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TV Open Thread: Sister Wives – “The Price of Polygamy” Robin vs. Janelle?

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Kody and Janelle-- PDA!

In this episode, Kody and Janelle go on an overnight camping trip for her birthday, to beautiful and strange Arches National Park, with its Krazy-Kat like stone shapes in all sorts of sizes and shapes.

Janelle: “Time alone makes sense…”

Kody: Every year, Janelle and I will have at least two times when we try to get away from the rest of the family and be together.” (I am surprised—only two?)

They check out the sleeping bags—they’re old, and no longer zip together.  Kody wants to buy new sleeping bags on the way but Janelle refuses. “Kody wants to solve everything really quick. ‘Let’s just go to the store and buy it,’” she says, a bit annoyed.

This leads to a discussion of how they manage to support such a huge family—this, Kody says, is the number one question he’s asked: “How can you afford a family of that size?”

When Robyn joined the family, Janelle was worried that she would be too much of a drain on their finances because she had no money. But her maternal presence, and ability to play with the children, helped Christine who was “stressed out” from being in the position of being the “mom” at home all the time.

“It was really helpful to me,” says Christine, who is, after all, a new mother. Robyn still feels insecure with the other wives. She was accustomed to paying her own bills in the past; now, she must ask Kody to pay them.

This doesn’t bother him. Kody seems more convinced that everyone will eagerly help one another: does he ever really see the tension among them as well as the warmth?

Robyn says: “I want to be worth it to them.” Robyn feels she is still being tested; that her presence has disturbed and disrupted the family. There’s a part of me that wants to go get a wonderful job and bring in a lot of money… I’ve disrupted their lives. I want to be worth it.”

There is some explanation of how the finances work—though as usual, none of exactly what each person does. What, I wonder, does Kody do that can pay well enough to support two non-working adults and sixteen kids?

Kody says, “Robyn and Christine stay home and my income covers them. Sometimes Janelle will pitch in for groceries… Meri’s income is smaller, so she pays smaller bills.”

As far as the needs of the kids go, “We cover their basic needs.
If someone needs something, they will probably get it.”  But sometimes, Janelle says, she has to just say she has a budget and can’t get something for her daughter Madison, who asks each week for something. “No, it’s not your turn…”

Janelle and Kody make the bulk of the money, they explain. This seems to make them feel more confident and relaxed, certainly than Robyn. Christine is accustomed to it, and is good at saving money and keeping a big, bulk shopping based pantry. (I’d have liked to hear more about this.)

Janelle and Kody say they pay the mortgage and other large bills. Janelle clearly feels nervous about Robyn not having a job (yet), and three children. “Our resources, that are finite, now have to go even farther.”

But they all have abilities and talents, the wives say; it works out. They manage to cover all children’s basic needs.

Meri (laughing):  “I have one child. She gets whatever she wants…” “That’s not true,” Christine objects.

The scene cuts back and forth between the camping trip and discussion at home about budgetary issues and the contributions of the non-working wives. It is beautiful and strange in Arches National Park. Janelle is happy to be able to get away for a night and have people to cover her kids. Kody and Janelle enjoy a fire and the dark, starry Utah night.

At home, a day or so later, the family talks about the issue of work vs. homemaking. Janelle, speaking of her reservations about Robyn again: “We were struggling how to keep the roof over our own heads. And now there would be this new person, and how would we pay rent…” Janelle hopes Robyn will get a job. “She’s trying.”

Robyn, looking up, prays, “Let Janelle and Christine see the value I have for this family…” She doesn’t believe that they would miss her if she were to die. I felt very sorry for her on hearing this!

Kody, emerging from the tent in the morning, kisses Janelle, saying she had to learn to be affectionate to him. “She’s not big on PDA’s.” Janelle explains that Meri was very affectionate to Kody when they first married, so she hung back till she learned that Kody needed her to be openly affectionate.

Kody says, “You have to compartmentalize each relationship, so that you can have a special relationship with each wife.” But the group relationship is important, too, he says.

The wives discuss issues of working and staying home. 

Meri:  “I have a job, and I have a good amount of time to come home to spend with my daughter. I do envy people who can stay home…”

Janelle doesn’t know how to be that person: the one who stays home. (Though she clearly loves her kids.) 

Robyn: — “I’m enjoying the kids…When they respond, that’s the greatest reward.” She also speaks of the value of overcoming jealousy and possessiveness. “It makes you a better person.”

At the end, the family agrees that each of them has a value to the entire structure. Kody jokes that Janelle was right about the quilt vs. the new sleeping bags. “I’m saying she was right?

There is tranquility again—and yet, somehow, still, I felt there was a sense of uncertainty.  So, fans and  viewers—what do you think?

Will Robyn ever really be accepted?
Will the Browns be able to keep making ends meet?
Why was Kody so eager to say they weren’t “communal” in their shopping and cooking habits?

Your turn! Let us know!

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About Ladybelle Fiske

  • lou

    I think the family is Great. Much Respect goes out to all of them. As long as they are not asking the goverment for anything and doing this on there own, more power to the Brown Family. They are doing a better job than most!!!

  • http://quarryhillcreativecenter.blogspot.com Ladybelle Fiske

    Thank you for your thoughts. I am fascinated and pleased to see that most comments on the Browns are positive. I appreciate your response!

  • tracy

    I admire how the family works out tricky dynamics. I find myself thinking that I understand the appeal of this relationship for the women. For people like Janelle, this allows her to work, which she loves, and to know her children are with loving, familial caregivers. For people like Christine, who love homemaking, it allows her to contribute to the family in a practical way.

    My only negative comment is that I wish the show were an hour instead of 30 minutes.

  • http://quarryhillcreativecenter.blogspot.com Ladybelle Fiske

    I think it would be more clear if it were. The half-hour format leads to some choppy editing on TLC’s part.
    It would be great if you and others who agree with this write to TLC, and let them know how you feel. I can get the website address for you.
    I think the family works well too but I felt some concern for Robyn, who seems to still feel not completely accepted.

  • http://quarryhillcreativecenter.blogspot.com Ladybelle Fiske

    tlc.discovery.com/

    Is the address of the network that produces “Sister Wives.”

  • Ccc

    It’s a shame Robyn and the others see “value” as a fiscal issue, rather than Robyn’s value as arising simply from being a member of their family, and especially as a sister wife and another mother to their collective children. Her intrinsic value is that she is Robyn, a beloved member of their family.

  • http://quarryhillcreativecenter.blogspot.com Ladybelle Fiske

    That’s true, something that was on my mind while watching the episode. I wonder what Kody thought– didn’t he say, “She’s a mom in this family, not a babysitter?”

  • http://wndrdr.livejournal.com/ Joan (willowdreams)

    I think Robyn is fitting in, i liked how last nights show.. Christine said ‘I would soo fight for your children’, when discussing what would happen to the children should one of them.. ‘go away’.

    I found last nights show almost to hard as I am going through health problems. they found a nodule on my left breast.. and I just this past year had surgery on my colon.. due to an absess that almost killed me..

    That ‘anal’ probe.. I went through *whew*.. I now claim that the hospital is one of those ‘science’ mother ships and the doctors are the alien scientists doing those anal probes everyone is always talking bout. (thats my story.. and I am sticking it it **tongue in cheek**).

    I think Robyn fits in better then she realizes.. but as with anything, there be growing pains going on..

  • http://wndrdr.livejournal.com/ Joan (willowdreams)

    as an after thought. you know what I love bout the brown family? Shapes.. you imagine either everyone chunky or everyone skinny… and in the brown household.. he likes it big.. and he likes em skinny hehehe

  • http://quarryhillcreativecenter.blogspot.com Ladybelle Fiske

    Hi! Thanks for putting your comments here! — I had a power outage Sun. and although I won’t be able to put it in “TV Open Thread” I will be able to write a brief review and post it later today or tomorrow. Then back to TV OT next week.
    I agree, Robyn is fitting in much better. Now she’s pregnant, she will really be a part of the family.
    Yes, Kody has very eclectic tastes in women!
    I did also love that they said they’d fight to care for one another’s kids. They are beginning to feel like real sisters. I know this feeling with women with whom I stood in a similar relationship (we had more men though).
    I’m so sorry you are ill, or maybe ill. Hang in there. They have MUCH better treatment these days for these things. Please, Willowdreams, keep me informed about your health. I will be watching for your remarks!
    — Ladybelle

  • http://quarryhillcreativecenter.blogspot.com Ladybelle Fiske

    Hi all…
    I will publish something on Sunday’s episode elsewhere on Blogcritics.org but I won’t be publishing a new Sister Wives on TV Open Thread till May 8. TLC is covering the Royal Wedding and then the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of Chandra Levy. Please keep in touch and we can take up the conversation on TV Open Thread May 8. Many thanks! Ladybelle

  • http://quarryhillcreativecenter.blogspot.com Ladybelle Fiske

    PS. Willowdreams… I like Christine, don’t you?
    Also. Please be well and let us know how you are.

  • http://wndrdr.livejournal.com Joan (willowdreams)

    I love Christine.

    Lets see.. hrmm

    Meri> She is totally awesome in my personal opinion, she has one child, and she feels ‘sort sorry’ for herself in ‘some ways’, but not the ‘pity me type of thing’, I understand how she feels in a roundabout way, she has health issues/fears, and problem getting pregnant.. and she is the ‘first wife’, in a sense, the wife all the others look to for many things, she is a very take charge sort of person and easy to just fall in love with.

    Janelle> She is the best buddy to Kody wife. Now I know they have sex and such, but theirs seem to be the less ‘romance’ style and the more ‘we are the best of friends’. She is also the work wife, and she LOVES it.. she is the one who you know would sometimes love to be at home but give it a week and she is ready to pull not only her hair out but everyone elses! And if you really notice, she is the one who puts her foot down some, especially when it comes to telling Kody ‘no! that is wasting money!’…

    Christine> She makes me think of a late blooming teenager, and in many ways the perfect house wife.. she loves being in the middle of all the kid drama being a homemaker of a large family puts you into.. shes quirky.. no toaster? (rofl).. i adore her.. seroiusly.. I do.. at first you think.. light headed flighty sorta girl.. then you realize.. she is passionate about her sister wives, kody.. and those children.. she is funny and energetic and full of life.. and sometimes i get this sense… she can be filled with piss and vinegar when the situation calls for it!

    Robyn> I am still getting an angle on her.. she is a cross between janelle and christine.. she mentioned she is used to ‘working’ and not being a bread winner of the family is difficult on her.. but she loves being a home maker as well.. she is the inbetween of that situation.. I think she would be perfect as a part time job outside of the home.. and then home the rest of the time.. I think too she can and probably will be the ‘worrier’ of the family.. she seems more at times of a helicopter mother.. but methinks that will change now *grins*..

    I think she is going ot end up beign a ‘strong strong’ fourth wife.. she is used to working, worrying, stressing, on her own.. now she is going to learn to share burdens.. and in a sense.. she is a ‘grounder’.. I dunno how to explain ‘grounding’ to pple.. without sounding like a new ager ‘out there’ person.. but i think she is going to be a good ‘feet on the ground’ grounder for the family.. she is light.. airy.. and yet earthy and down to the nitty gritty type of person.. but how else can she be? She is a divorced mother used to working full time and taking care of three children.. almost alone.. that grounds any person..

    She has plenty to give to the family.. but it will not take full effect until.. she has firmly found her nitch and began to grow even more.

    In the meantime.. I want this family to start watching that show ‘extreme couponing’ *grins impishly*

    My health is scaring me to death.. I have lost 90 pounds this past yr, and wanna lose 100 more.. then I think I will be settled for a while, till I can lose 50 more after that.. but I am goign slow.. sadly much of the weight is lost due ot being out and ill.. and I am missing a lot of work and not much to do about it cept pray we will find a way to pay our rent.. even when it means juggling bills and letting some things go.

    Health has a way of grounding us as well.. this summer I will be laid off, and that is fine, I think i need some time to ‘rest’ even more then I am doing now, and hopefully by this summer I will know more of my health, hopefully my uterus will be gone *whew*.. having it so big that it is the size of a 7month preg uterus, and I havent had sex in 2 yrs 😛 it needs to go.. and soon in a few weeks I hope to know more about my breast..

    Thank goodness for my two adult children, my daughter is hunting for a part time job to help bring in money. .part time though cuz the rest of the time is taking care of me and the house.. my son is looking for another full time job since his last job dissolved (as so many do in todays economy).. this past month.. heh woulda been nice if they had given the pple more then 3 days notice that the job was ending, when everyone thought it was perm.. as he has been there 4 yrs..

    ahh well.. my attitude is.. there are people who are worse off then we are.. at least.. we have one another.

  • http://quarryhillcreativecenter.blogspot.com Ladybelle Fiske

    Hi Willowdreams… what a lovely name! You could very well review this show yourself! You are really a remarkable thinker with lots of depth and awareness about each of the women. Isn’t Kody lucky to have such a variety of women in his life? I think Robyn feels a bit picked on at times, but now that she’s pregnant it should even out. I do see the sister-wives pretty much the same as you. I get the feeling Janelle’s the “boss” in a lot of ways because she helps earn most of the money, and Kody has to give her some respect.
    I’m so sorry that your health is giving you so much trouble. I wish there were something I could do to help you. I hope you are seeing a good doctor at a really reliable hospital?
    My husband had throat cancer a few years ago and was fortunate enough to actually survive the treatment, which was aggressive, and the disease as well. So I have some idea what you are going through,but not from a first hand basis.
    To the extent that Sister Wives is a comfort to you, and talking about it, I hope you will keep watching and talking. There won’t be any new shows till May 8 so maybe Extreme Couponing will have to do! Do you like House? That is a fave for me, but the medical stuff might be too hard for you.
    I am thinking of you and “holding you in the Light” as we Quakers say.

  • http://quarryhillcreativecenter.blogspot.com Ladybelle Fiske

    PS. I’m also unemployed at the moment, except here.

  • http://wndrdr.livejournal.com Joan (willowdreams)

    I adore House, I got out of watching it during the season when House had all the people to choose from .. when thirteen was introduced.. due to real life issues pulling me away from my most favorite shows.. I love House, Eureka, Doctor Who, Torchwood.. The Duggar family.. heh I can easily become a couch potato! I even watch the Hoarding tv show.. lord knows what that is something I like.. though I admit since watching it I am more anal about personal housekeeping now heheh.. less likely to let John or Jessa say ‘in a bit’ when I mention trash needs removed or litter box needs changed..

    As for medical.. it is the only reason I can drag myself off to work.. to pay for BCBS.. soon as I am better I am gonna find one or two part time jobs and quit.. work is stressfull.. the five yrs I have been there, my blood pressure and weight has gotten worse.. and I began asking a lot of questions.. many of my co-workers.. after working there for more then a few yrs are on high blood pressures.. a few on on medication for depression.. which they never needed before.. to many to be ‘an every now and then thing’.. it is so bad that the job now has a doctor and nurse come in once a month to take peoples blood pressure.. and they got a ‘stress hotline’ for employees to call if they need it.

    And sadly, the job should NOT be that filled with stress.. yes I am in c/s and listen to complaints, get yelled at.. cursed at.. but the problem is.. we cannot depend on our job to help us.. we are told ‘these are the rules, you live by them while here, three infractions and you are fired’. 100% of our calls are listened to by higher ups.. and in a job where you get close to 200 calls a day five to six days a week.. those three mistakes can happen easily so we have to watch everything.. then rules change and we find out ‘after the fact’.. which happens a lot.. and it being a ‘right to work’ state.. the job doesnt even have to give us reasons for firing us..

    but I need my medical ins right now.. so I am stuck there till my health is back on track.. then for sanity sake.. I will need to find either another job I enjoy.. or two part time jobs I can handle, unless I can some how find a way to work from home on the computer.. but alas, most of those jobs means.. money first.. and when we are hunting for pennies just to purchase an 88 cent loaf of bread.. money isnt there to put out for anything.

    However.. I know.. in the end.. this time next year.. I won’t be in the ‘same’ situation.. another fact of life will be happening then.. and this is something I can look back on and say ‘you lived through it!”

  • http://quarryhillcreativecenter.blogspot.com Ladybelle Fiske

    Dear Friends, Blogcritics has just published my most recent review of Sister Wives– “Polygamist Party.” I’m not sure it’s under TV Open Thread, so I hope you won’t have trouble finding it. I’d be very grateful for any comments and guidance on what you would enjoy hearing about when I begin reviewing again May 8th!

  • http://quarryhillcreativecenter.blogspot.com Ladybelle Fiske

    Willowdreams, I have some idea what happens in a job like yours. It’s often hard to know when you are doing something “wrong.” I really sympathize, and I hope you will keep in touch and keep me informed as to your health and well-being. (I like a lot of those shows and sometimes AM a couch potato these days.)
    Please check out my most recent review of “Polygamist Party” and leave a comment if you feel like it– I’d really appreciate it and it’s good to know what people are thinking about the reviews and the series.
    Be well soon.
    Ladybelle