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'Big Brother' recap: Bleak Swan

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Big Brother

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Julie Chen
Reality TV

Is there some magic spell that Vanessa is secretly casting beneath her breath, hidden away from the watchful eye of the cameras or the omniscient aural pick-up of the microphones? Does the game theory expert consult an ancient, weathered tome that bestows her powers of great telepathy and mind control over twins and virgins? Is she The Craft? Is Vanessa actually Fairuza Balk in a beanie?!?!?

Besides witchcraft, how else do you explain how Vanessa has yet again managed to turn the house against each other with spontaneous effort? To dissolve a showmance with the subtlety of scalding acid? Save for any other explanation, Vanessa is a cunning witch with an incredible gift of mage-like manipulation. Love her or hate her, her social abilities continue to astound, proving more and more each week that she’s a bona fide evil Big Brother genius. Ugh.

This week’s malignant magic begins with the precarious position that the Austwins find themselves in heading into the veto competition: boyfriend and girlfriend Austin and Liz (respectively, obviously) stuck on the block, by Steve’s hand. They arrive at the only possible conclusion for threefold safety: a Julia victory, which would pull one of the baes off and guarantee protection for Julia as Steve names another nominee.

But when the veto comp begins, the ballet turns into a bloodbath (made worse by the appearance of something called Mr. Pectacular, who I guess is that failed Stretch Armstrong movie that Universal never made).

The competition is an ordered elimination spin-and-shoot game, and its structure bodes well for the Austwins’ plan… at least, until Vanessa gets involved. Liz and Steve go up first, and she knocks him out in a nail-biter. Julia’s next, and she’s given a choice of opponent — but instead of choosing the obvious foe, Johnny Mac, she catches wind of a Vanessa whisper that urges her to pick Austin, with the loose tagline of logic that it’ll guarantee her not going up on the block.

It’s difficult to wrap my head around how Vanessa managed to flip the entire plan with one whisper, but here’s my best guess. Vanessa managed to remind Julia of something that so many in this season have forgotten: individual game. Everyone sticks to alliances of five and four and three, never seeming to factor in an endgame for their own self. Vanessa, Johnny Mac, and late-in-the-game Steve are the only ones who have acknowledged that at the end of the day, an alliance doesn’t win the game. The Austwins, meanwhile, have continued to exist only as a threesome, with Julia and Liz never betraying even a thought of individuality.

And so, in the moment, Vanessa appealed to Julia’s latent fear of going on the block — and, let’s be honest, poor Julia’s frazzled confusion. Sure, if Julia had more time, she might have made another decision, but it was too late. Julia’s confusion overpowered the steady plan to let Austin and Liz throw her the competition. It’s a potent result of Vanessa’s toxicity and Julia’s belief that Sigmund and Freud are tiger trainers.

NEXT: Vanessa trades spells for tears[pagebreak]

In the wake of the choice, Liz is confused and Austin is incensed. Everything’s thrown into pandemonium as Austin thinks that he’s been set up by the twins. Filled with rage and wearing an invisible top hat, he abandons the idea of throwing it to Julia and tries to win the veto himself. He knocks off Julia and even strikes a spontaneous deal with Johnny Mac to save him next week if he throws it to him (another bit of good fortune landing in the lap of the dentist). As Austin emerges victorious, Judas arrives, and he warns everyone to be very afraid.

But such dominance doesn’t last long once everyone’s back in the house and hashing out what the hell just happened. The Austwins deduce that Julia straight-up got played by Vanessa, but when she gets alone time with Liz and Julia, she puts away the spellbook and instead pulls out her most powerful Pokemon move, Hydro Pump.

She cries and casts doubt on Austin. She cries and convinces the twins that Austin was never going to throw the competition. She cries and complains that she was genuinely looking out for them, that she swears on Mel and her mother’s lives, that she has so much information she could tell you but is such a good friend that she won’t. And much as it pains me to admit it, she’s not actually lying. Not entirely. Austin has confided in Vanessa that he values his own victory over the twins’ (add him to my earlier point) and she threatens to blow his game up.

Vanessa’s waterworks succeed. She’s basically given the metaphorical lollipop to the twin toddlers, who are now convinced that Austin has been playing them the whole time. Poor Liz is through with their relationship. When Austin comes in to defend himself, he’s shunned like a Plastic in sweatpants. Even worse, they start comparing him to Clay, who’s much more of a knight in shining armor than Austin, who’s more of an apothecary master in shining facial hair.

Liz wants nothing to do with Austin, even as he says “I love you.” It’s actually quite tragic and shocking to watch, made all the more outrageous when you remember that it all came from Vanessa’s masterful twisting of words and motives. “This might be the end for us,” says Liz, and she and Julia proceed to tear through Austin’s belongings, laughing their way through a bag of Sour Patch Kids and a never-ending well of girl-power vitriol. “You’re not that cute!” Julia says to the ghost of Austin. It is so ordered.

Of course, the next morning-night, a restless Liz decides to go make nice with Austin. They apologize to each other and reconcile, which is a victory for humanity and a loss for satanic strategist Vanessa. “The only thing real in here is my feelings for you,” Austin coos, and they make up, backed by a soundtrack of flowy orchestrations and a cinematic pan and blur. In fact, the only thing missing from this reconciliation is a movie adaptation of the whole thing, ostensibly starring Katherine Heigl and a young Steve Buscemi cosplaying as Hagrid.

Ultimately, Austin uses the veto to save himself, and in his stead, progressively-getting-cuter Steve puts up Julia. “I hate being the bad guy here,” he says while smiling. (An episodic highlight is a bathrobe-clad Steve, avoiding the drama upstairs with Johnny Mac, delivering the choice line: “Now is just when we stay the f— out of it.”)

And so the twin twist is over, and Julia and Liz, barring some last-minute rescue from a non-existent deus ex machina, will be forced to say goodbye. Are we sad? Happy? Relieved? Devastated? Is it okay to be… none of those things?