B+

Big Love: "On Trial"

"And we want this one to marry us. Right now. Right away."

Oh, to be proposed to by a new-wave polygamist who wants to marry you as part of a feeble attempt to prove his first mother-in-law wrong. Can you feel the romance? Apart from the fact that Ana's an adult, and that she can say no (say no, Ana, please. Your relationship is dull and unrealistic), Bill's rushed, awkward, reactionary proposal could have just as easily taken place in Juniper Creek after thumbing through some Joy books: "We want this one to marry us. Right now. Right away."

As this season of Big Love progresses, and as the grotesque underpinnings of the polygamist system as a whole are exposed in no uncertain terms, Bill is easily becoming the least likable character on this show. Barb's mother Nancy was absolutely right when she told him, "You're a dabbler. A gadfly." Although she also could have added, "A selfish jerk who's expanding his family when he has no money for the family he has now, and also the worst kind of moral relativist."

Last week, after hearing that his own wife and his own sister both paid heavy prices because of men who claimed to be living "the principle," Bill had a tiny flicker of a crisis of conscience, asking Barb, "Am I a good man?" That, of course, was the wrong question. It should have been, "Is what we're doing good?" Bill could have all the good intentions in the world, but it still wouldn't make the plyg lifestyle—any kind of plyg lifestyle—anything less than bad. Bill's attempt to live the principle that he was taught in Juniper Creek righteously is futile. He is, as the DA said, "trying to keep clean while standing in a cesspool." Or, as Sarah put it, when she was fuming at Heather who was making excuses for the well-meaning zombie ex-gay couple, "Who isn't? Everybody is well-meaning."

This week, the well-meaning Bill, having finally realized that forcing young girls to marry much older men is wrong (it only took 30 years and a poolside depostition/revelation), tried to take a stand against Roman. But it was a weak, perfunctory stand. First he went to Rhonda to convince her to testify against Roman by telling the abandoned, abused teenager he'll like her more if she testifies. Nice. Then, instead of taking Rhonda into his home(s) and at least trying to give her some kind of support system, Bill just goes to the DAs office to make sure that they'll take care of Rhonda. Next, Bill tells the DA to subpoena Adaleen—but only after she threatens him. Then Bill tries to enlist oily Alby to turn against Roman by inviting him to the world's awkwardest dinner party, but then Bill for some reason calls Roman and essentially tips him off about Alby.

But in lining up these witnesses for the DA, Bill is ignoring the most valuable potential witness: Nicki.  Obviously, it wouldn't be an easy task to convince Nicki to testify against her own father, or even to talk to her about what her father did to her. Nicki's clearly built several walls, a moat, and then several more walls around that experience. But Bill doesn't even try to broach the subject with her in all those nights Margie and Barb gave up. Instead, they sit in silence several feet away from each other in her bedroom, they play a particularly contentious game of Go Fish, and, rather than talk to her, he asks her if she wants to have sex. How not good can one well-meaning man be?

Maybe if Bill had talked to his second wife, she wouldn't have been quite so vulnerable when Adaleen and Roman called her to the jail after she skipped 2 days of work, and she wouldn't have systematically undone all of his efforts to help the DA: passing along the address of the hotel where Rhonda was staying, and tipping off Adaleen so she could drive her trailer off into the sunset and avoid being questioned. But why worry about the wives you already have when a new one is on the horizon?

Ultimately, it wasn't Bill who helped turn Nicki from conflicted but dutiful daughter to conflicted but vengeful-especially-near-staircases daughter. It was her brother, Alby. When he told her outside the courtroom, "When did our parents ever care a thing for you? And yet you're still trying to please them. How can you let yourself be used by them?" that—and her father's release—was seemingly the push that she needed to push her father down the stairs. Afterall, who better than a sibling who grew up alongside you to testify about your shared childhood? Alby's testimony about Nicki was just between the two of them, but it seemed truthful. Jodene's testimony about Kathy was the exact opposite, and unfortunately it was the one that mattered.

Grade: B+
 

Stray Observations:

--In keeping with the siblings-are-the-ones-who-really-know-you theme: Ben's unconditional support of Sarah is  very sweet, even if his idea to give her baby to his parents is worse than the idea of giving it to a gay man who calls his sexuality "my SSA problem."

--Bill's wink and once over when he told her she didn't look like a prostitute = Reason #788 why Bill isn't a good man.

--Nancy tried to help Lois leave Frank? Why did she go back? So many revelations to come as the compound turns

--Margene's three stages of grief: 1. Show photos of the deceased to anyone who'll look 2. At least one, sweaty, Flashdance-esque dance trance to Scissor Sisters 3. Bleach hair platinum blonde as a tribute.

--"You've been right all along. I've been wrong. Maybe we can be friends some day." Even before playing the demo tape and asking the creepy trucker if he was married, Rhonda was  heartbreaking in this episode.

--"We did get three lovely paperweights for father to put on his secretaire." What? Also, FLDS followers go to Maui? Also also, how creepy is it that she's the wife Alby allegedly married for love?

--"You don't need 4. You've got 3. That's celestial. That's all you need, for now and for eternity. Unless you're going for a quorum!"

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