03/10/2009 01:11 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Big Love Wife Watch!: Round Eight (Spoilers!)

Welcome to Wife Watch!, the only blog post that ranks the most powerful wives on this week's episode of Big Love.

Before I get to this week's installment ("Rough Edges"), let me tell you that last night, I dreamed that my friend Kerri and I were being chased through Brooklyn by the angry ghost of Ben Henrickson. And I don't mean Douglas Smith, the actor who plays Ben. I mean the character himself was after us, and it was terrifying. Does this mean Ben is going to die? If he does, then look for me behind a crystal ball at a boardwalk flea market near you, because I clearly have the Gift.

Anyway, my unsettling dream echoes what went down in this episode. Just like "Come, Ye Saints," which was more about redemption than power, "Rough Edges" has forced me to change the rules of Wife Watch! once again. This week, the show centered less on the fight for control than on families blowing apart. Everywhere you looked, there was fallout, so this week's First Wife is the woman who shoveled the most warheads on the fire.

Weirdly, that means the winner isn't Lois. My girl usually stirs up all kinds of trouble, but this week, she was a healer. While she and Wanda were preparing Kathy's body, she matter-of-factly assured Wanda that she wasn't a monster for having wished Kathy ill while she was alive. And then at the funeral, when everything was going to hell, what with Joey accusing Roman of murder and all, it was Lois who stood up, made a beautiful speech that honored both Kathy and her own dead daughter, and reminded us all what that coffin up there was about.

Meanwhile, somewhere between bridge building and bridge burning, we've got Barb. In the comments section of last week's Wife Watch!, llisa made the excellent point that this whole thing about the letter Ted stole has been an engine for Barb to fully embrace the polygamous life she once doubted. I like how she transitioned gradually, rather than having a tidy "revelation scene" where everything was suddenly different. That's much more honest.

And because she never hosted an "I Love Polygamy" parade, it's still a surprising to see Barb fighting her sister so fiercely.Surprising, but great.

While she was dissing her birth family, Barb also maintained the rift with Nicky by staying so angry at her. However, she gave Sarah some sound advice about how doing nice things for other people is a great way to get over your own sadness. Generous moments like that remind you why Teeny nominated her for Mother of the Year.

In other news, it's interesting that while Nicky gets the showy bits of dysfunction, Margene is quietly backing out of the house as well. She's launching a jewelry business with a woman the family barely knows. She's pawning off childcare as much as possible. And let's not forget that she forced the issue with Nicky and the D.A.. She's the one who told him that she was the real Margene, thereby facilitating the episode's major blowout.

She's quiet about it, but Margene is a volatile force in this world. And her lack of true Mormon faith makes her especially dangerous. What if she finds the same acceptance the Henricksons give her with other people? How long can any of us force ourselves to parrot beliefs that we're not sure we possess? Her character represents that troubling question.

Of course, that question can be overshadowed by the ever-glorious Nicky, who has become one of my favorite television characters of all time. She's easily top five, along with Lisa Simpson, Lenny Briscoe, Angela Chase, and Snarf. But that's another post.

What I love about Nicky is that she exists in contradictory worlds. She yearns for romantic love, but she fears it. She wants to be sisters with Wanda, Margene, and Barb, but she's also compelled to berate them. She hates Juniper Creek, but she doesn't want to be ejected from it.

That means Nicky embodies one of the series' driving forces. Just like her, it wrestles with competing desires to honor and escape the past, and just like with her, the consequences are often messy.

Speaking of messy... hoo, lordy. Nicky's around for all sorts of trauma this week. With her secrets about spying and philandering both revealed, her father and her marital family condemn her, leaving her to trudge pitifully to Albee's door. And then there's the appearance of J.J., the first husband we only learned existed a few episodes ago. Turns out he's Wanda's brother, and he brings the memory of another broken family from Nicky's past. (Also, he's played by Zeljko Ivanek, who already has appeared this season on Heroes, Damages, True Blood, and The Mentalist. Look for him as "Andy Rooney" on 60 Minutes!)

But you know, for all the wreckage in her wake, I can't quite name Nicky this week's First Wife. The more I think about it, the more I think about Margene's role in pushing things to a head. Nicky may be a rock, but this week, Margie was the sling shot.

And so Margene retains her crown for the second week in a row. That's a Wife Watch! first. Do you think she can ride it out for the rest of the season?

For more, please join me at The Critical Condition.