Where did it all go wrong for Shelli and Clay? Was it last week’s HoH competition, which Shelli threw to James, figuring she could trust his assurance of safety and not wanting to put a target on her back with yet another turn in the HoH thronebed? Or was it earlier, when Austin swung around on his apology tour, leading Shelli and Clay to loudly declare that they wanted to keep Mr. Judas around? Could they have somehow snatched victory from the jaws of defeat this week and forged a separate peace with James — maybe if Clay didn’t pout so much about honor, maybe if Shelli didn’t briefly-but-firmly banish Vanessa from Team Blondoid? Was it always inevitable that this season’s sole major showmance would fall under the sniper scope? Are the twins to blame?
Who can say? This time last week, Clay and Shelli were running the house. They had a strong, charming, supervillain-level strategist in Vanessa; they had a willing meatshield in Austin; they had Liz, and henceforth, they would also have Julia.
Personally, I stand by my theory that Clay and Shelli inadvertently invented their downfall by bringing their own worst enemy to life. Shelli was concerned about the “other side of the house,” before there actually was an “other side of the house.” This time last week, James and Meg and Jackie (and sorta Becky, maybe) were a loosely-aligned crew of friendlies. Now, James refers to them as his “team,” and says things like: “I hope they complete the mission and stay true to the game.”
This time last week, the Sixth Sense Alliance convinced themselves that Jason was the big threat. But Jason only talked big: Getting rid of him is the equivalent of a totalitarian government sending a couple of ornery university professors to a gulag. James isn’t a professor; James is freaking Castro.
James confronted Austin. He wanted to talk to him about the intel Shelli and Clay passed on to him. James successfully summed up Austin’s insane gameplay thusly: “I heard the Judas character was voting crazy.”
In the gigantic echo chamber between his ears, Austin decided that this meant that Shelli and Clay had thrown the entire Sixth Sense Alliance under the bus. Vanessa took this personally; she always does. I initially thought she was this season’s Derrick: A brutally dispassionate chess-player-of-people. But quite the opposite, she is very passionate, and seems physically pained whenever she has to go against a fellow gameplayer. This doesn’t mean she’s a shrinking violet. Far from it: She’s still my favorite to win this game — although James is just a hair behind her, and I’m hoping that Shelli can build a new strategy for the post-Clay world. But Vanessa might be an example of a whole new kind of archetype in this game: The Hotblooded Vulcan.
I couldn’t quite figure out if Austin was lying, or if he just didn’t understand what James was telling him. Either way, Shelli had to explain herself. She apologized for throwing Austin under the bus — helped, perhaps, by everyone’s knowledge that Austin nearly threw their entire Alliance under the Transcontinental Railroad a couple weeks ago.
AND NOW, A MOMENT WITH THE TWINS:
Julia: “I just realized. You’re the bitchier twin.”
Liz: “When you’re drunk, you’re bitchier.”
Julia: “You’re right.”
(NOTE: The names are a guess. I couldn’t actually tell which twin was which.)
The romantics in the audience could take heart from a lovely little moment on the backyard circle bed. Shelli and Clay were all alone. The moon was high. The sky was dark. Their hair was so, so golden. They kissed. The heroic music played.
Is this romance real? Better to ask: What effect was this romance having on the players? Clay decreed that he would not be trying to save himself: “There’s no way in hell I can campaign against this girl.” Shelli had a slightly different perspective on the situation: She would campaign, but “I am not gonna do it in a way that will hurt him.”
Things still seemed dire for Shelli. There was a meeting of the Not-Clelli side of the house, with Vanessa and Austin quietly campaigning to send Clay home first. James wanted to make it clear that he didn’t expect too much. “Really, the only thing I ask,” he said, “Is that we get Shelli out.” Vanessa threw out several arguments. Clay wanted to go home. Shelli was a bigger target — and wasn’t it better to keep the bigger target around for another week? This may have been a rare moment of overstepping for Spymaster Vanessa. Jackie — Jackie, of all people! — is starting to get suspicious. “I’ve been questioning Vanessa for awhile,” she said. “She’s planning on something.”
NEXT: The Hit[pagebreak]
AND NOW, A MOMENT WITH THE HITMEN
My eyes usually glaze over when the show breaks to check in with past contestants. But since Derrick is one of my favorite top players ever, I was ecstatic to see the old chessmaster himself, hanging out with his beloved best pal and eternal meatshield Cody. They’ve apparently kept up their friendship out of the house; Cody has no regrets about that time that he handed Derrick $500k and his own beating heart on a silver platter.
Both of the Hit Men sounded notes of praise for James and his big move this week — which I found interesting mainly because Derrick’s whole style of gameplay generally eschewed big flashy moves. (Derrick also said that he likes Johnny Mac’s style; he may have been trolling us; never forget that Derrick’s IQ is probably five times whatever ours is.)
Listen, we’ve all watched Big Brother a few dozen hundred times now. We know when the nefarious Swedish Gator-Men who produce this show are setting us up for an in-hindsight-obvious twist. But I was genuinely surprised at how the vote went down this week. James and crewmembers, Meg and Jackie, seemed laser-focused on Shelli; Austin and the goofus twin seemed to be gunning for the bigger target. I wonder if, in this Sunday’s episode, we’ll get a flashback to events that took place in the few hours before the eviction, where Clay maybe did something to ensure his exit. (Johnny Mac, looking even more confused than usual, said in the voting booth: “It’s been a weird day.”)
For whatever reason, all nine voting houseguests declared that Clay had to go home. So go home he did — with a stopover at Sheriff Julie’s interrogation room. The Sheriff, rocking an impressive set of hipster goggles, asked him: Why sacrifice your game? “This has been her dream, to do this,” said Clay. “I didn’t want to be the one to take that from her.” I have to admit: I had long thought that Clay was playing up his attraction to Shelli as a power play. But he sounded remarkably genuine: “You spend 24 hours a day with somebody, 7 days a week…she’s been there emotionally, personally, on a game level.” (For the romantically inclined, the big tear moment came during Shelli’s farewell: “I’m really looking forward to our first date.”)
Sheriff Julie asked for clarification: Just what the heck was happening with Meg? Clay laughed, looking mildly embarrassed. “She’s been scamperin’ around this house the whole time,” he said. “She’s had her fair share of showmances with pretty much everyone in this house.”
WHAT WHAT WHAT.
Longtime readers of these recaps know that I do not watch the live feeds, for the same reason that former drug addicts don’t go mountain climbing atop a gigantic mound of pure cocaine. (Believe me, I tried to figure out if my cable provider had Pop TV, so I could watch Big Brother After Dark.) I have to assume that, if Meg was going on a smooch-tear through the house that would have made it to broadcast. So I’m left struggling to interpret Clay’s statement. Has Meg been having secret showmances in the shadowy corners between surveillance cameras? Can a surveillance camera see into the human heart?
The new Head of Household competition began. James looked on, his tumultuous reign at an end. This has been the most transformative week of the season. If James hadn’t put up Clay and Shelli — and if he hadn’t successfully fended them off at the Veto — then the Sixth Sense Alliance would have had a much clearer path to victory. As it is, there is a quiet, cold war being waged between the two sides of the house.
And what a war! The five remaining members of Sixth Sense seem constantly in jeopardy of splintering: Liz is caught between Austin and Julia, who don’t seem to get along very well; meanwhile, Vanessa and Shelli seem destined to form a more powerful duo, now that Clay is gone. (Yet another example of how everything keeps coming up Vanessa, since she had long worried that she was the only person on the Sixth Sense Alliance without a strong one-on-one-alliance.) Meanwhile, the Jamesians successfully staged a comeback this week, but it’s not clear how strong their voting bloc really is. James declared — loudly, to a room full of everyone but Shelli — that he wanted Shelli gone. She’s still here: Was that his decision, or did the house just drift away?
Julie left us with one tantalizing tidbit for the back half of this season: Just because you make it to Jury doesn’t mean you’re out of the game. Which means, presumably, that anyone who gets evicted for the next few weeks will have a chance to come back into the house. Alas, that’s cold comfort for Clay, who will spend the rest of this season at home, with his perfect hair and his dreams of a better tomorrow, watching Shelli play this game to win.
In conclusion: Jackie.