“Cory, Cory, Cory…” is what that I mutter to myself, as if summoning Candyman, whenever Cory reminds everyone for the umpteenth time that he has diapers to buy and mouths to feed as if he’s not rolling in Instagram influencer money. Or when he announces that Nelson, a.k.a. “Nelly,” is still his number one even though their formerly titled “Young Bucks” alliance has hardly been successful (on top of Nelson being the least smart and most impulsive player in the game … aside from Josh). Likewise, I keep anxiously repeating Cory’s name because this hour and a half is such a clear-cut summation of why this man — despite having lots of muscles, seniority, and, purportedly, friends — has no shot at winning.
This episode begins with Josh doing the thing he does most reliably aside from crying, which is talking to anyone who will listen to his suspicions about cast members’ loyalty as if they were facts. This time, however, his bullshit radar seems to be at least semi-accurate. He tells Amanda, Kyle, and Ashley that he thinks Cory’s been working with the rookies the whole time because of his friendship with Jeremiah and his lax attitude toward Priscilla’s choice at the Lair that put the vets against each other. To be fair, I think all the vets, particularly Devin, are covertly thrilled to get the game started and come for each other’s throats. And I don’t think it’s strange for Cory to call an inevitable turn of events in a game he’s played for almost a decade inevitable. But the next scene is Cory telling Nelson, “me, you, Jeremiah, we’re rocking together.” Great. Thanks for clearing that up, Cory!
He also breaks down some of the other alliances for us, one of which, of course, is the Big Brother crew, which now includes Nany and Emmanuel and still no Amber despite what seemed like a reconciliation last week. Devin is working with Kyle, CT, Ed, and maybe Cory. And Logan is the only male wildcard. Cory also seems fully aware that his ass is on the chopping block and kind of chill about it, which makes me sad that he doesn’t expect more from the people he’s had long-standing relationships with. But it’s also clear that he hasn’t really made an effort to work closely with anyone besides Nelson, which is his fatal flaw.
Next, we head to where I assume Shrek lives to play this week’s challenge called “Bombshell Battle.” These producers have fully given up on cleverly naming these challenges, but I’m glad we see that this espionage theme has its limits! The teams have to retrieve colored balls in the center of a mud pit and bring them back to their — you guessed it! — detonation stations. To move on to the next round, they then have to retrieve a silver ball, of which there is a limited amount. This process repeats until there are three teams left standing and one silver ball.
I give this challenge a 9/10. It’s pretty hard to make wrestling in the mud not entertaining, even though the editors add this trippy effect at the beginning that I hated. I don’t need these challenges to be stylized or over-edited aside from some slo-mo shots. This challenge is also great because we get Josh occupying the role of Lolo Jones in the mud pit challenge last season, in which she went off on Aneesa for grabbing her neck. Just like the disgraced Olympian, Josh becomes irate when Cory allegedly puts him in a chokehold, which is fair. But it’s also utterly unfathomable to Josh that the men would pile on top of him to retrieve an item they need to win, which is silly. Anyway, he and Cory get into it, but we all know Josh is probably scared of Cory, and Cory is a lot more measured in his responses to people attacking him now, which we’ll see more of in this episode, so nothing comes of it. But Josh’s delusion about the nature of competition continues to be funny to me.
In the last round, Logan does some bargaining with Nelson and Ed while they’re wrestling for the silver ball so that he can win. I loved watching the wheels turn very slowly in Nelson’s head as Logan promised him he would be safe if he let go of the ball. Nelson isn’t good at politicking when he’s not staggering and out of breath, so you know his brain was working overtime. Eventually, they let go, and Nany gets her first win of the season, which probably means more to her at this point than winning the entire competition.
Ashley has a panic attack back at the house about getting thrown into elimination and snapping at Josh, who’s genuinely trying to help her. I said this a million times when I recapped Double Agents. Ashley needs to walk into every season prepared to get thrown in, not just because she’s one of the biggest threats as a two-time champion but because the risk of competing is there for literally everyone on the show! Most people understandably would like a free ride to the final, but it’s weird that Ashley feels entitled to it. (Side note: I completely loathe the fact Ashley has faced harsher criticism than Bananas has for her choice not to split the money with Hunter when Bananas did the same thing to Sarah, and yet he can gain the trust of his castmates. The vets also don’t seem to have a problem trusting CT, who’s won a million of these things, even though he’s pulled a lot of dirty moves.)
Instead of a typical club scene, everyone drinks and hangs out by the pool. Logan and Nany come to the decision that they want to throw in Jeremiah and Amber pretty quickly. “Boyfriend and girlfriend should fight together,” says Logan, a statement that can also be said about him and Big T. The next day, Cory gathers the few rookie soldiers he has to vote for Ashley and Ed. It’s very sad to watch one of the most seasoned vets in the house have to count on 20-year-old rookies.
Meanwhile, Ashley manages to convince Devin, who’s trying to talk CT into voting for her, that Cory is the real snake and that he also probably knew about Priscilla volunteering for elimination last week. Devin claims this is the first time he’s heard about Cory’s rookie ties, which is hard to believe. I think he just concluded that he couldn’t tell CT who to vote for. I also appreciate CT using his brain and not just going off of this whole “Ashley’s a snake” mythology that the house likes to pass around based solely on their “feelings” (and sexism) without any concrete examples.
Deliberation is basically a high school debate between Cory and Ashley over who’s the most trustworthy. Cory claims that, in nine seasons, he’s never stabbed anyone in the back. I don’t remember a lot of Cory’s political moves that well because they’re never that interesting. But there’s just no way this can be true. Ashley brings up Cory’s alleged knowledge about Priscilla and that he worked with Jeremiah at the last challenge, but all Cory can hit Ashley back with is that she wears snake earrings and reiterates the Hunter thing, which was a specific situation that doesn’t currently apply, as my husband CT points out in his confessional. Unshockingly, after Cory’s audition to be a defense attorney fails, he and Bettina are made the house vote.
After some brief scenes of Cory wallowing around the house like a sad labrador puppy, we go into the Lair, where Amber and Jeremiah are thrown in alongside Cory and Bettina and seem weirdly excited to compete. Anyway, they’re playing “Hang In The Balance,” which gave me as much distress as the first episode of Squid Game. The competitors have to walk across a triangle-shaped beam while transporting puzzle pieces to a platform to complete the puzzle. It’s a very non-hostile, non-combative game. But the number of times we watch Cory and Bettina lose their balance, drop to the ground, and increasingly lose confidence in themselves is extremely heart-wrenching and pitiful because neither is smart enough to try a new strategy before falling 30 times in a row.
Meanwhile, Amber and Jeremiah come up with a pretty unsustainable strategy of having Amber bend down and crawl across the beam while Jeremiah bends over to hold her up, which you just know is destroying his back. It doesn’t take being an expert in physics (or whatever) to figure out that the partners should be as close to each other as possible to gain the most balance. Bettina, who I’ve heard say four words this season, finally suggests to Cory that they hold each other close instead of extending their arms, which immediately works. Meanwhile, Amber and Jeremiah’s bodies are on the brink of collapse as they hold the lead. It’s a sign that you’re about to lose when you have to start beating the cramps out of your limbs. Another sign is when Amber makes Jeremiah kiss her like a couple about to lose their lives in a disaster movie.
Finally, Bettina and Cory take the lead, and Cory lets Bettina solve the puzzle herself because he knows his strengths and weaknesses. Honestly, it’s refreshing not to hear the fifth person on this show refer to themselves as the puzzle king. The two win, and it feels like watching the Dillon Panthers win at the end of an episode of Friday Night Lights. Amber looks extremely relieved to be going home with her man by her side. It’s good that she seems to have some peace after a rather chaotic and emotionally exhausting season. I can’t say I’ll miss hearing her monotonous commentary or Jeremiah’s muttering. But you guys are cute.
So finally, the time has come for Bettina and Cory to decide whether to make another rookie-rookie team. The producers sense this and don’t want to go backward, so TJ just tells the two of them to go back with the group without giving them the option to switch partners. Everyone thinks it’s one of TJ’s scripted “just kidding” moments, but he’s deadass. And everyone, like last week, is pretending that they’re worried about what’s coming up next but are clearly excited to chop each other’s heads off.