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Big Brother Recap: Chaos Is a Ladder

Big Brother

Week 4
Season 21 Episode 11
Editor’s Rating *****

Big Brother

Week 4
Season 21 Episode 11
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS

It’s amazing how Isabella’s one minor indiscretion continued to excite new repercussions for the house. She betrayed the Black Widows alliance to her Gr8ful ally Jack almost as soon as it was proposed to her. Jack, in retaliation, nominated would-be Widows Jessica and Kemi for eviction, and Kemi, for various reasons, was sent to Camp Comeback shortly thereafter. Before the vote, in a desperate bid to curry favor with influential players, Kemi told Michie that Isabella had previously divulged her final-three alliance with Michie and Jack, and Michie and Jack, feeling that Isabella can’t be trusted, agreed that she and Nick, her closest ally, ought to go. Michie, seeking support, told Nicole, and of course Nicole, eager to appease the Head of Household, told Nick and Isabella. Thus in the course of about three days, and for no better reason than gossip, this season’s strongest alliance was rendered effectively obsolete.

Camp Comeback has complicated this group implosion in interesting ways. Nick, as current Head of Household, was well-situated from a tactical perspective to strike against his ostensible allies preemptively this week, either by boldly putting Jack and Michie on the block or, more cautiously, by using the Power of Veto to manufacture a surprise backdoor eviction of one or the other, a coup nobody would have expected. But this week’s eviction was always going to be unique, in that the player evicted had an immediate opportunity to return to the game — and Nick, wisely apprehensive about making an enemy of someone who might reappear as soon as he’s eradicated, decided it was safer to maintain the illusion that all was well with the Gr8ful alliance. On Sunday night he nominated Cliff and Jessica, as everybody assumed he would, and an impression of amiable fellowship prevailed for another day.

It wasn’t meant to last. Soon after Sunday’s noms, Nick and Bella confronted Jack, Michie, Tommy, Christie, Holly, Sam, and Analyse about the information with which Nicole had presented them, and it was embarrassingly easy for the double-dealing members of the now-fractured Gr8ful alliance to assuage the fears of their two would-be expatriates. Nick and especially Bella wanted to believe that the popular kids liked them and had their backs; whether out of misplaced zeal to fit in or sheer inexperience with rejection, they foolishly accepted the defense Holly and Analyse scrambled to improvise and immediately declared Nicole a liar and their new archenemy. The parley in which all this was settled was painful to watch, knowing that Nicole was innocent. The alliance took on something of an angry-mob quality, and it was clear retribution would look like mob justice.

When the mob came for Nicole, things got ugly. Now, Nicole never actually called Isabella a bully, as claimed the rumor that’s put her in jeopardy; she merely agreed with Holly, Analyse, and Christie, who suggested the idea. But make no mistake: Isabella is certainly a bully, in fact a textbook case, and if it weren’t apparent already, her treatment of this situation made it plain. When Nicole tried to explain herself to Bella after the meeting in the HOH room, Bella proceeded to insult, threaten, and hector the poor girl mercilessly, deriding her brutally with a smirk of self-satisfied cruelty on her face. She refused outright to hear what Nicole had to say, even when she leveled a piece of advice to Nick that he would be well-served to take: “She’s dragging you down,” Nicole told the Head of Household cavalierly. She’s right, and he has no idea.

Nick was straightforward about his intentions as we went into the Power of Veto competition on Wednesday: Should the opportunity to use the power present itself, he would pluck one of the current nominees off the block and eliminate the alleged traitor Nicole in their place. About the only person competing for the Veto who might not reasonably be expected to use it was Kat, who remains a wild card as far as the various alliances are concerned; and it was indeed Kat who emerged victorious, upsetting expectations to show herself a fairly capable player. Kat was not involved in the lunatic conflict of the previous 24 hours — the closest she even came to the clash was when she strolled by the HOH room, unaware and characteristically bewildered. When she used the Veto to save Jessica, and Nick, as promised, replaced her with Nicole, she did not seem to realize the role she was playing in the drama.

And it soon got more dramatic still. It was Christie, musing on the landscape of the house after the Veto ceremony, who proposed that perhaps Cliff, not Nicole, should be the one to leave this week — because Nicole, not Cliff, would be more likely to target Nick and Isabella going forward. Christie, Tommy, Jack, Michie, Holly, and Analyse have recently formed their own alliance within the alliance, which they have taken to calling the Six Shooters: The express purpose of this group, as far as I can tell, is to orchestrate the eviction of the other members of Gr8ful when the time comes for it to finally disintegrate. And while the Shooters have continued to maintain the pretense of partnership with Nick and Isabella (and, on the periphery, Sam), they determined that voting against them in secret during the eviction ceremony would be the right time to draw a line in the sand.

For the first time so far this season, the vote was split, with the house coming down on the side of Nicole to remain. (Savor the brief shots of Nick and Isabella looking totally blindsided by an unexpected turn against them, a hugely gratifying climax to one wild week.) Cliff had been reassured over and over again that he was a pawn and that he did not have anything to worry about going into the vote, and I imagine he was feeling hurt and cheated. Nevertheless, he was not obliged to vacate the house very long: Minutes after the ceremony, it was time for the long-awaited Camp Comeback Competition, a game of directing balls into a narrow hole that Cliff won easily. At the top of the hour, after a long and tumultuous week, the house returned to normal, and Nick and Isabella found themselves woefully outmaneuvered. Delightful.

A dismal HOH reign for Nick, to be sure — and now he has a lot to reckon with.

It will be interesting to see whether the Six Shooters make any effort to persuade Nick and Isabella that their decision to evict Cliff rather than Nicole was anything other than a coordinated betrayal of the alliance — a difficult argument to mount, but one Nick and Isabella may just be gullible enough to believe, given their desperate need for approval and reassurance. What’s really alarming, though, as we move into week five, is the composition of the house now that Camp Comeback has closed for the season. It has been obvious for some time now the house has a race problem, from the overwhelmingly homogeneous makeup of the contestants to several abhorrent remarks Jack has made on the show’s live feeds. Tonight three people of color were evicted simultaneously after weeks of being ostracized. The only nonwhite player left in the game seems very likely to be evicted next. Is there any way for the show to address this problem, either now or long-term?

It would have been great to see David, in particular, win his way back into the house — and come after Jack and his posse the very moment he was back in there. Alas, we have to work with what we’ve got. 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.

Kat

Only a couple of weeks ago, 29-year-old marketing executive Kat was languishing on the block, the object of housewide criticism after a few stray remarks got her in hot water with the Gr8ful alliance. As it turned out, bitches were not conspiring against her, and she not only survived eviction, but managed to escape imminent danger and recede into the background discreetly. This week, the quirky, loquacious floater won a critical Veto comp, making good on her promise to be a physical threat in the game, and more impressively still, continued to avoid the crisis that otherwise swept through the house unsparingly. But by far the best thing about Kat is that she’s funny — and in a house full of largely bitter, nasty, and mean-spirited people, her attitude has been a tremendous source of relief.

Sam

Little has changed on the Sam front: He’s still strong, capable, and unassuming, making friends with everyone and keeping his head down when things get heated. He aligned himself early with Nick and Isabella — not an ideal move, in light of how things have been unfolding with those two lately — but he seems agile, and was sensible enough to distance himself from any of Nick’s overt decision-making or related acrimony. Best-case scenario for his game is that nobody associated him with Nick’s HOH reign, which would make it much easier for him to transition out of that alliance if the Six Shooters move against them soon.

Tommy

Whether by fortune or skill, Tommy has found himself in a great position in the game, situated firmly in two of the strongest alliances in the house but without any apparent obligation to do anything for them day by day. When Isabella, his ostensible teammate, was steamrolling Nicole unfairly, he was able to both comfort Nicole as needed and appear faithful to the group. He isn’t seen as a threat, and with Christie as his ride-or-die, the odds are in his favor going forward.

Bella

Isabella is going to feel rather embarrassed when she eventually watches this season of Big Brother. The classic high-school mean girl bullied Nicole brutally over a lie she was an idiot to believe in the first place, and her behavior since the beginning — betrayal, deception, gossip, slander, cruelty — has been so harsh that it borders on villainous. She’s a blabbermouth and a jerk, basically, and it will be satisfying to watch her get evicted by the friends she wrongly trusted. I’d wager it’ll take about a week.

Jack

Yikes. This asshole. Most of Jack’s more despicable comments have not made it to broadcast, I can only assume because CBS doesn’t want one of the season’s most formidable players to be loathed by the entire country while he stands a chance of winning the game, but this week we did catch some telling glimpses of the kind of man this guy is. When he confronted Ovi — maybe the sweetest dude on earth — in the pantry about the goings-on in the HOH room, he lorded over him, arms crossed, with veiled threats and a wicked shit-eating grin, walking right up to the line of unacceptable physical intimidation. Worse still, he lectured Kemi about a water bottle she’s been keeping in the refrigerator as if it were an affront to moral decency, talking down to her as if she were a bad-tempered child in his reluctant charge. Right now Jack is the house’s unmistakable Trump figure, browbeating the players who aren’t white into going home. Impeach!

Housekeeping

• Analyse’s showing in the Panic Whacktivity competition did not inspire much confidence in her abilities. After struggling, inexplicably, to spell “night,” she managed to spell “Julie” with three E’s, two I’s, and a Y. Fortunately, spelling is rarely a factor in comps.

• More montages of Kat’s non sequiturs. She wants brunch? She wants to create her own one-woman alliance? Amazing. Show us all of it. This woman is endlessly entertaining. “She embodies Big Brother,” as Holly puts it. “Expect the unexpected, when it comes to what comes out of her mouth.”

• Christie had some kind of paranoid episode right before the Veto ceremony, insisting despite the absence of any evidence that Nick would put her on the block. The cause of her alarm? Two words Nick uttered ominously: “Brussels sprouts.” Much to her relief, she proved safe.

• Gr8ful is now officially Unde9able, with the addition of Sam. Though as the Six Shooters firm up and split from the rest, that name might not gain much currency.

• Kaitlyn Herman, madcap mystic of Big Brother 20, returned this week to conduct the Veto competition — a hilarious throwback to the Battle-Back comp she failed, spectacularly and unforgettably, last summer.

• More than more seasonal twists, Camp Comeback had some surprising consequences on how Big Brother is played: evictees lingering rather than leaving means they could continue to influence the mood of the house after they’d been voted out of it, and indeed could strike back, at least verbally, against the players who contrived their eviction. (As Kemi swiftly proved when she inveighed against Isabella after the Head of Household competition.) From the vantage of the audience, it means we spent time with players who would have otherwise vanished before we got a chance to really know them — and in the case of David, Ovi, and Kemi, that was nice.

• Cliff was humbled to learn that his alliance was betrayed when Christie overheard one of his morning monologues. Did he decide he ought to refrain from the morning ritual? Oh my no. He said he’d simply work on a more discreet whisper.

Big Brother Recap: Chaos Is a Ladder