One of the jurors re-enters the house and the tears flow yet again, but this time not from Vanessa.

By Jonathon Dornbush
August 31, 2015 at 02:47 AM EDT
S17 E30
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Johnny Mac is dead. Long live Johnny Mac!

Yes, the world’s favorite dentist (for three hours a week) returned victorious to the house, beating out Becky, Jackie, and Shelli to be the sole remaining juror in the Head of Household competition. With his return came the beginning of a game that could sow the seeds of the Austwins’ demise. But maybe not this week.

That would be because Vanessa secures her spot as HoH for the week during tonight’s episode, seemingly keeping the power firmly in the hands of one side of the house, but giving it a new direction. Johnny Mac is back, and surely Austin, Liz, and Julia want him immediately sent packing again.

Liz is furious Johnny Mac has returned, and is worried he’ll strike down upon her with great vengeance and furious anger for “no reason.” She, like Steve last week, has forgotten another entire cycle of the house transpired in which her boyfriend (it’s official now), spearheaded John’s eviction. Just a thought, Liz.

But with Vanessa in the seat of power, she’s a wildcard—is this going to be a Vanessa who uses her HoH to wisely help her sail through the next few weeks, or will this be a week of distraught, confused, and tearful Vanessa? Tonight certainly indicated the former, and it’s all thanks to a little deal down before eviction.

She and Johnny Mac agreed that, were he the one to come back into the house, they would work together on the sly going forward. Of course, Johnny Mac just so happened to make good on his end of the deal, and so now he expects she will too. For now, it surprisingly seems like she is, creating a three-person side-alliance with John and Steve, with whom she also mended ties with before eviction.

Liz and Julia may have been the twin twist at the start, but Vanessa’s gameplay could constitute a new version of the twist itself. She can be deviously smart in her gameplay one minute and garishly awful the next, but from the hours before eviction into the first days of her HoH rule, she seems to have settled on which Vanessa is playing this week, and it’s the one making all the right moves for her game.

She expects the Austwins will want to go after John, so she informs them that Austin is a target of the last remaining pair not really aligned with Vanessa—Meg and James. Buying into Vanessa at her word (because she’s never lied to him before), Austin takes the bait and agrees John is no longer the threat who needs to go at the earliest possible opportunity.

And poor Meg and James. They (well, James at least) have fought tremendously hard to stay in the game. Little do they know the opposing force against them is gathering its strength to strike. The two go up to Vanessa’s HoH room without a clue as to their detrimental position. All James has worried about has been the lack of photos of Vanessa’s mom in the HoH room, the weird balance he has to strike with calling Meg a grandma while having a massive crush on her, and Julia wanting to prank him.

NEXT: Vanessa chooses her latest victims

After Austin watching his back last week, he likely assumes he’s in a decent place again for the week to come. But the conversation he and Meg have with Vanessa plays out much like the “Expectations vs. Reality” scene in (500) Days of Summer. On the one hand, you have Vanessa going into the talk wanting the pair to give her a reason to mistrust and go after Austin this weekend. The two of them, meanwhile, are seeking to affirm their security for the week.

You can practically see the two ideal conversations playing out in their minds. But reality is far crueler, as neither side gets what they want. Unfortunately, that means it’s all bad news for Meg and James. They give Vanessa none of the information she might want, ensuring they are now her targets for the moment. To make matters worse, the two throwing themselves on the sacrificial pawn blade in front of Vanessa only solidifies her intentions.

When Vanessa asks them both if they would consider going up on the block while Johnny Mac is targeted to test them, James offers to go up first. He doesn’t want to let his dear old love (emphasis on old, as tonight’s “Grandma Meg” montage wanted to infer) be in harm’s way. Volunteering as tribute sends Meg into a tearful fit, demanding that she be put up instead of him. As she said in her Diary Room visit, no one wants to vote out grandma, right? The two want to protect each other, and it’s a sign of a true alliance—which is exactly why Vanessa wants to break it up.

And while Austin still has her back, Vanessa has no reason to put him up; in her mind, splitting up Austin and Liz is less of a priority. Sure, Liz may have agreed to be Austin’s girlfriend (so long as he breaks up with that other girlfriend he has outside the house, but that power couple isn’t a threat to Vanessa’s alliances for the moment.

So, in the end, Vanessa nominates James and Meg for eviction, giving a speech about chess pieces that is horribly off-brand for a contestant who’s made her brand all about her poker career. James and Meg are put on the chopping block, leaving James never knowing if he could have prevented it. He chooses not to remind Vanessa of a deal they made when he was HoH to keep him and another houseguest of his choosing safe should Vanessa be safe in the coming weeks before the final seven.

This would have been the perfect week, but alas, James decides it’s better not to rock the boat in case Vanessa didn’t even have him on her radar, but the nominations show she, in fact, does. But whether it’s the end of the house’s grandma, or the man with such great game talk as, “My butt cheeks are puckered right now,” is a question for later this week, as there’s still a Veto competition to come.

Julie Chen hosts as the houseguests battle it out.
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