03/28/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Big Love Wife Watch!: Season Four, Ep. 3

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.

Before we examine "Strange Bedfellows," I want to praise National Geographic magazine's current cover story on polygamy in America. Written by Scott Anderson and photographed by Stephanie Sinclair, it chronicles life on an FLDS compound with an admirable sense of balance. You understand why some people feel drawn to FLDS -- why some people, in fact, will never give it up -- and you understand why some people feel it has ruined them.

That balance dovetails with one of Big Love's major themes -- trying to see the complexity of a different world.

"Strange Bedfellows" pushes that notion to new places. Every plotline asks polygamous characters to understand the traditions and rituals of a different culture. It's a nice inversion: We constantly see outsiders trying to make sense of the Henricksons or of Juniper Creek, but this week, the plyggers are the outsiders. They have to offer the same understanding that they constantly ask the world to give them.

Not everyone succeeds, of course, but Barb sure does try. She's the outsider trying to make sense of the Native Americans at the casino, and her good intentions keep screwing her up. When she hits young Leila with her car and atones by offering her a job? That's totally the right thing to do in her culture. It just isn't appropriate on the reservation. I give Barb credit, though, for acknowledging her ignorance by the end of the episode, which will likely help her relationship with her casino colleagues. This could be Barb's way back to stability.

Meanwhile, it seems like Sarah could head off the deep end. She tosses last week's First Wife crown right out the window by taking Leila home with her in a misguided act of charity. What is she going to do with a meth-dealing, drug-addicted, outcast-by-her-people teenager who has a baby and a broken leg? Didn't Sarah see Frozen River? Didn't she notice that Misty Upham, who plays Leila, played essentially the same character in that movie? Things didn't go well in that story, did they, Sarah? I worry for you.

I'm worried for Margene, too, though I certainly get a soap opera thrill out of watching things blow up in her face. You can feel something coming when people keep saying they can't come to the TV studio for her first appearance on Home Shopping Primetime. You can feel her desperation rising when even Jodean backs out, and you can sense the sexual tension when Ben pushes a belligerent J.J. out of Margene's house. When Margene asks Ben to stay with her, lest J.J. return to look for Cara Lynn, she's a little to quick to insist that he sleep on the couch.

And then? And then?!?! When Ben shows up for her TV appearance... boom! On the mouth, baby! And then the Home Shopping lady puts the camera on Ben and says he must be Margene's husband! And Barb is watching at home! AAAH! Honestly, it's the kind of moment that can only be enjoyed while wearing flannel pajamas and bunny slippers and calling all your gal pals to squeal in disbelief. And now I want to know... what does this mean for the future? I really hope Margene keeps her business, but I doubt it. For now, she's a tragic example of an outsider entering the media culture and not being slick enough to handle it. Oh, and she's also a mom who is making out with her non-biological son. So I guess she's Phaedra.

Meanwhile, do you think Alby is slick enough to handle this secret gay affair/backroom deal to control Juniper Creek and the satellite compound in Kansas? I think maybe he is. I think he can become an insider in the world of dirty politics without breaking a sweat. It breaks my heart, however, to see Ray and Alby struggle so hard against the feelings they have for each other.

But enough Utah: Welcome to our nation's capitol! Bill, Nikki, and Cara Lynn sure don't fit in, and it's nice to see Sissy Spacek put Bill in his place when he assumes she's a secretary and not a high-powered attorney who can get him connected to a Utah Congressman. (As a sidebar, I love it when Bill gets flustered and says something like "Gal-durn," and then apologizes for his mouth to a lady in Spacek's lobby.)

Still, it would be nice to see Bill humbled for more than sixty seconds. Instead, the episode gives him what he wants. Thanks to Nikki's sweet-talking and his own persistence, he essentially gets the Congressional endorsement and gets to continue his political dreams. Welcome to seven more weeks of Bill's unending arrogance.

To take my mind off that, I'll focus on Nikki and her gun. As some of you noted, Roman gave it to her several seasons ago and we haven't heard of it since, so it's great to see it return in such an over-the-top way. The fact that she thinks to pack heat before touring the godless White House? Amazing.

But I give Nikki credit. Fighting for her daughter's future, navigating the scary world of D.C., getting close to rekindling her sex life, and saying the magic words that get Sissy Spacek to support Bill's political career... that's quite a week. It's the kind of week that will give Nikki some serious bargaining power, and it's the kind of week that makes her our First Wife.

For more, please join me at The Critical Condition