Of all George Orwell’s creations, perhaps his most famous is Big Brother — the ubiquitous, all-seeing mechanical pig that terrorizes the population of Animal Farm in 1984, Part 2: 1985 (Dark Side of the Moo).
"Big Brother" is also the name of a mildly popular CBS reality show about citizens caught in a suffocating dystopia of surveillance and betrayal. Oh, wait, sorry: That’s the CBS Evening News! Big Brother is actually a show about schlubs trapped in a house.
I’m going to recap this season of Big Brother, its thirteenth. In solidarity with this summer’s Big Brother contestants, I hereby pledge to inadvertently reveal embarrassing personal details about myself, accidentally humiliate myself, and succumb to my basest instincts during the course of the series. (I will not, however, giggle in a bikini, which seems to be a common mode of expression according to the twenty seconds of YouTube research I did in preparation for this recapping gig.)
EMBARRASSING PERSONAL DETAIL No. 1: I’ve never watched Big Brother before. I’m already steeling myself for the slings and arrows of outraged comments that will no doubt follow in the wake of my many mistakes and analytical shortcomings. (For instance: What is “Head of Household”?) I can only beg your indulgence as I get up to speed on Big Brother strategy, as well as all the various Marxist, feminist, and post-structuralist readings of the show.
And now TO THE BIGBROTHERMOBILE! First prize: $500,000!
We’re introduced to the contestants. I thought this show was all about celebrities, but I don’t recognize any of these people. Maybe they’re mumblecore celebrities?
Here are this season’s contestants, alphabetized by last name so as not to appear prejudiced in favor of the many hot mamas on my TV right now holy smokes look at all the hot mamas:
Kalia Booker, 30
Current City: Los Angeles, California
Kalia is a writer; she has a blog about relationships. I’m a writer, too! I used to make comics about relationships! But here’s where we diverge: I’m writing recaps of Big Brother. Kalia is actually on Big Brother. She wins. I lose. Kalia loves sex and is excited about the show: “There are gonna be hot guys!”
MY PREDICTION ABOUT KALIA: At some point Kalia will confess that she wears low-cut blouses because she’s insecure.
Porsche Briggs, 23
Current City: Miami Beach, Florida
Porsche works as a VIP cocktail waitress, which guarantees we will never meet in a professional context, unless I happen to be shooting a documentary about people named after German sports cars. She plies her trade at “one of the hottest nightclubs on South Beach” and prides herself on being “one of the hottest girls anywhere she goes.” Yay.
MY PREDICTION ABOUT PORSCHE: After a long night of drinking, Porsche will tearfully admit that she doesn’t actually work at one of the hottest nightclubs on South Beach; she works at the American Enterprise Institute.
Dominic Briones, 25
Current City: San Mateo, California
Dominic is a college student, which means he has a bright future ahead of him. Message to any young people reading this: Seriously, guys, if you want to thrive in today’s economy, go to college. It’s a “no-brainer.” Dominic is a self-confessed “adrenaline junkie” who lives with his mom BECAUSE IT’S THE ULTIMATE RUSH. Also, Dominic is a virgin.
MY PREDICTION ABOUT DOMINIC: He will tearfully call his mom at some point (assuming these people are allowed to call their parents as much as they want; maybe they’re not?).
EMBARRASSING PERSONAL DETAIL No. 2: Like Dominic, I was a virgin at age 25. And I didn’t even get to go on TV to talk about it! ARGGH one of my many life mistakes!
Cassi Colvin, 26
Current City: Nashville, Tennessee
Cassi is a model. That is to say, her image is captured and manipulated by digital media for the purpose of inflaming passions so as to trick people into buying things they don’t need. (My words, not hers.) Also, she’s hot. How hot is Cassi? Hotter than an egg on a sidewalk! (Provided the sidewalk is sufficiently hot.) Hotter than a hot cup of coffee thrown in your face by the Human Torch, who is delirious because he has a fever of 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit and should really go to the hospital, except the hospital burned down because everything’s so hot! Hot hot hot. We are supposed to think Cassi is super-hot. She’s hot! Ultrahot. Cassi says she is a “guy’s girl” who likes “country music, fishing, and drinking beer.” All of a sudden she doesn’t seem so hot.
MY PREDICTION ABOUT CASSI: She will marry a wealthy Texan and vote against my financial interests for the rest of her life.
Lawon Exum, 39
Current City: Inglewood, California
Lawon is 39 years old (that’s how old I am!) and is a file clerk (I like filing!) who thinks “everybody loves me” (I’ve never thought that!). He wears flamboyant clothes and makes up his own words and exhibits the sort of aggressive, TV-friendly exuberance that would’ve been inconceivable 30 years ago.
MY PREDICTION ABOUT LAWON: At some point during the series, Lawon will say: “Would anybody like to see the paisley ascot I made out of you peoples’ dryer lint?”
Keith Henderson, 32
Current City: Bolingbrook, Illinois
This guy is bad news. Keith is a youth pastor who loves chasing girls and takes very seriously the Lord’s injunction to “be fruitful and multiply.” Keith shares a diagram of his winning strategy written on a piece of cardboard; it involves recruiting women to be “Keith’s Angels” and looks like the kind of thing you’d find in a serial killer’s basement two days too late. Keith’s leering charisma chills me to my core.
MY PREDICTION ABOUT KEITH: “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” (2 Timothy 2:16)
Shelly Moore, 41
Current City: Prairieville, Louisiana
Shelly, at 41, is the oldest contestant, which means she is the wisest. How wise? So wise, she decided to go on Big Brother. That’s how wise. She’s a bow hunter! Her philosophy is “look like a lady, act like a man, and work like a dog.” Somebody worked like a dog on Shelly’s lips — they look Photoshopped, if not MSPaint’ed.
MY PREDICTION ABOUT SHELLY: She will offer hard-won advice to the younger women in the house, at which point I will grudgingly admit to being in love with her, and when I’m caught breaking into the Big Brother house to offer her a bouquet made of animal carcasses, it will raise many thorny issues regarding recapper ethics.
Adam Poch, 39
Current City: Hoboken, New Jersey
Adam is a music inventory manager and a “heavy-metal teddy bear,” and will totally dominate this season’s Brian Posehn Impersonation Challenge. When Adam gets excited, he throws devil-horn hand signs and communicates via the guttural bark of bad heavy metal singers. I’m going to pretend that Adam is a member of Cannibal Corpse who has gone AWOL to appear on Big Brother, throwing the band’s summer tour schedule into chaos.
MY PREDICTION ABOUT ADAM: He will wear many bowling shirts with flames on them.
Our hostess Julie Chen introduces the houseguests; it’s their first time seeing each other. They’re not allowed to speak until they enter the house! How crazy is that? It is only by surrendering to the strictures of the chateaux that they will find their voice. (My pledge: I will never waste an opportunity to make a coded reference to The Story of O.) Hostess: “The only thing that is certain is you’re about to embark on a grueling, summer-long power struggle.” I hope our revolutionary friends in Egypt and Syria are taking notes.
The first four contestants to enter the house are Porsche, Dominic, Lawon, and Shelly. They have one minute to choose a bed. I don’t know why.
The house looks colorful and cheap; I think it was decorated with Ikea’s “Timothy Leary Collection.” One of the rooms is wallpapered with trompe l'oeil bookshelves. The producers are obviously rubbing our noses in the fact that this show heralds the dawn of a post-literate America. (My notes: “Lawon is very excited.”) Shelly and Porsche hug. Keith thinks “the girls are hot” and exults, “the Lord is my shepherd and He knows what I want!” I anticipate that 90 percent of these recaps will consist of me debating the finer points of Keith’s theology, which strikes me as uniquely odious.
Upon entering the house, Kalia sounds the first sour note of the evening: She hates communal showers and thinks the bathroom arrangement is “my nightmare come true.” Porsche admits: “One of my best features is my personality and the doctors did help a little bit.” At first I think Porsche is admitting to the use of doctor-prescribed psychiatric drugs to help her personality, but then I remember what I’m watching — she’s probably referring to breast implants, right? I’m starting to wonder if I should get cosmetic surgery, just to fit in. Maybe I’ll get bicep implants on my mouth.
Our friends keep mentioning that there are only eight people in the house, whereas the communal dining table has twelve place settings. And there are only ten beds. A creeping sense of unease infiltrates our happy home.
Misgivings are cast aside as our contestants get to know each other. Keith doesn’t tell the others that he’s a deacon; he says he’s a matchmaker. For shame! Has he forgotten Matthew 5:15? (“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”) Adam announces that he’s a metalhead who loves bacon and Beverly Hills 90210, which he says in his heavy-metal monster voice: “Nine-oh-two-one-URGGGGH!” Shelly lives in Baton Rouge; she’s married (my heart breaks) and has an 8-year-old daughter. Kalia mentions her “dating column,” at which point we cut away to Keith: “God has blessed Kalia extremely!” (He is referring to her breasts.)
Dominic says he makes his money by modeling, and Porsche avers that he is “definitely the best-looking guy in the group.” Porsche lies and says she’s a student; apparently she’s afraid that if people know she’s a VIP cocktail waitress “they’ll think my life’s luxurious.” (This is why I tell people I’m a freelance fashion consultant instead of a reality-show recapper — I don’t want them to be intimidated by my amazing lifestyle.) Similarly, Cassi doesn’t admit to being a model, lest people assume she’s narcissistic. Free advice to Cassi: A great way to make sure people don’t think you’re narcissistic is not to go on a reality show where you’re filmed nonstop for three months straight.
Okay, so the deacon lied about his job. The VIP cocktail waitress lied about her job. The model lied about her job. Did I catch all the lies, or were there more lies I missed?
ALERT! This wouldn’t be Big Brother if it didn’t have amazing twists and turns the likes of which haven’t been seen since M. Night Shyamalan’s latest masterwork. Sure enough, Chen appears onscreen to say: “Expect the unexpected!” (Somebody was literally paid money to write that line.) Guess what, gang? Everybody has to pair up! “Make your choice wisely because the game has changed!” If you win Head of Household (still have no idea what this is), you and your partner are safe for a week; you’ll be nominating duos for eviction, so “picking a partner is important!” This flummoxes Keith’s plan; he can’t use his “Keith’s Angels” strategy. But Porsche still deigns to flirt with him, so we know God is not dead. Yet.
The gang pairs up: Keith and Porsche; Cassi and Shelly; Dominic and Adam (Dominic is skeptical); Kalia and Lawon. Remember these pairings, guys. Something tells me they’ll be veeeery important in the weeks ahead.
Now, about those empty table settings: Per our hostess, “The twists are far from over!” Ding-dong, the doorbell rings
(At this point three pairs of former Big Brother contestants entered the house. Now, I don’t know these yahoos from a hole in the wall, so I will defer to my editor — a longtime Big Brother watcher — and crib shamelessly from his description of the players.)
Brendan and Rachel: a tremendously annoying pair she was also a “VIP waitress” he claimed to be a chemist or something while he really seemed to be a swim coach they fell in love he was very concerned with always seeming like the most gallant man around
Jeff and Jordan: Big Brother's version of America’s sweethearts [he] at least had what passes for a sense of humor in the house after they were on Big Brother, they went onto the Amazing Race as they were CBS's homegrown reality stars
“Evil” Dick and Danielle: He was pretty loathsome, but won the season he was a surprise entrant, and neither he nor Danielle knew the other one was on (they are father and daughter) ... he went above and beyond the call of duty in being a prick, and yet through the magic of editing he became a hero of the show. misogynistic and verbally abusive ...
My take: We’re probably supposed to hate Rachel (“I’m back, bitches! I’m better than ever!”); Brendan seems okay; Jeff seems popular among the new houseguests (Shelly: “I never thought in a million years I’d meet Jeff and Jordan!”); Jordan made no impression on me, but she won her season so she must be a genius; Evil Dick looks like a partially deflated Motley Crüe Macy’s parade balloon; and Danielle is unhappy, which probably has something to do with the fact that her father goes by the name “Evil Dick.”
We have our fourteen contestants. Now that the mind-blowing twist has been successfully executed, leaving everyone in a state of bewildered anxiety, it’s time for something called a Head of Household contest. Per our hostess, Head of Household is “the most powerful position inside the Big Brother house.” (Really? Tell that to the line producer.)
The contest takes place in a jungle-themed backyard featuring enormous hanging bananas. You’ll never guess what this contest is called — seriously. The name of this contest featuring enormous bananas is: “Going Bananas.” Let me explain: Each pair climbs onto a banana; the bananas are raised in the air and swung around; the last person to fall off his or her banana is the winner. That’s how you play “Going Bananas.” The name makes sense, when you think about it. You see, the game features enormous bananas, right? So it’s only logical to call it “Going Bananas.” Still don’t get it? Think about it this way: When you see a “bunch” of people hanging onto gigantic bananas, and you see how much fun they’re having, your natural impulse is to say, “Look at those people hanging on those giant bananas; I guess everybody’s going bananas!” Maybe it’s just me, but I think “Going Bananas” is the perfect name for this game. Because it’s a game where people hang onto bananas while going bananas about their situation vis a vis bananas and that’s why they’re going bananas.
Oh, and also: Everybody is sprayed with chocolate from a giant hose as Fred Rogers spins in his grave.
Here is the order in which people fell off the giant bananas:
(My notes: “The giant bananas are swinging in an especially dispiriting way.”)
(At this point, the remaining contestants had whipped cream shot at their faces.)
12. Evil Dick
I should point out that Evil Dick and Danielle made a deal with Rachel: If they voluntarily took leave of their banana, she would spare them from elimination.
Ladies and gentlemen, that was “Going Bananas.” I don’t care what any of you say; I still think it’s a great name.
We have our first Head of Household (hereafter: HOH) of the summer! Kudos to Rachel, representing old-school Big Brother contestants. These new contestants may have all the hype and sizzle, but they came across like a bunch of punks. It’s like if Tyler the Creator challenged KRS-One to a freestyle battle: KRS-One would end his career.
Julie tells the chocolate-splattered houseguests to assemble in the living room. Rachel is tasked with nominating a duo for eviction — which is a blessing, yes, but also a curse! You see, one houseguest from the losing pair will be evicted, but the houseguest who survives the chopping block will receive a golden key that guarantees them a spot in the top ten, which means they won’t participate in any further competitions but will retain their right to vote for eviction, but only for ten weeks, because of the golden key. (I hope I got that right! This show is already taxing my limited mental acuity; it’s starting to feel like the LSAT, but with breast implants.) Julie: “Rachel, it’s a lot to consider.” Whom will Rachel eliminate? We must wait until Sunday to find out.
(Programming note: Big Brother is on three nights a week. My recaps will be posted the morning after each week’s elimination. That means each recap will summarize not one, but THREE episodes of this amazing show. That means each recap will be 500,000 words long. That means you will eventually be able to buy an eleven-volume, leather-bound edition of these recaps.)
I leave you with our hostess’s final words: “It’s bound to be an exciting summer!” She then adds: “And by the way, the only contest we’re going to play all summer is GOING BANANAS!” (JOKE)