'Big Love' recap: Lying for the Lord
It was another jam-packed week as January finally arrived in Sandy, and Bill prepared to be sworn into office. This episode, called "The Oath," mixed hallowed words with primal actions in a button-pushing hour that touched on topics such as patriarchal church culture, revisionist history and women's rights.
Bill, just days away from officially taking office, was on the cusp of the biggest thing that's happened to polygamy in 100 years — the "lynch mob" rallying against him and accusations of the animalistic way he went after Margie and married her those years ago be damned.
Turned out everyone kind of knew Margie was underage, but they let Bill pursue her anyway. Back then, Bill's word was basically law and went unquestioned. Now, times have changed. Barb admitted she had a sneaking suspicion about Margie's real age, but admitted "at key moments of my life ... I've lacked the courage of my convictions." A newly emboldened, freaked-out Don savagely reminded Bill of how things really went down. He was going to pursue her anyway. "Didn’t matter that she was outside the faith," Don recalled as they made their way through the seedy casino. "You were obsessed with her, and it wasn't for her intellect. Just what was that about, Bill?"
Bill didn't want to say, but Nicki called it animal urges. Bill still insisted that he's not Roman Grant, even as he couldn't look his wives in the eye and urgently wanted to sweep this nuisance under the rug. Particularly on "the eve of our great triumph."
Though how great is that triumph, really, when you have to swindle, cheat and extort to get there? Bill had no qualms about doing any of that either. In fact, he insisted he was just carrying on what his church forebears have done: lie, and then revise history to acquit themselves. As Bill pointed out, the church has been doing that for years (and on Larry King's show, no less). "Our faith has been sustained on prevarication and lying," Bill told Sen. Barnes. "It's called lying for the Lord."
(It was interesting to see what a man's world the state Senate was, what with the intern who refused to give Barb the time of day, and the hilarious gun-stroking that went on in Barnes’ chambers. "What're you packing?" "Feels good.")
But does lying about Margie's age put the family in any better of a situation than when they were fudging the truth about their polygamy? In the words of Don, it would be "good night Irene" if word got out that Bill married someone underage. But "supposedly we weren’t supposed to lie about who we are anymore," Nicki reminded Bill. Is this also considered lying for the Lord?
Margie seems to be OK with that. Third wife seemed to shed any notion of unhappiness, now that she Got Juiced and found God within its confines. She's become the marriage's newest convert and was on fire for the faith that she found along with the multi-level marketing of Goji Blast, waking them up at 6 in the morning with manic energy, ready and willing to talk about forgiveness and moving on.
Margie had no problems about how young she was when she and Bill got married. And it was interesting how the show addressed whether 16-year-olds should be allowed to make big decisions, without giving any pat answers. Margie insisted that she was normal, and that she and Bill were in love, even as she said she just needed to get away and "be adopted" away from her mobile home existence. Margie, continuing on her religious kick, had reminded the family that Joseph Smith had 34 wives, four of whom were between the ages of 14 and 15. "But he coerced them," Margie insisted. "Bill never coerced me!"
Nicki, however, was irreparably damaged by her marriage at that age, and is trying to protect her daughter from that same fate. Second wife continued to bemoan herself as the victim, but the idea of being attached to a priesthood holder runs deeply within her, and she wants to save Cara Lynn from being a "spiritual orphan" and to be adopted officially by Bill. (Apparently, it's not enough that Nicki is her mother; she belongs to the Walker clan.) Cara Lynn is reluctant to shed her Walker side so quickly; she's still mourning the death of her father, and thus she turned to another male authority figure — her math teacher, Mr. Ivey — for solace. Turned out Mr. Ivey (who shares a first name with Cara Lynn's boy, Greg) has also lost a brother and seems to share the same affections for Cara Lynn as she does him (he even mentioned her to his parents). Giving her his home phone number, in case she ever wanted to talk, opened the door to another potentially predatory relationship that I could see Cara Lynn falling into.
Though Cara Lynn is not immune to how compound life affects women, as she was witness (albeit from the sheltered inside) to the heartbreaking scene that played out between Lois, Barb and Nicki in the backyard. The diagnosis has been confirmed that Lois does, in fact, have dementia. Only, it's not genetic: The condition was a byproduct of the herpes she had contracted from Frank. "She had no say in it whatsoever," Barb remarked on the greater sin. Lois stood out in the cold, resting her forehead against the confines of the fence, lacking any wherewithal to leave her situation. "It's all been such a waste," Lois said with tired resignation. "I'm filthy." Seeing Lois, now stripped of her flintiness and verve, helped inside by Nicki and Barb in silent solidarity and support, was as moving a scene as we’ve seen all season. Grace Zabriskie is a marvel.
Now, I've been a little confused by Barb as of late. First wife is still going full steam ahead with her plan to empower women, and it seems like she's found an ally in First Lady Evelyn (played by Cristine Rose), who was more than interested to hear Barb's evolved church plan ("We may not be Catholics, but we’re one-up on the Scientologists!"). But please, someone explain what she meant in that fierce line to Margie about the 16-year-old sleeping with her husband. Was she angry about the underage part, or the fact that her husband was with someone else? Later, Barb admitted that she welcomed Margie into the family because Bill's relationship with Nicki made her feel left out and Margie made things fun again. So, is Barb still mad? Ashamed? A little of both? Is this a case for polygamy? If it is, Barb made it clear that she can't abide in a plural marriage without some more equality between genders. All Barb saw were barriers, like the intern who refused to address her or look her in the eye. Her recourse was to get rid of the barriers, firing the intern and effectively becoming one herself.
On the other end of the spectrum, the new and improved Rhonda (Daveigh Chase) found her source of power from the man in her life. She claimed husband Verlan was her savior, someone who rescued her from a hard life of not waitressing. "I was in all sorts of trouble, but his love saved me," she told Ben and Heather proudly. "He brought the sunshine back into my life."
Rhonda's back! How odd was it to see our favorite teen miscreant draped across Verlan's arm, baby in tow? Cara Lynn got in touch with her exiled cousin (played by Kevin Rankin of "Friday Night Lights") as a link to her Walker past, but from the hungry, unhesitating way he took that $18 from her, it seems that he and wife Rhonda had more than just family reunions on their minds. And true to form, Rhonda is still the same conniving girl we last saw in Season 3, only with some exotic-dancing work experience under her belt. The way she tried to extort $50,000 from Alby for damages from Roman was pretty entertaining ("This is the most pathetic shakedown I can imagine," Alby said finally). Didn't she and Verlan resemble younger versions of Alby and Lura? The look that the two men gave each other was almost like gazing into the mirror. Verlan looked at Alby as a competitor to deal with, but -- was it me? -- did he also look strangely intrigued?
Ultimately, Bill was sworn into office as the family cheered him on. But despite the swell of music and the grandstanding of words ("All good Mormons believe that one day polygamy will come back. ... I guess I'm just showing up a little early"), the moment didn't feel like the triumph that it should have been. Particularly when the episode ended with Bill, thwarted from taking the easy way out of the building, choosing the dark path instead.
So despite this epic historical milestone, the road ahead does not look bright for the Henricksons. After Marge accidentally ran Bill over with her car, Bill had a dream in which he spoke to an elegant Emma Smith, one of Joseph Smith's wives, who served as a mouthpiece for revisionist history. "The liars and the sinner wrote those books. There were no girls. No underage girls, Bill," Emma staunchly insisted. (Another young girl with Emma's same exact outfit was surrounded by older men in the distance. Only, that young girl turned out to be Lois, carefree and all dolled up, perhaps a projection of how Bill wanted her to be. "Isn’t this the loveliest time?" she asked.)
"How many more miles?" Bill asked Emma.
"You be careful now."
What did you think? Is there any way that this can end happily? Is that really Rhonda's and Verlan’s baby? Why wasn't Teenie part of the family picture in Bill's desk? What’re you packing?
-- Allyssa Lee
Photo credits: Isabella Vosmikova / HBO