Big Love 5.7 ‘Til Death Do Us Part

Bill Hendrickson’s “Home Plus” (“it’s us!”) reminds us that everything has symbolism. Bill builds homes. Not just that, he sells what you need to make a home. Nice touch, writers. And yes, I realize how dumb I am for not getting that until the final season. (Hey, did any of you get why they changed the intro and what it meant for their eternal souls? Didn’t think so.)

One nice touch I’ve noticed this season is the gender role swapping. All of the women-centric scenes involve business, be it family or finances, the structure of their organization in the house, and a rehashing of the hierarchy amongst the three of them. Then you have all of the men-focused scenes where men are sexually objectified (Verlan), or have over the top emotional rages at one another, and they even have their gossipy/hen party moments.

I do want to deal with some serious ick, and that would be Cara Lynn and her teacher, Mr. Greg Ivy. I get it, that’s a huge part of the FLDS (I mean, duh) but that doesn’t mean I want to see it. Even the subtle moments, like them making the bed back up with mussed clothing, skeevs me out. And just like in the FLDS, it’s all about power. He is in control of how they interact (his “ground rules”) and even controls the words she allowed to use. Hey buddy, you’re banging an underage, it’s not that big a deal if she says something sucked. (And that reminds me of Sophie’s Choice when Peter MacNichol says of Sophie, “She could sure say the word fuck, but she couldn’t do it.”) But you know, flip it.

And how sad is it that Nicki thinks he’s into her? Not only that, but she revels in it, enjoys the little power it gives her to think a man wants her but can’t have her. What a change from the life she’s grown up in. When they all go to the play (omg, what a stupid, stupid man to take his teen lover, her mom, and his mom to Les Miz!) and Deena Ivy sees the little moment pass between her son and Cara Lynn… Let’s hope she steps in, because this child needs a mother, and Nicki is far too self-absorbed to be of any use to her almost-grown daughter. Ugh, this is so much worse than Sarah/Scott (and man, they’ve all just forgotten about Barb’s daughters, haven’t they?)

This show has become almost nothing but failed or doomed relationships:

Bill and Barb flinging themselves at one another, but like the last time we saw them make love, it seemed out of desperation and need to prove there’s something still there. No passion, no joy in the act. All other interactions are them rehashing the same old thing, Barb must go back to letting Bill be the head of the family, and all it entails.

Lois and Frank, oh the heartbreak of growing old and infirm and all alone! For the first time in five seasons I gave a shit about Frank Hendrickson. (Bruce Dern is pitch perfect in his role.) How pathetic and sad he’s become, lying on the floor in agony as his diseased wife turns the volume up on the tv to drown out his noises (so others can’t hear him and take him away, I suspect.) And while we’re not sure if she’s all there mentally, something so deep in her being knows what’s happening. The little presents of wrapped chicken all around him on the floor (“He’ll be fine.”) and then pressing more into his hand, crying and telling him she’ll be there with him until the end. I don’t get the impression that Lois still believes in the Principle, that is that she and Frank (and the others) will all be together, whole, in the next life. For her, this is it. ‘Til death, etc.

Ben and Rhonda, and excuse me while I hoark. I mean, I still think of her as being a child bride, and then Ben having sex with her – knowing she’s married? He’s been on such a high horse named Principles with a Moral Fiber feed bag strapped on, it seems out of character. All of his help, however, does not. Here’s the son that takes what his dad dishes out and actually lives it, believes it. There’s your Home Plus, Bill. Your son is all about Fixer Uppers.

Alby and Anyone, and this man is just doomed to ruin everything he touches. Laura is gone, his sister is gone, his one true love is gone, and now he can only force men with money to “love” him. Such a sad situation – he was born painted into a corner.

Heather talked to her Bishop and essentially had what other religions would call a “confession.” She instead unburdened herself with the knowledge about Margene being under aged when she married Bill (and was I the only one that glossed over her having heard that? I had to rewatch a few scenes to remember when that happened.) and you could tell she felt coerced into it. Once the words “I have no one to talk about this thing” came out of her mouth, she realized what was going to happen next. But hey, if you can’t tell your clergyman your deepest secrets and can’t trust them to not rat you out, then you’re not a Mormon.

I want to point out something about the wedding dress they put Nicki in, because that is NOT a Mormon wedding dress. I know you won’t believe me, but that was too sexy and revealing. Then again, nothing about the wedding in this episode was accurate for that religion (yeah, yeah, it was a civil wedding, not a religious one), so whatever, I guess. But the plunging neckline? Not allowed. Those lace sleeves? Not on your life. There should be cap sleeves at the very least. I’m not joking when I say it took me years to be able to wear a tank top and not feel like I was completely naked. And I live in Texas where tank tops are medically necessary due to something called “August.”

Speaking of control, Juniper Creek finally went way off the rails. Those scenes with the kids destroying the cell phones, the satellite dishes, the tvs? That really happened in Colorado City. Warren Jeffs got crazier and crazier and told everyone that those things were gateways to Satan, and things like the color red were verboten, as well. (That’s when the pastel prairie dresses became vogue.) He also began misappropriating funds, but had so much control at that point, no one could stop him from doing what he wanted. And remember, when he was found just outside the Utah border by the feds, he was in a red SUV with multiple cell phones and over $100,000 in UEP cash. Oh, and he was with some dude and his “favorite” wife. Which makes me think that’s what’s going to end up with Verlan, Alby, and one of the pastel posse. Poor Verlan, and talk about your “lost boy.” He’s the damn poster child.

I lol’d at Adaleen’s disgust at “something called sexting.” Ha. Also, I got the impression that she believed the room to be bugged (which it would have been, that was Alby’s office! No one’s getting in there without him knowing everything that happened.) which is why she was so cold to Nicki. Not that she’s a bastion of motherly warmth, but still. She re-emphasized my earlier point about “state” marriages versus “eternal” marriages, so thanks for that, writers.

Cara Lynn and Greg hanging out in the kitchen had a subtle thing that really bugged me, and I can’t tell if it’s because the writers don’t know enough about the culture or that they do know, but they’re not caring, and that would really upset me because it’s such an integral part of the religion. I’m talking about how under their clothes, you can see that Greg is wearing his garments (and it actually looked like Cara Lynn was, as well, but those were a little too low cut to be proper G’s.) Greg is having sex outside of marriage, one. And that’s enough to keep him from putting his Gs back on. But for funsies, two, he’s having illegal sex with a minor. When you get your garments, you covenant that you will not be unclean (having sex, being touched sexually by anyone but your LDS spouse) or you will, and I’m not making this up, cut your throat and spill your blood and bowels. So him being casual in his G’s after sinning? Not buying it. And if the writers don’t know about garments and just stuck him in an “undershirt,” then they know nothing about real Mormons and the culture, and that’s vexing.

Edited to add: rethinking this relationship (and discussing it in comments) I am now of the opinion that they’re not having intercourse, but some “Levi Lovin'”, aka “Mormon Foreplay” aka dry humping.  I get that there’s only so much time left in the series, but that’s a massive fast-forward to them doing math in class to the two-backed beast.  Time will tell (let’s hope.) [end of edit]

Then there’s Lois freaking out about the missing sister wives, and there’s one of the few positives about this lifestyle: multiple bodies to care for a person. She tries to jam her pills into Frank’s gaping mouth in his hospital bed, her attempt to fulfill the promise made on the beach. Such a powerful moment, and it’s magnified by Grace Zabriskie’s perfect comic timing. The pills (and good lord, there were a few handfuls) kept falling out of his mouth, and here she is trying to do the right thing and kill him, and the damn pills keep spilling out. “Come on, now, Frank. Come on!” If she’d been standing, I’m sure she would have given a pissy foot stamp, too. Lord, I love that actress. There is not a person alive that can purse their lips like that woman can.

Other funny things (and man, did we need some funny) was the site of Nicki sweat shopping her kids to make her table decorations. Ha! Chloe Sevigny injects little moments like the sour face she gave a complaining child and that makes you not want to smother Nicki to death. There were sweet moments, as well, with each of the women sharing a tender moment to remind us all that there is caring underneath all of the power struggles. Life has women pitted against one another, so it’s nice (and rare) to have scenes that aren’t “chick flicky” and just show women caring about one another.

There were a few more gender role reversals with Barb officiating at the wedding (the civil marriage) and Adaleen walking Nicki down the aisle. I loved that Ben was essentially the mother in the house that night, and has almost taken on that role entirely. But here’s where they got some things wrong, and I can’t help it, they need a damn Mormon (or ex-Mormon) on the writing staff that has final say about these things. Yes, I’m OCD, and?

  • Bill was in his temple clothes, as he should have been, (all white, not even your belt can be another color) but everyone else in the party should have been in white from head to toe as well. Including the wedding party.
  • The food! Oh, the opulence of the Hendrickson’s spread made me laugh and laugh. No cheap cold cuts on a plate (for a fancy reception) and where on earth were the nuts in the sacrament paper cups? (You use those to be frugal, you see.) There also should have been those buttermints that only come out at weddings (and out of your Nana’s side table.)

Ok, I know that stuff doesn’t really matter, I just wanted to grouse. I loved that Margene saw what was up between Cara Lynn and Greg, but I hate that it’s Margene because she has no leg to stand on! Ack. When Heather got the call from her father (where we realize that her Bishop is a class-A jerk butt) I almost thought her father was calling her to warn her away because there was going to be a bomb, or something. OK, it’s a metaphoric bomb, but you feel me.

Now we dive into the religious stuff, and man, there was some important doctrine. First off, it’s important to realize why Barb wasn’t feeling the importance of “resealing.” Again, in the Mormon faith (and Bill’s beliefs are like the old school Mormon days of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young) the wedding that matters is the one in the temple, the official wedding. And only worthy members of the church can go. So what if you marry someone that converted, and their family can’t see you marry? You have a “state” wedding before, and that’s key, the temple wedding, which is essentially being “sealed.” There is no walking down the aisle, no “giving away” in a Mormon wedding. It’s a lot like the episode when Barb went to the temple that raised a ruckus.

Follow me on this one: Barb was originally married to Bill when they were both LDS, and were sealed to one another “for time and all eternity.” There is no “til death do us part” – which is a nice subtle nudge from the writers. I can remember a youth leader telling us girls how important temple marriage was, and that the “saddest thing [she’d] ever heard” was at a friend’s wedding when the priest said “’Til death do you part.” Really? That’s the saddest thing? Hadji in his mudhole in Mumbai would like you to just pay attention for a second, then.

Back to the tangled marriage bidness. Bill and Barb, married and “sealed” for ever and ever, including any children born into the marriage. “Family is Forever.” Then, when Bill married Nicki, she was “sealed” to his marriage with Barb; now they’re all married. Ditto with Margene. This sealing is done by someone with “authority” – aka, the priesthood recognized by Mormons. Bill has this “authority” and back before they realized how crazy Roman Grant was, he did, too. And no matter what, what’s done under authority is eternal, regardless of what Roman did later. Or what Bill does now. The sealing “stands.”

Except.

Barb and Bill no longer believe in the Mormon church’s authority (“a church of hypocrites”) and that Roman Grant was a “false prophet” – so he didn’t actually have any authority. But Barb still clings to her Mormonism, no matter how much she argues against it. It’s what she knows, and she still believes her marriage to Bill is eternal, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing all of this in the first place. And with Bill sealing himself to Nicki and Margene without her, and what an ouch moment that was, it was almost like undoing the original sealing, cutting her off, again.

Barb mentioned the Law of Sarah, briefly, and this is something Joseph Smith cooked up to get his wife Emma off his back for a bit. (Oh, how Emma Smith hated polygamy. And oh, how horny was her husband.) The Law of Sarah goes back to Abraham. He and his wife were almost 90, couldn’t have children, and Sarah gave Hagar (not the pants, her maidservant) to her husband to get a baby off of her. And then, surprise! Sarah became pregnant later, but the main issue is how awesome Sarah was for giving her husband a hall pass.

The church liked to tell people that the women ran the show, the women were in charge of who got to enter the family, yadda yadda. Except that’s not how it works at all. This is a little nugget of pretend the men feed the ladies to confuse them so they don’t realize how Talibanish their lives are.

Barb, who cannot have what she wants, does her own compromising (even though Bill isn’t acknowledging it) by publicly, literally, and symbolically giving Nicki to him. Again. And then comes the knife in her back, overhearing Bill, Nicki and Margene going ahead with a new sealing without her. Emma Smith actually had a similar experience with Joseph Smith walking in on him and Fanny Alger (his first plural wife.) Joe was murdered and Emma was bitter, I wonder how it will turn out for Barb and Bill?

Barb tries to keep face and maintain the good times of the reception and the Feds show up. She stands her ground, chin in the air, wanting to know what on earth they want, and they retort with the fact of an ongoing investigation into statutory rape. She says nothing, stands up for no one, and just goes along with the authorities. Again.

 

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