This week on Big Love, the only gun was the one Alby pointed at Nicki and subsequently used to shoot the plot device named Verden, and everyone thinks Margie is in a cult. “The Noose Tightens” is everything that’s great about Big Love, and another example of how fantastic this show can be when it tells a story in its inside voice.
Let’s start, as we do, with the men, and move on from there. Bill is facing a twenty-year prison sentence for statutory rape, plus the charges resulting from the new anti-polygamy laws the Senate and the LDS have worked to create just for this purpose. Does it give anyone else pause that these two bodies, funded in one way or another by the good people of Utah, have devoted all their energies and resources for a substantial chunk of time to bringing down one guy? They’ve certainly been efficient, working with the same precision and blood lust as Alby to take everything from him. Not just to punish him for his (many) wrongs, but to make him an example, to make him suffer.
Don is tempted to sell out his share of Home Plus to Alby, who has offered him twice the value. He wants Bill to sell out, too, but Don is done no matter what. Bill threatens to out Alby by finding an old family fling who’ll tell the UEB exactly what he and cousin Alby used to do together. Alby, not being one to fuck around, decides it’s time for Operation Kill Bill to go into full gear.
Bill offers to resign and take the full weight of the punishment the state is threatening if they leave Barb alone, which may be the most unselfish thing he’s ever done. I don’t know what it says about me, but I felt sympathy for him in this episode for the first time in a few seasons. I appreciate that this show keeps me on my toes, but it’s a complicated relationship.
Caralynn – The jig is up, DullSkeeve is out of the bag and two out of three Henrickson wives agree, this dude is trouble. The third Henrickson wife would be in agreement as well, if she weren’t being compared to one of Elizabeth Smart’s kidnappers by the state of Utah, but more on that later. Caralynn wants to marry her teacher, now that they’re all busted, and the audience has a collective crisis as we realize how truly disturbing Bill and Margene’s relationship was, even as it was packaged to us as sweet, charming and just a little gosh-darn non-traditional. In “The Noose Tightens,” Caralynn is as manipulative and single-minded as Rhonda or Nicki ever were in her quest to get the hell out of dodge on whatever train happens to swing close enough for her to catch.
Heather – Heather, often the only character on this show that turns to her faith to better herself and not to get what she thinks she wants, is collateral damage. Shocked and ashamed that her private conversation with her Bishop has been the tipping point for everything that’s rained down upon the Henricksons, she does what I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do on this show – she sincerely apologizes.
Barb – Not satisfied with destroying Bill, the state is building a case against Barb for “procurement” in the statutory rape charge against Bill. While I imagine it’s all to get Bill to take on his own punishment without a fight, Barb is crushed. On a lighter note, I love that Barb is seemingly listening to the Pat Boone channel on Pandora. In the midst of all the drama, when Heather tells Barb about how everything unfolded, Barb is decorating a perfect layer cake. Because she’s Barb. After the news, she throws that perfect cake at the window. Because New Barb throwing a perfect cake at the reflection of Old Barb in the window is some pretty great imagery.
Margene – Margene plays girl detective in this episode, quickly sussing up how Caralynn and DullSkeeve’s affair is happening and how good of a liar Caralynn is. Margene inserts herself and doesn’t budge until the couple reveals what’s going on. Ginnifer Goodwin is hitting it out of the park in these final episodes, and the moment she steps up and starts being the mother Caralynn has needed we finally see the steel core that’s kept Margie going underneath the confused, good intentioned, sweet exterior we normally see. Along with the moments of clarity offered by seeing herself in Caralynn, Margene is also involved in two separate conversations about being in a cult. Grant Show tells her that her family is a cult, Bill tells her Grant Show’s Mormon Ponzi Juice is a cult. Margie, who may be smarter than anyone else on this show, becomes the math whiz she claims she isn’t and adds two and two all over the place.
Nicki – Nicki is taking her role as underground railroad conductor for former plural wives very seriously. There are some truly funny moments with Illiana, her newest rescue, who doesn’t really want to leave but is wisely a little frightened of Nicki. Nicki is also really horrible in the early parts of this episode. Some folks play hard to get, some folks play hard to love. We feel a bit for her again when Nicki finally believes that DullSkeeve is sleeping with her daughter, and the full effect of what’s going on hits her, we see her break just a little bit more. Later, though, we’re again reminded of exactly how she became who she is. Late in the episode, while Nicki is trying to re-capture/rescue Illiana, she’s snatched by Alby and his reluctant sidekick, Verden. Verden spills the beans that Alby wants Verden to kill Bill, Nicki confronts Alby and goes right for his sexuality, Alby snaps and locks her in the closet after dressing her in one of those horrible cotton compound dresses. Later, with a hood over Nicki’s head, he has Verden drag her out to a grave he dug in the dessert. When the hood comes off, Verden balks and panics when he sees it’s Nicki. Nicki begs for her life, reminding Alby of everything they shared growing up together. Alby, confused, shoots Verden and leaves him in the grave, letting Nicki go.
In the final scene, Bill is sitting at the kitchen table telling Barb and Margie that he’s likely going to get twenty years when Nicki enters. She’s dirty, in shock and still in the horrible pink dress. Her three spouses turn to her and the scene goes black.
Only two more episodes remain, and you can almost see the Jenga blocks vibrating as the last piece holding up the Henrickson tower is removed. Join me here next week as we build up to the finale. Is there any interest in live-blogging the last episode? I’m up for it if some of my fellow fans will be around to keep me company.