In another episode of Sister Wives, the wives are struggling with Kody Brown and plural marriage, each in their own way. And Janelle Brown’s mother and Kody’s mother-in-law/mom’s sister-wife/father’s wife passes away. This episode has so much to unpack.
Kody, Garrison Brown, and Gabriel Brown are peeling logs out on the property when Gabriel asks about the requirements for Christmas. Gabe says that every parent is telling him a different thing about what’s required to get together at Christmas. Gabriel says that once the siblings are all together, they are going to talk about Covid and why they weren’t allowed to get together for eight months. Kody tells his sons, “You call every one of your siblings to get all that griping out of your system. We are not discussing Covid at Christmas.”
Once Gabriel explains how he feels about not seeing his dad, Kody says that he hasn’t explained how these Covid rules work very well. Kody was so focused on “if your mom got sick, who would help her?” that he forgot that his children with Janelle would help her. They love their mom and would do anything for her. Kody thinks they need to avoid Janelle getting sick, to begin with. Kody does try to explain “the big picture” to his sons, but again, this probably should have been a discussion for so many months ago. Kody’s avoidance of hard things and drawing out the timeline so that resentments build is a huge part of their family dysfunction. They spend so much time talking about their “family culture” without ever admitting that their family culture is avoidance, resentment, and unforgiveness.
Now that Kody explained his position and why he’s trying to protect one mom’s illness from impacting all the moms, Gabriel and Garrison admit that they were blaming Robyn Brown for their dad being gone. Is anyone else shouting at the TV right now, just wanting Kody to communicate? Early in the show, they had family meetings. Why not keep doing that virtually? Yeesh. In response to Gabriel and Garrison’s thought that this was all Robyn’s idea, Kody says something he shouldn’t have said to his sons. He says, “She’s the obedient wife.”
Kody is upset in his production interview about whoever put “that” in their minds. What Kody doesn’t seem to realize is that it’s in everyone’s minds, not just because another wife said it, but because that’s the optics of what he’s doing, putting Robyn first. Then Kody says that Robyn’s kids are “prisoners” but are compliant. As the conversation continues, it’s becoming clear to the boys that this is really all on their dad. They had been blaming Robyn, but it’s not her.
Kody goes on to throw Christine Brown under the bus. And Gabriel vehemently defends Christine as his primary caregiver for his entire life, taking care of seven or more siblings at a time every day for years and years. Gabriel tries to explain to Kody how Christine has such a bond with all the kids that it would be hardest for her to not see the kids. Christine and Janelle are following the CDC guidelines, but those guidelines are not enough for Kody. Kody sees Janelle and Christine’s clique negatively and Gabriel sees it as teamwork and family.
Gabriel is still upset about the Covid rules, whose rules they are, and that he can’t see his dad. Gabriel just wants to be a teammate in this. He says that everyone is focused on just “bring right or doing right,” and no one is budging. Kody and Gabriel are working on an outdoor project, and Kody is avoiding the conversation with Gabriel because Kody can’t get Janelle to enforce any of the Covid rules. Kody says that Robyn’s house feels like his house and Janelle’s house doesn’t feel like his house. Kody is upset that he hasn’t been more “patriarchal” and “in charge” in the past.
Janelle says that Kody’s kids adore him, and they are upset and frustrated. Gabriel keeps confronting his dad. Gabriel is upset that even though his girlfriend was isolated for a long time during the pandemic, his dad has never met her or even talked to her. Gabriel is nearly in tears that he was forced to choose between his dad and his girlfriend. Again, communication. Kody says the issue is Gabriel had to choose between his dad and his girlfriend. And Gabriel says, “why?” The number of times where Kody says, “I had no idea about blah blah…” is so disheartening. And, rather than listening, Kody makes it about how HE is not respected. His son is hurting. Kody is missing the point.
In Christine’s production interview, she says that she used to be a compliant wife, but she’s now the head of her household. She’s been frustrated to see Kody playing favorites over her and her children. And the kids see it, too. Kody doubles down with Gabe that his mom “made choices” and Christine “made choices” to cause the families to be separated. Someone needs to tell Kody that parental alienation is not ok even if he disagrees with how the moms are dealing with Covid and him. Kody keeps on ranting, calling Janelle “the Teflon queen,” letting it slide off of her onto everyone else. This strategy of ranting against Janelle is not going to work for Gabriel. Kody can’t hear that Gabriel is suffering, missing his father, and jealous. This is heartbreaking to watch. The marriage of Kody and Christine isn’t the only thing imploding in a big way in December of 2020.
Gabe is laying out his heart, offering to be a teammate, and is upset at the time lost due to lack of communication. Is anyone else saying to themselves, GO HUG YOUR SON? Kody gets in his truck and leaves. Gabriel is heartbroken, breaking down in his production interview.
It’s two weeks before Christmas, and the wives and children are all settling into isolation in order to be together as one family for Christmas. In the midst of planning for Christmas, Janelle is in Wyoming to be with her mom as her mom passed away with inoperable cancer. Kody is driving to Wyoming to Sheryl Brown’s funeral. Kody believes honoring Sheryl is more important than Christmas, but he told Meri Brown and Robyn not to attend.
Janelle and Robyn meet after Janelle returns from Wyoming so that Robyn can check on Janelle since Janelle’s mom passed. They talked about how Covid has changed them, and their lives don’t overlap much anymore, but also, it’s exposed the problems in the family and now those problems are more prominent. Janelle is reflecting on whether she still chooses plural marriage. She says she does choose it. Meri doesn’t seem to be pondering leaving at all. Christine is keeping her eye on spending Christmas together and celebrating what she does have. Robyn is shocked about how they have all handled the pandemic.
Kody takes a post-funeral, pre-Christmas Covid test and it’s negative, so he heads back to Robyn’s house. On Christmas Day, the family gathers as everyone tests negative before the gathering. No one is supposed to talk about Covid during the gathering. It’s sad that the youngest, Ariella Mae Brown, is struggling to keep her siblings straight. She can’t remember who is who. As most of the Browns gather, they are focused on celebrating who is there and setting aside their struggles.
Next time, Robyn’s nanny and husband tested positive for Covid. Christine is done with her marriage when Kody says to her, “I’m not interested in having an intimate marriage anymore.” Kody finds boxes of his books and clothes in Christine’s garage. And Christine is left wondering what to tell the kids.
Kelli Bergheimer is an opinionated redhead, reality tv junkie, and freelance writer for All About the Tea.