”Big Brother” recap: Head games
You’ll all have to pardon me: Having been on vacation, I worry that I was out of the loop for last night‘s Big Brother, and here’s where I’m confused: When this week began, after Renny won HOH, April pronounced, ”This is where the game begins.” Soon after, Ollie intoned, ”Game…on.” See, I thought the game already had begun, and was on. In fact, I have a vague memory of every single contestant saying it at least 15 times. Am I thinking of another season? I’m so confused. Oh, wait, no, I’m not: Will you houseguests please stop saying, ”Game on!”? Oh, and will all HOHs please stop saying that their nominations are going to ”Flip the house upside down,” as if every other nomination is done just to keep the peace, and by nominating someone from another alliance, you are somehow inventing a new, supercombustible strategy that will change the course of human events?
Wow, I’m glad I got that off my chest.
Even though Renny did say, ”I want my nominations to shake up the house a little bit,” I’m still really liking her, although I find her hard to figure out. She has two personalities: One minute she’s calm, calculating, and Godfather-like, and yet as soon as she’s either scared or attacked, she turns into a hybrid of Ethel Merman and Carol Burnett’s Eunice in the ”Mama” sketches. I find her diary-room scenes fascinating: Unlike everyone else, who looks straight into the camera (and Dan, who bellows into it as if he thinks Big Brother is a deaf great-uncle), she always looks down or to the side, mumbling her commentary. I find that absence of showmanship and extroversion to be winning, if jarringly out of place on reality TV. It’s only when she flips out on Jerry that I have a sense of why she was cast: I guess the producers felt that the half of her that’s bats is enough to compensate for her calm side.
As soon as Renny became HOH, however, her crazy half vanished, perhaps flushed out of her system by her racking sobs after seeing pictures of her late parents. About them, she said, ”If they were living today, they would so enjoy me being on this show. It’s a dream come true.” When I was younger, and I was told that my late grandparents were watching me with pride, I was always struck by the disconnect that if they saw me, say, getting an A on a test, who’s to say they wouldn’t inconveniently decide to check up on me while I was sitting on the toilet, and wouldn’t that be embarrassing? Well, in light of Renny’s statement, I’d like to say that I’d rather my departed ancestors catch me on the can than on Big Brother: Now that would be embarrassing.
NEXT PAGE: Game off
Renny summoned everyone up to her HOH room, where she lay on her throne-like bed like a Southern princess, eating and drinking product-placed cookies and Coke. I half-expected her to summon Dan to feed her grapes while she was interrogating people. What’s fascinating about her approach is she never let houseguests take the sycophantic lead. She just coolly peppered people like Michelle with questions like ”Would you pick me off [next week if you got HOH]? Or are you not ready to answer a hard question?” and watched them get flustered. It’s as if her victims were completely thrown off their games, wondering, ”But…you’re supposed to let me talk about how I’ve always respected you and wish I’d gotten to know you better because we have a lot in common, and I’d make a good ally! What next, aren’t you going to let me say that the game is now on?”
Renny got a little drunk with power, making noises about taking down Memphis and menacingly implying that she’d put all her allies up as pawns. Didn’t she realize that she’s not HOH forever? If she started threatening to put everyone up, pawn or not, she’d be dead next week. Her whole Godfather fantasy doesn’t quite hold up with power that temporary; it’s as if Marlon Brando was muttering, ”I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse,” and yet the next week he had to switch places with Fredo. That’s an offer you can refuse.
Sadly, the only person she seemed impressed by was Ollie. But Ollie is really good at being whoever anybody wants him to be. He is the yes-man of the house, constantly seen nodding in vigorous agreement at whoever is talking to him, whether it’s April, Jerry, or Miss Julie. Hell, he’d probably agree with a bird once he got through soiling his pants. This was best illustrated in this exchange with April, after she was nominated:
OLLIE: The game just began, I don’t want to see you down.
APRIL: They need to see me upset for a couple of minutes. I have to look vulnerable to these people right now.
OLLIE: I’m not saying don’t!
But that’s exactly what he said, just one sentence ago, actually using the word ”don’t.” This guy goes wherever the wind blows. I think that’s why he’s so scared of birds: One flap of their wings and the resultant breeze could knock him into the BB wall. But at least Jerry will always be there to break his fall. (What was with Jerry following Ollie and April around the whole time? I think when Jerry served in the Marines, he served in the elite C-blocker division. What, you’ve never heard of them? They turned the tide in the Korean War by sneaking into bars in enemy territory, and just when the North Korean officers were about to score with a lady, Jerry & Co. swarmed in and proceeded to challenge them to a game of darts, and drunkenly told the women embarrassing stories about how, say, the North Korean commander used to be called ”Undies” because of the way he never cleaned his shorts. The enemy officers would be so frustrated that the next morning they would make critical errors on the battlefield: Jerry, you were a true American hero.)
That said, April remarked that she couldn’t think of an instance where she and Ollie had a couple of minutes alone. Uh, YouTube proves otherwise, April: We’ve all seen what goes on under your blanket of passion. Then again…we haven’t actually seen under the blanket; maybe Jerry’s there, too, right next to them, talking to himself about what he’s going to have for breakfast, while rubbing his own belly.
NEXT PAGE: Slop an attitude
And what of the challenges this week? The food comp — rock, paper, scissors with slop, pig ears, and crickets — was pretty dull. If anything, they should have changed up the gross food with every round. Once you’ve seen one person eat crickets, you lose interest in seeing another. And what the hell was Jerry doing gagging on slop? If he’d been eating it for four weeks, why the sudden disgust now? But that was less confusing than the odd scratching he wrote on his card when making his bet. In tiny letters you’d see ”slop,” while all around it were tiny dashes and dots, as if he were trying to get across a message to viewers in Morse code. Wait, was he summoning help? Are the BB walls about to be stormed by an army of 75-year-old commandos dressed only in camo-denim shorts and tank tops?
The POV challenge (guesstimate how many of a certain object were shown) was equally uncompelling, although the final battle between Jerry and Dan was tense. It was also helpful in that it exposed which of the housemates had little-to-no estimation skills. In guessing the length of the python, Renny came up with 540 inches: That’s 45 feet, which anybody could tell was whoppingly over. If Renny were my hairdresser, I’d find that mistake disconcerting: If you go in and ask for an inch off the top, she’ll saw halfway through your brain.
With Dan winning the POV, it was time for April and Jerry to suck up. Jerry apologized for the Judas remark, although didn’t he say last week that he would never forgive Dan and didn’t regret it? Nevertheless, he explained it away by citing his ”street-fighter mentality.” That’s Jerry: If someone brings a knife to a fight, he brings a gun. And if they bring their pants hitched up to their waists, he hitches his up to his nipples! That’s the Chicago AARP way!
Meanwhile, April tried to bribe Dan, and did it like she’s seen crooks do it to cops in far too many movies. She never outright offered him the money, just obliquely buried the offers with offhand statements like ”Maybe a little cash or something,” or ”If there’s anything I can…give you…or promise you.” I expected to see her drop a gold bar on the ground and say, ”Well lookee, lookee, what have we here? Someone seems to have ‘dropped’ something shiny on the ground. I’d pick it up, but I must go back to my daily frottage session under a quilt…”
NEXT PAGE: Is there a rictus among us?
But both approaches failed, as Dan kept nominations the same. As usual, the producers played up his decision like it was Sophie’s choice, but it was a no-brainer. With Renny making crazy threats about putting everyone else up, why would he risk giving her the opportunity? Especially considering that when he floated the idea of taking someone off, she simply said, ”Oh, no, I trust you. I know you’ll keep the nominations the same,” in a tone that implied if he did pull any shenanigans, he might find one of his students’ severed heads in his waterbed.
Dan did throw one wrench in the works: When announcing his POV decision, he let slip that one of the nominees had offered him money. The resultant rictus of frozen panic/forced nonchalance by April was priceless. She had the same look of barely repressed shame as someone who has just loudly broken wind in a meeting and isn’t quite sure yet whether anyone heard. She then later angrily swore to the diary room that she’d never offered Dan a specific amount of money, as if this negated his statement. So it’s not a bribe unless it’s specific? I’ll have to remember that next time I get a speeding ticket. Instead of saying, ”Maybe my friend Andrew Jackson can convince you to let me off,” I’ll just say, ”Maybe someone I may or may not know who could or could not be a president can convince you to let me or someone like me off.” Loophole!
But for all of April’s defensiveness, she was soon offering Dan even more money to vote to boot out Jerry. It’s that lack of short-term memory that allows her to spout sentences like, when pouting about her unfair persecution, ”I haven’t done anything to [anybody], haven’t lost my word, nothing. Zero. Nothing, except do dishes and make cakes and give people stuff.” Jeez, you’d think the house was about to evict Mary Poppins.
I really like Dan’s game play. I don’t think he’s creeping under the radar; unlike someone like Chicken George, he has a plan. Everything he does is thought out, including the announcement of a bribe. Granted, the only person it served to get riled up was Michelle (and you can make fire come out of Michelle’s nose just by announcing that someone took her fork), but still, I applaud the attempt. Dan’s good because he’s charming (he can tease Renny, like when she gave him a haircut, but end up getting a kiss from her). Plus, when Ollie and April came to him to beg for his vote, he was able to give them hope and make himself seem weak, all while not promising anything that might incur their wrath on the jury. He’s fun to watch, just as long as he uses his indoor voice.
NEXT PAGE: Meet the parents
Before the final eviction vote, we were treated to another visit with April and Ollie’s families, to see what they thought about the couple’s showmance. (Or, as Ollie’s dad, Ed, called it, ”a showmass.” Look, I don’t begrudge the man for not knowing the term. Imagine how much smarter we’d all be if our brains weren’t filled with reality lingo? I can only wonder what poetry I might have memorized were there room in the part of my cerebral cortex that is currently filled with the names of the cast members from the first 13 seasons of The Real World.)
We saw more footage of the couple making sweet talk: Wary of his wandering eye, April warned Ollie that if he moved to Arizona to be with her, ”You’re moving to a state where there are millions of me.” To which I say: Is there any way we can sell Arizona back to Mexico? Ollie’s parents seemed more accepting of the relationship than April’s twin sister; his folks seem so confident in his upbringing that they are blind to some of his less pious ways, and are pleased to see him with a fine woman. But in considering the topic, April’s sister seemed to be experiencing morning sickness again, even after having her baby.
Ultimately, April was voted out, 4-1. (And no HOH results yet, as the episode ended with another open-ended endurance contest.) I, for one, am sorry to see her go. Not because it tore apart her great love affair with Ollie. No, I will miss her because with her and her albino hair off of my TV, now what am I going to use to white-balance my camera?
So, do you think Dan’s shift to winner has come at the right time? Will Jerry rub his belly to victory? And, now that April is out, can her relationship with Ollie endure? Or will he take comfort from another housemate?
More Big Brother:
Big Brother exit Q&A: April Dowling