Johnny Mac was tired. There are housemates who play Big Brother like a never-ending board game, and there are housemates who float along on bubble-clouds of good humor, and then there is Johnny Mac. John, the Oft-Nominated, the professional veto-thrower, the man who started one of the strangest blood feuds in Big Brother history when he casually mentioned to Clay that he thought Vanessa was pretty tight with Shelli.
Johnny Mac was on the block, again. Johnny Mac just wanted to get some rest. He crawled onto the airplane economy-class seat that is his bed (and the best metaphor I can come up with for his tough, unflashy, remarkably functional gameplay.)
“Hey, Johnny,” she said, “How are you doing?”
“I,” said Johnny.
“I just want you to know,” Vanessa said, “I’m a straight shooter, like I told you. When you came up and saw me talking to the twins and Austin? I was just going up to find out if they were targeting you, like you thought, and that’s when you walked in, and I didn’t want to say anything, so I wouldn’t blow up your game.”
“So,” said Johnny.
“You know, Austin and the twins have been looking toward James and Meg as a possible threat to their targeting Becky, which could be bad for you and good for me, I don’t know, I just don’t know where their head’s at, and I think house is thinking that you and me are maybe going against them, so I think now’s a good time to start planning for bad times, right?”
“I think,” said Johnny.
“You know, don’t come coming at me just because someone’s started coming after you, Austin is so my boy, but I think sometimes he’s playing his own game, and the only thing I cannot respect is when people are not shooting straight with straight shooters, I play an honest game and everyone knows that, if you want I can get the whole house in here, so I just think you and I need to be cool, or else we’re not gonna be cool. Cool?”
“Cool,” said Johnny, wrapping a blanket around his neck so hard that he passed out from loss of air. Vanessa listened patiently as he slept. Johnny Mac was snoring; it sounded suspicious.
I have been recapping Big Brother for five years now. At this point, I am willing to call it: Vanessa has the single most bizarre successful strategy of any player I have ever studied. She has an uncanny sense for shifting power dynamics, but only because she seems to think that power dynamics are shifting all of the time. She operates on a high level of paranoia; she constantly assumes that her closest allies are turning against her. The fact that her closest allies are turning against her is proof that her strategy works. But her closest allies are only turning against her because they are so annoyed that she thinks they are turning against her. Vanessa has stumbled onto some new plane of house power: Her worst fears are made manifest only because she fears those fears so badly.
The constructed drama of Wednesday’s episode of Big Brother was intra-alliance: Would Austin and the Twins turn on Vanessa? This could ultimately be the Final Act narrative of this season, if Austin or Vanessa or Julia can win the next HoH and keep dominion over the declining opposition. I didn’t buy for a second that Liz would backdoor Vanessa; I figured she was too soft for a play like that, especially with a possible jury return looming. But Liz surprised me—and so did Vanessa.
Liz declared Johnny Mac an enigma, which is pretty accurate. I initially pegged Johnny Mac as a loon, but I recognize now that he might be the only sane person inside the house. He’s willing to lift high the banner with the James Gang, that casually aligned team of likable misfits who proved utterly incapable of striking while the iron was hot. (ASIDE: Someday, someone who watches the feeds will explain to me how Becky so completely lost the vote against Vanessa. As it is, we’re left with the evidence that Becky went into a backdoor protocol with guns blazing, assuming that the house had her back, only to find herself all alone staring down a counterattacking army. END OF ASIDE.)
But Johnny Mac has worked with elements of the Sixth Sense before. In the Clay-Shelli showmance, he was the helpful third-wheel little brother. And he told Austin and Liz some need-to-know information. How Vanessa was lying to his face about what she told them. How everyone she has ever had a blow up with has gone home—besides Austin, who was only really saved because Clay and Shelli flipped so completely on sending him home.
Liz wasn’t sure if she wanted to backdoor Vanessa. But she wanted the option; she wanted to control the veto. Fortunately for her, alongside her sister and her hipster-Viking boytoy, Liz heads up the most powerful group left in the house. I can’t decide if the twins have played a smart game or just a slow game this season. They’ve had the good fortune of operating during a season with big targets; the sheer power of a two-person blonde-clone voting bloc has always seemed like a minor threat.
Liz pulled out a Houseguest’s Choice for the Veto—and she chose Austin. Julia was not amused. Actually, this was the episode when I finally figured out how to tell Liz apart. Liz is the one who smiles occasionally; Julia is the one who is just not having it. She wasn’t picked for veto, and she was just not having it. Her sister is getting hickeys from Austin’s beard ponytail, and she is just not having it. Her sister is Head of Household, and she is maybe just not having it.
NEXT: Becky’s Last Stand