“I don’t even like him.”
That’s Liz, the DeVito to Julia’s Schwarzenegger, admitting to the alliance and to the entire world that her quote-unquote relationship with Austin is a completely one-sided love affair. That bearded insaniac is blowing up his game, declaring eternal love towards half of this season’s twin twist—and Liz is just not that into him. Really, seriously, completely just not that into him.
This could be a problem for Austin. Or maybe not. When Wednesday’s episode started, he was in a celebratory mood. His lady love Liz had pulled herself off the block. She did it all by herself, with no help from James, who couldn’t hide just how bummed out he was about winning the Battle of the Block competition. Liz allowed herself a moment of celebration, while in the pillow room, our man Clay cried purple tears of regret:
Liz might not have her sister’s savvy, but she knows what it looks like when someone’s throwing a competition. She told Austin that she suspected foul play. Austin was confused. Wasn’t Steve supposed to be the backdoor target this week? Heck, wasn’t this whole week supposed to be a nice break: A post-Audrey victory lap for the Sixth Sense alliance, paving the way for the impending arrival of The Twin?
Austin asked Vanessa, point blank: Was James trying to throw the competition? Vanessa looked confused, told him he was jumping at shadows. This wasn’t her plan, not at all. Vanessa been running her game through patsies and triangulation. Jackie was supposed to remain Head of Household, and put Austin up for the backdoor. Now here’s Austin, all trusting, telling Vanessa that he thinks there’s a devious new strategy in the air. “I’m starting to think that maybe they were actually targeting Liz all along.”
And who would “they” be, precisely? This has proven to be a defining week for the power dynamics in the house—and a defining week for how some players have successfully (and unsuccessfully) navigated those power dynamics. The Sixth Sense alliance is strong, although the cracks are obvious. Vanessa is the smartest player, but she’s the only member without a buddy: No twin, no flirtmance, no tattooed emo-roid patsy. With Audrey gone, the Sixth Sense has the most obvious targets: The Shelli-Clay country-club cuddle-buddy duo, the twins. They have numbers—and they have targets. On the other side, there’s a loose conglomeration of players. James, Meg, Jackie, Jason, maybe Becky: They’re not really a team, and you could argue that some of them are floating through these early rounds. But they’re likable, and peaceful. That means they’re a threat. (That’s not to mention Johnny Mac, who after weeks on the block has been toughened into a loudmouth ronin, bemused by his own continued existence.)
Steve sat alone, staring into a mirror. He heard a noise. He looked up at the ceiling.
“Oh, hello, Mister Camera,” said Steve. “I didn’t see you there.”
The camera followed him as he moved across the room.
“Oh, my goodness,” said Steve, embarrassed. “Are you following me?”
The camera stared at him.
“Well, I do declare,” Steve said, blushing. “A gentleman likes attention, but this is really too much.”
The camera said nothing. It’s a camera.
The veto competition required the contestants to dress up in Squirrel costumes. Liz was selected to participate in the competition—a potential wrench in the works, since she would potentially keep the nominations the same. The contestants had to roll a nut up and down over a platform 250 times—something that Clay claimed he was unusually prepared for, because he plays football at Texas A&M, and it’s a little-known fact that the Texas A&M squad practices in giant squirrel costumes.
It was a tight race. Becky and Johnny Mack and Clay all put up decent numbers. (Liz never even came close; bet you Julia would’ve won this competition.) Becky was cruising past 150 when she dropped her nut. “I can see her entire demeanor,” said Steve. “She is crushed. And seeing that misery in her is making me so freaking happy. I am loving watching her crash. It’s that simple! I’m sorry, and good luck back in Colorado.”
Now, I have to admit, I haven’t been paying much attention to Steve this game, partially because there are so many better (mostly female!) contestants this season, and partially because I’m not entirely sure that Steve isn’t a local teenager who keeps sneaking onto the Big Brother set whenever Sheriff Julie is snoozing. But now I can’t help but wonder: Does Steve, like, secretly hate everyone? Or just the people who seem least likely to justify that hatred?
Like, in Steve’s brain, is Meg the Thanos of the Big Brother house?
Anyhow, Clay totally trounced the other contestants. That made Becky sad, which presumably made Steve incredibly happy, because he maybe is one of those robots who was programmed to be happy but now he’s discovering evil and he really likes it? Unclear.
Then Vanessa told Liz: “We have to talk alone. Without Austin.”
NEXT: Should he stay or should he go?[pagebreak]
Vanessa called Shelli up. They needed to talk to Liz: Blonde and Blonde to Blonde. They laid it down straight. Austin went crazy. He made a lunatic deal with Jason: Let the twins sail through this week, and we can target Julia once she’s in the house. Vanessa has a simple theory: Austin’s gone crazy. He just wants to get Liz far enough so they can hang out together in the Jury House. “He just wants ass!” said Vanessa. “You must have some golden ass!”
Liz knew that Austin had made a mistake. But, somewhat unexpectedly, she argued for clemency. Yes, he made a dumb move—but it wasn’t a malicious move. He was just trying to secure the twins a place in the house. (I’m not sure if Liz really thinks this. It’s just as likely that she has now fully recognized just how much of a mark Austin really is—and maybe she’s weighing the supreme annoyance of his furtive stealth-attack kisses versus the potential half-million-dollar prize.)
Vanessa called Austin up. She told him, point-blank: She was considering backdooring him. He lied to her. He betrayed the alliance. He’s doing a lot of very dumb things for very dumb reasons. Austin begged for his life. Vanessa washed her hands of it all: If he could convince Shelli and Clay, then she would be willing to listen to them.
Austin laid it on thick with the blonde bombers. “I’m falling in love with Liz,” he said. “The decisions I made last week were because of that. I was thinking emotionally.” Clay and Shelli, to their credit, did not immediately burst out laughing. No doubt they were saving their chuckles for their next visit to Outback™ Steakhouse™, the popular restaurant chain beloved by millions around the nation.
But Austin could make a good case. He’s a number for the Sixth Sense alliance. He will never go against them (or so he says.) This is when Shelli started talking about sides—as in, the side of the house that isn’t the Sixth Sense, that hasn’t been running this house like crazy for a month. Shelli seems a bit spooked: “Their side is forming stronger numbers against us.” I’m not sure this is really the case. But it’s clear that Shelli, ultimately, didn’t want to lose Austin. The team was strong, and about to get stronger with the addition of The Twin. Why mess it up?
So began the final stage of the Backdoor Plan: The attempt to convince Vanessa to change her mind. Clay and Shelli put it simply. “The odds are better if Austin stays with us,” said Clay. Vanessa was skeptical. She had promised an Austin exit to the entire house: Going back on her word meant that the Other Side could turn on her.
But there was another possibility: Cut off the Other Side at the ankles. Why not put up Jason? He’s the ringleader, or anyhow, he’s the person who seems the most likely to stir up trouble. I’ve been underwhelmed by Jason’s play this season. He’s funny and smart and uncannily aware of the deeper machinations moving chesspieces around the house. But at no point has he successfully converted all that talent into real gameplay power: His de facto mode is hanging out on the couch, spreading salty rumors about players he doesn’t like. (He also seems to take things way, way too seriously—and that’s saying something, in this emo-kid season.)
Vanessa was worried that targeting Jason would make her the prime backdoor option. ShelClay didn’t think so. There are bigger targets—and you could argue that Austin has designated himself as the alliance’s de factor meatshield, the most obvious target for Other Side retribution. But I think there was another factor at play here: I’m not sure Vanessa wanted to fully commit herself to one side of the house. She was in a very unique position a few days ago: The people in her alliance and the people outside of her alliance all wanted the same person out, and she even had a fellow Head of Household who was willing to pull the trigger. That would’ve given her another week of running the house without getting any blood on her hands. “It’s gonna be blood blood blood blood blood from here on out,” said Shelli.
No kidding: In a surprise move, Vanessa followed through on the Jason Initiative, backdooring him onto the block and saving Austin for another week. I’m already seeing some people declare this the bungle-move of the season. Devil’s advocate: I think Vanessa made the right call. Yes, she went back on her word; yes, the Other Side of the house thinks she’s a liar; yes, Vanessa made Meg feel whatever emotion this face represents:
But you have to get blood on your hands eventually. I think Vanessa recognized the value in strong numbers—and I have to think she’s already trying to figure out how to run damage control. Austin, for his part, has apparently focalized all his negative Judas energy on Jason, because in his totally insane view of the world, Jason is the traitorous scumbag who broke his trust.
There is another possibility, of course. Before Jason went up on the block, the Other Side was a loose coalition: Not even remotely aware that there was a powerful alliance in the house. In an attempt to cut off their opposition, did the Sixth Sense just create their opposition? Like, what if Vanessa has successfully transformed Meg from a Pretty Pawn into a Vengeful Rook? This time next week, we’ll know if Vanessa saved her alliance…or destroyed it.