From Sinning to Straight Edge, Characters Sing on this week's Big Love

Last night's installment of Big Love ("Reunion") dealt with several dangling story lines, while introducing a few unexpected twists into the mix. Who else thought that we would see Bill casually return to the Juniper Creek compound? Or see Alby sell out Roman? Or, hell, that Bill would steal Roman's business model?

Bill. Bill's been a fairly levelheaded guy the past season but it's beginning to worry me that cracks are showing in his tough veneer. His angry confrontation over the defaced billboards had me a little concerned but he does have to protect his family. Now, however, I'm simply shocked to see that he's compromising his own morals to go after Roman's new business plan: an investment in video poker games. In order to raise the cash to go after the company (which should make Roman super-pleased, no doubt), Bill has decided to cease his plans to open a third Home Plus store. The consequences? He and the entire Henrickson clan will be less visible with only two rather than three stores (good!) and he'll have to sell out his own moral beliefs in order to do so (bad!), something he had confronted Roman about doing. If drinking and gambling are immoral, then why enter into a (lucrative) business that glorifies and promotes both? Can you be financially successful and morally sound in today's age? Is Bill being pragmatic or is he going down a path to hell lined with the very best intentions? You decide.

Nicki. I really amazed myself by how much I suddenly cared about the prickly Nicki, who usually ends up irritating me with her shrill hysterics or manipulative plots; instead, I was stunned to see how much her character has grown and changed over the last few episodes (while still remaining, at heart, that old Nicki). Rather than tell Papa Roman that the feds were en route to the compound, she saved that bit of information for her husband Bill, a shift in thinking that should have occurred years ago. I cannot tell you how much I cheered at this turn of events, especially since Nicki is now 100% clear on who outed the Henricksons as polygamists at the Beehive Awards ceremony. Given her innate fear of being found out (and quite possibly torn limb from limb by a pitchfork-wielding mob), Nicki felt completely betrayed that her own father would put her and her children in such jeopardy. That said, was I the only one seriously horrified by Bill's laundry-strewn rendition of "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" to Nicki before their garden tryst?

Adaleen. Can I just say how bloody much I love Adaleen? She's a completely loopy character in a series that's filled with them. When she's not handing over mother-of-pearl-handled guns in Tupperwear containers or cutting huge carcasses of meat with power tools, she's issuing such verbal gems as "Get the plane on the runway!" and reminding Bill that the last time she saw him was when he broke into their house through the window. (Oh, yeah, almost forgot about that.) It's clear that she loves Nicki in her own way, but I couldn't help but be creeped out by her lesson on the rather, er, twisted branches of the Grant family tree. I'm hoping we see more of Adaleen in the next few weeks and I would love to know her true feelings about her family. More than, you know, her speech to crazy son Alby about it not being a "smooth move" to poke his father in the eye. Seriously, with family like this, who needs enemies?

Ben. I really feel for poor Ben. Caught between his lust for older girlfriend Brynne and his religious leanings, he's floundering for solid ground. I'm glad that the playfulness that exists between Ben and Margene didn't cross a line into something inappropriate (despite what Barb might think) and that Margene came through for Ben in a pinch. It's interesting to see Ben get drawn into the straight edge world (which, ladies and gentlemen, is not only alive but thriving these days), a blend of asceticism and heavy metal, in which the followers swear off alcohol, drugs, casual sex, etc. Ben does seem to believe in the tenant of plural marriage (as evidenced by his conversations with his dad), but is tempted by the pleasures of the flesh, and now even more confused by his friend Jason Embry (Kyle Gallner)'s stance on straight edge. Of course, the fact that Ben got beat up rather than tattooing himself leads me to believe that he won't end up a follower of straight edge. But will he be able to find some moral footing in a world where premarital sex is verboten? At least it was Sarah and not Barb who caught him in flagrante delicto... though Barb is already none too pleased that Benny's girlfriend is out of high school.

Alby. The guy still terrifies me and I'm glad that the series' producers are finally delving into his back story (repressed homosexuality) and might finally deal with last season's bizarro scenario in which he picked up a rent boy, made him a sandwich, and then beat his own head against the wall. With Alby wearing a brown suit after selling Roman and the compound out to the feds (rather than the traditional all-white for the family photo), I have a feeling Alby will be a solo agent for a while. But let's hope that he and Roman will be forced to wage a holy war against each other. (I love Nicki's insistence that he should drop the matter of his poisoning, because he survived.)

Rhonda. I'm so unsettled by Rhonda, if only because I really can't tell what her motives are, other than self-preservation. She betrayed Barb's kindness by telling Roman about the award last season and was directly involved in the plot to out the Henricksons; she dutifully records a song for the Grant Family Singers album (shudder) but then conceals herself in Bill's truck when he and Nicki flee the compound before the family photo. Just what does Rhonda want? Is it a "normal" life or does she want the status of being sealed to the prophet? I loved the shot of her legs sliding out of the trunk and gliding over to the Henrickson house... She quickly throws her arms around Barb but her expression, and sideways glance, make me wonder just what Rhonda REALLY wants and why she's there. Is there something more to her appearance than just an attempt at running away from Roman and the compound?

Hell, I haven't even mentioned the appearance of Bill's uncle Eddie (Brian Kerwin, a needed addition, what with Bill's dad's sudden "trip to Mexico") or Lois' concealment of her laundromat business. Or the fact that Joey is trying to take the fall for Wanda's poisoning. But when you're given an episode filled with so many delicious twists, one can't help but remember why you fell in love with Big Love in the first place. Me, I'm just happy that the Henricksons are finally back in my life.

Next week on Big Love ("Rock and a Hard Place"), Rhonda threatens to blackmail Nicki into letting her stay; Bill, Don, and Eddie meet with the owner of a polygamy-friendly video poker business; Brynne and Ben celebrate their three month anniversary with Margene; and Sarah tries to persuade Heather to accompany her to a movie with Scott. I can't wait!

* * *

Jace is an LA-based television development and acquisitions exec who watches way too much television for his own good and would love a TiVo for every room in the house. (He’s halfway there.) His blog, Televisionary, can be found at televisionaryblog.com.