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Big Brother Recap: The Myth of Sisyphus

SUNDAY’S EPISODE:

As the house adjusts to life without Brendon’s biceps, Kalia celebrates her status as the first newbie HOH. She exults and weeps with joy. Daniele is proud of her protégée: The student has become the master.

It reminds me of that movie Space Wars when a kid in a beige bathrobe named Luke Skydancer(?) trains to become a Judo Master at the hands of a little green puppet who lives in a swamp — after learning how to stand on his head and use a laser sword, he fights this other guy named Darth Vedder(?) and the whole thing is about how the student becomes the master and the master becomes the student and your enemy is your father and she’s your sister and your daughter.

Oh! And there’s an old guy who can see through walls using the Force, which is like that book The Secret where you just wish for a bunch of shit and it comes to you.

Rachel says, “Daniele got rid of Brendon to make me hurt … I will do anything possible to make sure that she goes home.” I’m not smart enough to know if evicting Brendon was savvy gameplay, but I’m sure it wasn’t done solely to hurt Rachel — then again, I live in a parallel universe. The one Rachel isn’t the center of.

Jeff is spooked that a veteran has been evicted, because that means the target on his back will only grow bigger. (I imagine Jeff going crazy and spending the rest of his life in his dermatologist’s office: “Doc, my back itches — is there still a target on it? We gotta do another biopsy!”)

Rachel cries under the covers in the padded room. I think she’s depressed. I mean, she’s really crying. She’s sobbing. Porsche tries to comfort her. Rachel says, “Thanks for being my friend.” At first I think she’s talking to me, but she’s talking to Porsche.

Porsche is lucky that she gets to be Rachel’s friend — that doesn’t seem like an exhausting gig at all.

The old-timers are livid that Porsche put Jeff and Shelly up against each other in last week’s HOH competition; she insists it was an innocent mistake. (I don’t understand the argument; I assume the producers just tell people to get mad at each other for various reasons, and the contestants are like, “Okay, sure.”)

By the way, this show would be twenty times more interesting if we were allowed to see the producers’ hands in the proceedings. The best thing about watching last Thursday’s episode at my friends’ house was that one of them is a real-life TV producer and explained how the BB producers were probably orchestrating most of what we were watching.

Kalia’s HOH room tour is emotional. She sobs when she sees a picture of her mom. Jeff thinks it’s “a little weird.” Then he gets back to talking about the target on his back.

Daniele schools Kalia on HOH intelligence-gathering: Everybody’s going to propose deals, offering up valuable information in the process. She should take it all in and act according to her own best interests.

Sure enough, Rachel comes in with a glass of wine (red) and asks Daniele to leave the room before buttering up Kalia: “I respect you as a competitor.” She “really respects” Kalia for winning the HOH contest, but I really don’t think it’s that big a deal — Kalia just answered a bunch of trivia questions about the BB season so far. Is that really so amazing? I mean, granted, I couldn’t do it even if I had 40 years, since everything that happens on this show leaves my memory as soon as I see it, but still.

Rachel makes her pitch: If Kalia doesn’t nominate Rachel this week, Rachel won’t nominate her next week.

For our weekly “personal chitchat” scene, Shelly and Kalia hang out and discuss racial discrimination. (If you’re not watching the show, Kalia is black.) Kalia talks about people admitting their surprise when they realize she’s well-spoken, and Shelly brings up Obama being complimented for being articulate. The mention of our president, of the world outside the house, is a little jarring. I prefer to think of these people existing in a land beyond space and time, where “the deficit ceiling” is a pinochle hand and “S&P Downgrade” is a rap-metal band.

Adam is finally allowed to remove his elf costume. I can’t remember why he’s wearing it. He takes it off in an ironic striptease. Then something weird happens: Everyone gets sexually aroused and there’s a big orgy in which no desire is left unfulfilled and no orifice is left unexplored. (JOKE)

Later, Kalia takes a nap in the hammock. Shelly sneaks under the hammock and scares her and everybody laughs and Kalia’s doesn’t even get mad! It’s pretty cool.

Kalia consults with Daniele, who announces, “I’m happy to have blood on my hands in this game; I’m ready to bathe in blood.” (Note to self: Confirm that Cormac McCarthy is a script consultant on Big Brother.)

This Week’s Have/Have-Not Competition:

Contestants must create disgusting cocktails from ingredients like creamed corn, horseradish, and apple sauce, then serve them to the other team, who must guess the ingredients. Then there’s a drink-chugging contest, in case you thought this contest was too mature.

(The only redeeming moment is an unexpected flash of poetry from Jeff, who compares drinking Lawon’s concoction to “drinking a warm beer out of your old friend’s shoe.” The specificity of whose shoe it is makes me suspect Jeff has actually done this.)

In the grand finale, Jordan gags on her drink — so Daniele and her team are Haves for the week. Jordan cries because she let her teammates down and also because she drank a bunch of shit.

Kalia has questions for Shelly: Can they play the game together? Shelly says she won’t put Kalia up. Shelly would rather compete with Jeff and Jordan, but she says she’d like to go all the way with Kalia and Daniele, so I guess she’s a liar.

Jeff and Jordan ask for a couple of minutes alone with Kalia. Kalia wants to put up Jeff against Rachel because he’s the only person who can reliably beat Rachel in the Veto Competition. (If you’re not watching the show, Rachel has installed cybernetic arms and legs, making her very powerful.) Jordan is offended — she thinks Kalia should put up “dead weight” rather than her beloved. Jordan is revealing a heretofore unseen unseemly side, it seems.

Jeff starts yelling and swearing that all the floaters deserve to be targeted rather than him, because he’s Jeff. (My notes: “The old-timers can’t not take things personally, prob. b/c their identities are more wrapped up in their Big Brother legacies.”)

Kalia, defiant, nominates Jeff and Rachel for eviction. I’m glad she wasn’t bullied into submission by ol’ Johnny-Target-On-His-Back.

The final image of the episode is Rachel crying in slow motion.

WEDNESDAY’S EPISODE:
Shelly tries to convince Rachel to stop being such a raging douchebag, to no avail. Rachel can’t forgive Daniele for evicting Brendon.

(And when Brendon can’t cure cancer, she’ll cry and sob about how cancer “won’t let Brendon cure it, just to make me upset.”)

Rachel cries to Jordan about how everyone “hates me” and “she lost Brendon” and “it’s not fair” and “what am I supposed to do” and “they personally dig at me” and “do you understand how bad it hurts my heart?” (All actual quotes.) As I said last week, Rachel needs professional psychological help. It’s genuinely distressing to watch her constant emotional breakdowns.

Now Kalia is crying for some reason — either because HOH is stressful, or because she believes so strongly she can win this game, or maybe both. At least she’s crying.

What the fuck is this? I mean, really. There’s all this talk about “playing the game” and “gameplay,” but this shit is no more a game than luring kids into the back of a windowless van is a game — the only reason “gameplay” is used to describe the proceedings is because it’s easier to say than “psychologically damaging manipulation in the service of people’s worst instincts,” and because the word still enjoys some connotations of fun.

It’s enough to make me give up Scrabble.

It’s getting so I wince every time one of the housemates barks into the camera about how they’re going to “win the game,” because all I can imagine is a group of underfed cult members fighting each other to “win the game” of sleeping in the big bed with One Love Father and his many special friends from the local Montessori school.

In the kitchen, Jeff makes a bunch of stupid analogies about “war” and “Vietnam” and “let’s go to war” — and when Kalia overhears him, she starts crying again ... except this footage is obviously taken from her previous crying episode, which makes me suspect the producers are overselling the “LOL EVERYBODY’S CRYING ALL THE TIME” story line.

Jeff and Shelly argue about whether they’re on the same page, and then Jeff argues with Jordan about why she’s crying and why are all these women crying and are they all having their periods? (Jeff seems to be getting dumber and more belligerent with every episode; is that how men deal with stress if they’re scared to cry?)

Shelly starts crying during a second conversation with Jeff. Jeff jokes about Shelly and him making out, but you’re not allowed to touch a woman when she’s having her period, and obviously the only reason a woman would cry after being trapped in a house for a month with a bunch of idiots like Jeff is because she’s having her period.

This Week’s Veto Competition:
Everyone rolls balls up and down ramps while dressed in togas. They literally have to do this 300 times. The task is based on the myth of Sisyphus, in which a well-meaning man is cursed with performing a meaningless task forever. (You might know it as “The Myth of the Big Brother Recapper.”)

Jeff wins the Power of Veto. Something feels weird. All of a sudden I realize — it’s been almost five minutes since anyone has cried. I get really confused and scared and almost start crying — but then Rachel starts crying.

Daniele is concerned that her protégée Kalia might let up on Rachel. Kalia wants to come out from under Daniele’s shadow by “making a bold move on my own.” Daniele is miffed. Kalia starts crying. I start crying so she doesn’t have to cry alone.

Lawon offers to be evicted because he’s convinced he can return to the house because of the new twist where an evicted houseguest can win the chance to get back into the windowless van game.

(I should mention that although everybody is talking about the new twist, and how they will get back into the house if they’re evicted — seeking revenge on whoever evicted them — nobody has the slightest idea how you get back in the house; the producers haven’t told them. I would make an analogy to certain religions’ faith in an afterlife in which justice is meted out, but I’m too busy crying.)

Jeff uses the power of veto to save himself. (He has explained this amazing strategy in approximately 50 cutaways.) Kalia picks Lowan to replace Jeff on the block. Lawon: “The twist will bring me back more powerful than ever!” It’s like that scene in Space Wars when Obi Wan Ikea tells Darth Vedder, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”

And then remember what happened? Darth Vedder killed the shit out of him and he became a lame-ass ghost who just stood around in his bathrobe reciting passages from Chicken Soup for the Soul.

So things don’t look good for ol’ Lawon.

One thing I should mention is that Adam shaved his beard and it was funny.

THURSDAY’S EPISODE:
As tonight’s episode coincides with Fox News’s broadcast of the Republican debate, I will watch both simultaneously so that I truly understand the current state of our nation, and also so my head explodes. I wonder which display of back-stabbing narcissism will make me more depressed?

Rachel is giddy that Kalia put up Lawon, because he’s a weak competitor. Lawon, however, truly believes he can reenter the house “with 99 percent superpowers.” Meanwhile, Michele Bachman roasts a pig live onstage using the power of her eyeballs.

Shelly “knows in her gut something’s up.” Lawon, it seems, doth protest too much about his being on the block. Shelly notes that Lawon’s “vernacular” changes when he’s lying. (I’m starting to think Shelly is a genius.)

Shelly presses Kalia on whether Lawon volunteered for the block. Kalia admits he did. Shelly rushes to share the news with Jeff and Jordan.

Speaking of being on the block, here’s the best song ever recorded about a block. It is your Sanity-Restoring Video of the Week:

Rachel tries to broker a deal with Kalia and Daniele to keep her in the house. But there is no love lost between these fiery competitors: Rachel and Daniele still want to punch each other’s mouths closed. Their mutual contempt rivals that of Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty.

Shelly tells Rachel to ignore Daniele and Kalia: “They’re playing you.” Shelly’s a little busybody this week, huh, guys? She’s got like nine alliances going. Whoa! I didn’t realize Ron Paul was in the Republican debate. He’s a little busybody this week, huh guys? (This isn’t even really a joke; I just want to rile up the Paul supporters — making fun of Ron Paul is like poking a beehive filled with microscopic Ayn Rands.)

Daniele is pissed that Rachel opened her big mouth about her secret deal to Shelly. How does Daniele know? Because Shelly told her. Kalia tries analyzing Rachel’s behavior. Daniele thinks the answer is: “Because she’s Rachel,” but Kalia tries to think about it strategically. (On my other screen, John Huntsman is grilled by the baby-faced Fox moderator about why his campaign’s website doesn’t yet have a plan to restore America’s economy.)

Double-whoa: Newt Gingrich is in the Republican debate??? I thought he dropped out like two months ago, after his entire fund-raising staff quit! Part of me loves this bloviating pseudo-intellectual — he is to public policy what I am to BB: an overstretched, underqualified megalomaniac who thinks he’s smarter than everyone in the room.

Julie Chen introduces a clip of last season’s contestants talking affectionate shit about Rachel. Rachel looked completely different last year! I guess she’s had cosmetic surgery. Is that possible? Do people on television have plastic surgery? I thought that was more of a Lapham’s Quarterly thing. Suddenly I’m distracted by Michele Bachmaan bragging about her “Lightbulb Freedom of Choice Act” and Tim Pawlenty basically calling her a liar.

Michele Bachmann is like Rachel: She prides herself on being a “fighter,” seems to alienate anyone with a healthy disposition, and has a voice that should require a handgun permit to use.

It’s time to evict a housemate: The gang votes to evict Newt Gingrich. Wait, I’m getting confused. Actually, the moderator is asking Newt Gingrich why his campaign is such a fucking mess. Gingrich accuses him of asking “gotcha questions” as the crowd erupts in applause. Gingrich goes on to compare his campaign’s epic flameout to Ronald Reagan. (Is there anything in the universe that a Republican politician can’t compare to Ronald Reagan?)

Okay, I just muted the Republican debate to focus on BB. The housemates evict Lawon. Even Daniele votes to evict him, which makes me think I missed something — I thought Daniele was dead set on evicting Rachel?

Before Lawon leaves the house, though, Julie tells him he’ll be battling a previous contestant to reenter the house. Julie interviews Keith, Cassi, Dominic, and Brendon about getting back in the house. Dominic and Cassi are both looking completely gorgeous and I miss them and love them both — even more than I love Newt Gingrich, who is currently leaning on his podium like a drunk on the hood of a Pontiac and talking about making English “the official language of the government.”

Julie Chen reveals that America voted to allow Brendon back in the game, which makes me sick. Now Brendon battles Lawon to reenter in the house — the contest involves basketballs with BB housemates’ names on them. Brendon wins. He’s back in the game.

Lawon is out of the game. Poor guy is honestly stunned — and, in spite of his ubiquitous YALE sweatshirt, I must finally concede that he’s probably not that bright.

So Brendon returns to the BB house as the Republican candidates pledge to never raise taxes, no matter what. Once again, amoral belligerence triumphs as our nation edges closer to the abyss.

I defer in my closing comments to the great Joshua Micah Marshall of talkingpointsmemo.com, who is live-blogging the Republican debate:

“Never try to watch a debate you have to cover live on a web livestream. That's all I'm sayin'.”

To which I can only add: These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.