Last night at 10:23 p.m. — after the airing of this episode, which we planned to watch after a late meeting of our new curling league — we received a text from a co-worker and fellow Big Love fan: “Bill’s tetherball masculinity bullshit is embarrassing.” We were intrigued — this must be a metaphor for Bill’s pinging between benign paternalism and macho posturing, we thought. The truth, of course, is that Bill had actually challenged Goran — Margie’s deliciously European groom
-to-be — to a tetherball match, finally besting the non-American with a knock to his artfully unshaven face. Whatever it says about Bill (and it says plenty, albeit things we already know), this little set piece felt like recess from all the big-dawg drama — a few fleeting moments of exhilarating fun. Loved it.
The tetherball match may also be the one bit of useful theater to come out of the impending-but-not-really-impending Goran-Margie green-card marriage, a sham of a sham that Bill comes to encourage because he somehow thinks it will throw doubt on the “affair” between Bill and Margene that Marilyn is threatening to publicize. Like voters wouldn’t believe that Goran — “Igor,” as Bill calls him — could draw any folks of his choosing into a threesome.
This does allow, however, Margie to turn Bill’s logic on him, asking why the ladies can’t be married, too. Yeah, why not? Well ... read the fine print. Instead of posing a rhetorical question in the form of a B-plot, Nicki now proposes a quandary in the form of her very needs: For the first time ever, she loves Bill. Seeing her mother made wife to J.J. has her understandably repulsed and looking to modernize — hello, bare shoulders! And he-llo bottomless nightie. Nicki’s about-face (since last season) on the question of conceiving a new child has been earned, and her stirrings of desire for a nuclear unit has Bill interestingly flustered. “Don’t I have the right to be normal?” isn’t a rhetorical question coming from Nicki — it’s a brave self-assertion. And about that bottomless nightie — when she asks Bill, “What did you want to do to me in it?” He can only say, with an impotent weariness, “Lots!”
Of course, that’s an exchange almost as hilarious as the tetherball face-off, and it has Joey’s murder of Roman as its backdrop. (Nicki slaps Bill over Roman before revealing that she loves-loves him. Maybe she wants to experiment with SM, too?) But really, it’s all about Nicki. She has resumed her place as the show’s center. So where’s Sarah, the show’s (necessary, we suppose) moralizer? Asking to be let off the “train” and packing up for Portland while Cat Power plays on the stereo. If this upsets us, it’s only because we fear Teeny 2.0 is being groomed as the next complicated young female in the household. Tragically, the episode begins with Teeny asking, “What about my birthday?” — and it ends with her birthday. Where, g’bye now, Sarah is presented with a quilt (which is really only notable for its inclusion of Bill’s hot-dog man apron). And, wow, are we feeling nostalgic for the weepy-faced Sarah?
Meanwhile, we don’t really understand why Barb made that speech about Utah women abusing Prozac and Benadryl (which, let’s be honest, makes a pretty good downer) and figure Bill probably saved the day by standing by her (or maybe not, whatever), so let’s just dispatch with the show’s other especially fascinating moments:
• “J.J.’s motley Kansas family” speaks for itself, but let’s note that Adaleen’s belying her own so far passive role in that relationship, snooping around like she’s Nicki in hot lawyer’s office. And then J.J. chloroformed her.
• Goran squeezes “Bobble head princess” Margie’s knee, and Margie looks terrified. You know she wishes it were Ben.
• Alby. Alby, Alby, Alby. White as Robert Pattinson, he faces a legal panel’s questioning over the apartment in which Dale hanged himself. So is his secret out, or what? Either way, he mourns to Nancy Sinatra, then lashes out against Nicki for borrowing one of Margie’s tops and bringing him a pair for jeans. (What, were they JNCOs?)
• Marilyn’s Christian-activist crony to Bill: “I could knock you down like a bowling pin.” Oh yeah? Bill will whale on you like a tetherball!
• Tommy hugs Barb and hacks Marilyn’s computer for Bill. Is it just us or did he change his hair?
Danny Gallagher at TV Squad observes that "Marilyn's attacks seem really personal for reasons that don't seem fully known."
Todd VanDerWerff at Hitfix reveals a dark fantasy: "For a long time, since I found out Seyfried was leaving, I was certain the show would kill her, since it's often seemed like the series was heading in that direction."
Related: Big, Big Love [Surf]