‘Big Little Lies’ recap: Did Reese Witherspoon & Nicole Kidman win the battle in episode 4, ‘Push Comes to Shove’ [POLL]

Who gave the best performance this week in the fourth episode of HBO’s “Big Little Lies”? “Push Comes to Shove,” like all seven episodes in the limited series, was written by multi-Emmy winner David E. Kelley and directed by Jean-Marc Vallee. But who was the MVP in front of the camera? Vote below in our poll.

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In last week’s episode, “Living the Dream,” tensions further escalated. Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) planned a “Disney on Ice” outing to undermine Renata’s (Laura Dern) birthday party for her daughter, but later Madeline’s heart broke as her oldest daughter Abigail (Kathryn Newton) decided to live with her father (James Tupper) and stepmother (Zoe Kravitz). Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) once again got violent with Celeste (Nicole Kidman), which led them to couples counseling and ended with him giving her a diamond necklace as an apology, followed by another awkward sexual encounter. Meanwhile, Jane (Shailene Woodley) struggled with being a single mom and finally revealed some of her torturous past.

Now that this limited series is at its halfway mark the drama has reached a fever pitch. In “Push Comes to Shove” Madeline enlisted former lawyer Celeste to get “Avenue Q” produced at the local community theater, taking their fight to the Mayor. Meanwhile, Perry tried to hold back on his anger as he worried about his wife Celeste returning to the workforce before ultimately resorting to violence yet again towards the episode’s end. Jane felt temporary relief after her confession from last week, but again faces questions about whether or not her son, Ziggy (Iain Armitage), was violent. To find out, she had to take him to see a child psychologist. And Ed (Adam Scott) reached out to Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) for help in keeping the peace as they plan a dinner.

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This week two Oscar winners Witherspoon and Kidman went head-to-head for the MVP title, battling it out with subtle but strong performances. Witherspoon’s Madeline quests for perfection in her home life while looking for some form of outside satisfaction. This week viewers learned that she had an extramarital affair with the director (Santiago Cabrera) of the show she’s trying so desperately to get produced. That makes sense since probably no one has ever cared this much about a community theater production of “Avenue Q.” She starts to explain to Celeste that it was just an unwanted kiss but slowly confesses it was more; only an actress with the ability to be so likable could get away with such bad behavior and keep the audience on her side.

But Kidman’s Celeste gives her a run for her money as she dips her toe back into the working world and realizes she missed it. Then she wrestles with how to tell her husband. Witherspoon and Kidman’s best scene is together as they sit in the car after scoring a minor victory and admit wanting more than motherhood as the feeling of accomplishment makes them giddy.

That could be a problem come Emmy time as it could be hard for voters to choose between them. Witherspoon is making her biggest ever foray into television. Kidman is trying to get the Emmy that illuded her last time for “Hemingway & Gellhorn” in 2012. Typically, either Witherspoon or Kidman would automatically be an Emmy frontrunner heading into the Best Movie/Limited Actress race. But this is not a typical year as another Oscar winning duo, Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon (“Feud”), are going to give them a run for the prize. So both might need something more explosive if they’re going to prove victorious.

The Emmys typically do not like children. But Armitage’s Ziggy has shown a quiet maturity well beyond his eight years. He gives a depth to the pain of a child not knowing his father while sensing his mother is carrying a burden he cannot share. His scene with Woodley where son comforts mother should at least put him in the Emmy conversation.

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