Six Feet Under Wiki
Season 1, Episode 1
Ep01 1.jpg
First Aired June 3, 2001
Episode Guide
"The Will"

"Pilot" is the series premiere of Six Feet Under.  It was written and directed by Alan Ball and first aired on June 3, 2001.


Prodigal elder son Nate returns home for the holidays to the shattering news of his father's death.


Nathaniel Fisher Sr., owner of Fisher & Sons Funeral Home, is singing in his new hearse, smoking, when the phone rings. It’s his wife Ruth, calling to ask him if he could stop somewhere to buy soy milk for their son Nate who is coming home for Christmas. She can tell he’s smoking and tells him to stop or else he will die a slow and painful death. He throws his cigarette through the open window and hangs up; as he’s lighting another one he doesn’t see the bus coming from his right.

Back in the kitchen Ruth – unaware of the accident – cuts her finger with a knife. Her other son David complains that buying a new hearse was a total waste of money, and Ruth replies she’d rather have her husband buy a fancy new hearse than leave her for another woman – or a man. At this, David looks uncomfortable.

At the airport, Nate is chatting with a woman he apparently met on the plane. He gives her his cell number and she offers him to give him a ride. Nate says his father is picking him up but she replies she was not talking about that kind of ride. They end up making out in a janitor's closet.

While supervising the viewing of one of the funeral home’s “clients”, David gets a phone call from his younger sister Claire. She says she has to go see a friend before she heads back home to – unwillingly – attend the family dinner.

Ruth gets a phone call informing her that her husband is dead. She throws everything she can get her hands throughout the kitchen. David finds her sitting on the floor and she tells him the bad news.

Still in the supply closet, the girl refuses to tell Nate her name. Nate’s phone rings. It’s David telling him that their father died. A few minutes later, Claire is taking crystal meth with her friends when she gets David’s call. She promises she’ll go pick up their mom to drive her to the morgue.

While driving Nate to the hospital, the mysterious woman tells him about her family. Her parents are both shrinks who stayed together because of their children and a manic-depressive brother. Nate tells her about his own family. We learn that Claire was very young when Nate left so he doesn’t really know her.

In Claire’s car (Fisher & Sons' old hearse, only painted green) a very distressed Ruth suddenly asks her daughter if she is having sex or doing drugs. She says she can’t remember the last time Claire and she talked about anything important.

David meets a woman at the viewing he is supervising and we learn that he was hoping to go to law school one day, but won’t be able to do it now that his father is dead. He screams and makes everybody jump.

Nate and the woman arrive at the hospital. The woman introduces herself to Ruth: Brenda Chenowith. Ruth tells Nate she needs him to identify the body because she can’t do it, and Claire confesses to him that she’s high on crystal meth. He tells her that he is sorry that she is having a bad drug experience, but she is going to have to deal with it because he’s the one who has to identify their father’s body. He does this, but the morgue employee turns into Nathaniel Sr.'s spirit and tells Nate Jr. that although he has tried to escape the death business his whole life, he will have to join it anyway. Nathaniel Sr. turns again into the morgue employee and Nate Jr. identifies his father’s body. He meets the others in the hallway and Ruth asks him if a lot of reconstruction will be needed – David is not very skilled at that, contrary to Frederico, the funeral home’s employee. Claire is in a hurry to go and Nate thanks Brenda for driving him. She leaves after wishing him the best.

Claire is driving Nate and Ruth home. Nate thinks she is driving too fast and forces her to pull over. Claire tells him he can’t tell her what to do since he’s not her father, but she lets him drive. David is waiting at the house and gets mad at Nate when he finds out that the family didn’t bring the body back and he has to do it himself.

Claire is watching TV in a state of shock and Ruth brings her some food but she says she is not hungry. Ruth gets frustrated and leaves.

David is at the morgue, evidently very distressed. Second fake commercial, for Living Splendor embalming fluid.

Flashback to a young Nate entering the restoration room, where Nathaniel Sr. is working on a body. Young David comes in and Nathaniel Sr. offers Nate a pair of gloves so that he can touch the body, but Nate runs away.

Nate watches Frederico take pictures of the body on the table: Nathaniel Fisher Sr. We learn that Nathaniel Sr. apparently did a lot for Frederico and Frederico feels he owes him something. David is there and gives Nate the cold shoulder, but then his phone rings and he leaves the room in a hurry. It’s a man calling him to say he is preparing something “totally decadent and fatty for dessert”. His name is Keith and David tells him his father just died. Keith is very concerned but David hangs up.

Frederico proudly shows Nate pictures of his masterpieces, restoration-wise. He then shows Nate a photograph of his son and says his wife is pregnant again. Nate tries to cheer Claire up; they decide to go to the grocery store. At the store, Brenda calls. Nate jokes about her psychological family background but she gets angry and hangs up on him. Later Claire collapses and cries in his arms.

Third fake commercial: Wound Filler cosmetic molding putty.

Nate, Ruth and Claire are in the kitchen the next morning. Ruth shouts at Claire without any reason.

David is working on Nathaniel with the Wound Filler from the commercial when Nathaniel Sr. appears behind him, complaining that it’s David and not Frederico who restores him. David promises Frederico will come later. We hear that David resents his father for making him become a funeral director. Frederico comes in and hears David apparently talking to himself, much to David’s embarrassment.

Nate is running in the street and sees a bus coming. He imagines throwing himself at the bus, dying and joining his father at the morgue for a game of naked poker, then snaps back to reality.

Viewing time. Nate and Claire argue. Nate is apparently unhappy about his life. He shouts at a lady wishing her condolences.

Ruth is in her room and Nathaniel appears, in his burial clothes. He says he knows everything...

Back to the viewing room; Keith arrives in his policeman uniform and David does not seem so happy to see him, much to Keith's irritation. Ruth arrives, worried by Keith’s outfit. David introduces him as a racquetball partner, much to Ruth's surprise.

Ruth starts crying over Nathaniel’s body and David leads her into the next room; Nate does not like it and explains to Claire how once in Sicily he witnessed a burial with women crying their eyes out in public.

Nate joins Ruth and David just as Ruth confesses that she cheated on Nathaniel Sr. with her hairdresser.

David goes to see Keith to complain about what his mother's affair and we learn that they met at church. Keith flicks his hand through David’s hair but David is embarrassed and tells him to stop. Claire sees them.

Meanwhile, Ruth and Nate are talking. Ruth says she’s ashamed but Nate assures her Nathaniel and even God will probably forgive her. Nate’s phone rings but he can’t pick up; then we see Brenda holding a phone and hanging up. She is in her kitchen and her brother comes in, crying like a baby.

Fourth fake commercial: Franklin’s new leak-proof earth dispenser. “We put the fun back in funeral”.

Nathaniel’s burial. Everybody is at the cemetery. While the casket sinks into the earth, Nathaniel Sr. is watching from a distance. Nate refuses to use Franklin’s earth dispenser and takes a handful of soil: he finds the whole funeral too clean, antiseptic. Ruth copies Nate and starts crying.

Brenda arrives as Claire sees Nathaniel Sr. sitting on top of the hearse.

After Ruth has left with Frederico, David gets mad at Nate because he’s the one who had to do everything concerning the funeral and Nate can only criticize. David still resents Nate for leaving the house and letting David take all responsibilities for the family.

Matt Gilardi comes to talk to David; he wants to buy the funeral home on behalf of Kroehner Service International. David tells him to get lost and leaves.

Claire and Nathaniel Sr. are chatting about the advantages of being dead. Brenda joins Nate and gives him her number in case he wants to go on a date some day.

David arrives at Keith’s place. Crying, David throws himself into Keith’s arms and kisses him.

Flashback to young Nate Jr. and David playing in front of the house; Ruth is watching them as Nathaniel Sr. sprays water over them with a hose. Nate Jr. wakes up.

The next morning Ruth asks Nate to stay in Los Angeles for a few days longer. He accepts.

Nate is running in the street when he spots his father waiting for the bus. Nathaniel gets on the bus and looks at Nate through the window. Nate stands still on the pavement while people pass by as Nate thinks about how each and every one of them will eventually die.


Main Cast

Recurring Cast

Guest Starring



  • Airport
  • Brenda Chenowith's Residence
  • Fisher & Sons Funeral Home
  • Grocery Store
  • Keith Charles' Residence
  • Morgue


Nathaniel Fisher Sr. (1943-2000)

Born on June 9, 1943 in Los Angeles. Operated the Fisher & Sons funeral home for 34 years, a family business his father established in 1944.

Nathaniel graduated from the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science in 1964, then served as a medic in Vietnam from 1965 - 1969. He was a member of the Rotary Club for 12 years and served as a deacon at the All Souls Episcopal Church for 10 years.

Nathaniel passed away December 24th, 2000. He is survived by his loving wife Ruth, his sons Nathaniel Jr. and David, and his daughter Claire. Viewing on Tuesday, December 26th at 2 p.m. at Fisher & Sons. A private burial to follow at Fairhaven Memorial Park.


Song Title Performer(s)
L'amour est un oiseau George Bizet
I'll Be Home For Christmas Bing Crosby
Attitude Hardknox
Celluloid Hypnotic SPYLAB
Oboe Concerto in D minor, Op. 9, No. 2, Movement I - Allegro e non-presto Tommaso Giovanni Albinoni
Breaking It Down Petalpusher
I Love Being Here With You Peggy Lee
Sunset Seranada Ray Davies
Bedroom Dancing Day One
Monglow Cha Cha Cha The Executives
Divertimention #1, Andante Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Shake Your Booty KC and the Sunshine Band
Waiting The Devlins


  • This is the first and last appearance of the funeral home related commercials. It was originally going to be a runner, a way to start each act, but it was quickly abandoned.
  • Following the airing of this episode, the show was renewed for Season Two


Season One
#101 "Pilot" #108 "Crossroads"
#102 "The Will" #109 "Life's Too Short"
#103 "The Foot" #110 "The New Person"
#104 "Familia" #111 "The Trip"
#105 "An Open Book" #112 "A Private Life"
#106 "The Room" #113 "Knock, Knock"
#107 "Brotherhood"