Christie Murphy, owner of a fashionable clothing boutique in Keyport, New Jersey, made it clear at the beginning of the week that she had one objective as she commenced her reign as the 21st season’s first Head of Household: make as few waves as possible. She then proceeded, over the course of a couple of days, to betray innumerable people, break promises she’d sworn repeatedly, and expose her allegiances to exactly the other players from whom it most behooves her to keep them a secret. Christie managed to seize power in a heated competition, wield it to vex several of her well-liked competitors, devise a scheme to double-cross a woman who didn’t do anything wrong, then finally change her mind and double-cross somebody else entirely. She couldn’t have had a more tumultuous HOH rule if she’d tried to systematically anger or deceive every person in the house.
It started painlessly enough. At the outset of her incumbency, Christie hatched a plan with the other seven members of her so-called “Gr8ful” alliance to oust Kathryn, the 29-year-old marketing executive from Dallas, for the justifiable reason that she’d been caught bad-mouthing Michie, née Jackson, one of the central players on the team. But when Kemi, the wily Brooklynite who last week rebuffed Michie during his short-lived tenancy as Camp Director, elected to throw Ovi under the bus in a feeble effort to contribute to the game, Christie suddenly decided she was an erratic wildcard who ought to be expunged straight away. And so arrived the first backdoor plan of the season: the members of Gr8ful would use the Power of Veto to save Cliff, their pawn, from the chopping block, and Kemi would be banished instead.
Except, of course, that this was a terrible plan — a rash move at a juncture that plainly called for equanimity. By the time this error dawned on Christie, however, the men and women of Gr8ful were already eager to see it through: Jack and Michie, informal leaders of the alliance, were certain not only that Kemi would be leaving on Wednesday night, but that Jessica and Ovi would follow on week two and week three. Such long-term planning didn’t sit well with Christie, suddenly overcome with stress and anxiety; it was her HOH reign, not Jack and Michie’s, and what happened to not making waves? Distraught, she approached Nicole, the plucky young kindergarten teacher who is decidedly not in Christie’s alliance — and in an instant, a frictionless plan to backdoor an opponent became a blunder that could blow up Gr8ful’s game.
Meanwhile, at the Veto competition, unassuming Sam Smith followed in the footsteps of last year’s winner Kaycee to grab fruit in an uncommonly chaotic POV, besting both the nominees on the block and brawny Jack, who hoped to secure the power for the sake of the backdoor stratagem. Sam, much to the satisfaction of Jack and Michie, professed his intention to use the Veto on Cliff, freeing a position on the block for Kemi — until Christie, more and more desperate to backtrack on the backdoor, talked to Sam herself, revealing in the process the plan, the alliance, and her fear of Jack’s influence. Now not only Nicole, but Sam, too, knows about the Gr8ful alliance and its efforts to evict Kemi at Jack’s suggestion. All this so Sam could use the Veto anyway, because he didn’t want to go back on his word either.
In the end it was poor Ovi who went up in Cliff’s place — Ovi who had assumed, doe-eyed, that he belonged to an alliance of his own with Christie and a few others, who only on Sunday was the proud recipient of an extremely formidable special power, which he had not the chance to use. Naturally, Jack was somewhat bewildered to hear Ovi’s name mentioned during the Veto ceremony, considering that as far as he knew, Kemi was about to be blindsided. But for his part, and indeed to his credit, he took the change of heart rather well, not blaming Christie for contravening the wishes of the alliance besides a stray comment about her “unique” choice. Still, that left Ovi against Kathryn, who seemed to make an active effort to will herself into eviction, bothering the house near-constantly. It wasn’t enough, and Ovi was voted out.
He was voted out — but he still remains, kind of. In the latest and most radical twist of the season, Big Brother announced at the end of last night’s episode that the first few evictees would not be sent packing, as custom dictates, but would in fact continue living in the Big Brother house, without playing in competitions or voting in eviction ceremonies. At the end of the month, the would-be losers will have the opportunity to rejoin the game proper, which means that Ovi, while the votes were cast unanimously against him, could still theoretically win the half-million dollar prize at the end of all this. (Though not likely, based on his performance so far.) David, too, who lost the dark-woods banishment comp last week, returned to the house to sort-of play alongside Ovi. It’s a full house again.
With everyone still in the running and the house moving into its third week, a precise hierarchy of power remains unclear. But we can make some predictions. So: This is the Big Brother Power Ranking: Five players who’ve made moves good and bad. Some are poised for domination (perhaps). 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 host Julie Chen is always reminding us: Expect the unexpected.
Before Julie Chen signed off for the evening, we watched as Jack, the most forceful member of the Gr8ful alliance, won a July 4th-themed trivia competition to become the second Head of Household of the season, just narrowly defeating Jessica, which presumably would have been bad for the team. A strong physical competitor, and plainly silver-tongued, he’ll be a figure of influence in the household as long as he’s alive and kicking, and I suspect he’ll be less averse than Christie to making big moves. It may not last, but for the time being, Jack’s in charge of the place.
27-year-old therapist Nick, another New Jersey kid, is a much less conspicuous player than Jack, which in Big Brother terms is an indispensable attribute. He’s firmly ensconced in Gr8ful, so far the only alliance of note in the house, and what’s more, he seems to have an intimate relationship with Isabella, which only reinforces his place in the group. It’s hard to say yet whether he’ll be able to compete physically with some of the bigger men, but then it looked as if he threw the HOH comp last night, too, in the first round — a savvy move, if so.
Like Nick, Isabella is a well-placed, so-far-discreet member of a strong alliance with a level head and unobtrusive disposition — in short, she isn’t likely to strike anyone as an obvious candidate for eviction anytime soon, which in the early weeks of a season of Big Brother especially is as good as victory.
Now, Sam is not exactly the picture of a Big Brother winner — he tends loud, which this early in the game is one of the surest ways to become a target, and he’s a family man over 30, which makes him unlikely to cozy up to his houseguests in the easiest ways. But while a bit of a loner so far, he hasn’t ruffled any feathers, and in fact won a Veto competition the smart money would have said was Jack’s to lose. He showed good sense in talking to both Jack and Christie about his plans to use the Veto, and in using it on Cliff showed himself a nice guy willing to be helpful. He may go further than anyone expected.
Head of Household is not merely an honorary title. It comes with several important responsibilities, and the way a player fulfills those responsibilities says a lot about their character, their constitution, and their long-term prospects for winning the game — and in these respects Christie did not fare well. She played her HOH reign about as carelessly as anyone in recent memory, not only making necessary enemies and inflicting unavoidable damage, but actively damaging her alliance and proving herself fickle and untrustworthy to everyone in the game. Her attitude, though, was the most glaring problem, and it’s this that says the most about how she’ll play going forward. On these grounds, I doubt she’s long for the game.
• “Are you bitches conspiring against me?” You know what they say about paranoia: you’re not paranoid if people really are out to get you. But what if they’re only out to get you because you insist on accusing them of conspiracy?
• I appreciate that Ovi divulging his power to Jack and Michie was more a matter of desperation than shrewd thinking, but it may have been the thing that guaranteed his eviction. On the other hand, the power lasts six weeks, and he could be back in the game in four — though if he makes it back in he won’t have the element of surprise on his side with what would have been an extraordinary power.
• David says the first person he wants to talk to now that he’s back in the house is Jackson — his “biggest hypeman,” as he put it, and also the person responsible for sending him out of the house. David can’t do anything at the moment. But could conflict interfere with Jackson’s game?
• Two weeks in, and already we have two showmances: Michie and Kathryn, despite their protests against the label, and Nick and Isabella, who want to but haven’t consummated it (yet). When’s Jack going to cave and follow suit?
• Kemi really turned her game around this week, managing to both avoid an eviction she didn’t know was looming and endear herself to Christie, Isabella, and many other members of the house at once.
• What will the other two special powers turn out to be, now that we know how good the Nightmare power is? Ovi couldn’t do much with his, but it seems likely that the other two, if they’re anything like the first, will have a huge impact on the next few weeks of the game.