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Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS; CBS

Big Brother left us with one hell of a tease at the end of Thursday’s episode, with the role of HoH still up for grabs and the houseguests trying their hardest to stand on logs. But before we find out who’s on top this week, we see the surprise return of the “viewer discretion advised” disclaimer from season 15; likely in advance of the JC/Bayleigh N-word controversy that will unfold in tonight’s episode.

Back in log land, the houseguests are looking stressed from everything that took place during the eviction earlier. During a flashback to the eviction, we get an explanation from Brett regarding his bus-throwing of Rockstar: He personally dislikes her and since she’s not someone he can sway to his side, he decided to turn the house against her and get the target off his own back. In the midst of this, Kaitlyn tries to get Tyler to swear on his father that he was not the vote that flipped. He won’t do as much but tries to reassure her that he wasn’t the one. We then move back to the endurance competition, where the houseguests are now doused with honey, feathers, and “bird poop.” Sam says she’s committed to making it to the end; she’s about to lose her Bonus Life power and winning HoH will give her some control over how the power pans out. Rockstar, Faysal, Brett, Bayleigh, Angela, Rachel, and Haleigh all fall in succession, leaving JC, Kaycee, Sam, Tyler, and Kaitlyn as the last five standing. Just as JC tells the diary room how his small stature is an asset in the competition, he becomes the next to fall in an act of editing karma. The stress and pressure begins to build on the last 4 standing; arms trembling and legs unsteady, Kaitlyn and Kaycee are the next to fall. This leaves Sam and Tyler as the final 2 houseguests. Sam screams an offer at him: She’ll keep him safe if he lets her win HoH. Tyler eventually takes the deal and Sam is our new HoH, giving her control of both the house and the final week of the Bonus Life power.

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Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

Re-entering the house, emotions and attitudes are frayed as Sam assures the diary room that her mind is already decided on who she’ll nominate — though we don’t get a hint of this yet. Bayleigh reassures a tearful Rockstar that Sam is an unbiased ear, and that if she simply tells her the truth, she’ll be believed. Bayleigh sees her as an important number on her side and tells her that if she goes simply out of anger over Brett, that hurts her game too. “Guys like that, they always win,” she sobs in the diary room. As JC tells Faysal that Kaitlyn was likely the one who flipped the vote (she wasn’t), he decides to throw some doubt about Haleigh his way too. With two of his closest allies igniting suspicion, Faysal sets out to find the truth.

Kaitlyn grovels to Faysal for his attention, and he ultimately quizzes her over her true allegiances. Kaitlyn immediately becomes tearful and defensive, her two strongest traits in the game. Before things can get more heated, it’s time to see Sam’s HoH room! But while she has everyone in her room, Sam decides to read the house the riot act (with a smile, of course), telling them that she knows who she’s putting up, so there will be no one-on-ones and no campaigning. This goes off like a bomb to the rest of the houseguests, who are already uncertain about their safety. With this move, Sam proves to be both assertive and savvy: She not only gets to define her space in the house, but she also avoids much of the double-talk that comes with people constantly campaigning.

Kaitlyn asks Haleigh and Rockstar if Tyler and JC were the ones who flipped the vote, but as soon as she asks a lightbulb flicks in her head: Sam used her power (she didn’t) to flip two votes (that was not her power) — one of them being Rockstar (again, this never happened) — in order to cause the alliance to distrust each other (which they’re doing well enough on their own). “I really honestly think I’m right,” she tells the diary room to a healthy “WRONG!” buzz. Kaitlyn comes to Tyler with this new theory, and he acts as if she totally just cracked the entire mystery (she didn’t). With the target off him once again, Tyler gives the camera a thumbs-up. Rockstar channels her inner Evel Dick as she tries to unnerve Brett with some passive aggressive singing and general noisemaking. Brett sees this outburst as proof that his plan is coming together.

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In a moment from last week, JC, Bayleigh, Scottie, and Faysal have a conversation about height in the HoH room. Bayleigh asks JC, who is 4’8″ tall, if he’s a dwarf. He says no, “I’m just a short guy,” which leads Bayleigh to ask if there’s a difference between a “midget and a dwarf.” JC explains that midget is an offensive slur, and then rattles off a bunch of unedited, offensive slurs as examples, including n—–.

Bayleigh, who is black, immediately and understandably takes offense to JC’s choice of word, telling the diary room that if he had simply said “N-word” and not the actual word, everything would be fine. JC defends himself, saying he only used the word in the context of the conversation, and that Bayleigh saying “midget” was equally offensive. When Bayleigh says she was only asking him as a way to educate herself, JC refuses to back down. He later tells the diary room that as a gay Hispanic who has been ridiculed for his height, he knows as much about discrimination as she does. When JC presents his side of the story to Level Six, he omits the fact that he said n—- and not “the N-word.” Bayleigh is consoled by Faysal and Haleigh as she tells the diary room about the hardships she’s suffered as a young black woman in an all-white neighborhood.

JC later attempts to apologize to Bayleigh, but when the conversation goes back to the N-word, things get heated. He continues to insist that her saying “midget” was the same as him saying “n—–,” and somehow things eventually calm down and even end in a hug.

We then move on to the nomination ceremony. Sam nominates Haleigh and Kaitlyn for eviction, and in an unusually strong-worded speech to the house, she tells the nominees that they take more than they give, and that their behavior with the men is “the opposite of female empowerment.” She elaborates to the diary room that she doesn’t respect their gameplay and equates their flirtatious strategies with taking “the easy way.” This sets off a chain reaction of tears and anger, and leads Faysal to say that Sam should watch her back.

This episode certainly had to juggle a lot in one hour (something I’m not totally sure it did well), but it leaves the house in a chaotic state, setting the stage for the PoV competition on Wednesday.

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