Sunday, February 28, 2010

Big Love, "Next Ticket Out": If you can dodge an accusation of adultery, you can dodge a tetherball

Well, nothing on tonight's penultimate episode of "Big Love" season four was as gonzo or ridiculous as last week's Mexican adventure, but there's still too much going on and I have yet to see anything to convince me that Bill's political campaign isn't the most credibility-damaging storyline on a previously-good drama since the Dillon Panthers' backup tight end went on a 12-state killing spree.

On the plus side? Tetherball fights always remind me of good times at summer camp.

What did everybody else think?


Tom said...

Yes, BL has never been moving or really very believable, but at its best it was intriguing and funny and ambiguous in a good way. This season has just been a painful cringe-fest.

The novelist Milan Kundera has written of how important it is to have a certain compassion for characters. The BL writers have no compassion for these people at all, so they've lost their human quality and become two-dimensional cartoons. We're still watching, but just to see the contrived thing play out. I'd bring back the Season Two writers.

CB said...

Wasn't the trainwreck last week was,but the breakneck pace of storytelling is exhausting. And I will say it again. This plot based story telling is ruining every character. This season can't end soon enough.

christy said...

A more enjoyable episode, by virtue of being more character-oriented.

Problem is, I still don't understand what's going on in most of the storylines, especially the JJ one.

I always find Bill most sympathetic when he's trying to connect with Sara. But that doesn't matter much anymore seeing as how this was essentially her swan song.

I guess I just look forward to (I hope) getting some idea what's happening next week, and then taking a nice long break, forgetting the arm thing happened, and starting fresh next season.

Paulina said...

I feel like I watched this whole episode through a haze of frustration. Then again, that's basically how I've felt for most of this season.

Way, way too much nonsense going on. I felt like all the women took a giant step backwards this episode - especially Nicki.

Really, I always felt this show did a bad job when it came to Sarah. I always rooted for her, but time and time again she was shown to be weak. Also, Teeny? I liked her a lot more when she was a camp. She adds absolutely nothing but another character to be annoyed at.

Bill... as much as I dislike Bill, I hate the rest of the family even more for continually sticking by him no matter what it means for them, their family, and the future. They're all so weak and I'm getting sick of it.

Whatever happened with JJ? Wasn't he supposed to be relevant? There's no point to him and he's not developed enough to be interesting.

I have to say, I like Alby... Oh! And Goran is easy on the eyes, at least.

Anonymous said...

Why did they suddenly decide to make Teenie so incredibly annoying? I also think it's hilarious that Bill is doing talk shows and the candidates are running TV ads for STATE senate. On what planet does that happen?

christy said...

Also--slow-motion tetherball??? What is this show?

Anonymous said...

I live in the Philly region and regularly see TV ads in state senate races from both Philly and PA.

My defense of Big Love ends there. Its a strange world when the only character they have developed this season to any degree is Alby.

JL said...

Definitely a step in the right direction from last week but I think the show has jumped the shark so bad that they might officially replace that term with 'severed the arm'

The show did have the best scene of the entire season where Margine is in the back yard with her 3 potential love interests. Even shrouded in a cheesy tetherball contest as a means of demonstrating Bill's built up rage, there was a lot to interpret from that situation as a parallel to Bill and his 3 wives

Bix said...


I'm pretty sure that the implication was that J.J. had raped his sister Wanda (Umm, dude. No.). I have no idea what specifically was supposed to be happening with him and Adaleen, though, other than that he's pulling some shenanigans with her pregnancy. I think.

GoGoWriter said...

I actually enjoyed 4.7 more than than NTO. That's not saying much, but at least it was entertaining in a shallow way. I was having a great time even with the stupidity of Bill's decision (I actually tried to think of a work stronger than stupidity, but gave up). The past few episodes I found myself comparing the pace to True Blood season 2, where there wasn't a dull moment and every episode ended with at least one cliffhanger--nothing too deep, but fun as hell and not one letdown on any plot line. That's TB's style, though, so why not save over-the-top moments such as limbs being chopped off with machetes for *that* guilty pleasure series instead? And maybe limit major bombshells to, oh, as little as 3 times per episode?

IMHO seasons 1-3 had the closest-to-perfect balance of character development, story and character arcs, surprises, big pay-off scenes, "HFS" moments, and just as importantly, knew when the pace needed to slow down so the viewers could catch a breath opposed to feeling exhausted and a little grateful the episode was over. When I rented season 3, after a loooong wait, I wolfed down the whole season in one greedy 3-day bite. Now I am just counting down to Breaking Bad S3.
Am I the only one who thinks there is a LOT more besides hormones in those injections Nickie and her mom are being given? Too many hormones can cause some bizarre behavior in anyone, but Nickie's mom seemed suspiciously animated and cheerful and carefree. We went from that nightmarish scene of JJ and her's, er, wedding night, and she looked like she was bracing herself before getting major surgery with no anesthetics whatsoever, then the following episode to her happily babbling to Nicki (and finally apologizing and admitting fault for marrying Nicki off at 15 (has she ever apologized for ANY sh-tty behavior in the history of the series? Not that I can recall). about her miracle baby? Also, Nicki isn't known for being mentally stable, and she's been getting some very, very bad news lately, but on this episode, I think she's the most irrational out I've ever seen her.

Maybe everyone is already way ahead of me on this theory, but I think he did pump her up with enough hormones to show a false positive result to the pregnancy test.

Tonight's episode was tiring, had some dialogue so cliche I kind of winced at a couple of Bill's lines, going off in 14 different directions, but it may be the first BL episode that only gets one viewing from me. I watched "Free at Last" 4 times since the premiere aired, for instance. Yep, I get that this was Sarah's farewell from the series, but the ending just kind of fizzled out.

The slow-mo tetherball had we wincing even more. Do you think they dumbed that down enough? I wish they'd just dropped all pretenses and just got in a fist-fight. I did start thinking by the end that Bill was going to keel over with some kind of major cardiac event (due to the slow-mo), or maybe a crippling panic attack, but I guess not.

One last thing before this post becomes a novella. Does anyone know why they chose to have the season consist of 9 episodes? I can see 10, maybe even 8 (with another 6 or 8 after a break, making season 4.1 and 4.2) but 9 seems kind of random. Did they have to cut it short and only found out after into active production? I guess that would account for the clutter and too-fast pace, but I'm curious to know what exactly was behind that decision. I don't know how it went down (which is why I ask) but shame on whoever was responsible for what started off as a great "Hang on Tight" season into this sloppy mess that has crossed the line when it comes to insulting every viewer's intelligence.

KrisMrsBBradley said...

My guess for the JJ story-line? He's impregnating every woman he can with someone else's sperm, via his son and his "fertility" treatments, and Nicky is next. Not sure who's yet. Given Adeleen's reaction it's not his own.

KrisMrsBBradley said...

I agree, though, that Wanda was molested, but I think it goes back all the way to their father. His toast about Adeleen's pregnancy was creepy.

Chalmers said...

The tetherball scene was another "Napoleon Dynamite" reference. There's also Tina Majorino, who work's at "Deb's" and Napoleon's grandmoter is Brother Selma.

TL said...

Tetherball fights always remind me of good times at summer camp.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and a tetherball pole is just a tetherball pole. But other times....

I've been a apologist for this show, but I really can't do so anymore. I just hope that the writers get all of this out of their system this year, wipe the slate clean, and start the next season with a manageable season arc.

Not only manageable, but coherent. There's too much stuff that's going on for no other reason than to move plot pieces from point A to point B. For example, Bill already won the Republican primary. Why is his Democratic opponent in the general trying to outflank him from the right? (I know Utah is weird politically, but come on.)

TL said...

the candidates are running TV ads for STATE senate. On what planet does that happen?

And POLLING! And MULTIPLE polls at that!

Susan said...

This show has been driving me crazy this season - I don't understand the JJ or UEB/Trustee stuff, I don't care about Bill's parents or the Greenes, and I don't want to deal with the whole Marilyn drama. It's way over the top, and way too divided among too many characters.

However, last night there were glimmers of the family dyanamics that I've always liked most about this show:
* Nikki trying to finally make the separation from Juniper Creek. (However, I find her 180 on loving Bill hard to believe so quickly.)
* Barb's conflict over her transition from monogamous marriage to polygamy and what she gave up for her new family.
* Sarah's love for her family in conflict with her desires for a more normal family structure. (I found the moment when Nicki said "Sit down" to Sarah and Sarah sat very telling - even after it all, Sarah still respects Nicki as a mother figure.) And Sarah's guilt at being able to leave before the family outs itself while leaving Teeny behind to have to deal with it.
* Margene's loyalty to the family conflicting with her desires to be her own person, making her own decisions about her business and her life.

Bill proved himself to be more of an ass than ever this week, and it doesn't excuse his behavior that he always apologizes or tries to be nice (to Sarah, to Barbara, to Margene) after the fact. I'm hoping that Barb leaves him in the finale.

Lepidoptera said...

I have to disagree about the degree to which this was a trainwreck. Yes, the Mexican standoff was ridiculous, and relied on the premise that the perennial bad guys are actually brainless and inept, but at very least the absurd dis-arming and escape served to move the frantic plot along.

The same cannot be said of the tetherball post somehow sprouting up in the backyard (anybody ever seen it before?) and the atrocity of the sweaty standoff between Bill and the shockingly unco-ordinated Ukrainian tetherballer.

Hugh Jee From Jersey said...

At least the storylines touched down on planet earth and had some semblance of grounding after the craziness of last week's Mexican Hayride.

In this generally cluttered and confusing mess of a season I find that Nicki is the only character I find myself rooting for- the rest have become cartoon characters with all the common sense of Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz.

As for "The Watch Test" 9:29 I started checking the time- how much longer should I sit through this?

THE SOPRANOS....MAD MEN....WEST WING....those were shows that when an episode ended, you wanted to fast forward to see what's next.

BIG LOVE this can't wait for an episode to end.

And that's a its early years it was compelling and usually held the viewer's interest.

Tom said...

> atrocity of the sweaty standoff
> between Bill and the shockingly
> unco-ordinated Ukrainian
> tetherballer.

Really that dumb tetherball game epitomized the contrived, tin-eared writing of the whole season.

A tetherball pole doesn't just appear out of thin air. The Ukrainian dude wouldn't have been intimidated -- he would have enjoyed the game and probably whipped Bill's butt -- and he wouldn't have gotten hit in the head, no way. And even if Bill did win the game, it wouldn't have gone on long enough for him to get sweaty like that. Tetherball isn't THAT strenuous.

Anonymous said...

Bill and Goran should have played tethercat.

KrisMrsBBradley said...


That's just gross.

Kensington said...

I, too, loved the moment when Nikki demanded that Sara stay and listen to her mothers. Stuff like that is what interests me in Big Love, not political squabbles or Xtreme tetherball.

And I think TB is onto something in the first comment about questioning whether the writers have lost empathy (TB said compassion) for the characters. I submit that they haven't, except in the case of Bill, and that's a huge problem because the show still revolves around him.

If this were a show about Hitler in the bunker I think we'd get a more nuanced portrayal than we're getting of Bill Hendricksen at this point.

Anonymous said...

I'm so tired of Bill being the hero of the show rather than the protagonist. Him whacking Goran with the tetherball was completely ridiculous. I wanted Goran, and Barb, and Ben, and Margene, and Sarah, and Nicki, and Anna, to whack *him* in the head with the tetherball.

SaneN85 said...

Mmmmh, my DVR didn't record this. I assumed it was taking a week break.

Whiskey said...

hey Alan, is that a FNL spoiler???O_O I don't remember anyone going on killing sprees in any of the seasons I've already watched so I'm thinking you just made a reference to something in the current season that a lot of us haven't watched yet.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the whole become a state senator scheme in order to come out as polygamists. How does being a state senator make it any better? "You elected me to the state senate, so therefore you will be OK with me being a polygamist."

Also, wouldn't all the underhanded things he is doing during the campaign make it even worse? He will look like a huge hypocrite and jackass for firing his buddy Don for being a polygamist. It will also be clear that one of his wives had a sham marriage in order to commit immigration fraud.

Am I missing something? Obviously Bill is a huge asshole and incredibly stupid, but why does no one else understand this?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Whiskey, it's a joke (sort of) about a storyline from FNL season 2.

Tom said...

> Am I missing something? Obviously
> Bill is a huge asshole and
> incredibly stupid, but why does no
> one else understand this?

The viewers understand it but somehow the writers don't. Bill the character is fundamentally believable. For him to act the way he is acting, completely absent rational thinking, he would have had to have a brain injury or something. And for the characters around Bill to put up with him, he would have to be using tranquilizers or mind control hypnosis or something. Reasonable people -- heck, even Mormon women -- would have had Bill in treatment long ago. He'd be on lithium to help him with his manias and the wives would be making the decisions.

Tom said...

whoops, i meant to say Bill the character is "fundamentally unbelievable"

Anonymous said...

There's heroin everywhere!


I don't necessarily think the characters becoming two dimensional are a problem (because I really appreciated the smaller moments between the characters, like Nicki trying to comfort Alby, or Barb and the Casino guy, or Barb finally standing up for herself and gets mad at Bill, etc) as much as just how absolutely annoying and stupid Bill has become - and it becomes why any of these characters would love and care about such a guy.

And the millions of storylines don't help.

Anonymous said...


Did you just casually throw out a spoiler for FNL? What the heck.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Did you just casually throw out a spoiler for FNL?

No. I made a joke about a storyline from almost three years ago.

Shawn D said...

I still have some hope that this show can be salvaged.

I really enjoyed the first three seasons. I enjoyed parts of this season, particularly the second episode, and Nicki's character arc for most of the season.

If they can just bring it back to reality a little bit more, I think they can recapture what made the show so good in the past. The Mexican standoff scene just kind of took it to a bizarre level. Not only the idea of the Greene's being so inept, etc, but the way it was cut together was just weird. They probably could have even made such a story work had the Green's not appeared out of nowhere, had it not been in reference to a PARROT SMUGGLING storyline, and had it just...well, made more sense. The whole Ben/Bill rift, and Bill risking his life to save Ben and heal the rift, now that basic idea there could work. They just blew the execution big time.

I think they should look at the fact that possibly the best episode of the series was the road trip episode from season 3. They need to look at the things that made that episode awesome, look at the things from the show that episode lacked, and take that and say "Hey, let's do that for all of Season 5".

The running for office thing was obviously fated for disaster since the start, but I'm still curious to see how it unravels.

Derek said...

Favorite moment from the episode (than no one's mentioned yet): The look on Anna's face when Bill tried to explain why it's not okay for Margene to have a second husband. That moment really showed how unaware Bill really is about himself. And it ended, if I remember correctly, with Bill shouting, "I'm not a hypocrite!" Sure you're not, Bill.

fran said...

I agree with most of what's been said. And this episode was at least better in its return to the characters.
What I've really liked, in the midst of all the train wreck stuff in this season, is Nicki's arc, especially her relationship with her daughter, and Sarah and Scott's relationship.
Nicki's scene with Alby & dead Roman, & then her changing back to her old clothes & demeanor were heartbreaking.
And Wanda was definitely molested by her dad - in the scene when he first showed up & was touching her hair - so creepy & sad.

Wayne said...

In one scene Nikki is freaking out slapping Bill about him not telling her his brother killed her father. And in the very next scene, she's got lingerie on, submissive, and acting like nothing's happened. Now, we all know she's crazy, but this was just incredibly nonsensical continuity. Add that to the pile of stank this thread has already pointed out about this season.

Lisa said...

Hey! Is this a FNL spoiler? "Dillon Panthers' backup tight end went on a 12-state killing spree." You always post about "no spoilers," but this is a spoiler to those of us not watching the show on DirecTV!

Alan Sepinwall said...

Hi, Lisa. Please read the previous comments that address this.

Sigh... No sense of humor on anyone anymore...

Moshen Family said...

Hugh Joe from Jersey brought up other, better, HBO (and AMC, I guess) shows as context. I thought the same thing watching the episode: no other HBO drama has gone so far off the rails as this one has. For a company that puts out so much quality programming (I would add Rome to any list) this is quite a departure. The Sopranos' quality could also justify long wait times between seasons, but who's going to wait around for this crap? As a cost-effectiveness issue, HBO should drop the series and put its money somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

Although it was always out there, the show used to be plausible. Now, it's absurd. Btw, did I miss something or was Adeleen killed? That's how bad the show has gotten. I really didn't care.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I, for one, got and enjoyed your FNL joke. Not sure why anyone would think that you would carelessly break your own strict no spoilers rule.

Chris said...

I doubt anyone suggesting the FNL reference was spoiler-y meant offense or can't take a joke. I immediately thought spoiler, too, then thought "That'd be really un-Alan to do that" and decided to read the comments. For me, I always have to be careful to skip past Alan's posts about FNL to avoid seeing pictures, etc. And just the sheer wait while knowing the whole season is already out there probably makes a lot of us more sensitive to it than we would be otherwise.

Really though, it's more a sign that the joke was believable for FNL as a plot...sadly.