Incipient threesomes! Human-egg switcheroos! Dress-shopping at Dillard’s! The key season of Big Love — the one that would finally detonate the ticking gender bomb of polygamy, or just keep us rolling in the soapy kitchen drama and bottomless nighties — culminated in a hugely symbolic stumbling block for Bill’s political campaign: The discovery of 32 inbred children at J.J.’ s camp in Kansas. As J.J. made explicit, he and Bill just want what’s “best” for their respective families. (Also, J.J. wouldn’t mind seeing Bill squeal like a pig.) But clearly, there’s such a thing as too … cohesive of a clan, and deeper gene pool aside, Bill’s all about maintaining power over his. What the show needed was for Bill to go down.
And it does look as if Bill’s about to crash, over the precipice of this season’s cliffhanger. The episode-closing acceptance speech in which he announced his adherence to the principle and introduced his wives was deliciously tense, and itself culminated in the show’s favorite little trick: show each of the wives making a little face, so you know where everyone stands. This served as a reminder, as if any were needed, that this season marched forward according to plan, with Bill holding things together just long enough to win the senate seat. And while it wasn’t clear whether he’d come out right away, to delay it would have been too obvious of a cop out for the show. And so, we were left with two questions: Would Barb stand by her man? And what single-episode, over-the-top new plot would Bill be forced to dispatch with?
The answer to the latter question, of course, is J.J.’s egg-swapping extravaganza. As over-the-top plots cranked by a madman go, this one had a certain elegance: Nicki, Adaleen, and Cara Lynn were all scrambled into one generation-defying baby-making apparatus, an Über-mother at the center of the show’s hopelessly tangled web of fucked-up relationships. Margene even offers Nicki an egg, with Barb’s encouragement. (Here’s a parlor game: tease out the similarities to Lost, The Matrix, and Rosemary’s Baby.) But in the end, Adaleen escapes, rescues Nicki, and burns up J.J. and his poor bald wife. The experience, we’re meant to see, sends Nicki even deeper into Bill’s arms — and helps set them up for true coupledom.
But if Bill’s feeling Nicki, it’s because Margie and Barb are slipping away. More Euro-larious than ever, Goran seems to be plotting a Roseanne-style three-way marriage with Margie and Ana. Ana’s become quite the convincing creep, but this still makes no sense. We’d write off whiny Margie entirely at this point if she hadn’t, in a moment of poignant crisis, parroted Nicki’s takedown of her personal failings after the offer of the egg. (Although Margene doesn’t mention anything about birthing “big-headed babies” or being a “tramp.”) Meanwhile, Bill continued the grim work of slowly alienating Barb, who finally sabotaged the campaign — only to see it saved by Marilyn Densham. The banishment of sad and handsome Tommy, who was just trying to do what’s best for his family by lying to the DEA about his meth-dealing niece, finally convinced Barb that she just can’t win — especially if Bill does. We absolutely believe her when she says “I don’t need you anymore”; let’s hope that her standing with Bill at the acceptance speech was merely an acknowledgment of how much he still needs her.
Margene, for her part, looked sick when she approached the stage. Where does Bill go from here? Is it too much to ask that he be forced to resign his office, make do without Barb or Margene, and confront the bottomless abyss of daddy issues he’s been acting out with Nicki, the living embodiment of compound dysfunction? All we know for sure: Alby has finally gone all the way over to the dark side, ranting, slashing his wife’s face, and tearing down perfectly nice wallpaper. There’s no negotiating with him over business or visitation, like there was with Roman and J.J. Bill caught between brother and sister, in exile from his life of upper-middle-class striving — that would make for an excellent season five.