate was finally opening up to his group with something of a self-portrait of emptiness, too, when a false alarm went off. Neither group was the right one for them. I thought it was odd that everyone in the bereavement group was old. Don't people usually have more of a need for counseling after a violent and/or unexpected death?

Ruth was the comic relief, playing matchmaker for Kyle with a woman acquaintance who also played inappropriate games with shit. And George went off on her for it, yelling at her for being loving and sensitive and trying to help others. In contrast, Margaret was kinder to Brenda in this episode than she has been in the entire series. She actually told Brenda that Brenda would make a good therapist. And she told Brenda the truth, that Joe wasn't the one for her.

But all that wasn't enough to save this episode for me. It was nasty and unpleasant, and left a bad taste in my mouth. I should have been terrified for David, and I wasn't.


— This week's misdirected Opening Death: you think the guy is going to have a heart attack in the hot tub, but instead, his wife fell in the shower. Happy anniversary, honey. The poor guy thought he was being punished. Parallel to David doing a good deed and almost dying, perhaps.

— There were three hot tub references: the Opening Death, Keith talking about finally being able to afford one, and Margaret's inappropriate reference to some professor's shlong. What did these references have in common? Was it just sexual? Hot tubs as a success symbol ?

— Jake dropped the corpse David was transporting into the street, which was like dumping out David's profession, which was pretty much his life. Later, Jake trussed David up and left him in the back of the van, making David like the corpse he was transporting.

— What did the dog mean? Nate's dog led him to the belief that Lisa might still be alive. David's dog nearly led him to his death. Jake treated David like a dog, something that wasn't human and wasn't worth consideration. I've always hated that cliche.

— Nate talked about being angry, and the fire alarm went off.

— Brenda thought her relationship with Joe was the healthiest she'd ever had. Right.

And pieces:

— "Anne Marie Thornton, 1966-2004." I assume it was her body that Jake tossed out of the van. This was the first death dated 2004.

— Gold acting stars for Michael C. Hall, who always hits it out of the park. I may not have liked the story they gave him, but his performance was excellent.

— Keith left for three months to tour with Celeste. Except I assume David will ask him to come home now.

— Margaret's outfit during the lunch-with-Brenda scene was even more outlandish than usual. Maybe I came off with that impression because her immense collar was all over the place. Continuity error.

— Sophia showed up stoned and disrupted Rico's work life. I was rather impatient with this plot point. I like the character of Rico, but I'm just not that interested in his life away from the Fishers and the funeral home.


Keith: "We're gonna be able to buy a fucking house with the money I'm making. With a pool and a hot tub and a steam shower. And room for kids."
David: "Yeah. All of which you'll be sharing with the cooler, smarter, hotter guy you're gonna meet on tour."

Nate: "Bush just lies and no one cares."
Maybe this entire episode was a parable about what Bush has done to the United States, with Jake as Bush and David as us. Yeah, that works.

Nate: "It just doesn't stop, does it?"
Ruth: "It gets better. But it never goes away, no."

Brenda: "You're being wildly inappropriate, as usual. And, as usual, I am feeling irritated and resentful."
Margaret: "Well, that's your shit."

Two stars,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. Billie -- once again great reviews, I really enjoy comparing notes with you after watching episodes of shows.

    That being said, this episode killed the entire mood of the show for me. The show turned from quirky quasi-fantasy to a total drag.

    Watching David's ordeal with an absolute psychopath was hard beyond words to witness. That is, of course, to the writers', director's and actors' credit, because their effort placed you right there, in David's place, wondering what you would do. The episode had its expected result: to outrage the audience and taint, if even by proxy, any idea that the world is a safe place. A life can be upended with no notice. And, from a narrative standpoint, this probably serves as a 'come to Jesus' moment from David, as he realizes that A) chasing strangers for sex is not a good thing to keep doing, and B) life is short -- get your priorities straight. Start a family.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. We get it. Every medium in our lives tries to drive home those points, some more subtly than others. I really didn't need to see a prolonged assault in all its outrageous detail to know it's a terrible thing for a person to endure. If I want to watch psychotic people doing horrible things to good folks, I'll watch Game of Thrones.

    To comply with the rules here, I will finish these thoughts in Season 5. Thanks for the review!

  2. Thanks for the comment and the kind words. I think this is my least favorite episode of SFU, so much agreement.

  3. As an episode intended to shock and traumatize, this was pretty effective. Thankfully, I was spoiled for this, so all the while Jake chatted David up, I was bracing myself for the moment where it all goes to hell. Still, it surprised me.
    In this episode, David gets cut down in all the aspects of his life that matter to him: First his admission about his father's death is swept aside, meaning in the hands of his abductor, his family means nothing.
    The corpse of the poor woman is discarded like dirt, showing that his job, in which he takes great pride, also means nothing to Jake. That was a particularly painful scene to watch, because David (and Rico, and Nate) really treat the bodies with great dignity.
    His third pilar in his life, his relationship with Keith, means nothing either. He is being ridiculed for being gay, from the point where Jake first plays him (is he or isn't he gay?) to calling him names while pushing him literally in the dirt.
    In this sense, I felt like the episode was pretty on the nose in creating a drama in which David is stripped of all that matters in his life. Shocking, suspenseful, painful... definately. Did SFU need this though? I'm not sure.

  4. I actually disagree with the conclusions about what this episode is about -- I don't really think it's about David's insecurities at all (though, it is true that I haven't seen past this episode). Moreso than David's insecurities, in this episode and with Keith, they are extensions of his loneliness. People are leaving his life -- Nate, Arthur, Keith -- and this loneliness stems from fear of emptiness. They are much less about his insecurities about his sexuality or other things, but moreso about him looking to escape the emptiness.

    I mean, if you contextualize this plotline with the entire episode -- as well as the early on link of death to emptiness -- you can see a much richer picture, in my opinion.

    For example, throughout his kidnapping, David has everything of meaning stripped from him -- such as his job through the dead body, his identity through his wallet and even his symbol of connection to the outside world, his phone. Prior to the episode, David had been afraid of the emptiness, probably why he picked up a hitchhiker in the first place.

    Claire, in her own way, is searching to fill the emptiness inside her, through various people whose authenticity she admires whereas Nate, for this entire season and show has exhibited the most desperation in his search for meaning, the antithesis of emptiness. That's why it's telling, not just that the carjacker was never able to answer David's questions of why, but also that the last image before the episode itself really gets jacked is of Nate, empty, alone, isolating himself from the group of mourners.

    Like Nate, the carjacker is desperate for meaning, to rid himself of the emptiness. The concept of a dog -- man's best friend -- you see transferred by the carjacker to David. He sees David not as a dog necessarily but as the man who give him meaning, who can end the emptiness. It's why he tells David the stories -- they are answers, the tell David something of the meaning. It continues with the ongoing theme of never really being able to know anyone and as the episode goes on, David finds himself forced to come face to face with emptiness -- albit, it the most extreme way, compared to Nate and Claire -- with a lack of meaning or reasoning.

    In this way, the carjacker is the best foil for David -- and, because this show does nothing better than throw characters up against their worst fears. Right now, David's is emptiness -- something that you could even link all the way back to A Private Life or his struggle accepting both his religion and homosexuality. His fear was that one would render the other meaningless.

    It's telling that we know nothing about the carjacker -- he is a blank slate who operates almost entirely on instinct (someone that could, ironically, be helped by neither class of psychology that Brenda and her mom were talking about) and it is partially because of this that he is so utterly disconnected. He is not weighed down by reason. This show loves dealing with people and their ability to connect or not to and this episode is no different. On an incredibly basic level this show has been about the Fisher's learning to connect -- both with the world and with each other.

    Also, as a kind of side note, I find the idea of rating a show somewhat ridiculous -- especially a show like six feet under simply because ratings are usually the subjective, well how much did I like it? which often depends on your personal preference to characters and storylines. If anything, it should be a rating on how well the episode did what it was trying to do, which is why I specify shows like Six Feet Under because not all shows have themes or overarching messages in the way Six Feet Under does.

    I don't know. My review of how good this episode was, how much it was necessary, how well it succeeded and how much I liked it would all be different.

  5. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Sadie Murray. You made good points. And you're right that my rating system isn't always what it should be. In the end, I think it usually reflects how I personally feel about an episode.

  6. This particular episode never gets any easier to watch, which is disappointing because each time I revisit this amazing series, this one sticks out as something to endure as opposed to something to enjoy.

    I agree with the views of most people - it was acted, directed and generally put together so well, but the whole flavour of this episode leaves a nasty aftertaste. It was like putting on an album by a band I've always loved, and spending most of the time listening to it wondering, "what the hell is this?" I don't think this was a successful episode in that it didn't leave me wanting more, and it didn't create a new opportunity for me to see any of the main characters in a different light.

    I don't know why, but I really wanted David to see through the bullshit, rise above it and get away of his own accord... I don't want to lynch myself here and say he should've been stronger, because I am definitely not a victim-blamer (having been a victim myself)... I guess I just wanted him to be smarter in this whole thing. To be really honest, and this totally takes away from this show, but the only way I get through this episode with each re-watch is by remembering that Dexter arrives a couple of years after this happened. This is a ridiculous comparison, but this episode just leaves me feeling uneasy and icky. David's strength has always impressed me, but it felt like the fight had gone out of him from the moment he pulled over to pick up that awful person.

    Looking upwards for a new perspective on the episodes to come... Gee I love a good binge of a wonderful show...


  7. Aussie Tess wrote: To be really honest, and this totally takes away from this show, but the only way I get through this episode with each re-watch is by remembering that Dexter arrives a couple of years after this happened.

    Lol. :)

  8. David should've easily beat Jake to a pulp multiple times in that Episode I would've and I'm not nearly his size. Nuff said.

  9. Currently watching this episode on 1.5x speed because it’s stressing me out SO BAD


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