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October 22, 2014

Big Love: Rock and a Hard Place

by Meredith O'Brien, posted Jul 3rd 2007 2:20PM

Wanda and Barb on Big Love

(S02E4) Imagine a giant, sticky spider web. No matter where you get stuck -- whether it's over in the upper-left-hand corner, or along the edges on the right -- you're still essentially, trapped in that same large web.

The many disparate storylines that flowed through the fresh episode of Big Love reminded me, for some reason, of a spider web, with the Henrickson family playing the role of the web. No matter what was happening, it all led back to the Henricksons and their three homes sitting in a tidy row.

Thinking of everything sticking to the Henricksons in one way or another helped me get through this very busy episode which was chock-full of stories that went all over the place.

In fact, I found the episode far too busy. I wanted to linger on a smaller number of characters' stories to understand their role in the larger picture. But viewers were taken by the collar and dragged around to watch multiple characters blackmail one another, disown them and call them liars.

For example, there was Barb, who was seriously underused in this episode. She was very passionate about the fact that would-be teen bride Rhonda Volmer should remain in the Henrickson households, that she not be handed back to the Juniper Creek cops. Barb (Why no mention of her schooling by the way?) immediately took a liking to the child advocate, April Blessing, a polygamist compound refugee herself who wanted to protect Rhonda from Roman Grant and his merry men. Why was Barb so invested in saving and literally embracing Rhonda? Was it on principal, because she despises the compound and, by extension, polygamy itself? Was it because Rhonda's an under-aged girl who's being forced into marriage with an old coot? These are questions whose answers I would've liked to have seen played out, or at least explored in more depth.

Sarah Henrickson's unfolding story is one of the more tragic ones in Big Love. Torn by her love for her parents -- who were married to only one another when Sarah was a young child -- she has grown to despise the polygamist lifestyle. She's ashamed of her family but doesn't want to tell her parents what she thinks for fear of hurting their feelings. A teenaged girl's perspective on the impact of plural marriage is intriguing, particularly given the fact that girls her own age who live in the Juniper Creek compound are being forced into marrying senior citizens. I would've liked to have seen some more time spent on her story as well.

Was there anyone in this episode, by the way, who was not blackmailing or being blackmailed, lying or failing to inform family members about a crucial piece of information? Perhaps it was by design that everyone was sucked into some kind of subterfuge, part of that Henrickson web. But it was a bit of overkill for my taste. Look at this sample list from this episode alone:

-- Bill didn't tell his family that he could potentially be arrested on charges of a criminal cover-up because Roman obtained a tape recording of Bill talking to Joey about Wanda's poisoning of Alby Grant.

-- Roman's wife Adaleen, Nicki's mother, hid that incriminating tape from her husband and later destroyed it.

-- Lois Henrickson tried to manipulate her wacky daughter-in-law into shooting the district attorney. (This led to the funniest moment of the show, when Wanda openly handed Bill a gun in the courthouse, telling him that Lois wanted the DA dead.)

-- Roman, Rhonda and Margie were blackmailing and/or threatening Nicki, for whom, for the very first time, I felt compassion.

-- Nicki kept secret from her sister-wives, particularly Barb, until the very end of the episode that her father was the one who exposed the family during the Mother of the Year contest.

-- Alby issued veiled threats to his niece Sarah after he saw her kissing a boy in the parking lot of the restaurant where she works. (Why was he following Sarah?)

-- Bill has yet to tell his family, including the super-conservative Nicki, that he's about to enter into the electronic gambling business.

It would've been cool to see gambling used as a larger metaphor. Every choice that the characters made was a gamble. Each of those decisions could blow up in the character's face, only we'll have to keep watching to see whether these choices have negative consequences for Bill, Barb & Co.

Did you feel badly for Nicki this week?
Yes, she was crushed when her mother disowned her.52 (70.3%)
No, she's irritating.14 (18.9%)
I felt indifferent to her plight.8 (10.8%)

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15 Comments

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Gordy

I really liked the fast pace, however, I do wish they would have lingered on Barb a bit after she found out who betrayed her. Instead, the drama was absorbed by Nicki, the drama queen. God I hate that chick.

July 09 2007 at 11:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John

I'm getting a very serious 'Cape Fear' vibe from Alby and have this vague feeling that he's going to kill someone this year.

July 09 2007 at 12:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
margaret

i think albie has drsigns on sarah like marriage. bill seems to be digging a big hole for himself. needs to watch out there. i think nikki has shown that she is not the ice lady that she seems to show sometimes. barb may not like being in sister wife situation but she agreed to it. the more i watch this show the more i am caught up in thier lives.

July 08 2007 at 3:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rick

This was a great episode and I think needed to be this choatic to convey that this time in everyone's lives is chaotic. Me and the mrs discuss the plural wife thing during every episode and one of the things that we hate is the fact that although you have built in babysitters there really is never any calm time alone with just each sub family and this episode did that better then ever as I think each person in the marriage is trying to control there own situation to try ad maintain a happy family.

July 05 2007 at 9:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Music

As far as the neighbor being upset with Margie about the baby, Pam can not have children. Her comment was along the lines of "You are having a baby for a stranger". It hit me then, she was upset because Margie should know how much they wanted a child and were unable to. Just a thought.

BTW - I thought this was a great episode. The music at the end with Rhonda walking off, Tiny Dancer, just wow.

July 04 2007 at 4:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Zandra

I do not think Margene is jealous of Ben's relationship -- I think she was jealous that Brynn is still the young, single and carefree girl that she can no longer really be. Our Little Margie sure has come a long way in the past few episodes! I really want to know where Rhonda was heading AND how she got back to the house in the first place? Did I miss something? Was Barb the placement family?

July 03 2007 at 10:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
KenMo

I am liking this show more and more.
I fear that HBO will yank it off the air at any moment now.
It is the pattern

July 03 2007 at 9:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Borat

This show really come into its own.

Alby going after Sarah was definitely creepy...and the way he touched her hair...*shudder*. That guy makes Roman Grant look normal.

July 03 2007 at 4:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jeff N.

I thought this was one of the best episodes of Big Love since the series started. I liked that so much was going on. So many TV shows just drag on with little happening. This episode was just juicy with information and surprises. I look forward to the next episode. Big Love seems to really be coming into it's own.

July 03 2007 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bhags

The scene where Bill is talking to Adaleen and you can tell she is trying to decide what to do with the tape was perfectly done. Very suspenseful. It also says something about Adaleen's character that just after disowning Nikki she still does the one thing that will protect Nikki and her family. Very good episode.

July 03 2007 at 3:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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