We seem to spend a lot of time critiquing the way others live their lives, how they build their families, and how those families look. With the Oct. 23 episode, "Sister Wives" got back to doing what it does best by showing us how normal life works for Kody Brown's four wives, illustrating that their normal looks a lot like our normal. While the show swerved toward preachy in the last episode, this time we saw how the women address the universal problem of health and weight.
For the first time, Janelle revealed her feelings about her size. She comes off as real and relatable, finally dealing with a problem she knew she had to face eventually. Like women everywhere, each of these women has body issues, and they talked about them with the audience. Together they went to the gym, though each worked separately with the trainer; even their decision to exercise individually gave us insight into how their relationships with each other support their progress. Although some of the wives watched one another's turns, all of the women knew that Janelle would prefer to work out without the others watching, so they gave her some space. It's wonderful to see Janelle experiencing the upsides of exercise, as her loss of her career when the family left Utah seemed to really devastate her. Janelle putting energy into her health is paying her back with more energy, and she looks like she's got a bit of spark now.
The show did not go far from its central subject, though. A theology professor came to ask the Brown family about their lifestyle, and invited them to speak to her class. The example of a respectful interchange of ideas is always a good thing, but frankly, I'm not terribly interested in the religious principles that led the Browns to live in polygamy. I'm far more fascinated by what living in polygamy means from a human standpoint
I'd rather see more of the regular day-to-day of the Brown family than any at-length discussion of the philosophy of their lifestyle. The most revealing parts of the show are in the small moments, like at the gym, or when Meri said she wondered if the kids were the glue that bonded the women, and said that when the kids were gone, she wasn't sure how much time they would all spend together.
Christine was surprised by this sentiment, saying that after the kids were out of the house, there would still be family and grandkids, and that she saw the four of them taking vacations together. She went so far as to tell Meri that her thoughts that they might drift apart scared her. Janelle even said, with a laugh, that she thought that after the kids were grown, it might get better.
And between that confessional exchange and the four of them trooping off to the gym together, we get a glimpse of some of the strengths these women have because they share a husband. Like millions of Americans, they deal with their health and weight issues, and they anticipate the future of an empty nest. They have a genuine sense of community, a supportive web that they don't see as solely a function of child-rearing. It opens the window a little bit wider and lets us see that our choices do not have to be everyone's choices, and our ideal life does not have to be everyone's ideal life. The Brown's house, as even the theologian noted, is filled with warmth, and maybe it shows us that, if inside everyone is cared for and loved, maybe it shouldn't matter to the rest of us what the outside of a family looks like.