Celebrity Big Brother
What does an ideal reign as Head of Household look like? You want to exert influence without betraying the extent of your power. You want to shepherd allies to safety while whisking enemies out the door. You want to identify the player whose continued presence in the game poses the greatest threat to you long-term, and you want to orchestrate the nomination ceremony, the Veto competition, and the eviction vote so they’re forced out and can’t do anything to stop it — and you want to do all that in such a way that the remaining guests like you more than they did the week before. You want to make a big move, to use classic Big Brother terminology, and you don’t want blood on your hands.
This is uncommon. What you find more often is the kind of HOH incumbency recently enjoyed by 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte, which began last Tuesday night when he emerged victorious in the “Blockbuster” challenge and ended Friday in disgrace. Lochte inadvertently devised a master class in how not to rule the Big Brother house. He made an extravagant show of his physical abilities in both competitions, announcing himself as a major threat. He formed an alliance and immediately double-crossed it by nominating Tom Green for eviction instead of Dina Lohan as he promised his compatriots he would, proving himself untrustworthy. He conspired to backdoor Lolo Jones, then backed down, and wound up looking both deceitful and indecisive. And at the end of the week he watched dumbfounded as his ride-or-die partner, Jonathan Bennett, was evicted 6-1 — the worst possible HOH result.
Lochte concluded his time in office in a maelstrom of shame and humiliation. Ineligible to compete in the next HOH comp — and languishing in a friendless household purgatory among a bunch of people he either threatened or overtly targeted — it was all he could do to petition the winner for a show of clemency. That turned out to be Kato Kaelin, whose surprise triumph in this endurance challenge was as much a social coup as a physical one: He persuaded his final two competitors to concede in exchange for guaranteed safety, a shrewd move considering those competitors were a pro wrestler and a guy regularly seen doing one-handed pushups. The moment Kaelin was crowned, it seemed clear that his quarry would be his predecessor. And as if sensing danger, Lochte was soon in the new ruler’s ear, swearing allegiance and begging to be spared.
Kaelin was intrigued by the prospect of such a powerful ally. But he doesn’t need an ally, as it happens: He already has a very good one in Tom Green, an inconspicuous player whose social game is looking better and better every day. So together, Kaelin and Green manufacture another sturdy alliance (this time a four-player squad that includes Natalie Eva Marie and Lolo Jones), determine the most circumspect and diplomatic pair of phony nominations (Dina Lohan and Tamar Braxton, the latter of whom needs some finessing to accept things), seize control of the Power of Veto (owing to savvy ball-handling by Tom), and finally pluck Dina from the block and replace her with their actual target, the former HOH and dunderheaded champion swimmer. Elegant and frictionless. Lochte’s gone and the house is happy. That’s a perfect HOH.
With that in mind, we return to Vulture’s Official Celebrity Big Brother Power Ranking: Five contestants who made moves good and bad. Some are poised for domination. Others seem condemned soon enough to the block. All are in thrall to the household forces of turbulence and caprice that make this a white-knuckle social experiment. As our beloved host Julie Chen is always reminding us, expect the unexpected.
Kato Kaelin just pulled off what on Celebrity Big Brother seems impossible: He devised a sensible plan and successfully enacted it. His strategy’s rudimentary, his manner is a bit flashy, and in dealing with other housemates he could use a lighter touch — but while his shortcomings would make him a merely average contestant on classic Big Brother, by Celebrity standards he is exemplary. He thwarted efforts last week to banish his ally Tom Green to the block by taking first place in a tricky mental comp; this week he won HOH on endurance, and the two skills combined make him formidable indeed. He needs to pump the brakes now before he strikes others as too threatening — and I’m skeptical that he can manage self-effacing.
Natalie Eva Marie
Speaking of self-effacing: you wouldn’t expect it of a former WWE superstar, but technicolor-haired former wrestler Natalie Eva Marie has so far proven remarkably good at subtlety and discretion. A quiet, unassuming player with a strong build and athletic disposition is exactly the type that tends to succeed in this game, which by its nature prizes brawn and tact in equal measure. Marie seemed more than capable of surviving Kaelin in the endurance HOH comp if he hadn’t convinced her to forfeit, and taking Kaelin’s offer rather than plunging headlong into power on the second week showed a good sense of prudence.
I continue to be charmed by Tom Green’s antics in the Celebrity Big Brother household — and I am pleased to see I’m not the only one rooting for the dark horse from Ottawa. His musical ode to the pleasures of making coffee was the bona fide highlight of the season to date, and his sharp comedic timing has not been dulled by time locked away in the house. But he’s also been an unusually skilled player since the first day, whether coordinating an early (and fruitful) alliance with Kato Kaelin that saved him from the block week one, or this week bringing his twosome together with Marie and Jones before securing the Veto that clinched the Lochte-ousting eviction.
I don’t care to speculate about a world-class athlete’s mental health, and I can only imagine a lifetime of strenuous training has an effect on the temperament that makes confinement in close quarters with a cabal of celebrities hard. Still: American hurdler and bobsledder Lolo Jones has had one hell of short fuse in the Big Brother household since she arrived, and it is making things difficult for her friends and adversaries alike — the latter because they’re fighting, the former because they’re dragged into it by association. Her quarrel with Tamar Braxton on Sunday nearly came to fisticuffs, and she will not be long for this house if she keeps blowing up without provocation.
Self-described “Momager,” Dina Lohan has worn one unchanging expression from the beginning of the season: a sort of mild bewilderment, as if she’s been watching a movie whose plot is too complicated for her to totally understand. Last week she cast the single aberrant vote in favor of Jonathan Bennett, then seem mystified by the result; this week she found herself nominated by Kaelin, who blamed her for rooting against him, then saved by a Veto-wielding Green, who was simply trying to complete a backdoor move, and her confusion in the face of both scenarios was obvious to all. She means well. She’s hopeless.
• Marie and Jones brainstorming a name for their secret final two alliance while Braxton is in the room and then insisting she misheard them is exactly the kind of exquisite inanity that makes this show so delightful.
• Jonathan Bennett demanded that Ryan Lochte put Tom Green on the block when the both of them had already promised their allies that they would put Dina Lohan up instead: One small gesture of goodwill toward an old friend, and voilà, the guy is evicted. Julie Chen even had to tell him how badly he screwed that one up.
• One ceremony, two Veto comps, two surprises twists: all told, Lochte nominated five different houseguests for eviction during his HOH rule. Perhaps not surprising that he was evicted the following week.
• There was a great deal of speculation over the weekend that Lolo Jones had been kicked off the show for fighting Tamar Braxton. She remains in the house for the time being, but the way those two argue it could erupt into violence at any second.
• So … the Mooch is gone? Anthony Scaramucci was seen in the wild last week conducting business in Zurich, which most people assumed meant he’d either been evicted from the house or ditched the game voluntarily. The producers are calling his exit a twist, and they even designed a little supplementary competition, “Mooch’s Veto,” to sell the idea that this had been planned all along. Was he, in fact, a “fake houseguest” meant to dupe the other players in some arcane one-week arrangement? Or is the company line on Scaramucci’s departure Fake News?