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?
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