Friday , March 1 2024
The Brown family flees to Nevada to find religious freedom, encountering every kind of possible problem along the way.

TV Open Thread: Sister Wives – “Gambling on the Future”

In this, the final episode of the season (except for a special episode that will show in two weeks), Kody gathers the Brown family’s younger children and tells them- till now, the adults have kept the situation a secret from all except for the oldest children- that they will be moving to Nevada in three days.

One of the boys, in shock, blurts, “You’re out of your mind!”
The children burst into tears. “I get it,” Kody says sympathetically. “Our life has been magical here. But the magic here is us.”

Then he tells them that they have to keep the situation secret and cannot even say goodbye to their friends. It is unclear if the children understand that it is possible that their father may go to jail at any time. Still, many of the children are frantic. While some seem to understand quickly; others tear at their hair and weep.

“I understand, son, and I ‘m sorry, and I know it’s not fair,” Kody says to one of his boys. The child who is the most profoundly distraught iis Kody and Meri’s one daughter, Mariah, interestingly,the only “legitimate” child among them, and possibly the only child over whom Kody has any clear legal right.

She pours with tears as she implores her father to let her stay in Utah. She had a bad time in public school and is profoundly involved with her church and its school, and she wants to stay.

“I want you to remember a very important mantra,” Kody says.” Where we go one, we go all. When you are eighteen and graduated, you can make your own choices…”

Mariah says, “You’ve told me that I’m going no matter what. I consider this very hard. Because I really want to finish out the school year.”

Kody insists that none of the children can stay or go off on their own until they are 18. “I have to take care of you. It’s my job that I was given by God.”

First he says, “I understand your need for a social and spiritual sovereignty.” Mariah and the others can make their own decisions when they are 18 and have graduated, but he wants Mariah to stay with the family until she is married. This begins to sound like all the worst things one has heard of polygamous Mormonism.

“I understand the importance of your spiritual-social network,” Kody says. “But I have take care of you in my realm, and…to keep you in my home until you’re married.”

Again, the choppy cutting of TLC is a bit frustrating. It’s hard to tell whether Kody’s bottom line is that Mariah must be 18 and graduated to leave his house, or married.

The Brown family really has nowhere to go in Las Vegas; they were unable to buy homes there. “It feels as though we’re jumping without a parachute,” says Robyn; she has just recently moved to the home she lives in, her fourth move in two years. The adults weep and the children fight, snarling like animals at one another. Kody says, “We’re stressed out, but we can not turn on each other. We have to be loving and be a safe place for each other.” There are some moments of humor: “I kind of want to stay, I kind of want to go,” says one of the boys. “It’s iffy.”

Then a sheriff begins driving by the house, and the family cringes in fear. “That right there is why we’re moving. That right there.”

Finally, Kody gets a call: the real estate agent in Nevada has found a house big enough for all of them, which they can rent for a month. “That gives us time to find homes for everybody and find schools for the kids.”Then it occurs to him to ask Robyn if it is all right with her to live with the other wives. She’s nervous, as she hasn’t shared a kitchen with them yet, but she tremblingly says “Yeah…”

Meri says, “Mariah is involved in church… and it is extremely hard for her to go. Because in Las Vegas we don’t have a church to go to.”  Meri seems to be trying to help Mariah get her father’s permission (which is clearly the bottom line for all of them; however outer-world-friendly the family appears, it is still a very clearly defined patriarchy). But, “You heard your father’s answer. It’s not going to happen.” Finally Mariah accepts that they are leaving.

Janelle, fearful of the law (which has maintained a presence on the family’s street), wants to leave ahead of the others, not wait till Tuesday, when the rental house is available, but Kody insists that they must wait.

The press finds out that the Browns are leaving, and some reporters come to the door, saying that they plan to file a story on the family’s departure in 24 hours. This steps up the whole pace of the flight. The family decides to leave most of their belongings for the time being, leaving the large house in the hands of family, and while they concentrate on getting Robyn out of her rented house. “This is not the America I learned about when I was in school,” Robyn says with tears in her eyes, discovering the roses from her wedding bouquet.

There is a frenzy of fear now, and after a police car screams by, Kody gathers the family for prayer, to try to create a sense of unity and reliance on God. It seems to help. “We’re in a situation where we are leaving almost under duress. We’re going to drive till we can’t stand it any more. I want to bring the family together and get that peace” that comes of asking God for help, he says.

Finally they leave, but as Kody says, “We don’t get five miles before there’s trouble. I think, ‘Maybe I’m not supposed to go.’” A tire has come off a rim. It’s Martin Luther King Day and a lot of places are closed (to my surprise; it’s not always honored in some parts of the country). They struggle with the car till it finally gets fixed and are driving down a long strip with giant billboards. And then Christine’s car, within one mile, gets a flat tire. Kody gets furious. I think of the Mormons who crossed the mountains and the desert: the Browns are encountering a strange modern-day parallel.

They struggle with spares and temporary spares, broken lug nuts, and problems of all kinds. They had only gone 20 miles. “I was wondering if I was meant to go.” It is the women who finally figure out that they can stay at a motel at the next exit, where there’s a tire place!

Finally, the Browns are able to put some distance between themselves and their hometown, about 200 miles. But then Kody gets another flat tire, and suddenly a cop pulls up behind one of the cars. Amazingly, he turns out to be simply concerned that the many children not get out on the highway. “He was a good guy,” Kody says.

Sixty miles from the Nevada border, Christine gets upset, and for they haven’t made it to Nevada by the time Kody had told them they’d be there. The kids are tired and hungry. Christine, who has been against the move, wants to stop and feed the children, but Kody refuses to allow them to stop till they get to Nevada– which they finally do.

“Vegas is a sound place for religious freedom,” Kody says. “Vegas is my Plymouth Rock.”
Seeing the Nevada state border sign, Meri expresses that she feels “peace.” They make it to their rental house and sign papers, but Janelle’s oldest daughter apparently sums up the feelings of the children when she soon says, “I want to go home.” The teenagers do not feel the peace and freedom that pervade the emotions of the adults; they are bitter and they are angry. We are promised that we will learn more about this in two weeks, when we see the Sister Wives Special.

Thus, the quasi-Biblical story of the Brown family’s flight from Utah to Nevada, a place one would hardly think that a Mormon family would feel at home. But it offers them freedom from fear of being arrested and divided. I could empathize–as a person who grew up in a completely non-traditional lifestyle as well– both the adults’ sense of joy and deliverance, and the anger and sorrow of the children at being torn from the one home they have ever known.

I wish the family well, and thank all of you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with Blogcritics. Please continue letting us know what you think; it’s your turn to write in with your ideas now. I love “chatting” with all of you, and thank you again.

About Ladybelle Fiske

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