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'Big Love': She loves us, she loves us not

February 15, 2009 | 10:01 pm

672025_bl3lt_305_1482_2 So they finally went ahead and did it. After a particularly stimulating game of bowling, Ana took the leap and accepted Bill and everyone else’s proposal to marry them. And the resulting marriage happened so fast: No registry, no bridal shower, no save-the-dates. Guess when you’re the fourth wife, everyone’s already been there and done that, so you get nothing but a ring, an electric guitar solo, and a quickie poolside slap on the back, squeezed in between lunch and Sarah's shift at the fast-food joint, as a welcome into the family. And this whole situation ended up the equivalent of a fast-food meal: fun, quick and a momentary filler, never mind the queasy feeling that maybe you did something that you shouldn’t have afterward. And while the circumstances around this episode, appropriately titled "For Better or For Worse," were a bit rushed and contrived to be completely believed, it made for some hilariously rich domestic disturbances. For instance:

The other wives. Sure, Ana married Bill, but even more importantly, she married the rest of the sister wives as well. And this fun episode illustrated the delicate balance struck among Barb, Nicki and Margene and how the slightest disruption can result in domestic disaster. Like the sensitive subject of the wives’ seating arrangement. Or contributing to the community pot. Or that Barb’s the task master. Though you would think that strong, independent Ana, who knows how to handle herself in a pickle, should have already cottoned onto this. I mean, she already accused Barb of bulldozing her a couple of episodes back. You’d think she should have taken the time to see how the wives worked before making this all-important commitment. But this all seemed to be news to Ana. “It’s a little like being in the army, isn’t it?” she commented.

The same goes with the living arrangements. Again, you would think that this would be discussed beforehand, but when you decide to get married and then go through with it in about the same time as you can decide to get an oil change, guess you just have to deal with the fallout as it comes. Barb wanted Ana to live with her, and Margene, of course, was hoping Ana would bunk with her. And folks, this may just be another sad truth about the Principle: Despite having many wives and children and more bodies milling about than one can count, it appears that polygamy can be the loneliest number of all. With Margene, of course, we all knew that she was needy and just wanted someone — anyone, really — to hang out and have slumber parties with. But Barb had her own hopes for Ana, and their talk about travels and cruises revealed another side that had been deferred in favor of this bigger family dream: “I want Ana to be my friend, to be an adult,” she revealed. “Ana makes me feel normal. Like choosing this life — agreeing to it — wasn’t a mistake.”

So how hilarious was Nicki’s reaction when Bill decided that Nicki should be the one to take Ana in, much to Barb’s and Margie’s chagrin? “Why am I being punished?” she shot back. Nicki, who then in a great show of hospitality, magnanimously put aside all of a nook and a top drawer that wouldn’t hold four napkins for Ana, because her spare bedroom had already been set up for her crafts. And who then really let it fly with a great retort: “No one mollycoddled me when I came into the family,” she defended. “I mean, who knew Ana was such a delicate blossom? I mean, she looks pretty sturdy to me.” Ha!

Naturally, Barb’s unforeseen enthusiasm for this new wife set Margene and Nicki off on a jealous tangent.

Ana, for her part, did nothing to assuage the situation: Her revelation to Nicki that she thought Barb was priming her to be her lieutenant seemed like a backhanded power play to me. And of course, Margene and Nicki so emphatically and delightfully pointed out the splinter in others’ eyes while refusing to see the plank in their own. “She’s pushy, she’s willful, and she refuses to submit,” Nicki complained of Ana. And Margene to Barb: “Admit that you don’t want Ana for Bill or for the family but for yourself. Please, just be honest!” And “Don’t pretend you’re blind to what’s happening here, you … you womanizer!”

The wives are more jealous of their own relationships with Ana than their husband’s. It’s become increasingly apparent that Bill dismissively views the wives and their squabbles as immature (“This isn’t some sorority house or high school clique”), and his insistence that Ana will not be a “broodmare” or a “glorified nursemaid” doesn’t stop him from pigeonholing the others. Margene is the cute figurehead who bakes cookies, fetches drinks and dresses in ridiculous getups (that red-and-blue fashion don’t at the beginning of the episode), and Nicki has been reduced to a petulant child whom Bill chastised at the motel and commanded to go home. No wonder she’s attracted to Mr. DA man, Ray Henry: He at least paid attention to her and sees her as a person, rather than a function. (It also led to the most prudish drunk-dial of all time.)

Bill has reduced Barb to a superficial accessory as well: When she came into the room shaking her head that the anti-gaming legislation was still in effect, he automatically wondered if she was shaking her head at his tie selection. So thank goodness Barb finally spoke up and said something in their defense. “With all due respect, Bill, we added a new wife to the mix, not a new husband,” she declared. “So I would appreciate if you kept the finger-wagging to a minimum while we all sort this out.” Go, Barb! It couldn’t have been better stated if she snapped her fingers in a z-like formation afterward.

In other news, gravelly Roman gathered his wayward brood with the intent of snapping them back into submission. “It’s a new dawning, my children,” he proclaimed. “All past transgressions can and will be forgiven, provided that all sinners fall in line.” Loved Lura and Alby’s matter-of-fact exchange on the way in to the meeting, carried on like they were discussing the weather: “We’ll be lucky to get out of here without our throats being slit,” said Lura. “We should have killed him when we had the chance,” Alby responded in kind. And Nicki’s dull resignation of being a part of a family where death threats are par for the course: “Mama just said show up or I’m dead.” And finally, her hysterical Hail Mary cliché of desperation when faced with her disapproving parents: “Can’t we all just … get along?”

And Sarah, dear Sarah, who claimed that she is no different than the judgmental Juniper Creek outcast (who, interestingly, was the one to show the lost girls out), admitted to Heather that she (gasp) wants to keep her baby. The resulting conversation about raising the baby at ASU was curious — so Sarah’s going to start a family with Heather now? I’m pretty sure Heather still has her massive crush, platonic or not, on Sarah, so was it me, or was that look on Heather’s face one of hopeful disbelief that her unspeakable fantasy was really coming true?

In the end, however, love just wasn't enough, and this whole crazy mess of a life all proved too much for Ana (thank goodness. Don’t let the door hit your sturdy frame on the way out). So she decided to take off, and so did Frankie, who is hightailing it to Nicaragua (or as Ben sleepily said, “Nica-what?”) to find his exiled mother. And his words to Ben echoed the Henricksons’ Ana situation as well: “What did you think, that I would come live with you, and that you would save me?”

What did you think of this episode? Are you sad to see Ana go? Will the divorce come as easy as the marriage? Do you think Lura is on to Alby’s “proclivities” (tap tap tap)?

— Allyssa Lee

Photo credit: Lacey Terrell / HBO