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'Big Love' Season 5, Episode 5 Recap

by Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously), posted Feb 14th 2011 6:00AM
'Big Love'['Big Love' - 'The Special Relationship']

By hook or by crook, Bill Henrickson is going to figure out a way to get what he wants. I'm not sure how he can keep his family together and his Senate seat intact with hooks, but by teetering on the line between crook and crusader Bill has done pretty well for himself.

What's going to be toughest for Bill is the fact that both his houses are divided. He's ostracized at work, but taking solace in his family isn't really an option either. Conversely, he can't turn to his work -- either for the state of Utah or Home Plus -- for an outlet from his increasingly strained home life. The series has to end with either a complete meltdown or blissful redemption, but for right now everyone has their heads down, trudging toward a dismal Mormon Armageddon.

This whole Senate thing had to come to an end, eventually. They just couldn't continue to have Bill bumping heads with everyone standing in his way with the threat of impeachment hanging over him. He needed to be impeached or offered a compromise. The compromise came in the form of the rest of the Senate asking Bill to just stop the incessant nagging, already. We get it. Polygamy, sorry ... "plural marriage" is awesome! That doesn't mean you have to end every sentence with it. In exchange for Bill turning down the volume on Polygamy's Greatest Hits, the Senate would fast track his Safety Net legislation and squash the bill targeting Bill.

That's it, right? They've won. The Henricksons were finally out of the woods and into the light, much like their prophets ... I think. One thing this show has failed to do is explain to me the fundamental differences between Mormons and the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS). I know one has cheesy commercials, but this episode would delve deeply into that, as the LDS would figure prominently and controversially into the deal to keep Bill in the clear.

Meanwhile, Alby was busy assembling his army of sociopaths and nutcases for the impending Mormon apocalypse. With his grizzled mother on board, he set his sights on Rhonda's desperate husband and cousin to Cara Lynn, Verlin, possibly for his name alone. After some digging, Alby uncovered a checkered past that led Verlin to his doorstep: Manslaughter and gambling debts, not to mention the kind of crazy it took to marry Rhonda. His desperation and need for money made him the perfect henchman-in-training, and Alby seized the opportunity as only he could.

If it wasn't against their beliefs for things to be hunky dory, I'd say that was exactly what the Henricksons were ... publicly. Bill borderline boasted of his newfound freedom and dealings on Capitol Hill to Don, noting that "People actually talked to me in committee," which prompted Don to quip, "you're the monkey the boa constrictor couldn't swallow. They had to spit you out." Speaking of not swallowing things, all the positive developments became too much for me. So much positivity can only mean one thing in TV: Doom.

As public life was leveling off, home life was hitting peaks and valleys like a schizophrenic with bi-polar disorder. At the center of it all was Barb. She's been been torn all season between her devotion to the faith and Bill and the family, and her steadfast belief that she stands on an equal spiritual footing as Bill. Add to that the idea of Bill and Barb divorcing to allow Nicki and Bill to legally be married and adopt Cara Lynn, and you have a witches brew of hostility, envy and pride about to bubble over. Oh, and Barb is working as Bill's intern, and all the other interns despise her.

It was interesting how these developments called some of the nuances of polygamy to our attention. Barb was fine with being first wife, espousing the ideals of the faith and the notion that the marriage is "just a piece of paper." It is, until you're asked to give the piece of paper to your sister wife. When that balance was in jeopardy, Barb's entire view of the principle was called into question. A fact that Nicki would certainly not allow to go unharped-on incessantly.

It made sense that Margene was talking to the news. Her looks, energy and naivety made plural marriage so much cooler and non-culty. Her background in sales didn't hurt her either as she charmed the reporter with her feminine wiles. Naturally, the sister-wives -- haters that they are -- were not happy about it, but Bill thought it was for the best since he had to basically keep his mouth shut in the media. Besides, "Marge is the best ambassador plural marriage has right now. She has a natural ability to connect with people without being provocative." It's the same thing that worked for Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus.

I'll give you the lowdown on Lois right here: She's crazier than ever, and not happy living with Bill and the families. She's compound through and through, and just didn't feel comfortable. So much so that she called her vindictive, abusive, conniving husband, Frank to take her away, insisting that Bill keep his mouth shut about the whole "steadily losing her mind" thing. He couldn't do it, and Frank headed for the hills, which set Lois off into a hunger strike until Bill took her home. This will most likely not end well.

The adoption process is draining enough, but to have to funnel discussions through three different channels to make the decision, each channel with its own specific set of feelings and agendas, made it more trying than it had to be. Bill explained how he and Barb would have to divorce in order for Nicki and Bil to adopt Cara Lynn, and Nicki could think of nothing better, barely containing her joy. She has always seen herself as first wife material, and now the spot was ripe for the stealing out from under Barb under the guise of Cara Lynn's well-being.

Nicki and Barb proceeded to have an adoption face-off, neither giving ground or masking their true intentions very well. Nicki was trying to bully Barb into it, using all the moral relativism she could muster, trying to turn Barb's words against her. At the same time, Barb continued to push her radical ideas about the faith as a priesthood holder. Nicki figured Barb's anarchist leanings would send Bill into a tailspin, and she forced Barb to tell him where she stood.

She did, and Bill and Barb had it out. Nicki was right. This was the one thing in the world that Bill could not abide. He accused Barb of questioning the prophets and every piece of scripture they built their life on. This season has been all about Barb and her development as a woman both in and out of the family. She came too far in finding herself to back down now, even as Bill pleaded, "Don't do this to us." But Bill missed the whole point. She's not doing anything to anyone but herself, only making her a better mother, wife, and woman of faith.

At the weekly wives meeting, Margene revealed her skepticism about Nicki's motives concerning Cara Lynn's adoption. When you use the adoption of a child as a polygamy power grab, you've sunk pretty low. An eavesdropping Cara Lynn started to doubt her mother as well, and her alienation grew to the point of seeking outside help from Mr. Ivey. She turned to the one person she knew she could trust in the midst of all the sabotage and manipulation she was privy to at home.

I wondered why Don mentioned ice fishing with his kids in the earlier scene with Bill. It was to set him up to get murdered by Verlin at Alby's request. When the boys went to the truck, a ski-masked Verlin ambushed Don and left him for dead, but dead never showed up. Two things followed: Alby giving Verlin the money for a job presumably well done, going so far as to call Verlin an "Albyite," and Bill visiting a very much alive Don in the hospital trying to piece it together. After watching the show for five seasons, I know that hatching and solving diabolical schemes is just a part of being a Mormon.

Bill was invited to the main LDS offices for a sit-down, and it became quickly apparent that they were behind the deal offered Bill by the Senate. It would seem that the term "Mormon" being dragged through the mud didn't sit too well with the LDS higher-ups. They wanted no association with Bill's strain of Mormonism. In fact, they didn't even consider Bill and his ilk to be Mormon. Again, Bill was back in the middle of an ethical conundrum: Be quiet and happy, but a sell-out; or be loud and dignified, but marginalized. Bill left them with a firm "You are deeply insulting and profoundly ignorant of who we are."

At the family dinner, everyone was throwing their two cents in about the LDS situation, until Bill and Barb began to commandeer the debate, using it as a metaphor for Barb's bid to become a priesthood holder.

Cara Lynn talked to Nicki -- who was orchestrating the polygamist underground railroad -- and she felt as though her presence in the family was just making everything that much more difficult. She went so far as to question Nicki's motives, as well. The wives, meanwhile, had one more tiff to settle. Nicki and Margene piled on Barb and her perceived "special relationship" with Bill and its impact on the family moving forward, and in typical fifth season Barb fashion, she came back swinging, insisting that she had earned at least that much.

When Bill rejected the LDS deal everything they thought was good was abysmal again, and nothing at home had been resolved either. Bill and Barb returned to the bench where he proposed to her, and he offered her a deal: They call off the divorce and find another way around the adoption, and Barb gives up on becoming a priesthood holder. Barb was all ears until the second part of the deal, and the divorce was back on the table since it might be a way to fix both scenarios. The irony of confirming a divorce at the site of your engagement not lost on anyone.

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

Dr. Vaughan teaches English/Media/Humor courses at Binghamton University in upstate New York, and he'll make you forget that other dude. You can also check out his blog at drvtv.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/pages/Ryan-Vaughan/21931402981

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Banned Utah Humor !

(1) Three levels of LDS heaven: celestial, terrestrial, cholesterol !
(2) LDS houses are painted by Ladder-Day Saints.
(3) Brigham Young, when looking down on the Salt Lake Valley, said "This is the place." How come so many folks settled in that valley if he looked down on it?
(4) Did Adam Swapp get his wives at a Swapp meet?
(5) New Mormon cat food: 9 Wives !
(6) What's a plastic covered Indian? A laminated Lamanite. Of course I've known this since I was Nephite to a grasshopper.
(7) Mormon: Someone who is more man than woman. Is "Mormon" short for "More Money"?
(8) Mormonism teaches that we can know truth if there is a "burning in the bosom." Joseph Smith was the first Mormon who had a bosom below his belt !
(9) Brigham lived in the Lion House which helped him to keep on Lion.
(10) Utah is the only state where you can spell "Moron" with two m's. And it's the only state where the sheep take care of the cattle !

(Glenn Beck, Jon Huntsman Jr., Warren Jeffs, Thomas Monson, and Mitt Romney did not approve of the above humor.)

[the foregoing was observed lately on the net!]

April 09 2011 at 12:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

LDS and Mormons are the same. I think you may be mixing up LDS, who haven't practised polygamy since the late 1800s, and the FLDS, a splinter church, who are frequently in the news for practising polygamy.

February 16 2011 at 5:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We love this show because of the layers of complexity it continually reveals. Bill, the Bully, IS winning some, but he's losing more than he knows. The caucus and Mormon Church are getting ready to show him how it's done in the bigtime. His wifes are struggling -- Barb and Marjean desperately searching for something to lead them out of the abyss -- Nicki scheming to be the number one wife (her schemes are pronouncements are hard to watch). Then there's Lois, who although older, feels she's not being heard and her needs are ignored -- and she's not gonna take it. There are lots of ends to get tied up in only 5 remaining episodes.

February 15 2011 at 1:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tracy Brock

My wife predicts the following: Barb divorces Bill, Bill marries Nicki, Bill somehow gets ousted from the Senate, Bill & Nicki return as the reigning prophet of Juniper Creek. Barb finally figures out what she wants to be when she grows up, which doesn't include anything from her life the past 10+ years.

February 14 2011 at 3:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Tracy Brock's comment

How about this? Barb goes and takes over Juniper Creek!!! The women outnumber the men at least 10 to 1. The women revolt and all become priesthoodholders!

February 14 2011 at 3:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think Barb misses the man she married. Bill isn't that man anymore. I think she will divorce him and leave. Sara is grown and married, her other daughter is living with Sara, Ben is grown and probably going off to the military, there really isn't anything left for her if her and Bill divorce so he can marry Nikki and adopt Cara.

I think Barb is questioning a faith that says the only way a woman can have a relationship with god is through her husband. I don't think she understands why she cannot have a direct relationship with god, and why her husband would not allow her to have it.

February 14 2011 at 7:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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