Aaron: Welcome back.
Alan Ball: Hey, thanks.
Aaron: You're welcome. And, uh, don't tell the others this, but you're secretly my favorite.
Alan Ball: Awww. That's so sweet. And for my part, I'm sorry I killed off your namesake and then had the girl of your dreams sleep with the man who cremated him.
Aaron: Ah, don't worry about it. That sort of thing happens to me all the time.
Fade up on a blue-tinged operating room, with a half dozen highly trained medical personnel clustered around a patient undergoing brain surgery. Now see? Look at that. Ten seconds in and this is already better lit than any episode of Oz. We can't see who the patient might be, but anyone who watched last season's finale, read even a single spoiler, or managed to stay conscious through the seventeen hours of previouslies we just saw knows that it's Nate lying there on the table. Unfortunately, however, complications soon develop, indicated as always in the Alan Ball Universe by frequent and repeated use of the word "fuck." A doctor who is not Nate's normal Professor-Frink-Wannabe doctor frantically struggles to bring the escalating internal bleeding under control, but the rapid-fire, faded-out Fisher family flashbacks prove to be too much for even modern medical science to contain. And as the beeping of the EKG merges with the subtle background music to form an atonal crescendo on the soundtrack, we suddenly fade to white, in complete and utter silence. Farewell, Nathaniel Samuel Fisher, Jr. It looks like that five-year contract you signed might not have been any better than Gandolfini's after all.
But, wait! Nate's not really dead, is he? I mean, he can't be, right? RIGHT? Well, the denizens of the Formaldehyde Fortress certainly seem to think he is. The overwhelming silence continues as we glide through the house, watching them trying to cope with the loss of their carefree (but almost never hair-free!) friend and family member. Rico sits in the Body Shop, staring blankly at a bloated, sheet-covered corpse that (for his sake) I certainly hope isn't supposed to be Peter Krause. Claire lies in bed and gazes at the ceiling, Ruth irons in her nightshirt with her unkempt hair cascading down across her face, and David sobs quietly in the downstairs office. Now how am I supposed to crack jokes about this?
Meanwhile, The Late Nate is across town enjoying a nice, refreshing lunch with The, uh, Other Late Nate. "That stuff smells like shit," opines The Late Nate Jr., proving that even in death, he still hasn't lost his keen ability to deliver a nicely turned profanity. "It's fenugreek," replies The Later Nate, showing off a plate of a sodden, spinach-like glop of leafy green vegetables. "Try some. It's delicious. Here, put a little maple syrup on it." Ew. Of course, I do suffer from a rare medical condition which prohibits me from eating broccoli, spinach, and most of your various legumes, so it's possible that I may be more disgusted by that than your average viewer. It was still pretty gross, though. "Could you hurry it up?" asks Late Nate Jr. "I don't want to be late for my funeral." "Relax," replies Dad, tapping his watch with a fork. "You got plenty of time. Hell, you got nothing but time. Which doesn't exist anyway, so…" Peter Krause's This Guy Is Seriously Fucking Nuts! expression here is a classic for the ages, by the way. He gets up and heads out of the restaurant, with Dead Dad calling after him, "You don't know what you're missing!" Um, engorged breasts? Moistened nipples? Syrup-flavored sweat? Yeah. I think he'll pass. Incidentally, fans of directing minutiae might have noticed that Rodrigo Garcia effectively ups this scene's unreality quotient by "crossing the line" several times to shoot from an opposite angle.