I don’t mind telling you that Sunday’s episode of Big Brother was one of the most riveting hours of television I’ve ever seen.
You’ll remember that Jeff’s final speech to the house last Thursday night mentioned a big fight we hadn’t been privy to.
Here’s what I said in last week’s recap:
“Jeff pleads his case by referencing some blow-out with Shelly earlier in the day. Jordan is in tears. Jeff tells Shelly she should forget about their fight and vote to keep him in the house. What happened during that fight? I can’t tell if it’s something I watched and immediately forgot, or if I have to subscribe to the NSA’s database of live-feed archives in order see it.”
The BB producers, who are obviously obsessed with me, obliged your humble recapper on Sunday by opening their video vaults and assembling an epic, breathless summary of last week’s mysterious battle between Jeff and Shelly — a battle that subsumed everyone in the house right up until the eviction vote!
(There was, of course, no way the producers could have edited this last-minute fight into Thursday’s live show — and so, since they didn’t want us to miss an opportunity to present People at Their Worst, they gifted us with the footage on Sunday. To which I can only say: namaste.)
Turns out the fight had something to do with Shelly back-stabbing Jeff (his words, not mine) and Jordan taking extreeeeeeme umbrage that she would do so after Jordan gave her the precious phone call home. Whatever. It sounds boring now, but — my goodness — finally seeing the footage of these people blowing up (with “90 / 60 / 15 MINUTES UNTIL EVICTION” at the bottom of the screen) was amazing.
And remember last Thursday when Julie Chen dropped a mandatory second eviction on everyone? Watching the footage of everybody scrambling around and yelling at each other before being summoned back to their seats by Julie Chen was even more pulse-pounding the second time around! And then — ooh, Jeff was so harried and angry, remember? And then he had to leave, and he basically punched open the exit door! (But not before giving Jordan the most perfunctory good-bye kiss in human history.)
It was that rare kind of television where, even if you’re not exactly sure what’s going on, or what the ramification of every decision-tree branch may be, you just know something significant is happening, and so you stop washing dishes while glancing at your laptop and really just sit down and watch the fuck out of some television.
I appreciate, dear readers, how you have indulged my many references to The Wire in these recaps. I keep coming back to that show because it’s the only thing on TV that has taxed my brain as much as BB. And Sunday’s episode briefly approached Wire-levels of intrigue, pathos, and catastrophic shifts of power.
Which brings us to this week’s visual aid.
(It’s not a collage, per se, but it took three hours to make, so please be gentle.)
With that said, here’s how I see the BB players now:
Like Avon Barksdale, Jeff’s paranoid delusions about being targeted became a self-fulfilling prophecy — and his fathomless belligerence and impulse to turn everything into a violent argument came at the cost of tactical sophistication.
Alas, there’s no Stringer Bell in the BB house, nobody who could’ve put his hand on Jeff’s shoulder and told him to chill out:
“You gotta think about what we got in this game for, man. Huh? Was it the rep? Was it so our names could ring out on some fucking ghetto street-corner, man? Naw, man. There’s games beyond the fucking game.”
Which is why Jeff’s out of the game.
True, she didn’t come out of nowhere — she bided her time learning the ropes for the first half of the season, whereas Stanfield seemed to hatch fully formed from Satan’s vagina. But in the last couple of weeks, Kalia’s grown more comfortable wearing the crown, and has exhibited a calculating, tactical intelligence that could see her to the end of the season.
I can easily imagine her turning to Rachel on the final show and muttering, “You want it to be one way — but it’s the other way.”
Shelly, certainly, has displayed none of Slim Charles’s loyalty. In fact, the whole exhilarating blow-up that led me to finally start loving BB was based on Shelly’s disloyalty to Jeff (Avon Barksdale). I guess you could say that Shelly, like Slim Charles, does what it takes to survive. (Remember that when Barksdale’s operation fell apart, Slim started working for Proposition Joe.)
One way in which this comparison doesn’t work is that I don’t remember Slim Charles tearfully referring to his husband and daughter every five minutes, like Shelly’s been doing recently. Maybe because he wasn’t hounded by guilt over his low-rent behavior?
But Rachel and Cheese’s biggest sin is believing that their personal connections — in her case, being Brendon’s fiancée; in his, being Proposition Joe’s nephew — entitle them to special treatment from everyone else. Sorry, kids, the game is the game.
By the way, if you remember the final encounter between Slim Charles (Shelly) and Cheese (Rachel) on The Wire, you’ll appreciate my little comparison game on a whole different level. It’s like nine-dimensional chess! MY MODEL IS FLAWLESS.
Herc, like Adam, was a classic “floater” — constantly screwing up, moving from job to job, yet somehow failing upwards the whole time. You look at both these bald goofs and find yourself saying, “It’s amazing they made it this far.”
Of course, there were limits to Prop Joe’s unflappability. And Jordan reached hers this week, with Shelly’s betrayal of her beloved Jeff. So she might get devious and dirty after all.
(NB: If you remember Prop Joe and Cheese’s final encounter, you’ll shudder to think of what will happen if Jordan maintains her alliance with Rachel much longer.)
WEDNESDAY NIGHT’S EPISODE:
I started Wednesday’s episode pretty pleased with my model; it seemed thematically sound and capable of staggering predictive power: Rachel would betray Jordan and then fall — hard — at Shelly’s hand (Shelly: “That was for Jo.”). Adam and Shelly would just sort of float their way out of the game. Porsche would dump the last of Kalia’s enemies in an abandoned row house before getting hung out to dry by her superior.
I was convinced Kalia would win the season and end the series licking blood off her arm, chuckling quietly to herself.
Alas, I hadn’t counted on Porsche’s (very un-Snoop-like) self-serving myopia ...
As HOH, you see, Porsche was given the option of opening Pandora’s Box. (Not the original one; a contemporary equivalent.) Blinded by the opportunity to claim $5,000 (or, as she repeatedly put it, “five Gs”), Porsche unleashed a new twist on the game: The duo dynamic was back!
This meant that if Jordan and Rachel (who were on the block for the week) won the Power of Veto, not one but both of them would be spared — and Kalia would have to put up both Shelly and Adam to replace them!
Just think of it: If Porsche hadn’t opened that stupid box, the newbies could have ended the week up four players to one! Now the best they could hope for was being up three players to two.
Friends, I was so agitated I almost ate my hat! Instead, I snorted a bunch of heroin. (Where I live — Beacon, New York — it’s easier to buy heroin than a new hat.)
Needless to say, Kalia was furious at Porsche’s shortsightedness. Her alliance went from holding all the cards to holding maybe, like, half the cards.
Sure enough, Rachel went on to win POV. She took Jordan and herself off the block. Shelly and Adam assumed their position.
Do I need to mention that Rachel cried, kvetched, and complained throughout Wednesday’s episode?
Or that she also whined, wept, wailed, wallowed, grimaced, griped, groused, yelled, yowled, yammered, harped, carped, stewed, rued, ranted, pouted, shouted, screeched, sulked, sobbed, squalled, bawled, caterwauled, taunted, flaunted, gurgled, gargled, erupted, eroded, exploded, blubbered, flubbed, fibbed, imploded, and basically acted like a Francis Bacon painting that forgot to take its lithium?
I trust I do not.
THURSDAY NIGHT’S EPISODE:
Greetings from the middle of the night! Tonight’s episode airs at 1:37 a.m., which feels a little late for prime-time programming. (I guess BB was preempted by a baseball game? Or a football game? Or a butt-farting contest?)
Shelly is ruminating on her fate when she notices a ghoulish fortune-telling machine in the corner of the room. She spends three hours trying to get it to say something, to no avail.
So Shelly goes into the yard to talk to Rachel. She begs Rachel to “use me as a pawn.” She even offers Rachel her “past, present, and future” diamond ring (?) as collateral. Rachel admits to being impressed with Shelly’s “gameplay” — certainly more than Adam’s. (In a cutaway, Shelly admits that the ring is actually a cubic zirconium reproduction of the original — proving once and for all that she lives in a world of illusion and madness.)
When Jordan asks Shelly if she can be trusted, Shelly insists she can — and then lies about how many competitions she’s thrown.
Julie Chen announces that since his eviction, Brendon has been living in “the jury house,” which is a big empty mansion. He spends his days playing Ping-Pong by himself and curing cancer. When Daniele enters the house, she updates Brendon on all the amazing goings-on since he left.
Then Jeff shows up and Brendon puts his housemates to work curing cancer: “If we cure cancer before the end of the season, we’ll be rich beyond our wildest dreams!”
Daniele mans the electron microscope while Jeff isolates cancer cells in a petri dish. “Work faster, guys!” yells Brendon, “We don’t have much time!”
Sure enough, after two nights in the Jury House, our trio makes a stunning breakthrough: Daniele isolates the MSER124 gene, which irradiates all cancer cells on contact. Jeff, meanwhile, transposes matrix metalloproteinase cells with a monkey brain, which allows the cure to be administered telepathically (as long as you’re hugging a monkey).
The gang designs a cancer-curing mind antenna, submits it for a patent, and wins the Nobel Prize! They each get one trillion dollars.
And now back to reality: When Jeff shows up in the house, he is shown the footage of last week’s HOH contest, in which he accidentally threw away one of the clown shoes he was looking for. (I didn’t notice this when it happened — but some of the Vulture commenters did. I commend them for their super-vision while being glad I am not cursed with it.)
Shelly and Adam make their case for staying in the house. Shelly turns her back on the newbies and pledges undying allegiance to Rachel and Jordan. Adam says some generic rigmarole.
Kalia votes to evict Adam. Rachel votes to evict Shelly. (The audience gasps audibly.) Jordan votes to evict Shelly. (Revenge is sweet!)
Shelly is out. She disappears in a cloud of purple smoke. Adam continues to float.
In the exit interview, Julie Chen scolds Shelly for her stupid move of betraying Jeff and Jordan. How could anyone dare to split up America’s favorite couple? It was an abject defilement of everything that makes our nation great, akin to bludgeoning a bald eagle with a croissant baked by Ayman al-Zawahiri himself.
And so a week that began with riveting controversy ends with the dull inevitability that Jordan will win this season — after all, with the Jury House occupied by Brendon, Daniele, Jeff, and Shelly, how could she not? Jeff will vote for her because they’re a couple, Brendon will vote for her because of the old-timer alliance, and Shelly will vote for her because she feels guilty about the whole bludgeoning-a-bald-eagle thing.
So the season is effectively over two weeks before the last episode.
If you need me, I’ll be down on the corner.