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TV Review: Sister Wives – “Polygamist Party”

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Last Sunday, due to a two-day electrical blackout at my house in the wild mountains of Vermont, I was not able to see Sister Wives or to write about it for TV Open Thread.But, as we are about to go on a brief hiatus (TLC will be covering the Royal Wedding next week and has plans for a look at the Chandra Levy case in early May) I wanted to be sure to write something for the fans of Sister Wives about this past Sunday’s episode.

I will be posting in TV Open Thread again May 8 after TLC’s next new episode of Sister Wives, when I hope you will all join me then to “rant and rave” about this unusual and controversial show. I’ve enjoyed getting to know many of you a little bit, and hope you’ll return to Blogcritics many times to let us know your thoughts!

I finally did get to see this week’s show (many thanks to TLC). The story focused on two aspects of the Brown family’s life together. Meri, who lost her sister, Teresa, to colon cancer at the age of only 31, finally decides to consult a gastroenterologist about her heightened chances of having colon cancer too. At the same time, the Browns plan a “friendship” party for their monogamist friends and acquaintances,  so that they can thank them for remaining friends even after learning that the Browns are polygamists.

Kody says, “There’s a verse in the Bible, where Jesus says ‘put your faith on a candlestick; don’t hide your light under a bushel…’”  The verse to which he refers is Matthew 5:14-16. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
This seems to be one of the Bible’s most important verses for Kody. It justifies the family’s coming out as polygamists. I have not previously noted any of the family members (on camera, at least) quoting the Bible in support of the family’s actions.

Even as Meri goes through the terror of possibly having colon cancer, or the precursor of colon cancer in pre-cancerous polyps, the family proceeds with it plans for  its “friendship appreciation dinner.” Each family member invites some of their friends, who seem very open-minded, jolly and warm people. Of course, those who would not have stood by them, if any, are not mentioned.

As I often do, I wish that the show would be a bit more clear and detailed; that more facts were revealed, and that the pace was less disjointed and choppy. However, I can certainly say that the more one sees of the family, the more one comes to like them.

Many people have posted on TV Open Thread and in other online forums devoted to this show to say they wish they had “sister wives” of their own. There is a deep longing in the culture, I feel, to have and be loved by a greater and more extended family. Still, Robyn points out that she does sometimes envy the others, and that it is difficult, as a polygamous wife,  to avoid jealousy.
“I can get jealous, for sure. I know he’s sometimes been talking to one of the others… We love each other, but I know he loves the others too. I have to be careful that doesn’t bother me too much.” I wonder if she is jealous of the attention Meri’s possible illness requires?

The episode cuts between Meri’s trips to the hospital, with Kody accompanying her, and the preparations for the party, then the party itself. (A rather odd juxtaposition in some ways, but life is like that.)

The doctor recommends doing a colonoscopy in which he can see any polyps or cancerous spots with a camera, and remove them on the spot. Indeed, the cameras go right inside the operating room, where Meri is anesthetized. Kody is allowed in to watch as they remove two polyps, which must be biopsied to ensure they are not cancerous.

Meri has courage. Despite her concern for her health, and her fears of dying as her sister did, she rises to the occasion for the party. Her sister, a second wife, left four children, for whom her own sister wife devotedly cares “as though they were her own,” Meri says.

The wives discuss what they’d do if one of them were to die. Robyn: “I would take another wife’s children. There is an unspoken rule. If something were to happen, I’d take the kids and raise them as though they were my own.” She points out, a bit sorrowfully, that her own situation is different, because her three kids have a biological father who would probably want them. Christine says, firmly, “I’d fight for your kids! Are you kidding? I admired her determination– as did a fan who wrote to me at “TV Open Thread” to remark on this.

The family also talks about the dangers of revealing oneself as a polygamist, as they usually do. Meri says that before she went public she kept people at a distance.Christine, who knows whereof she speaks, says, “My dad’s dad was put in jail for being a polygamist… so we had to be so quiet.”
Kody also speaks up: “You have to test people. You have to find out if people are ok with it. And we lived this way for twenty years. “

Janelle says, “If they know, they don’t see YOU. They don’t know you.”

Listening to their stories in this segment of the show, I got a real sense of the fear and need to hide the family felt before they opened their lives up to the world. They may have other problems now, but at least, they are able to be honest about who they are, and what they believe. As Kody says, “People don’t like what they don’t understand.”

The women say that polygamy can be fun. It’s a “girl party,” they say– that they have fun wherever they go. Janelle, however, says she doesn’t go to the grocery store or wherever with the sister wives, if she can help it: “They’re embarrassing!”

The women are frustrated with Meri for not having looked into her risk of having colon cancer. “Even with her siblings having it, and all of that, she still didn’t look into it…” Four of Meri’s siblings have had polyps and that’s “a pretty high number.” Though polyps don’t always turn into cancer, there is a greater risk of cancer if they are present. We have all had the experience of wanting not to know something terrible can happen to us. I thought that Meri has the appearance of someone who has been under a lot of pressure for a long time, and is now beginning to be able to deal with the realities of her life.

The party is a pleasant, convivial affair, with friends from work and friends from the past, who joke around about the polygamist lifestyle only recently revealed to them. “So I asked Kody– how many wives do you really have?” Some say they didn’t believe it, that they thought it was a joke. “Then Meri began to get teary-eyed, and I realized, it wasn’t a joke,” says one friend. They seem to have very loyal friends, and there is also a sense that an acceptance of different ways of life is becoming a part of the culture. Many seem to feel the government should not persecute the Browns. “Leave them ALONE!” is one sentiment often expressed regarding the family.

When Meri and Kody return to the hospital to learn what the biopsy revealed, the doctor says, “I have very good news for you. The polyp that was removed had no cancer in it. It could have been the kind that would be cancerous, but we got it out, and we got it out completely.”

Their relief shows thoroughly. Kody, normally rather clownish, seems deeply sobered by what has just happened, and how easily he might lose his first wife. Meri says, “This makes me realize how fragile life can be.”

Kody: “I should appreciate all of our time together.”
Meri:” I do!”

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About Ladybelle Fiske

  • I know I have read elsewhere that many people see Kody as .. hrmm. what is a polite way of describing their views.. as if he is an airhead blond bimbo lead by his penis to woman..

    Personally.. I never saw him in this light.. he could not be that way and be the father he is.. his children love him.. and as one episode said.. instead of going to a ‘man cave’ he spends time with his family.. his children..

    So I understood that beneath his playful banter lies a man of strong conviction.. and personal devotion to each and every wife.. and child.

    I admit the one scene I loved the most and it sticks to me the most.. is where he lovingly caresses her hair and face when she is asleep.. almost as if he is afraid… and of course he probably was.

    And yes, another favorite part.. was Christine saying she would fight for Robyns children.. this let me know.. at least in Christines heart of hearts.. Robyn and her children are right there.. where they belong.. in the Brown family.

    I would love sister wives.. I admit though that sharing a man would be hard.. but then again.. as I have been thinhking of late.. no it wouldnt.. not if instead of being this romantic in my face husband.. instead.. he could be my very bestest friend.

    I would love sister wives to come home to in the evening.. to joke with.. cook with.. share lives with.. maybe due to my illnesses of late.. sex is a very remote thing, something for now I do not even have pleasure in due to the ‘uterus’ issues I am having..

    But then again.. I learned a long time ago.. when I was married, before my husband died.. that as a teen.. I thought Oh boy oh boy get married and all the free sex you want and no parental unit to scold you!.. as I got into marriage, and children.. I suddenly discovered.. sex though nice.. isnt all that I thought it would be.. yes it is a mind blowing event.. but the ‘friendship’ and the ‘family unit’ you become.. is worth ever so much more..

    sex is nice, beautiful.. mind blowing.. but.. as anything does.. with age.. it takes its place.. and other things come forward.. life evolves.. you become more into the effection of a held hand.. a long hug.. someone to confide little secrets with.. and someone you can cry with.. someone who knows you when you are at your best.. and at your worse.. and they still love you and want you there beside them..

    I think in poli families that is what they enter… ‘knowing’.. it is not all bout the sex.. though in most religious cases .. it is involving having children..

    SO sister wives.. shows a different view on ‘marriage’ and.. just as a regular marriage grows and matures.. in ‘sister wives’, the relationship grows and matures and deepens..

    anyways *grins* I have yapped enough

    *blows everyone a kiss


  • I really love your comments. They are deep and thoughtful. I realize that people tend to denigrate Kody, but it does seem to be profoundly true that he loves his wives– as he would really have to in order to be able to take on so much. So your thoughts give me new respect for him.
    Yes, I have also been through a talk with my former “sisterwives” and “brotherhusbands” about who would care for our children in the event of something happening to us. We used to have legal documents to cover this. At this point, our kids (and some grandchildren!) are grown, so that is not a concern any more– except that we hope someone will always love our kids no matter how old they are.
    Do you write a blog, Willow? I really think you would make an excellent commentator for Blogcritics if you have the energy. You could review your own show, once you published and reviewed a few things.
    I think it would be fun for you and give you new energy and focus– maybe. If you felt like it.
    You have a lot of “smarts!” as they say here in the Green Mountain State.
    xxx Ladybelle

  • i would love to do this for blog critics, but truth be told.. do not know HOW to even begin.

    also, once my health gets better.. I have fleetingly thought of becoming a psychologist.. not a psychiatrist.. cuz i feel to many pills/drugs are being prescribed as end all be all.. rather then good old fashioned hard work.. of course some things do need drugs.. but not as many things that drug companies push push push.

  • I think that is a wonderful idea, and surely would make more money than being a writer! I also majored in psych, but worked as a paraeducator for a long time and now it’s a little late to get a psychology degree. But I still enjoy writing and observing the world from that angle. I am sure you could help people with all you have been through. I hope sometime you’ll be able to follow your dream. It seems Meri is very interested in psychology also.

  • PS How to write for Blogcritics– there’s a link on the header that tells you how. I think you have to have a blog of your own first. (Maybe.) Then, you apply, write one article and after that you are allowed to review books, music, etc. and can often get nice review copies this way. I enjoy doing the TV show, but it is a physically demanding comittment as I must stay up late.

  • Thank you, I was glancing over things earlier, I have a long weekend.. so I think I will seriously go over things and see what I can do..

    Oh the Kody thing.. I do not know how much people understand about the Mormon faith.. but in the Mormon faith a husbands role is very serious because it is not about ‘today’ and tomorrow.. it is about all time.

    A husband is eternity.. his wives will be his wives in the ‘eternity’.. in the mormon faith there are three heavens.. and people strive to be ‘exalted’.. to be with god.. the men.. to be gods themselves.. their wives.. are gods too but not quite the same.. their children become the children on the world they rule over.

    I know I am over simplifying it.. but there ya go.. And so you know.. most Mormons are respectful of woman.. one Elder said once to someone they were ‘studying with’, that God loves his wife/wives so much that he would not allow her to be spoken of in the bible.. dc/pearls of great price or book of mormon because he knew mankind would curse her as they oft times do him. He respects and loves her to much.. a bishop of a ward once said almost the same thing himself during a time in front of the congregation.

    They admitted that in the 1800’s there were multiple wives within the faith, though they say it was due to many men dying and wives being left on thier own needing a husband.. I of course never baught that version, but there ya go..

    Kodys role is beyond today and tomorrow and stretches on to eternity and perhaps godhood himself..

    SO I do not see him as many others do, as this fickle light headed blond led by his penis.. but then again, I understand the Mormon faith.. and a bit of how he is thinking..

  • I did n’t know you were a Mormon. Interesting. Thus you can have a completely different point of view than many others about the show.
    I wish that Kody would accord the women the right to have other boyfriends too. That’s the only thing that bugs me about this form of this religion. Otherwise, I have no objection.
    Are you going to watch the Royal Wedding?
    I wonder if Prince William feels he wishes he had a few extra wives around back in case things don’t go well with Kate?

  • I used to be Mormon.. deeply into the faith.. however.. over time as I also read other things.. gotten into the ‘mindset’ of life.. outside of religion.. studied other fields I enjoyed.. suddenly religion did not seem all that important, what was important was how I reacted to other people and allowed them to react to me (in my presence).

    I learned that people treat me the way I permit them to when they are around me, what they actually feel/think bout me though is between themselves.. and themselves.. I am the only one responsible for myself.

    I honestly feel for Prince William and Kate, they really do not have the privacy they should have and it is not their fault. He is royalty and just by the grace of his birth he has lost his right to real personal privacy. Everything they do almost always has to be second guessed on public/political reactions.. even down to the naming of their future children.

    I am hoping that the ‘new’ royal generation will bring about different views and attitudes towards royalty. Prince WIlliam seems to be a ‘modern’ sort of man and is not weary about getting down to earth and dirty. He doesn’t even consider cleaning toilets to be ‘beneath’ him. Kate will never be a ‘Queen’ as in a ‘royal queen’, but rather a Queen Consort as she is a ‘commoner’, but I do not think it much matters any more and is not a ‘stigma’ as perhaps it may have once been.

    I think she will still have a lot of influence though and I hope neither of them permit ‘protocol’ and the ‘public’ to ruin their marriage.

    I like Kate, I really do. And I think Prince William will do just fine. Let’s hope together they make a better go of it then his parents did!

    P.S. I was raised a Jehovahs Witness but excommunicated soon after my daughters birth. Years later because I was sooo used to the ‘fellowship’ of a tight faith, mormonism seemed ‘right’. VERY family oriented and really it is NOT a bad faith.

    Just. was not right for me in the end.. or my children.

    My daughter was 8 when she got furious with the teachings. I was at home as I had stopped going a year before but she and her brother loved going. I got a call from the Bishop to see if we could please come get John and Jessa as they were wanting to go home NOW.

    Turns out during sunday school class, They had a ‘skit’.

    In the first part they had a married couple, they died and went to the ‘proverbial’ gates to enter heaven. Well they had sinned a lot, but were not evil evil and so were admitted to the ‘first’ heaven..Telestial kingdom, they could not be with God or Jesus. They were great sinners and had not been baptized as a ‘mormon.

    Ok, second skit.. same couple, same death et et.

    THIS time, they were perfect couple, prayed, et et but rejected the full faith as in, refused/did not become baptized. so they could go to the middle or Terrestrial kingdom and see the son of god, but never god.

    then the couple again for a third time, same as second only baptized.

    They are exalted to the Celestial Kingdom to dwell with god. And of course the husband would be exalted as a god and have his own heavens and earth..

    Jessa was furious and claimed this to be wrong and unfair, she could almost understand the lower heaven for great sinners but just because you are not baptized you cannot go to heaven? And only man could be exalted as a god and woman still under the thumb of man? She claimed that a cage is a cage even if in words only and grabbed her brothers hand and refused to stay or let him stay.

    She never ever went back again.

    heh. she is feisty, even now at 27.. wow, don’t cross her path! *grins*

  • Hey, I’m with your daughter! Reminds me of my husband, who refused to continue as a R. Catholic when he learned, at 11, that his Protestant friends would “never go to heaven.” I can really understand this kind of loyal and free thinking, and I think it shows a lot of intelligence.
    There is warmth and family-care among the Mormons, all sorts. But it does seem to leave a lot of people on the outside of something looking in.
    Jehovah’s Witnesses kids have problems with not being able to celebrate holidays like other kids– or so I’ve seen as a paraeducator.
    As for W and K… I agree. They will probably have a hard time of having to fulfill the roles of K and Q simply because he was born to be king, but think of the good they can do. If they make it to the Monarchy (if it doesn’t end under Charles, etc.) he can do a lot of Diana-like good for others. And make it more human and accessible.
    Still, to spend less on the Royal Wedding might have been a good beginning. Money to the poor? I spent $300 on my own civil wedding and never got around to having a Quaker one…
    Hope you are ok this day– blustery and cold in VT as opposed to Earth Day, sunny and with growing daffs everywhere.
    xx L

  • Heh, I think we spent maybe about 500 on our wedding and rather enjoyed it, but then again they may not have to many real choices over it.

    Whereas the people may want the royals to spend less money, they still want a ‘good show’ of it all.

    I wonder if they ever do what I do.. and just enjoy a good day like today with the windows wide open.. neighbors cutting grass and the wind blowing in that mown lawn smell that I love so much?

    As much as the royals do see and experience I wonder how much ‘contentment’ they actually have on a simple early spring day?

    I am checking on writing for here, my main problems as I see them is other then comments here and there in forums and my two livejournals which are not really written in any great fashion:

    I have nothing to show blogcritics. That makes me feel sad.

    Blah.. but then I breathe in the air and I am ok again *blinks, I really watch to much doctor who when I am starting to talk like a Dr. Moon patient*

  • Hi! I’m not sure you need a blog. Just writing samples. And you have sent me some good ones that might just need straightening up and so on (punctuation, capitalization) to make into an article. Why not try?
    Or write a little article on how you feel in spring when the window is open and do the royal family ever feel that way? And see how they like that? I bet they would.
    Give it a go…
    I think u write very well.

  • I did it! *grins*

    wow.. go me! Now to learns the inners of this place *grins*

  • Hey Willow, I think this is going to be great for you. If you want, mention my name (and my saying you have writing skills) and your physical issues to Barbara Barnett, Blogcritics editor. Or Jon Sobel. Tell them I think you could write about religion, health issues, people, video, and all sorts of stuff.
    I’ll send them an email too.
    Be well,
    Your friend.

  • Thanks! not been on the computer much today, of course.. being a holiday and all.. I am not really ‘into’ Easter, but it would seem our neighbors are and it has been like one huge party outside.

    I got an email about my having not done an article yet.. but I only got in yday! And today been out with neighbors due to holiday *blah*.. will have to go over everything I have been emailed and see how to ‘begin’ *grins*.. will probably begin tomorrow after a good nights sleep today (providing that the music dies down outside.. most of us older people 40+ are done.. and inside but the younger people seem to be filled with as much energy as they started with!)

  • Hi Joan,
    Try to get the first article done if you can. It means a lot to BC and will be fun once you get going. If you want, write about what it’s like to have a correspondence with a stranger who shares some of the same interests as you.
    I look forward to having you as a colleague! We don’t make much money doing this, but there are other wonderful compensations & I think you’ll like it. I hope so. If you do the review part you will get all sorts of interesting things in the mail (as review copies) as well.
    I hope you had a pretty nice holiday. I had a dear friend from England visiting and we took a long walk that knocked me out… so sleap now and more tomorrow.
    I miss the Sister Wives but am enjoying Royal Wedding week even tho’ they left the Obamas off their list of invitees… a bit rude!
    L xxx

  • i did one of the ‘easier’ things, ‘there i said it’ type things, about being addicted to a certain Doctor who keeps regenerating *grins* it was the cowards way out, and overly simplified, methinks I did it in less than 5 min, cuz I was sooo tired and needed a shower and a bath. I honestly cannot remember what exactly I wrote! I was THAT tired, where did the energy go? WHen I was in my 20’s I would stay up two days without sleeping, then sleep.. but now? I go outside and walk around and visit pple for several hours and I am like.. zonked out! heh.. that is sad 😛