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Big Brother Recap: Dress Up Like a Superhero or a Pastel Cow

Big Brother.

You know when you’re trying to balance your checkbook in your head, and you get so distracted you swim out past the last safety buoy and start getting dragged under by the ocean current, and as you’re pulled under for the third time you realize that unpleasant tickling is actually a school of piranhas nibbling at your legs and they all have Nancy Grace’s face and you can hear your alarm clock buzzing on the shore and you have to wake up for your job interview-slash-calculus test but you can’t wake up because it’s not a dream? That’s how I feel after watching my first full week of Big Brother.

When I signed on to recap this thing, I thought the point of the show was to watch people in bikinis take naps until they went crazy. Instead we’ve got people in bikinis forming alliances and gaming out HOH eliminations and POVs and drafting prisoners’ dilemmas on five-dimensional chessboards in a banana-splattered hall of mirrors. This is hard work, and I’d appreciate it if you’d all petition my editor for a 5,000 percent raise or a gift certificate to the local mental-health clinic.

SUNDAY’S EPISODE:
Our week begins with a frenzy of whispers. People are figuring out their allies and enemies. Everyone’s obsessed with the Golden Key, whose holder gets to skip the first four HOHs. Rachel announces: “This is a whole new game,” and describes her strategy as “Play hard, stay quiet” — which is ironic, given that her voice suggests a diet made entirely of megaphones.

Rachel, as HOH, upgrades to a room with an aquarium and a fruit basket, which is how we know it’s nice. In a charming(?) domestic cutaway, she wonders if Cassi has had work done: maybe Botox or a nose job? Brendon wishes Rachel didn’t feel she needs cosmetic surgery to be beautiful and makes a riveting analogy to a desire to have four arms. (Meanwhile, I’ve been injecting collagen since the last recap; my mouth look like an inner tube having its period.)

Lawon and Dominic, who are “room dawgs for life,” form a sleeper cell with secret-deacon Keith and secret-model Cassi. They name their group “Team Regulators,” owing to their shared admiration for Elizabeth Warren. (JOKE) The members of this new alliance regard each other with a sort of saccharine trust. Lawon and Keith agree to turn on their partners (Kalia and Porsche, respectively) if they find themselves on the chopping block. Keith knows Porsche is working the old-school players; he tells the Regulators “I peeped the game a long time ago.”

Sure enough, Porsche butters up Evel Dick about how great he and his generation of Big Brother–ers were, are, and will be, world without end, amen. She sounds like Michele Bachmann giving Ronald Reagan’s ghost a back rub.

Rachel and Jeff also share a conspiratorial conversation in the kitchen, but I don’t remember the details because I was too distracted by the fact that Rachel stood in front of an open refrigerator door and never closed it.

Rachel, dressed as a cow, announces THIS WEEK’S HAVE/HAVE-NOT GAME: “COWS ON THE MOON.” The delicate balance of my mental health forbids me from repeating any of the puns deployed in Rachel’s announcement; suffice it to say they were bludgeoning, and whoever wrote them should be “udder”-ly ashamed of their “cow”-ardly “moo”-tivation for doing so. Also, they should go fuck themselves.

To the strains of an off-brand Thus Spake Zarathustra, we see the backyard. Gone is any trace of GOING BANANAS — what was once a jungle paradise is now a bleak moonscape of grey rocks and craters. Oh, and there’s a waterfall made of milk, just like on the real moon!

The contestants are dressed as pastel cows. They jump into the milk waterfall, absorb the liquid into their spongy costumes, and are then humped by their teammates until the milk is extruded via enema tubes(?) into a series of jugs. And thus is some producer’s dream of re-creating a half-remembered Japanese porno he saw in the midst of a 50-hour meth bender finally realized.

At moments, the proceedings approach the undignified. (Cassi grouses: “I certainly don’t want to swim in a pool of milk ever again in my life,” which is yet another reason we have no future together.)

According to the breathless cutaway interviews, everyone wants to win. However, like my granddad always used to say, there can only be one pastel bovine milk-enema champion: The Blue team wins! They are “Haves” for the week, and as such will enjoy a historically low marginal tax rate at the cost of de-funding social services for the most vulnerable, all the while holding our nation’s debt ceiling hostage. The Orange team are this week’s “Have-Nots” — they must sleep in a padded bedroom. (It could pass as a hip hotel in Los Angeles.) The only problem is: They can’t turn off the lights. And they have to take cold showers.

EMBARRASSING PERSONAL SECRET No. 3: I’ve been taking cold showers for almost two months; the pilot light in my hot water heater is corroded, and when I removed the manifold assembly, I had to cut through the pilot tube because the nut was stuck. I have since stripped the nut in manic attempts to remove it, and now I don’t know what to do. I was enjoying hot showers at the high-school pool where I swim laps, but the pool has closed for the summer owing to budget cuts. Color me have-not.

The machinations continue: Evel Dick recruits Adam, the guy who abandoned his job in Cannibal Corpse to appear on the show. (Note: See first recap.) Adam looks up to Evel Dick because Evel Dick is a rebel who has tattoos and crazy hair; the fact he’s estranged from his own daughter doesn’t seem to dampen Adam’s esteem. Adam admits that he really needs to win the $500,000 because “playing second viola in Cannibal Corpse’s touring orchestra isn’t as lucrative as I had been led to believe.” (JOKE)

Meanwhile, with the nomination looming, Rachel is “so confused about what to do, it’s insane.” I’m confused, too. (My notes: “What are nominations? Is it good to be nominated? There’s a nomination ceremony! Oh — it’s bad to be nominated.”)

Sure enough, after a bunch of rigmarole involving people pulling keys out of a lazy Susan, Keith and Porsche are put on the chopping block. In the words of Rachel, we are witnessing “purely strategic gameplay,” which is what people with underwater mortgages should tell their banks when they stop paying them.

WEDNESDAY’S EPISODE:
Porsche feels betrayed — why is she on the chopping block if she had an alliance with Evel Dick? Porsche sneaks away to confront the old-timers in the fancy room. Keith watches with Old Testament contempt.

Porsche is in tears as Brendon reassures her: “We’re not trying to back-door you.” She doesn’t understand that she was put on the block because the veterans want her to have … the Golden Key! Rachel is using Porsche as a pawn to get rid of Keith. Porsche, overwhelmed by all the strategizing, doesn’t want to “look dumb.” Neither do I, but I have a feeling it’s too late. Honest to God, this show is already more complicated than season three of The Wire and we’re only two hours in! I keep waiting for someone to start whistling “The Farmer in the Dell” just so I know I can relax for a few minutes.

The baroque eschatology of Porsche’s puppeteers is further clarified: They want her to throw the next competition. (It honestly took me five minutes of sustained concentration to realize they’re talking about a “Veto Competition,” and they want Porsche to lose so she and Keith will remain on the chopping block.) Porsche is kinda-sorta reassured. She wipes away her tears and leaves. Brendon opines: “Porsche is acting like a ditsy girl.” Daniele: “Porsche knows absolutely nothing about what’s going on.” (I sh-“udder” to think what Daniele would say about my Herculean struggles to comprehend the proceedings.)

But Porsche’s not the only person who’s ready to throw the next competition: Her partner Keith plans to do the same! Why? I’m glad you asked. Keith hates Porsche because she flipped and sided with Marlo Stanfield the old-timers; he knows he has enough support from the Regulators to risk walking up to the edge of eviction.

A man on a loudspeaker tells Evel Dick to report to something called a “Diary Room.” The day passes without Dick. Jeff is the first to worry; soon everyone is mystified.

Rachel is summoned to the Diary Room. She returns to make an announcement: DICK HAS PULLED OUT. He’s left the show owing to a personal emergency or something. (I’ll admit to watching Evel Dick’s official statement about his removal, available online, but after about five minutes I started to feel like I was making seriously bad life choices and went outside to work in my garden.)

Daniele, now partner-less, is given the first Golden Key! Daniele should be on cloud nine — she’s got a free pass for weeks — but she’s upset; she didn’t return to this house of horrors to be a passive bystander. Of her father, she says something so honest and raw I’m amazed the producers kept it in:

“He lives and breathes Big Brother — it was his life, which is disgusting and embarrassing.”

Someday people will say that about me.

But never mind all that: Dick’s exit means the old-timers’ alliance is fucked! They don’t have the numbers to go up against the newbies. Their nerves are rubbed raw. To wit:

Brendon sees Keith smiling like the cat who ate and/or groped the canary, and wants to confront him with his muscles. The other old-timers finally talk him down, but not before he makes an absolute ass of himself. (My notes: “Brendon is a huge belligerent idiot.”)

Jeff delivers the Big-Brother equivalent of the St. Crispin’s Day speech, reassuring his fellows that even in their diminished state, they can achieve the impossible. It’s stirring stuff and almost makes me forget his homophobic anti-Dumbledore tirade, also available online.

Keith delivers a slightly less eloquent monologue to a security camera. Subject: making his move on Daniele, with the intent to fold her into the newbie alliance before killing her off.

THIS WEEK’S VETO COMPETITION: Rachel/Brendon, Porsche/Keith, and Jordan/Jeff are dressed in superhero costumes and attached to their partners via pulleys; the guys grab magnetized shards of skyscraper facades, which the ladies assemble, puzzlelike, onto the towering edifices.

Keith and Porsche, game-throwers both, thread the needle of appearing to work hard while achieving nothing — they do it so well, in fact, that I wonder if they’ve been secretly videotaping the last fifteen years of my life.

Finally, Rachel and Brendon win the contest — and the Golden Power of Veto! Jeff and Jordan are despondent. In a postgame conversation, Keith and Porsche each play the part of well-intentioned, bumbling naif with a conviction bordering on the sociopathic.

At the veto meeting, Porsche and Keith are asked to make their case: Porsche says they want to stay in the house. As far as pitches go, it’s pretty anemic — which I guess is the point. Rachel and Jeff then announce they won’t use power of veto to undo Rachel’s original decision; Porsche and Keith will remain on the chopping block! This whole episode was a red herring! I feel used.

I also feel dirty, because I haven’t bathed since I weeded around my Swiss chard earlier this afternoon. I decide to take a nice, long, cold shower.

THURSDAY’S EPISODE:
We’re back with our live studio audience! Wait — since when is there a live studio audience? Have they been hiding in the attic, like the guy in The Lives of Others? I guess it’s true, what they say about Big Brother: “Expect the unexplained.”

In the padded room, Lawon, Dominic, and Cassi agree that the old-timers see Porsche as a “weak little twit” to be manipulated; they plan to vote against her. Cassi thinks “Keith has played a terrible, terrible game so far,” but his erratic behavior and paranoia are less dangerous than Porsche’s rank disloyalty.

The old-timers need to flip someone to vote Keith out and decide to socialize with the newbies. It’s time for fun in the kitchen! The communal dining table becomes a site of disingenuous camaraderie as red wine flows and everybody sings the “big booty” chant, a classic Pete Seeger folk ballad.

Next we enjoy a drum circle! Dominic, skeptical of the rhythms of friendship, halfheartedly beats a slotted spoon against his leg. He is adorable. HE IS MY FAVORITE CONTESTANT.

Suddenly it’s time to announce the winner of THE SANITY-RESTORING INTERNET VIDEO OF THE WEEK. (My contest, not Big Brother’s.) I’d like to thank whoever made this ecstatic, mournful Pixies/Thin Lizzy mash-up for helping me survive my first week in this strange new biosphere.

Back to the show: Rachel’s pet name of “Booky”(sp) for Brendon becomes an issue when she says it in public. Brendon pulls her into their room and chews her out for using their private term of endearment in mixed company; it’s “making me look stupid.” (Homeboy, you’re doing a pretty good job on your own, and as far as this recapper is concerned, you are “Booky” from now.) Rachel sleeps on the couch.

The next day Rachel apologizes for making Booky feel “de-masculinized.” Booky reminds her that he wants to enter the medical profession (is there a medical school in the basement?), and this will be harder if she continues to “de-masculinate” him.

Did I mention that when Rachel said “I love you,” it took Booky a loooong time to respond in kind?

Booky, now un-de-masculinated, looks to Shelly to lock up the swing vote. Shelly wants to play ball! Jeff works Adam, letting him name the old-timer alliance. Adam goes with “Adam’s Angels.” (I was hoping for “Hammer Smashed Face.”)

The hostess plays a video message from Evel Dick. He apologizes to Daniele that they can’t spend the summer together. His suggestion to the guests: “Take no prisoners.” Daniele is instructed to respond for our delectation. She says, “This part’s not Big Brother, this part is real life, which makes it the hardest.” Hostess: “No ‘I love you?’”

Ahh, the subtle emotional cues of reality television.

Time to vote for eviction. Keith pleads his case. He tells everyone to have fun and not take things personally. Porsche thanks the old-timers for teaching her the ropes. The live (LIVE!) voting begins.

People enter the Diary Room and vote to evict.

Here’s how everyone voted:

Dominic: votes to evict Porsche, “gladly”
Booky: Keith
Jordan: Keith
Cassi: Porsche
Lawon: Porsche
Jeff: Keith
Daniele: Keith (she also takes a moment to admit she loves her father; glad that’s resolved)
Adam: Porsche (he defies the old-timers!)
Kalia: Keith (this is the only vote that surprised me)
Shelly: Keith

The old-timers’ meticulous ground game has paid off: Keith is OUT! Porsche receives the Golden Key! She now has the power to see through lead and bend spoons with the gravitational force of her boobs.

Keith is told to grab his bags. (“During the daytime, while they watch, bring out your belongings packed for exile. Then in the evening, while they are watching, go out like those who go into exile.” —Ezekial 12:4). He walks out the front door, and — Holy shit, the studio audience is right outside the house! Is the house inside an enormous studio? Because Charlie Kaufman totally ripped that off in Synecdoche, NY.

Our hostess says, “It’s a crazy world in the Big Brother world, Keith.” Keith admits to being “very shocked.” The hostess is stunned that Keith was on the block and still threw the Veto Competition. And why did he choose Porsche? Keith stammers about how he’s emotional and Porsche’s hot and blah blah blah.

The housemates deliver mocking messages to their fallen comrade. Cassi gets the best zinger: “This isn’t the Dating Game; it’s Big Brother.” Porsche gloats at her partner-cum-enemy, referring him to the text of the T-shirt stretched nearly to rupture by her synthetic mammaries: “You can look, but you can’t touch!” (Unfortunately, not looking does not seem to be an option.)

Next is some stupid putt-putt golf competition that seems to take 1,000 years and is won by Jordan. She’s Head of Household for the coming week. She runs a gauntlet of hugs and congratulations offered with greater and lesser degrees of sincerity.

We have just enough time for some VIEWER QUESTIONS for the contestants:

To Shelly: “How hard is it to be away from your daughter?”
Shelly: “Not hard at all.” (JOKE)

To Adam: “Who’s your favorite 90210 character?”
Adam: [Heavy metal voice.] “Donna Martin graduates!!! Donna Martin graduates!!!” (NOT A JOKE, SADLY)

And with that, Big Brother draws to a close.

Well, that certainly was an exhausting season! I’d like to thank everyone for slogging through it with me, and reading all my recaps and — wait, what? That was only the first full week?

There are five weeks to go?

And so the Nancy Grace–faced piranhas continue to feast upon my tender skin.

Photo: Bill Inoshita/CBS