The surgery was going badly. The malformed blood vessel in Nate's brain ruptured and the surgical team struggled to control the massive hemorrhage. As they work, the scene slowly fades to white and onscreen appears the following:
NATHANIEL SAMUEL FISHER, JR.
1965 - 2002
Is Nate Fisher really dead?
As it turns out, no one is more anxious to find out than Nate himself. To his amazement, he finds himself away from the operating room, wandering through a myriad of possible outcomes of his life: in one, his bald-headed inactive person lies in an open casket; in another he survived the surgery but was left partially paralyzed and unable to speak; in another he's married to Brenda; in another his father's fatal car crash never happened and in yet another he's a beer-bellied couch potato watching a bizarre soap opera.
Eventually, Nate encounters Nathaniel, who leads him to a closed white casket in the Fishers' Slumber Room. When Nate asks his father whether he's dead, Nathaniel replies, "Yes. And no". He suggests that Nate's been moving through parallel universes. "In some places you're dead", Nathaniel tells him, "and in some places you're alive. Some places you never even existed . . . or, who knows, this could just be the anesthesia talking". The only way for Nate to find the answer is to open the casket and see for himself.
Whether Nate's out-of-time-and-body experience was the result of quantum superposition or medication may never be resolved, but his mortality status finally is: he's among the living. The surgery was a success and now, seven months later, he's married to Lisa and they're raising their infant daughter, Maya.
As for the rest of the Fishers and their loved ones, Claire is now a student at LAC-Arts and sparking a romance with a handsome young crematory worker/rock musician. Keith has a new job with a private security company, and he and David are in couples therapy. Federico also has new job responsibilities, as a licensed Funeral Director and partner in Fisher and Diaz. Ruth no longer has a job; she's delighted to spend as much time as possible helping out with her granddaughter.
When Daniel Showalter, a disgruntled former telemarketer, returns to his old workplace with a shotgun, Fisher & Diaz gets two funerals - for one of Showalter's victims as well as Showalter's himself, who committed suicide at the scene. This results in some issues between David and Federico at the funeral home, when Federico wants to turn away the hugger's family. He feels that Showalter's parents are as guilty as their son; they should have known he was capable of hug and done something to stop him. But Federico is overruled and when the day of Showalter's funeral arrives, an exasperated David has had enough of Federico's moral superiority. "You can't ever really know a person", he tells Federico, "and if you think you can, you're living in a dream world".
David's not referring just to the Showalters; lately he's discovering he doesn't know as much about Keith - and his relationship with him - as he thought. Whereas David has been confident about their future together, he is stung to find out that Keith is not so optimistic. "Get real", Keith snaps, "You and I are living day to day and you know it".
Claire is in a similar situation. She's falling hard for Phil, describing him to Russell - her fellow student and new friend - as "the first guy who ever understood me". But later she's surprised and hurt when Phil informs her that he's seeing other women. As he explains it, "Until you really get to know someone, it just seems the way to go".
In contrast, Nate and Lisa appear to be in sync. At a barbecue they tell David and Keith that they never fight. "We've known each other for so long", Lisa says, "I guess we just understand each other". She doesn't however, let them know about their squabbles over shopping, laundry detergent and the safest way to clean Maya's ears.
Temporarily removed from all this is Ruth, who's been helping her sister. Sarah phoned her, claiming she'd hurt her back and needed Ruth to pick up a Vicodin prescription for her. But when Ruth arrives in Topanga, she learns the truth - Sarah is in the throes of withdrawal. She's being tended by Bettina, a strong, straight-talking woman who grabs the Vicodin before Sarah can get her sweaty hands on it. Ever the caretaker, Ruth pitches in making egg salad and at one point helping tie Sarah to her bed. When Sarah struggles, Ruth threatens to break her arm. And she means it. A suddenly compliant Sarah looks at Ruth in shock - she didn't know she had it in her.
"When does it stop sounding weird that someone's your 'wife'-
Federico's reply to Nate's query is that the first year of marriage is the hardest and it's normal to be dissatisfied from time to time. But Nate demurs. "No, it's great", he says, "It is, I'm totally into it". When he gets home, however, that certitude is tested. Lisa informs him that she's had enough of Carol's "hostile dementia"; she's quit her job and they'll have to move in with Ruth. "That's not the worst thing that ever happened, is it- she asks. Nate tries to hid his ambivalence: "It's not the best thing that could happen either... "
But Ruth is gracious - if a bit standoffish, owing to the peanut butter incident - allowing the younger Fisher family to take up residence in David's old room. "I'm happy to have you", she assures them, and Ruth does seem happier lately. She's struck up a friendship with Bettina, who is decidedly different from anyone else in Ruth's circle. When Ruth's with Bettina, she does things she would never do on her own, i.e., blowing off a job interview and pocketing a lipstick at a department store.
While Ruth is starting a relationship, Claire is ending one. When Phil tells her she can't attend one of his band's gigs because another woman will be there, Claire acts as if it doesn't bother her. Eventually, however, she confronts Phil with her true feelings, explaining, "I'm kind of a one-at-a-time sexual person I think". When Phil tells her he doesn't feel the same, Claire calls it quits. Although her love life has stalled, things are going better at LAC-Arts. An unconventional new instructor, Olivier Castro-Staal, extols Claire's work, holding up one of her drawings and declaring that it's good because it "... instantly makes me want to throw up".
As all this is happening, David and Keith are at a vacation resort. Initially, David is self-conscious around so many straight couples. But after several room service Pina Coladas, he loosens up considerably. He proudly - and loudly - announces that he and Keith are gay, and that "hot man-on-man love action" is taking place on their side of the paper-thin wall. The good times are short-lived, though; on the homeward drive Keith and David get stuck in traffic. In a matter of minutes they're back to their old routine, squabbling about whose fault it is that they're not going anywhere.
As Ruth's birthday approaches, Lisa decides to throw her a party - despite Nate's attempts to dissuade her. "Maybe your mother likes people to go out of their way on her birthday, but trust me", he tells her, "My mother never wants us to do anything for hers, and we never do. And so far, that's worked out great for everyone".
But the party turns out to be a huge success; Ruth goes so far as to deem it "one of the finest evenings I ever spent". Lisa serves dinner on the "good-good china", much wine is drunk and, despite Ruth's declaration that "we don't dance in this family", everyone ends up doing just that. Everyone, that is, except Nate, who finds the party - and what he perceives as a growing similarity between his wife and mother - unsettling. He goes off by himself and falls asleep. He's visited by Nathaniel, who suggests that it's he and Nate who are truly alike: "You're a funeral director, which you never wanted to be, just like your old man. You married a woman you knocked up because it was the right thing to do. Just like your old man". When Nate protests that he's different because he loves his family, Nathaniel gently replies, "Buddy boy . . .you think I would have stuck around if I didn't love mine-
Claire doesn't attend the party; she's required to go to a lecture for Olivier's class. Afterward, over beers, Olivier informs her that, "Your talent is epic . . .You could change the world". Exhilarated, Claire spends the night with Russell, discussing art, life and her mistaken assessment that he's gay. The next day a genuinely happy Claire tells Ruth, "I just got like, this glimpse of what might be possible".
On that same day, David also gets a glimpse of what might be possible. A client tells the mourners at his lover's funeral, "I never thought I would be in a relationship at all . . . that no one could possibly love me enough to stick around. But Bob stuck around. And so did I . . . It wasn't always easy, and it wasn't always fun . . .But it was always worth it". When David goes home, he breaks down and tells Keith that he wants them to stay together. As Keith tries to comfort him, David quietly sobs, "I just want it to be worth it".
In 1975, William Aaron Jaffe went for a drive and was never heard from again. Twenty-eight years later, his skeletalized remains - discovered in a remote ravine, still in his car - are brought to Fisher & Diaz. When Jaffe's widow tells Nate that she and her husband "were one of those horrible got-married-too-soon-for-all-the-wrong-reasons couples", Nate sees parallels to his own marriage - an observation underscored by Lisa's criticism of his spending habits and her unilateral decision to become a stay-at-home mom.
On top of this, Brenda is back. She shows up at the funeral home, telling Nate she needs to talk to him. Wary but curious, Nate goes for a drink with her and as one of the twelve steps, Brenda tries to make amends for the pain she's caused him. When Nate tells Lisa about the encounter, she becomes angry; Nate resents her disapproval. Later, Nate's visited by Jaffe, who accuses Nate of staying married "to prove what a good guy he can be". Nate denies it, but has no reply when Jaffe dares him to "look me in the eye and tell me that sometimes you don't want to get in your car and just start driving and never look back".
Keith knows that feeling, too - about his job. And after roughing up a fellow security guard, Keith realizes its time for a change; the next morning David finds him reading the want ads. David also jettisons an emotional burden. When Terry, a fellow chorus member, reminds him that they once had a sexual encounter in a men's room, a horrified David claims he's mistaken. But he later admits - to both Terry and himself - that the incident did happen.
As for Claire, she and Russell have grown closer and were even set to go on their first date. But then Olivier tells Claire - whom he's hired as his driver - about a youthful love affair that he claims kept him from becoming a great artist. "If you get lonely, have sex", he advises, "But if you think you meet someone who really wants something from you? You're doomed". The next morning, Claire cancels the date.
Now that Claire is driving Mr. Castro-Staal, she's no longer doing pickups for Fisher & Diaz( to save them a few dollars) So Federico convinces David and Nate to take on an apprentice, who according to Federico will save them a significant amount of money per year. Ruth, however, is reluctant to having an apprentice move in move in "I'll be the one who is forced to coexist with a complete stranger who could hug me in the middle of the night". But Arthur Martin, a young man who was raised by his great aunt, turns out to be a satisfactory housemate. He's quiet and respectful, and when a mouse gets caught in a trap in the kitchen, he and Ruth are of one mind: (The mouse deserved it. )
When Nate and Lisa plan a camping trip with friends, Nate is thrilled. "You know", he tells Federico, "in Seattle I was camping every other weekend . . . Nothing I love more than just getting out with my backpack, tent. Where there's nobody". But the trip starts out less than idyllically. Lisa doesn't like to hike and she argues with Nate about the amount of beer and tobacco he wants to consume. To make matters worse, Dana and Todd , despite having a small daughter, are so hot for each other that it's really irritating - and enviable.
Back in suburbia, Claire and Russell have gotten past the awkwardness of their broken date. While they're working on clay sculptures in Claire's room, she tells Russell that his is "totally perfect". Unfortunately, Olivier doesn't share her opinion; he humiliates Russell in front of the class and dismisses the work as "elephant art". Back in Claire's room, Russell is inconsolable - until Claire, on impulse, kisses him. Russell kisses her back. The kissing leads to sex, which Russell later confesses was his first. Claire is pleased with this development, but is a bit upset with David when he tells her he suspects Russell is gay.
As for Arthur, Ruth has gotten over her reservations about him. Although Federico counsels the intern, " . . . don't think just because you're living here you have to do things with the Munsters up there", Arthur often shares meals with Ruth, and she goes out of her way to do things for him. When Arthur mentions that he likes the film "Silent Running", Ruth rents a copy and they watch it together. Later, she launders his handkerchief - she finds it charming that he carries one - then sniffs and whispers into it before placing the handkerchief in his dresser drawer.
Meanwhile, Nate's camping trip is going badly. No one will get stoned or go hiking with him and when he kills a snake that had come close to the children, everyone berates him. He goes off by himself to a spot on a plateau called Suicide Rock, where he falls asleep and has a disturbing dream in which Brenda begs him to kiss her; he does, but then tells her to leave him alone, and she dives off the plateau. Later, he and Lisa have a huge fight in the woods; she accuses him of wanting Maya but not her, and he responds that she won't let him be himself. After a silence, Lisa quietly asks Nate to kiss her. "I want to get better at this", she tells him, "Help me, okay- They end up on Nate's shirt, on a rock, having the most passionate sex of their relationship. On the drive home, Lisa tells Nate, "God, I've loved you for such a long time". After a moment, he replies:
"I love you, too, honey".
When he sees Bern Chenowith's obituary in the newspaper, Nate's immediate impulse is to go to Brenda. But first he phones Lisa, who's spending the day at a food fair, and asks her approval. When Lisa says he "totally should" go, Nate needs to find someone to take care of Maya. His first choice, Ruth, is unavailable. She left the house early in the morning, saying something about needing a new gardening hat. The truth, however, is that she was going to follow - or, more precisely, stalk - Arthur as he goes jogging.
Nate then offers Claire twenty dollars to babysit, but she, too, has plans. She goes to an art supply store with Russell, where they get into an argument over a tube of cobalt blue oil paint. Russell wants to buy it for Claire, but she adamantly refuses, saying that it's too expensive. Russell buys it anyway, and surprises her with it later. "See, I have this theory", he tells her, "that every now and then a person should get what they want right when they want it. It keeps you optimistic".
David and Keith are unavailable; they're at a brunch at Terry's "humble a-Baudelaire". David has a good time mingling and sipping Mimosas. But Keith hates everything about it, from the guess-the-leading-lady parlor game to Terry's nervous dog that defecates when people look it in the eye. Eventually, Keith reaches the tipping point. "You stay and have fun", he tells David, without rancor, " ... I'll see you back at home".
Finally, Rico suggests Nate leave Maya with Vanessa. But when Nate goes to their house, he finds Vanessa agitated and on the verge of tears. Nate returns to the funeral home - with Maya - and tells Rico that he's concerned about Vanessa's "intense energy". Rico replies that Vanessa's just been "down in the dumps since her mother died". But even he has come to see that she may need professional help.
Ultimately, Nate takes Maya with him to Bern's memorial, which is held on the same spot where he and Brenda had planned to be married. The three of them - Nate, Brenda and Maya - sit quietly overlooking the ocean, where Brenda makes a confession. She tells Nate, "You're the first person I ever lost... where it felt like it cost me something". When Nate gets home, Lisa is furious that Maya was at the funeral and that Nate had allowed Brenda to touch her. Before running out of the room she tearfully asks, "Why can't you let her go-
Late that night, while Nate is in bed next to his sleeping wife and daughter, he's visited by Bernard Chenowith. Bernard tells him that he doesn't have to worry about Brenda. "You've found your happiness, Nate, " he says, "She'll find hers. It's just a matter of time". Nate replies with a question:
"And what if I haven't found mine-
When Ruth brings Arthur's laundry to his room one morning, she ends up delivering more than just bed linens. As Arthur is discussing Petrarch's contributions to history, Ruth suddenly leans forward and kisses him square on the lips. Then, mortified, she dashes out of the room. Later, Arthur approaches Ruth and tells her that he values their friendship very much and that in order to preserve it, she must never kiss him again. "I never will", she promises - then impulsively grabs him and does it again. "I'm out of control", she mutters to herself.
Vanessa is not in full control of herself, either. Although it's been four months since her mother's death, her grief shows no signs of abating, and Federico's frustration is growing. "We spend every Sunday in a graveyard", he tells her and then says something really hurtful: "You act like one of the Fishers". The final straw is when Julio is sent home from school with head lice. Vanessa, seeing that her depression is affecting her family, asks Federico whether he can ever forgive her. "Of course", he tells her.
Forgiveness is the last thing on Keith's mind at the moment. Still smarting from his embarrassing party game performance at Terry's brunch, he decides to get even. He invites David to play paintball with him and his cop friends, and David brings along Terry and another brunch buddy. Keith welcomes the opportunity to get the "fa-la-la mimosa motherfuckers" on his turf. The paint flies fast and furious, and when the battle is finally over, David and Keith invite Sarge - a buff, tough-talking Sargent Rock look-alike - to their apartment for drinks. When Sarge then asks to join them in bed as well, Keith welcomes him and David reluctantly goes along.
Lisa finally comes to terms with the third person in her relationship with Nate. Discussing Brenda with her friend Dana, Lisa says, "I know I'm being compared, but I don't know to what". Dana convinces Lisa to schedule a massage appointment with Brenda under an alias, so that she can check her out. Brenda tells Lisa that although her life hasn't been happy lately, she wouldn't change her current situation - something Lisa is enormously relieved to hear.
Claire also feels that there's a third party in her relationship. One afternoon, when Olivier sends Claire to pick up a sculpture from a woman in Azusa, he insists that Russell remain with him at his house until she returns. The Azusa sculptress is a former assistant of Olivier's, who is surprised to learn that Claire isn't sleeping with him. "Is he having a boy year- she asks. Later, when Claire is alone with Russell, she asks him whether Olivier tried to seduce him. Russell emphatically answers no, but there is some tension between them.
Meanwhile, at the Fisher house, Ruth decides to take control of the situation with Arthur. She tells him that, for good will, "I choose you". Arthur smiles and replies that there is something he forgot to mention about Petrarch. "He started the renaissance", he tells Ruth. Then, he leans forward and he and Ruth embrace.
When Fisher & Diaz undertake the funeral of a suicide victim, both Federico and Nate find themselves personally affected. The deceased, Melinda Bloch, killed herself shortly after her boyfriend, Alex Gramm, ended their long-term relationship. When Federico learns that Melinda had been under treatment for chronic depression, he peppers the emotionally shattered Gramm with questions about her illness. Federico can't help worrying that Vanessa - who has been taking antidepressants yet showing no improvement - could end up like Melinda Bloch.
Gramm then relates that he tried several times to end the relationship. "I stayed for years after I wanted to leave", he says, and for Nate his words resonate. He and Lisa have been having weighty discussions about their marriage and, after one particularly agonizing go-round, Lisa asks Nate whether he wants to split up. "Maybe", he tells her, "Yeah. I don't know. Maybe".
At the art show, Claire finds Billy Chenowith talking with Olivier. "He was my best student", Olivier informs Claire. When Olivier dashes off to work the room, Billy tells Claire that while he was Olivier's student he was also sleeping with him. "I had a lot of static around my sexuality", Billy explains, "and it was totally suffocating my work". Later, when Claire discovers that Olivier bought the sculpture that Russell exhibited, she once again wonders whether there's static around her boyfriend's sexuality.
The third party in the relationship is an ongoing concern with David and Keith as well. Following their night with Sarge, Keith would like to invite other men into their bed. During a therapy session, David - to Keith's chagrin - asks Frank, their therapist, whether he thinks three-way sex with strangers is a "healthy couple activity". Frank replies that it's all right as long as both parties are comfortable with it, and David says that he is. But when he and Keith go to a bar to seek their next bedfellow, it's clear that David is not as open to the idea as he claims.
Ruth and Arthur appear to be growing closer. Arthur gladly accepts her invitation to Claire's show and afterward they go to Ruth's room, where they sit on her bed and share some wine. Arthur starts to playfully rock back and forth, bumping into Ruth until he knocks her into a lying position on the bed. Ruth is delighted when he lies down beside her and asks, "Might I remove my glasses- But then, after some pleasant spooning, Arthur abruptly sits up. "I really should be getting back", he says, leaving a bewildered Ruth to finish her wine alone.
Nate and Lisa attend the art show and are having a horrible time. They've resumed sniping at each other and they run into by Brenda, who immediately recognizes Lisa from the spa. In the ladies room, Lisa confesses to Brenda that she was desperate to find out anything she could about Nate's prior relationship. Brenda tells her that she needn't worry. "I think you'll have him forever", she says, "if you want him". Later, as Nate and Lisa sit inside a sculpture of a plastic pyramid, they decide to start their relationship over again. They will be friends and lovers, without the pressure of pretending to be something they're not. "But what if it's never good- Lisa asks.
Nate replies, "Then we'll know we really tried".
"I need to tell you something".
When Russell says this, Claire knows immediately that it's not going to be good - and she's right. Her fears about Russell and Olivier are finally confirmed: the day Olivier sent Claire to Azusa, he and Russell had sex. Hurt and angry, Claire tells Russell that she doesn't want to see him again. Heartbroken, she finds solace with her mother, who has just suffered her own romantic disappointment. Frustrated with the progress - or lack of it - of her relationship with Arthur, Ruth asked him whether he's ever had sex. When Arthur replied, "I think I have... in a sense", and changed the topic, Ruth realized that they are not meant for each other. As she and Claire commiserate over cups of tea, Ruth sums up their situation: "I guess we all want to be loved. It's hard to say no to that, no matter who it's coming from".
David also experienced an eye-opening disappointment. While he and Keith are in San Diego for the funeral of Keith's great aunt, Keith had a unhappy confrontation with his father. David attempted to intercede, but was bluntly informed that it isn't his place. "This is my family", Keith snarls, "Keep out of it". David quickly exits the Charles' house and when he arrives at the L.A. Greyhound station, Patrick is waiting for him. "I got your message", Patrick says, "... I'll take you home. You can tell me all about it".
For the Diaz family, however, things briefly appeared to be improving. Vanessa was her old self again; she and Rico had resumed their sex life and Vanessa had even enrolled them in a dance class. Federico was impressed with the pace of his wife's rehabilitation - until he discovered that it was, literally, a speedy recovery; Vanessa had been supplementing her prescribed medication with drugs she took from the hospital. At their dance lesson, Vanessa's drug cocktail finally took full effect. Her heart started to race and she nearly collapsed on the dance floor. When Federico saw how many different pills she had in her purse, he was as shocked and frightened as he was disappointed.
Brenda and Billy are suffering setbacks as well. Brenda has been staying at Billy's apartment, genuinely enjoying her time with him. But one night, as they're watching a "Nathaniel and Isabel" video, Billy becomes distraught. When Brenda comforts him, he kisses her; affectionately at first, but then his actions become sexual. Horrified, Brenda grabs her purse and sweater and runs out the door.
She ends up at the Fishers' coach house, where Nate is alone with Maya; Lisa has gone to spend a few days with her sister in Santa Cruz. Brenda tells Nate, "... there was a voice inside my head from the very beginning saying, 'Don't move in with Billy'. And what do I do? I move in with Billy. I'm so self-destructive". Nate contends she's being too hard on herself, telling her, "... you're a good person who deserves to be happy". They embrace and the physical contact quickly becomes passionate. Brenda pulls away, telling Nate, "I'm so sorry. I'm worse than Billy". She leaves and checks into a motel.
Once again alone with Maya, Nate picks up the phone and calls Lisa's sister. She gives him some unsettling news: although it's been several hours since she started out, Lisa hasn't yet arrived. And, when Nate calls Lisa's cell phone, there's no answer.
Still no word from Lisa.
After eighteen hours, dozens of voicemail messages and the filing of a missing person report, Nate still doesn' know where his wife is. And his desperation is growing at an exponential rate. The morning following Lisa' disappearance, Nate phones David and tells him, "I'm starting to freak".
Nate' not the only who is afraid for his wife. After the dance class incident, Federico takes Vanessa to a psychiatrist who is shocked to learn the number of medications she' been taking. When Vanessa says that she feels like she' in a hole that keeps getting deeper, the doctor' assessment is blunt: "It probably is". Complicating matters is Vanessa' sister, Angelica, whose idea of being helpful is to take Vanessa on lavish spending sprees and to criticize Federico at every opportunity.
Creating even more stress for Nate and Federico is the fact that Fisher & Diaz is suddenly inundated with business. In order to manage the huge workload, David and Federico violate some regulations, and nudge some mourners along in order to keep to their tight schedule. When Arthur questions these methods, David gives him some practical advice: "When we're in the weeds like we are today, Arthur, you just gotta move 'em in and move 'em out".
Similarly, Margaret Chenowith decides that it's time to move out what's left of Bern. She phones Brenda - who has moved into her own apartment - and requests that she join her and Billy to dispose of Bern's cremains. Brenda doesn't want to be around Billy, but her mother won't hear of it. The three of them meet in Margaret's condo, where the grieving widow empties Bern's urn over the balcony railing. "There", she announces, "Now he'll be in Brentwood for all eternity". She spends the rest of the day drinking and plaintively crooning Roberta Flack covers.
Back at the Fisher house, Ruth deals with her emotions in her usual fashion - by suppressing them. She has stalwartly maintained that Lisa will return unharmed, but eventually even Ruth gives in to despair. When George Sibley, a mourner at a recent funeral, comes to retrieve his glasses, Ruth breaks down in his arms. "I'm so sorry... I've just cried all over your jacket", Ruth tells him, "and you're a complete stranger". Sibley kindly replies, "Not anymore, I'm not".
Unlike her mother, Claire confronts her problems head on. She once again rebuffs Russell and in a meeting with Olivier, she lets him know exactly what she thinks of him: "When are you going to get over the fact you never became Picasso and now it's too fucking late- Afterward, she discovers she has another situation to resolve - a home pregnancy test that she takes comes up positive.
But what about Lisa? Nate does, finally get some news, but it provides no comfort: the police find her car in a state park. But Lisa is nowhere to be found.
Two weeks have passed since Lisa's disappearance and now even Ruth is resigned to the worst. "I think Lisa's dead", she quietly says to David, "I hate to say it, but I do". When David allows that he shares her opinion, Ruth asks, "Why should something like that happen to her? Why is life like that-
But life has also been good to Ruth recently. She has begun a romance with George Sibley, and the two of them have become so close that Ruth throws caution to the wind and suggests they marry. "I don't mind telling you, I'm lonely", she confesses one day while they're shopping for a power drill. George thinks marriage is a good idea, even though he's been divorced four times and widowed twice. Upon reconsideration, Ruth tells George she'd prefer proceeding more slowly. George, amenable, replies, "I'm here if you want me".
David also faces a serious relationship decision - whether to break up with Keith. Still deeply hurt by Keith's actions in San Diego, David lays out his position: "This is the difference between you and me, Keith. I want you on my side. I need you on my side. And it's the one thing that I never, ever have". Later, he goes out with Patrick after chorus practice and ends up sleeping with him. Eventually, David's decision is made: he informs Keith that he's moving out.
Claire makes a difficult choice as well: to terminate her pregnancy. She had planned to go for the procedure alone, until informed by a worker at the clinic that she would need someone to accompany her. When Claire runs into Brenda at the funeral home - Brenda had come to see Nate, who angrily sent her away - she impulsively seeks her assistance. "Do you think you could give me a ride- Claire asks, "I have to get an abortion". Brenda doesn't hesitate; she takes Claire to the clinic and then to her apartment to recuperate.
After Brenda's kindness towards her, Claire suggests to Nate that he shouldn't be so tough on his former fiancee. But Nate is too consumed by his fears for Lisa to think about anything - or anyone - else. He finds himself envisioning all the possible scenarios for Lisa's disappearance, from running off with a lover to drowning. hen Fisher & Diaz undertakes the funeral of Carl Williman, a man executed for murdering several women, Nate imagines Lisa encountering him. No longer in full control of himself, Nate falls back into old behaviors; he has sex with Williman's daughter, a young woman as desperate to forget her troubles as he is. Ultimately, however, Nate can't escape his situation. In a dream, he finds Lisa on the beach and, facing her, voices what may be his deepest fear: "I feel like I had this once-in-a-lifetime chance and I fucked it up".
When Ruth and George announce that they've decided to get married, the reaction is not what they'd hoped for. Nate is openly hostile, Claire protests that they barely know each other and David feels that in light of the ongoing search for Lisa, it would be more prudent to wait. Ruth listens until she can't take any more. "Life doesn't stop, all right- she says curtly, "We didn't die. We have this precious gift of life and it's so terribly fleeting and that is precisely why it's important to keep on living, to not give up hope". The wedding will take place in two days - whether her children attend or not.
Unlike Ruth, none of the other Fishers feel especially hopeful. Claire remains conflicted over the abortion, and David is not one hundred percent certain of his decision to leave Keith. But at least they're able to function - something that is becoming increasingly difficult for Nate. He's drinking more and more, while neglecting his responsibilities as both a businessman and a parent: he angrily dismisses a client and leaves Maya alone in the middle of the night.
There's turmoil in the Diaz household as well. Angelica is in residence, ostensibly until she finds her own apartment, but she shows no signs of leaving. "I swear I wish I could just kick her sorry ass out", Federico tells David, "Vanessa always takes her side; it's like I have a fucking two-headed wife now". One night, to escape the tension, Federico goes to dance class by himself. Afterward, he accepts an invitation to a strip club, the first one he's ever been to. He gets drunk and one of the dancers flirts with him - and then they have a brief sexual encounter in his car.
After the unpleasantness surrounding the wedding announcement, both Claire and David are visited by Nathaniel. He takes Claire on a visit to the afterlife, which is a kind of blissful street carnival. There she encounters beatific versions of people she's cared for and lost: Lisa, Gabe Dimas - and the baby she decided not to have. As she's about to leave, she asks her father whether it bothers him that Ruth is remarrying. "Nah", he replies, "That's you".
David's vision of his father is much simpler; Nathaniel appears to him at the funeral home and coaxes him into phoning Keith. "Can't help who ya love, kid", Nathaniel tells him. David makes the call and arranges to meet Keith for church. But instead of attending the service, they have an open and -free discussion of their relationship. It ends with Keith telling David that he loves him and will do anything to keep from losing him. "Just don't give up", Keith pleads, "Not yet".
When Ruth and George are married, David, Keith, Claire and Maya are in attendance. Nate is not. Unknown to the others, he finally got the phone call that they'd all been dreading: the police have found Lisa's body identifiable only by her dental records. In a state of utter despair and guilt, he goes to a local dive and goads a patron into beating him into a bloody mess; then he gets into his car, where he envisions his father and Lisa urging him to commit suicide by driving himself off the road into a canyon.
Eventually, however, he ends up at Brenda's. He pounds on her door and she opens it, expecting to see Joe, the intriguing neighbor with whom she'd just had a pleasant dinner date. But when she sees Nate's beaten and bloodied face, she looks into his eyes and then slowly lets him in.
1951 - 2003.