With high stakes, will players learn from the past?

By Aubry Bracco
July 23, 2017 at 11:17 PM EDT
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Credit: Bill Inoshita/CBS
S19 E13
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  • CBS
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Dear Big Brother houseguests,

Tell us this: When will you learn? Have you watched this show or any others before blasting your mediocre strategy and social play on television and laptop screens across the country? I’m not trying to play armchair quarterback here. I’ve made my own fair share of mistakes playing games, but you guys keep racking up more rookie-level mistakes than “The Little Giants” before the championship game.

There are character archetypes in reality television. But what the houseguests don’t seem to realize is that there are archetypal trajectories too. Certain player patterns are mainstays over the years. Let’s stop red-light-style in honor of the HOH Competition and consider a few examples:

(1) Dominant alpha players have a tendency to get arrogant and complacent just before the rug gets pulled out from under them (Cody 1.0). (2) Players who mock others about being on the bottom end up eating their words (Josh to Jessica and Cody). (3) Overtly coupling up is a one-way ticket to disaster (Cody + Jessica = Jody 1.0 and Jody 2.0).

As much as some players say they’re aware of the dangers and pitfalls of the ways they’re playing, I’m not sure I fully believe them. With that said, let’s switch from red light to green and gawk at the delightful car crash that is Big Brother 19.

House Car Crash: Josh

Knock, knock who’s there? It’s Cody, and he’s back from the dead just in time to pump up Jessica and disappoint the remainder of the house before the HOH Competition. Everyone minus Jody goes into the competition with the same mindset as Paul: Cody is “still public enemy number one.”

The houseguests head out into the backyard to play “What’s the Hold-Up?” The competition is basically a stationary, mind-numbing version of Red Light, Green Light — houseguests hold up a red disk representative of a red light with white Mickey Mouse gloves and a flimsy stick for as long as possible. When they drop out, they get to punish each other with obstacles you’d encounter on a busy street. The issue? These punishments are everyday occurrences in the BB House anyway.

Take the angry, screaming road-rager, for instance, who’s just the same as afternoons with Josh. Then there’s the food truck dude dressed as a hot dog, dousing houseguests in mustard and ketchup — welcome to a pleasant game of pool with Mark and Josh, minus the hot sauce and pickle juice.

As predicted, the houseguests target Cody and Jessica with punishment after punishment. Josh decides to add to the pleasantries with shouts of: “Hey Cody, you pack of meatballs, you ready to go back out that door again? Huh? Huh?” What Josh doesn’t realize is he’s not doing anything to take on his adversaries. He’s fueling Jody’s desire to decimate everyone else in the house for multiple reasons. First, yelling is the worst possible strategy to take on a Marine. “As any Marine will tell you,” Cody tells us, “you get yelled at a million times… This has no effect on me.” Second, what Josh doesn’t know is it’s the three-year anniversary of Jessica’s father’s death. She has something way bigger to fight for.

And fight Jessica does, until we hear a cock-a-doodle-doo in the wee hours of the morning and Christmas drops. If you thought you were crazy during the episode — yes, you were watching Big Brother. No, you were not watching the season premiere of The Bachelor with a cocktail party and rose ceremony that drags on until daybreak.

As soon as the HOH Competition ends, it’s evident who Jody’s first target is. In the words of Kevin: “You know who they’re putting up? Josh and Josh.” Josh has completely lost it, and I’m positive there’s no hope. Being somewhat emotional can help you go deep in the game if you find a strategic, reliable ally who knows how to play tamer to your wild lion tendencies. But if you’re unstable to the point of being a Category 5 hurricane in the house like Josh, you’re playing with fire. Josh was in the process of making himself the ideal goat for competent players like Paul, but he’s also made daily life more hellish than an extended family holiday dinner. (Recap continues on page 2)

Use Caution: Student Drivers Cody and Jessica Ahead

Jessica has a chance to turn things around as the new HOH, and her stakes are high. Plus, believe it or not, I’m rooting for her. There’s nobody I love more than an underdog except for reformed or super-secret villains. I love players who adjust and readjust to the appropriate degree, harnessing their darker superpowers to make the game work to their advantage.

Jessica has the opportunity to somewhat undo the damage she and Cody did on their first love fest/power trip. (1) She’s got to assert herself as an individual without wrapping herself up with Cody more tightly than Kevin’s Saran wrap waist trainer (“wrap at night. It will keep you tight”). (2) She can’t create another storm that will rock the metaphorical boat that is the Big Brother House too much.

She immediately fails at the first part. As soon as Cody reenters the house, Jessica informs everyone they have “some kissing to do.” These two are like lifelong penguin lovers who’ve been reunited after one thought the other was devoured by a killer whale. They keep away from the glacial shelf and on top of the mountain in the HOH room.

Jessica partially succeeds on not creating a storm front. She opts to put up two people whose behaviors have rattled the other houseguests — Josh for cataclysmic volcanic emotional eruptions, and the more stealthy Ramses, who gives people that wary feeling animals get before an earthquake.

Jessica tells Cody she knows she can’t trust Alex, Josh, Christmas, and Paul, but she’s eager not to repeat the mistakes of Cody’s HOH reign, and she’s determined to keep her temptation, the Halting Hex, for as long as possible. With that in mind, she makes a point to smooth things over with other players.

She whispers sweet nothings into the ears of Raven, Matt, Elena, and Mark. Cody even has a man-to-man alpha talk with Paul that feels like two rams calling a fake truce before gouging each other’s eyes out. These conversations are stilted and clearly all for show, though Jessica assures Raven her efforts to reconcile in the week Cody was gone were “genuine.” Oh, and it might seem trivial, but Jessica, here’s a pro-tip: When you’re having a conversation about trust, don’t wear sunglasses that prevent people from looking you in the eye.

Jessica’s desire to make moves thinking about the “longevity” of Jody’s game is great, as is going with the flow, but after Cody’s reign of terror, it’s too passive. Jessica and Cody might not want to create a storm that makes waves by nominating volatile Josh and outsider Ramses, but if they don’t have any wind, Jody’s boat isn’t going anywhere.

Jessica and Cody need to understand they’ve made a bed. They need to lie in it and make smart game decisions in line with past gameplay. No matter how chill they appear, both showed the houseguests who they were before — the houseguests know that Jessica and Cody know exactly who the threats are. Part of Jody’s history are botched attempts to backdoor Paul and target Christmas. As the game warden Robert Muldoon says in Jurassic Park about his MENSA velociraptor pride — “They remember!” Cody and Jessica better smarten up and get Paul before they get got by Paul, Mr. T-Rex himself.

Episode Recaps

Big Brother

Julie Chen hosts as the houseguests battle it out.

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