Did we see the beginning of the end for Vanessa tonight? Her blow-up at James as he tried to have an open and honest conversation about their differing gameplay styles came across less like a reasonably impassioned defense and more like a petulant teenager being told a hard truth by her parents. She’s been working all week to shore up her relationships with everyone staying in the house, but the surprising outburst, coupled with the permanent “deer in the headlights” look on her face throughout the hour suggest she may not be able to keep her game plan intact for a few more weeks.
Before we analyze that fight, let’s back up a bit. James and Meg are on the block, the spirit of tears being transferred from Vanessa to Meg as she contemplates her future. Once believing her status as the house’s grandma would maintain her as an indelible member of the cast is now wrestling with the real possibility of her or her closest—and really only—ally going home.
Vanessa tries to be upfront with the duo, give them the courtesy of telling them why they’ve been nominated, only to serve up one of the season’s biggest backhanded compliments. She’s all alone in the house, she cries to them, at the bottom of everyone’s totem pole. And with such a close duo in the house whom she has really made no effort to work with, she can’t let such a bond stand. She can’t even imagine what it’s like being up on the block next to a close friend, not because the pain is such a great one. But because she doesn’t have one.
So for their friendship and relative indifference toward Vanessa, James and Meg are punished with spots on the chopping block, and neither one of them is going down without a fight. Of course, as past competitions have proven, James is the one with the best shot of winning a challenge, which is exactly the opposite outcome Vanessa hopes will occur.
And then rolls in the Veto competition, Hide and Go Veto. Stretching for days, no weeks, no an entire season’s length, the houseguests most hide veto cards in the house and then rummage through their living quarters to find the cards. And by rummage, I mean tear through every room like a cartoon tornado leaving nothing but pillow feathers, loose cereal, and dust in its wake.
All but one card will be returned and whoever has the card remaining in the house will win. They all are sectioned off in the backyard, where each contestant waits in his or her own cube, cut off from communicating with each other as cards are placed and then searched for. It’s like a game of Big Brother within the game of Big Brother but everyone gets their own music and a bucket.
What is that bucket for? Is it a trough for the houseguests to slurp water out of like animals, a mobile bathroom in case they can’t hold it in for the seemingly endless competition, or a Wilson-like friend for the houseguests to talk to and nurture while confined to their boxes? Who knows, because the focus is put squarely on the search, which goes on for several rounds. It may not be days, but the sun is seemingly setting by the end of the competition, many of the contestants coming up empty-handed round after round.
Initially the cards, as Vanessa likely thinks of her fellow houseguests, were stacked against James and Meg. All three members of the Austwins trio were chosen to compete, leaving Meg and James to fend for themselves. But the tide slowly turns. James hid his card underneath a section of the living room’s carpet near the front wall. His card is close to being discovered on several occasions, but never actually found. Instead, card by card is snatched up as the house looks more and more like the set of a house in a post-apocalypse.
Eventually, the cards are found, and it’s revealed who is eliminated. The twins fall. Vanessa falls, and Meg falls — the last of them unwittingly by her closest ally, James. It comes down to Austin and James. Whoever is named on the final card loses and the other is awarded the Veto.
James is furious having it come down to Austin and him yet again. Is it fate, kismet, ka, the work of a higher being? No one knows, but all James cares about is winning, and win he does, securing the Power of Veto to save himself or his closest friend.
NEXT: Wednesday Night’s Alright for Fighting [pagebreak]
The houseguests return indoors to find the disgustingly horrific mess that they now call home, the two sides of the house reconvening in their respective corners. Vanessa is losing her cool in the HoH room, furious that the one outcome she didn’t want has come to pass. She has limited options in choosing a replacement, and even floats the idea of putting up Julia to the Austwins, though Johnny Mac remains ever the hot target. They want him gone and are far more worried about besting the return of the walking evicted than Meg.
Poor, poor Meg. Sure, she’s been part of an alliance for much of the game, but she’s essentially floated through on her likability inside the house and her alliance with competitors who appeared much more threatening. Vanessa is of course worried that Meg will float right on through to the finale, but the rest of her confidants could care less.
But now she has to face the possibility of going home. Sure, at this point James could use the Veto on his friend, his Taylor Swift love, but he’d be setting himself up for an easy eviction. Knowing that his friend is going home by Vanessa’s hand, however, only emboldens him to go after her with all the furious, righteous anger that the situation has saddled him with. He sets his sights on Vanessa, and takes absolutely zero lengths to keep that a secret. He tells one of Vanessa’s closest allies, Austin, that she’s his target, especially after this week, which of course Austin relays to Vanessa with the training of a frightened lap dog.
So the two sides have a meeting, James and Vanessa sit down to hash out what’s happened. She wants to know if he has a personal vendetta against her, concerned that he’s going around naming her as a target to others rather than confronting her. James lays it out quite simply for her. She’s playing the game too hard, overthinking each and every step, whereas James is the type to consider his options, make a decision, and move on. It’s two different play styles and, at least from where I was sitting, he was telling her this as matter-of-factly as he could. It wasn’t said to anger but to explain why they’ve never quite aligned with each other.
(ASIDE: I’ve progressively appreciated James’ game more and more over the past few weeks, but this conversation really won me over. He seemed like someone just wanting to speak his mind, not ruffle feathers, and I appreciated not just that he was willing to do so but that he seemed to pretty much hit the nail on the head so far as I’ve seen Vanessa’s game. END OF ASIDE)
Vanessa will not stand for it, though. She takes the idea of overplaying the game as not just a criticism but practically an insult to her very being (let’s hope she doesn’t ever read these recaps…). James seems astounded by her response, not sure how to handle an anger that seems to be unfounded and misguided. She asks him if he happened to win this game last year and would then have the authority to say such a statement. James might not have, but the person who did win last season, Derrick Levasseur, just so happened to:
Regardless of Derrick’s feelings, Vanessa explains that every negative word James says only puts Meg one foot closer toward stepping outside the house. Meg remains her target, and so when James removes himself from the block, she nominates Julia in his stead, believing it to be the best game option.
So here’s what it comes down to for the first of two evictions tomorrow: Austin, Liz, Johnny Mac, Steve, and James will all vote for either Julia or Meg. Obviously, Austin and Liz will protect Julia, while James will want to save Meg. That leaves Johnny Mac and Steve as swing votes. Granted, they are, to varying degrees, aligned with Vanessa and/or the Austwins, but wouldn’t that prove quite the power move? The two could decide to vote against the grain, team up with Meg, and bring the numbers to the other side of the house. Will it happen? Probably not, but so long as there’s an iota of hope, I wouldn’t expect James to stop fighting anytime soon to save Meg.