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Big Love Recap: Desperate Times

Were you so bored by the Oscars that you made time for the Henricksons rapid descent? A commenter last week accused us of recapping the show "with nothing but cynicism," but Big Love's writers leave us little choice.

Nicki was her usual wretched self for the bulk of the episode, alternately snapping and pouting. She wants a new dress for her wedding, and a reception. Barb makes a show of paying for Nicki's new dress as a gift, and also makes a show of pulling that pesky old gun out of her handbag. Okay, writers. We know what Chekhov said about guns. But do you?

Cara Lynn and Greg's relationship grows increasingly intimate. She's checking out his old-man cologne in his bathroom and cooking Estonian delicacies with him. And even though Nicki in the days before her wedding tells Cara Lynn that Greg has a crush on her, only Nicki's ego is buying that claim. Greg's mom suspects something untoward, and Margene notices their nascent love at the wedding. So we have that catastrophic climax to look forward to.

Lois and Frank experienced a sweet moment of tenderness last week, but now there is only desperation. When Frank falls and breaks his hip, Lois refuses to call for help. We hoped for a moment that their old twisted relationship was back and Lois was watching him suffer, but instead she was desperate and terrified. She can't be without Frank and, after Barb suggests a home, tries to kill him and herself.

But that wasn't even the most cynical moment of the episode. That was reserved for the weird parallel between Rhonda and Verlan's moneymaking schemes. Rhonda (who just banged Ben) dances at a club with a three-foot rule, and Verlan is ordered to strip before a capricious Alby, who strings him along with hundred-dollar bills. Unless they play some major role in Alby's demise, they returned to Big Love only so we could see how terrible life is for them.

Alby's getting crazier by the week. After he buys the Home Plus building, banishes TVs and cell phones from Juniper Creek, and raises the rent 25 percent, Bill declares war. Don calls the dispute what it is: "A grudge between the Grants and the Henricksons, not me." Bill threatens to expose Alby's gayness, but Alby seems unconcerned. Not a good sign, Bill.

The Henricksons come together over Nicki and Bill's wedding, but it takes much of the episode for everyone to find any happiness (and then it lasts about two minutes). Bill and Nicki concede to let Barb officiate as a Universal Life Church minister, and the ceremony is indeed beautiful. That is, until Barb (after a Goodfellas-esque tracking shot through the reception) sees Bill resealing himself to Nicki and Margene. Barb wasn't interested in being resealed, but that doesn't mean that Bill had to go and do it without her. Barb is looking more and more like a woman without a family, and the "paper divorce" that was no big deal just last week now has terrible consequences.

But who would have suspected that it's good-hearted Heather who brings Bill Henrickson down? Seeking spiritual counsel from her bishop, she explains the family's secret about teen Margene. The bishop, who may as well be stroking a giant cat and cackling, betrays Heather's trust.

And when the cops come to Barb with questions about a statutory rape, she goes with them without protest. She's cynical about her family, too.

Photo: Isabella Vosmikova/HBO