Can Big Love Possibly Get Any Better?

By
Photo: Lacey Terrell/HBO
Show
Big Love
Episode Title
On Trial
Season
3
Episode
4

Awkward, awkward, awkward. The sister wives give up their Bill nights to Nicki, who’s so stressed by her father’s trial that she actually says the newly bleached-blonde Margene looks like a “complete whore.” (Margene is too stunned to reply “see you next Tuesday.”) Bill and Nicki, deeply un-psyched by this arrangement, play the most tense game of Go Fish ever put to film, and when Bill puts on his daddy persona — normally catnip for Nicki — and suggests a little intercourse, Nicki replies, “No, I would not like to have sex with you.” And believe us, she knows how hot it would’ve been.

The awkwardness is unending. Nicki does get turned on when the prosecuting attorney, who obviously has bad breath, throws a jelly bean at her. Who does he think he is, Mystery? (He also says this: “I live, breathe, eat, and drink all things Roman Grant.” That’s just nasty!) And there’s plenty more that’s not sexually charged, although who knows how Alby felt to have Bill trying to partner with him against his father. Speaking of the gays: Sarah goes with her brother and best friend to meet a possible adoptive couple for the bun she’s baking, and the man announces his “S.S.A.” — same-sex attraction. “I am as gay as they come,” he says, by way of explaining how he resists his urges. (Sarah’s so upset by the whole thing that afterward she shouts, “I don't feel like listening to Christian rock right now!”)

And then there is Barb’s mom and Bill’s mom, who collide in Barb’s kitchen. Who must Bill find the bigger nuisance: his own mother, who tried to hide her “torture and attempted murder” of his father, or his in-law, who has secretly set up a trust fund for his children? (Shades of Carmela Soprano: Barb’s worried that Bill is stretched too thin to properly support his family.) “I know you think I’m a dirty chinchilla,” says Bill’s mother, who doesn’t argue that she isn’t one. (She has, after all, just stolen Barb’s mother’s gift basket.) In an eye-blink, Nicki calls Margene a “prostitute,” Barb’s mother demands to know of Ana, “If you're not the babysitter, who are you?” and Bill proposes marriage — leading his mother to suggest that he might ultimately be after the magic number seven. It’s a perfect storm of a scene and yet perfectly naturalistic; that it resolves the Ana question so effectively is just a bonus.

There’s way more — Nicki, for instance, nudges her father down a flight of stairs, because he is a creepbag and she can no longer deny it — but the show ends, as we must, with Rhonda. Oh, Rhonda. “Will it make people like me more?” she asks, wondering whether she should testify against her mummified lover. Then she plays her folk demo (which is pretty good, by the way) for a truck driver taking her in the direction of L.A. If you’re cringing for her there, how to describe the feeling when the driver asks her to scoot over, to “come sit by me”?