With power shifting and relationships cracking, which alliances will crumble and which will stay strong?

By Aubry Bracco
July 30, 2017 at 11:09 PM EDT
Cliff Lipson/CBS
S19 E16
  • TV Show
  • CBS

Ladies and gentlemen, step right up! Welcome to another act of Big Brother 19, your favorite never-ending circus. This show is filled with drama, temptation, too many clowns (including one who specializes in rodeo), and a stampeding elephant named Josh. Let’s not forget our ringmaster, Paul. He’s been keeping this ragtag crew in line all the while fending off clumsy acrobats Cody and Jessica (Jody), who are determined to steal that spotlight someday and run the show.

We dive into Sunday night’s antics just after Jess crash-lands her HOH reign, resulting in a Ramses eviction; Paul wins HOH (again); and Jess drops an atomic bomb of a statement on the house.

When Jess tells houseguests she has the power to keep Jody safe for the next couple weeks, she unleashes a bold, yet hazy mushroom cloud over the house. Jessica relishes her mysterious power and lauds it as an opportunity to “strong-arm” HOH Paul. But we all know Paul is the ringmaster here, with the ability to read any one of the actors who steps into the ring. He finds Jessica’s assertion “fishy.” Nonetheless, the houseguests go into a frenzy trying to suss out the truth in the fallout from the Jessica Hex bomb.

To make things even more interesting in this disaster of a house, a flashback prior to the eviction lets us know Josh has decided this is the perfect time to share his musical abilities and further drive home his hatred for Mark. In an effort “to get in this meatball’s head,” Josh bangs pots and pans while belting a carnival-themed soundtrack at the top of his lungs. Because, hey, what’s a circus without a little music? While I wouldn’t want to live with Josh, there’s no denying he’s A+ television.

Mark manages to maintain his cool listening to Josh; he stands at the mirror looking like the Incredible Hulk ready to snap. It’s evident that things are roiling for Mark, and they’re itching to come to the surface.

A Couple on the Verge

While everyone else is navigating the poison of the news Jessica has unleashed on the house and most are laughing at the unhinged maniac that is Josh, Elena and Mark (Marlena) are still shell-shocked by Ramses’ eviction.

“I’m pissed,” Elena tells America. “I was absolutely excluded [from that vote]. People I was working with that I thought I could trust in this house literally lied to my face.” Similarly, Mark tells Cody, “I’ve become an outsider.” To make matters even worse for Marlena, Cody makes an objectively terrible move, telling Paul that his only connection in the game besides Jess is Mark.

With little knowledge of Jessica’s temptation and a wary eye on Mark and Cody (should we called them Mody?), Paul and team choose a Plan A that would put Jody on the block with Marlena as Plan B.

As we say in good old New England, light has finally dawned on Marblehead for Marlena, who realize they’re on the bottom of the majority alliance with a high likelihood of ending up on the block. Elena goes right to work talking to Paul. And while the BB18 vet offers her some comfort, saying he believes he and Elena are working “at the same level of operation,” he warns her that her connection to Mark has done damage to her game and will drag her down.

Elena tells Mark her association with Mark could tank her game. Mark tells Elena the only person he feels comfortable with in the game is Cody, and it’s clear that we’ve cut to the core of Marlena’s issues.

On one hand, Marlena’s exclusion from the Ramses eviction is a messy result of being a couple in a large alliance. When you opt to be part of a power alliance, two things inevitably happen: (1) You get too comfortable and the rug gets ripped out from under you. (2) If people think you could deviate and disrupt the carefully constructed tower that is a Big Brother alliance, you’ll be removed like a wonky Jenga piece to preserve the stability of the whole.

Do that in a pair, and you’re in double trouble. What makes Marlena’s situation even worse is that they couldn’t be more different in their styles of play. While it’s helpful to find a game partner who can see things from a different strategic perspective than your own or someone who can do the social work that you cannot, you need a partner who operates in the same reality and speaks the same language you do. This will most definitely never be the case for Mark, who’s got more emotions than an entire aisle of greeting cards at Hallmark, and Elena, who tells us “I did not leave my life to throw my entire BB game away for a guy I met 40 days ago.” (Recap continues on page 2)

Tutu Time

Julie tells the houseguests they’ll be participating in a Temptation Challenge that was unleashed when Jessica accepted the Halting Hex. In the challenge, the first houseguest will receive immunity for the week, and the loser will go up on the block as a third nominee.

As a viewer, the Temptation Challenge is a fantastic catalyst for strategic jockeying and forces players to stay on their toes. The news throws a wrench in the plans of both the majority alliance, which has a Plan A and a Plan B in place for Paul’s reign, and Jody. While Cody wants to compete, Jess doesn’t want him to, as it could diminish the power she believes they have by keeping people in the dark about their advantage. Elena also decides to sit out of the challenge to make Paul think she’s in good with him. Ultimately, Jason, Matt, Alex, and Mark decide to participate in the “Bowlerina” challenge.

As if the circus of everyday life in the house weren’t already fun enough, the challenge is ballet-themed, with all participants in tutus, spinning in circles to get dizzy before bowling pins as quickly as possible. Mark’s lime green outfit certainly shines. Josh says he “looks like an overstuffed meatball in a tutu,” but I’d say he’s more of an overgrown Disney character who ended up at the princess birthday party instead of the superhero one he was scheduled for.

On Intuition and Execution

Mark wins and Jason loses, dropping a second bomb, this time on Paul’s airtight backup plan to put up Marlena. The circus ensues again. Post competition, Paul and team still don’t have more information on Jody’s power, and there’s no longer a block option in Mark. Paul and his clowns decide they’ll need to risk one of their own as “a strong pawn on the table” if Jody can pull themselves off the block and someone who isn’t Mark needs to go up next to Elena. Once again, thanks to the ringmaster and his tricks — crisis averted.

For some strange reason, Jessica decides this period of reshuffling, just before nominations, is the perfect time to give Paul the opportunity to learn more about the Halting Hex’s true power. Uncertainty can be a powerful tool in the Big Brother house, but in releasing information and letting it sit for too long without explanation, Jessica unleashes chaos without any control. Paul tells Jess she’s “being super vague about [her] temptation,” before closing the door to further communication.

Cody says Jess has great intuition, and he’s right, but she has disastrous execution. Before the Battle Back, when she was on her own, Jess had a working relationship with Paul. She had the opportunity to call on that relationship and privately fill Paul in before spooking all the clowns and elephants in Paul’s circle of control.

Unsurprisingly, Paul puts Cody and Jessica on the block with the real-life rodeo clown. And with that, the BB18 vet asserts his dominance once again, and Cody, Jess, Elena, and Mark are left wondering if they should team up together in a foursome to take on Paul’s traveling show.

They’re dysfunctional as all get out, and I’m not sure they can pull it off, but I’d love to see Marlena and Jody revolt with the help of some disgruntled clowns. To them, I say this: If things are inevitably going to crack, sometimes it’s better to be standing with a few friends instead of an army — there’ll be more room for you on the iceberg when it breaks off from the glacier. Marlena and Jody, only time will tell how long Paul’s minions feel comfortable in an overstuffed clown car. You have an opportunity to bust into that tent and take down the show. Don’t blow it.

Episode Recaps

Big Brother

Julie Chen hosts as the houseguests battle it out.

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  • 21
  • TV-14
  • CBS
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