We’re three episodes in, and Big Brother 19 proves something I already knew. I’m glad I played Big Brother’s outdoor counterpart, Survivor, because living in a closed space with a pack of reality personalities would activate my claustrophobia big time. Let’s be clear about this: There’s simply no means of escape on Big Brother unless you’re out of the game. Sure, there’s access to a backyard. But in my book, fake turf reminiscent of the Brady Bunch lawn (in the words of Jeff Probst reading votes at a tribal council with hidden immunity idols) Does. Not. Count.
Now that my Survivor participation is out of the way and you know where I’m coming from, let’s get down to business: Megan’s out of the game. What the heck happened, and where do the houseguests go from here?
Kicking the night off, Megan is fresh off a confrontation with Josh and a blunt nomination from Cody, who told her, “I just don’t like you.” It’s not long before things get messier than a cafeteria food fight. Jessica calls Alex “Pao-Pao,” referencing her resemblance to season 16 houseguest Paola Shea. Then, Megan tells Alex that Jessica was racist and called Alex a “Panda.” When word gets back to Jessica that Megan accused her of being racist, Jessica expresses her desire to “snap [Megan] in half,” and decides to cut the cord on the house-wide game of telephone. She tells Alex her side of the story, and Alex immediately confronts Megan for falsely accusing Jessica of being racist. Megan feels the walls closing in. Unable to calm herself down, she retreats to the diary room and never comes out while Kevin laments his inability to comfort her via text with a “a few mojos” since he doesn’t have a phone. A few hours later, the houseguests are told Megan is out of the game.
We may never fully know Megan’s ultimate reasoning to hit the abort button on her Big Brother experience. It’s clear her heated encounters with the guys, along with her belief she’ll never regain trust, go into the decision. She goes down a path of “I just can’t do this” thinking. Speaking from experience, I can tell you, when you’re in a new environment far from home, that mindset can be a death sentence. Every contestant goes into reality television with their own baggage and performance anxiety stemming from the bright-eyed intention of hitting the ground running. Add a little drama, and that’s a recipe for disaster. Megan senses it, it seems producers do too, and the temptation of escape and serenity kill Megan’s dream of Big Brother victory.
But it’s time to trudge onward. There are 15 other houseguests (including Cody, possible heir to Hannibal Lecter) and too many emotions brewing to linger on Megan’s memory wall portrait.
Temptation and Torture
And move on we do, with a whole bunch of temptation (and torture).
The Have-Nots are back this season with slop and a torture chamber of a bedroom. HOH Cody asks for volunteers and five people step up to the plate: Josh, Ramses, Jillian, Paul, and Megan (who departed shortly after her Have-Not designation). While my coconut-filled weeks on Survivor keep me from having sympathy for Ramses and his disappointment with his slop du jour, “clay putty chunks with birdseeds,” the medieval torture chamber spiked beds do look worse than sleeping on uneven bamboo. The Have-Nots learn the first one to ask for a temptation gets a key to two boxes and takes the 50/50 chance of ending the Have-Not curse immediately or suffering the consequences of its extension. Paul is the first to snag the key “because giving into temptation sometimes ain’t so bad.” He escapes the torture of living on a razor-sharp device and enjoys a little more luck than he had at the end of season 18.
Paul’s temptations of the night are just beginning. America picks him for the Den of Temptation, a cozy lair filled with crystals and a tacky gold music stand I had as a kid. Houseguests can only be tempted once, and every temptation you accept for yourself comes with consequences for other houseguests. Basically, it’s an ode to Pandora’s Box of seasons past, except it’s not just for the HOH — and, this time, America gets to decide who has to navigate this room of seduction.
Paul is presented with a choice — he’s safe for eviction for three weeks and another houseguest is in jeopardy for the same amount of time, or he refuses the temptation altogether. Naturally, the fan-favorite vet takes the temptation since the target on his back is arguably bigger than Kevin’s family back home in Boston. Immunity comes for Paul in the form of the Pendant of Protection, which feels eerily similar to the Pendant of Life from Nickelodeon’s old competition show favorite, Legends of the Hidden Temple. Paul then randomly chooses a strange potion-like bottle that corresponds to the houseguest who’ll feel the wrath of his good fortune. Who that unlucky person will be, only time will tell. With the pendant in hand, it’s up to Paul to play dumb. His advantage remains a secret unless he’s nominated or spills the beans. Paul’s a vet, so when it comes to balancing this advantage with a solid acting game so the others don’t sniff him out, he should be okay. “Should” being the operative word in this house of serpents and poison apples.
“Like Watching Three Bulls Chasing a Herd of Cows”
Speaking of serpents and fruit, what’s the Garden of Eden without a few pairs? In the Big Brother House, they come in the form of showmances. Less than a week into the game, and we’ve already got three fully fired up: Jody (Jessica and Cody); Marlena (Mark and Elena); and Maven (Matt and Raven). Jessica hops around in an American flag scarf that Cody says he likes because she’s “wrapping herself in freedom.” For the record, it’s a little hard to tell what Cody loves, being that apathetic is as emotive as he gets.
Jason tells the only other fellow married guy in the house he feels like he’s “watching three bulls chasing a herd of cows.” Meanwhile, the oddballs (Jillian, Jason, Ramses, Kevin, Alex, et al.) are orbiting around the couples at the center of the Big Brother universe in a bizarre kind of asteroid belt while Josh is somewhere in another galaxy crying like a homesick kid at summer camp.
But despite the separation in the house, Cody likes Alex for her competitive spirit. It’s something he understands and says he respects. When Cody asks Alex who she thinks he should put up, she tells him he should break up his own power alliance.
With Megan gone, there’s a renomination ceremony for a spot on the block next to Jillian. Cody nominates Alex. We’ve only just gotten to know Cody, but his decision makes sense. Just when you have a sense of how he feels and where his head is, you find out you’re wrong and he wields his HOH power to do what he wants. Cody tells Alex, “I was trying to find any way our interests would align at all. I couldn’t find any common ground.” Alex is pissed because she thinks Cody knows she can beat him, and she leaves the renomination with a fire to save herself.
Only time will tell how this mess plays out and who America will choose next for the next Den of Temptation and the “Ring of Replacement.”
In Anchorman, Ron Burgundy says he’s in “a glass case of emotion.” While this Big Brother House is a case and full of emotion, it’s certainly not glass. It’s made of eyes, and they’re peeping from every corner of the country. That’s enough to rekindle my Survivor paranoia for one night. I’ll see you next week, and in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying Chianti and fava beans with Megan over at the Big Brother pre-jury equivalent of Ponderosa (we stole them from under Cody’s bed).