Welcome to Wife Watch!, the only blog post that ranks the most powerful wives on this week's episode of Big Love.
The latest installment, "The Greater Good," hinges on characters defending their personal lives, so this week's First Wife will be the one who takes the most decisive action on behalf of her convictions.
But before we get to that, can we talk about how funny this episode was? Like, how about when Margene and Barb are cleaning up after the family's oh-so-awkward dinner with J.J. and his cancer-stricken wife? There among the dirty plates, Barb frets about what it would be like to have cancer on a compound, and her main concern for the poor woman outside... is the fact that she has a terrible wig.
Meanwhile, Margene cannot get over the grody-grody-grossness of J.J.'s missing fingernails. Can. Not.
And sure... that's unsettling. And it's sweet of Barb to want to help a stranger get a wig. Mostly, though, those reactions are hilarious because they miss the point. At dinner, J.J. and Nikki fight over control of their daughter, while Bill and J.J. launch what's sure to be a mighty power struggle over the future of Juniper Creek. But what do Barb and Margene focus on? Beauty tips.
I love the show for that. No matter how crazy things are, there's always room for something absurd. Generally, too, the jokes are funny because they reveal something about a character. Like earlier in this episode when Margene proudly gives Barb and Nikki some of the profits from her cable shopping show. While Barb is sternly saying that she and Nikki can't possibly take the money, Nikki just slips the cash into her purse. Awesome. Maybe that money will go toward her credit card debt. (Side thought: Maybe Nikki sold Teeny to the circus to pay off her debts. Where else could that kid be?)
Anyway... back to wife watching. Though she gets some meaty scenes, especially when she communicates both grief and joy over Sarah's decisions, Barb is a peripheral character this week. Ditto with Wanda, though I'm intrigued to know what J.J. has on her and how it will affect Joey's secret murder of The Prophet. (Gosh... just writing that sentence makes me feel like I'm in a soap opera. I wish I were typing this recap in a crushed-velvet smoking jacket instead of an old grad school t-shirt and plaid pajama pants.)
Adaleen and Nikki, meanwhile, both make a strong play for the First Wife crown. I appreciate how the writing in this episode keeps insisting that outside approval is not necessary when defending your life choices... that inner conviction is all that matters. When she stares down her daughter, shaming her for saying she won't be attending Roman's funeral, Adaleen burns with that self-confidence. She also scores points for insisting that even if Nikki doesn't believe Roman was a true prophet -- scandal! -- she should come to honor him as her father.
It strikes me that Adaleen could have gone kabuki on Nikki for denying her father's holiness, but instead, she just tries another tactic. There's a parallel between this reaction and Barb's pained acceptance that Sarah will never be part of the new church. Does a mother's desire to see her children be themselves always trump her personal religious convictions? What do you think?
And let's not overlook Nikki's insistence that she doesn't think her father was a prophet after all. That's part of her episode-long arc of essentially admitting that she only married Bill because she wanted him to become Juniper Creek's prophet. That's a bold claim, but I can't quite make Nikki First Wife. I suspect she'll recant her assertion if she thinks it will make her more popular.
However, I'm not expecting a backslide from Margene, who sounds like she's this close to running off with the profits from her six figure business. I have to laugh when Cara Lynn wails to Nikki that the women in the Henrickson house shamelessly sass-talk Bill, because even I am shocked by how brazenly Margie has outed herself as a self-interested capitalist. How long before she threatens to leave the family?
Ooh! And speaking of wanting out of your identity... Could the weeks ahead produce a non-female winner of Wife Watch? Maybe... if Alby keeps pursuing his mounting desire to come out of the closet. It's totally ludicrous, of course, that his recent trick in the park is also the government agent who's going to handle Juniper Creek's funds, but it gives a delicious twist to the theme of minorities struggling for the right to control their destinies. Alby's sexuality is at odds with his desire to be Prophet, and his desire to be Prophet is at odds with the law. And now all those illicit desires are colliding! Where's my crushed-velvet smoking jacket?!?!
Does Alby have any hope of truly announcing himself? Considering his willingness to kiss his secret lover in public, it could happen.
I'll admit, too, that Bill almost picked up the Wife Watch! crown this week because like Alby, he is hurtling toward full disclosure. If he really does win a Senate seat and reveal himself as a polygamist, then I will tip my hat to him, even if I think his "call from God" to run for office is really just typical human ambition.
And besides... Bill tugs at the ole heartstrings when he puts aside his quest for political power long enough to support Sarah's decision to marry Scott. She says her choice to get married outside the Mormon faith -- outside of any faith -- is partially based on Bill's decision to live his life the way he needed to, and Bill correctly takes the compliment. Even better, he lets Sarah's strength inspire his own decision to live an honest life (or at least consider it.)
It's Sarah, though, who moves me the most. Her decision to get married is brave enough, and her declarations about what she wants to Heather, Ben, and her mother are even braver. She steps into marriage with as much clarity as she can muster and with full honesty, too. Happily, that decision results in the respect and continued love of her friends and family. It proves that announcing yourself is the best way to attain real happiness.
By becoming a wife, Sarah becomes the First Wife, too.
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