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By RD Heldenfels Published: December 19, 2005

I know the Carver is supposed to be revealed tomorrow night and, since I haven't seen the season finale, I'm mildly interested in finding out who it is. (My upset special: Liz.) I've been watching the show closely for the last few weeks, but feeling bad about doing so.

''Nip/Tuck'' is capable of great shocks, and nervy scenes. Last week's Christmas episode showed that when it had the African-American nativity figure being dragged by a car. How many buttons was that pushing? But it's also a show that gets weak-kneed at crucial moments, or that ADD-like drops a topic and moves on without a glance back. In last week's telecast, it abruptly dismantled the story of Matt's white-supremacist girlfriend by just deciding to have her go completely bonkers. She was much more frightening, and interesting, when she was bringing Matt ever closer to her way of thinking. The sudden fit of madness just cut the story short.

Think, too, of Christian's recent relationship with the self-described masochist. She's there, he's involved with her, she's gone. Huh? And then there was the biggest cop-out of the season, the death/not-death of Julia's mother. I watched that unfold, thinking that they couldn't kill her off because she has been such a good character (not to mention that you get to watch Vanessa Redgrave work, and opposite her real-life daughter, no less). And, of course, they couldn't.

Oh, I still watch, more than I like to admit. And the next day or so at work, I'm going over plot twists with a ''Nip/Tuck''-watching co-worker. But the show is so full of misery and its characters' self-loathing that it often leaves a bitter feeling behind, usually without any redeeming uplift. In the Christmas episode, I found myself snarling at the screen as Sean again and again did his hesitation-instead-of-action bit; when he sat in the clinic, I was almost screaming, ''Oh, be a man!''

And then he acted. And I should have felt great about it. Instead, I was thinking that it took him long enough to get off his duff. And ''Nip/Tuck'' is too often like Sean -- on the verge of something great, then pulling back. I even suspect something along those lines about the Carver. As I said to a reader earlier today, revealing the Carver's identity is not the same as getting rid of the character.

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