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Big Brother Recap: Gossip Girl

Big Brother

Week 3
Season 21 Episode 8
Editor’s Rating *****

Big Brother

Week 3
Season 21 Episode 8
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS

In Big Brother, it’s okay to consent to more than one alliance. In Big Brother, it’s okay to lie to people, and to betray them, and to make a promise right to someone’s face one moment and to break that promise the next. In Big Brother, a certain degree of chicanery is expected. The one thing you can’t do in Big Brother, the one thing that is pretty much guaranteed to doom you to the block, is actually confess to any of the above — when it comes to backstabbing, cheating, and deceiving, you have to deny, deny, deny. You can do anything that needs to be done to ensure victory and win that $500,000. You just have to be circumspect and not let your fellow players in on your guile or underhandedness.

This wisdom was lost on Isabella, evidently. The 22-year-old public-health analyst from Los Angeles went on something of a gossip spree this week, flagrantly double-dealing and making sudden enemies (or at least skeptics) of her every acquaintance, well-wisher, and friend. Where to begin? She decided it was a smart move to tell Sam, friendly and in the dark, about the Gr8ful alliance, for reasons unexplained. She told Kemi about her final-three deal with Jack and Michie on day one. And she made it unambiguously clear to the entire house this week that she formed an alliance and was almost instantly disloyal to it — and in so doing proved irrevocably that she can’t be trusted. For that reason alone it might be Isabella, sooner even than heavyweights such as Michie and Jack, who turns out to be the next major household target.

But first: this week’s “Whacktivity” competition, the so-called “Chaos” comp, found Jack, Michie, Tommy, Sam, and Holly plucking live snakes out of tanks in the world’s most stomach-turning matching game, and shades of Fear Factor abound. The lot of them bolted through it, but it was Jack, already a winner this week, who clinched victory in secret, finishing in under a minute and receiving the Chaos power in consequence — although the ability to redraw the contestants for any one Veto competition is hardly comparable to the seismic power Ovi won last week. That leaves one final Whacktivity challenge, to be sought this coming Sunday, and one final mystery power whose importance, to judge by the Chaos and Nightmare powers already secured, could go either way. Might it be something akin to the “Cloud” power Tyler won (but never ended up using) in the Hacker competition last season?

In the meantime, a new alliance was formed in the recesses of the back bedroom: Jessica approached a seemingly receptive Isabella, Nicole, and Kemi about a four-strong female alliance, which she immediately proposed to call the Black Widows, after the tendency of the breed of spiders to eat their hapless male mates. It all sounded promising, and even Isabella, unknown to the Black Widows already a member of the eight-person Gr8ful alliance, insisted in the Diary Room that she was happy to be teamed up with both. But while she claimed to like the ladies, and indeed embraced the idea of working with them to overthrow the all-powerful Jack, it took approximately 12 seconds for her to scuttle into the Head of Household lair, only too eager to betray her new allies, destroy the Black Widows, and paint barn-size targets on the backs of Jessica and Kemi, reimagined in her telling as nefarious masterminds.

What was Isabella thinking, exactly? So callous was her betrayal of the other women in her alliance that it almost seemed like an exquisitely ruthless coup of backstabbing and manipulation, and yet to hear Isabella herself tell it, she really didn’t bear the Black Widows any ill will. Soon after divulging the alliance to Jack, she confided to Nicole that she’d felt compelled to tell him everything: It was as if she wanted to confess to treachery and be forgiven for it simultaneously. In a game that demands one to be diplomatic and discreet, and at least early on create the illusion of being loyal, this kind of double-crossing is bad strategy. “I want to be in an alliance with everybody,” Isabella lamented as she finished selling Jessica and Kemi up the river. “But I can’t keep my mouth shut.” No kidding. Or as Jessica put it, “That’s a bitch-ass move.”

Of course, with no conspicuous enemies to target, and with this critical insider information landing on his lap moments before the nomination ceremony, Jack was obliged to put Jessica and Kemi on the block, savvily excusing himself from blame for the attack by characterizing it as self-defense. The best-case scenario for a second-week HOH reign is a bloodless eviction: On the strength of the evidence with which he was furnished by Isabella, Jack got exactly that — further lubricated by a Power of Veto competition won by an uninterested party (Sam stacked a bunch of foam frogs higher than anybody else and won a trip to Fiji in the process), the naïveté of one of the nominees about who did and did not have her back (Jessica chose Michie, right-hand man of the guy who nominated her, to fight on her behalf in the Veto), and the utter obliviousness of the house to the alliance that’s controlling it.

Kemi was evicted at the behest of that alliance, ultimately, and she now joins Ovi and David in Camp Comeback. (She was not shy about assigning blame for her eviction, calling out Isabella and her extravagant mendacity in her speech before the live vote.) In the competition immediately following the eviction ceremony, it was Nick who prevailed over the other aspiring marksmen to throw the highest-scoring arrow, becoming the third Head of Household and entering week four at an intriguing time. Kemi, for one, has to live with ten people who voted her out — and one who voted for her to stay, though so far she doesn’t know who he or she was. It isn’t like Michie will reveal his surprise duplicity in the voting booth, lest he incur the wrath of his partners. But it’s a sure thing that the move will cause havoc as everyone scrambles to suss out who did them wrong.

With yet another member of the Gr8ful alliance in power, and with another target having just presented itself in the form of an indiscreetly monologuing and mildly conspiratorial Cliff, we may have a fairly straightforward week ahead. Then again, the same seemed true about this week — and then Isabella started opening her mouth.

With that in mind, let’s speculate. 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.

Sam

Is Sam a comp beast? He’s already two for two on Vetoes, neither of which he needed to win, and came within seconds of winning the Whacktivity challenge, which he only lost to the guy built like Aquaman. Sam is in his 30s, married, a father, drives long-haul trucks for a living; he is not, in short, one of the Adonis-like fraternity jocks who typically dominate this game. An unassuming, easygoing player who has so far remained on the periphery, Sam is well-situated to glide through these early weeks conflict-free — and clearly capable, once forced to compete, of holding his own against the more obviously threatening physical competitors. The trick now will be for him to check his strength before the others have cause to worry about him.

David

Here’s something you don’t often say about a player evicted on his first day in the game: David may be the smartest and most cunning player in the house. He’s plainly the most perceptive: He was sequestered alone for two weeks, and it took him all of five minutes back within these walls to have everything figured out. He charted the precise arrangement of alliances, affinities, and unspoken affections between his competitors better than he could have if he’d been watching them on television, managing most importantly to uncover the truth that has so far eluded everyone else: that eight of his teammates are currently in a top-secret power alliance. The only shame is that David is in Camp Comeback, relegating him for the time being strictly to the role of impartial observer. For someone so shrewd, not being able to play must be frustrating. “It seems like these people have zero idea what’s going on in this house,” he sighs, watching someone else make an easily avoided blunder, again. I feel you, David. May you return to the game proper soon.

Nick

Once again, we saw precious little of Nick this week, and that continues to bode well for his long-term game. Now crowned the third Head of Household, he’ll have an opportunity to demonstrate his grasp of Big Brother strategy, as well as the extent of his allegiance to the more forceful Michie and Jack. But HOH can be a sensitive position, and he may be vulnerable given his proximity to …

Isabella

… Who can’t stop screwing up. Loose lips sink ships. Isabella made some serious blunders this week, spoiling two different alliances, vexing her friends and would-be allies, and betraying her closest confidant in the house — all because, as she admitted freely, she can’t keep her damn mouth shut to save her life. She’s in a showmance with the current Head of Household, which will no doubt ensure her safety for the time being, but Jack and Michie are clearly fed up with her for spilling the beans about the final-three deal to Kemi, and it won’t be long now before she faces the consequences.

Ovi

The school-spirit captain is still trying his damndest to get along with everyone — even after he was voted out unanimously, and was mostly left to fend for himself in the Camp Comeback quarters, and was lied to by Jack and Michie. Nicole laid the facts out to him clearly enough that he’ll be nursing his ego for the next two weeks at least, but I can’t imagine he’ll stop campaigning for his return before he’s out the door definitively. Plus, he’s part of a real, honest-to-goodness alliance now, with the fittingly dorky name “Fellowship of the Zing.” How can you not like Ovi? Would that the house had more guys with his positive attitude and enthusiasm. Would that this were a game that encouraged those qualities rather than discouraged them.

Housekeeping

• Kathyrn was relieved to learn that the bitches were not, in fact, conspiring against her — although she truly had no idea of the danger she was in or how close she was to losing that vote. “There are no alliances or anything,” she informs David, catching him up on what’s transpired since he left the house. He swiftly disabuses her: “Yes, there are. You’re just not in them.”

• Michie, on facing down a tank of slithering critters in this week’s Chaos Whacktivity comp: “I’m more worried about the snakes in the house.”

• It took just over two weeks for Michie to fitfully court and then summarily tire of the first showmance of the season. His paramour was slow to take the hint: Watching Kathryn elbow her way onto the backyard hammock with a canoodling Michie and Holly was only matched in visceral discomfort by the sound of her indignation when Michie finally sat her down and dumped her. Probably they should distance themselves at this point. Almost certainly it should be done with more tact and self-awareness.

• If you count Michie and Holly, there are now three bona fide showmances raging in the Big Brother house, including Jack and Analyse and Isabella and Nick. Or four, perhaps, as Cliff muses in a private soliloquy: Christie and Tommy seem kind of close, no? He doesn’t know it, but he’s on to a lot there.

• “You should have won,” Sam tells Tyler, wronged runner-up of Big Brother 20. (He’s absolutely right, and I’m sure Tyler has heard it a lot over the last year.) “I won’t tell that to Kaycee,” he retorts dryly, unwilling to bad-mouth the woman who beat him.

• Michie went rogue! He moved against the Gr8ful alliance and cast the sole vote to keep Kemi in the house, saying that he wants to “jump-start this horse” as he did it. Was he simply trying to stir the pot? Cast doubt on persons unknown? Or is there something else going on that we haven’t seen yet?

Big Brother Recap: Gossip Girl