An endurance competition ends with the balance of power shifting and the season's big showmance being put at risk.

Credit: CBS
S17 E18

With the Battle of the Block behind us this season, Sunday nights of Big Brother have now thankfully returned to primarily being about the players actually playing the game rather than worrying about an extra competition. And while the endurance comp took up more than a fourth of the hour, it helped to signal the start of a new regime’s control in the house, one not under the watchful eye of King Clay and Queen Shelli. Far from it, in fact.

But let’s start out with that test of endurance. (ASIDE: Oh how I miss the day when the time on an endurance competition would tick up by hours, not minutes. Seeing “Time Elapsed: 1 hour, 20 minutes” is far less impressive than the seven or eight hours these challenges would take at a minimum in previous years. END OF ASIDE) The competition picked up from the last episode, tasking the players with gripping onto the rock climbing handholds beside them for dear life. The rain, pelting by felt-bald-eagle, and bird poop splatters appear to have driven the houseguests to the point of insanity. All of them begin babbling—not quite as horribly as we’re shown Clay talks on any given day later in the episode, but they all act strangely in their own ways.

Becky yells out about the comp being a wet t-shirt contest, James repeatedly asks everyone else on the walls to strike deals, and Austin frequently looks over at Liz with wolf eyes, spurred on by the promise of a kiss if he wins. (He must be really love-struck if he can’t quite see how little interest she actually has in him, but such are the ways of a proper showmance.) Unfortunately, Austin is one of the first to fall off alongside Steve.

Yes, Steve is still in the game, a fact he may try to hide from just about everyone, but fails to do so. When James scares Steve coming out of the bathroom later in the episode, Steve falls to the ground, presumably shocked that anyone remembered he was still in the house. There are floaters like Johnny Mac and Becky, and then there’s flying so far under the radar that it’s easy for the audience to forget you’re on the show, which is where Steve is comfortably sitting.

Julia and Meg then fall, and the rest of the houseguests tumble like dominoes, leaving James, Shelli, and John up on the wall. Shelli is clearly shaking in her sneakers, ready to drop at a moment’s notice; James looks like he’s zoned out in another dimension; and Johnny Mac is just wishing his good pal Baldy the bald eagle would come back to visit him. (ASIDE: Once again we we’re teased with the kiss between Johnny Mac and Becky before the opening credits and the infinitely more intriguing showmance couple that could be. END OF ASIDE)

Shelli, thinking she is anywhere near a position of power, asks James to make a deal. She and James throw in Johnny Mac’s safety, but she also asks, for all that is good and holy in the world, that James not touch a single hair on her or precious Clay’s heads. She repeats herself so many times which is understandable given the freezing rain—nevertheless, she begs for Clay’s protection so many times I had to check that my cable box wasn’t sputtering, rewinding the perfect five-second clip over and over out of sheer luck.

James accepts the deal, not really needing to, as one look at Shelli’s quivering legs would have proved (Jackie and Meg later point this out to James as well). But the HoH contender doesn’t want to rock the boat too much and outright reject the deal, so he agrees and assumes the throne.

NEXT: James decides how soon is too soon to get blood on his hands…

And what do James and his team want to do with this newfound power, which has finally been snatched away from the vice grip Shelli, Clay, and Vanessa have had on it for so long? Well, evict the two people James just promised to keep safe, of course. He discusses their possible fate with Meg, Jackie, and Becky, with Austin and the twins’ fate also looking dour.

Side note: The twins are happy to be in the game together, though Julia still has some anger after Austin exposed her name. Liz defends him, but Julia won’t be letting this go anytime soon. Austin, on the other hand, just wants them all to work together. He sees them as “beyond friends” in the game, mostly because he views Liz as his future wife. And the last thing he wants to do is upset the twin sister of his bride-to-not-be.

All the while, Becky is sitting in the room, no less sitting on the HoH bed. “Do they see me, do they actually know I’m here,” she must have been asking herself over and over as the trio basically reveals all of their plans to her as well. Other than a feeble attempt to suggest someone beyond Shelli and Clay, she keeps her lips sealed… until she heads downstairs, that is.

Becky has some sense of gratitude to Clay and Becky for keeping her safe last week, which is a pretty twisted way of seeing her nomination. But even so, she tells the two of them that they are contenders for the nomination block and that all they should do is smile: Act like everything is rainbows and kittens until the Veto which they can win, and ensure neither of them goes home.

They take this information and run to James, surprisingly not to reveal Becky’s treachery, as has seemed to become the de facto game move this year. Instead, they simply ask James where they stand after the promise on the wall. He offers some vague reassurance while also intimating he’s still unhappy with the way things went down last week. Clay and Shelli play the victims in the conversation, suggesting their hands are completely free of Jason’s blood.

James doesn’t buy it, though, and the decision of what to do for nominations is actually keeping him up at night. He treats his insomnia with a late-night talk with Meg, telling her he’s considering putting both Clay and Shelli up from the start. If they’re the target in the end, might as well put all the bad blood out in the open from the start rather than trying to orchestrate a backdoor plan.

Come nomination ceremony time, James executes that gut feeling, putting Clay and Shelli up on the block. And are they shocked. James fears they’ll be another Brendon and Rachel, but Clay and Shelli see themselves as two innocent, poor little honest game players who never hurt so much as a fly in the backyard. They decide to commandeer the ceremony, Shelli appalled that James would go back on their flimsy agreement of safety. She and Clay tell the house guests they were not complicit in what happened, and if they want a lesson on how things really went down last week, they’re more than happy to discuss it.

Unfortunately for them, they throw Vanessa under the bus. She was already disappointed that Shelli left her out of the now null and void deal, and now she’s worried what Clay and Shelli will say about Jason’s eviction. She seems to think she’s the beloved third wheel of Shelli and Clay’s relationship but one of the final images of the episode perfectly sums up her standing with them:

Credit: CBS

You might want to consider a new showmance to hitch your wagon to, Vanessa. I’m really liking John and Becky, even if they’re just good friends.

Episode Recaps

Big Brother

Big Brother

Julie Chen hosts as the houseguests battle it out.

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