A dentist gone rogue! A wrestler blindsided! Steve!
Here we are at the tail end of the season, where the pixelated crust of sleep has embedded itself in the corners of our eyes and we’re lazily trudging toward the sweet relief of a season finale, when suddenly and without all warning, we’re given… an interesting episode!?!? Say it’s a mirage, Otev!
Perhaps as a reward for sticking around, the ante-pre-ante-penultimate episode of season 17 brought us too many juicy moments worth reliving. Moments that gave us hope, joy, despair, and ultimately, validation that perhaps this entire summer wasn’t for naught. I mean, it obviously was, but maybe just slightly less “for naught”-like. My highlights:
— Julie’s announcement that “tonight” is eviction night, met with a reaction of surrendered resignation from just about every houseguest. Although Steve looks like he’s moderately motion sick, our remaining five finalists seem to have accepted their fate with ambivalence toward whatever happens next. It’s an eerie example of art imitating life, if you can call Big Brother art (which I can because I took a class once and had a roommate who majored in art history for a semester).
— In the immediate aftermath of Commander Julie’s decree, everyone hugged Vanessa in sort of a blood oath kind of a way that we’ve come to expect of interactions with her. Each hugger hoping that the anthropomorphic Monopoly Water Works card-in-a-beanie would spare them. Steve is perhaps most anxious about the eviction, but Vanessa assures him he’s safe, albeit after a few unnecessary tears.
— Johnny Mac gone mad. It’s arguably my favorite moment of hope from the entire season. Although he ultimately doesn’t make good on his plan to throw the veto to Austin and Liz, his sheer determination to foil his entire game just for the sake of pissing off Vanessa and coming in third (instead of fifth) is admirable. It’s a lofty Hail Mary that John knows won’t work — it doesn’t really benefit Austin and Liz at all, nor will it earn him any favor on the jury — but his conscious kamikaze is a delightful beacon of hope for one last wrench of curiosity before the season expires.
— The houseguests being forced to watch CBS’ Modern Life in Family Pieces, which I can assure you has at least one and up to two funny scenes in 22 minutes.
— There’s a delicious schadenfreude in John’s veto victory forcing a despondent Vanessa to do “the fair thing” and put up Austin, since Liz was just on the block the week before. They have enough time to talk about strategy — it’s not an immediate eviction — and Johnny yet again entertains the crazy idea of keeping the showmance just to spite Miss V. It would be the ultimate move, a stroke of pure insanity that matches the only other dentist-with-a-deathwish I know (the guy from Little Shop of Horrors).
— Eviction. After a cute speech from Steve and a weird bar mitzvah lecture from Austin and Judas (STOP TRYING TO MAKE JUDAS HAPPEN), it comes down to a tie. John has decided not to make good on his ride-or-die blaze of glory and votes out Austin; Liz goes for Steve. As the tiebreaker, Vanessa quickly names Austin as her victim, and his reaction is a HUGE turn of events for this game — just, sadly, way too late in the season.
— In his exit interview, Austin’s furious and barefoot and trudging across the stage like he didn’t need to get out of bed for another hour but had to go take the dog out. Austin tells Julie that he understands Vanessa’s move as her best chance to get to the end, he concedes that there’s no way she’s going to get the jury votes. “She was going to get to the finals either way, but she didn’t to scumbag me to do it.” Meanwhile, while Austin’s venting to Jules, Vanessa has gone haywire in the house, crying hysterically like it’s her boyfriend who just walked out. Nobody wants to hear from her right now. Let Liz cry. Let John smile. Let Steve play with his belly button lint.
— The new HOH competition is a hilarious contest between John, Steve, and Liz, where they’re tasked with filling in the bleep on unnecessarily censored quotes from this season. There’s Becky confessing her love for ____ outdoors, and Meg happy that she’s _____ so many friends in the house, and James admitting he had to ____ just to pass the time. (The answers to these blanks are, of course, “train-watching,” “offered to shave,” and “watch Life in Pieces,” respectively.)
In a nail-biting tie, Steve wins… by complete chance. He forgot to add a zero to a write-in answer and won HOH by total accident. Because isn’t that just the most Steve thing you’ve ever heard in your entire life.