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Classic Television Rundown: Nip/Tuck, Season One, Episode 9, "Sophia Lopez II"

Nip/Tuck, Season One, Episode Nine: "Sophia Lopez II"
Written by Sean Jablonski
Directed by Nelson McCormick
"You fight me and I will make you ugly - I swear to God." -Kimber

I bet you thought I was done with these, right? Well I had no idea what to blog about this week since I haven't gotten a chance to see another Harry Potter movie due to an unfortunate Netflix queue mishap, so I went back to an old standby. Something I should prepare you for, because I'm sure you care: I'm done with the taking of notes, thoughtful reflecting, and careful composing. I'm writing this as I'm watching the episode listed above and I'm going to end my final paragraph as the credits roll. There are two reasons for this. One is that I don't want to invest the time. The second is that Nip/Tuck simply doesn't merit as much pontificating upon my second watch through of it as Six Feet Under does for Qualler or even as Salute Your Shorts does for DoktorPeace. Put frankly, it's not a very good show, but I'm going to see this first season through at the very least. I'm pretty sure all the grades I've given it thus far in the Classic Television Rundown were inflated for nostalgic purposes.

Anyway, it's aggravating that I end up deciding to redirect my course like this when I get an episode that's heavy on the Dr. Merril Bobolit character, who I always found under-utilized overall on the show. Joey Slotnick is a weird-looking dude, but he's one of the few guest actors on the show (actually one of the only actors on Nip/Tuck, period) that actually properly complements Ryan Murphy's tonal wackiness from absurdly comedic to absurdly dark, which is largely otherwise confusing. (Sidenote: here's hoping this problem doesn't arise in his new FX drama American Horror Story though I have a bad feeling it might.) Here Bobolit tries to make Christian's girlfriend Kimber into a business deal: he wants to hand over his Lamborghini to Dr. Troy in exchange for the dim-yet-beautiful-and-devoted blond, who, appropriately is also one of the show's few complexly magnetic characters. Unfortunately, Minnesota native Kelly Carlson doesn't always bring it, especially when they take her crazy tendencies to ridiculous extremes.

Speaking of characters that have potential but are screwed up too often - Liz the anesthesiologist gets her first substantial-ish story arc this episode. I have to admit that one reason why I put off doing this next Nip/Tuck post was that the title harked back to the Sofia Lopez character, which was not one of my favorites from earlier this first season. But they bring her back with an interesting reason (to get her intimately involved with Liz), but they lack any actual teeth or foresight to properly make that dynamic work for anything more than a passing fancy. Is it shocking? Sure, but they play the notes so obviously in their "girls night gone sexy" scene that it almost ends up just being rote, especially because they don't really follow up with it (other than an obligatory pair of beat-long scenes) later in the episode, or to my knowledge, later in the series. It's too bad because, like Bobolit and Kimber, there is a nice undercurrent of weird-meets-tragic in Liz, but it's squandered in favor of, oh I don't know, Sean McNamara.

And oh how does Sean McNamara continue down his ugly spiral of self-doubting facial expressions gone horribly wrong. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree either, because when his son Matt finds out about his father's affair with Megan the breast cancer survivor, he puts on a particularly offensive sourpuss face. It's so distracting that all the hurt that the piano plunks suggest should be communicated, isn't, and it doesn't help that Sean seems to try to match his son's over-the-top melodramatic reaction. We already know that Dylan Walsh has his, shall I say, limitations, but when he's put to task by the equally inconsistent John Hensley, the father/son relationship just doesn't fly as emotionally or honestly as it should. Perhaps this is why (spoiler!) the producers decided to start playing up the Matt/Christian father/son angle so quickly. At least in their scene there's a semblance of a true chemistry.

The chemistry between Julia and Jude, on the other hand, is a little more complicated, because Joely Richardson is so good at playing oblivious, then curious, and then outraged, that, similar to Julian McMahon's excellence in comparison to Hensley in those Christian/Matt scenes, her outshining Phillip Rhys is actually an asset to the minor storyline instead of a disadvantage. I honestly don't care about Jude whatsoever, and maybe I'm not even supposed to, as he's used more often to bring out the inner identity of Julia instead of becoming his own character, but it can be frustrating when you sympathize so much with Julia (especially now in the wake of Sean's multi-episode fling with Megan) that you wished the person she gets emotionally entangled with would have more meat on their bones. But when she finds out that Jude is possibly a gigolo, it makes things not just complicated for her semi-innocent semi-flirting college buddy routing with him, but also mirrors the history she's dealing with regarding Sean, the straight-laced boring assface that became her husband. Richardson is that good that she can convey that, even if she's interacting with a vacant-eyed pretty boy that knows how to smile more than he knows to act and/or have a fully-realized personality.

And lastly there's the we've-been-waiting-for-it twist in which we discover Kimber is actually not that dim at all, but is rather a bit mentally unstable. This hints at the extreme future Murphy and co. will take with her character, but I remember the scene in this episode where she confronts Christian for trying to trade her for a car as particularly compelling and, as I shake my head ever so slightly, even a bit feminist as my young 20-year-old self (or whatever). Kelly Carlson may not be good at the naive and/or quietly damaged moments, but she is downright hypnotic when she fully commits to the unhinged wildness of Kimber the vengeful girlfriend, as long as it doesn't get too crazy. But since it's Ryan Murphy, we know it will. Oh well - this didn't play as well for me as it did back in 2003, and I'm sure it somewhat has to do with my ever-increasing bad attitude about this recap project, but it still was the highlight of revisiting the episode, as it at least kept my attention long enough to pause from typing throughout the whole thing.

Grade: C+

Nip/Tuck is available to watch on Netflix Watch Instantly.

Other Memorable Quotes:
  • "If I wanted high maintenance, I woulda gotten a Fiat!" -Christian Troy, delivering a line that would have sounded more at home on Home Improvement
  • "Once - in college - but he had long hair and when it swept across my face I pretended he was Joni Mitchell." -Liz, describing her one non-lesbian sexual encounter
  • "It takes...balls." -Christian Troy, on Sofia deciding to have her penis surgically removed
  • "I'm going to go play golf." -Nurse Linda (played by behind-the-scenes plastic surgery expert Linda Klein) in response to finding out her patient Sofia got involved romantically with Liz and wants to now cancel her surgery
  • "Get it through your fuzzy head!" -Kimber, to Merril (played by real-life cu-tip Joey Slotnick)
  • "If I cut you here do you think you'll bleed if you don't have a heart?" -Kimber, with her knife lingering above Christian's chest
  • "You know what? I can't kill you. You're already dead." -Kimber, to Christian

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