TV Recap

The Game of Wife

On ''Big Love,'' Margene gets to play Mrs. Henrickson as Bill meets his gambling clients; plus, Nicki provokes Alby

BETS DEFENSE The gambling business should allow Bill to admit he's married to Margene
BETS DEFENSE The gambling business should allow Bill to admit he's married to Margene

''Big Love'': Coming out

Is this it? Have we reached critical mass at the compound? Alby's running the show, so everyone better capitulate or be gone? At the beginning of this season, who would've thought we'd see the shunned and belittled son of Roman Grant take the reigns of the UEB? And do it so effortlessly. But so it was that Alby peered into his father's hat and came out an acting prophet. How long that situation will stay temporary remains to be seen, but we did learn quite a bit about the way Alby likes to do business — with a heavy hand.

He's already got his people working the phones at Juniper Creek, to the visible displeasure of Adaleen. He's forbidden Nicki from stepping on the grounds, never mind hosting an announcement ceremony for Kathy and Joey (and Wanda). He's teamed up with Frank to deal a harsh blow to Joey by reassigning his second-wife-to-be. As for Roman? Well, Alby has pulled the wounded patriarch out of intensive care so he can recuperate at home under the watchful eye of Alby's equally villainous-looking wife, Lura, and he isn't allowing anyone — not even his mother — to see Roman. Still, is Alby the kind of guy who would poison or even heavily sedate his own father to continue on this power trip? Hmm...that's sort like asking if Donald Trump likes money.

Perhaps the robbery had something to do with Alby's paranoia. After all, it happened as he was receiving testimony, and it was committed by his own sister, as Alby quickly deduced. What other option would he have but to confront her in person? Sure, Nicki kept her cool during this heated exchange, but will she ever learn? Nicki is back on the needle she calls L.L. Bean and is spending like there's no tomorrow. (Hell, you can do some serious damage with $60,000, like host a ridiculously lavish party while Bill, Barb, and Margie are conveniently out of town.) Lying about the money by using Bill's Weber Gaming investment as the excuse was just plain dumb. Perhaps there's some truth to Nicki's statement that Bill is ''embarrassed'' and ''mortified'' by her. (Howler of the episode: ''I can be very frugal.'') As much as she feigns having it all together, her dysfunction runs deep.

But not so much that she won't assert herself or her views 24/7. Like when she grabbed Ben by the ear and chided him for (1) sneaking out of the house and (2) disrespecting Barb. Was Nicki justified in disciplining him on Barb's behalf? There's no doubt Ben's comment about Barb's being ''so ashamed'' of herself that she can't handle his wanting to live ''the principle'' was intended to get a rise out of her. Yet Barb took it calmly, compared with Nicki.

Then again, Barb's had a lot to deal with lately. Despite her best efforts, she's clearly not down with much of what's going on in her life: the video gaming operation, the trip to the casino, Bill's latest decision to be a little more out about their polygamy. Whether it's the eye-rolling or constant frown, one thing's for sure: Barb is not happy. Yet she remains the martyr, jumping at Bill's every whim and increasingly letting others speak for her. What's up with that?

I have to say, the trip to the casino was a nice change of venue. Margene clearly needed to get out of the house, and maybe so did we. Too bad this belated honeymoon didn't go exactly as she wanted, even if she did get to check in as Mrs. Henrickson. (Gotta love that elated look on her face.) Nevertheless, Margene made the situation all the more entertaining, first by blabbing endlessly about their home life and how much it means to her to ''pull this off'' and later by having her fun with Bill, Barb, and the good-ol'-boy Weber clients at the restaurant. I shudder to ask, but was she drinking? Because she told Barb that she would if she wanted to, and though Margene's only showing the teeny-tiniest baby bump, she is pregnant. But with Bill just a couple tables down, she probably wouldn't dare.

Still, it did make for a tense dinner with Bill and Barb's old LDS pals, who — yikes! — had mistaken Margene for Sarah. (No, she's the secretary, Bill improvised, to which Margene responded with a crushed look.) That was enough to send her over the edge and force Bill to deal. But I'm not sure what to make of his solution: to go public about his polygamy to the Weber cowboys. (Shouldn't they have already known, since the company was said to be okay with it?) I guess Bill was trying to show them that he does have one vice: women. Or that he was moved to the truth by something they said to him at the poker table: ''You can only bluff so far.'' Or maybe it stemmed from Barb's hesitation to lie once more. Whatever his reason, it was a bold step to take, and an opportunity for Margene to finally stake some territory of her own. Her proposition to Barb was simple: ''You can have Home Plus; let me be Bill's wife for Weber Gaming.'' Barb's response? A defeated stare at her wedding ring.

So did Barb sabotage Margene's honeymoon for a second time? Should she have laid off, as Margene screamed mid-meltdown, and let them have a moment to themselves? Ultimately, Bill is at the center of these issues, and as long as he's ordering his wives — whichever one will do — to drop off his dry cleaning, we'll certainly see more bitterness brew.

And speaking of bitter girls, Sarah and Heather have had just about enough of Rhonda and her shenanigans. Her latest blackmail plot? To intimidate Heather by threatening to say she has a gay crush on Sarah. A suggestion not entirely unfounded, judging by Heather's silent response and terrified look. Sarah also had a revealing moment of her own, courtesy of 1993's Courageous Woman of the Year. April's astute analysis of Sarah's family life and emotional state seemed to hit home, prompting her to at least consider ''letting go.'' Maybe Sarah has more in common with Rhonda (who even April acknowledged is a liar) than she thought. And what of this Heather sitch? Did she divulge Rhonda's threat? Will we finally see some development with this odd foster family?

There's another family in transition right now: Joey and Wanda's. They've both acknowledged that Kathy's arrival was welcome, but Joey's attachment has obviously strengthened. Wanda, meanwhile, is not entirely better, as far as her mental state is concerned — she's can't fall asleep at night and is pacing endlessly. Then at the party, she looked surprisingly uncomfortable, grabbing at her collar as Joey declared his love for her and Kathy. In a way, you knew this joyous occasion was bound to be marred, but now what happens with this ''unsanctioned marriage''? Will Joey lose his mind once he finds out that Kathy's been promised to Frank in exchange for information and a modicum of ass kissing? It's all so complicated and vindictive.

And so Rhonda's media campaign, Alby's revenge plan, and Lois' divorce petition move forward, while Bill seems destined to drag the whole Henrickson family down with him as the season ends. Will it all come to a head in the next two episodes? What do you most want to see resolved? And what will the cliff-hanger be?

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Originally posted Aug 14, 2007
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