"Lifetime Piling Up" is the twentieth episode of the second season of One Tree Hill and the 42nd produced episode of the series. It was broadcasted on May 10, 2005. Following a racecar accident, Nathan dreams of what life would have been like if Dan had stayed with Karen and Lucas instead of marrying Deb. In this imaginary world, Lucas would have had the wealth and stature and Nathan would have been the one to grow up on the wrong side of the tracks.



Nathan's surgery begins.

As Nathan is prepped for surgery he dreams that Lucas wakes up from his sleep. He goes downstairs to see Dan who asks what he was doing out so late, Lucas replies he was out with the boys, as Dan doesn't question it, he asks if he wants to work out tonight together. Karen then goes into the kitchen and is greeted by Dan as wife. She is on the phone arranging meetings. As she gets off, she goes straight out to work kissing her husband, Dan, and Lucas receiving a negative reaction. As Karen walks out to sell more cafes, Lucas finds an empty bottle of alcohol, asking if it was a late night for Dan too. Meanwhile, Nathan goes down to the river court with a jacket on labeled 'Deb's Den.' Mouth and the other guys are happy to greet him as Mouth announces that Nathan Lee has been chosen for the High Flyers camp. As they talk, they find out Nathan has been chosen to be a finalist at High Flyers. Skills then tells him, as his best friend, to stop being so modest, the boys laugh it off before beginning a game of basketball.

Lucas and Peyton are in the car and Peyton seems less than impressed as he offers to hang out with his friends. She asks to spend more time with him alone, and Lucas begins to yell at her telling her to go sit and listen to her loser rock and do sex shows through her webcam, as he doesn't care. As they argue, Peyton tells Lucas to look out and he is forced to brake as they nearly drive into Nathan. Lucas treats him badly telling him his dad sends his love and Peyton tells him not to behave like that as it could easily have been him. Keith is selling a car to someone at his dealership as Dan walks in late. Keith tells Dan off for being late and pities him and his life. As he continues to criticize, Keith tells him to go and sell a car and gives him the nickname boozy. Deb is in her bar called 'Deb's Den.' As she is offered a drink by a customer, she tells them she doesn't drink. Nathan gets back and asks if she regrets having her parents cut her off, but she doesn't as money only brings misery. As they talk, Haley walks in the bar, with her old hat on. Nathan and Haley mess on and are clearly close friends. As Deb says they'll get married one day, Nathan disagrees saying they've known each other forever and they are just friends.

Nathan returns to the river court with his friends including Skills. As they arrive, they find Lucas and the Ravens playing on the court as Whitey closed the gym and Lucas needs to practice to get into High Flyers. Mouth and Skills let him know that Nathan is in for High Flyers too and that they only take one person per high school. Lucas laughs in Nathan's face as he thinks that they would never choose the 'river court bastard.' The next day Nathan is on a run past the school as Brooke watches him from a distance. As Nathan takes a shower in the boy's locker rooms, Brooke comes in behind him and takes off her towel to join him naked. As Brooke flirts with him, Nathan runs out only to be followed by Brooke. As she walks out Dan stops her and she greets Coach Scott. In the gym, Dan is pressuring Lucas to practice more. Lucas asks what he knows about his son and Lucas realizes it is Whitey who must have sent off the application. Angry, Dan goes to see Whitey who explains he is an 'equal opportunist' and signed off the papers, it was Nathan who impressed them enough to get to the finals.

After school, Nathan and Haley are discussing what happened in the locker rooms when Nathan opens a packet and finds a bracelet which he gives to her, saying "don't say I never gave you anything". Home from meeting Haley, Nathan finds Whitey knocking at his door asking to talk about his game. Whitey says he isn't here to persuade him to join the team, but asks why he applied, but Nathan says he applied to prove he is good enough. Whitey admits that Lucas would normally be put forward, but after seeing his tape he has changed his mind and asks him to play Lucas, or better, beat Lucas. Dan is at home watching the team as Lucas gets home. He tells Lucas he pushes him to make him the best, but Nathan is a threat and tells him to do what he needs to do to ensure he can beat Nathan. As Dan looks back at the TV, he sees Deb and him at the prom. Meanwhile, Karen and Keith are in his bed sleeping together, without telling Dan. Keith then asks her to leave him, but Karen asks about Lucas and Keith says he would raise Lucas as his own. As Karen walks out she says she sometimes thinks Keith is the father.

Karen gets home to find Lucas still awake. She asks if he wants to talk with some cocoa, like they used to, but Lucas tells her to call his Uncle Keith. Haley and Nathan are in class as she persuades him to play Lucas. Nathan asks what her dreams are, and Haley tells him that it is singing that is her passion, Nathan laughs and tells her she's tone deaf. The two laugh it off as Tim plans for Lucas to pretend to fall in love with Haley and then crush her heart. Lucas says it's stupid and tells Tim he has a better idea as Nathan can't win the game, if he doesn't show up. As they talk, Peyton watches and later goes to see Haley. She warns her that Lucas is planning to do something to Nathan and she should warn him. Nathan is shooting hoops at the river court as Dan goes to see him. He offers him $500 to withdraw an application. Nathan refuses and Dan says he is kidding himself, like his mom was when she moved to Tree Hill. Nathan then says he is going to play the game and win as he is even more determined after their conversation.

Nathan gets back to Deb's Den to find people applauding as they are celebrating his win, before he has played. Nathan tells Deb about Dan as Haley comes into the cafe and warns him about Lucas, Nathan tells her not to be stupid as he walks outside and the team sneak up on him and drag him into a car. They drive him to the middle of nowhere and throw him in the swamp. Lucas tells him that no one is going to screw this game up and throws his cellphone away so he has no way of getting home quick enough to play the game. After dumping Nathan, Lucas goes to see Peyton who is drawing. She tells him that she isn't going and is starting to see who he really is. She then notices that he has dumped Nathan and tells Lucas they are done.

Lucas is at the river court where all Nathan's friends are asking where he is. They start insulting each other and Skills and Tim begin a fight. Whitey and Dan are forced to break it up as Deb wonders where Nathan is. Nathan walks home to find Peyton pull up to meet him. She tells him to get in and she tells him how they broke up and that he deserves the chance to win. Nathan gets in the car as Haley begins to yell at Lucas. As she does, Nathan gets to the court in Peyton's car. Whitey starts the game as teams, but Nathan changes the game to brother against brother. The game begins with Lucas scoring the first goal and Nathan following with the second. The two brothers continue to score goals. As Nathan leads, Lucas elbows him in the face. Nathan calls a no foul and draws the game 10-10, with the next basket winning. Lucas begins to tease Nathan about his father, but Nathan asks him if he really believes that it would be different if he had married his mom. As he shoots the final basket, he tells him it is for his mom and scores the final point, winning the game. The crowd leap up in joy as Whitey tells Dan Nathan is going to High Flyers. Dan leaves Lucas alone as Karen tells Dan it is just a game.

Lucas then goes to Nathan and tells him he did well and deserves to go, but come back to them soon. Nathan is confused by that comment but is soon distracted by Haley saying how much she loves him but then gives him back the bracelet saying she doesn't need it anymore and not to say she never gave him anything before backing into the crowd. As Nathan opens his hand with the bracelet in, he finds a ring. He shouts for Haley, but everyone has disappeared. As he shouts, he begins to wake up shouting her name. Lucas is by his side and welcomes him back. Lucas asks Nathan what he was thinking and Nathan changes the subject telling him how he thought he went to heaven, but it turned out it was just a dream. Lucas then tells Nathan he called Haley as she needed to know. Lucas asks Nathan if he did the accident on purpose but before he gets to reply, Deb walks in. Nathan tells her he loves her and apologizes for his behavior. Deb tells him that she is going to start being a better mom and as Nathan heals, she will be healing too. Nathan tells her no matter what, he has her back. She then confides hin him saying she thinks how life would be without Dan all the time. Dan then walks in glad to see he is awake.


Haley learns that Nathan doesn't want her to come home.

Back at Karen's house, Brooke discoversthe shreds are a receipt for a car, Whitey goes to comfort Karen as she never got through to Keith, she cries as she misses him and is worried that she can't even leave a message. Deb checks herself into a rehab facility as Dan tells her he will be waiting for her when she gets out. Peyton, Brooke and Lucas are told to leave Nathan as they kiss him, Nathan says he knows they want him, but Brooke says in his dreams, like he did dream. As his lights are turned off, Nathan picks up the phone attempting to call Haley. As he does, Haley picks up and he tells her he will be ok. Haley lets him know she is coming home tomorrow, but Nathan says not to as they both need to chase their dreams or they will just regret it. As Haley tries to argue against not coming home, Nathan tells her he doesn't want her to come home and hangs up, leaving a devastated Haley on the line at a busy airport.

Memorable Quotes

"Finally taking the court, ladies and gentlemen, is the river court's own Nathan Lee, star player and recent applicant to the prestigious High Flyers basketball camp."
- Nathan is introduced by Mouth onto the river court
"They haven't invented words for how much I love you."
- Haley to Nathan after he wins the one-on-one game against Lucas
"Oh, score, a bracelet. Last time I got some fake tattoo with a random number."
- Haley refers to the tattoo she got of Nathan's jersey number, 23, in their real life
"What are your dreams?"
"Yeah, chocolate."
- Nathan and Haley in Astronomy class
"Fine, you don't want to hang out with us? Why don't you sit in your room, listen to your loser rock and do live sex shows on your webcam for all I care?
- Lucas has a go at his girlfriend Peyton

"That could have easily been you."
"Yeah, like that's gonna happen."
- Lucas talks about Nathan's situation with his father

"So I guess the rumors are true, Mr. Size 14."
- Brooke to Nathan

"You and Brooke Davis; captain of the cheer sluts. That's hard to picture."
"Yeah, I'd say hard's the right word."
- Haley is told about Nathan's introduction to Brooke
"Nothing, I just I got that weird deja vu feeling."
"I don't believe in past lives. I think we've got one life, one chance and what we do with it is up to us"
- Nathan and Peyton

"You know, he's never mentioned you once, not in all these years."
"And you really think things would have been different if he'd married my mom? If you do you're a fool."
"You're the fool and after this basket, a loser too."
- Lucas and Nathan
"Wanna hear something really messed up, though? I thought I died, went to heaven... Only heaven was a place where Dan chose your mom over mine, and Haley was tone deaf. Turns out it was only a dream. I did kick your ass on one-on-one though"
- Nathan to Lucas after he wakes up from his dream

"Don't come home Haley... You have to go after your dream just like I have to go after mine, 'cause if we don't, then we're just gonna end up regretting it and we're gonna end up resenting each other. Nobody knows what's gonna happen. Whatever choice you make today is gonna affect the rest of your life, so don't come home Haley... 'cause I don't want you to."
- Nathan tells Haley he doesn't want her to come back


"Douglas Adams once wrote he felt his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it."
- Nathan Scott (opening voiceover)


  • "Hard To Love A Man" - Magnolia Electric Co.
  • "Hands Down" - Dashboard Confessional
  • "Holdin' On" - Billy Livesay
  • "Do You Want To Party With Me?" - Bosshouse
  • "Transform" - Aeon Spoke
  • "What Is To Burn" - Finch
  • "Rest In Pieces" - Saliva
  • "Hold You In My Arms" - Ray LaMontagne

This episode's title originated from the song Lifetime Piling Up, originally sung by Talking Heads.


  • The songs Hands Down, What Is To Burn and Rest In Pieces are all featured in the Pilot episode.
  • This episode is the only episode of One Tree Hill to credit the guest cast and crew members, such as the director and writer, before the opening credits.
  • Although Nathan's dream takes place in Tree Hill, none of the actual characters appear in Tree Hill. Either they appear at the hospital, which is not located in Tree Hill, are somewhere else (Haley), or only appear in the dream sequence (Keith).
  • When Lucas is in Peyton's room, scetches from later episodes show up, like the one of Brooke Lucas and Peyton shooting a heart, although that shouldn't have shown up due to the alternate dream reality scenario.

Episode References

  • Many events in this episode mirror Pilot and other early episodes of the first season with the roles of Nathan and Lucas being reversed.
    • Nathan is nearly hit by a car while returning home from the River Court. ("Pilot")
      • However, in Pilot Peyton was driving the car alone while in this episode Lucas drives the car with Peyton as a passanger.
    • Nathan is thrown into a swamp by Lucas and the Ravens. ("Are You True?")
    • Nathan and Lucas face off in a basketball game, with Nathan winning. ("Pilot")
    • Before making the winning basket, Nathan says "This is for my mom", something said by Lucas during the initial game. ("Pilot")
  • Nathan gives Haley the bracelet. ("Are You True?")
  • Haley refers to her tattoo of Nathan's jersey number, 23, when he opens the bracelet.
  • When Peyton breaks up with Lucas, she delivers the exact same line as she did when she broke up with Nathan when she says. ("Crash Into You")
  • Keith refers to Dan as 'boozy', a nickname Dan gave him. ("All That You Can't Leave Behind")

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