Season 3 Episode 8

Tommy Bolton

Aired Wednesday 10:00 PM Nov 08, 2005 on FX

Episode Fan Reviews (12)

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  • The Ties That Bind

    On to Tommy Bolton, which is a problematic episode for a number of reasons. Not least because I feel I must be a hard-assed cynic because, rather than being moved by it, I feel annoyed by the blatant sentimentality on display. Nip/Tuck's not about sentiment, dammit! The main theme of this episode is 'family: the ties that bind' and familial bonds in various ways are constructed, replaced and destroyed throughout the episode.

    The patient-of-the-week is a man with Downs Syndrome who wants surgery to make him look like the rest of his family (who are non-Downs). Christian- noticing the strong family bond that the Boltons have and that he lacks- sympathises with Tommy's predicament but receives short shrift from Quentin who refuses to give any kind of discount to the family. I personally don't see any need for Quentin to be quite so much of a jackass in this scene, but clearly writer Brad Falchuk does. Quentin suggests getting involved with De La Mer, but Christian refuses, dismissing Liz, Gina and Julia as 'a dyke, a whore and a housewife' (a wicked moment of wit in a fairly underwritten episode). Quentin goes ahead and invites Julia to dinner (whilst appearing to be under the influence of an illegal narcotic- a fairly random thing to just throw in), they dance a rather sexy tango and Quentin ends up staying the night- but nothing happens. A deal is sealed where McNamara/Troy will provide patients and Quentin and Julia decide to date, despite Julia's reservations regarding Sean and the business.

    Sean meanwhile is too busy with his surrogate family. After Austin and Nikki's surgeries, Sean is asked to leave the room whilst Dr Sagamore tells them where they'll be living. Austin freaks out, runs off and goes missing, causing Nikki to panic. Sean admits to giving him his address. They go there to find Austin there (quite how he traveled two hours is a mystery never fully explained). Nikki and Sean have a beer and discover Austin has fallen asleep. Rather than taking them back to the compound, Sean offers to put them up for the week whilst they finish healing and before their new safe-house is ready. Nikki agrees, but freaks out herself after Sean gets a hang-up phonecall. She disappears for a few hours but returns to the house. She and Sean share a bed so they can be 'not alone' and accommodate Austin too. What a happy 'family'. But in a rip-off of Basic Instinct, the camera pans beneath the bed to reveal... Nikki's bought a gun. Oh dear. The scene where the three of them are baking cookies and Matt turns up (three episodes off haven't changed him- he's still a snide pain-in-the-arse, first giving some cheek to Julia and Quentin then insulting Sean) is vaguely amusing. But perhaps the best scene involving this rather weak storyline comes at the end of the episode: interrupting the idyll, Dr Sagamore has tracked Sean down and he's got some news for our lovelorn plastic surgeon- Nikki Morretti is a murderer. The Mafia didn't gun down her husband; she did. Now doesn't that put the cat amongst the pigeons? Some further good work by Bob Gunton really can't help to save a rather flabby storyline. It was in this episode that I began to suspect Anne Heche was only cast as Nikki due to her passing physical similarity to Joely Richardson.

    Back to the patient-of-the-week and his parallels to Christian. After the initial consult with Tommy and his parents, Christian decides to contact his birth mother Gail and see if they can be a part of each other's lives. Gail seems to be willing to do this at first, even accepting an offer of surgery from Christian to smooth out the lines. When in the consult, Gail reveals she has two more kids- a boy and girl- and it is made clear they know nothing about what happened to her when she was a teenager. During the consult, Kimber turns up all full of excitement (as new brides-to-be are wont to do) and is really friendly to Gail, which seems to make her quite uncomfortable. Christian also meets his half-brother Max who is attempting to get in to the University of Miami, which Christian says he can fix as an alumnus of the school and proceeds to do so. Max, over the moon, invites Christian to his graduation party on the weekend. The next time Christian is at the surgery, Tommy and his brother and sister come to visit. They want to help out with the cost towards Tommy's surgery. It is at this time that Christian notices a genetic similarity between the members of the family- a pronounced bump on their nose. He suggests giving Tommy a 'Bolton bump' as they call it, which is good enough for him. Another good use of music as Tommy's surgery happens- 'It's A Family Affair' (Sly & the Family Stone)- which is interspersed with shots of Christian putting together a family album. Tommy is really happy with his new bump, happy that he looks like his dad. But just as Christian thinks he's getting close to his new family, Gail shuts him out. She has decided it's too painful to do, that she can't be Christian's mother, that a living reminder of her torment coming to dinner on a Friday night would be too much. She closes the door on him and Christian is left on the outside looking in at another happy family. He leaves the photo album behind and walks off. By far, it is Christian's story which is the strongest in the episode. There is particularly good work by Julian McMahon exploring Christian's sensitive side, and another knockout performance by Kathy Baker as Gail. In the final scene, where she explains why she's shutting him out, her performance is really affecting.

    As an episode, Tommy Bolton is not a bad one. It's just not a good one. Unfortunately, the sum of its parts doesn't add up to a whole, despite some very good performances with a fairly bland script. A few moments really shine- the final scene between Christian and Gail, Quentin and Julia's tango and Sean's final showdown with Sagamore- but generally it's quite a standard offering. At this point, I was hoping for something extreme to rescue the series from descending into mediocrity.
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