Rachel cries, Kalia cries, Jordan cries, Daniele laughs, Porsche stares vacantly, and one houseguest takes a ridiculous chance that is either brilliant or crazy...or maybe both

By Darren Franich
August 11, 2011 at 04:15 AM EDT
S13 E15
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LAWON!!! Did you doubt ever doubt this man? This man, with the impeccable neon tie collection? This man, with the orange socks? This man, who the Navajo would nickname “He-Who-Whispers-Like-Thunder”? The best black gay man in the Big Brother house? Did you ever think for a second that this man — this myth, this beast, this Lawon — came to this party without his dancing shoes? Then, my fellow viewers, you were wrong…dead wrong. We have seen the truth. Lawon may be certifiably insane. But after a month spent living in a house that smells like man-sweat and lady tears, everyone on Big Brother is insane. They’ve all ascended to Lawon’s level. He is the answer to all their prayers. Some of you may think that he made the worst move in the history of the show. But to win big, sometimes you have to gamble big. And, in gambling terms, Lawon just took all his money out of the bank, bet half of it on Black, invested in the other half in the Greek economy, and then announced his plans to fly a paper airplane to Jupiter.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Last night’s episode of Big Brother began in the aftermath of the nomination ceremony. Rachel was bickering with Daniele. But their status in the house had so completely shifted in just over a week. Rachel was the old, deposed Queen, reduced to mumbling obscenities as she begged for food; Daniele was the new Empress, escorted by her honor guard of Newbies. Rachel was abandoned. Her darling Bukie was crying somewhere far away; her old friend Porsche had spat in her face, preferring bedroom giggle-fests with Dani. Only Shelly remained to try and get Rachel to calm down: “Don’t chase her, please! Please keep yourself under control! You have more class than this!”

I was skeptical about Shelly, since the show had painted her so far as a professional floater. But last night, she seemed to me like a badass gunslinger type, following her own moral code even as she ably played all sides of the house against each other. “On a personal level, I don’t like to see people self-destruct,” she explained — and I believe that. (My working theory is that Shelly’s Big Brother gameplay style is mostly based on the Akira Kurosawa samurai classic Yojimbo. I’ll discuss this theory more as it develops.)

Rachel was not swayed by gunslinger Shelly. She cried about her problems to Jordan. In turn, Rachel seems to be rubbing off on Jordan: Usually an even-keeled adorable muppet mascot, Jordan accused Shelly of betrayal. Shelly has basically backstabbed everyone but Jorff, so she was stormed out. Jordan started crying. Jeff aptly summed up the week: “I can’t take anymore women crying! What is wrong with you guys! You guys have your periods, you start crying…”

If you think about it, Jeff probably feels a bit like the last man left standing in the house. For all of Adam’s rock-metal posturing, he’s become this season’s Mr. Invisible, popping up two or three times an episode to say something that sounds simultaneously very practiced and very unfunny. (Question: Do you find it very sad or very funny that Adam probably thinks he is an audience favorite?) Lawon, as discussed above, is an extraterrestrial Day-Glo being composed of pure energy. (I have discovered exclusive footage of Lawon’s true form here.) Small wonder that Jeff decided to give one of his trademark halftime speeches, which I have rendered in full below:

“I want people to step up and make their own decisions. Vietnam! Let’s go! I’m gonna die out there for you! But if you go against me, then draw a line, and let’s go to war! Aye, fight, and you may die. Flee, and you may live. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance to come back here and tell Daniele…that she may take our lives…but she’ll never take…our freedom!

It was inspiring. No one was inspired.

NEXT: Was anyone inspired? No, they were not. Or were they?

Kalia was the first Newbie this season to sit in the HoH throne room. Hers was not a pleasant reign. After the nominations, she was crying up in her tower. She could hear Jeff downstairs, trying to raise an army against her. She was begging Daniele for emotional support. Dani just looked confused. “Kalia,” she asked, “What’s wrong?” Dani was clearly just excited to get back to her favorite hobby: Laughing at other people’s misery with Porsche. (Aside: The most interesting thing about the burgeoning Dani/Porsche friendship is that the VIP cocktail waitress simultaneously represents everything Dani despises and everything Dani wants to be. It’s truly an existential paradox. Or, as they say in the poetic language of VIP cocktail waitresses, “Beep beep, Me Porsche, toot toot, vrooooooom!”)

And so to the veto challenge, which was a surprisingly elaborate reference to the myth of Sisyphus. As I’m sure you recall from your Greek mythology coloring book, Sisyphus was a king who ingeniously kept himself in power by outwitting his enemies and then brutally punishing them. Basically, think Evel Dick, except Sisyphus probably took a bath every now and then. For his sins, the guy was punished in the afterlife: He had to push a rock up a hill, but the rock would always tumble down right before he reached the top. In the challenge, each of the players had a two-sided ramp and a little ball. They would have to roll the ball up one side, and then catch it on the other. And they would have to do this 300 times. And if they dropped it just once, their entire score would be erased. Now that’s how you freaking do Greek Tragedy.

Along with Kalia and this week’s blockheads, Adam, Shelly, and Jordan all entered the field of battle. Everyone had Greco-fied names: There was “Shellypso,” and “Jordana,” but my personal favorite was “Jeffaestus,” a reference to Hephaestus, god of technology, who was made partially disabled for all eternity after his own mother tossed him off Mount Olympus. (Isn’t Greek mythology awesome?) Of all the people left in the house, Jeff surely bears the closest resemblance to a Greek hero: Strong, clever, his only weakness his own hubris. (Dani seems more like a trickster goddess from Norse mythology. Also, Shelly is a shapechanging Hindu deity, and Porsche is terrible.)

Intriguingly, the veto competition became a shockingly close race. Jeff played like a man possessed, which was to be expected. Rachel said, “Jeff plays it slow and steady, so I’ll do the exact opposite and go really fast! That’s how the rabbit beat the turtle, right?” (She lost terribly.) Adam, of all people, was clearly inspired by Jeff’s Vietnam speech and almost, almost, almost beat him. Most intriguingly, Kalia decided to give up the game and start cheering for Jeff. In the process, she alienated Dani, who was shocked to see her ally bowing down to Jeff and Jordan. And she didn’t seem to win Jeff over: While he was celebrating his first triumph of the season, Jeff swore a blood oath to take Kalia down.

NEXT: Kalia becomes the least essential Head of Household all season.

Kalia, to her credit, understood that she had misplayed things with Jeff. So she called up Mr. Veto and Little Miss Sunshine for a serious chat. First, she tried to come off like a mastermind: “You see, Jeff, I only put you on the block because I needed you in the veto competition, and I knew that you’d only play well if your life was on the line.” It was a lame line, and Jeff didn’t fall for it. So Kalia promised over and over again not to put Jordan on the block. She explained to Jeff that her target all along had been Rachel. She essentially split herself open, offered up her bleeding heart, and begged Jeff to throw it in the trash bin. “I’ll take that into account,” Jeff mumbled.

Now, some people have criticized players like Rachel and Daniele for wielding their HoH power with an iron fist. But what we were seeing here was the exact opposite: Kalia basically decided to spend her one week with absolute power kowtowing to the kingdom-in-exile of Jorff. Now, I happen to think that Kalia might be one of the most book-smart players in the game this season. And she might also be one of the most sane. But that might be her problem.

On Monday’s episode of The Colbert Report, Stephen interviewed Nassir Ghaemi, whose new book A First-Rate Madness is based on a catchy concept: Many of history’s greatest leaders suffered from psychological mood disorders. Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln were depressives; Franklin Delano Roosevelt had an energy that bordered on mania. So, in this sense, the hard-charging leadership style of Daniele — or even Rachel’s “Let’s just kill the bastards!” strategy — may actually be more successful than the governing style of Kalia, which has so far been defined by logic, contemplation, half-measures, and failure. Food for thought.

Meanwhile, Adam cut his beard and said something stupid. In his defense, he now resembles every cast member from Breaking Bad.

And here, viewers, is where things got really exciting. Rachel pulled herself together long enough to ascend the stairs to Kalia’s HoH tower. She made her pitch. “Me on your side could be a great advantage to you.” She seemed to know exactly what was on Kalia’s mind: “A lot can be repaired with Jeff and Jordan.” She was upfront about her intentions to go after Daniele, but even that was all right: Rachel seemed to sense intuitively that Kalia was looking to strike out from under Dani’s shadow.

NEXT: LAWON!!!!Daniele was worried about Kalia’s change of heart. She knew that Rachel thirsted for her blood, no matter how much Kalia swore up and down that Rachel wouldn’t be coming after them. (Daniele is probably the most capable player in the house when it comes to reading people’s lies: Remember, she’s the only one who has even the faintest hint that Shelly has become this season’s Backstab Ninja-in-Residence.)

Here again, Kalia muffed the pitch by being too forthright: She literally told Dani, “I have to come out from under your shadow,” which is kind of like telling someone “We’re getting a little bit too close. Do you mind if I take this sniper rifle and go to higher ground? No, you just stay here. And also, can you put this big target on your back? Also, hey, hold this grenade for me. Pin? What pin?”

Kalia had a tough decision to make. Would she join Rachel, put up a floater, and risk alienating her gang of Newbies? Would she stick with Daniele, put up a pawn, and risk having Rachel return to the house? She needed a sign from the heavens, and the heavens responded. Kalia, Daniele, Porsche, and Lawon were lounging around the HoH throne room, when lightning struck Lawon’s head, and he suddenly said, “You should just put me up. If you put me up, I’ll come back and be, like, okay, I’ll play the game.”

Keep in mind: this wasn’t Lawon asking to be a pawn. This was Lawon, taking a huge gamble that he had somehow guessed what the twist would entail, begging his closest allies to vote him out. Here is his explanation of his plan: “I might come back with some special powers! And guess what, we’re gonna sail right to the top!” Pause to imagine Lawon, returning from space with superpowers after exposure to cosmic radiation, sailing to the top of a mountain on a magical catamaran. Do you have that image in your head? Good. Now imagine that the mountain is on top of an elephant, and the elephant has Rachel’s face, and also the clouds are raining donuts, because that is the world Lawon is imagining.

But fellow viewers, allow me to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment. Lawon has to know that his place in the house is far from perfect. He has no real close allies. He has never been anything but terrible in the challenges. He knows that he has to make some sort of big move. Do I think he’ll win tomorrow’s re-entry competition? Of course not! But by god, I’m a believer, and if he does win, and he does return with a diamond power of veto, then this game will be even more interesting.

Kalia and Daniele were ever so happy. They couldn’t believe their luck. Kalia: “I will have zero enemies in this house, and everyone will love me!” She happily tossed Lawon up on the block. Rachel was smiling. She knew that she was saved, even if she didn’t entirely understand how. Jeff, for his part, was unconvinced: “I’m coming right after her!” (If Jeff or Jordan do win HoH, it’ll be interesting to see if Kalia will go straight up on the block.

But leave it to Lawon to have the last word: “I know the twist! Will bring me back! More powerful than ever! If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine! LAWON!!!” Viewers, this episode was absolute bananas. I want to hear your thoughts on everything: Kalia’s dilly-dallying, Jeff’s rebirth as an angel of vengeance, Rachel’s corresponding transformation into someone who is actually capable of having a social game, and Lawon being Lawon. Hit me up on Twitter with your thoughts, and share your theories in the comments below. I’ll be back tomorrow to help you decompress from what I assume will be a truly momentous elimination/unlimination episode. See you in 24 hours. Tick-tock, tick-tock…

Julie Chen hosts as the houseguests battle it out.
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