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October 9, 2015

'Big Love' Season 5, Episode 3 Recap

by Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously), posted Jan 31st 2011 6:15AM
['Big Love' - 'Certain Poor Shepherds']

I don't think many of us understand how devastating and sacrilegious it is for a Mormon to break up a marriage. We're having enough trouble understanding how the whole polygamist sex schedule might work. So imagine the the worst possible thing that could happen to your family and double that, because that's what Bill Henrickson is on the precipice of.

His first wife is questioning the very faith that brought them together, his third wife is having an identity crisis, and, to make matters worse, his second wife would love nothing more than to be the only one left standing. And here I thought relationships were difficult when you don't like the same kinds of movies.

For a show that usually promises insanity at every turn, this week's 'Big Love' kept the crazy to a minimum, and when you set the kooky bar so high it's easy to lull your audience into a sense of complacency. Like when 'The Sopranos' would do an episode without whacking anybody, purists everywhere would turn their televisions off in disgust, regardless of how good the episode might have been. Same with 'Big Love.' As soon as the show ended without so much as a resurrection or a kidnapping/exorcism, many were most likely quick to write it off. Don't do that, friends. Good TV is good TV.

It was Holiday time in Utah and the Henricksons were doing all they could to keep that in mind. It meant no political storylines though, and that's where all the super-charged scenes had been coming from lately. I was, however, surprised to learn that Mormons do celebrate Christmas, to an almost disturbing degree right down to the live action nativity scene in the front yard.

A Compound Christmas was a different thing entirely. Especially with Alby on the warpath, threatening wives (Lura) and euthanizing dogs to compensate for his closeted homosexuality and the personal turmoil he must suffer by carrying the secret. Alby was particularly cruel, cold and creepy in dealing with not only Lura, but his own mother, Adaleen, as well.

Adaleen was being pulled in different directions. The former "great woman behind the man" who basically ran the compound was stripped of all her power by her own son and forced into exile unless she chose to repent. Now carrying the mutant baby of her dead ex-husband and son in-law, and seeking government assistance for being destitute, her daughter was trying to get her off the compound and out from under Alby's misguided and false rule.

The other matriarch of the family, Bill's mother Lois, was losing it in a "what day is it?" kind of way. Bill had taken her in for the holidays and she was deteriorating right in front of everybody, even high jacking the kids and fighting with a drive-thru attendant about the whereabouts of Santa Claus. She had been such a strong and wily woman that to see her in this state may be a harbinger of things to come for the strength of the entire Henrickson clan.

Cara Lynn had become obsessed with uncovering the truth about her father (the guy who impregnated her grandmother), to the point of lying to her teacher to leave school with Gary and check out his old medical clinic that burned to the ground last season. There's an inordinate amount of "things the children shouldn't know" in this show for a religion so steeped in purity and righteousness. The story of her father, though, was right to be withheld.

As was tradition, the entire family went ice skating, including oldest son Ben freshly home from college, and his old friend Heather who had blossomed through the experience of college and make-up. Ben was pleasantly confused by Heather's hotness, and we can now let the smittening begin. The show loves to make these subtle connections between the polygamists on the show and other marginalized groups in real life, and as Bill and his wives turned "couples skate" into "quadruples skate" and the ice parted with scornful onlookers, all subtlety was out the window.

Barb's struggle continued to be about equality. I think she feels as though she should be seen as Bill's equal, rather than the first in a line of subservient minions. She mentioned that the casino gave her a sense of pride and responsibility that was lacking at home, and with Bill beginning to show weakness with his mother failing, she was begging for more spiritual responsibility.

As with most every family during the holidays, the Henrickson houses were quickly filling with people. Nicki took in the recently shunned Adaleen, Bill the increasingly crazy Lois, and in the middle of the night they opened their doors to the fugitive first wife of Alby Grant and her three children. They were quickly moved to a shelter and placed in the unfortunate position of deciding to return to what you have known all your life, or try the unknown life that you have ridiculed for so long.

After a night in the shelter, Lura called Alby who did very little to entice her back to the compound, going so far as to hand her an ultimatum. These situations have not ended well in the past. It's not uncommon for compounders to seek refuge with the Henricksons, but one of two things generally happens: 1) they die, 2) they get dragged back to the compound and wish they had died, and hanging up on the prophet like Lura did will most likely get her both.

The big Christmas dinner was quite revealing. We found out that Heather is awesome, Cara Lynn is suspicious, Adaleen is thankful, Lois is nuts, and Margene was 16 when she married Bill!! Yes, you can add "rapist" to Bill's list of transgressions. This was, apparently, a deal-breaker because everyone acted like Margene told them she was really a man. Nicki even went so far as to say, "Congratulations Margene. You've just ruined Christmas."

While that was all going on downstairs, Cara Lynn was cornering Adaleen upstairs about her dad, and it all came out: That he was evil, that he put a monster in Adaleen's womb against her will, that he treated Nicki like a chattel, and that he was dead. All this was, of course, contrary to the story Nicki had been feeding her.

Most. Awkward. Christmas. Ever. They all went to help serve food at the shelter where Lura was staying, trying to deal with the Margene age-bomb that just went off in their faces. A forlorn Bill tried to absolve Margene, and Cara Lynn finally got the truth from her mother, unable to understand how the same man who taught her to read could be so horrible. Not surprisingly, Alby showed up to retrieve his estranged wife and children, but Bill wasn't going to let that happen. When Lura told Alby she wasn't going back, Alby grabbed her to leave and Bill gave him a fistful of fist.

And just when you thought the list of scandals couldn't get any longer, everyone came home to find Barb hammered in the dark eating cans of plum pudding. I'm still trying to gauge what's worse in the Mormon world: Dancing, drinking, or unknowingly raping a 16-year old. "We're not holy. We're all unholy."

On the other side of things, Alby was fuming after once again being trumped by Bill. Adaleen repented though, and aligned herself with Alby. She could prove to be a pivotal player in the darkness that is about to transpire.

'Big Love' airs Sundays, 9PM ET on HBO.

Dr. Vaughan teaches English/Media/Humor courses at Binghamton University in upstate New York, and he writes a lot on Sundays. You can also check out his blog at drvtv.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/pages/Ryan-Vaughan/21931402981

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I'm confused over the transition from last season to this new season. Didn't Ben leave on bad terms? Wasn't Bill building a big house for all of them to live in? How did everyone else find out about how JJ died? Wasn't there any kind of investigation? I must have missed something.

January 31 2011 at 11:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dkcincos's comment

Well there was only two weeks between the end of last season and the start of this one so I assume the house is still being built but obviously will be a while.

Didn't Nicky and/or Bill go to the fire so surely she told everyone?

Investigation at the compound? Don't be silly :p

January 31 2011 at 2:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Margene just put Bill in a very awkward position. Here he is saying they are not like the compound and he married a 16 year old!

I was happy to see Lura come to her senses and leave Albie.

January 31 2011 at 9:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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