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Open Thread: Sister Wives – “Free Range Browns”

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Faced with bigamy charges, Kody and his four wives, Janelle, Meri, Robyn and Christine, take their children on a “working vacation” to Kody’s family’s ranch in Wyoming, which he says has been in his family for five generations. He seems relieved to get across state lines, and to see his family again.

This is Robyn’s, and her children’s, first visit to the ranch, and a chance for her to get to know Kody’s family—who, surprisingly, turn out to be Janelle’s family as well!

Janelle originally came from a monogamous LDS family,as did Kody. When Janelle chose polygamy, her mother, Sheryl, was the only member of her family who stood by her. In time, she herself became convinced of “the Principle” of plural marriage, and shortly thereafter fell in love with Kody’s father.

Despite some jealousy on the part of Kody’s mother, Genelle (interesting juxtaposition of names between Kody’s mother and his wife), Sheryl, Janelle’s mother, and his father were married (three months before Janelle and Kody). After a disturbing emotional period, Kody’s mother says, when she felt that “I was taking care of the kids– and Sheryl was taking care of Win (Kody’s father), she and I became … best friends.”

After these revelations, the rest of the episode is essentially Brown cutup-style fun and games (and work). One of the daughters, McKelty, insists on riding an untamed horse and is thrown, but is ok though she seems to be in a lot of pain at first.

Most of the episode is quiet, even bucolic, compared to the turmoil the family has been facing. The whole family goes on a cattle drive to vaccinate Uncle Tim’s cattle, and paint Kody’s mother’s house. Then, to blow off steam, they go cliff climbing—somewhat to Robyn’s distress: she is a more protective mother than some of the others. (She’s still adjusting to being in this rough-and-tumble family.) One thing is sure—the Brown family has energy!

Though the family is here to relax and get some ranch work done, the tension and fear of their choice to “come out” to the world as polygamists (mirroring Big Love, which concluded on HBO tonight), runs throughout each episode. Kody’s family feels he is brave but note that few polygamist families would go so far. Should Kody and the women in his life have revealed themselves? What will happen to them? Will they be forced to split up—and what will happen to their children?

Let me know what YOU think!

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About Ladybelle Fiske

  • Hey Anonymous, do you know the family?

  • We are all human beings. Let us not judge one another too harshly… I do worry for the kids, that they be free to choose their own lives. The moms say they will be… I hope this is true.
    I like the family, and wish them well!
    Thanks for your comment!

  • Thanks for all your comments, and I hope you enjoy both the show and discussing it here with me. I hope to get my column up the night of the show and will be doing it earlier in the evening so we can all talk about it.
    I appreciate the many points of view of all of you and that you are thinking about the ways in which people choose to live… who are we to judge, really?

  • Terri

    I love this family!! They are very “normal” and down to earth. It’s wonderful how they interact with one another. We could only hope that our own family is as tight knit as theirs. I am not a polygamist and I am not God, therefore who am I to judge? I am so happy they have this show, it makes all my speculations(on polygamy) disappear. Thanks for educating my ignorance.

  • sharon

    I think their just doing the show for the money.

  • Josh

    Flipping sparkling! What a FESTIVITY idea. Thanks due to the fact that sharing and congrats on Freshly Pressed.
    Regards, Joshuah
    Stay – my age as well

  • Do you think the Browns have “dramatized” their lives to make the TV show more interesting? I am truly curious!

  • Both comments are fascinating and aim at the issue from different perspectives. I feel differently about the Browns than about the Jeffs cult, to be sure. The Brown women seem educated, intelligent and liberated in that they apparently think for themselves, and feel free to leave if they want to. So I agree with Karen, that though I would not wish to live this way (however much I may feel that having sister-wives would make life easier in terms of all of us doing things together, the imbalance seems unfair regarding Kody being the one to reap most of the sexual benefit). I also agree that the U.S. was founded on freedom of religion.
    The comment by “Anonymous” is also tremendously interesting in that it sounds as though you know the Brown family. Do you? How do you know that there were more wives in the family before Sheryl? (I’m not sure Genelle and Sheryl ever said that they were the ONLY wives in the family). Why would they lie about something like this, when everyone seems to be “open” about the polygamy issue?
    Were the Browns polygamists when Kody was born then? He says he comes from a non-polygamist family originally… I wonder why anyone would bother to lie about this, but more, I wonder why you, Anonymous, apparently feel a personal anger at the Browns and also seem to know so much about them…

  • anonymous

    The Browns are lying. Kody’s parents turned polygamist in the 1970s. Genielle added several wives to Winn’s harem before Sheryl came on the scene.

  • Karen

    I am proud of them for being honest. The Us was founded to uphold religious freedoms. While this is not my lifestyle or one I wish to live, I do support their right to live theirs as they wish. This is not a case of abuse or imprisonment like Warren Jeffs or others. This one really pretty normal except for the fact that four women share one husband. Warren Jeffs wives didn’t know much of anything outside the compound.

  • We’re up! What did you think of last night’s episode? Were you surprised Kody and Janelle are stepbrother and sister as well as husband and wife? Did you feel sorry for Kody’s mom since she thought it was hard to have Janelle’s mother in the family at first? Let us know what you thought!