We've only got one more episode of Big Love to go, and so tonight's jaunt through the many, many unresolved plotlines felt, well, like a jaunt through the many unresolved plotlines—a quick ratcheting up of the intensity before next week's big, official season finale. There was Marilyn and the naughty evangelical's collusion to extort money from Bill's casino, and Marilyn's threatening to expose Bill's "affair" with Margene. There was JJ's continued creepiness and fertility clinic shenanigans—culminating in a quick cloroforming of Adaleen when she discovered Roman was going to censure JJ. (Probably for prescribing Lipitor without a license and/or for using his wives as fingernail incubators.) There was Alby's sad testimony about not knowing Dale, followed by his private stomp-dance of mourning to Nancy Sinatra. And, of course, there was Margie's realization that her marriage to Goren The Strong was real, and, considering that he looks like he just leapt off of the cover of a Danielle Steel novel, it could get a whole lot more real. Bill realized it too, which is no doubt why he challenged Goren The Strong to the most intense tetherball match ever. The way those two were concentrating on that ridiculous game, you would have thought they'd just been told by RuPaul, "Goren. Bill. The time has come for you to tetherball…for your life." (Although, I guess "for your wife" would be more accurate.)
Still, this episode wasn't all hasty exposition and tetherball tournaments. There were a few slower, lingering moments, most of them having to do with either Barb, Nicki, or Sarah. Barb, always the most put-upon of the Henrickson wives, was even more put-upon in this episode. First, Bill fires her from the casino for defying him and hiring Marilyn. Later, after Barb makes a comment during an Eagle Forum event about how the undue pressures of "serving our faith, our husbands, our children and our communities" causes many Utah women to guzzle Benedryl and Prozac, you get the feeling Bill would like to fire Barb from being his wife as well. Throughout the episode, Barb is the embodiment of the perfectionist, giving, needs-subjugating Utah wife—which, I hear, is Utah's greatest natural resource. But while Barb undoubtedly serves her husband, she does it with great resentment towards him. (Although, considering that her husband is Bill The Selfish Moron, who can blame her?) We see her angrily mopping her kitchen, angrily reinstating herself at the casino that Bill bade her to run in the first place, and angrily agreeing to say whatever Bill wants her to say about her Eagle Forum comments because "it's clear she doesn't have a voice anyway." Barb's Prozac is passive-aggressiveness. When Marilyn calls Barb late at night to admonish her for "caving to Bill's appetites," she asks Barb a question that Barb should be asking herself, "What kind of a woman are you?"
Meanwhile, Nicki is struggling with that very same question and right now her answer seems to be the kind that's really, really in love with Bill. In tonight's episode she was wearing normal, clavicle-exposing clothes, and donning the nightie Bill bought her, and talking about "going forward." She claims that this is the way she wants to dress and that she's found herself, but the self that she's found seems to be defined only by her love for Bill. She wants to please Bill, to support him in his insane political endeavor, and have him all to herself—which very well could be the hormone injections talking. Or it could simply be the result of Nicki's separation from Juniper Creek. Now that her father is dead and unable to exert his influence on her, Nicki thinks she can finally leave the world of Juniper Creek behind and move on. Alby, however, doesn't want to join his sister in love-land just yet, and he picks up the shaming right where Roman left off, causing Nicki to run back to her long skirts, and high-collared button-downs.
Like Nicki, Sarah thinks she can leave the world of her family behind. But unlike Nicki, Sarah has a husband all to herself and an escape plan that involves moving far, far away. Tonight's episode felt like a definitive end for Sarah, who I'm sure we'll all remember as the lucky, smart Henrickson who got away before the whole family imploded. The final scene, with a teary-eyed Sarah holding a birthday cake and looking out at her smiling, playful, overgrown family was as cheesy as it was sad. When Sarah locked eyes with Teeny #2, it was clear that Sarah wasn't just leaving, but she was leaving people behind—even if one of those people is an exceedingly creepy replacement sister.
—Speaking of Teeny #2, her tap dance on that talk show was one of the weirder things I've seen on this show, which is an achievement.
—"You know Bill. He's like the wind. Always changing." "She was right about one thing: you two did have an affair. It was years ago." Barb is the queen of the passive-aggressive zinger.
—Speaking of Barb, how satisfying was her hug with Tommy?
—"Scuse me. You defied me. I'm sorry. And I still have to go tell Nicki my brother killed her father." It's lines like that one that would make writing a parody of this show next to impossible.
—"I can't share her with you and Goren. It's unnatural. A man has to know his woman is his own." Ana's response to Bill's hypocrisy was the perfect one, "I think you're crazy."
—"Women are Utah's best natural resource." And they're much easier to harvest than zinc!
—"Honey, what do you really know about this Portland place? I looked it up. There's heroin. Everywhere."