Nip/Tuck – Recap – Season 3: Episode 1

Reviewer: Tim Stevens

Welcome back to FX’s ‘Nip/Tuck’. It’s missed you as much as you’ve missed it.

This week’s season premiere begins as all episodic dramas must: with RECAP TIME! All Carver (the serial mutilator) related material culminating in, of course, his attack on Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) at the conclusion of last season. No signs of marital troubles, partner troubles, or transsexual life coaches to be found.

From there, we are dropped right into the action. Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) arrives at Christian’s apartment to ID the body as police mill about, gathering evidence. Christian is buried in a service that features a parade of ladies including Sean’s estranged wife Julia (Joely Richardson), Kimber Henry (Kelly Carlson), and Liz Cruz (Roma Maffia) all telling us how, ultimately, they loved him. Sean comes to the podium next and speaks rather poetically about wanting a brother as a kid and finding one at 18 when he met Christian. We also get a glimpse of the McNamara’s creepy, creepy son Matt (John Hensley) who looks less like Michael Jackson this season than previously, yet more reptilian. Not sure how he pulls that off, but good for him.

At this point, you might be thinking, “Wow, they really did it. They really killed Christian. I guess his contract is just extended for flashbacks and such.” But no…you’d be wrong. Turns out, it’s all a dream. Bad, Nip/Tuck, bad! Christian has been having it ever since the attack and the worst part is that even when all is said and done, they can’t completely lower the coffin in the ground. It’s stuck…like Christian. This will be the first of many sledgehammer-esque “symbolic” events to get us to understand that the characters are trapped in ruts, whether they be of fear, career, matrimony, or obesity. More on that later.

Christian and Sean briefly discuss the attack. Christian reveals that the cut on his neck is not the only way the Carver (who for the sake of ease, I’m assigning a masculine pronoun to from here on out until we find out otherwise) brutalized Christian: he also raped Christian while the surgeon was still paralyzed. McMahon’s reading of the line deserves praise as he spits it out without melodrama and in such a way that makes it seem like he literally needs to say it and walk away from it; like somehow the statement could attach itself to him. Strong work.

Sadly, he loses points shortly afterwards when he heads home for the first time after the attack (the police tape is still up) and strips the bed of the bloody sheets. The scene seems to be calling for an emotional outburst, but McMahon just isn’t equal to the task so it falls flat.

While Christian is confronting the ghosts in his apartment, Sean is performing a particularly messy silicon implant removal for a woman whose implants burst at least three (!) years ago. According to Sean, sometimes patients seem to think that ignoring the problem is the best way to handle it. Lacking his partner in the room, however, means that after five hours, he has only taken care of one breast and needs to reschedule the woman for the other the next day. This of course sets off a chain reaction of reschedules and prompts Liz to point out that counting on Christian to ride in the next day to help with the caseload is a bit pie in the sky. When Sean waves her off, she pithy turns his earlier comment about ignoring the problem back on him (See, see. Look, the woman with the implants never took the time to acknowledge and solve the problem and neither is Sean. Or Christian. Get it?!)

As if things couldn’t get worse for the duo, they are both simultaneously presented with relationships in crisis. Intercutting between Sean and Julia and Christian and Kimber, the two couple discuss taking their relationships to new levels. For Sean, that means being confronted by divorce papers which he refuses to sign, then almost signs, then refuses again. Christian, meanwhile, sidesteps his own impotence (Kimber’s newest porn fails to arouse him) by asking Kimber to marry him. Though she has longed for him to ask, she knows that it isn’t real and “isn’t ready to die with him” quite yet. Needless to say, both conversations could have gone better.

The hits keep coming as a new detective, Kit McGraw (Rhona Mitra), calls Christian back to the precinct, convinced that he hasn’t told the police everything; namely that he was raped. She needles him, he flirts with her to avoid the questions and ultimately manages to escape without revealing the truth.

Christian finally returns to the office where he is hassled by Sean for not having been there in the morning. After Sean reveals that Julia served him papers but he refused to sign, the two go argue back and forth about who is really refusing to live their lives and move on. The resolution of the fight (I was hoping for more fisticuffs, because, really, what beats fisticuffs?) is delayed when Sean is called away to yet another crime scene.

Surprisingly, this is not a Carver victim, but rather a dangerously obese woman named Momma Boone. She has been sitting on her couch nonstop for three years and, between Miami’s humidity and her one waste, has become literally one with the couch. She is friendly and talkative although hyperaware of people looking at her/judging her and generally scared of the outside world. She takes to Sean quickly and he convinces her that she needs to go to the hospital immediately and there is now time to wait for her husband Danny. A wall removed and a flat truck later, she is on her way, Sean by her side holding her hand. (Don’t you see? She’s been stuck so long she literally can’t even move if she wanted to. Is that the fate that awaits the good doctors?!)

Meanwhile, back on the ranch (or at the office…god, a guy tries to get creative…) Liz yells at Christian for taking an hour to get in when it should have taken ten minutes and he gets to meet Doctor Quentin Castro (Bruno Campos), an Atlanta plastic surgeon that Sean, apparently, is offering partnership to. Angry, Christian takes off with Liz to confront Sean at the hospital.

Sean has no interest in going another round with Christian and admits that yes, he did offer Quentin a partnership because there was a problem and this was the solution. Then, he basically tells Christian to quit whining and suit up and help.

A neat swinging door trick and an impressive array of injections later, the surgeons are ready to begin on Momma. Through the glass, we can see a man trying to enter the room. It turns out to be Danny, Momma’s husband. Sean tries to be polite at first before losing his temper and calling Danny out on his negligent and dangerous behavior. Danny’s retort is that he loved Momma too much and thus couldn’t bring himself to make her do anything she didn’t want to. Yet again, we are supposed to draw parallels between this man and the situation of the surgeons. So very, very subtle (in that incredibly unsubtle sort of way).

Back in surgery, Momma is having a hard time until Christian steps up to hold her hand. The two talk and, surprise surprise, have more in common than one would initially expect (if the whole episode hadn’t been hammering home the point already). Her lab results come back and they do not look good so the team takes a few moments to conference. As they talk, Momma stares into space, a look of almost recognition and a slight smile passing over her face, and dies.

The boys pick up the cost of the funeral and the burial plots and are quite kind to Danny. He pushes them too far, however, and asks for the couch back. Christian, in the night’s best comeback, asks him whether Danny wants it back because it was such an excellent piece of furniture or because it is a reminder of what a great husband Danny was. Danny falls apart and can only manage to say that it was part of Momma and he loved her.

Inspired by his conversation with Momma, Christian has a change of art about Detective McGraw and invites her over. What follows is just…creepy. I’m not sure if it is recommended that, as a cop, you should confront rape victims by straddling them in the bed where the crime occurred and dominating them, but I haven’t read the handbook. In Christian’s case, it seemed to work as he impotence disappeared and he and the good Detective began to “push through the pain” together. Kimber catches them and is understandably confused/upset. Christian, the smooth one that he is, assures her that, “I’m back, baby,” and invites her in on the action. Since he is a smoothie, she can’t say no. If only all of our catharses could be so…athletic.

Inspired by…one of the brutalizing symbolic moments in this episode, presumably, Sean signs his divorce papers. Thankfully, he does it just in time for Julia to seem to regret giving them to him in the first. Ugh. Nothing I dislike more on television than the “will they, won’t they” games that last for seasons upon seasons (now three for this show).

Overall, it’s a strong episode. It could use a lighter hand when drawing parallels between all the people who are just too scared to move forward with their lives. It is almost as if the writers did not think the audience would be smart enough to get it, a mistake ‘N/T’ rarely makes and thus is glaringly obvious here. On the other hand, Christian’s return to Christian-ness is suitably sexually twisted for the character and the case of Momma is handled with surprising kindness and intelligence by the script and the actors. What could have been a pretty jokey plotline is instead serious without lapsing into melodrama.