Last year’s Big Brother, in some ways, broke expectations of how Big Brother could play out. Granted, it took the proper mix of houseguests, twists, and luck, but Derrick Levasseur so expertly manipulated his fellow houseguests that they practically thanked him as he stabbed them in the back. There were fights and disagreements, sure, but on the whole it was a relatively quiet season, the house keeping at a status quo as Derrick moved every pawn into place.
So the premiere of Big Brother’s 17th season feels reactionary to that calm by (hopefully) ensuring there’s never a moment of rest in the walls of the BB house. How will the producers accomplish that? The only way Big Brother knows how: twists. And not just one twist. Oh no, what do you think this is, Big Brother: Kindergarten?
There will be a three big twists from the season—two being the ghosts of twists past and one twist so twisty it will have twist offspring each and every week.
But before discovering how twisted those twists will twist, let’s meet the first eight houseguests that Julie Chen has deemed worthy to enter the hallowed halls of her well-lit and camera-laden summer house.
James: A South Carolinian who believes he stands out for his camo outfit… and for being Asian (of unsure exact ethnicity due to being adopted) with a drawl. Expect to hear an essay on how the camo is a metaphor for James’ hidden past in the coming months.
Meg: With enough exuberance and energy to power a small city and give Anne Hathaway a run for her money, Meg hails from New York City. But she must not have lived in the city that long if she still has that much pep left in her (even after five cups of coffee I’m still only mildly awake walking through midtown).
Jace: Living in Venice Beach, California, Jace loves skateboarding, surfing, and grew up inspired by Indiana Jones (Hopefully Raiders of the Lost Ark Jones and not Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Jones).
Audrey: A digital media consultant, is a self-proclaimed girly girl from Georgia. In her initial appearance, Audrey hints that she has something to tell the housemates, but remains tightlipped for the moment. If you’ve been following any news around the show, you’ll know that she’s going to tell her fellow houseguests that she is a transgender woman. But for her introduction, she’s simply packing her belongings with the intent of channeling her inner Dexter Morgan. (Though considering Dexter’s finale was so poorly received, it may not be the best TV show protagonist to model your game plan on.)
Austin: A wrestler with a deep, dark secret… he has a master’s degree in medieval romance literature. Okay, so maybe it’s not dark, but Austin also lived a life as a WWE wrestler who went by the name Judas Devlin. He goes into the house hoping to use his double life as an advantage, initially stepping in looking like a jacked up Martin Starr.
Da’Vonne: A freelance poker dealer and single mother who, throughout the episode, frequently reminds us of the cunning skill it takes to play and deal poker. Yeah, we’ve all seen Ocean’s Eleven too, Da’vonne. But she’s hoping to use that experience and initially pretend to be unassuming and catch the other houseguests by surprise.
Clay: Now, Clay initially seems like a full-on cliche: the buff guy (who played football in college) with a soft side (he loves caring for baby animals). But then Clay offers such a surprising moment of self-awareness I can only hope it translates into his life in the house. While still at home, some footage shows him playing football shirtless. As the camera saddles up to him he says, “Just a casual day playing football with my shirt off,” while the guy he’s playing catch with is fully clothed. Is it a fluke or will he simply be eye candy for half of the houseguests? (Spoilers: That second one definitely comes true.)
Shelli: Another Georgian who also promises she is a girly girl, indicating Georgia may need to look into a new state motto. The home decorator is also probably the first to indicate showmancing might be in the cards this year, as she mentions being divorced and newly single.
And so these eight contestants are thrown through the door that shall not be opened (unless you’re evicted), frantically choosing beds and getting to know each other. Before all the fighting, alliance building, and backdooring begins, of course.
NEXT: A twist returns and an HoH is crowned.[pagebreak]
Once inside, the real fun begins. The group gathers for the obligatory name and occupation sharing. Surprise of surprises, most of the female contestants find Clay attractive, particularly Shelli, who, despite being 10 years older than him, turns all smiles and giggly in her Diary Room interviews. James has a thing for Meg, while Meg thinks she and Jace’s vibrant personalities could jive well… or create such a concentrated burst of energy in the house, leaving all other houseguests powerless in its wake.
And then comes Audrey’s turn to speak. She informs the houseguests that she has fully transitioned and that this is her first time revealing that in any sort of public forum. All of the other contestants show some manner of surprise, but thankfully, all respond to the news well.
Once the ceremonial introductions are over, the men and women immediately split off. The women start talking game early, Shelli, Da’Vonne, and Audrey forming an alliance with the ever-present hope that a woman will come out on top. Only two of the last 10 winners have been women, so it’s certainly time again. And at the very least, they’re proving their heads are in the right place, as the guys discuss… how difficult it is not to eat the cookies in the kitchen.
When the groups come back together, another nice discussion breaks out with Audrey, as she tells the story of the difficulties her family initially faced accepting her desire to and eventually transition. While Da’Vonne thinks Audrey may have embellished her tale, everyone else in the room seems to take it at face value.
But we’ve been on a dangerously long tangent of friendly, cordial behavior in the house. Julie Chen will not accept that. So she appears on the living room tuned to the Chencam, teasing twists. Julie is pulling the curtain back with anxiety-inducing slowness, however, only revealing one at a time.
The first is a returning twist from last year—the Battle of the Block. Julie Chen calls it a “fan favorite” twist enough times that you would think she owns the copyright on the term “fan favorite.” Though a quick Twitter search suggests that it’s at least not everyone’s favorite.
For those who missed last year, the Battle of the Block means two Heads of Household will be crowned every week, each nominating two houseguests for eviction. Those houseguests will then each battle (…on the block), and whichever team wins will also dethrone the HoH who nominated them.
However you feel about the twist, it goes into effect immediately, as the first HoH competition is held outside. Following a brief and purely synergistic cameo by Entertainment Tonight’s Kevin Frazier that Jack Donaghy would applaud, “Flying Tomatoes” begins.
NEXT: A close call decides the first HoH, and the ghosts of BB twists past come to visit.[pagebreak]
Standing on movable planks, the houseguests will have to catch softballs disguised as tomatoes and deposit 10 of them into a container without falling off. No one is more confident than Clay, because, if you didn’t know after the last two mentions, he played football for Texas A&M. So naturally, he’s the first to fall off.
Hubris doesn’t quite catch up with Jace, who believes his sweet skateboarding skills will let him stay on the plank with ease. Unfortunately for him, the plank has no griptape, and if you’ve never skateboarded without griptape, it may sound like a fate worse than death after Jace’s description. (From personal experience, it’s not actually something you want to ever try doing, so I’m with him here.)
The game continues on, a few more falling, the planks receding into the wall behind the houseguests, and a spatter of tomato juice hitting those who remain after a certain point in the competition. (Here again with the commentary, Jace says they all look like Carrie, and I can only hope he is referring to the original 1976 film and not the 2013 remake.)
But in an (unexpected) twist, the four remaining contestants—Jace, Audrey, Shelli, and James—all fall off their boards at nearly the same time. Playing the tape back, James was the last to hit the floor, and he quickly jumps from the underdog, roly poly in camo as Audrey described him, to the first HoH of the season. (ASIDE: There are many obvious differences in people, but it feels like, at least initially, the show and contestants are placing James in the Donny slot from last year’s cast. We’ll see if that sticks.)
And with the HoH crowned, the houseguests return inside, hopefully not staining the furniture with tomato juice, to discover the next twist. Sort of. Julie explains that every week, there will be a new twist, and it could mean anything or anyone. Is a celebrity with a CBS show to promote moving in for a week? Is a magical button that, if hit, will force everyone to sleep on the floor of the living room as an audio loop of Julie Chen laughing at them plays in the background? Will Jesse Godderz show up again? Who knows because EVERYBODY GETS A TWIIIIIIIST!
And as Julie leaves the houseguests in a state of utter confusion, she offers the viewers a scoop on one finale twist the contestants don’t know. Revisiting a twist from season 5, a pair of identical twins will be playing the game as one contestant. If they can survive the first five evictions, they’ll both be allowed to enter the game and play as themselves, but for now, Julie doesn’t want to reveal just who those twins are.
With that comes the first eight houseguests, three twists, plenty of potential showmances, and a quiet but promising start to a new season of Big Brother. Let me know in the comments who you immediately think will go far, who has the potential to be the first voted out, and whether we’ve seen the fabled twin twist contestant yet.
Tonight in Showmance
Shelli and Clay immediately took a liking to each other, figuring out that they were basically destined to be together from birth. Both were born with heart murmurs, and, as Shelli was quick to put it, “Our hearts are going to be murmuring this summer.”