While shows like Nip/Tuck have a reputation to shock and offend their audiences, what differentiates them from mere shock value is that they also use it to discuss issues other shows are too afraid to handle. A transgender character will offend some and cause some in their community to look closely for stereotyping. However, Jablonski and Jonathan Del Arco do fantastic jobs writing and portraying (respectively) the title character. Sophia’s a woman who is desperate to reflect outside how she feels. She and her other friends are discriminated when they look for medical help. Whereas everyone else sees her as a freak, her son respects her decision to undergo gender reassignment.
Prudish Sean, sheltered from alternate lifestyles, is apprehensive when he first meets Sophia, but other events in his life allow him to see Sophia beyond her appearance. This begins when porn star Shyanne (nice pun) arrives. He is mortified and fears a contract with her company would turn Troy/McNamara into a brothel. Christian tells him to relax and offers some advice about women to help his marriage. Like many people, he tries hard to prove that he isn’t a prig. He does so by trying anal sex, but stumbles because he didn’t warn Julia first. The aspect of bringing in porn stars to work initially mortifies him, but soon he takes Christian’s advice and takes the porn gift basket Shyanne’s studio gave them to bed when Julia and Jude come home to study.
His new open mindedness allows him to see Sophia as a human, so when she calls him for help when her friend is hemorrhaging, he takes charge and gets her treated, calling one of the nurses out for ignoring them despite blood loss. Because of his change, she is able to tell him who did this to her friend and who botched her original neck surgery, the man who taught and inspired Sean, Marcus.
Marcus’ office is appropriately disgusting. From the opening shot of the worn sign and the sounds of dogs barking and car alarms to the interior with the bloody rags, some brown with age, it is an office only the desperate would go to for help. It’s unfortunate this storyline wasn’t pursued longer than it was because it was left open and it could’ve been used to deal with Sean’s growing mid-life crisis. Marcus warned Sean that this is what would happen to him, even though he was very successful now. Sean doesn’t want that to happen, so he tries to help Sophia by becoming her doctor.
Marcus, along with Bobolit, this is the first episode where we discover how other local plastic surgeons work. In his first appearance, Bobolit shows what Christian could’ve become had he not met Sean. Bobolit and Christian both have a lot in common. They’re womanizers, they’re showmen and they’ve been able to coast despite not being as talented as surgeons like Sean. Bobolit offers Christian a position in his practice, which has overshadowed Troy/McNamara because of flashy gimmicks and the willingness to sign contracts with porn studios.
Christian is willing to join him, but soon he realizes that this is a problem when Matt contracts an STD from a one night stand. Because he took Matt to a “porn party”, Julia kicks Christian out of Matt’s life. He realizes the cost of allowing this into his work and aligning himself with someone who lives that way. What best represents this compromise is the Lamborghini. Bobolit has a blue one and it shows how he has compromised whatever ideals he had, which will later produce dire consequences. He doesn’t have the friend Christian has in Sean, nor does he have a family he is close to like the McNamaras. In the prologue, it is presented like a commercial for the car, but in the end, the glamour is gone because it costs him what he loves.
Oddly enough, Christian and Sean switch views. In the end, Sean is OK with the porn contract because the money flow would allow for more pro bono work, but Christian doesn’t want it because he realizes what compromising their ethics can cost. Such parallel action fortifies the writing of this episode.
Bringing porn into the office not only offended Sean, but also it drove one patient to leave and caused Grace to side with Sean against Christian. While Christian is OK with arguing with Sean, he still resents Grace being there and her questioning of his life doesn’t sit well with him either.
The other plot advanced this week is Julia’s return to medical school. As soon as she arrives to class the fact that she’s twenty years older than most of the students intimidates her. In addition, one of her former classmates who has the life Julia wants is teaching the class. The writer needed to have a reason for Julia to stay, so Jude appears. They find something in common when he reveals that he is older than most of the students there, even if it is only five years and a bond forms. He also flatters and flirts with her, making her feel better about her age. This arc is interesting when you parallel it with an upcoming storyline.
The first three episodes served to establish who were the major characters and what were their dilemmas, but with “Sophia Lopez”, the plot is in motion. The next few episodes will further move and complicate things as this season’s story gels. We get the first episode featuring a recurring patient, the introduction of Jude and Bobolit, in addition to Julia’s stint in medical school. The reversal of viewpoints between Christian and Sean is one of the strongest pieces, as is introducing a multi-layered transgender character.