Episode S05E01 “Carly Summers”, aired November 1, 2007 IMDB
Nip/Tuck is a drama series focused on a pair of cosmetic surgeons. In the season 5 opener, Doctor Sean McNamara and Doctor Christian Troy have just relocated from Miami to Los Angeles and opened a new practice.
One of their first clients is Bob Easton, a high-powered studio exec. He wants them to cover up the bite marks on his chest.
Sean: “Did you have a run-in with a dog?”
Bob: “When my mistress puts my collar and leash on, I’m the dog.”
Christian: “Your dominatrix inflicted these?”
Bob: “Yeah, and she’s not cheap either. Still, no Scotch, no yoga class, no hot rock therapy ever helped me like Mistress Dark Pain does.”
Sean: “Sounds like living the dream has its price.”
Bob: “Of course it does. Eat your young on a regular basis, and what do you expect? All day long I’m the one with the control, the power. Once a week, Mistress Dark Pain takes it all away from me. Sometimes twice a week during Oscar season. Every bite somehow restores the balance. Keeps me real, you know?”
While Bob recovers from surgery in the clinic, Sean is called in because their patient has summoned Mistress Dark Pain (played by Tia Carrere). We’re introduced to her in full dominatrix outfit, tormenting Bob with a fishing rod attached to hooks through his nipples.
Mistress Dark Pain: “Of course I sterilize. I’m a professional.” (angry)
Bob says he needed her because of the stress of his job.
Bob: “I had to call her, okay? I had to fire five people today, by email.”
Sean tells her to leave while attending to Bob.
Mistress Dark Pain: “Let me tell you something Doctor. It’s not easy being Robert Easton. He isn’t stupid. He knows that underneath his ‘look how big my dick is’ act is just a scared little boy who feeds off everyone else’s talents and dreams. He’s nothing. I have a gift. I help keep men like Bob from imploding from too much power.”
Sean: “Well, let me tell you something, Mistress Whoever. You and your gift are not welcome here. This is a place of healing.”
Mistress Dark Pain: “You’d be fun to work with. See you later, Bobby.”
The doctors encounter Mistress Dark Pain again in the lobby of their office. She’s dressed in more office-professional attire, though with heavier lipstick.
Mistress Dark Pain: “Apparently the merger’s official, and our little Bobby has been asked to be chairman and CEO of the parent company. He’s very excited, but understandably a little stressed.”
The doctors enter the recovery room and find Bob Easton in shock, with even more bloody bite marks all over his chest.
Bob: “It’s not her fault. She wanted to stop. I begged her to keep going.”
During surgery, Sean chastises Bob for risking his health.
Bob: “I know, I have a problem. For the record, I decided not to take the job. I’m out. You know, it’s only a matter of time until this town eats you alive.”
As effectively the supplier of Bob’s drug (if not the drug in herself), Mistress Dark Pain has a vested interest in him continuing to hire her. While she testily asserts she is a professional to Sean, she also leaves Bob in shock after a session with no aftercare. Perhaps she assumes that since the doctors are here to look after him. (This is the only appearance of Mistress Dark Pain in the series.)
As is often the case with addiction, the problem is with the addict, not the drug or the object of addiction itself. Bobby may inadvertently be rewarding, not punishing, himself via his sessions with his Mistress. He gets a big endorphin rush after he does something that gives him anxiety. Perhaps that is why, at the end of the episode, Bob returns to his high power, high stress job.
This is the familiar trope of the executive submitting to the mistress in the dungeon. It’s not exactly unrealistic, but the services of pro dominatrixes aren’t cheap, and thus men with high-powered jobs are more likely to afford them. Men who don’t have the means have to make do.
The world of Nip/Tuck is almost exclusively inhabited by highly dysfunctional people, so a studio executive into BDSM is far from the strangest or most self-destructive person ever encountered. Thus it isn’t clear why Christian calls Bob a “freak” and Sean refers to Mistress Dark Pain’s “sicko clients.”
Mistress Dark Pain has found a niche in the Hollywood system, and she’s as much a part of propping up that system as Christian and Sean. In other words, they’re as much whores as she is. They’re just as mercenary and just as fake. The Mistress gives Sean her card and says he would be “fun to work with”. This could mean that he will be her client some day, or that the two of them would work together. She cuts her client up, and Sean puts them together again.