On ''Big Love,'' Rhonda could obliterate any hope of a Henrickson-Grant detente, Nicki's been disowned, and Bill narrowly avoids a legal calamity

”Big Love”: What to do about Rhonda?

There’s nothing quite like an underage runaway to shake up the Henricksons’ world. But this is no ordinary teen escaping something trivial like overbearing parents (though that does seem to play a role in her decision). Had Rhonda stayed in Juniper Creek, she would have married the elderly Prophet to become his umpteenth (and youngest) wife, resigned herself to a life of submission and dutiful faith, and forever cemented her freak status among her non-FLDS peers. But now what do Bill, Barb, Nicki, and Margene do with Rhonda?

Adopt her? Cute, Barb, but…no. Send her to labor on a farm with other displaced FLDS-ers? Can’t see that working for Little Miss Princess. Put her up in a shelter? It’s worth a try, but as we saw, she doesn’t exactly fit in. Return her to the compound? No matter what happens, it looks like Rhonda will do her best to manipulate the situation to her advantage, at the same time setting in motion a seismic rift that could officially obliterate any hope of a détente between the Henricksons and the Grants.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also Joey’s trial, which, at the beginning of this episode, looked like it could be Bill’s downfall, thanks to Wanda’s gun-toting craziness (Lois’s pre-court quip, ”That girl’s become a big, fat liability,” was spot-on) and one very incriminating audio tape. There’s his ongoing effort to sabotage Roman’s videogaming machine investment, again fueling the feud outside of the family realm. All this before Bill even finds out that Roman (with a little help from Rhonda) is the one who exposed the Henricksons’ polygamist lifestyle, putting his own daughter at risk for persecution.

Several viewers commented last week that they found the ”Reunion” episode confusing. And while Monday’s show did resolve a couple of key plot points (namely, Joey’s trial), I’m still perplexed about certain characters’ motives. First and foremost, Rhonda and her runaway act: some TV Watch readers suggest that maybe she’s looking to become Bill’s fourth wife (now that would be a twist). I’ve also read theories that she’s spying for Roman. And there’s the most obvious reason: simply not wanting to marry someone four times her age. But escaping the demands of the fundamentalist life does not seem to be her main gripe. Her belief in the religion feels so strong, it’s not like she’s being suffocated by it. On the contrary, she’s preaching to Teenie, Sarah, and anyone else who’ll listen. However, when we see Rhonda wearing civilian clothes, there is a sense that she’s looking for some kind of normalcy. And you do sympathize during the scene where the Juniper Creek police searched all three of the Henrickson houses for her. It was a nail-biter, for sure, made all the more intense by the officer, whom Nicki knew growing up in the compound, spitting into their food and cursing them ”apostates.”

Still, there’s no doubt Rhonda’s got a manipulative streak. Last season, she lifted Sarah’s iPod and at the end of this show, she’s wearing another runaway’s Hard Rock jacket (bedazzled, just how she likes it). And she’s clearly trying to blackmail Nicki, but into what? Letting her stay in Sandy with the family is not really an option. I guess I just don’t know where this is going, but it’s destined to get ugly.

The other thing I’m still scratching my head about: Alby who, yes, we know is gay (the HBO special, ”Big Love, Big Secrets,” which I highly recommend watching, confirms it). But what is he up to now, besides stalking the Henrickson homes and trying to scare the crap out of Sarah (and oh-so-cute Scott), who Alby says he’s ”watching out for?” Will he act out and when? For being such an integral part of the problems these two families constantly face, he doesn’t really get much airtime.

And there’s Pam, the next-door neighbor, who keeps popping back into the story line. I got a good chuckle at Margene’s comment to Ben’s girlfriend Brynn that Pam ”thinks I’m the town slut,” and we know that Pam suspects only Nicki is the ”live polygamist” residing on their street. So what’s the purpose of Margene’s face-to-face faux clarification about her pregnancy? And why did Pam get so PO’d about Margene ”having a stranger’s baby?” Is it because she can’t conceive herself? Call me dense, but I don’t get it…yet.

This episode also introduced a new character: social worker April Blessing, a former child of polygamy herself who seems hell-bent on getting involved in the Rhonda Volmer case. Will she be meddling or helping?

But one thing that was made clearer: Adaleen, Roman’s first wife and Nicki’s mom, is a good person for destroying the tape. The fallout will be disastrous, I’m sure (especially considering Nicki has ostensibly been ”disowned”), but it’s nice to see the women take charge, and Adaleen is among the strongest of them all. Still, there’s no doubt she’s torn and I, for one, feel for her.

Threats, blackmail, kidnapping, incarceration…this episode started to remind me of another serial drama I loved which seemed to perpetually go around in circles: Dallas. Remember the Ewings and the Barneses? Constantly trying to one-up each other in business and family matters, sworn to revenge in order to restore their fathers’ legacies? And don’t tell me a smirking Rhonda doesn’t remind you of Sue-Ellen’s sister, Kristin (played by Mary Crosby), who, you may recall, was the one who shot J.R. Perhaps Bill should take a lesson from the head of the Ewing clan: Revenge is a ruthless, twisted game, with little time for church, never mind morals.

What did you think of this week’s Big Love episode? Post your comments below.

Episode Recaps

Big Love
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