TV Recap

Wife Decisions

On ''Big Love,'' Bill tries to persuade all three women to approve his gambling venture; meanwhile, Alby names himself prophet

CASINO EVIL Bill refuses to admit that the new business is morally dubious
CASINO EVIL Bill refuses to admit that the new business is morally dubious

''Big Love'': Bill takes on all three wives

Last week, I felt some sympathy for Bill. After his awkward confrontation with that holier-than-thou ATF agent (the one with the atrocious Boston accent), who knew nothing of Bill's life with Barb, Nicki, Margene, and the kids but still managed to reduce him — and all Mormons — down to a single stereotype, I couldn't help feeling pissed off. I guess that's because, after two seasons, we've really come to know and love this family. Which is odd because polygamy goes against everything we've been taught about relationships and marriage and is widely considered an abhorrent lifestyle. (Admit it: Didn't your stomach churn a touch when Joey's future wife No. 2 gave him that knowing peck?) But the fact that I can get sucked into Bill's latest destined-for-failure venture or his ''right'' to live ''the principle'' speaks volumes about this show's knack for nuanced characters and constantly evolving story lines. It's what makes Big Love so special.

With all that in mind, I now take back what I said last week about sympathizing with Bill. Last night's episode showed him as the master manipulator that he is. Trying to convince the wives that his beloved Weber Gaming was a sound investment in their future, he gave them the hard sell and tried to make each one think he came to her first. How very high school. Then again, it went both ways — the girls themselves weren't above trying to manipulate each other to get the vote they wanted. It was all very entertaining, of course — seeing the four of them at that dingy makeshift casino, where Nicki practically drooled over the bingo card (does she have a future at Gamblers Anonymous?), Barb was disgusted, and Margene just looked confused. Given their strict fundamentalist beliefs, you'd think that a consensus would be obvious and swift, but not with those three opposing personalities. And in the end, Barb lost. Looks like they'll all be subscribing to Roman Grant's motto ''There's no sin in taking money from sinners.''

So now the power shifts to Margene, the wife who's finally learning to recognize and use the No. 3 position to her advantage. She's certainly come a long way, even just through this season (though we've yet to see a sizable baby bump — how long has it been?). But her run-in with a former fling named Greg, who happens to be a coworker of Ben's, really showed how much she's matured since coming into the Henrickson fold. Sure, the guy was a prick, but Margie handled him coolly, which, considering she was shopping at Home Plus, was definitely the smart approach. Though you have to wonder: Shouldn't she have her dead-husband story down by this point? She still seems to get all tongue-tied every time someone asks about her marital status.

Ben could stand to learn a thing or two from Margie. Though I supported his elevation to the priesthood last week, hoping it would give him some sense of inner peace, Benny is still far from adulthood. When he gets that glazed, I'm-about-to-cry-or-punch-somebody look, I see Hayden Christensen in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith with those red eyes as he was just starting to turn to the dark side. Don't go there, Benny! Choose the right!

Another Star Wars moment: The old dude sitting in the corner during the UEB trustees' meeting was a dead ringer for the Emperor, don't ya think? And while we're on the subject of Bill's latest hijacking attempt, let me just say wow. With Roman in the ICU and no contingency plan in place, Alby stepped up and took charge for a change. To Bill's dismay, it seems that yet another attempt to infiltrate the Juniper Creek leadership council has been foiled.

Really though, there was no standing in the way of testimony from God. After all, as much as Alby has proven to be a bit of a disappointment and possibly a psycho, he is the biological son of the prophet. It makes sense that he would be next in line, as has been common FLDS practice for over a century. What's surprising here is Adaleen's impassioned support, a complete turnaround from her public dis at the reunion just a few weeks back. To claim that Alby's face morphed into that of the original prophet, Joseph Smith, well, them's big words. So is Alby ''the one mighty and strong''? As he donned his papa's Stetson and uttered a revelation that told him to take Roman's place ''during and after,'' I was reminded of that scene in The Godfather where Michael Corleone is first acknowledged as his father's successor. Surprisingly, it suited Alby, though Bill looked revolted.

Unfortunately, this may not bode well for Nicki (a.k.a. babybird 27), who remains the black sheep of the Grant family. Just getting onto the compound to deliver a freezer was a huge undertaking and, in hindsight, probably not worth the two-plus-hour drive. It's too bad for Nicki, who was looking so pretty with her hair down and loose. She has all these admirable qualities — she's loyal, loving, and eager to please — but often just comes off as lonely or desperate. No doubt, that's where the bingo plot is going, and it looks to be grim.

And how about the return of Rhonda? She's changed her stance on the abuse allegations and is making her TV rounds. Where is she going with this media campaign? And why do I have a nagging suspicion that there's a kidnapping on the horizon? Maybe a renegade Green will drag her back to Mexico, from whence she came, as Adaleen would say. With two members of the Green group facing jail time, revenge is likely, if not probable. Speaking of the Greens, Bill certainly has a lot of enemies piling up, including his dad, Alby, Roman (should he recover), and his mom (who he refuses to talk to). Same problems, different week. Will he never learn?

At least one of Bill's children looks to have it together: Sarah, the voice of wisdom and clarity in a world of ''moral ambiguity.'' ''We're not all that different from the compound,'' she said in a moment of mother-daughter truth, before adding that Barb settled for less than she deserved. Sarah, on the other hand, seems to have lucked out with her 28-year-old boyfriend, Scott. Not only is he ''respectful and mature,'' but he looks so damn cute in a pair of jogging shorts. Keep those sweaty workouts coming!

But back to the celestial versus the practical, as Joey so eloquently put it in explaining Kathy's move into his and Wanda's house for a test run. A Mormon marriage, plural or otherwise, is one that goes beyond this life and through eternity. So how does divorce, which the just arrested Lois is contemplating, factor in? You would think if one couple is wrongly identified, then the whole testimony system may be flawed. How do you know when ''the one'' (or two or three) is forever?

All in all, the pace of this episode was significantly slower than the previous week's, which, granted, was hard to top. But with the finale around the corner — and Alby at the pulpit — things are bound to heat up again. What do you think Big Love's next big drama will be? Will Bill ever get what's coming to him, or will he continue to skate by as ''the good guy''?

Originally posted Aug 07, 2007
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