Here’s what I loved about the Sixth Sense alliance. And we have to start using the past tense. On Thursday night, Vanessa or Shelli will be going home. Assuming that the double eviction doesn’t claim them, whoever stays behind will be left with a shadow of the group that ran the first month of Big Brother 17. Austin is the worst kind of ally. He is utterly devoted to his showmantic partner, Liz—but Liz, one presumes, is ultimately more devoted to her twin sister Julia. That means whoever’s left behind—maybe-probably-definitely Shelli—is the fourth wheel in an alliance. Maybe that’s not a bad position to be in—and maybe Austin and the twins could be a good triple-layer meatshield for a savvy player.
But what I loved about the Sixth Sense, when they worked, was the dense strategy. Their biggest problem was only that they always out-thought themselves. Shelli threw a climactic HoH competition because she was worried that winning too many Head of Households would put a long-term target on her back. Clay and Shelli were down to backdoor Austin, but they flip-flopped toward saving him because they got spooked about losing a number on their team. Vanessa, the player I thought was going all the way this season, has an uncanny knack for reading people—but the sheer amount of puppetmastering she engaged in during the first 50 days drove her into a state of constant paranoia.
I’m not convinced that players like Becky and James read the game half as well as Sixth Sense could. Case in point: On Wednesday’s episode, Becky talked to Shelli like she had no idea that Shelli was one of Vanessa’s closest allies. “I think she really is an independent,” said Becky, “That looks after her own game.” You could argue that Becky has a sharp read on Vanessa—and there was that first Vanessa outburst last week that seemed, accidentally or by calculation, to stack the deck further against Clay and Shelli.
But, theoretically, where does Becky go from here? She has loosely aligned herself with James, Meg, and Jackie—but I’m not convinced that she’s as important to that coalition beyond her high-status this week as Head of Household. Becky and James are playing a different, more old-school game: They love getting blood on their hands. This has made for an exciting couple of weeks, and a radical clash of strategies. The Sixth Sense worked in the shadows, with sniper rifles; Becky and James prefer the sawn-off shotgun strategy.
This plan has worked so well, largely because nobody in Sixth Sense saw this coming. That’s on them. They were lazy after weeks in command. They were practicing the Hedonism Bot method:
The counterstrike has claimed Clay; it may soon claim Vanessa. Is there a comeback narrative here? If there is, I think it belongs to Shelli. With her back against the wall, she is trying to rebuild. We saw her talk to Johnny Mac, an unaligned soft ally who could make a strong ally in the back half of this season. The best thing that ever happened to Shelli was Vanessa’s pre-eviction outburst last week: It moved the target off Shelli’s back. Maybe people thought her threat was neutralized, sans Clay. If anything, she could wind up being stronger without her showmance: It could force her outside her comfort zone. It could lead her into new deals.
It could lead her into the orbit of Steve, who has become one of my very favorite useless players of all time. Dear god, to see this game the way Steve sees it! In Steve’s mind, he’s been playing a devious stealth game the last several weeks, riding under the radar (and not just being irrelevant). In that same tormented mind, the Great Satan of this season is Becky. Becky, of all people: Charming, thoughtful, genial, got-hit-by-a-train-and-shucks-she’s-doin-okay Becky. Thus far, Steve is the most tragic kind of superfan: Someone who loves the show who seems to have no coherent understanding of how people actually do well on this show.
You know who’s having a swell time this week? Austin and Liz. Liztin. AusLiz. “We’re the last showmance standing,” said Liz. Liz told us that, in a shocking new development, her mostly feigned affection for him has grown into something a little bit more than that. “I usually go for the typical Miami musclehead kind of guy,” she said. “But his personality has won me over.” Austin winning someone over with his personality is like Michael Jordan winning someone over with his baseball ability.
But oh, the joys of young showmantic love! Liz kissed Austin’s hand, and Austin rubbed Liz’s tummy, and Liz rubbed Austin’s ponytail beard, and Austin told Liz how he thinks Rachel McAdams is a really underrated actress.
SMASH CUT TO: Sister Julia.
Julia is a question mark, going into the back half of this season. From everything the show has shown us, she’s the twin we should be paying attention to: Smarter, willing to make serious deals, unwilling to forgive. But right now, she appears to be well shackled to the LizTin showmance—and boy, she does not seem happy about that.
NEXT: The end of Vanessa?