Is there a team name yet for Vanessa, Steve, and Johnny Mac? Should we just start calling them the Final Three? On the edge of the point of no return, the Anti-A.U.S.T.W.I.N. brigade successfully placed Liz and Julia up on the block. In the process, they ended two and a half months of a veritable Twin Twist regime. Oh, the twins never quite ran the house — although with three HoH victories under her belt, Liz has made a convincing case for herself as a legitimate competitor.
But the twins formed a power base, directly inspiring the moves that defined the first half of this season. The Julia revelation led to the formation of the Sixth Sense alliance — and the power of that alliance let Austin cement his status as the third wheel in the twin team, transforming a dynamic duo into a power trio. A.U.S.T.W.I.N. was a weird alliance, in hindsight. They weren’t prone to big moves — and you could make the argument that they were merely the latest puppet government run in absentia by Vanessa. But their low-key gameplay proved dumb-like-a-fox essential: They were never anyone’s number one target. Given one more week, they would’ve outnumbered the non-Twin-affiliated part of the house 3 to 2.
It was not to be. Thursday’s episode began with Liz and Julia in tears. Their time together in the house was coming to an end. Things were getting Gollum-talking-to-his-reflection existential.
“You sacrificed your identity for me,” said Liz. “It’s your time to shine.”
“I was Liz,” said Julia. “You were Liz, and I was Liz, and we were together in Liz. It’s always been Liz.”
“It’s not me anymore,” said Liz. “It’s not me anymore.”
“But if I’m not Liz,” said Julia, “Then who am me?”
“‘Who am I,'” corrected Liz.
“I asked first!” said Julia.
Austin wanted Liz to stay. Johnny Mac wanted her out: Liz is the obvious powerhouse of the two. But Vanessa ran the numbers through her game theory calculator. Liz is the obvious powerhouse… which makes her a bigger threat to the remaining players, which means they’d be targeting her. Conversely, keeping Julia meant keeping this season’s final floater. As Steve explained it: “You’re worried about Julia getting Victoria’d.” Turning “Victoria” into a verb? Stevesie: All is forgiven. You are now officially my fourth favorite player, behind Vanessa and Johnny Mac and Vengeful Liz.
Julia offered to fall on her sword for Liz. So Austin and Liz went to Vanessa, begging for aid. Vanessa agreed to save Liz. “I only have a few conditions,” she said, unrolling a long scroll. “The conditions are as follows:
1. If either of you win HoH, I would expect Johnny Mac and Steve to be the frontdoor.
2. If I do go up as the replacement nominee following the veto, I expect to be safe.
3. If the nominations remain the same, I get to choose if Steve or Johnny Mac stay, even if you are the Head of Household.
4. If I end up in the Final Three with just one of you guys, you will take me with you to the Final Two.
5. You both promise me a firstborn child. Should you break up and ultimately conceive with other partners, I will expect the firstborn child from both couplings.
6. Should you ever come across me shivering on a cold night, you will give me the shirt off of your back and offer to swaddle me in blankets and carry me like a child until such time as a warm interior has been reached.
7. You promise me 2 percent of all profits of films and TV shows put into production and/or acquired during my tenure as executive of the Walt Disney company.
8. You agree to forfeit all life rights for yourself, your immediate family, your distant family, and Tupac Shakur.
9. You agree that someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me.
10. You agree that I shall wait on you while you live, and you will buy my service with your soul. And, Liz and Austin, thou must bequeath thy souls solemnly, and write a deed of gift with thine own blood. For that security craves great Lucifer. If thou deny it, I will back to hell.
11. When I say “dance,” you will dance, puppets.
“That seems fair, right?” said Vanessa. Liz and Austin nodded their heads, secretly plotting one final betrayal, secretly hoping that they hadn’t already been played completely by Vanessa, secretly knowing they only had enough rope left to hang themselves.
NEXT: “Can we have wine now?”[pagebreak]
We checked in briefly with our pals at Jury House. “I sure hope Meg and James don’t walk in today,” said Jackie, using her incredible powers of anti-magic to conjure up both of her old friends. The Jury house watched, despondent, as A.U.S.T.W.I.N. steadily mowed down the final remnants of the vaguely assembled Other Side alliance — the James-centric crew of people who tried and utterly failed to hold off Club Vanessa. “Can we have wine now?” asked Becky, the first sensible thing she’s said all season.
I mention the Jury House for only two reasons:
1. James took a moment to declare that A.U.S.T.W.I.N. was running the house, and Vanessa, Steve, and Johnny Mac were in serious trouble. This strikes me as the final ding against James’ potential Legend status. James is probably the best all-around character this season, insofar as he’s both a charming personality and a pretty good player. But his complete misreading of the situation in the house speaks to his general inability to form a serious power base this season.
2. Shelli took a moment to say that she couldn’t believe how well Vanessa was running the house. Shelli strikes me as Vanessa’s best supporter inside of the Jury House: A longtime ally who also has a great appreciation for the careful game Vanessa is playing. Can she convince her fellow Jury members to support Vanessa — particularly players like Becky, who seems stuck in a blood-feud funk? TBD. But worth pointing out: Shelli is definitely winning the Most Likely To Return For Big Brother 18 sweepstakes. (If her and Clay make a real go of their relationship, they strike me as a potentially interesting return showmance: As devious as Brenchal but less crazy, maybe not quite as goofball charming Jeff/Jordan, but with perfect genes to match.
“I nominate Julia,” said Austin. “I nominate Julia,” said Vanessa. “I vote to evict Jull…EEEEE…uh,” said Johnny Mac.
That was it for the lesser twin, who made a convincing case for herself as a smiling human person in her exit interview. Then came Austin’s farewell video:
And with Austin’s farewell video came a helpful timelapse demonstration of the subtle but powerful difference between Having It and Not Having It.
Five people left in the house. Austin and Liz running scared, desperate for an HoH win. Steve, Johnny Mac, and Vanessa sitting pretty: The numbers on their side, a common enemy to pick off one at a time.
Can they pull it off? Let me phrase that another way: Can Vanessa pull this off? Given just how many people she has angered in this game — given just how many people have experienced that moment of epiphany when they suddenly realize that this whole season, every move, every evicted contestant, every breath they’ve taken, it’s ALL BEEN VANESSA’S DOING — it’s insane that she was in this power position this week, the swing vote. Way back in Week One, I called out Vanessa as my Ridiculously Early Pick To Win It All. I figured she would play a careful, thoughtful, Derrick-esque game. She’s done that — and she’s also played a crazy, high-energy, power-crybaby extrovert game.
Someone has to get rid of her. Right? But who? And if they take a shot, and miss? Well, at least they can split that bottle of wine with Becky and Vanessa’s other victims.