Twelve new houseguests are welcomed by four familiar faces and three unwanted twists

By Justin Kirkland
June 23, 2016 at 05:05 PM EDT
Credit: CBS
S18 E1
  • TV Show
  • CBS

Just as the echo of poker chips and Vanessa’s word hitting the floor has stopped echoing through our minds, we’re here again: It’s time for another Big Brother season. I’m Justin, and I’ll be recapping most of Sunday’s episodes — but because this is Big Brother, you should always expect a twist, which is why I’m here on premiere night, serving up the summer vacation plans of 12 16 excited houseguests.

Last season was, in a word, exhausting. Watching Vanessa mosey through week to week, mowing down her pajama-clad competition, only to have Thing 1 and Super Brains make it to the final two… It was a lot to process, but we’ve had nearly nine months to let it all settle. Join me in letting it go. Let go of Vanessa’s pipe dream of winning, Shelli’s pipe dream of a Clay/Shelli marriage, and Austin’s pipe dream of getting his shoes back. We’re here in the now with our blessed leader, Julie Chen, welcoming in a new season of showmances, alliances, a “Summer Vacation” theme, and of course, unexpected twists.

Oh, and don’t you fret — the unexpected twists are abound! Three in the first night alone, in fact. Some are easy to spot through spoilers, or as Bronte might say, “math.” But hopefully, some of them are new little nuggets to shake up a game that has always relied so heavily on the unexpected. What we can all rest easy on, though, is that it appears none of the twists are Battle of the Block. Like an old boyfriend your friends pretended to support but would never invite to brunch, Battle of the Block seems to have officially left the Big Brother building. But let’s not focus on the past or even “math” — let’s focus on our 12 houseguests!

Paul: A clothing designer from California who admittedly hates people who think they know a lot, which as we know in Big Brother speak, means he thinks he knows a lot. He has a powerful beard and lots of tattoos, and he’s ~different~.

Victor: Victor is a gym manager, which on the surface says a lot, but let’s not focus on the kind of stereotypes that got us into trouble back in season 15. I’m going to keep an open mind for our Puerto Rican Sensation. That title doesn’t quite roll off the tongue just yet, but I’m down to play Victor’s game for a while.

Corey: A baseball coach from Dallas, Corey doesn’t seem like one to make a lot of waves. Actually, he strikes me as a solid showmance for someone who is going to be a good player. Sounds a lot like Nicole back in season 16, right? YOU AGREE? Keep reading. He’s already been busted for some not-so-nice comments outside the house, but we gotta hope for the best, right?

Paulie: Bearing one of the most New Jersey names that could ever exist (sorry, New Jersey, I’ve heard your cows are phenomenal), Paulie is the brother of Cody Calafiore, or as you might know him, that guy Derek took to the end of season 16. He’s bound to make out with someone and win a solid number of competitions, but I’m not ready to make any more predictions past that.

Bronte: So, Bronte means well. I think. She’s a student and aspiring mathematician who hopes to use her STEM background to win, but I think her super-high-pitched voice and assumed ditziness may get in the way of those ambitions. She also references her name as in Brontosaurus, making me super resentful my parents didn’t name me after a dinosaur.

Bridgette: A California travel nurse, I get real Meg-like vibes from Bridgette. She seems to be fun and rowdy, but it’s the premiere, so who isn’t fun and rowdy?

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Zakiyah: I love when tropes take a crazy turn and end up being the inside-flatout version of itself — that’s Zakiyah, a Southern belle with an attitude, a Mossy Oak shirt, and a shotgun on her shoulder. A strange hybrid of Aaryn, Da’Vonne, and James, Zakiyah will hopefully be around for a while.

Jozea: Flat-bill hat-wearing makeup artist Jozea was asked to describe himself with three adjectives, to which he replied, “Funny, outgoing, creative strategist, and a visual genius,” which is literally four adjectives, two nouns, and a conjunction, so he has no intention of playing by the rules.

NEXT: Out with the old, in… NO, out with the old

Glenn: Poor Glenn. The token not-20-something. Glenn is a 50-year-old traveling dog groomer who is likely one of the biggest superfans on the show, but he’s immediately pigeon-holed as the dad. If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t think Glenn is going to last long, but I want him to because I love an underdog.

Michelle: From what I gather, Michelle doesn’t like fat people, and she’s scared of a lot. Honestly, she spouts off a litany of things she’s scared of, but I get the idea that maybe Michelle got a bad opening package and has a lot of potential inside the game.

Natalie: A nonprofit event coordinator (because of course she is), she’s super excited to live with men because she’s never done that (good for you, girl!). She also strikes me as the least likely to know what’s going on, but you find a way to love her anyway.

Tiffany: Oh, Tiffany. So, she’s Vanessa’s sister. Also a bisexual woman. Also 100-percent paranoid. Think of her like the diet, caffeine-free, brunette version of Vanessa. She loves the game and loves her sister, but let’s just shoot each other straight for a second. Vanessa was certified bonkers whilst playing Big Brother, but she was SO good at being bonkers and still dominating. Tiffany? I’m not sure I see that same fire.

So in groups of four, these 12 enter the house, find the room that most resonates with their personality, etc., and get acquainted with one another and the place they’ll live for the next 45 to 200 days (EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED). Per usual, the group gathers in the living room for introductions and to make themselves known. Jozea yells because we all have our roles. Bronte introduces herself as a dinosaur (I totally take back my comment from earlier). Glenn calls attention to the fact that he’s 50, and everyone pretends to be shocked about it. But then there’s poor Tiffany and Paulie on the outskirts, completely lost on whether to own up to their connections to seasons past. Fortunately, most of the houseguests are busy with their summer prospects: namely, Victor who loves Natalie who loves Corey who loves Victor (but only as a bromance, bro, haha *physical nudge*).

There’s no time for fun after introductions because Julie comes in to explain how this is a Summer Vacation, but with twists! And the first twist is the houseguests aren’t crazy for their suspicion that maybe they aren’t the full cast — they’ll be joined by four other housemates, which is just the first of three twists! The houseguests are shocked, but like… in the same way they’re shocked when they “find” their keys to the house. Eventually, Nicole (season 16), James (season 17), Frank (season 14), and Da’Vonne (season 17) pop out of literal trunks to surprise the houseguests. Unfortunately, the houseguests are not amused with the additions, with the sentiment mostly being that they’ve already had their shot to win and couldn’t, which is a very Brandy way of looking at things.

Almost immediately, Paul, Zakiyah, and Jozea break off to form a trio alliance, because as everyone knows, day-one-alliances usually last FOREVER. They agree the veterans have to go. Similarly, the veterans band together, knowing the young guns (even Glenn!) want them out fast, so they have to watch out for each other. Naturally, though, that doesn’t work — because production knows how these things tend to shake out. That’s how we get to twist no. 2! Julie calls the gang back to the living room to announce that for any summer vacation, the most important part is your travel partner. Fortunately, for each houseguest, they’ll have three. That’s right… For an annoyingly large part of the game that has yet to be announced, the house will be split into teams of four. The difference is that instead of being coaches, the returning houseguests are simply team captains who kick off the team-selection process before the first competition. And that’s how we end up with these four strangely named teams:

Team Unicorn: James, Victor, Bronte, Natalie

Category 4: Frank, Paulie, Michelle, Bridgette

Team Freakazoid: Nicole, Corey, Tiffany, Glenn

Big Sister: Da’Vonne, Zakiyah, Paul, Jozea

I would explain how the names were decided, but it was super awkward, and we have a competition to discuss, AM I RIGHT?

NEXT: Sisters do as sisters should

The first competition of the season kicks off with our newly formed teams straddling four giant rockets that rotate and move back and forth. Simply put, the first team off will be the have-nots for the week, the second team off will receive a mystery punishment, the third team off wins a $10,000 cash prize, and the winning team will be safe for TWO weeks. Even Da’Vonne gasps. Though I’m sure in real time the competition probably dragged on, it seemed as though the houseguests dropped like flies. Ultimately, Jozea was the last to drop from Big Sister, leaving them as Big Have-Nots. As the rest fell, it came down to Corey and Victor, but it was Victor who reigned supreme, locking the weirdest foursome ever into a safe two weeks in the Big Brother house.

There’s much celebrating, but Da’Vonne’s team is not interested in her sticking around. Okay, that’s probably dramatic, but Paul, Zakiyah, and Jozea have actively taken NO interest in keeping their teammate in the safe zone. If we’re being honest, Da’Vonne is too good for this world. Granted, that’s coming from a big Da’Vonne fan — if we’re being super honest, I don’t know how fate or gameplay or astrology has dealt Da’Vonne such a super unfortunate hand not just once, but twice. Meanwhile, Victor the Puerto Rican Sensation is having a wonderful time with the most ridiculous team ever.

Outside of celebration station, Tiffany jumps off to a great start by being exactly as paranoid as Vanessa. She starts quizzing Michelle to see if she’s related to Nicole, which is hilarious… especially as someone who is trying not to be identified as Vanessa’s sister. She ruins it real fast, though, and admits she’s Vanessa’s sister, so that says a lot about Tiffany from the get-go. Can’t focus on that too long, though, because you have to be ready for anything, or in this case, the third twist. The big surprise is that in a second competition, the three unsafe teams will compete for safety — after two rounds, two more teams will be safe, and that last team? They’ll compete against one another for their Big Brother lives.

We launch into our next competition on a beach. In round one, there’s a 15-piece sand-castle pyramid that has to be constructed by finding the pieces in a sandpile, but the pyramid must be made on a platform being held up by strings from the other three team members. It’s a journey, y’all. Team Freakazoid takes an early lead because Corey’s a baseball coach, etc. But it’s not long before everyone’s towers start falling. It’s a classic Big Brother conundrum — long, difficult games, disjointed team dynamics, screaming about it in the Diary Room. And then there’s poor Da’Vonne not having any fun at all with Paul, whom she is starting to regret picking. But once Freakazoids’ pyramid falls and Da’Vonne decides Paul isn’t 100-percent awful, the other two teams step. it. up. It’s not enough, though, because Category 4 wins round one.

Taking absolutely no time to bounce on that “get the vets out” strategy, Coach Corey decides that even if they lose, he wants to protect Nicole because “she’s a great girl.” That strategy worked WONDERS for Clay, Corey. Cheers to you, baby boy. The good news is there’s a second round — so that scenario may not even need to happen! Freakazoid and Big Sister go head-to-head, and by that, I mean Paul and Da’Vonne go head-to-head, while Tiffany (probably) inspects all the competitors for similar facial structures to past contestants. OH, TIFFANY. But at least Big Sister is being logical about it all, whereas Freakazoid is having quite the difficult time. Even Bronte comments, which is surprising because, well… Bronte, regardless of her math background, hasn’t seemed like the most complex algebraic equation on the final (note to self: drop the math puns). Even in the moments when Freakazoid gets close, Da’Vonne (and Jesus) stays pretty chill, and with good reason — Paul’s cream-side/speckle-side theory finally comes through, even if his external dialogue drummed up some Remember the Titans memories.

With that, the Freakazoids are on the bubble/chopping block and 12 houseguests are safe for at least the first eviction. But tomorrow is a whole new ballgame that hopefully involves fewer sand castles. What do you think of this “Summer Vacation” that seems to have no Battle of the Block? I, for one, couldn’t be happier about the exclusion, but I’m a purist. Hit the comments section and tell me what you think until we resume tomorrow, when Marc Snetiker takes charge of these recaps. From nowhere near the Big Brother house, I’m Justin Kirkland. Good night.

Episode Recaps

Big Brother

Julie Chen hosts as the houseguests battle it out.

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