'Big Love' recap: Re-sealed with a twist
A lot of this episode, called “Til Death Do Us Part,” was about choosing sides, perhaps drawing battle lines as the series creeps to a close. After waking up in Rhonda’s bed, Ben enacted the 3-foot rule with his baby-food-eating paramour, keeping their relationship strictly as friends. Heather chose Ben over Mr. BYU. Lois and Frank resolved to be with each other until the bitter end. Margie went to Michael Sainte to be assured she was on the right team. Bill proposed he and his wives get resealed.
The big event this hour, of course, was Nicki’s marriage to Bill. The ink has dried on Bill and Barb’s quickie divorce, which gave Nicki and Bill the green light to go to the altar to get hitched. Nicki, seizing upon her chance to be front and center with the gusto of a bride-to-be at a Vera Wang sample sale, took every last satiny inch that she could get. How about a dress? While we’re at it, a small reception? Barb may have thrown up in her mouth a little upon hearing the latter, but she generously swallowed her bile, put away her gun and allowed the Hummers and those dusty pickups to gum up the cul-de-sac for Nicki’s special day.
And it was special. For all her thorniness, it was nice to see how much Nicki cherished this momentous event. Loved seeing her beam as she tried on the wedding dress for Margie (“Isn't Mama Nicki beautiful?” Margie cooed, in a pure, sweet moment of affection between sister wives). And the way Nicki thanked Barb for letting her have this day came out with utter sincerity, and it became apparent how much this moment meant to the second-turned-first wife. Yes, Nicki is prickly and manipulative. But she became that way from all those years under the thumb of her father and the compound. So she got to see a dream come true; how could one not root for that? (Yay to Chloë Sevigny for expressing the Nickiensian gamut of emotions, from bridezilla to blushing beauty, so effectively.) To be fair, Nicki allowed Barb to officiate the wedding and conceded to the wives’ resealing on the same day (even though, in true Nicki fashion, it was on the condition that “the only name going on that cake is mine”).
Margie went back and forth between her two big daddies, Bill and Michael Sainte. Bill told Margie that Sainte was not really a saint. Why he chose to chop down the pyramid scheme now seemed a little odd (as a businessman, you’d think Bill would have warned Margie about the pitfalls of multi-level marketing when she brought in all those boxes of Goji Blast all those weeks ago), though it effectively deflated the third wife, and sent her straight into the offices of her other father figure/savior/lust object Michael Sainte. Of course, Sainte assured what she was doing was for a good cause. Whether or not Margie took those words at face value remains to be seen, but one can see how this bleeding heart could be swayed after looking at all those needy, backlit kids lining the Goji Blast office halls -- and after she had her ego bolstered with assurances that she’s someone who “gets it” and is playing for the right team.
Though those good feelings will no doubt expire once the Feds expose her underage marriage (oh, Heather. After years of keeping Henrickson secrets, you had to spill the beans to the salivating Bishop?). In hindsight, maybe Margie’s on-air bluster about being so young and inexperienced at the pro-polygamy children’s rally, and lashing out at an angry, vulnerable Carl in front of his wife and a roomful of women weren’t such good ideas, after all.
Alby made a gutsy power play to take Bill down, using UEB funds to buy out one of Home Plus’ properties and raising their rent 25%. Don suggested they cut their losses and shutter the store, but Bill refused to back down (Home Plus is us!), convinced he could sway the UEB into overriding Alby’s decision. But oops, Bill’s already burned bridges with the Brotherhood: The trustees on the board were hopping mad that a bunch of their wives took off to the shelters at the behest of Barb and the Safety Net provision. There will be no currying of favors at this table.
The Juniper Creek leader’s subjugation of Verlan also continued, as Alby enticed the dim bulb with questions about what he wants out of life, and then twisted his arm and goaded him into a slow striptease with another $50 bill. “You like this, don’t you?” “I do.” I wonder how Alby will use Verlan for his endgame.
The road to statutory rapeville continued between Cara Lynn and Mr. Ivey, and their affair remained as awkward as newborn giraffes on ice. Seeing Cara Lynn with her hair down, smelling cologne that’s probably older than she is made me yearn for the days when the most illicit teenage relationship on the show was between Sarah and Scott. And the double date with their mothers to a performance of Les Misérables (only because Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s “The Book of Mormon: God’s Favorite Musical” had not made it out to SLC yet) made for the most unlikely and uncomfortable parent-teacher conference ever. Good thing Margie saw Cara Lynn and Greg get too close for comfort during the wedding reception. The sooner this all comes out, the better, and I’ll be happy to see this all unravel and mama Nicki blow her newly married top. Her daughter fell into the same trap that she tried fervently to protect her from AND Mr. Ivey wasn’t making eyes at her this whole time? It’s like insult to injury.
There were some nice moments of affection in this hour to remind us that we’re not just invested in the family for the toil and strife. Like when Adaleen — who shunned Nicki in favor of scrubbing out Alby’s office (part of his moral toil and purity campaign?), coldly telling her daughter that they were on two separate paths — came to the ceremony to walk her daughter down the aisle after all. Or Bill and Barb’s impromptu passion play at the foot of the stairs, which had whiffs of their tryst from a couple seasons back. Or when Barb, after being spit at by a raging Lois just moments before (“I’m glad my son divorced you!”) came back to sit with her at the hospital while Frank recovered from his chicken-fried broken hip. “I know this is a disappointment — so much of life is,” Barb said, not unkindly. “Like it or not, this is how we love you.”
It’s as if the show was trying to remind us that family trumps all. Barb still had faith the family would stick together — she said as much while officiating the ceremony. What I initially thought was Barb’s power play to play minister and preside over Nicki and Bill’s marriage turned out to be a poignant moment where Barb shared in the joy of their union (though it’s hard not to shake the ominous feeling that Barb was also giving up Bill to Nicki). She also reaffirmed the importance of family. “Family is everything,” Barb said. “It keeps us going through tough times, and I have faith that our family will keep going through anything. This family is ordained through God.”
For a second there, it all seemed to be going well. Barb was happily where she wanted to be, bustling in control in the middle of it all, and the cameras followed her overseeing the housekeeping details of the reception and making sure everyone had their fill. Only, while she was busily attending to the family’s earthly needs, she came upon Bill, with Nicki and Margie, attending to the family’s spiritual needs and resealing their marriage … without her. Barb was adamant that she didn’t want to get resealed in a church that didn’t make her feel welcome. But she looked terribly hurt and terribly alone after being left out of this ceremony, echoing the sad opening shot of her clipping coupons by herself while the others were at church. Will Barb's principles come at the expense of her family? Will this family that doesn’t pray together, stay together? My thoughts are a lot like Margie’s at this point: “Compromise on something, for crying out loud.”
The alienation Barb felt as the odd woman out was made literal when the feds came to the door, called her out of the home for questioning, and she slipped out without a word to any of the other family members.
As we enter into the series’ final stretch(!), I still worry about where this family will end up when all is said and done. Like some of you readers, I’ve fallen in love with the family as a family, but it doesn’t make sense that they would end up together happily ever after at this point. Bill’s no doubt going to be slammed for his underage marriage, perhaps convicted, his political career surely over. Will he stay and fight, or will he run for the hills? And will Barb continue to have a seat at the family table? Will Margie? In the end, will it be a fight between the Grants and the Henricksons, just like Don said?
What do you think? Some other thoughts: When did Margie become the mean girl, making digs at Nicki’s lack of a social life and friends? (Me like.) When was “Les Miz” a comedy about poor people? Why does Rhonda look so strung-out all the time? How many more $50 bills until Verlan makes it to $50K? What will happen between Ben and Heather once he finds out she was the one who blabbed? “No one wants to date a smelly flower.” “Whatcha watching?” “Africa.”
-- Allyssa Lee
Photo credits: Chloë Sevigny, Cassi Thomson and Ginnifer Goodwin: Harper Smith / HBO; Bill Paxton and Jeanne Tripplehorn: Isabella Vosmikova / HBO