Paulie and Tiffany have big shoes to fill, but also big mistakes to learn from. Paulie’s brother, Cody, made it all the way to the end on his season of Big Brother — and then threw away an easy victory because he believed in the power of friendship. Tiffany’s sister, Vanessa, made it all the way to the end, despite a season of kamikaze-like antics full of paranoid rants about how everyone was out to get her. Her loss was brutal, but as a true player she had to respect the game; Steve won a final competition and banished Vanessa from the house, leaving meatshield Liz to take home second place.
Two good Big Brother players, two major blindspots: Cody trusted too much and Vanessa overplayed her hand. I initially pegged Paulie as a goonier version of Cody, a blonde Player-2-in-Double-Dragon clone of his brother. But now he’s Head of Household, and he’s revealing a savvy side. Working with close ally Frank, he convinces Victor the whole house is aiming at everyone besides Victor — and he earns a loyalty pledge from Victor’s ally, Paul.
Conversely, there’s Tiffany. Nominated by the Roadkill winner, Tiffany goes paranoid. “I don’t know why Victor chose me, out of all people, to go up on the block,” she declares, crying in her bedroom and demanding to know if Michelle has heard about any counterplots. She ascends to the HOH room and begs Paulie for the truth. Is someone gunning for her? Is the whole house against her? Is Victor the real target?
Paulie’s still new to this game, but he’s seen this show before. “As time goes on, everybody starts to lose it a bit,” he tells Frank. Paranoia spreads like a virus. That’s bad, especially at this point in the game. The Eight Pack alliance is comfortable. Oh, there are very slight fissures forming — the Fatal Five have big plans for the back half of the season — but in a very short span of time, the Eight-Packers have consolidated power in the house, clearly identifying some choice nemesis figures (Jozea, Victor) and immediately pushing lesser players into floater status.
Frank was actually in the Big Brother house before, and maybe he’s learned from his mistakes, too. Frank played the patsy in the greatest Big Brother con ever: The declared enemy of Coach Dan, he made a devil’s bargain to rescue his target from the block, and he was immediately vanquished for his kindness. Frank 1.0 depended on victories — and he almost made it on competition prowess alone. Frank 2.0 is more strategic. With fellow revenant Da’Vonne, he starts discussing the need to change the plan. They want Victor out, but they’ve brainwashed him into thinking he’s a pal. What about Tiffany, an apparent ally with the potential to go loose-cannon?
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Has Da’Vonne learned from her mistakes? Reply Hazy; Ask Again Later. That she is a better player this season is indisputable. But Da’Vonne doesn’t forget — and maybe she doesn’t forgive. “I wanted to play this game with Tiffany,” she says. “But I am starting to see her sister Vanessa. The paranoia. The emotional roller coaster. That worries me, and that I cannot play with.”
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The plan is to Get Victor, and everything goes accordingly. At the veto selection, Paul gets to choose someone. He’s already given up on Victor; the boy can’t keep his mouth shut. But he doesn’t want Victor to know that. So he picks Zakiyah, and when Victor gets angry at him, he plays dumb. Victor shrugs and hops on Frank for a piggyback ride.
The veto competition is a classic spelling bee, with toes and fungi and lots of other gross things. All Tiffany has to do is throw the competition and let literally anyone else win, and her alliance’s plan will be complete. Predictably, Tiffany immediately tries to win the competition, openly competing against Da’Vonne. “At a certain point, my competitive side takes over,” Tiffany explains.
She makes a good showing, spelling out “TWINKLING.” That’s enough to defeat Paul’s word, “SLOUCHED,” which surely describes his gameplay so far. It beats out Da’Vonne’s “REDEMPTION,” which surprisingly also describes her gameplay so far, and Zakiyah’s “DURATION,” which could be code for understanding a player who hasn’t done much yet this season. (Maybe it’s better to avoid the limelight in these early weeks; let the crazies get eliminated by the power players, and let the power players paint a target on their own backs.) Bronte spells “POWERFUL,” which sounds like wishful thinking, but Paulie dominates with “SUSTAINABILITY.”
That’s a veto win and an HOH win the same week: Paulie Two Chains, officially a Person of Interest. As Nicole notes, Paulie managed to win a spelling competition — unlike his brother, who misspelled his word. “That’s why you always double-check, bro,” Paulie declares. (How delicious to ponder the long-term possibilities of the Paulie-Frank pairing! Together, they represent one of the great backstabs in recent Big Brother history: Paulie’s brother and Derrick, Frank and Dan. They both respect each other’s game — which means they both recognize the potential threat to their game.)
Paulie plans to pull Paul off the block and replace him with Victor: A perfect plan, coming together. But Da’Vonne has some other ideas. The four non-Tiffany members of the Fatal Five get together for a meeting and ponder trimming their membership. They might be the strongest alliance in the house; working with a wild card like Tiffany could be bad for them. I’m not sure it’s wise to eliminate Tiffany this early; five votes is better than four, after all. But Da’Vonne has a target in her sniper scope.
So even though Paulie puts Victor up on the block — even though the backdoor gambit is all but assured now — Da’Vonne still insists that plans will change. She wants to reshuffle the deck. She never got to evict Vanessa. But vengeance is vengeance.