"Mr. Margene Heffman, everybody!" (You may know him as Greg Brady, or possibly Ben Henrickson.)
One of the great things about a big, rangy, thick-with-drama show like Big Love is the way that it can sow the seeds of a plotline, then leave that plotline to grow on its own, checking in periodically to see how it's doing until, one episode, we check back in and the plotline is in full, glorious bloom. Alby's secret gay life is one of these plotlines. We've known about Alby's gay leanings since Season One. We've watched him tryst in motel rooms and gas stations. We've seen Adaleen shake her head in disgust and disbelief at her son's proclivities, and also use her knowledge of them to her advantage. But Alby's secret love for "fooling around" (as he calls it) has never been front and center in the drama. Until now. Alby is in his first gay relationship—although he definitely wouldn't call it that—and it is completely engrossing to watch it all unfold.
Sure, it's a pretty fucked-up relationship. Two incredibly repressed, married, self-hating gay men magnetically drawn to one another out of a combination of intense lust and recklessness. Also, as Dale pointed out, having sex with the guy in charge of the polygamist compound you've been appointed to essentially audit isn't the most ethical choice a person could make. And then there's the whole issue of what Alby intends to get out of the relationship—I'm sure he didn't snap that picture of he and Dale in bed together just for the fond memories. Still, for now, Alby and Dale are in something resembling infatuation. It's not love, but no matter the ulterior motives that may lie beneath the surface, there are real feelings there—mostly longing ("I can still taste you on my lips."), but also commiseration. When Alby told Dale, "I feel like I'm trapped behind a wall and I wanna break it to get to the other side, where all the people are," and Dale admitted that he felt the same way, that moment was kind of touching—Even if they end up blackmailing each other further and further into their respective closets.
Of course, the ballad of Alby & Dale wasn't the only long-simmering plotline that finally came to boil on tonight's episode. My favorite Big Love plotline, the sexual tension between Ben and Margene, did as well. After years of flirting with then pining for Margie, after seeing her naked and having "a moment" that she denied on the road trip, Ben finally got a supremely awkward kiss from Margie when he showed up to her HSN primetime performance. Of course, the awkwardness was only compounded when he was introduced, live on the air as Margene's husband. Naturally, Barb (and the new, improved Teeny) were watching, which means that hopefully the relationship between Ben and Margene will be explored a little more. Will Ben have to pretend to be Margene's husband to keep her in good stead with the HSN crowd? Only 6 more weeks of pretending, then everything's all out in the open, right, Bill?
Elsewhere in the episode, there were strange pairings all around: Barb forged a bond with Tommy (speaking of sexual tension), but not because of her hilarious sensitivity training seminar. No, it took hitting a Blackfoot woman with her car for Barb and Tommy to start communicating. Sarah, too, "bridged a gap between the two worlds" of the mormons and the Blackfoot people when she took in Layla—the woman who Barb hit with the car and, according to Tommy, a meth head—and didn't tell her mother about it. That can probably only turn out well. And then there was Bill, who, through sheer stubborness, smugness, and a little uncredited help from Nicki, managed to make an ally out of Sissy Spacek's lobbyist character, Marilyn.
But the pairing to watch in Washington wasn't Bill and Marilyn, or even Bill and Nicki (although their romantic, "No bottoms?" interlude was highly amusing), it was Nicki and Cara Lynn. Poor, poor Cara Lynn. She wants to travel, but at the same time she misses the open Kansas sky. She wants to be free and unafraid of the outside world, yet she's reluctant to undo her braid and try and fit into it. When she sat on the edge of her hotel bed, looking at the caricature of her it was so profoundly sad. Never has a caricature been used to such melancholic effect. And, of course, poor, poor Nicki. She doesn't want Cara Lynn to turn out like her, but the girl is already so much like her mother—smart, an adept liar, and volleyed between two worlds. But Cara Lynn still has a chance for escape. Nicki wants her daughter to have more choices than she did, and when we see Bill lounging on the bed in front of Nicki, saying that he might want another child with her, it's really easy to see why.
--So, Washington DC is the only place where Nicki and Bill are free to be a couple in public? You mean the same city where Bill is meeting with Utah congressmen and lobbyists? That makes sense.
--"JJ just home invaded us!" Quick, call Broadview Security, Margie!
--Speaking of JJ, his unfortunate, sick wife is a source of neverending amusement. Her wig makes her look like an extra in Annie. Also, "Let's get you home...do another biopsy?" Sounds, uh, fun, JJ.
--"Where's Bill? I want to talk to a man!" JJ continues to be super creepy.
--"See, Mormons are really self-reliant people. That's probably what she meant when she called you a welfare cheat." Barb should teach all sensitivity seminars.
--Also this is when you know the sensitivity message is really getting through to your employees: "No! Fuck you, white bitch. Your religion's a cult and you're a bunch of hypocrites anyway."
--At the fundraiser, Bill couldn't get past the front door. Nicki, obviously, had no trouble. She just picked up a nametag and, boom, fundraiser crashed.
--What do we think of the new Teeny? Nice to see she's sticking with the pigtails.