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October 4, 2015

'Big Love' Season 5, Episode 6 Recap

by Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously), posted Feb 21st 2011 7:20AM
'Big Love' S05/E06['Big Love' - 'D.I.V.O.R.C.E.']

I kept singing this episode's title to the tune of Aretha Franklin's 'Respect,' and as I did, I wondered if the song's meaning might translate to the lives of the Henricksons on 'Big Love'. It does seem to draw some interesting parallels when you dissect some of the lyrics under the Mormon microscope.

"What you want, baby I got. What you need, do you know I got it? This is Bill talking about divorce with Barb, making it clear that he is the decider when it comes to the issue that is central to the rise or fall of the family.

"All I'm askin' is for a little respect when you come home." This is Barb's rebuttal, which can be read two ways. Literally, she wants to be treated as an equal in the eyes of the church, the principle, and God. Figuratively, by replacing "respect" with "divorce," she's asking for the divorce that will send the family into tumult.

"Whip it to me." This could mean that underneath the veneer of pious modesty of Mormon life there exists an unhealthy obsession with sadomasochism.

No matter how you interpret it, Bill and his family are moving in a multitude of different directions and with each episode we have to ask ourselves, "who's going to be the first to go?"

Even Mormons have break-up sex, and Barb and Bill certainly needed some to calm themselves down, although it didn't work as well as they had hoped. This episode was all about Barb, and most of the action sprang forth from her controversial and free-thinking center.

She went about assembling a team to help support her quest for cognitive and spiritual autonomy in the face of limiting Mormon doctrine, and that brought her to the office of Renee Clayton, a professor of Mormon studies who claimed many of the things Barb sought. It's smart of Barb to bring in some experts to talk sense into her close-minded circle.

This new relationship must have inspired Barb, or given her added strength because she refused to take the sacrament at the next church service. And you thought farting in church was bad. She might as well have punched God in the face the way Bill reacted to this brash exertion of will. It sent ripples of concern and anger through the house and the congregation. With everyone tying the priesthood to the divorce, Bill and Barb had to reassure themselves and everyone else that nothing would change.

Barb is such a strong female character in a sea of subservient, delusional women, it followed that she would not just sign away her life with this "paper" divorce. She made a push to maintain financial responsibilities for the families after the shift in power. Bill, like everyone else, has a way of conflating one problem into another, while Barb is able to compartmentalize. Barb was talking divorce and Bill felt personally threatened by the affront to the sacrament and wrapped that up into Barb's thoughts on the divorce. From where I'm sitting, Barb is the only character thinking and speaking clearly and productively without blurring the lines between issues.

Nicki was looking at everything from an entirely different angle. When she felt the divorce was imminent, she sucked up to Barb in an attempt to mask her joy and utter glee over finally becoming first wife, and started to impose some of her power prematurely. But once Barb and Bill brought the financial proposal to her, her true colors spilled all over like a Pollack painting, in messy, yet oddly transfixing, ways.

She told Barb she felt like punching her in the face, which is like the Mormon middle finger, and she felt the power slipping away, exhibiting the same ability to compound problems by mixing emotions, as Bill. To Nicki, it had nothing to do with her poor financial record, and everything to do with Barb's free-thinking. Nicki stood to lose the most if the divorce didn't go through.

Margene went back and forth between fantasizing about her boss and working diligently as the cherubic public face of Bill's church, The New Assembly of Mormon Pioneers. Watching a video message from her boss, Michael Saint (Grant Show), Margene dreamed that he told her that "People who are deeply religious do have sex ... a lot, and actually it's hotter because it is deeper." I'm not sure if that's the best or the worst pick-up line ever, but it's got to work on someone.

It turned out Margene was in the same boat with Bill and Nicki as she too morphed multiple problems into one. She was planning a pro-principle youth rally that had Bill ecstatic, then she went to Saint, an LDS supporter, to sponsor it, seemingly determined to find out if love, lust and religion go together.

Looking for Saint to co-sponsor was a gutsy move, and Margene continued to crusade for the good of the family relatively under the radar. Everyone writes her off as the cute, ditsy one, which allows her to get away with a lot more risk. All of this was on the heels of a public denouncement of Bill and polygamy by the LDS, one the likes of which had never been so pointed and harsh, forcing Bill to hire private security. So, for Margene to corral a major LDS sponsor, could bring understanding much closer to reality.

Cara Lynn and Mr. Ivey continued to heat things up in a naughty school-girl teacher's pet kind of way. He initially was cold with her, but admitted to be falling in love with her when she went to his house to talk things out. I'd say this was creepy if the show hadn't set the creepy-bar so high already.

On the compound side of things, Alby was working himself into a froth and was in the beginning stages of embarking on the fundamentalist Armageddon. He scolded Verlin for failing to kill Don, then they made-out in some sort of gay Mexican stand-off. The kiss was angry and disdainful, but Alby didn't say he hated it. He sent Verlin home with his tail between his legs, saying, "Even a fool can be useful to a man who knows how to use him well."

It later came to Bill's attention that Alby was locking things down on the compound: Cutting off all communication with the state, pulling out of the Safety Net program, and putting a target on Bill's back in attempts to "exert purity." It's always eye-opening to see how impure people can be in their quest for purity. Here, the first "murder Alby" was mentioned, and it was a long time coming, but Bill resisted.

He did have a meeting with Don and Alby though, which came down to an exchange of threats and smug allusions to what might happen if things don't go a certain way. One thing the prophets do very well is push people's buttons. Alby, and his father Roman before him, know exactly what to say to get under skin, and mentioning the masses protesting outside Home Plus hit Bill right where it smarted.

What was supposed to save Bill and his family -- the Senate -- was once again going prison rules all up and down Bill's back. The impeachment bill was aggressively back on the table, and it was made apparent that Bill's days on the Hill were numbered, possibly in single digits.

He then met with Barb's mother, Nancy, to discuss a possible two-pronged attack on Barb's search for truth. When Renee Clayton came up, Nancy nearly vomited. Cut to Nancy and Barb's sister giving Barb an impromptu intervention concerning her radical ideas and connection to Renee. The entire ambush boiled down to accusing Barb of being a lesbian, and hinted that Nancy and Renee were once friends. Barb, as is her make-up, held firm, noting that "Following my conscience does not necessarily complicate my life."

The show wrapped up much like the last episode: With Barb further distancing herself from the family and the church. She brought Renee to speak to Bill, Barb's mother and sister, and the sister-wives about the kinds of things she was going through, Renee having a similar shared experience with divorce and questioning the woman's role in the church and family. The reactions ran the gamut from enlightened (Margene) to anger (Nicki), and dismissive (Nancy) to defensive (Bill), but they resulted in Barb leaving Bill's church, another step backward for the family working so hard to move forward.

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

Dr. Vaughan teaches English/Media/Humor courses at Binghamton University in upstate New York, and you'll thank him for it. You can also check out his blog at drvtv.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/pages/Ryan-Vaughan/21931402981

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Oh my. . .Ben & Rhonda. . hello?!?

February 21 2011 at 10:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Robin's comment
Ryan Vaughan

I know! I left that out assuming there will be more juiciness next week to get into.

February 21 2011 at 11:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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