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By RD Heldenfels Published: September 5, 2006

The wait is over for fans. Now let's find out what kind of a fan you are.

Did you come into the show during the second or third season and stuck around because you were fascinated by the Carver storyline? Then, based on my viewing of three new episodes, this show is not for you.

There's a little bit of mystery, but nothing on the grand scale of the Carver. And it was clear at a ''Nip/Tuck'' press conference in July that the stars of the show, and to an extent its maker, were unhappy with the direction in the third season. What was supposed to be about the main characters, love and sex became instead a serialized thriller. (And one with a silly ending at that.)

But did you arrive at ''Nip/Tuck'' in the first season, or get drawn into it along the way because you wanted to see what happened to Sean, Julia and Christian -- or perhaps Matt or Kimber? Then you may be very pleased with where the show is going. Those first three episodes are very much character pieces (albeit character pieces with grisly surgeries, lurid sex and a lot of emotional brutality).

Christian is on a major voyage to self-discovery. So are Sean and Julia. Certainties are shattered for all of them. Matt and Kimber, who arrive in the second episode, will go down a spiritual path that shocks the other characters. (To say more would spoil it.)

The show still repels me in a lot of ways, but I actually began to feel some sympathy for the main characters as their confusion deepens this season.

Also, I have a little more information about Monica Wilder, the character from Akron, who begins appearing in the Sept. 19 episode and will be around for more. The writers chose that location, a publicist told me, because they wanted her to be from a ''wholesome, Midwestern town.'' But she was originally going to be from Buffalo, until series creator Ryan Murphy reminded the episode's writer that the show had already had a character from Buffalo.

But comment away on tonight's show after you see it.

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