Big Love 5.08 The Noose Tightens

It might just feel like it’s getting tighter from all the story lines that were crammed into this one, hoo boy. Are there really only 2 episodes left? It seems impossible. Also, the intro’s song seems more and more relevant as this show winds down: “Home – is this my home? Been starting over, bathe in the water.” I don’t know what baptismal font is big enough to wash all of their sins away at this point.

Margene puts Cara Lynn on notice, but we’re still not sure how hard she’ll be on this situation. It’s Margene; she’s been the softie. This is the episode where not only is she at her most emotional in five seasons, she’s also her strongest in the end. She busts in on a “tutoring session” at the school, a slightly stronger hint at the couple that she’s onto them.

The wives gather before Bill and their lawyer to find out what the whole Barb being taken away thing was about, and it seems that not only is Bill under suspicion but Barb is, as well. I was so glad they mentioned Wanda Barzee (wife of Brian David Mitchell, abductor and rapist of Elizabeth Smart) having been charged in the crime, as well. I had to do a little digging, but I couldn’t find any other incident where a poly-wife was charged with anything, and if they did, I guess it’s been expunged.

That whole Elizabeth Smart kidnapping brought the bright light back on polygamy in Utah just after they hosted the Olympics (and swept most of their messes under the rug.) While people outside of Utah may not have thought she’d been taken by a polygamist, almost everyone there thought some weird fringe leader had grabbed her. I know I sure as hell did as soon as the news broke.

But Wanda getting charged with procurement and false imprisonment was HUGE. I know of one polygamist wife that was charged from one of the FBI raids, but that was back in the 30s. (There was a raid in ’35, ’44, and then the Big One in 1953.) Typically the feds like to imprison the men and scatter the women. But because this sweet looking blond-haired angelic child of a wealthy Mormon man (and she played the harp, too!) caused national attention on the one thing the LDS Church wants people to just forget about, they threw the book at her, too. I’m not saying she didn’t deserve it, I’m just saying it’s shocking.

Alby Grant at one point said, “No one has ever been successfully prosecuted for anything happening at Juniper Creek.” Remember that the actual name is “Short Creek.” After the ’53 raid they split the town in two – Hilldale and Colorado City, but the locals still call it “The Creek.” And the fictional statement is still true for Short Creek, with the one exception of Warren Jeffs, but damn it if his case wasn’t recently over turned. (Don’t worry, he’s facing charges in Texas, and we hate him here.)

I say all of this to illustrate that Barb is up the Creek without a paddle. The state (which is essentially the Church) is pee eye issed that they have to walk the polygamy walk again, and she’s going to jail alongside her husband, if they have anything to say about it. And she knows it, doesn’t she? She is visibly shaking, she threatens to drink the Dran-O, for crying out loud. “I am a woman of deep and abiding faith and now I might get indicted as an accomplice to rape.” Well…yeah. Also, that phrase “of deep and abiding faith” is so Mormon. I love it when the writers get little things like that in the script.

Cut to the mousy polygamist wife with the Wisconsin accent (come on, actress, research that shit – they should sound like Norwegians speaking Valley Girl) being forced off the compound by Nicki “for her own good.” Nicki reminds me of LDS missionaries getting their baptisms in. She, like them, is not really concerned with the individual and their thoughts, fears, and needs, but instead Nicki is all about being able to tick another notch on her list of Women She’s Helped. Missionaries say “Baptize them and let the wards sort ’em out,” and Nicki’s fine with letting the various welfare organizations handle all of her heavy lifting, as well.

One thing leads to another and Bill makes the trek down to Juniper Creek (and in reality it’s a four – five hour drive, I continually laugh at them “zipping down” there) to confront Alby. Because of Alby Don’s about to have a complete meltdown, and part of me wouldn’t fault him for selling out his share in the stores for 3 times their worth. What the hell has Bill done for Don aside from ruin his life? At first I wondered why Bill didn’t call Alby out on attempted murder, but then he pulled out his Ace: Madison, a young cousin that was paid off to not blab about being sodomized by Alby years ago.

One, we now know just how much Roman and Adaleen knew about their boy and two, of course the threat of public knowledge of his homosexuality is far more serious a crime than murder for these people. Just… good lord. This man was broken from the beginning, forget your wish that Dale could have healed him, he was just busted goods, folks.

(Although I have to stress again how perfectly cast Matt Ross is. As the hybrid of Warren Jeffs and Joseph Smith, you couldn’t ask for better. Don’t believe me? Here’s the profile of Joseph Smith:


Joseph on the left, his brother Hyrum on the right.

Joseph on the left, his brother Hyrum on the right.

I mean, are you kidding me? That’s Alby. Amazing. And sorry, but the prophet was the most important man in the faith, period. Everything about him was worshiped and idolized. And every prophet since has tried to fill his shoes as The One Mighty And Strong. Which is another reason why Alby as shepherd is so hilariously wonderful.)

Alby is not one to take a threat lightly, so he enlists Verlan to do his dirty work again: Verlan will dig a lovely hole out in the desert and they – together – will fill it with Bill’s corpse. And now we find the line Verlan won’t cross, but he does a great job of keeping that hidden from Alby for the time being.

Margie finally sacks up and busts in on Greg Ivey’s little love den that he’s been keeping with the under-aged Cara Lynn. Oh, I was so proud of her being so strong and sarcastic “I may not be a math genius, but I figured that out.” But as she doesn’t have (much) of a leg to stand on when it comes to inappropriate relationships, you can tell that Cara Lynn and Greg don’t take her threats too seriously.

Also, there was the proof that they’d have carnal knowledge of each other, but I laugh derisively at Cara Lynn claiming that it’s alright because Greg is “devout.” Not if he’s fucking out of wedlock, he’s not. Oh, but he’s long learned the art of justification, that goes hand in hand with that brand of religion. GROSS, by the way. Margie clearly used the situation to work through some of her problems with her own marriage, those arguments and frustrations not fully formed, just yet. She was chilling in her anger as they drove home, though. “Do you have any idea what this family is facing right now?”

And oh, how I will miss Nicolette’s old time, curmudgeonly quips when this show ends. “Just where have you two Good Time Gals been?” Ha! It’s funny because that’s exactly how my aunts and older female cousins talk, like time stopped after Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney finally got the Barn Built. “Say, this has all been swell, but I gotta get back to the chores!”

I did love the scene with Barb frosting her cake with utter precision, trying to be exacting and perfect in something, when Heather – dragged before her by Ben – admits that it’s her fault the “coppers” came down on the family like a ton of bricks. How glorious it must have felt in that instant when she hurled that cake to splatter all over the window? And you know she felt utter horror and frustration immediately after, because who is going to clean it up? Barb, that’s who.

Mousy Wisconsin Polygamist Bride talks Barb into giving her a ride to the bus station so she can go back to the compound, Nicki hears this and loses it. You are drowning that horse in the trough, Nicki, it’ll drink when it’s ready. That girl is just all about control since her life has been completely beyond any within her power up to this point, and by God she is going to force everyone else around her to be just. as. free. as. she. BE HAPPY, DAD GUMMIT.

Goji Mike trying to hardball Bill in the senate house made me laugh, as it does any time anyone that isn’t Alby tries to get tough with him. Bitch, put a gun in his face and threaten to put his wives in the “hole” (insert that creepy music with the child sing songy vocals here) and then you might get him to move an inch. And a little PSA for you, pyramid schemes and tourism are the leading bringers of money to the state of Utah. I’d like to see some financials on that bridge in Guatemala, Mr. Sainte. Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Senator Draw Me! (I can never remember his name, but he looks just like the turtle you draw for those art correspondence courses) lets Bill know that the feds paid him a visit. Well. That’s a horse of a different juice drink. He tells the senator to have the Church call off the dogs and he’ll resign. (Please notice that the state house answers to the Church, that’s as real as it gets, y’all.)

Oh, Bill, it can’t be that easy. Things are looking bad for the Henricksons as Margene can’t seem to grasp that she is to say “Yes, no, or I don’t recall” to any question given to her by the feds, Nicki decides that Lawrence O’Donnell is a terrible lawyer for her (she didn’t get any big pay off as First Wife by proxy, after all) and is her typical unhelpful self, and Barb lets everyone know she’s aware they all were resealed without her. It’s moments like this when I wonder why the hell they even try to stay together. Just dissolve this shit and move on, land sakes. Especially when Nicki is so awful. Yes, she can work a generator like nobody’s business an build a barn in two days, but so can lots of people. Plus you won’t have that constant fear of being stabbed in the back by your “loved ones.” And let’s face it, that is all she knows. More on that in a bit.

When Margie is questioned, the big moment (and great job by US Marshall Head Bleed from LOST) is when it’s suggested that the family didn’t really want her, they just wanted a young, impressionable recruit. Ouch. That one hit home with the poor lonely girl just looking for a loving and stable family. (And you went with that motley crew?)

Nicki, whilst sewing quilting squares to the original Von Trapp Family Singers (oh my god, I lol’d and kicked my heels at that), finally gets that something is up with her neglected daughter. Push comes to shove and Nicki marches her to Greg’s to demand that they stop seeing each other. I got hives when he called Cara Lynn “Sweetheart,” and loved that Nicki snapped, “Don’t you sweetheart her!” How justifiable for Nicki to lose it like she did. Here she is in the beginning stages of realizing all that’s been done to her over the years, her misguided attempts to help other women from suffering as she did (and as she knows she was spared from suffering by being married off to Bill) and her own daughter is now trying to ruin all the plans Nicki’s made by getting married to a man more than 20 years her senior.

I’m sure she was thinking of that horrible horrible scene from last year as Nicki ran in a panic to every room in that seedy motel, looking for her daughter, just getting to her in time to save her from being married off to a dirty old man. How for Nicki, that was her moment to really face the compound, to stop making excuses for them, and to draw her own line in the sand. Her frightened and horrified screams as she weakly slapped at Greg… So very sad. I’ll miss Chloe Sevingy’s Nicolette, that’s for sure. What a unique and layered character. She’s just indefatigable, isn’t she?

Not so fast. Family meeting where Bill lets them all know that Home Plus is being targeted by Alby, the indictments are coming, and it’s just not looking good. Barb hisses at Nicki to use whatever influence she may still have with her brother to call him off. Fat chance, but Nicki does her duty as always. She runs into Verlan who lets her know that Alby wants Bill dead. VERLAN. DO NOT TELL NICKI. She has no filter, dude!

Of course Nicki immediately chastises Alby for wanting her husband dead and we know it can’t be good for Verlan, even with the red herring the writers through in about Bud Mayberry (aka, Terminator 2.) Alby tries to pull rank, but Nicki pulls out all the stops, they know about him sodomizing lots of boys, not just Madison, they know that Lura left because he was in love with Dale, and she delivers the killing blow, that Dale “would rather hang himself than spend an eternity in Outer Darkness with [Alby].”

Oooh. Alby stops her from being able to leave and we just know shit is about to go down.

Margene, who has been confronted by Michael Sainte that perhaps the family is actually a cult, then confronted by Bill and Barb that Goji is the cult, seemed to be on the point of walking away from the family. “It’s not about the juice! It’s about feeling needed and validated!” But she eventually calls Goji and quits the business. And here’s where I’d like to insert another PSA, as someone that grew up devoutly Mormon and the daughter of a woman that was obsessed with pyramid schemes (and I mean she tried every single one that came down the pike, from Smellaleuca to Nu-Skin.)

They’re both cults. Now before you go thinking I’m just Miss Sour Grapes over here, there actually is a checklist:

  • does the outfit/group isolate the individual?
  • does the outfit/group claim a higher purpose than the rest of the world?
  • does the outfit/group push the individual to unrealistic goals of perfection?
  • are the beliefs of the outfit/group thought to be sacrosanct?
  • is the leader always right?
  • do they encourage black or white thinking?
  • are members recruited deceptively?

Make your own opinion, but you ain’t changing mine.

Adaleen checks in on Alby and makes him swear that he wouldn’t “really” hurt someone. I assume this is family code for murder. A little rough and tumble is all well and good, however. Does anyone really think anyone else in this family will actually be honest at this point? Go ahead and cue that creepy child sing song music as Alby shuts the front door, and opens the closet where he’s stuck his ungrateful sister. Oho, look who’s in the closet now! Oh, and she’s in a pastel prairie dress. And her hands are duct taped. And her mouth is duct taped. You know, like brothers and sisters do.

He covers her head in a sack, gets Verlan (who doesn’t know who it is) to help him carry this new “apostate” out to the desert to fill the hole, instead. When Alby takes the sack off and Verlan sees who it is, you have to think he knew his time was up. Oh, Nicki! Her guttural “I don’t want to die!” and trying to break through to her brother with tales of their growing up together, and Alby shoots three feet to the left of her and kills Verlan, who gives out a high pitched scream before falling face down in the dirt.

Alby steps over his dead body, lovingly holds the pink collar of Nicki’s dress and soothes, “This is who we are, who we’ll always be. You’re my sister and I love you.”

In my family we show love a different way, I’m just saying. But having known a child of one of the more violent polygamist families (on the show they’re the Greens, in real life they’re the LeBarons) I know that it’s pretty typical, what we’ve just seen. Can you take that in for a second? It’s just other-worldly, and I know this show gets flack for being “crazy” with the plot lines, but this shit is real. The Juniper Creek stuff is the most realistic aspect of the whole show, you just have to believe me on this one.

Back in Sandy, Bill prepares the other wives for his going away for a long time, maybe 20 years. They’re shocked, but then in staggers a dirty, weirdly dressed (even for her) and crazy-eyed Nicki. The lights were on, but no one was home. It seems like we’ve finally reached Nicki’s breaking point.


Man, I cannot wait until next week. They crammed so much in this episode, it’s just going to be even more jam-packed, I suspect.

Homework for funsies: read up on Ervil LeBaron, Dr. Rulon C. Allred and his assassination, and Warren Jeffs’ attempted suicides in prison. I bet we’ll see a lot of parallels in these last two episodes.

Edited to add: I have backlogged previous seasons’ discussions, hit the Big Love tag to catch up.