Jan. 4, 2012 — -- Tonight's episode of "Celebrity Wife Swap" on ABC featured a unique exchange: Gary Busey's fiancée and Ted Haggard's wife traded places for one week. Surprisingly, there were no fireworks.
The hour gave viewers insight into the lives of the two households, and into the struggles of Busey -- who suffered a brain injury after a motorcycle accident and is now known for his wacky way of expressing himself, and Haggard, an evangelical Christian who was disgraced when a gay sex and drug scandal came to light.
Haggard had been a pastor of mega New Life Church and president of the National Association of Evangelicals. In 2006, his life unraveled after allegations that he had paid a male prostitute for sex for three years and purchased crystal methamphetamine from him.
Steffanie Sampson went to the Haggard family's Colorado Springs, Colo., home, while Gayle Haggard went to Busey's home in Los Angeles. Sampson met the Haggards' children, and Haggard, 54, met Sampson and Busey's young son, Luke.
The traded women familiarize themselves with their new households, reading the "manual" that was left for them by the other women.
As part of her duties, Sampson, who is Jewish, had to take over leading a women's Bible study for the absent Gayle Haggard. When she disclosed that she and Busey were married "in spirit" and not legally, she got some blank stares. Unfamiliar with the Bible reading, she stumbled a little and drew loud laughter when she mispronounced the word "disciple."
She also read from Gayle Haggard's book, which was published after her husband's scandal and details why she stayed with him. Sampson took exception to the perceived implication in the book that the gay prostitute who talked about his experiences with Haggard was doing the work of the devil.
She also talked to Haggard and his children about what affect their father's scandal had on them. Haggard's son, Elliott, said he was angry at how people treated his father.
Haggard, 55, said the scandal was embarrassing and heart-wrenching, adding, "I wanted to die."
Sampson, 37, seemed genuinely concerned for the Haggards' well-being.
"They're all so lovely and I just want them to be happy and find some peace," she said, choking up. "I hope I can help. It would be great if I could."
She noticed that Haggard seems to throw himself into helping the people in his new church, and as part of her rules for the household, got the family to meet and talk. During the meeting, Haggard's daughter, Christy, asked to spend more time with her father. The resulting discussion grew tense when Elliott implied that Christy may have been unfair to their father by suggesting that he hadn't been available for the family.
Haggard and his daughter went out together for a father-daughter tea and resolved the issue. Christy told her father that she'd like him to reach out to her more, and he promised to do so.
"I love you so much. You're precious to me, you're valuable to me. You're my only daughter," he says.
Sampson also took the family on a hike in the picturesque hills of the area, and asks them to continue doing so as a family.
While in the Busey household, Gayle Haggard said that she believes that the actor is a good father to his young son, but thinks the actor, 67, seems a bit too focused on himself. She resolves to direct his attention outward.
In particular, when she tries to engage him in conversation, he talks a lot but doesn't have any questions for her beyond what sport she may have played in her youth. The answer: Barrel racing.
She also is confused by Busey's tendency to speak in playfully high voices -- he sometimes ended sentences with the word "yay" -- and seems thrown for a moment when she asks him if he goes to church and he replies: "I am church."
The actor identifies as Christian but also is open to a variety of spiritual influences. He believes he and Sampson have been together in 31 previous lives.
When Busey invites an American Indian to do a ceremony at his him, the man, identified only as "Robert" or "Bob," invites Haggard to be cleansed. Uncomfortable with the idea, she asks to simply observe instead of participate.
As part of her rules for the household, she tells Busey that would like to accompany him and Luke on walks in the morning. She also offers to cook him an evening meal and get to know him better. She tells him that she appreciates him, and offers him a poem formed using the initials of his name: "Genuinely accepted, Appreciated, Respected, yay."
Busey teared up when she read the poem.
During one of their meals together, he asks her about how the scandal affected her. She told him that it shook everything that she believed in, but that after the initial shock and tears had passed, she asked herself a question: 'I asked myself, 'Gayle Haggard, who are you going to be in this story?'"
She said she resolved to fight for her marriage and for her children's dignity.
When the couples finally reunited, they met to discuss the week and all that they had learned about each other.
Haggard revealed to Sampson that he and his family had been on the receiving end of hate following the scandal.
"We've not allowed the haters to dominate our lives…," he said.
He and his family left Colorado Springs shortly after the scandal, but he made the decision to return because he wanted to rebuild his life where it was ruined.
"There's no reason for people to die in shame," he said.
Busey seemed impressed by Haggard's words and said he believed the swap had been a blessing for both families.
After the scandal, Haggard has returned to the ministry as pastor of the non-denominational St. James church in Colorado Springs. He admitted last year that he could be bisexual.
Busey is an Academy Award-nominated actor who made a name for himself in numerous films and television appearances. He has also made headlines for financial troubles and drug problems, and has also appeared in several TV shows, including "Celebrity Rehab" and "Celebrity Apprentice."