There are smart people in the Big Brother house this season. People who know the game, and how to play it. And then there’s Jeff, and there’s Jackie.
JEFF: “I don’t know if people think I’m better for their game, or if James is better for their game.”
JACKIE: “That’s what it comes down to.”
JEFF: “I need to get people to vote for me.”
JACKIE: [counting on her fingers and toes] “There’s 11 votes.”
JEFF: “I gotta get the majority.”
JACKIE: “That’s how you’ll stay in the house. Getting a majority.”
Let’s give Jeff some credit, shall we? He knew he was in a bad place. Clay laid it down for him. He played too strong, too fast. He got too caught up in the game. “Too strong too fast” is one of this season’s buzz phrases: That’s the gameplay model that sent Audrey on the downward spiral from House Boss to House Phantom. The general sense of Jeff as a flip-flopped had trickled down across the house.
Like any good flip-flopper, Jeff hit the apology circuit. He told Clay he was sorry, so sorry. He told Shelli that he could still play the game for her. “I just got caught up,” he said, sounding for all the world like the quarterback in a high school movie trying to get his girlfriend back for prom. He shed a single tear, and then he shed another one.
Fake tears, it turned out. In the only major conversation Jeff has had with Jackie this season, he admitted that emotions were just part of his pitch. “Shelli’s emotional,” he explained. “And sometimes you have to pull on the emotional strings to get things done.” Jeff’s been such a nothing this year that I actually perked up when he said that. That could’ve been an excellent villain moment—the instant that Jeff announced himself as this year’s prime sociopath.
But the problem is, Shelli isn’t emotional. Or at least not the way Jeff thinks. While he’s been dawdling along in the background, making friends and making vague plans to backstab those friends, Shelli’s been cultivating a couple different potential master plans—the Sixth Sense twin gambit, the Clay flirtmance. And she keeps on winning Head of Household. She is not the kind of player you win over by crying. To win Shelli over, Jeff should’ve gone into the forest, slayed a lion with his bare hands, lay its head at Shelli’s feet, and waited patiently while Shelli ripped off the lion’s hide with her teeth and knit the fur into a snazzy new hoodie.
Jeff had another gambit, though. He begged Liz for a cuddle session. Cuddle sessions are to Big Brother as garden walks are to Game of Thrones: A perfect opportunity for plotting. Perhaps Jeff didn’t realize that Austin the Judasmonster was infatuated with Liz. Sorry, let me rephrase that. Perhaps Jeff didn’t realize that Austin the Judasmonster was willing to, quote, “sacrifice my life in this game to fulfill the emptiness that’s been in my heart.”
Is Austin good at Big Brother? This is one of the chief questions as we close out the contestants’ first month in the house. He is good at competitions. He understands how to plot a few moves ahead. He saved Liz from the block, telling a little white lie about the non-Varsity side of the house in order to trap Meg next to Da’Vonne. He conceived a simple plan with fellow HoH Vanessa—Jeff or Jason Must Go—and successfully steered Vanessa toward Jeff.
In the demerits column: He is horrible at lying. He threw the veto competition and ran afoul of Vanessa’s pokerface lie detector—a bad omen for their working relationship, although you could counter-argue that it was all part of his plot against Jeff. He keeps trying to make this Judas thing happen, despite the totality of it utterly not happening. And now he appears capable of sacrificing his game in favor of a not-quite-romance with Blamanda Seyfried.
And this episode revealed that Liz could be a serious player in this game. She flirted with Jeff as a power move, and even wanted to keep him around. She thinks Austin is trying to manipulate her; she might have a sense that she can actually manipulate Austin. We’re one week closer to the moment when Big Brother could become the season of Double Liz—and there is circumstantial evidence that Julia might actually be an even savvier player than her sister. (To be honest, I can never tell who’s who. I keep hoping the real Twin Twist is that they’re octuplets.)
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