What is success, really?

By Darren Franich
July 27, 2017 at 10:09 PM EDT
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Big Brother

S19 E15
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  • TV Show
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  • CBS
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This should be one of the most triumphant nights in Big Brother history. One week ago, Cody was living in exile and Jessica was up on the block. Twenty-four hours later, Cody was back in the house, Jessica was Head of Household, and the future looked as bright as the past always does. Then Jessica won the Power of Veto. This week belonged to her. The future belonged to her. Cody had been chastened by his time in the shadowlands. Like Buffy in season 6, he seemed much changed from his resurrection, quieter, more willing to defer to his wiser showmance mate. “I’m playing your game,” Cody told Jessica, which is how Big Brother players say, “I love you” and/or “We’re doomed.”

And then… as my colleague Justin Kirkland pointed out in yesterday’s recap, Jessica opted to use all her ammunition and point the HoH bazooka at floaters: a curious move at any stage of the game, even more curious at a point when half the house has already declared open war on JessiCody.

And so we begin the eviction episode with Sheriff Julie recapping Jessica’s path to Thursday. She calls it “one of the most successful weeks in the history of Big Brother,” her grin expressing the obvious irony that the word successful usually requires success. Things immediately begin to go downhill for Jessica and Cody, not that they notice. Josh, aware that Paul has tilted the house in his direction, can barely contain his glee. In public, he puts on a great show of depression, cryfacing around the house, crocodile tears in his eyes. In private, he conducts one-man dance parties with the camera. “You’re getting played, meatballs!” he chants, dancing with himself, “Played! Meatballs! Played! Meatballs!”

Meanwhile, at the dumbest possible time, Mark begins to rebuild his relationship with Jessica and Cody. He does the laundry with Jessica, looking for all the world like a gigantic slab of concrete squeezed into pink booty shorts. He tells Cody, “I love you, man.”

And then he tells Paul everything Paul shouldn’t know. Does Mark get along great with Jessica and Cody? “He sure does!” Does Mark have a problem with anyone in the house? “There are two people, a pair, playing a game in the way I hate,” says Mark, eyes darting toward Matt and Raven. That’s cool, bro; hey, also, is there anyone you are inextricably tied to? “I’m connected with Elena,” Mark says. Paul thanks the pinkshorted slab of concrete for the grocery list of red flags, and spreads his useful information to Matt and Raven.

Clear and concrete evidence that Paul is, in fact, the Marvel supervillain Kraven the Hunter, except with better fashion sense that also somehow looks like worse fashion sense.

Some useful information came from an unusual source: cheerful Uncle Kevin, who has heard the whispering bells and doesn’t like what he hears. Jessica confides in him, offering up the most important bit of gossip in the house: the power she holds to toss an entire elimination round into the ether, essentially a get-out-of-jail-free card for her and anyone she cares about.

In return, Kevin gives her the big news. The house is flipping, and it’s flipping on them. (Poor Ramses is truly a pawn in Jessica and Cody’s machinations; when Ramses expresses concern that he might be going home, Cody can only process this information as it relates to him.) Jessica is upset with herself: “I knew the second I didn’t use that veto,” she says, hindsight being 20/20.

So begins the campaign process. The results are… not encouraging. Cody offers Jason what you might call a tough sell. Paraphrasing here: If you don’t vote for Josh, I will run a tornado through this house and make your life a living hell. Jason responds to this with a smile, but he’s bolder in the confessional: “Let’s go to war!” says the rodeo clown.

And so, one of the most successful weeks in Big Brother history ends with a stunningly abject failure. Paul’s victory was near-total. Outside of Cody, Elena, and Mark, the whole house votes cleanly against Ramses. Actually, you could argue that this was one of the most successful weeks in Big Brother history — but not for Jessica. I’ve always said that the most powerful person inside of the Big Brother house is the one who can control the votes without winning a single competition. This week, Paul had no hard symbols of power — no Head of Household, no veto, no allies with either. But where Paul goes, the house follows. “Paul is running the show,” poor Ramses tells Sheriff Julie, his shirt covered in blooming roses, his dreams of Big Brother fame wilting on the vine.

What does this mean for the future? A line has been drawn in the sand — but who will get the chance to build the first sandcastle? Is that a mixed metaphor? Who cares! Here’s what we know for sure: The next Head of Household is Paul. That is what success looks like. The Hunter is the King now. Jessica has that Hex to cast. Imagine what could have been! But imagine what will come: With her back against the wall, Jessica takes the unusual move of announcing her top-secret Hex power to the cast. While Julie follows up with a description of the upcoming temptation competition, the house reels from this new information. Does Jessica still have more tricks up her sleeve? We’ll find out next week.

Episode Recaps

Big Brother

Julie Chen hosts as the houseguests battle it out.

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  • 21
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  • CBS
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