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'Big Love': Vision quest

January 17, 2010 | 10:00 pm
BL_LT_402_10_27_1669 “Another day, another revelation.”

So said Sarah after Bill dropped his epic idea to run for the state Senate during lunch one day in the backyard, in between a distracted prayer (tell me this, dear reader: Do Mormons always cross their arms during blessings? It happened here at the table, as well as at Roman’s funeral, and made one wonder whatever happened to holding hands) and reprimanding Wayne for leaving his pool toys out for everyone to trip on. 

Though Wayne’s delinquent plaything was hardly the only big wet noodle mucking up lunch. The wives all but stopped mid-chew upon hearing Bill’s out-of-this-world plan, which he said came to him as a calling while sitting in on a courtroom hearing. Bill was clearly unsettled by what he heard that morning: Rep. Roy Colburn (so nice to see you, Dr. Abbott Tom Amandes!), speaking so loftily from his elected pulpit, pretty much ripped Dale a new one, taking the state-appointed trustee to task for managing the UEB’s assets and calling out everything short of witch hunt to bulldoze compounds and prosecute the polygamists.

So I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Bill’s new revelation — that the best defense against this state Senate-seeking rabble-rouser is a good offense — occurred as Roman was being laid to rest (though he does live on in our hearts, and now on Cara Lynn’s night stand, as she was given a portrait of Grandpa from her wily father). Now that the Prophet of Juniper Creek’s dead and about to be buried, Bill’s making his power bid.

Only, it’s not the power bid that people were hoping for. Joey emerged from his hiding place in Arizona with the idea that Bill would take his rightful place as Prophet of Juniper Creek, and even toted along some kind of UEB file that confirmed it. (Things aren’t looking so hot for the prodigal Henrickson son; not only was J.J. seemingly up on Joey’s transgression, but Bill inadvertently told his brother he was going to get his when he said “Heavenly Father will deal with murderers in his own time.”) But Bill, clearly, does not want to be a big fish in a small, dusty backward pond. Instead, he wanted to run to protect his family from being persecuted from this Colburn guy, who’s clearly a threat to their lifestyle. But after an hour of back and forth, Bill decided that if he ran and actually won the seat, then he would finally stop hiding his polygamy, and he and his family could live the Principle out in the open.

And thus begins the saga for this season. And after all of last week’s exposition, it was nice to have an episode that focused on the family for a change. Of course, not everyone in the Henrickson brood was on board with this revelatory overload. OK, no one was. Margie called the plan flat-out “nuts,” claiming that the campaign’s inevitable exposure would make her booming business (as well as its projected yearly gross of $134K) go “kaput.” Barb wondered, as always, what detrimental effect this would have on the family. Nicki, like Joey, wanted Bill to take over as prophet.

Barb, for her part, had been notably passive about all of this. While Marge was literally pounding on tables and bribing her fellow sister wives to discuss Bill’s run during their meeting, Barb was more than content to let the idea ride and consoled herself by repeatedly insisting that Bill was merely “testing the waters.” What's worse, she let herself go back to the church that excommunicated her and basically took back last season's heart-wrenching decision not to forsake her family in order to dutifully fall back into the LDS line. The way that Bill so effortlessly meted out the praises of  “the one true church” in front of the bishop was so smooth it was sickening. But to bring Barb down into the muck with him was just wrong and left me feeling sullied and saddened for the head wife.

It seems as though progress and Barb have been at loggerheads lately. She can't do anything right with Tommy, who has been watching her like a hawk at the casino. She’s also having a hard time reconciling Sarah’s adamant decision not to be sealed in Bill’s church, despite Barb's careful, all-encompassing tone and the lure of a gorgeous wedding dress.

Sarah, knee-jerk reacting against Bill’s latest idea, ran instead into Scott’s monogamous arms and took him up on his own hastily conjured-up plan to get married with a justice of the peace. She even reconciled with Heather and convinced the BYU freshman to be her witness. So glad to see Heather again, and so glad she delivered one of the night’s funniest lines after Sarah told her via drive-through window that she was getting married. “Congratulations,” Heather replied. “That’ll be $4.68.”

Though after running into her mother on her way to City Hall (wearing another dress, no less!), Sarah just couldn’t go through with the civil ceremony. Turned out the idea of getting married behind her family’s back went the way of a lot of fast food (which Sarah tore through in this episode): a momentary fix, but kind of greasy and ultimately not fulfilling at all. And I liked how Heather said she was in support of Sarah without actually being in support of the marriage itself. “It’s complicated,” Heather explained.

Tell Nicki about that. The second wife was struggling with all these newly awakened feelings post-Ray Henry. Whom her husband hadn’t the first clue about: Bill thought Nicki was glum and half-hearted with her knotty pine bits (ha!) because of … J.J.? And the subsequent dinner between the families couldn’t have been more awkward. J.J. called Barb  “Barbara.” Wife Malinda hyperventilated as if on cue. J.J. revealed he couldn’t have Nicki’s delicious cole slaw (a nice show of sister-wife solidarity) due to his “sensitivity to certain cruciform vegetables” (my favorite line of the night). To which Nicki couldn't resist adding, “I was worried that Cara Lynn would turn out like him, throwing up at every little thing.” Then J.J. bared his teeth and warned Nicki to keep Bill and his nosy paws off of Kansas.

Loved how Margie and Barb were distracted by different things during the meal. Barb couldn’t get over Malinda’s hideous wig (“cancer on the compound!”), which made J.J.’s wife appear as though she was trying out for the Juniper Creek production of “Hairspray.” And Margie couldn't get over J.J.’s lack of fingernails. A cursory Internet search (and some medical translation from a doctor friend) suggested that this condition – called anonychia — is a rare genetic abnormality that may have resulted from incest or inbreeding (one case study had parents who were first cousins). Which, let’s face it, would not be out of the realm of any of these fundamentalist sects.

705090_BL_402_LT_9_11_1313 So nailless wonder J.J. might be related to someone else in the “Big Love” family besides Wanda and Cara Lynn? Certainly, Nicki’s ex seems to be filled with fun secrets, as seen when he paid a visit to his little sister back at the compound. Not only did J.J. seem to know what Joey was up to at the Big House, but he also had something of Wanda’s that was “very precious, very dear.” Which, in my mind means that he’s either some fundamentalist version of Buffalo Bill who periodically drops a bucket of lotion upon some poor child in a cellar (fingers crossed that it's not one of J.J. and Wanda's), or that he’s a Gollum who has some ring to rule them all. Whatever it is, it sure came off as super creepy. As was the way he came up behind his little sister and sniffed her. And did Wanda’s subsequent rug-beating look like she was paying for her punitive sins or what?

But back to Nicki, who was mired in her own angsty hell and was as confused and petulant as ever. Luckily for us, it’s also allowed her to lash out in fantastically barbed ways, like after Margie scoffed at her claim that Bill becoming prophet is his “destiny”: “Yes, Margie. Something you’d know nothing about, having grown up in a trailer.” The poor thing can’t seem to bottle up these new emotions, and it bled into her thoughts about her father and in her vision of Bill as well (admitting that she didn’t know if she still loved her husband was ominous and doesn’t bode well for the future of the family). It’s as if she wanted to have Bill become the prophet to justify being married to him.

Also not able to keep his feelings bottled up: her brother. Alby’s confident notion of stepping into his father’s proverbial big boots seemed to have taken a back seat to his pursuit of trusty trustee Dale. Alby has taken to skulking around Dale’s workplace and his support group meetings for men trying to suppress their homosexual leanings (called, funnily enough, Alignment). It appears there is no place in the afterlife for Mormon men in relationships with other men, so Dale is intent on staging his own inner reform to secure his place in eternity. “It’s impossible that something that would keep us from our eternal destiny is just born into us without any capacity for us to change,” Dale said to his fellow group members. “Sometimes it may feel like we don’t have a choice: We do. It’s within our power.” But Alby was intent on bulldozing the devout Mormon's testimony (“Look at me. I know this to be true”) one stolen kiss at a time, out in public for everyone to see. It appears Alby has fallen hard for Dale, though I'd love to know a bit more about what’s going on in that noggin of his. Alby's so confident and vocal on the compound, but practically mute off of it, and we’ve had to make do just with arch looks, longing gazes and that high pompadour. Can't wait for next week, when it looks like their tense relationship reaches a dramatic boiling point.

Sarah, it turned out, didn’t want to forsake her family (and therefore, eternity) with a civil ceremony wedding. Nor did she have to. While I didn’t completely buy that it was Sarah’s decision not to hide who she was that led Bill to make his political run, it was still a great, warm-fuzzy moment when Bill led Barb and the rest of the wives out to the backyard to their daughter, who was so lovingly outfitted in her mother’s dress (yay!) and ready to get married.

Though my heart really went out to Nicki during this sequence (well, her, and to Passion Pit’s “Moth’s Wings,” which has been repeatedly playing on my iPod since episode’s end). Chloë Sevigny displayed some great acting chops throughout this hour, which only cemented how much she deserved to win the Golden Globe tonight for best supporting TV actress — woo hoo! Not only did she provide the episode’s best zingers — like when she dismissed Margie’s business as “selling that TV trading post junk to shut-ins” — but Sevigny also pitch-perfectly delivered Nicki’s far-reaching range of emotions during this hour. Loved how the defiance and stoicism that Nicki conveyed upon hearing Barb's news that Ray Henry was leaving town quickly gave way to hurt and devastation and panic after Barb left. And Nicki's lost teenager daze on her bed after she and Ray Henry met. But Sevigny really clinched it in the end, when Nicki, who now knows what it’s like to be madly in love with someone, shed tears not so much for Sarah and Scott’s union but in mourning for her own misspent life.

What did you think? Would Bill be better off running for Prophet of Juniper Creek than state Senate? What precious thing of Wanda’s do you think J.J. has? Where do they get these last-minute ministers to officiate the ceremonies? How excited are you to see Sissy Spacek next week?

— Allyssa Lee

Related:

More to ‘Big Love’: Q&A with Star Bill Paxton

‘Big Love’: New beginnings

Complete “Big Love” coverage on Show Tracker

Photo: Lacey Terrell. Photo credit: HBO.

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