”Big Love”: Mother and child reunion
Would you all agree with me that this episode of Big Love should be an Emmy contender? It had so much intensity and forward movement, and, at the same time, offered a real look at how the Henricksons — in particular, Barb — got into their situation. Plus, we got the phenomenal Ellen Burstyn, who was perfectly cast as Barb’s mom. So let’s start there, since there’s a lot of territory to cover (not to mention a link to an extra-special pre-finale treat from EW.com).
Alienation from her mother has been tearing at Barb for as long as we’ve, er, known her. And finally, they went face-to-face. The circumstances may not have been ideal — unless you’re crashing some stranger’s reception Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson-style, going to a wedding you weren’t actually invited to is bound to be awkward — but it was necessary. Using Ben as a reason for the urgency? That was debatable.
Still, not-so-little Benny is obviously in need of serious guidance, and his father is not doing the trick. Is it any wonder Ben wants to live ”the principle,” given what his father is teaching him every day? Bill’s frank explanation of the UEB seat situation as a ”negotiation tactic” was basically Ben’s primer for a life of deceit. Ben’s overzealous pursuit of the compound twins is also cause for concern. (And really, couldn’t he do a little better than the Juniper Creek freak sisters, who both want to marry the same guy?) Little by little, we’re seeing more of Bill emerge in Ben — the teenager’s outburst at his grandmother’s wedding that the ”government should allow us to practice our religion openly” was the kind of rebellious move he learned from the master himself.
As usual, Bill was up to his old tricks — withholding information from his wives, manipulating the tempestuous relationship between his family and the UEB, and making sure he comes out ahead. He ”won” Weber Gaming? That’s almost laughable. Cheated is more like it. And now this business with the UEB seat…Alby may claim not to have the ”fascination” with the Henricksons that Roman did, but all signs point to a clear case of like father, like son. And if his threats didn’t scare Bill, they certainly did Lois, as we saw during the confrontation at Joey’s house, where Alby boasted that she’d ”never find the bodies” of Joey and Wanda if it were ever to come to that.
So what happens between these two warring clans? Alby’s called out Bill on all of his offenses of late: humiliating him in front of his father; trying to cover up Wanda’s attempt to kill him; and now, the most serious crime of all — playing the Greens against the Grants, which ostensibly got Roman shot. Of course, you could see the consequences of Bill’s actions coming from a mile away. Who in their right mind would mess with a bunch of vigilante murderers like Hollis and his gender-ambiguous crew? Did Bill really think he was going to get away with this? Sure, he may have gotten the authorities to run them out of Utah, but it’s a big world out there and, judging by their technical know-how (videoconferencing? Last I remember, the compound didn’t even have caller ID), the Greens have a good grasp on how to move around it.
But they’re not Bill’s main problem now — it’s all about Alby. Bill certainly looks to have his war face on: ”Without my seat, you’re just a pretender,” he told Alby, who looked ready to jump out of the Hummer and rip Bill’s face off. To live peacefully in their own separate spheres? A pipe dream, as long as Joey and Wanda are MIA. And even though Bill’s constantly fed up with his own mother, he won’t be happy to hear that Alby raised a hand to Lois. Plus, you know things are bound to get ugly if and when it’s confirmed that Nicki stole tens of thousands of dollars from the UEB and is blowing it all on clothes and online bingo.
NEXT PAGE: The misery of Nancy’s wedding
Like a well-trained CIA agent, Nicki just denied, denied, denied when Alby confronted her about the missing funds and the Weber Gaming situation. But if there’s one thing that can get her to crack, it’s the threat of her father waking up and being told that she’s a greedy, amoral ”tithe stealer.” No wonder she changed her tune about Weber and fast (too bad ”the polls are closed”). Who knows what will happen to Roman, though — by the looks of it, Alby and his wife are riding this one out while heavily medicating the wounded Grant patriarch.
But Nicki did get a couple things right in this episode, making astute observations about Barb and Margene’s roles in the family (Margie’s getting aggressive, while Barb’s ”out to pasture”) and the need to ”unload” Weber Gaming or ”we’re all doomed.” And she showed some compassion for Sarah, who’s also struggling to get a handle on her own relationships, namely with Scott and Bill. Wasn’t it nice to see Nicki actually embrace someone with seemingly no ulterior motives? And, dare I say, what she explained to Sarah made sense (I loved Nicki’s blunt take on Scott’s ex as ”a used-up old hag”).
Men do like the chase, but can Scott — who, at 28, has obviously had a lot more experience than Sarah — wait? And how long? It seems they’d have to get married in order to consummate the relationship, but what about now — is he expected to be 100 percent monogamous? Where does he see their future, if at all, now that Sarah’s offered to share him with girls who will go all the way? And after Bill’s confrontation with his daughter’s boyfriend, is it over for good? Well, at least he had the balls to tell Bill how miserable Sarah’s been because of her father.
Speaking of misery, Nancy’s wedding was the epitome of it. First, Barb had to deal with her mom’s insinuation that the kids should come alone, then her cousin’s insistence that she not preach about her fundamentalist culture, then her obnoxious sister Cindy’s comments (though that line about Barb’s ”little polygamist meltdown” did make me chuckle). It all came to a head with the whole family fighting outside in the driveway, where Barb finally spilled out all her years of pent-up resentment and sadness, and made a heartfelt request to her mother: ”I just want to see you in this life.” And even though Nancy had presumptuously declared to her guests that Barb had left Bill and was returning to the Church, mother and daughter seemed to make headway in their relationship. It’s her one big test, Barb is told. We’ll see how she does…if the rattlesnakes don’t get her. Yikes!
Souls, blood atonement, eternal salvation: This episode went way heavy on Mormon doctrine and history, which is why I thought it would be interesting to talk to one of the country’s foremost polygamy experts, Salt Lake Tribune reporter Brooke Adams, whose beat is the plural life. In addition to covering the Warren Jeffs trial, Adams interviews Big Love-like families all over Utah and the border states and constantly updates the paper’s polygamy blog. In our interview, we talked about correlations between the plots on Big Love and real-life news stories. Check out our chat over at The Experts Corner in PopWatch, here.
Finally, some lingering questions about some loose ends: Will Wanda go crazier now that Alby has reassigned Kathy to Frank? Is Margene really willing to consider being a surrogate for neighbor Pam? And did you root for Sarah when she flat-out told Bill she would never, ever listen to any advice he had to give about relationships? Post your comments below.