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Big Love: Off the Reservation

While not exactly apocalyptic in the manner of The Road or CNBC, this episode nevertheless has virtually everyone reverting to savage modes, reconnecting with their fundamental, tribal beings. Margene embarks on a crude capitalistic venture selling bracelets; Sarah withdraws into a state of pure self-interest, refusing to acknowledge anyone's pain but her own; Kathy, of course, is dead — and not very well made-up, either.

But it’s Bill and Ted (heh) who articulate the theme: the latter claiming that “the Indians and the renegades always lose”; the former, faced with an inter-tribal conflict that blocks his casino plans, entreating his Native American partner to go off and “smoke a peace pipe.” People, please — don’t you remember that your lives are predicated on perpetuating cycles of repression, not letting it all hang out? And once again comes Nicki to the fore. Is she a villainess, seething with self-regard, or a lone voice for freedom? Either way, she’s having her Adriana from The Sopranos moment, extricating herself, however blindly and haphazardly, from the family. Selfish Sarah should know better (are you really going to whine about baking a cake to honor the saintly Kathy?), but Nicki has never known her own personal power; spying for her father was not only a manifestation of his influence, but an act of rebellion against Bill — one well earned. And he, abetted by brother Joey, pushes her back into the arms of Alby, who we’re guessing will not fill that gay boyfriend role she could so desperately use.

Patriarchy dies hard: Dastardly Roman’s back on the scene, specifically (and outrageously), at Kathy’s funeral. But we feel more and more for the men: Joey, who’s getting deeper by the moment; the lawyer, even, because he clearly loves Nicki; and especially hapless Don, desperate to win back his two prodigal wives (who apparently “only loved each other” — in the Sapphic sense?), and prone to such misadventures as his trip to the reservation to coerce progress on the casino (not, presumably, by means of peace pipe), where he not only gets lost, but is faced with the advances of a presumably bear-loving man named Chester. It’s Don’s bid to win back his wives, using the proof of the secret letter authorizing plural marriage, that gives Bill his most pathetic moment in recent history, as he’s menaced by Roman’s brother-sister and a thug with Moe’s bowl haircut, choked with Moe’s belt, and then — presto, saved by the fire bell, which Don pulls. That’s civilization calling, and make no mistake — it is sounding an alarm.

Photo: Courtesy of HBO