Love and Politics
Big Love Season 4, Episode 3: Strange Bedfellows
What a packed episode! Alby starts a potentially blackmailing, potential soul-making relationship with Dale, complete with breakfast in bed and a brewing business deal. Barbara steps on more than just toes on the reservation, bringing a frustrating level of cultural insensitivity to her sensitivity training with the casino employees. Nicki’s near arrest for carrying a concealed weapon gets in the way of the sex reunion she and Bill have planned for DC. Sarah takes home an Indian meth addict and her baby. Bill secures the near-endorsement of his state senator, and Margene kisses Ben (and not the way a mother kisses a son) right before her prime-time TV appearance, during which Ben is identified to the whole world as her husband.
Let’s start with this last little “what the what?!” moment. I love Margene. I love her impulsiveness, her struggle (which is often not really much of a struggle) to discipline her instincts to her will, her warm heart and eternal optimism. On one level, I totally get why she did it: Ben was there for her when no one else was. She felt a surge of love for him and translated that love into a tender physical expression (very Margie). She also knew it was something he really wanted, and in her impulsive, generous way she loves to give people what they want, especially as a gesture of thanks. The consequences of this impulse should keep us occupied for a good while. I’m less worried about the kiss itself (Margene is just as likely to rationalize it away and/or confess it to the whole family and move on as anything else). It is that damn television coverage. When Bill made his big speech at the end of the last episode about how they absolutely, positively couldn’t be exposed in the next six weeks, the clock started ticking toward one or several PR disasters. Ben and Margene being linked as husband and wife on prime-time television sped up that clock, as did Bill announcing that Nicki was his wife when he tried to get her out of policy custody, and Joey and Wanda exhuming Roman Grant’s body. Alby’s cell phone photos aren’t the only thing that promise to reappear and make trouble.
My next favorite moment of the episode was Bill’s triumphant gaze over DC as the sun began to set. Having just landed an almost-endorsement from the senator he thought he would never meet, his chest puffs out with pride, his eyes blaze in victory, and if it weren’t for the DC insiders swirling around him, I am sure he would have started thanking Heavenly Father right then and there on bended knee. Of course, we know that the providence he feels has so graced his actions and affirmed his path is not the work of an omniscient God as much as a fast-talking Nicki in the ladies room with Sissy Spacek. This scene was a magnificent illustration of the way the show does not demean Bill’s faith, while also suggesting that the complex web of human actions and motives that are always somewhat mysterious to everyone else play a much bigger role in the sum of a life than any one character can see. Bill is so selfish sometimes (what is he thinking suggesting Nicki get pregnant?!), and so frustratingly self-righteous, there was something beautiful in knowing what was really going on as he offered his silent, victorious benediction.
Speaking of self-righteousness, Barb got on my last nerve this episode. At every turn she is saying the wrong thing and all the while assuming her own superiority. I took far too much pleasure in watching Dolores tell her off. That said, I am pretty intrigued by her relationship with the whole casino world, especially the attractive son. I’d love to see Barb really embrace her passion for bridging the differences between cultures…
As usual, the wife I wanted to watch the most was Nicki. We’ve seen a lot of Nicki’s bad side lately and I am sure there is more to come, but I really loved the speech she gives to Cara Lynn – wanting her not to be afraid of herself and of the world. It was one of the most self-reflective moments we’ve seen the entire series for Nicki, and a sign that she is more aware than she lets on of just how twisted up she is inside. We’ve watched the wives grow and regress in relationship to the patriarchal marriage they’ve chosen and while I have always appreciated that they’ve let us see the cost of the compound’s devastating treatment of women in Nicki, I keep rooting for her and I find her to be more interesting the more vexed and uncertain she is.
Final thoughts: Alby and Dale! And just plain Alby! Can anyone else make a simple gesture like breathing through the mouth seem so creepy, so alien, and so ominous? I am not sure what to make of the appearance of Roman Grant’s beligerant ghost – a la Six Feet Under or Dexter – but watching Alby’s face reassume the mask of fear and self-loathing we’ve come to see so often was absolutely chilling, and brilliant. And what about JJ? Did he really suggest that he performs his own biopsies on his wife? The thought of him anywhere near medical equipment calls into question the legitimacy of her whole illness to me. He totally terrifies me and he has so little screen time. I’m not entirely sure what his end game is with Joey and Wanda, but we can be pretty sure that this fingernail-less freak will give Roman and Alby a run for their money in the freaky nemesis department.
Looking forward to see how the mighty and strong rise and fall next week.
Posted by Kathryn.