Like Steve, I have to hand it to Vanessa. For most of tonight’s episode, it seemed like she was going up on the block, or at the very least would be the target of a backdoor later this week. Everyone wanted her out for at least a few minutes. And yet somehow the hour ended with Vanessa sitting safely off the block (for now), and Austin putting up two people with whom he had made alliances last week.
Not that alliances matter much in this season of Big Brother. They’re more plentiful than competitions, more ubiquitous than Vanessa’s breakdown sessions or Steve’s corner ramblings. And while an alliance could once be your guaranteed ticket to the season finale, this year, they feel like menu items, particularly for Austin. He has everything on the menu available to him, it’s just a matter of choosing what he’s most in the mood for this week.
And apparently, while it might have seemed like he’d chosen Betrayal à la Vanessa, he instead decided to go for a disappointing side of Johnny Mac and Steve. Let’s back up to how he got to the night’s nominations, as the road there included plenty of revelations for Austin, an eye-roll-inducing appearance from Judas, and such sage commentary from James as “Hmm, uh huh.”
The episode picked up from Thursday’s Head of Household competition, as the racers continued to test their might in mini bouts of endurance. The herd thinned out more from false starts than actual races, but eventually it came down to James and Austin, with the latter coming out on top. James probably blames it on the neck pain.
It honestly at first seems like a boring victory—you wouldn’t expect his HoH reign to be that different from Liz’s rule, and it means the show’s crewmembers can just leave the room as is and let the last showmance standing resume their HoH room lovefest. (ASIDE: Liz may say in the Diary Room that she’s warmed up to Austin, but she’s not fooling anyone about this being more than a means-to-an-end showmance. Not that the cavernous pause when she determines just how big a percentage she likes him (“Ninety… [20 minutes pass by] three percent,” she not so convincingly says) showed any attempt to hide that fact. She’ll ditch his “pretty good kisser” butt if it means protecting Julia in a heartbeat, while Austin likely might sacrifice himself if it meant keeping Liz in the game. END OF ASIDE)
But Austin throws a wrench into expectations by immediately making a deal with James after the HoH competition. He promises to keep James and Meg safe, with the idea being that, as far as others are concerned, this deal came up while the two were waiting around in the final round of the HoH races. James happily agrees, and so the deliberation of how goes up, and who’s the actual target, commences.
Liz and Julia are obviously safe, and initially, the plan sounds like it’s shaping up to ensure Vanessa leaves the house by the end of the week. Johnny Mac is for it, Steve is for it, Meg and James are definitely for it, and Liz is certainly interested in ousting her after last week’s revelations.
NEXT: Judas makes his return and it’s… kind of disconcerting.[pagebreak]
Vanessa, on the other hand, early and often recommends Austin (still covered in Liz’s lipstick, which really does nothing to compliment the chin ponytail) take out Johnny Mac or Steve. She explains that Shelli and Clay revealed to her of a secret final two deal between the world’s favorite dentist and Steve. Always a foolish move to blame the dearly evicted, Vanessa, as proven by Austin explaining that this discussion either means Vanessa is lying or she withholds information from Austin until the right moment.
Either way, it puts their alliance on shaky ground, and yet… they do still have an alliance. With everyone else hating Vanessa, it would be a fool’s move for Austin to nominate her upfront in his mind. She’s a number in his corner (except for that week she was part of an elaborate scheme to backdoor him, of course) and also a target to keep him out of the spotlight.
But it’s tempting to nominate her with the entire house gunning for her, and while Austin continues to deliberate it only creates more friction among his many alliances. Vanessa says a pawn has to go up alongside Johnny Mac, and humbly suggests Steve be that pawn… while Steve is in the room. Steve has been in this position before, and again shows he’s practically allergic to the word “pawn.” The very idea is baffling to him, knowing pawns so often go home, but Vanessa scoffs at the idea of herself going up in Steve’s stead.
Vanessa, a pawn? Not so long as she has the ear of the HoH, and she certainly does, particularly after she tells him the truth about that backdoor plan. After lying to a group in the HoH room, Austin asks her in a one-on-one conversation whether she knew James was going to throw a Battle of the Block while nominated with Liz, with the goal to have Austin backdoored. She admits to it, and clearly this sign of faith, coupled with Austin’s already present reticence to nominate her, seals her safety, for the moment.
Nominations roll around, and Steve is nervous. Austin has told him he won’t go up against Johnny Mac, but Steve is already suspicious of Austin for putting more stock in his agreement with James and Meg than his alliance with Steve. Those suspicions are confirmed when Austin… I’m sorry, Judas, nominates John and Steve in one of the strangest nomination ceremonies in recent memory.
In full Judas mode, Austin gives a full-on supervillain speech that checks off all the necessary boxes—it’s long, rambling, and ultimately means nothing. Spouting on about right, wrong, the —or lack thereof—of life, and more, he calls himself a victim for being lied to about that Battle of the Block. And sure, Johnny Mac and Steve weren’t part of that scheme, but they’re victims too for… reasons.
Reasons that come down to Austin and Judas not knowing what they want to do with their reign as HoH, and so they go into the week just as the audience does: disappointed, confused, and just a little bit worried for the houseguests’ sanity.