The Wife:

Two big themes in this week’s episode, both of which find their roots in the patient of the week: Budi Subri, a fictionalized version of Indonesia’s famous “Tree Man,” who grew cutaneous horns and warts all over his hands and feet due to an immunodeficiency desire and some bacteria that found its way into a cut on his leg. Sadly, I just deleted a program called My Shocking Story which has a feature on the real Tree Man to make room for other stuff on my DVR, but I’ll embed a video so you can see how attentive the Nip/Tuck makeup artists were in recreating Dede’s afflictions on the fictional Budi Subri.

Having Subri come to McNamara/Troy for pro bono work leads Sean and Christian into meditations on the phrase “warts and all” and asks how much control we have over our own bodies, which so far has been my favorite conceit of the season.

Teddy is still around, trying to convince Sean to let loose and shirk his responsibilities by taking him to Opaque for some dining in the dark which turns into sex in public, and convincing him to have sex with her in an open house, which, in order to avoid an embarrassing situation, leads to his eventual purchase of said house. They then head out to the desert to do some crazy shamanistic shit that, if done right, involves the “murder of the ego.”

In Sean’s fever dream, he sees Budi Subri, whom he had operated on to remove most of the calcified growths earlier in the episode, only Subri’s growths have returned. Subri tells Sean that he is paralyzed and then Sean hallucinates himself growing roots and becoming more tree like than the tree man actually is. Sean has a flashback to this experience during Subri’s second surgery, where he sees leaves falling in the OR, surrounded by a rain of Teddy’s freakish laughter.

Later, Teddy comes back to the office (having gone missing for three days since Liz’s return) and invites Sean to fuck her on an operating table while on nitrous in a room full of candles. Sean turns the machine off and refuses to do dangerous things with Teddy anymore because that very notion of concern and responsibility that she hates about him is exactly what makes him who he is. Teddy refuses to be with Sean as himself, and she walks out, unable to love him “warts and all.”

“A rolling stone gathers no moss and, baby, you’ve got a lot of moss.” – Teddy

As for Christian, he discovers at his 12-week check-up that his tumor has spread to a point where no amount of operation or treatment will save him. He is given six months to a year to live, but refuses to participate in any drug courses or further treatments, trying to accept his death on his own terms, which of course means stealing a ton of drugs from the McNamara/Troy dispensary just in case he should want to truly take control of the thing that’s taking control of his body and end his own life.

Budi Subri, warts and all.

Budi Subri, warts and all.

But it’s the Tree Man who changes Christian’s mind about suicide. He hears Subri shuffling across the floor in his room and checks in on him, reminding him that he shouldn’t be trying to walk yet, given how atrophied his muscles are from years of inactivity. Subri tells Christian that he just couldn’t help himself, as the whole time he’s lived with his thorny appendages, he’s dreamed of the day he could walk across the room, pick up the remote control, press a button and turn on the television. This is the first time in a long time he has felt human. Christian asks if Subri had ever though of taking his own life, which Subri explains:

“As a Hindu, I believe that even in this inhuman body, I am the true expression of God.”

All he wants and has ever wanted is to find a woman who can love him, literally, warts and all.

Inspired by the Tree Man, Christian heads to Miami with a big freakin’ diamond ring to propose to Liz and bring her home. Sean is sure that Christian will break Liz’s heart again, but feigns happiness anyway.

“Liz is the only woman I’ve ever been with that forces me to stop being a dick.” – Christian

After a few days back at McNamara/Troy, Liz notices all the drugs missing from the dispensary and accuses Teddy of stealing them. Christian confesses to her that he took them because:

“I was contemplating suicide, and then I changed my mind and asked you to marry me instead.”

Liz immediately knows that Christian’s cancer has returned and demands to know why he didn’t tell her, why he wouldn’t let her know what her first year of marriage would be like, given the limited amount of life Christian Troy has left. Angry, she returns his ring, accusing him of only wanting to marry her so that she would help him die.

Eventually, Christian tells Sean that his cancer has returned, and Sean can’t comprehend why Christian wouldn’t fight to stay alive with treatment, but Christian explains that he’d rather not spend the last months on his life in hospitals – he’d rather be living.

“You didn’t have to get married to make sure you wouldn’t die alone.” – Sean

The next time Christian checks on Budi Subri, Subri’s mood is no longer what it was. Like Christian’s cancer, the growths on his legs have returned. As both men realize they cannot control what’s happening to their bodies, Subri cries and Christian, movingly, removes his surgical glove and takes Subri’s hand, making him the only person to touch Subri in such a human way in a long time, and probably the only person to touch him like that for a long time to come.

Subri: I had such hope.

Christian: I did, too.

But even with his last remaining bit of hope dashed, Liz returned to Christian and tells him she’ll marry him anyway, for better or for worse, proverbial warts and all.

I’m less interested in the “warts and all” trope of this episode and more in the richness found in the unstoppable diseases that inhabit Christian and Subri’s bodies. Death, of course, is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean that the weight of mortality is any less heavy and foreboding. And in a narrative about plastic surgery where the body is fixed and reshaped and consistently taken out of its natural state, there’s something very powerfully frightening in the fact that Subri and Christian’s bodies literally defy external control. A cancer, which, for all intents and purposes, is what Subri has (although, not, you know, really), is something that turns the body against itself, forcing cells to grow unchecked until they take over their host. Sometimes, it can be controlled, but it always leaves its mark. I had a melanoma removed from my arm last summer, leaving me with a two inch gash in my flesh that will always be there. Christian may have been able to replace the site of his wound, but cancers are not always visible on the skin, like my melanoma or Subri’s cutaneous horns. They are internal, unseen and silently horrible. A disease can be fought and won, but it’s very hard to destroy a disease that is the host itself.

Of all the grotesque things Nip/Tuck exposes us to as viewers, we always take comfort in the fact that the skin will heal and that whatever additions or subtractions the team at McNamara/Troy make to the bodies of their patients will be absorbed by their host bodies and become part of them – or naturalize. It’s hard to take comfort in the body itself becoming foreign, from the inside out, and that’s why I think Christian’s cancer storyline is one of the best and most richly thematic stories Nip/Tuck has introduced, probably since the introduction of Connor “Lobster Baby” McNamara.

The Husband:

What I was planning on writing just happened to be my wife’s last two paragraphs, so I’ll just ask that you re-read them and really let the words sink in. It is certainly the best and most emotional stuff Nip/Tuck has dealt with as far as character drama, that a man who has spent so much time perfecting his outside is now uncontrollably rotting inside. People give this show shit for being disgusting for disgusting’s sake, but it’s a far smarter show than a lot of people realize. It just also happens to include Cagney from Cagney & Lacey murdering a CAA by stuffing him as if he were a teddy bear, and a male serial disfigurer without a penis. You can have your cake and eat it too, you know.

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