Entertainment Weekly


Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content


Big Brother recap: Vanessa's Path to Victory

It’s possible.

Posted on


Big Brother

TV Show
Reality TV
Julie Chen
Current Status:
In Season

Johnny Mac does not like Vanessa. Johnny Mac has not tried particularly hard to hide this fact from Vanessa. “You and I might be the biggest enemies in the house,” said Johnny Mac to Vanessa. He was not trying to attack her. He was trying to work with her.

“I’ve lost friend after friend after friend,” said Johnny. “I feel like everyone wants to keep Steve. I’m probably going home. I’m alone at this point.” Johnny Mac has been riding the block all summer. It’s no fun, life on the block. But it teaches you some important lessons. Gives you a sixth sense for things. Maybe Johnny Mac can smell when the votes aren’t going his way. Or maybe he’s a smart enough player to know when he’s out of other options. So he hit the red button: He reached out to his worst enemy and offered himself as a willing ally.

“You’ve never been my enemy,” said Vanessa. This is a hilarious line and a brilliant line. You will never catch Vanessa calling someone an enemy to his or her face. She will tell you, with withering disdain and passionate fury, how much you have disappointed her. Austin got that speech; so did Johnny Mac; and now Steve, on Wednesday’s episode. Vanessa will declare a blood feud, but she will also call off that blood feud, when she needs to. “I just think it’s so stupid,” she told Johnny Mac, “to keep going at each other. And to let everyone else in the house keep building their numbers, and meanwhile we’re dwindling down in the middle.”

Vanessa has an alliance with AUSTWIN. So did Johnny Mac, recently. Talking about “numbers” sounds crazy in that context. But Vanessa decided early on to play a lonely, paranoid game. If you’re the kind of person who watches Big Brother for the game theory, then Vanessa is your half-crazy kamikaze surrogate: She can think 10 steps ahead, and yet she can also self-destruct at the drop of a colorful hat.

“Sometimes, you gotta make a deal with the devil,” said Johnny Mac. “I have nowhere else to go.”

“I don’t want you to go,” said Vanessa. Her worst enemy was—for the moment—her close ally.


Vanessa could win this game. Vanessa should win this game, not that “should” really matters. Do you think she’s annoying? That’s fair. Do you think she’s a crybaby? Zingbot said so. Do you think she’s a selfish lying Judas goat, overflowing with undeserved feelings of self-righteous betrayal? A hypocrite? A loose cannon?

Of course you do. Her own housemates would agree. AUSTWIN almost booted her out, partially because she almost backdoored Austin, partially because one of the twins just got bored of her freakouts. The James-Meg Coalition of the Nice named her Public Enemy #1 weeks ago. Johnny Mac’s whole narrative this past fortnight has become The Plot Against Vanessa.

And yet, she endures. The twins started to steer Austin away from his plan to get Vanessa, because the twins don’t trust Johnny Mac. Vanessa Jedi-mind-tricked Austin, apologizing to him for her near-betrayal by way of reminding him that she was only betraying him because he let her down so badly. On Wednesday’s episode, Steve announced that his new plan was to rebuild his relationship with Vanessa. “I want to start being nice to her again,” he said.

Of course, by the end of the episode, Vanessa gave Steve the Michael-Fredo speech. (“I know what you did. You broke my heart.”) Of course, doing so was a totally bizarre move, which apparently accomplished nothing besides making Vanessa look crazy (again) and scotching whatever plan she had in mind for building a bridge across the AUSTWIN era. Unless: Was it all a mad plan? When Vanessa realized that she couldn’t safely use the veto on Johnny Mac, did she decide to throw a pebble rolling down the mountain toward Steve? Is this part of her plan? Does she have a plan? Or rather: How many plans does she have, and does she know the difference between them?

I don’t watch the Big Brother feeds. I can’t do it: I would spend three and a half months like the humans in Wall-E, laying Jabba-style in front of half a dozen live-feed surveillance screens. (Watching three hours of Big Brother on CBS per week is the methadone clinic for my Big Brother addiction.) But I have considered paying for the feeds this year, just because I want to spend an entire day studying Vanessa. She is a strategic puppetmaster until she is a petulant brat; she is a no-bull gameplay until she flies off the handle. (Figuring her out has clearly bedeviled the Big Brother editors: They’ve given her the Hero Edit, the Villain Edit, and the Wackadoo Edit, sometimes all in one week.)

The only fundamental read I have on Vanessa is this: She treats every conversation as an negotiation, if not an outright interrogation. The Platonic Ideal of a Vanessa Interaction is:

1. Player A tells Vanessa something Player B said about Vanessa.

2. Vanessa confronts Player B about this information immediately.

3. Player B tries white-lying to Vanessa, maybe saying something like “That’s so crazy” and “No way.”

4. Vanessa says, exact quote: “Oh, so you don’t know about it? That’s interesting.”

5. Vanessa stares at Player B.

6. Player B admits the truth, and Vanessa screams betrayal…

1. OR, Player B tells Vanessa something Player C said about Vanessa, and the cycle repeats.

This will make sense to maybe the 10 other people who watch both shows, but the joy of watching Vanessa this season is equivalent to the joy of watching Hannibal. Like Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal Lecter, Vanessa loves to think 10 steps ahead of her quarry; like Hannibal, Vanessa’s quarry is everyone. But also like Hannibal, Vanessa is very occasionally prone to shocking outbursts—not as violent, thankfully, but much louder. And like Hannibal, Vanessa’s whole life is constructed as a series of one-on-one psychological inquiries.

Like, for my money, the high point of this whole season so far came on Wednesday, when Vanessa heard about AUSTWIN’s plot against her from Johnny Mac. She went straight to one of the twins—doesn’t matter who—and told her what she knew. Liz lied, and lied, and lied, and then finally told some kind of half-truth.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

NEXT: Zingle and Ready to Swindle