Absolute power corrupts absolutely, as Amanda descends into a paranoid rampage. Is the showmance over?

By Darren Franich
Updated August 08, 2013 at 03:33 AM EDT
Credit: CBS
S15 E18
  • TV Show
  • CBS

I think it’s important to remember that Amanda is not a villain. In fact, there was a time not too long ago when she looked an awful lot like a hero. In the long-ago epoch of the Moving Company and the Aaryn Brigade, it felt a little bit like the house was a terrifying cartoon-dystopian portrait of the American social system circa like 1954, with a gang of ridiculously attractive racist misogynist cyborg-people dominating the HoH thronebed while the unmutual normals struggled in the shadows. At that moment, Amanda was her best self. She was not really in the sniper scope of the hottie coalition, but she wanted them gone, and she happily took a chance to tell Aaryn, to her face, that she should maybe stop making all those horrifying comments, and also maybe consider not riding around the house on a broomstick while devouring little puppies and bathing in the blood of vestal virgins.

But you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become a paranoiac self-parody of yourself. Somewhere along the way, Amanda decided that she was the goddess of the Big Brother house. She was too victorious, too early. Her enemies? Eliminated. With her noble pizzaboy McCrae at her side, she got happy and careless. You could argue that she was a little too beloved, and it tortured her to think that anyone didn’t love her. So last week, when she was once again put up on the block as the MVP nomination, she spiraled. Who could put a hero like her up on the block? It had to be Elissa. “I’ve been getting all the mean people out,” she said. “What am I doing that people wouldn’t like?” In a quote that I have to believe will come to dominate our memory of her, she said: “I don’t think America would put me up.” (America did.)

You could already see the cracks forming. Jessie floated into the HoH room and sat down next to McCrae. The black cloud of jealousy descended over Amanda. (ASIDE: Amanda was in bed with Aaryn, and if you played everything Aaryn said in the scene backwards, you could actually hear her sing a prayer to Allfather Satan to the tune of “Enter Sandman.” END OF ASIDE.) Amanda asked McCrae to join her on the bed. “Come to me, manmeat,” she said lovingly, “Cradle me in your skinny arms that smell like pepperoni.” McCrae demurred. Amanda ran out, upset. They got in an argument. She told McCrae that he embarrassed her.

It’s hard to know why Amanda reacted this way to Jessie. She has become, by most measures, this season’s least effective player, making vague tenuous stabs at serious moves — but all of those moves fade into vapor, fogging her eyeglasses. She was refuted by the popular girls, and she has been refuted by the Amanda coalition; Howard was more or less the only person in the house who treated her like a human being, and he’s long gone. I know a lot of people who think Jessie is the second coming of Porsche, a player who spent the summer of 2011 watching paint dry and being named Porsche. But Porsche was a vapid bore who strolled around with that sad confidence of a Big Brother player who clearly thinks the viewers love her much more than they do. Whereas Jessie is a desperate little unemployed bikini-modeling teddy bear of anxiety. She just wants to be loved. She just wants to be respected. Y’see guys…

Put that on a T-shirt. #Jessie2013

NEXT: Lovers quarrelMcCrae wasn’t quite sure how to talk to Amanda. He didn’t know what the play was here — and I mean it as a compliment to his game and a critique of his boyfriend method. He didn’t particularly like what Amanda was becoming. He also knew that, if he parted ways with her now, his place in the game would be at best precarious and at worst toxic. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” he said, “And Amanda can scorn.” I have to say, I misjudged McCrae. Back in week one, when he was the season’s dithering first HoH, I thought he had about as much backbone as an invertebrate, which is how scientists diss people when they mean they have no backbone. But he’s a smart player, and I suspect that — even though he did have feelings for Amanda — he always knew he was allying himself with a bigger target than himself. But she could also be a live grenade that consumes them both.

And sure enough, America took the pin out of that grenade. Amanda went up on the block, yet again the MVP nominee. Let’s be clear: She went crazy. She thought it was Spencer and she thought it was Judd. She flat-out knew it was Judd. “He acts super-weird. I can feel it in my gut.” She waltzed right over to Judd and asked him how he’d use the POV, if he won it. He said he’d use it on Jessie, but he’d really use it on Amanda. He was making no sense, and she hated him for that. Then she went to Spencer and asked him the same question. He didn’t answer her, not really, and she hated that, too. It’s clear what she was expecting from these people: pure, unquestioning fealty. It feels a little bit like she’s forgotten the first rule of Big Brother: No one else is remotely interested in playing this game for you. (Keep in mind: It wasn’t too long ago that she was in open yelling warfare with Spencer.)

It got worse. Amanda asked GinaMarie, in front of everyone, how she would use the veto. GinaMarie said she’d use it on Amanda, leading Aaryn to run out of the HoH room. Aaryn is, clearly, quite fearful that she will go up on the block. She knows America will put her up, since she spends her evenings drinking the nightmares of the American population through a straw made of your childhood pet’s skin. If you’re keeping track, Amanda has now unnecessarily freaked out close to a third of the house. Andy tried to speak some sense: “Don’t be so vocal about using the veto.” Meanwhile, McCrae took matters into his own hands. He told GinaMarie to keep the lineup the same, if she wins. Amanda overheard this; for her, it was the final betrayal. In her eyes, it looked like McCrae was upstairs comforting Aaryn and plotting to send Amanda home. Amanda was basically telling McCrae: “I think you’re planning to backdoor me just because you don’t want to date me anymore.” In response, McCrae was thinking: “Well, I wasn’t…but that’s a hell of an idea!”

The time had come for this week’s Veto Competition, the latest exercise in rat-trap mental warfare by the psychotic Scandinavian drill sergeants who design all the Big Brother competitions. Contestants had to throw frogs onto lily pads — which is actually the national pastime of Finland, except instead of stuffed frogs they use actual frogs, and instead of lily pads they use landmines. The prizes were awarded according to the rules of the white elephant gift exchange.

The excitement of the competition was trumped by the surprisingly long-lasting war of words between Amanda and Candice. Candice took a moment of quiet to tell Judd that Amanda thinks she’s MVP, and also that she thinks he’s shady. Judd wasn’t quite sure how to respond to this news, because Judd only pawn in game of life. But Amanda responded harsh and bitterly to Candice’s whispering: “Shut your big fat mouth!”

Then it got very serious very quickly: “That’s the Shaniqua coming out.” Then, just doubling down on the terror now: “Am I racist now? I’m racist now.”

Allow me to respond to Amanda in a quiet and sober manner, reflecting the magnitude of the sociopolitical topics involved:


Look, I don’t know what led Amanda to say that. I think I know what led GinaMarie to say racist things: She’s an idiot. And I think I know what led Aaryn to say racist things: She was carved out of the clay of the old world untold millennia ago by the Ancient Ones and sent to earth to bring about the dawn of a new age of terror, and she’s racist. But it wasn’t that long ago that Amanda was actively telling people in the house to stop saying horrible things to the non-white contestants. By comparison, imagine if midway through The Dark Knight Rises it turned out that Bane was actually Batman the whole time. Actually, that would’ve made The Dark Knight Rises awesome.

But you get my point. I mean, guys, is there no one left in the Big Brother house who will stand up for the little people? Someone who won’t spew hateful speech onto the airwaves? Someone who’s been wrong, who’s been down, who’s been to the bottom of every bottle? The Big Brother house needs a hero; can’t a savior rise up, in our time of need?

NEXT: Not the hero the house deserves, but the hero it needsThe Veto Competition got uglier. Amanda taunted Candice while she threw her frog, and Candice threw the frog right into the water, and Amanda taunted her some more. They stood next to each other. Their conversation went basically like this: Amanda would whisper an insult to Candice, and then Candice would loudly tell Amanda to stop talking to her, and then Amanda would loudly ask the world why Candice was still talking to her. McCrae winced. The optics on this were not good. You could see the rest of the house quietly trying to avoid the trainwreck in the corner. It was down to Judd and Jessie, and Judd flat-out told her he would let her have the veto; he was washing his hands of all this business. So Jessie lost the competition but won the veto, and Judd earned $5000.

The other awards were, to put it mildly, hilarious. GinaMarie was given a dog collar of shame, which she treated as an essential fashion item. Candice rocked a Clownitard and had never looked happier. (If Candice stays safe this week, I suspect it will be because of the Clownitard halo effect.) Meanwhile, whenever magic music played, Amanda had to get a spray-tan. She looked a little bit like a less intrinsically ironic version of the Tanning Mom.

At one point, McCrae tried to talk Amanda down from her tower of terror. But she truly didn’t see anything wrong with her performance in the veto competition. The Shaniqua comment, the open hostility toward another player — it’s not that she refused to apologize for that, it’s that she literally didn’t seem to remember it. Now, I’m tempted to say that this was a bad week all around for Amanda. But there’s a curious logic running this season — a logic that has already kept one of the most hated players in the game around about a month longer than anyone expected. Aaryn looked like a goner weeks ago, but she so utterly torpedoed her game that everyone decided to keep her around, since she clearly couldn’t be a threat. There are people who are changing their minds about Amanda — but I suspect that Helen is imagining herself in the top three next to Aaryn and Amanda, with a half-million-dollar bounty as her prize for compromising all her principles.

And we should remember Aaryn, friends. She’s still in the game; she has been lying relatively low the last few weeks, long enough to look less like a demonic incarnation of evil. (She’s essentially become a bystander in a fortnight of warfare between Amanda and Candice — a war, by the way, that left both of those players looking terrible.) And Aaryn still has power in the house. She overheard Elissa and Candice chatting, and decided that they must be plotting against her. So she tried to get Elissa up on the block.

Helen talked GinaMarie down from that; in the end, Spencer took Jessie’s place on the block. It doesn’t look very good for Candice the Candy Clown. In some ways, she’s been on a suicide run ever since Aaryn won HoH for the second time. Great Big Brother players can make power moves, but they are also capable of being good powerless players, of getting through those weeks when the wrong person wins HoH. (Spencer is a great powerless player: He’s rarely had a direct ally in the HoH throne room, and he’s not much good in competitions, but he’s always a key figure in the house.) Candice doesn’t do powerless. She can’t really lie — or anyhow, she can’t make believable deals with players she doesn’t like. That’ll probably send her home tomorrow night.

But what happens after that? Tomorrow night is a double eviction, the kind of evening that can radically shuffle the deck of a Big Brother house in just one hour. Will the person who wins HoH decide to launch an attack on Amanda? Will Helen be forced to choose, in realtime, between her fractious allies? Will a contestant that everyone has counted out — a floater, a fraud, a never-was, a mute watcher at the end of the world — suddenly rise to the occasion and emerge from the chrysalis as a powerful bespectacled butterfly?

Fellow viewers, what did you think of Amanda’s fall from grace? And what are your predictions for tomorrow night?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

Episode Recaps

Big Brother

Julie Chen hosts as the houseguests battle it out.

  • TV Show
  • 22
  • TV-14
  • CBS
stream service