A major twist completely shifts the power dynamics in the house. Who will dominate the new world order?
To understand just how brilliant last night’s gamechanging episode of Big Brother was, it helps to remember the third season of 24. Season 3 is remembered now as one of Jack Bauer’s best bad days — right up there with the endlessly influential season 1 and the nonstop death orgy/Nixonian melodrama that was season 5. But season 3 actually began with one of the show’s worst run of episodes. Jack had an inexplicable heroin addiction; the villains were a dull pair of Mexican druglord brothers; Kim, formerly the world’s most annoying daughter, was now the world’s least helpful CTU agent.
Then, like magic, the show completely rebooted right in the middle of the season. The show refocused on an entirely new villain: Paul Blackthorne’s Stephen Saunders, a renegade MI6 agent who basically became 24‘s version of Alec Trevelyan. Throw in a chemical weapon attack on a building, a race against time, the death of two major characters, and a memorable appearance by a fire axe, and what had been a potential trainwreck transformed into one of the great slow-burn suspense-thrillers in mid-00s television.
So. Big Brother. There have been many, many complaints about this season’s coaching twist. The producers of Big Brother implicitly admitted that the twist wasn’t working for viewers last week, when it offered America a choice: Should the coaches be allowed to join the game as players? Tonight, Julie Chen revealed the results of that vote. No surprise: America wanted the coaches to compete.
And here’s where things got interesting. I had figured that the re-entry would be offered to each coach as a personal choice. But the actual decision was much more complicated — and for once, the show’s tendency to make their twists overcomplicated was actually a masterstroke. The Chenbot 3000 laid it out simply. The coaches would go into the diary room, one after the other. Inside the diary room, there was a giant reset button. If even one of the coaches hit that button, then every coach would join the game. There would be no eviction; instead, the housemates would proceed straight to the HoH competition. (If none of the coaches wanted to rejoin, then some previously evicted players would get the chance to rejoin the house. I can’t imagine anyone getting excited for a twist like that, except for the outside chance that it would result in a love rhombus between Danielle, Shane, Jojo, and the Hefner-approved Kara.)
Let’s take a close look at how every coach responded to the deal, and make some ridiculously early predictions about the road ahead for them. Heck, let’s throw in some odds, just to make it fun.
Britney’s Reaction: Of all the four returning players, Britney had been the most vocal about her suspicions that a big twist was coming down the line for the coaches. And yet, she was by far the most flustered. When she sat down inside the confessional, her mike cut out — a special prize to anyone who could make out whatever Janelle was whispering, as the Big Brother sound engineers struggled to organize their sound equipment. But Britney looked like she hadn’t planned for this eventuality. In a panic, she hit the reset button.
Ridiculously Early Prediction: Britney has a strong connection to Shane, if only because — after the one-two departure of Willie and Jojo — they’ve been each other’s only allies in the house. But Britney has never been a power player in this game. (In her season, she was fortunate enough to be good friends with a powerful alliance…but she never even realized that they were in an alliance.) She’s a fierce competitor, but if she doesn’t start pulling her weight, I see her falling into the same trap with Shane — remember, he already had a rough alliance with Frank and Boogie completely under Britney’s nose. I see Britney going far in this game, but unless she’s really learned her lesson from “The Brigade,” she vibes Final Three pawn to me. 6-1
Boogie’s Reaction: Uncle Mike made some very visible “Don’t do it!” hand gestures to the other coaches, and he was the only coach who didn’t hit the reset button.
Ridiculously Early Prediction: Mike’s problem is also Britney’s problem. They both formed strong relationships with their best players, but both Frank and Shane are much better situated in this house than their former coaches. Heck, Boogie has spent his first month in the Big Brother house glorying in how little other people trust him. And the fact that he didn’t hit the reset button indicates that Boogie simply doesn’t have the same old hunger to win this thing. On the other hand, Boogie has one of the most powerful personalities in the house; even if Frank loses interest in Chilltown 2.0, it’s a good bet that Boogie will maintain a powerful voting bloc with Jenn and Ian. Boogie will probably win an HoH at some point, but his ego makes him a prime backdoor candidate. 7-1
NEXT: Dan and Janelle take their turnDan’s Reaction: I figured that Dan was going to be a holdout. All season, he’s looked very comfortable doing very little. But good ol’ Coach didn’t hesitate. He stumbled a bit over what sounded like a very practiced line — “Time to get dirty, America, punching it, let’s go!” But he looked like a man with a reason to fight.
Ridiculously Early Prediction: Out of all the coaches, Dan has the least amount of baggage in the rebooted power dynamic of the house. His team was dispatched so quickly that he never got the chance to play emperor; his sole “ally,” Danielle, has become a senseless love-slave in thrall to Shane’s five-o-clock shadow. He hasn’t gotten on anyone’s bad side, and he hasn’t gotten on anyone’s good side; besides Jenn, he’s the biggest non-entity in the house. I bet he’ll be the first ex-coach to go, but he’s also the undeniable dark horse — a couple of competish victories will make him a player. 8-1
Janelle’s Reaction: No hesitation. No funny catchphrases. No fear whatsoever. “Thanks, America,” said Janelle. This is what she’s been waiting for all along. She will have her vengeance. She will win Big Brother. She will not be stopped.
Ridiculously Early Prediction: Janelle is Big Brother‘s Michael Phelps when it comes to competitions. Her social game this season has been impressive, but cracks are beginning to form. There’s a rift forming between Janelle and her best player, Wil. And her history makes her a big target. The best thing that Janelle has going for her is Boogie: Nobody really trusts either of them, but people really don’t trust Boogie, and Mike is in an even worse position after resting on his laurels for the last month. If you ask me, this game has become a three-way race between Frank, Shane, and Janelle. But whereas Frank and Shane are cursed with fragile human emotion, Janelle is a concrete-carved engine of pure competitive drive. If she can keep Wil in line, she could become the house power broker for the rebooted BB14. Then again, maybe Janelle will once again soar high only to lose at the very end. If that’s true, then her legacy will be quite a bit more complicated: She’ll be Big Brother‘s Charles Barkley, it’s Dan Marino, it’s Phil-Mickelson-in-the-’90s, doomed to a brilliant career without a final victory. 3-1
I’m focusing most of my attention on the twist with the coaches, because it seems weird to focus too much on what came before. But the episode featured plenty of incidents that may offer hints about the internal layout of the rebooted house’s power structure. Hint #1: Nobody likes Ian. When the youngest player was asked about his role in ForseeableCircumstanceGate, he plaintively explained, “I just didn’t write a check that I may not be able to ask.” Coach Boogie told him: “This is the Big Brother house! You can bounce checks!”
NEXT: Janelle sees your puny emotions and laughs at them
Meanwhile, Janelle and Britney were very warily rekindling their Blonde Alliance, which led to one of the great revelatory conversations in Big Brother history:
Janelle: I don’t cry.
Britney: Do you ever say to yourself: “Wow, I’m sad today!”
Britney: Do you get really happy?
Britney: That’s crazy. In this house, I get sad and depressed and lonely sometimes.
Janelle: If I start to get sad, I change my emotion.
Per Google, “feeling no emotions” is apparently a key symptom of sociopathy, although it’s a symptom of existential malaise, being a robot, and being French. And we can all agree that Janelle isn’t French. Still, Janelle’s lack of empathy is already starting to aggravate Wil, who feels — quite accurately — like Janelle is dismissing his talents as a player. In Janelle’s defense, Wil has done nothing this season besides throw himself a birthday party. But I love that Wil was able to quickly see through Janelle’s fake-crying act. “Act one, scene 2: Insert waterworks, crying, telling me everything I want to hear,” said Wil. Hey, I’d watch that play!
There were a couple of other intriguing developments in the episode. Dan’s last act as Danielle’s coach was a vain attempt to break her from her Shane fixation. “Stop liking Shane,” he said bluntly. “You’re not gonna date when you get out of here. He’s not your husband, he’s not your boyfriend. You have to play this game like a cutthroat assassin.” (Danielle didn’t hear him. Later, Shane flat-out told Julie that he’s not interested in Danielle.)
More intriguingly, Frank admitted to Boogie that his father was Sid Vicious. My first thought: “Wait, you’re the son of the freaking bassist from the Sex Pistols?!?!” Nope! Frank is the son of the equally awesome wrestler Sid Vicious. Apparently, they don’t get along, but they do love each other — prepare yourself for a tear-inducing bear hug if Frank wins.
Viewers, I know there’s been plenty of complaints about this season, but at the end of last night’s episode, I was desperate for more. The game has been injected with four proven competitors, and the reshuffling of the house power dynamics means that we could be approaching one of the backstabbiest weeks in the show’s history. What did you think? Which coach do you see having the best chance in the house going forward? And were you happy that Frank was rescued from apparent oblivion?
Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich