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‘Big Brother’ recap: We have a winner!
And so, after ten weeks of countless got gottings and one banana suiting, we have a winner for Big Brother 11: sweet, sweet Jordan. On a superficial, good-triumphs-over-annoying level, I feel good about it. How can you not? A slightly dim all-American girl who is as blonde as a cornfield and just wants to buy her evicted momma a house? You try rooting against that! You might as well root against babies with kittens on their heads. And yet, when I disengage all personal and social reflexes, I find myself feeling that strategic justice was not done. I don’t like anything that Natalie stands for in the game, but at least she stood for something.
For the last time this season, let’s go through the week chronologically; maybe if I relive it, I’ll feel better about the outcome. The week began with the first part of the HOH competition; Kevin, Jordan, and Natalie were walking on a rotating log as the Big Brother production team cleaned out whatever was left in the challenge supply closet and dropped it on the players’ heads. Snow, water, leaves?I’m surprised that they weren’t pelted with slop and Jeremy Piven standees. Natalie used the opportunity to whip out some characteristically ham-handed strategy. First, she badmouthed the just-evicted Michele, saying, ”She’s not a villain, she’s just a bitch,” and telling Jordan that Michele would likely be making a pass at Jeff in the house, because she’s always been after him. Holy cow, did Natalie plan her strategy by watching old tapes of Dynasty episodes?
When Jordan dropped, Natalie giddily confirmed her plan with Kevin: She would drop first, and then win round 2 since it’s always knowledge-based, and who’s smarter than Natalie? No, other than everyone who’s ever beaten her in a knowledge-based challenge. See? She’s smart! And she proved it in round two by?tanking it. In the skee-ball challenge, she got one ball in the wrong hole, and somehow screwed it up so the rest of the balls were wrong, too, leaving Jordan to grab the win. The show went off the air with Natalie explaining and rationalizing her mistake to Kevin and Jordan, and I think she’s still explaining it now. At this point in the show I was thrilled at the prospect of her losing; never has someone’s image of themselves been so inversely proportional to their actual skill set. I fear that she will try to parlay her BB fame into teaching a series of Learning Annex courses on other things she has no actual aptitude for. I’ll sign up for ”Master Building with Natalie,” just so I can be there to watch her nail her thumb to a belt sander.
In the middle of this episode, we got to see Jeff’s arrival at the Jury House. This provided an interesting window into just how much the evictees had turned on Natalie. Nobody had anything good to say about her. Though Jessie, of all people, did make a separate, interesting point. When Jeff was talking about how Michele and Jordan would go after Kevin because he’d burned Jeff, Jessie said, ”After you go out, people don’t care about you.” This was actually a good foreshadowing for Natalie’s finale-night problem: she kept going on about how hard she worked to avenge her friends, and actually, after they had been booted, they stopped caring about her.
NEXT: It’s old home week, with Evel Dick!
Then we had a visit from three BB alums, Mike Boogie, Danielle, Evel Dick, and Janelle, who looked like she’d just showed up from her job recreating Van Halen’s ”Hot for Teacher” video. Evel Dick is no more palatable than he was two years ago. He’s always had a lot of affectations, but he’s settled on a favorite: the slouch. He can do it anywhere! During finale night, he was in the audience, and somehow was still able to slump down in his seat and cross his legs so his knee was over his head. That’s really hard to do in a folding chair in a crowded studio. Anyway, when asked what he did with his prize money, he simply said, ”It’s been a good ride, life changing.” In other words, get those fold-out couches ready, friends of Evel Dick, because he’ll soon be looking to crash ”just for a little while, until I win my next reality show. You know I’m good for it, man, I’m Evel Dick!”
Mike Boogie also likes to come out of his hole every three years or so, just to remind us all just how bad a taste in your mouth can be. When Danielle said that a woman has never beaten a man in the BB finals, Boogie interrupted, saying, ”It’s our public speaking. We’re a lot better at it.” I think Mike Boogie watches Mad Men for all the wrong reasons.
Before we could reach finale night, we were treated to a Sunday clip show, which was like the Survivor finale tour of fallen comrades, except without the scenery. The three remaining housemates were treated to a surf and turf dinner (throughout which they looked like they were drinking Tang in wine glasses), and were clearly prompted to talk about different moments to cue up the clips. Gosh, remember when Jeff did all that gardening? And who can forget that crazy Ronnie? Wow, was it forced. This is how people talk in movies when they know there’s a sniper aiming at their head ready to fire unless they do what they’re told.
The clip show was largely useless, except for the couple of bonus scenes of Jessie acting like an egomaniac. (Favorite quote: ”That would be my dream, to use my physique for something good.” Great, can you help me move?) It also reminded me just what a tool Ronnie was, and also confirmed that I will never not find it funny when they cut to a beaten-down Casey first sitting in his banana suit.
And then we finally hit finale night. (Which I’m glad they finally made two hours; I like them having more time to show the jury’s deliberations.) Can you believe these three semi-finalists had to sit around for five days with nothing to do but think about various final-two permutations and possible speeches? That is true torture. You could see Kevin and Natalie slowly sink into their own paranoia. Kevin kept pestering Jordan for confirmation that they had a deal to take each other to the finals; his paranoia proved justified, as Jordan planned to take Natalie if given the chance. Meanwhile, Natalie attempted a ridiculously obvious late-minute bond with Jordan. ”More than half this game, we haven’t really talked or hung out or even been friends. And seriously, you’re just like one of my girlfriends back at home,” she said. Ooof, now that’s laying it on thick. It’s no wonder she was playing with Saran Wrap during this speech: she needed a visual metaphor for her own utter transparency.
NEXT: Jeff rules the jury house
Natalie prizes herself on her subtle strategy, but come on. Out in the yard, talking to a whiny Kevin, she found a way to steer the conversation toward her hypothetical revenge if he hypothetically picked Jordan instead of her. ”Let’s say you get to choose and you evicted my ass,” she said. ”You don’t think I’m gonna vote personally? Hell yeah I’m gonna vote personally. I’m gonna give my vote to Jordan…I’ll be pissed that you screwed me.” Nice small talk, Nat. I have a feeling that after her fiancé watched this, he made a mental note to sleep with the lights on for the rest of his life.
Then we got the footage of Michele arriving at Jury House, and the Jury making their final deliberations. It doesn’t matter who won the game, the big winner tonight was Jeff, who got off some great shots at Lydia. The guy was on fire: When is someone going to make the ”It’s like talking to a road cone” T-shirt? I also loved when he dissed Lydia’s attempt at a high five, and his impression of Jessie’s hand going up the back of Lydia’s shirt to move her mouth was a delight. And amidst all that, he was actually convincing: I think without him there to thwack down every pro-Natalie point, Jordan might have lost.
Then came the final HOH challenge, which came down to a tiebreaker question: How many total votes to evict have been cast so far this season? Jordan’s eyes spun in opposing concentric circles at this one, and she fiddled with her pen as if she had forgotten its purpose. But then came the ultimate ”blind squirrel finds nut” moment. She put down 50, no doubt thinking, ”Well, I know how many states there are, and that’s a number, so maybe it’s the same number!” and the correct answer was 51. This was the exact moment when I started feeling uneasy about the thought of her winning. This was so clearly a lucky guess, just as her HOH golf victory was handed to her by Jeff: I knew she would use these victories as evidence of why she was a good player, but they were blatantly not of her own doing. She was Mr. Magoo.
Natalie and Kevin had to make their pleas. I loved Natalie’s statement — like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, watch as the selfless statement blossoms into something really self-serving and manipulating midway! ”The last couple of weeks we’ve had a chance to bond, actually become friends” — wait for it — ”I’m grateful for anything and everything despite what happens in this game for our friendship…” — almost there — ”and as a friend” — here it comes — ”I’d like to ask you to please keep me in this game.” Bam! There it is! Forget the game, what’s really important is our friendship, and as my friend, you better let me beat you in this game. That sentence is an infinite loop of greed.
Jordan picked her new best buddy Natalie, which was the smart move, as she had no friends on the jury. A devastated Kevin joined the rest of the evictees, and even in his shock he was still able to navigate the catwalk better than Michele. Hey, it paired two things that nerds do not encounter often: walking in glamorous clothes, and high-fiveing.
NEXT: Grilling by the jury
When they were both grilled by the Jury, Natalie was much more prepared. (Jeez, Jordan, you had nothing to do for five days but get prepared! What were you busy doing, trying to find a pair of shorts that fit? Because that was not time well spent.) Everything Jordan said was like speech soup, a stirred-up assortment of Big Brother defense buzzwords. I’d doze off in the middle of every answer, and jolt awake to any of the following phrases: ”lay low,” ”under the radar,” ”won an HOH and a veto,” and ”get myself further in this game.” Yet these words were never said in an adequately logical order. And even if they were, it would have been difficult to concentrate on them, as my eyes were always drawn to her crotch-picking hands. Dammit, Jordan, let your pants ride up a bit, there’s $500,000 on the line!
Natalie, on the other hand, stuck with one sales pitch: She stayed close to strong players, and remained honest with her allies. This was no different from Jordan’s pitch, except for two distinctions: 1) It was delivered in English, which could have helped her, and 2) It was delivered by Natalie, which would hurt her. Everyone in this house disliked her so much that they couldn’t bear to vote for her. I was surprised that her defense didn’t sway Jessie, but was impressed that Russell voted for Natalie. To me, indicated that his bluster was just an act (an assy act, mind you), and he was capable of clear-headedly assessing his competitors.
Jeff’s winning the $25,000 ”America loves ya!” prize I can accept. That was a popularity contest, and was billed as such. But Jordan as game victor? It still doesn’t sit right. I keep thinking of the moment when she revealed that she can’t tell time. Once she had established that she was stymied by the most basic of third-grade skills, it’s tough for me be convinced that anything she did up until the moment she picked Natalie over Kevin was consciously strategic. I’ll never forget the look on her face when she was asked the final HOH tiebreaker question: It’s the same look a baby wears when you play ”Got your nose.” I’m happy she’s able to help her family, and I’m sure she’s very sweet, but this was not a righteous win. And there’s one thing I’ll never forgive her for: For a few minutes, she made me feel sorry for Natalie.
So how do you feel about the finale? Do you think Jordan was a deserving winner, and do you think the jury voted for the right reasons? Am I crazy for my suspicions that Natalie (gulp) should have won? And where would you rank this season among the 11 Big Brother seasons? While you’re mulling over these earth-shattering questions, don’t forget to look for Julie Chen’s blog, and check out our exit interviews with Michele and, later today, Jordan, Natalie, and Kevin. Until next season…or The Amazing Race…whichever comes first. I’ll be damned, it’s The Amazing Race, in just two Sundays. Okay, until then!