|Six Feet Under episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2|
|Directed by||Rose Troche|
|Written by||Kate Robin|
|Original air date||March 17, 2002|
|Running time||56 minutes|
"The Plan" is the third episode of the second season of the HBO series Six Feet Under. The episode was written by Kate Robin and was directed by Rose Troche. It first aired on March 17, 2002. The episode features a parody of the program used by est and The Forum.
The episode begins with the death of Michael John Piper, whose wife is a psychic. As he dies, Mrs. Piper states that she can see a light emanating from above his head. Nate begins to experience muscular twitching and loss of verbal skills, which after some internet research David determines to be a condition known as AVM. Later, as Mrs. Piper is selecting a casket for the funeral assisted by David, she informs him that she is being advised by her late husband.
In a scene in the kitchen, Ruth comes downstairs and informs Nate, David and Claire that she will be attending a self-improvement seminar called "The Plan". Her friend Robbie had urged her to attend the course. Claire is worried that "The Plan" is some kind of cult, and Nate remarks that it must be "one of those self-actualization things from the '70s where they yell at you for twelve hours and don't let you go to the bathroom". Upon arrival at the seminar, the leader begins to use jargon and metaphor which compares a "blueprint" for home renovation to self-improvement of one's life. She singles out Ruth and berates her for "tiptoeing around her own house like she's afraid of waking someone up".
Claire attends a counseling session at school, and David brings Nate to the Independent Funeral Directors lunch, where Nate proceeds to rant about the evils of corporations as related to their industry. Claire later returns to the counselor's office, where a police detective questions her about her boyfriend Gabe's involvement in a convenience store robbery, and Claire is angry with her counselor for breaking their trust. Brenda and Nate have a conversation about college-life while she is selecting courses for her adult education, and the conversation leads to Brenda's current lack of interest in sex. Brenda later decides to leave the genetics class she had enrolled in, after getting in a public argument with the instructor.
Ruth comes home late at night from her seminar, and finds Claire waiting for her on the couch. Ruth mentions that she will be attending more seminars of "The Plan" because she has already paid for the coursework and does not want to appear rude. Ruth begins to use jargon from the course in her conversation with Claire, and then Ruth complains that she cannot yet go to sleep for she must first do "homework" from the course. This homework includes writing a letter to her dead mother forgiving her for "all the terrible things she did to me", and writing a letter to herself, describing how she will "renovate" her life. As Nate prepares for the funeral, his father Nathaniel visits him, and they discuss philosophical opinions regarding death and the afterlife. A poem by Walt Whitman is read aloud at the funeral. After the funeral Claire requests assistance from Nate, but David interrupts them with follow-up news from their Independent Funeral Directors meeting. Keith and his mother have a heated discussion about the care of Taylor, and the neglected responsibilities of his sister Carla. Brenda flirts with a patron at a bar, and he gives her his business card moments before Nate arrives to meet her.
At "The Plan", the seminar leader gives the group a new assignment: to go outside to ready banks of phones, and call their family members to inform them of specifically how they wish to "renovate their homes" together. Robbie goads Ruth into calling a family member, but she fakes a conversation with Claire while listening to an automated message. Later, Gabe calls Claire, and asks her to come meet him. Nate and Brenda have dinner together, where she tells him of her academic experience and he discusses concepts of death with her. In the seminar, the leader asks everyone to close their eyes and imagine that everyone else is laughing at them for being stupid, and then asks the participants if they get the joke. Everyone does, except Ruth, who rants at the course instructor. After her rant, the leader congratulates her for "knocking down her old house", and proceeds to tell her that now she can rebuild a new house. Ruth and Robbie then hang out at a bar where they flirt and Ruth asserts herself in conversation. While driving Gabe, Claire witnesses him shoot at another car while they are stopped, but does not see if he has hit anyone. Claire later grabs Gabe's gun, and leaves him to go seek help from Keith. Keith questions Claire in a supportive tone, while Nate and David are more concerned. However, Keith explains to them that Claire was conflicted due to her love for Gabe.
Reading Six Feet Under: TV to Die For by Akass et al. compared the episode to Werner Erhard's est and The Forum, as did the Pittsburgh City Paper. Akass cites the episode while analyzing the phenomenon of self-improvement, and notes that: "Repairing her shingles often leaves Ruth in shackles". She writes that: "..the series performs the logic of self-help, both its silly and seductive sides". However, she also points out that Ruth's rant at the end of her seminar is cathartic for Ruth, and she ends her analysis of the episode by asking: "So, what do we make of our times when all this supposed nonsense actually works?"
Donald Kummings cites the episode in his A Companion to Walt Whitman, while analyzing the effect of a poem by Walt Whitman on a grieving family. Walt Whitman had been character Michael John Piper's favorite poet. Kummings notes "The facial expression of the bereaved wife indicates that she is pleased and consoled by these lines". Kummings also makes mention of the psychic theme that runs throughout the episode, noting: "Indeed psychic connection with the dead is an ongoing motif here, since both funeral director brothers communicate with their father during the episode". The episode is also analyzed in Marriner's Finding the Open Road: A Guide to Self-construction Rather Than Mass Production.