With a new HOH in a short season, when is the right time to make a move?
BIG BROTHER: Celebrity Edition
Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

Happy Sunday, Big Brother world! I’m back for a much shorter season, and I’ll just put it out there — I’m obsessed with Celebrity Big Brother. After watching the bully-go-round that was Big Brother 19, enduring the same stagnation week after week like a sick version of Groundhog Day until a fireworks-packed end, I’m loving this turbo-charged season. Celebrity Big Brother is like a triple-shot espresso to BB19’s burnt, drip coffee that sat in the office kitchen just a little too long.

The most beautiful part of this season is what it proves — no matter who’s playing, no matter how long or short the season, people and patterns always emerge in the BB universe. Like any other season, this one is brimming with gameplay that ranges from terrific to train wreck. Let’s get to it!

Chaos or Paranoia? Pick Your Poison

The chaotic collage of kooky and crazy displayed by the houseguests after Chuck’s eviction is almost artistic.

  • With a lovely homage to Forever-the-Bridesmaid Paul (BB19/BB18), James reminds us in predictably cocky fashion that he survived the vote and informs us “your boy split it up.”
  • Queen of Chaos Brandi expresses her glee that Omarosa, who thinks she’s “the boss bitch in this house,” was blindsided, left hanging as the only vote against James.
  • And, since every season has to have at least one, Metta World Peace (aka #RegrettaWorldPeace) informs Keshia and Omarosa he thought he was voting for Chuck to STAY when he actually voted against him at the live eviction. “I guess I gotta start paying attention more,” he tells us before latching on to BB19 Josh’s bestie, Orwell the Owl. Though it’s likely coincidence, I’m secretly hoping the owl’s appearance is foreshadowing mayhem to come.

On the gameplay side, Ross is already trying to sort out his next move. “I needed to pivot,” he tells us, explaining that “shortly before the eviction, I made a Final Four deal” with Shannon, James, and Marissa. I like where Ross is going with this. As opposed to the clunky seven that started the game, four has potential to be a lean, mean, more functional machine in this House of Insanity. Even more impressive is the fact that Ross is looking at all his options. Though he set up a four, he tells us he isn’t set on it. He’s open to a four with Ariadna, Brandi, and Marissa too.

Paranoia-wise, watching Omarosa work is truly impressive. Shannon completely misreads how to do damage control with Omarosa on the decision to exclude her from the plan. In an effort to keep her alliance tight and story straight, she approaches Omarosa with the entire group of women, and Omarosa isn’t having it. She demands a one-on-one with Shannon, with whom she had a secret alliance since Day 1.

“You look like the horrible, bitchy chick,” Omarosa tells Shannon in a calm, yet assertive tone. “You’re going to leave this house, and you’re going see all the conversations, and you’re going to regret that the one person to consistently have your back was me.”

Omarosa has been up front about her knowledge and love of war tactics, and to see her strategic play in action, especially after she’s just been excluded from a major strategic decision, is magic. Omarosa knows how to play Shannon’s paranoia switch like a fiddle. Shannon goes to the rest of the women and Ross and admits her Day 1 alliance with Omarosa in an effort to “come clean.” Not only does this reinforce just how hard she’s been playing, it proves her ability to lie to the group. Big mistake. The most important lesson I learned during my Survivor days was from my tribemate Cydney: “Keep it cute, and keep it mute.” Shannon, you could benefit from a “mute” button.

HOH and the Ghost of Christmas Past

The houseguests head outside for the HOH competition, Bowlerina. Talk about a blast from the past. The last time I saw that lime green tutu, I’m pretty sure BB19’s Josh was banging pots and pans and singing for hours on end on the live feeds. That is a ghost from the past I’m sure none of us wants to relive.

Houseguests must face off in rounds in which they spin and get sufficiently dizzy before staggering in their tutus to a bowling ally. Once there, they must bowl in an effort to knock down four pins before a gate blocks their efforts. Then, they must spin again to get another clean shot at the Big Brother equivalent of a strike.

Right off the bat, there’s trouble. Just after Marissa defeats Omarosa, the Apprentice and White House alum has an asthma attack that sends her looking for the medic and the remainder of the houseguests worrying about her wellbeing. In a very Christmas Abbott-like disappearance, we later learn Omarosa has been admitted to the hospital.

As Omarosa gets help, the remainder of the houseguests keep facing off with Ross, telling us his “man boobs are bouncing more than Dolly Parton in an earthquake.” When it gets down to the wire between James and Ross, Shannon asks James to let Ross win. Surprisingly, James listens. As he tells us, “The competitor inside me just wanted to win, but I’m thinking big picture.”

I’m going to pause here and say something a little crazy. James reminds me of the more evolved version of Survivor‘s Debbie. He came in amusingly cocky and a little out of touch regarding the extent of his impact on the game. Plus, just like many-jobs-Debbie, James is a Nickelodeon star of many talents. Unlike Debbie, however, he’s learning to be self-aware, take the back seat, and let others take charge. He’s morphing his game for the long haul. Per Shannon’s request, James throws the HOH and Ross wins, to the excitement of nearly everyone in the house. Watching the win, you get the feeling that if the House were at prom, Ross is so loved, he would be the king AND queen right now. (Recap continues on page 2)

Uncertainty: Breeding Ground for Big Moves OR Bad Decisions

Fresh off his HOH, Ross tells us the win was great for him because the House already has a “huge divide,” and it’s clear Omarosa and Keshia need to be put up. Essentially, he tells us, as HOH he’ll just be “finishing a job.” Ross, you know better. This is Big Brother, and we all know downtime and uncertainty, this time in the form of Omarosa’s hospitalization, are breeding grounds for changes in plans.

Ross starts to realize that if Omarosa isn’t in the House, he’ll need to put someone up next to Keshia, and he starts to put out his feelers to determine who that victim will be. He approaches Marissa and starts floating the idea of taking out strategic powerhouse, challenge beast, and self-admitted liar Shannon. He brings the idea to Brandi and Ariadna, telling them “James and Shannon are the strongest players in this game.”

Omarosa eventually returns from the hospital and plays dead in her bed (not a bad move given how polarizing she was just before her departure). Even though his initial target is back, Ross is torn. “Real Ross wants to tuck her [Omarosa] in and make her soup. Big Brother Ross wants to send her home,” he tells us. “I don’t know which will win.”

Ross does end up putting up Keshia and Omarosa, but it’s not clear which Ross has won. What is clear is his affinity for a foursome that includes him, Marissa, Brandi, and Ariadna. Shannon is in the HOH’s crosshairs. Will that play out Monday at the live eviction or down the road? Will Ross definitely commit to this four? We’ll have to see.

As I wind down, I think it’s of note to ponder this — Celebrity Big Brother is a new beast. It’s a condensed season and, unlike a regular season, players on the jury are going home with the ability to see and hear everything that’s happened and will happen. For every #RegrettaWorldPeace on this season, there are an abundance of super-fans. But in this format, no matter how many seasons of Big Brother you’ve seen and studied, it’s hard to know how hard or under the radar to play at any given time. It feels like big moves are the way to go without much time, but there are still plenty of evictions to go. Shannon’s already proving she’s playing too hard. Will Ross outplay himself too? Is now the time for him to backdoor Shannon, who’s an obvious threat for a resume move? Or is it best to let paranoia get the best of Shannon so she remains in the game as a shield for other threats?

Only time will tell, but in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying the chaos over a glass of Pinot Something à la Brandi. Oh, and those glasses and whatever hand spa treatment she and Ariadna were rocking? I’ll take one of each of those too.

Episode Recaps

Celebrity Big Brother
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