One thing you can definitely say about Hannah Tedesco is that it is not mediocre. An extremely contemporary surgery- facial transplants- mixed with themes of identity promise a lot, but unfortunately there's too much superfluous junk that bogs the episode down and stops it becoming great. In one of those bizarre cases of life imitating art (or possibly the other way around), not long after this episode aired, a real-life facial transplant was successfully carried out in France. But, as Christian says at the start of the episode, it's been a theoretical possibility for a while.
The patient-of-the-week is a young girl whose face was ripped off by an accident in a fairground. Literally. The description of it alone is bad enough but the make-up and prosthetic departments really go all out this time round and Hannah's pre-surgery face is quite horrific (luckily, you only see it briefly in surgery). Mrs Tedesco has come to McNamara/Troy with Ms Manning, the mother of another girl who is in a diabetic coma. Ms Manning is about to take her daughter from life support and would like to donate her daughter's face to Hannah. And yet again, it is Christian who is channelling the spirit of Sean and raises the ethical questions. Quentin- showing earlier shades of Christian- is all for it, stating that the surgery will make them famous even if it succeeds or not. His shocking callousness is a new side, which doesn't sit well with what we know so far. Neither is the seemingly large cocaine habit, which has developed from nowhere (and after this episode is dropped just as quickly). This episode is very surgery-focused with three very pivotal surgery scenes; the first of which is the harvesting of Ms Manning's daughter's face after the life-support is taken away. Christian is being sensitive to Ms Manning's emotions; Quentin's coming down and is jittery, looking at his watch. This surgery was very difficult to watch and the final image of the face being put into a plastic bag is quite hard to take. With the surgery to attach Ms Manning's daughter's face to Hannah, Christian decides another surgeon is needed and calls in Sean. Quentin understandably freaks out and they pull him up on his behaviour and his drug use. The second surgery is also difficult to watch, not least for the very extreme make-up used for Hannah Tedesco. But good news so far: the face is a perfect fit. Christian and Sean, in effect, turf Quentin out of his own surgery, and Sean admits to getting a buzz off the surgery. But then the question remains... is Sean leaving? Both Ms Manning and Mrs Tedesco are happy with the results of the surgery and there is a nice little scene (albeit a little creepy for me) where Mrs Tedesco says 'this is her daughter too'. But the jubilation is short-lived: Hannah's body rejects the tissue and the final- and most difficult- surgery is to remove the dead tissue. Appropriately, Liz cannot find any suitable music and the surgery is done in silence. The final images are extremely powerful and any music would have dulled the effect, I think. A powerful and very thoughtprovoking storyline, done a bit of a disservice by the rather inferior subplots around it.
However, it's not all bad news. This episode marks the final appearance of Anne Heche and resolves the Nikki storyline. Hooray! Still shaken by what Dr Sagamore told him, Sean confronts Nikki about her husband's death. She admits to doing it under threat of her life. Sean seems to buy this and says they have to be honest with one another. He then admits to seeing a future for the three of them together. She says she does too and they end up going back to bed. At the park, Sean plays catch with Austin whilst Nikki puts out the picnic. A typical American family, gee-shucks. The only trouble in paradise is the slightly weird looking guy watching them. He disappears, which leaves Sean freaked out. He goes to the bathroom in the park and the guy comes in. Sean, freaked out, attacks the guy, thinking he's following Nikki. It turns out there was a crossed wire and the guy was just expecting a blowjob as the toilets are used for cruising. Sean looks relieved but still pissed and when the guy makes a sarcastic comment, he throws him against the wall and knocks him out. He panics, bundles Nikki and Austin away from the park and later admits to Nikki what happened. Her reaction is understandable- she wants to leave but Sean says he wants to go with her. He is willing to join the Witness Protection Program and be with her. As he packs up the house, Sean is reminded of his previous life- he sees a photo of Annie (remember her? the writers don't)- and Christian comes in to ask for his help in the facial transplant. He initially doesn't want to do it, telling Christian that he needs to find an identity of his own without Sean there. But he relents and helps out. Sean arranges a meeting with Dr Sagamore, who lays down the law - if Sean goes into the Program, his entire life, his family, his job and everything must become dead to him or it'll blow the deal. But what Sean doesn't see is Nikki eavesdropping on that final part... It's nice to see Bob Gunton getting a decent send-off from the series, this scene one of the better throughout the episode and his scenes in general among the best of the last three episodes. When Sean goes to see Julia (one very short scene that we could have well done without, but I guess the writers thought they'd better put Joely Richardson in once), he realises what he has to give up. The final Sean scene is a bit of a weird one. Nikki is in the house, packing up a few things when the guy who Sean knocked out in the park comes into the house. She recognises him, he beats her down and gets ready to shoot her. Meanwhile, Sean comes into the house to find things packed away and a note from Nikki saying she and Austin have left and he isn't to find them. So what's real? Have they just left or was she killed? I gotta be honest, I'm not overly bothered. The Nikki Morretti storyline was, to me, a filler pure and simple. Anne Heche was purely miscast but I doubt any actress would have been able to do much more with such an underwritten and poor role.
The other subplot of the episode involves another consult for Christian. A woman called Colleen Eubanks comes to him for help; she bought her husband a Miss Kimber doll and now he'll only have sex with that. She wants to have surgery to look like the doll. Christian sends her away with very little thought but, when he returns home to prepare for the facial attachment surgery, he walks straight past Kimber... and into Kimber. He's momentarily confused until all is explained; Colleen went to Kimber to ask her for some help on how to walk and talk and move like her. Christian, tired and stressed, snaps at both of the women and throws Colleen out. He tells Kimber straight that she either has to give up working in the porn business or he won't marry her. Kimber, though, gives as good as she gets and really stands up for herself. In fact, Kimber's evolution from brainless bimbo to savvy businesswoman is one of the better things the Nip/Tuck writers and producers concocted this year. After the surgery, Christian is taking a shower and is interrupted by Colleen who spills the beans on Kimber's plans: a workshop to help women unleash their inner porn star. Christian is a bit narked, and asks Colleen to show what she's learned so far. And wouldn't you know it... they end up sleeping together... the old Christian Troy hasn't gone, he's just been hiding. Kimber turns up at the office and talks to Christian- he admits to sleeping with Colleen but she isn't too bothered by it. She announces that she's ready to give up the porn business and presents Christian with a prenuptial agreement that states that after the wedding, no porn for her and no affairs for him but threesomes are still OK. This appears to be acceptable. I think this subplot is supposed to be the comic relief of the episode and a lot of it is quite amusing, but the main problem is it just rings a bit hollow in comparison to everything else that's going on. But a great performance by Kelly Carlson makes it about bearable.
So what can we glean from this episode? Is it that trying to alter your identity is not going to work? Hannah's body rejected the donor tissue, which would change her face forever. Sean's decision to change who he is turns out to be one he can't fulfil. That doesn't leave much hope for Kimber's transformation from porn director to loving wife. In general, the episode is not a bad one. There's a lot that's thought-provoking and interesting but, yet again, the sum of the parts is slightly less than whole.