Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Big Love: "For Better Or For Worse"

Illustration for article titled Big Love: "For Better Or For Worse"

"My tips are MY tips. MINE. No communal pot. And I'm telling you right now: Ana needs her own house—On the block or off the block!"

Well, if we learned one thing from tonight's episode of Big Love, it's this: never come between a diner waitress and her tips. That rapidly escalating "No," "Technically yes" exchange between Ana and Bill, besides being one of the episode's funnier moments, was the turning point in their clipped, frantic 72-hour marriage. A drunken night of bowling with Nicki, a morning spent planting azaleas with Barb, and an afternoon of watching Margie and Nicki angrily uproot all the plants like a pair of crazed gophers (sister-gophers?) later, and Ana was asking Bill (et al) for a divorce. (How do you get a divorce in a modern polygamous marriage? Is it more than just asking? Do you have to say it to each sister-wife, or walk backwards around the pool where you were married, or have Ben pluck out  "Go Your Own Way" on the guitar for a backyard divorce ceremony?)

Still, while I don't doubt that we'll most likely see Ana again—even though it feels like this season's already had two season finales, we're only about halfway through, leaving plenty of time for an Ana reappearance cameo—she's gone for now, but not without leaving her mark on the Henrickson industrial marriage complex. Even though she showed flashes of personality, we didn't get to learn that much about Ana per se, as much as we got to learn about what Ana represented to her husband and wives. For Bill, she was confirmation that his feelings are right, that they are guided by some kind of divine hand—at least until she divorced him. The stunned, sad look on his face said it all, and just in case you missed it, he enunciated: "I thought it was meant to be." If Ana's departure succeeded in anything it was shaking the already quivering plate of jello that is Bill's faith in the principle. For Margie, Ana was a friend and playmate, but also a step-ladder: with Ana on her side and/or in her house, Margie could have a higher position in the family, or at least a voting bloc. For Nicki, as we saw at the bowling alley, Ana was someone she could be slightly more open around, or at least a new person who would believe her lies, but ultimately Ana's presence just stirred the always-simmering pot of jealousy at Nicki's core—especially with her relationship with Barb. And for Barb, poor lonely Boss Lady, Ana was a normalizer—a grown-up who had also chosen polygamy, therefore validating Barb's choice. Her giddy, giggly enthusiasm around Ana said it all, but just in case you missed it, after the azalea uprooting, she enunciated: "I want Ana for myself…Like choosing this life wasn't a mistake."

Who the Henricksons are post-Ana will definitely be more interesting than who they were in their short time with Ana—which isn't to say that their quickie man and wife and wife and wife and wife marriage wasn't fun to watch. If last week's episode was a dense, heavy, five course meal, this week's was decidedly lighter fare, most of it centering around the dizzingly intense domesticity of the Henrickson's triple-size backyard. But there were a few outside excursions. Nicki flirted—hard—with DA Henry, even drunk-dialing him after her bowling bonding with Ana (Never has the word "pleasure" sounded so dirty as when it's coming from someone wearing updated prairie garb). Never one to run out of in-laws, Bill is helping his LDS brother-in-law Ted connect with his Juniper Creek brother-in-law Alby, but only to get Ted to squash anti-gaming legislation, and to help win over a "fiscally moral" loan officer. And Frankie (the sex fiend) stood up to Frank and left Ben (curly) to go get his cast-away mother in Nicaragua.

Which leaves us with Sarah, who was chased by the spectre of Satan—as reflected in the eyes of the compound refugee Nuss—throughout the episode. In the car on the way to the compound, Sarah asks Nuss why she called her wicked, maybe half-expecting the girl to say that she can see that Sarah is pregnant. Instead, Nuss offers an explanation, "It's not your fault. The world is a wicked place. If you don't believe in Uncle Roman then how can you resist Satan's temptation?"  Sarah at first furrows her brow in pity and judgment, but that look soon melts away when Sarah is sitting with Heather on rocks in the desert in Juniper Creek, and she realizes that, as a pregnant teenager with four moms at home, she isn't so different from any of the compound dwellers. "I can't believe this is my life," she wails, and then starts to plan a quasi-sister-wife arrangement of her own with her baby and Heather at Arizona State—minus the husband. (Which, if Heather is still struggling with her own hidden SSA, could only turn out terribly.) Of course, there are other options, as Sarah's ditzy co-worker Donna reminds her, shouting about clinics from the other rocks. It's too early to tell what Sarah will do about her pregnancy—just as it's too early to tell whether or not the part where Nuss, the devout compound refugee, leads the lost Sarah out of the "satanic" desert was mere biblical reference, or foreshadowing.

Grade: B+

Stray Observations:

—"Her husband's making her have sex with the devil?! This movie should be banned." And thus another Kids-in-mind.com reviewer was born. There should be a scene every episode where Sarah forces Heather to watch horror movies. Next week: The Shining.


—Frank has a good point: where is Lois?

—"I can't believe she planted magenta azaleas when she knew Ana wanted white! Who does that?!" From the "casino bus hostess" in the beginning to the ripping out of the flowers at the end, Gennifer Goodwin was in top comic form tonight. Along with Lois, she's the most consistently funny part of the show.


—"Let's not forget where the alleged incident of which I know nothing about took place. Tap tap tap." Adaleen never lets the audience forget that she is the original Nicki.

—Fiscal morality? Ugh. That's gotta hurt.

—Someone in the comments last week mentioned Under The Banner Of Heaven. Frontline did a fascinating, thorough documentary last year called The Mormons, if you're looking for some more background on the church—including a chapter on the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the subject of the letter that Alby is brokering.  The best part: you can watch the whole thing online.