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Big Love Wife Watch!: Season Four, Ep. 4

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Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead

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

I mean it as a compliment when I say that watching Big Love always makes me feel kind of sick. Like, I get so tense every week with all the drama and the fighting and the secret loving that I wonder if I should take an aspirin. Of course, that's what I tune in for, and the latest installment, "The Mighty and the Strong," certainly keeps me in chest pain.

She clearly can't be first wife, but Margene is a heart-piercer this week. Ginnifer Goodwin should submit this episode for Emmy consideration because she's devastating as Margene slowly confronts her true feelings for Ben and reveals them to Bill. Her near-comatose response when Ben lies and says that he kissed her communicates the shock and shame you'd have to feel in a situation like that, and her helpless grief as she confesses her feelings to Bill is remarkably present. Goodwin doesn't make Margene seem like she's trying to worm her way out of the problem or figure out what she's going to do next: Instead, she just sits there in that elephant costume, consumed by and helpless in front of an overwhelming situation. (Bonus points to the writers for putting her in that costume in the first place. The absurdity only deepens the poignancy, because when does life ever have the decency to let terrible moments happen at an appropriate time?)

Add this arc to Margene's on-air confession about why she's trying to make a career out of "selling shiny things" -- a move that will probably boost her sales -- and you get a tour de force performance and storytelling that makes me care about a character in a new way.

Which reminds me! This episode also makes me loathe a character in a new way. Namely Bill... who goes all John Edwards-Andrew Young when he asks Don to take the hit and declare himself as the only polygamist working at HomePlus. How could Bill ask his friend to ruin his life just so Bill can go play politician for a while? It's noxiously self-serving.

But then again, I might not feel that way if I bought any of Bill's personal justifications for his behavior. If I agreed that God wanted him to run for office or own a casino or have three wives, then my entire take on this show would be different. And don't get me wrong ... I don't think Bill is evil or anything. He means well and is fairly loving, but he's blind to himself.

And since Bill has so much influence over the shape of the series -- his choices influence the structure of the plot more than anyone else's -- I find myself especially sensitive to his actions. I wish he would spend as much time as I do considering how his decisions hurt other people. (But I also appreciate that the show gives me a protagonist I don't have to love. A complicated hero is much better than a bland saint.)

How do you feel about Bill? Do you think he's doing the right thing with his political quest? With the casino? With his life in general?

Nicki seems to think he is, and though she doesn't have a lot going on this week, I'm interested to see what will happen now that's she a mole inside the office of Bill's biggest political competitor. (Of course, since Nicki was a double agent last season during her father's trial, this is not the most original plot development.)

Barb pushes herself out of the running for first wife (again!) because the whole Sarah-stole-a-baby thing kind of blows up in her face, but I still think she's going to hit her stride at the casino. As for Sarah, I'm glad she and Scott are going to deal with the miscarriage, and I love the scene where Scott stands up for her in front of Bill and Barb. Way to get your wife's back!

Lois makes a strong play for first wife by shaming Frank into attending Bill's official "I'm running for office" party and then introducing Bill to his constituents. But Jodeen steals her thunder when she frees all those birds. Will this plotline ever connect to the rest of the show? Who knows? At least it's funny.

Meanwhile, there's J.J.'s developing evil. He's clearly up to something, asking for Adaleen to be his wife and holding Roman's murder over Joey and Wanda.

But while J.J. is just getting started, Alby is really kicking things into gear. First, he screws over his mother by assigning her to J.J., then he follows his lovesick heart all the way to Dale's house, where he both has a romantic evening and advances his plot to keep control of Juniper Creek. How long can Alby and Dale separate their toally sweet romance from their totally illegal backroom dealings? Is it possible that they'll end up as a happy couple? Will the political inevitably consume the personal?

This week, it doesn't matter. This week, Alby is having his cake and eating it, too ... so even though he's a man, Alby is first wife.

Finally, as we head to next week, let's take a moment to remember Jolean "Original Teeny" Wejbe. Apparently, she was recast because she got too tall to convincingly play a young character. Them's the breaks in show business, but still... I feel for the kid. This one's for you, Original Teeny. This one's for you.

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