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Big Love Wife Watch!: Season 5, Ep. 6

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

(Spoilers Ahead!)

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Do you guys remember that old SNL commercial for Bad Idea Jeans? Many characters in tonight's segment, "D.I.V.O.R.C.E." could front their new ad campaign.

And for once on this show, most of the dunderheads are teenagers, not grown-ass men. First up, we've got Cara Lynn, who will be giving her mother a heart attack as soon as she discovers that her underage daughter is fooling around with Math Teacher Greg (who's not gay! I stand corrected!). Clearly, that's going to make a small demon climb out of her mouth and commence to shrieking. Nothing says "back to the  compound" like your math genius daughter taking the very math lessons that were supposed to get her somewhere and turning them into an excuse for fornication. And if Cara Lynn were just out to rebel against her mom, then I might give her props, but the show's suggesting that my girl wants this... or thinks she does. Her desperate need to belong is really screwing her up. (Notice how much desperation fuels this episode, by the way.)

I do think it's interesting, though, that the show chooses to tell us about Cara Lynn and Greg's first kiss instead of showing it to us. I'm curious to know the reasons for that call. Whatever they were, they certainly give the start of the affair an ambiguity that we the viewers are forced to judge for ourselves. Was Cara Lynn pushed into kissing Greg? Did she instigate it? Did they both decide simultaneously? By denying us the shock of the moment, the series allows us to make up our own minds. Or it refuses to take a stand, depending on your point of view. But there's enough complexity in this episode, what with Cara Lynn's new willingness to placate her mother ("I never thanked you for taking me off the compound.") and deceive Margene ("I was flirting with Gary. That's what you have to lie for me.") that the aftermath is satisfying enough.

(Sidebar: I just realized that Cara Lynn is totally Cousin Oliver or Little Olivia... the new kid who's brought in when the original kids leave the show. Without Sarah and Teeny, the show doesn't have an adolescent female presence, so Cara Lynn handily fills the void. Good on the series, though, for making her entrance feel so vital that it doesn't seem like a stunt.)

And speaking of not showing us things, it's odd that Rhonda leaves on her bra in the strip club. Is that how they do it in Utah? And how in God's name did she get a job stripping anyway, with all those bangs? And is it possible she really is just desperate for money and not the great schemer I thought she was?

But here's the big question: Is no one considering how dangerous it might be for Ben and Rhonda to make out in public? First of all, Ben, dude... she's troubled. Even when she's complimenting you, she's calling you a dork, and while you were making her that hamburger, didn't you notice she was on the phone with Verlan discussing their plan to extort Alby? I mean, you were right there.

Second, Verlan has demonstrated that he's so dedicated to his family that he's willing to kill to get them some money. What's going to happen when he finds out Ben is macking on his wife? Clearly, shacking up with Rhonda is Bad Idea Overalls.

But enough of that for now. Let's notice that while Greg and Cara Lynn's first kiss and Rhonda's boobies are hidden from us, the episode opens with Bill and Barb having passionate sex. It's an obvious moment---look! their flame ignites just as they're falling apart!---but as someone who has had unwise relations with an ex, I can't say it's a false moment. It's not false, either, for Bill and Nancy to join forces in their attempt to keep Barb from breaking away and joining Judith Ivey's lesbian Mormon riot squad. Nancy might be clinging to conservative ways while Bill might be trying to start a new church and society, but they're both convinced that Barb is going to implode without them. When people are desperate to help someone, they'll do anything. They'll unite with enemies, and they'll blind themselves to how fascist they seem as they try to control a woman's thoughts "for her own good."

Let me say again that I really hope Barb goes through with this journey. I hope she does divorce Bill, and I hope she continues refusing to attend his church. Something drastic has to change, or these problems will never resolve and we'll end the damn show where we started.

Whew! Now I'm worked up! I'd better laugh it off with Don Embry, who cracks me up with his "no one has ever tried to kill me before" shtick. When he and Bill play their game of Most Pitiful, laying out all the crap they've been through in the last few episodes, it feels like the writers are saying, "Yeah, we know. It's kind of ridiculous." Even if I'm the only one who sees it, I appreciate that moment of self-aware humor.

I also appreciate Lois' arc this episode. Naturally, I assumed she was going to kill Frank, but discovering that she palmed that knife so she could threaten him into killing her is even better. I love that Lois hasn't totally lost the vivacity that has always made her so interesting, and I love that her motivations are still surprising. This man is her life, dammit, and even though it's not a life she'd choose again, she doesn't want to leave it for a nursing home or an attic room in the third Henrickson house from the left. Good for her.

(Sidebar: In the middle of Lois and Frank's big beach scene, did anyone else's episode suddenly switch to Spanish? I'm not joking: the screen went black, and then a few seconds later, I saw Cara Lynn and Nicki fighting in dubbed Spanish.)

Good for Nicki, too, for trying to understand Cara Lynn's math homework. It really is going to kill me when she finds out about this Greg thing. I love Nicki for trying so hard and caring so much, even if she gets squinty and suspicious about the evil lurking inside "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

Along those lines, I appreciate the show for always finding some Official Reason for the three main wives to fight with each other. Barb and Nicki can start by saying the pre-nup is just about finances, but we all know they're fighting about who gets position in the family. And bless her heart, Nicki is just too forthright to handle these moments, because she inevitably comes right out and describes the insecurity that's gnawing at her. That always gives Barb and/or Margie the upper hand, because they are much better at manipulating situations and pretending they're still thinking about the checkbook and not who gets to have the most claim over Bill.

And speaking of Margene: Did you notice what a stealth pilot she is in this episode? While everyone else is fighting, she creates a last-minute rally for polygamous children, has a covert sex fantasy about Mr. Goji Berry, convinces him to fund said rally, and wins Bill's approval for giving his new church such a public platform. Even better, she does it all because of newfound conviction in her faith, which is restoring her faith in herself. This Margie would hate the Margie that ran Bill over a few weeks ago, and this Margie proves that you don't need a bullhorn to get results. This Margie is First Wife.