Surprise nominee Jeff tries to save himself. A love triangle blooms.

Credit: CBS
S17 E11

There are smart people in the Big Brother house this season. People who know the game, and how to play it. And then there’s Jeff, and there’s Jackie.

JEFF: “I don’t know if people think I’m better for their game, or if James is better for their game.”

JACKIE: “That’s what it comes down to.”

JEFF: “I need to get people to vote for me.”

JACKIE: [counting on her fingers and toes] “There’s 11 votes.”

JEFF: “I gotta get the majority.”

JACKIE: “That’s how you’ll stay in the house. Getting a majority.”

Let’s give Jeff some credit, shall we? He knew he was in a bad place. Clay laid it down for him. He played too strong, too fast. He got too caught up in the game. “Too strong too fast” is one of this season’s buzz phrases: That’s the gameplay model that sent Audrey on the downward spiral from House Boss to House Phantom. The general sense of Jeff as a flip-flopped had trickled down across the house.

Like any good flip-flopper, Jeff hit the apology circuit. He told Clay he was sorry, so sorry. He told Shelli that he could still play the game for her. “I just got caught up,” he said, sounding for all the world like the quarterback in a high school movie trying to get his girlfriend back for prom. He shed a single tear, and then he shed another one.

Fake tears, it turned out. In the only major conversation Jeff has had with Jackie this season, he admitted that emotions were just part of his pitch. “Shelli’s emotional,” he explained. “And sometimes you have to pull on the emotional strings to get things done.” Jeff’s been such a nothing this year that I actually perked up when he said that. That could’ve been an excellent villain moment—the instant that Jeff announced himself as this year’s prime sociopath.

But the problem is, Shelli isn’t emotional. Or at least not the way Jeff thinks. While he’s been dawdling along in the background, making friends and making vague plans to backstab those friends, Shelli’s been cultivating a couple different potential master plans—the Sixth Sense twin gambit, the Clay flirtmance. And she keeps on winning Head of Household. She is not the kind of player you win over by crying. To win Shelli over, Jeff should’ve gone into the forest, slayed a lion with his bare hands, lay its head at Shelli’s feet, and waited patiently while Shelli ripped off the lion’s hide with her teeth and knit the fur into a snazzy new hoodie.

Jeff had another gambit, though. He begged Liz for a cuddle session. Cuddle sessions are to Big Brother as garden walks are to Game of Thrones: A perfect opportunity for plotting. Perhaps Jeff didn’t realize that Austin the Judasmonster was infatuated with Liz. Sorry, let me rephrase that. Perhaps Jeff didn’t realize that Austin the Judasmonster was willing to, quote, “sacrifice my life in this game to fulfill the emptiness that’s been in my heart.”

Is Austin good at Big Brother? This is one of the chief questions as we close out the contestants’ first month in the house. He is good at competitions. He understands how to plot a few moves ahead. He saved Liz from the block, telling a little white lie about the non-Varsity side of the house in order to trap Meg next to Da’Vonne. He conceived a simple plan with fellow HoH Vanessa—Jeff or Jason Must Go—and successfully steered Vanessa toward Jeff.

In the demerits column: He is horrible at lying. He threw the veto competition and ran afoul of Vanessa’s pokerface lie detector—a bad omen for their working relationship, although you could counter-argue that it was all part of his plot against Jeff. He keeps trying to make this Judas thing happen, despite the totality of it utterly not happening. And now he appears capable of sacrificing his game in favor of a not-quite-romance with Blamanda Seyfried.

And this episode revealed that Liz could be a serious player in this game. She flirted with Jeff as a power move, and even wanted to keep him around. She thinks Austin is trying to manipulate her; she might have a sense that she can actually manipulate Austin. We’re one week closer to the moment when Big Brother could become the season of Double Liz—and there is circumstantial evidence that Julia might actually be an even savvier player than her sister. (To be honest, I can never tell who’s who. I keep hoping the real Twin Twist is that they’re octuplets.)

NEXT: Farewell, Amazing Race tie-in

Did Jeff have a master plan? Did he just trust the wrong people? Or was he a duncecap to end all duncecaps? Like all great mysteries, this one shall remain unsolved. He got kicked out the door, although the votes were hardly unanimous: He earned a vote from Liz (mainly because she thought she could control him), and from power floater Johnny Mack, and from wannabe superfan Steve, and from ultimate floater Jackie.

Sheriff Julie tried hard to get Jeff to explain himself. Why did he flirt with Liz, knowing full well that Austin was a ragemonster in a lustmance with half the twin twist? “He was creepy. I dunno.” Why did he never interact with Jackie, his Amazing Race sidekick? “We wanted to kind of create an illusion that maybe Jackie and I weren’t as close as we are.” Viewers of The Amazing Race will have to explain to me why any of this was a good idea: Thus far, the CBS reality synergy has produced this season’s dampest squib and this very good season’s only truly inessential player.

The competition this week was themed around a 1994 music video, with the promise that there will be a full-fledged ’90s takeover. Perhaps, in a bid for network synergy, Big Brother will feature some of the most iconic CBS hits from the ’90s. See: Dick Van Dyke, hosting a Diagnosis Murder-themed competition! See: Becky cosplaying as Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman! See: A Murphy Brown reference that nobody will understand!

The Head of Household competition was surprisingly short. Liz and Shelli won, promising one of the single blondest weeks in the history of the HoH thronebed. The two queens even recorded a very special message for their fans:


This is an exciting lineup for the new week. Shelli has quickly become one of my favorite players this season. She’s willing to make big moves—Farewell, Mama Da’!—and she doesn’t forgive you if you violate the Circle of Trust—so long, Papa Jeff! I’m intrigued by her undefined flirtmance with Van Der Beek, and the relationship’s central tension: You can’t figure out who’s in charge, and who’s leading whom on. Liz is a bit more of a question mark—although the fact that there are technically three Head of Households this week is an encouraging move toward a true circus-sideshow week in the house. They are supposedly aligned, but it’s not clear how tight that alliance is—Liz gave Jeff a vote to stay.

In conclusion, here’s the best moment of Johnny Mack’s life:


Episode Recaps

Big Brother

Big Brother

Julie Chen hosts as the houseguests battle it out.

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