With his back against the wall, Coach Dan goes into solitary confinement…and walks out with a plan so crazy it just might work
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Big Brother
S14 E21
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Dan walked into the Solitary Dance Party alone in the world, knowing that there was nothing awaiting him outside except for death and Julie Chen. A lesser man would have resigned himself to spinning mad jams. A lesser player would have danced until his feet gave out, and then fallen asleep, dreaming of the golden power of veto and the HoH thronebed. But Dan is not a player. Dan is a coach. And a coach is never more powerful than when he is alone in a room, plotting.

Follow me into that Solitary Dance Party, fellow viewers. Dan is staring at the records as they turn. Perhaps the music is old-school funk; perhaps it is light jazz; perhaps, knowing Julie Chen’s peculiar tastes, it is crunchy German techno mixed with an English translation of The Art of War as read by Sean Connery. Dan is pondering what led him here. He has 24 hours. Plenty of time for pondering.

Dan started off the day up on the block next to Danielle, his closest ally and his final victim. But all was not lost. Fellow Quack Packer Ian held an extra Veto chip because Frank opened up Pandora’s Box. In an ideal scenario, Britney or Shane could win Veto, and wipe the block clean. Frank would be left struggling: He would have to nominate the last remaining Quack Packer, or a floater (probably Joe) with Quack Pack backing. Either way, Frank’s HoH would end with the odds stacked against him. When it came time for the veto competition, Britney and Ian’s names both came out of the sorting cap. Dan drew a houseguest’s choice; left with the floaters, he selected “Jenn City.”

At that point, Jenn — who, despite all appearances to the contrary, has actually been in the Big Brother house all summer — went to talk to Frank. Eons ago, they had been joined together on Team Boogie. But after the coaches entered the game, Frank and Boogie formed a close bond that seemed to expel other allies. Jenn wanted to reconnect. She told Frank: “I don’t want you by yourself out there.” Jenn has been floating in the wilderness for weeks now — when she said “I’m not really aligned with anybody,” I almost burst out laughing — and she wanted to form a decisive team.

Dan didn’t know that, of course. Dan was too busy making a controversial plan for the veto competition. Britney insisted that the veto had to be won by herself or Shane — that way, the whole Quack Pack would be safe. But Dan wasn’t buying it. “There’s no way I’m throwing this competition to anyone.”

And what a competition! Gaming website Zynga — formerly the Silicon Valley glamour boy, now a stock-market cautionary tale — had partnered with Big Brother for a rousing game of Draw Something. Competitors had to guess what viewer-submitted works of art were supposed to represent. But double twist: Each piece of art came with its own punishment — and if the players wanted to get the points, they had to submit to the punishment. Basically, the Draw Something challenge was a chance for the evil blonde-haired Swedish psychologists who create the Big Brother competitions to let their imaginations run amok. Frank correctly guessed “avocado” and had to take a bath in green paint. Britney correctly guessed “shackle” and had to shackle herself to a houseguest for 24 hours. (She chose Danielle.) Jenn burned her clothes. Frank had to take showers in red Chum for 24 hours. Frank guessed the word “Carrot” and had to wear a carrot costume for an entire week. I’m excited to offer you some exclusive footage of Frank in his carrot costume below:

These were all very amusing, and I’m sure the aforementioned evil blonde-haired Swedish psychologists learned a lot about the human condition when the houseguests sprayed paint all over Danielle — a punishment which led to a Jackson Pollock shout-out. But one punishment was no joke: When Frank correctly guessed the word “bench,” he was told that he had to sit out of his next eligible Head of Household competition. Frank already can’t compete this week; that would mean two weeks out of power, at a moment when his place in the house was unsteady. Knowing that Jenn had his back, and believing that Ian and Britney were with him, Frank accepted the punishment.

And then Frank accidentally ruined everything. The final picture showed a happy sun shining down on a beach. Britney buzzed in. If she got the answer, then Frank would win. But Britney was stumped. She had only buzzed in to make sure that Dan wouldn’t win — knowing that if Dan took himself off the block, she would probably take his place. Britney looked desperate. Frank whispered: “Summer.” BZZZZT. Contestants could not help each other. Frank — covered in green paint and red chum, wearing a carrot costume, cursed to two weeks without the HoH thronebed — was out.

Things looked grim for Frank and good for Dan. Only one person left in the veto competition could turn the tide against him. And somehow, Jenn got the answer right. Her punishment would be cruel: She would have to eat slop for the rest of summer. But Jenn stayed true to her alliance. She won the veto.

And so, Dan was doomed. He didn’t even speak to anyone. He walked out of the veto competition and walked into solitary confinement. “There are three things I love in my life,” he explained. “My wife and my family; coaching; and playing this game.” Dan was crying. He was emotional. His game was finished. The dream was over.

NEXT: Was the dream really over? Yes it was. Or was it?Dan lurked inside the Solitary Dance Party, waiting, plotting. Outside the room, Britney and Danielle had a comical series of misadventures while they were shackled to each other for a fully day. They went to the bathroom together. They changed clothes together. Meanwhile, Frank took his Chum Showers, the happiest Carrot the world has ever seen.

When they opened the door, Dan looked like a zombie. His eyes were red-rimmed, his lips chapped and dehydrated; his Bible was open to the Book of Revelations, also known as “The Grunge Rock of the New Testament.” Britney was worried. “He’s acting so strange, like he’s in some parallel universe.” Dan lay down feebly on the couch, and begged his closest friends to call a house meeting. And then Dan delivered what seemed, at first, like his valedictory speech.

“I wanna welcome all you guys to my Big Brother funeral,” he said, with tears brimming in his eyes. He looked every single housemate in the eyes. He thanked Joe for teaching him how to be a good husband. He thanked Shane for proving that Captain America is real. He thanked Jenn for being a lesbian. He thanked Britney for being a friend, and spoke of their deep bond as married people. He thanked Ian for being Ian: “The more I was around you, the more you remind me of myself. You love this place for everything it’s worth, and you single-handedly made this experience for me.” Shane was crying. Britney was crying. Ian was crying. Scarecrow was crying. Frodo was crying. Everyone was a blubbery mess, and still Dan kept on talking, in what amounts to the most beautiful piece of oratory in Big Brother history. Like, if you could combine Al Pacino’s speech from Any Given Sunday with the “Tears in the rain” speech from Blade Runner and Patrick Swayze mumbling “You can lean on me, Mattie…I’m so tired…” from the end of Red Dawn — well, it sounded kind of like that.

Dan offered kind words to Frank. “There’s a couple things I’ve said about you that I’m not proud of,” he admitted, and he asked for the opportunity to apologize to Frank face-to-face. And then he turned to Danielle. His student. His closest ally. This was the moment, fellow viewers. We were primed for a fond farewell: For Dan to tell Danielle, “I have been…and always shall be…your friend,” right before he fell over, dead. “The last time I played this game,” Dan said, “I learned a lotta tough lessons. You gotta find one person and put 100 percent trust in them.”

Then, the twist: “Through my own fault, I was wrong. In this game, you’ll never earn my trust back. You know what you did. And in this game, you’re dead to me.” Dan didn’t change his tone at all. He still talked in the measured tones of a fratboy pledge captain helping a new recruit memorize the Greek alphabet. But his words stung. “Don’t come to me and ask about it, because it’s over. We can be friends outside of this. But this was the death of Dan the player.”

Dan shook a few hands and walked away, leaving Danielle crying. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Dan!” she screamed. The other houseguests flocked to her. Shane told her it was okay, it wasn’t her fault. Britney told her that Dan was just making a play, and it had failed. Jenn promised that Dan was going home. “Dan?” she continued. “Dan?” She fought off the other houseguests and fell to the floor, pounding her fists against the ground until every camera in the house shook with static. They say that Danielle’s mournful cry could be heard for miles. Far away, in California’s Central Valley, a lonely farmer on an apple orchard though he heard the cry of a lovelorn emu: “Daaaaaannnnnn!!!!

And this is how Coach Dan completed Step One of his mad plan to pull off one of the single greatest power plays in Big Brother history.

Next Page: Dan’s Plan.Dan did not waste any time. He went up to Frank’s HoH throne room. He wanted to have a talk. Now, watching Dan and Frank talk to each other was interesting. They have described each other as their greatest adversaries. Dan has tried to get Frank expelled; Frank came close to putting Dan up on the block. But Dan came up to Frank’s room with a peace offering. He was going to blow up the Quack Pack.

You can tell that Dan had planned out every element of this gambit in that Solitary Dance Party. He pointed to his Bible and said, “I brought this up here so I could swear on it.” And then he told Frank everything. He said that he hadn’t sold out Chilltown. He said that, before the Silent Six, “There was an alliance created. Not with four people. With five people.” He didn’t need to draw a picture. “Ian,” said Frank, “That [expletive redacted].” It was a confirmation of something Frank had suspected but couldn’t quite allow himself to believe. Ian wasn’t just some kid who was taken in by the wrong people; Ian had been working against him.

Dan went one step further, and told Frank: “I’ve never made an action against you. I’ve never even voted against you.” Now, this point is debatable: Dan has never directly made a move against Frank, but he has certainly been in the room while moves against Frank were planned. But Frank rolled with it, because Dan was unveiling the real Big Bad. “Britney’s a more dangerous player,” said Dan. “She’s covered everywhere.” Shane was on Britney’s side, and Ian, and probably Joe. Little Brit-Brit had set herself up as Big Brother‘s answer to Cersei Lannister, sipping wine in the throne room while the idiot swordsman fought themselves bloody.

I wish I could describe the look on Frank’s face while Dan was saying this. Because Frank looked so happy. He had a wide smile, like he couldn’t believe what was happening, and he halfway expected that he was making a deal with the devil, and he didn’t care. Because all of a sudden, all of Frank’s anger at Dan evaporated. This is a guy that Frank has spent the better part of a month either quietly or openly despising…and in this moment, they were the best of friends.

It was like watching a pair of enemy war chiefs find each other in the midst of a snowstorm and build a fire together. They made a final four plan. Frank would get Jenn to veto Dan; Dan would get Danielle to roll with them. They went one step further and made a Final Two plan. “We gotta come up with a name,” said Dan. “We’ll figure one out,” said Frank. Just a couple guys with all the time in the world. “Don’t bulls— me, Dan,” said Frank. “I swear on the bible, on my wedding ring, on this chain from my dead grandfather,” said Dan.

It worked — Frank was onboard. Now Dan had one final task to perform. He brought Danielle into the Purple Pillow Room. He looked like a fifth-grader who just got away with murder. “I just saved us both,” he said. Danielle hit him with a pillow. She was annoyed, and then she started crying. “You broke my heart,” she said. “You humiliated me in front of the whole house. Dan, I would have gone home for you.” But Dan stood firm: “I don’t want you to go home with me. I want us both to stay in this.” And when Danielle chastised him for not letting her in on the plan, he just laughed: “Because then you wouldn’t have cried.”

Danielle said: “You are one sick person, Dan.” But when she said that, she was smiling. Fellow viewers, I know that a lot of you don’t think much of Danielle. Certainly, she has spent the summer riding on her Coach’s coattails — and unlike Shane, she doesn’t have an impressive competition track record. But Danielle is not dumb. She may just be Dan’s student, but she recognizes good game. (Aside: Danielle does vibe like somebody who has forgotten that, in the Big Brother house, you have to ultimately betray everyone — she seems like she’d be totally happy placing second to Dan. But there’s a part of me that wonders if Danielle doesn’t have one big surprise in her. Ian managed to impress his own coach by betraying him; I wonder if Danielle has it in her to stage a last-minute attack on Dan, perhaps aided by Shane. End of Aside.)

Notice that Danielle did not hesitate when she asked Dan for his master plan. Who was going to go up in his place? “Are you sure you want to hear this?” he asked. Yes, she nodded, absolutely. She whispered: “Shane?” Dan shook his head. “Britney?” Dan nodded, and he told her not to worry. “No one’s gonna touch you now, because everyone’s gonna think you’re alone.” Danielle agreed with him. And thus was Coach Dan saved.

NEXT PAGE: Shocker? I barely know her! [Laugh track]

This is what Dan accomplished in just a few hours, in one big speech and two quiet conversations: He made the whole house cry by expressing his sheer love for the game; he viciously cut off his closest ally, in the process turning the whole house against him; he broke off from a tight-knit alliance and threw the summer’s biggest turncoat under the bus; he turned his greatest nemesis into his Final Two ally; and he went back to that close ally, showed her that he had proudly used her as a puppet, and got her to betray one of her closest friends in the house.

Fellow viewers, there are few moves in Big Brother history that compare to that. Heck, there are few moves in the history of American politics that compare to that. Start the conversation: By successfully executing this mad hail-mary pass, has Dan confirmed his status as the best Big Brother player ever?

There was one final link in the chain that was out of Dan’s hands. Frank had to convince Jenn to take Dan off the block. Jenn was skeptical: “He’s so dangerous. I can’t help but feel like we can’t trust him.” But Frank and Jenn had formed a close alliance in just a couple days — you make fast friends in the trenches. So, at the veto ceremony, Ian quietly announced that he was not using the veto. Jenn stood up. She took a breath. “This is strictly a game move, for my personal game,” she said. “I have decided to use the veto on Dan. AND MY NAME IS MOTHERF—ING JENN, THAT’S WHO!”

Britney was shocked. Ian was shocked. Shane’s hair was shocked. And then Frank stood up and looked point-blank at Ian. I didn’t mark down exactly what he said, but I think it went something like: “My name is Frankimus Decimus Meridius. Commander of Chilltown 2.0. General of the Silent Six. Loyal servant to his High Lord Humungous, Sidney the Vicious. Brother to a murdered Boogie, smooch-friend to a murdered Smashley — and I will have my vengeance on you, Ian, in this life or the next.” But Ian held the veto force field. “So I gotta do the next best thing,” said Frank, “And put your closest ally up on the block. To quote a not-so-wise young man: Britney, pop a squat!

Britney’s face was a vision of catastrophe. She had not planned for any of this. She always knew that she might walk out the door, but not like this. Her heart was breaking. And Ian — the poor sad fool had just been in the diary room, laying out his plan for cozying up to Frank. Now, Frank was drawing a line in the sand, and the line was drawn in blood, and the sand was actually a battalion of fire ants.

Dan was off the block. In his own words, he had managed to sway a man who “put on a carrot suit, took an avocado bath, took a chum bath, and sat out an HoH competion to get me out.” There’s a part of me that thinks Frank might have just made a big mistake. He won’t be HoH for two weeks now — two opportunities for Dan (or, for that matter, Danielle) to backdoor him. But there’s another part of me that thinks this is the alliance that was meant to form all summer long. On one side: Frank, the man who has been in the sniper scope from day one, battle-weary and punch-drunk. On the other side: Dan, the ex-Coach who spent the first half of the summer lurking under a Snuggie on the couch, reading his Old Testament and making failed power moves (remember the Coach’s Alliance?) Together, can they prevail?

Fellow viewers, I’m reeling. What did you think of last night’s shenanigans? Can you think of another time when a player so completely altered the landscape of the game, and rescued himself from the jaws of oblivion. While you ponder that, I leave you with a final thought from Jenn, a player we can all agree actually does exist: “No one can say Jenn City hasn’t made a big move in this game!”

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

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