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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  • txvoodoo

    “(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.)”

    You weren’t. I did too!

    “So him being casual in his G’s after sinning? Not buying it. “

    But then again, he’s already a pedophile who’s obvoiusly willing to step outside church rules. I think he wears them like he wears his public persona – total facade.

    Sidenote: OMG BUTTERMINTS. I haven’t had those in..20 years? I had a TASTE MEMORY and want one now. My grandmom kept them on her sideboard in a cut glass container.

    And now, like always, I have to rewatch with your explanations in mind. Thank you, again!

  • Laura Stone

    Re: pedophilia. You know, I just don’t buy Greg seeing himself that way. He’s a guy that’s over 30, Mormon, and not married. There’s something going on with him i the first place, because that’s rare as hell (hence his mom saying “DATE” when Nicki invited them to the reception.) Second, Cara Lynn is a bit more mature than her peers if only because of her life’s experiences thus far and because of how intelligent she is. Third, May/December (or March/December) romances are pretty common out there – guys like their women just old enough, if you catch me.

    I’m hoping the writers just messed it up, because really, he’s so totally Mormon, I bet he makes them pray after having sex. He’d not be wearing those Gs. It’s seriously a taboo, like eating a person. Gs can protect you from death, as the mythology goes. You can’t even throw torn ones away without a little ritual performed. I just think the writers aren’t paying attention (they forget that the Juniper Creek people would have those on, with the one exception of Adaleen in hers to shoot her hormones.)

    HEEE, BUTTERMINTS! I actually like them, but I can’t tell if it’s from my background, or because they’re actually good. Clearly I need to go buy some and give them a whirl.

  • Susie

    Re: Caralynn and Greg–
    Has it been established that they’re having sex? I seem to recall something said in the kitchen scene that indicated they were waiting. You’ve watched more and I already deleted my recording, so I’d love to know what happened.

    Then, re: the garments. A friend of mine was having an affair with an LDS man for quite awhile. She’s not Mormon (or religious at ALL). She told me that he always wore his garments. So I guess different people have different rules for themselves.

  • txvoodoo

    Oh, I don’t think Greg sees himself that way. I think he’s amazingly oblivious to his crimes/sins/illnesses/whatevs. I think he’s got a big, fat ole’ cognitive dissonance going on. It’s sorta like abusive parents being able to think of themselves as wonderful parents.

    Cara Lynn IS intelligent, and not naive, but at the same time, she IS. It’s just that her naiveté/experience is very patchy. And she WANTS to believe. Self-delusion is an amazing thing (see: Greg). Yeah, they’re made for each other, right? :/

    My Sicilian Catholic relatives had rituals like that for certain Catholic thingies. Later I realized it wasn’t Catholic, it was Sicilian. Our superstittions come straight from pre-history and color our religion. (well. their religion, not mine anymore. But…take girl outta church, can’t take church…). It really speaks to how f’d up the church is.

    I AM SO JONESING FOR BUTTERMINTS NOW. Amazon has them. But I looked up the carb count and I’d be allowed like, THREE. And I can taste them on my tongue. It’s really not so much the taste, as the texture – how they sort of melt into smoothness. (Gawd. Can you tell I haven’t been allowed candy since October? And won’t be again? I’m talking like a crack addict!)

  • Laura Stone

    Susie: you know, I was thinking about it after replying and I wonder if the writers will pull a fast one on us, as in, they’re just having “Mormon Sex” (dry humping and making out.) It’s still considered a no no, but it would be more in character for Greg, who told Cara Lynn in the beginning that he believes couples “should wait.” I’ll have to re-record the ep and watch that scene you mentioned and get back with you.

    Oooh, her lover kept on his garments? He was not a real believer and was Mormon by rote. Maybe he didn’t want his devout wife to see him without? That would make more sense to me. There’s a LOT of “keeping up appearances” with Mormons. In face, a slogan of sorts is “avoid even the appearance of evil.” So. *hands*

    TXVooDoo: Cognitive Dissonance is spot on for him. And it’s TOTALLY how they melt on your tongue that is so appealing! Mmm candy. I’ve not had any in a long time, too. Solidarity sister! Wheat grass is just as yummy. …right?

  • txvoodoo

    Yeah, sure. JUST AS YUMMY. *sniff*

    If I didn’t know they’d spike my sugar so high that I wouldn’t have a syringe big enough for a correction shot, I’d be driving around right now looking for buttermints!

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  • denelian

    i get confused about Gs.

    see, i dated a Mormon. his wife [and… that was weird. she wasn’t mormon when they got married, and they STILL hadn’t been married in Temple] had had an affair, so he left, and 8 months later i met him.

    i eventually broke it off, because, well, i’m NOT Mormon [or any sort of Christian] and sex is important to me. “waiting til marriage” was NOT on, since i wasn’t getting married to someone who wanted me to convert AND he wasn’t actually divorcing his wife, cuz “that was a sin”. [his grand plan was to, somehow, get me to convert and marry in-Temple WITHOUT divorcing her. he wasn’t FLDS, just LDS, so…???]

    not only were HIS Gs firmly in place, so were HERS. [seriously? wear them UNDER your bra? how freaking uncomfortable can one BE?!]. after i stepped out, they got back together, finally saved enough for that “Temple” wedding – and she kept right on cheating. with the same guy.

    still wearing her Gs. one of her defenses was that she ALWAYS wore them, even while having sex with said other dude. ? is that a defense? or was i just subjected to crazy people? [or both? heh]

  • Laura Stone

    Well, it’s not weird that they weren’t married in the temple, because they COULDN’T be seeing as she wasn’t Mormon. [Or was she? You mention she had temple garments? None of that is making sense to me, sorry.] Also, this is some personal stuff to put on a public blog and not related to the show. I can’t make heads or tails of where you’re trying to go with the story, sorry. (Err, we got 1200 hits last night. You might rethink what you put up here.)

  • denelian

    i believe it’s vague enough, but if you don’t, take it down. it’s 14-year-old gossip, from another state.
    [she converted while they were seperated. sorry for missing that] it was just the Gs thing – they confuse me. so it sparked the question, and oxy = no filters [not that i think it’s an issue, at ALL. they’re both technophobes, because i still have small contact with them, i know they don’t own computer or TV or even a cell phone.]

  • Susan

    I agree with the comment on the previous show’s commentary, these are great summaries of what’s happened in the episode. Not just capturing events but the emotion and issues that stem from them.

    I was browsing for a discussion after watching this episode. I forget now why, been so captivated reading some of the posts out there. So much going on, to think about, and as someone of no particular denomination but many of my own beliefs, it’s really really interesting to read commentary on the accuracy of events depicted from a religious perspective.

    I catch a lot of the subtlety in the show on my own, but there are some things I simply could not know about that add so much depth to it. Both for their accuracy and inaccuracy.

    Sad to see the series ending. Has been a source of so much thought about life, families, society, religion, all of it. Great show. Great episode. Great review!

  • Laura Stone

    I keep another blog (it’s just a personal one) where I’ve been following Big love from the beginning, explaining all of the Real Life Events they’ve put in this show. The Juniper Creek stories are practically [find/replace] with the names. It’s amazing how well they’ve researched certain aspects. (Which is why I get pissy when I see something silly, like the “are they garments, or not?” in a little scene.)

    This show has been utterly fascinating, and if nothing else, rekindled my love affair with Grace Zabriskie – she’s astounding.

    Thank you so much for your kind words!

  • Justhuman

    After reading the recap, I think there is a mis-direct at play. I bet Heather was smart enough not to repeat that Margene was underage. There’s no doubt that there’s enough shady stuff going on in the Hendrickson house that Heather could have been troubled about any number of things. I’m going to take a guess at the divorce of Bill and Barb.

    I bet the underage incident is Cara Lynn and Greg. I’ve been thinking of them as “wrong” and “bad” — no to mention desperate, at least on Cara Lynn’s part. I think she wants out of the craziness of the Hendrickson’s home, repeating exactly what Nicki did, finding what she sees as a good, smart, more worldly man. But the underage part was just mixed up in the rest.

    In fact, the timing was too perfect with the police arriving and Heather getting her phone call. Classic mis-direct technique.

    And speaking of parallels, Ben, like his dad, now has an LDS woman in one hand and the wild, needy woman in the other. And heck, he’s already gone after Margene, making the trifecta.

  • Laura Stone

    The first thing I thought was that it was about CL and Greg, too, but the teaser for next week has Margene freaking out (and I feel like they ret-conned that in for a reason.) I think Heather honestly believed that she could tell her bishop something in confidence and let it all out. Time will tell, and it would be pretty neat if they pulled off the switcharoo.

    What an excellent point about Ben!! I feel dumb now for not even seeing that, it’s like they’re showing us how Bill got started, in a way. Great observation.

  • txvoodoo

    I totally missed that point about Benn, too! Excellent catch, Justhuman!

  • Valerie

    I wish I’d found this website when I first started watching “Big Love.” You have explained so much! But I still think the writers are inconsistent and lazy as to how they work through the LDS issues, not to mention the timelines. And of course, the biggest faux pas was the premise that no one would remember (and by “no one” I mean the Republican/LDS leadership in Utah) would remember the Mother of the Year fiasco in Season 1. Which is why the contrivance of Bill’s run for State Senate was so annoying – there were other ways to get this family exposed, if that’s the direction they wanted to go.

  • Laura Stone

    Valerie: I think you’re right that they’ve dropped the ball on some issues. It’s been so long since S1, I’ll have to revisit that to have all of the inconsistencies in mind, but I will say that up until Big Love started airing, the state/Repubs/Church Leaders were inconsistent with polygamy and its enforcement, so maybe the writers are making a nod at that? (Ha, that’s me giving them a teeny bit of slack.)

    I’ve followed/blogged about the show from the beginning, but just started recapping here since S5. I’m thinking of back dating all of that here, just to get it all in one place. Glad you found us!

  • Valerie

    I would love to read your earlier recaps!

    Meanwhile, when it comes to “doomed and/or failed” relationships, what about the one between Bill and Don? At first I thought Don might have been the one to call the cops because of the look on his face when Barb answered the door. It made me completely forget about Heather and the Bishop.

    Bill really has treated Don like a doormat. I was so happy this episode when Don stood up to him, although I don’t think Bill realized what was happening.

    And I guess Wendy Phillips is off doing something else, because her Peg would certainly have something to say about all this…and I’d love to hear it.

  • Justhuman

    Ah! The TiVo failed to capture the scenes for next week for me. After some fruitless internet hunting, I rewatched the end of the episode repeat. No scenes for next week online? Where is the love HBO!

    Now I have completely random and potentially wild speculation.

    Margene says she’s not guilty, which could be about any number of things, but the connection to the underage issue is very viable. Then I thought about the possibilities for actual/perceived underage issue and LMAO — there are so many choices. There’s Bill/Margene; Cara Lynn/Greg; Sara/guy she married; there’s any number of possibilities with Rhonda; Ben and that heart-breaking, non-sexy encounter in S1. Although some of these may not break the law in Utah.

    But now I’m thinking, Ben and Margene. They never did it, but they did kiss in public and Margene said on TV that they were married. For the people trying to bring them down, it’s not about truth, but what they can create a media sensation around. Sure it’s a shocker for the public about Bill and Margene, but in the end the guys will be laughing about the middle-aged guy getting the babysitter and they got married and there are kids and years ago.

    On the other hand, that footage of Ben and Margene would be all over YouTube. She won’t be convicted of anything, but she won’t be able to shake the stigma either. Bonus: Family strife about the issue coming up again.