By Kyle Fowle
July 07, 2021 at 10:11 PM EDT
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It's that time of year again. The time when Julie Chen-Moonves graces our TVs and introduces us to another season of Big Brother. After last year's COVID-delayed and rather lackluster All-Stars season, the show is back with a selection of players who are brand new to the game. Will this injection of new blood lead to a season more eventful than the last few? Will things be a little less predictable this time around? Let's dive into the 90-minute premiere and get a sense of how this season kicks off.

As always, we begin with the live move-in. Small groups of contestants take turns moving into the house, which boasts a beach party theme (aptly named the BB Beach Club) this year. There's a whole lot of decorative anchors and coral and aquatic wildlife, and you just know that at some point this season Julie will refer to an important moment as "sink or swim" for one of the contestants. I'm here for it.

First up, we meet Travis, Derek F, Frenchie, and Xavier, a collection of guys that's part of one of the more diverse casts the show has recruited so far. There's a theme to their introductions here, as each guy talks about the stereotypical treatment they get that doesn't quite fit with who they are. Travis talks about being perceived as a gorgeous, dumb surfer dude despite the fact that he's a hugely successful businessman. Derek, who proudly says Big Brother needs a "big, Black, and gay winner," knows people will underestimate him because of his size, but as the son of boxing legend Joe Frazier, he's ready to prove people wrong. Frenchie is more than ready to deal with people thinking he's just a dumb farmer and surprise them with his wit and strategizing (he's a BB superfan with a journal full of notes on every season). Then there's Xavier, who knows his job as an attorney will put a target on his back because it'll be assumed he's good at lying and manipulation, so his plan is to lie about his job from the start.

As each group of four arrives, they compete for not only a mysterious power but also the opportunity to compete for Head of Household (HOH) later in the episode. The competition involves reorganizing a layered plexiglass puzzle to match a final picture, and it's harder than it looks. Derek seems to be really close to winning but hesitates before pressing his button and locking in his answer, which opens the door for Frenchie to take the win.

Next up we meet Azah, Britini, Alyssa, and Whitney. Azah is a first-generation American who comes from African royalty. She describes herself as "boy crazy" and that she's making a rule for the house: "no penis, no showmances." Her words, not mine. Britini is a school teacher and a karate world champion. She's also autistic and wants to prove to other autistic people out there that they can achieve their goals. Alyssa, like every other conventionally attractive person on this show, mentions that she's "more than her looks" (seriously, it's a hilarious pattern, as you'll see below) and details the work she's done to launch her own swimwear brand. She thinks she'll be able to relate to other people in the house who've struggled early in their life (she left home at 17), but she also says she's terrible at pretending to like people, which could cost her. Then there's Whitney, a single mom and business owner who thinks everyone will underestimate her. Whitney may be right; she wins the puzzle competition and the honor of joining Frenchie in the HOH competition.

Our next group of guys consists of Kyland, Christian, Derek X, and Brent. Kyland is an avid volunteer and works to bring inner-city kids to a ranch to teach them life skills and make them more well-rounded, and he's got personality to burn for sure. Christian is definitely playing the "dumb guy" card — like I said, all the "conventionally attractive" people this season, especially the white dudes, have said they'll be playing up how dumb they are, which is so funny to me — and thinks a showmance is going to happen for him because he's just so irresistible to women (oh boy). I like Derek X a lot because he seems competitive and strategic, even if I'm averse to anything related to "influencers." Finally, we meet Brent, a flight attendant who, like Christian and Travis, thinks his charm and good looks will get him far in the game. Out of these four, Christian wins the first competition and moves on to the HOH.

Finally, we meet our last four contestants, Sarah Beth, Hannah, Claire, and Tiffany. Sarah Beth is a self-proclaimed nerd who loves anime and making her own clothes and is ready to float her way to the end. Hannah is a determined student who graduated college at 19 and wants to play down her intelligence in the house. Claire is an AI engineer, one of the few women in her field, and is obsessed with the strategic details of playing this game. Tiffany is a medical CEO and clearly ready to be both a physical force and someone who makes bold moves. But it's Claire who gets the first win and enters the HOH competition later in the episode.

Okay, with all of those introductions out of the way, we're on to our first twist, and it's a big one! The four winners of the first competition? Yes, they get to compete in the HOH competition, but they also learn they're "team captains" and that this season will be played in teams of four. They must draft their teams immediately. Each captain hits a button and spins a giant slot machine that gives them two options that they must choose between. Let's skip past all the awkwardness and get to the teams. The "Jokers" are made up of Frenchie, Azah, Britini, and Derek F. The "Aces" are Whitney, Brent, Derek X, and Hannah. Christian, Alyssa, Xavier, and Sarah Beth make up the "Kings," and the "Queens" are Claire, Kyland, Tiffany, and Travis.

That brings us to the HOH competition, which is of course a little different in the team format. Essentially, the team that wins is safe (the last place team becomes Have Nots), and the captain is the new HOH. The first HOH competition is a good one, requiring a lot of teamwork and patience. The team captain must build a house of cards on a platform delicately supported by the other three members of the team, all while a giant playing card tries to knock the structure down. It's a frantic, quick competition, and Frenchie's "Jokers" come out on top, meaning that Frenchie, Azah, Britini, and Derek F are all safe from nominations this first week of season 23. Meanwhile, Christian's "Kings" can't get a thing going and end up being Have Nots.

But we're not done here yet! Julie has two more surprises up her sleeve. First, she lets everyone know that the prize money has increased: the winner of this season will receive $750,000. The second surprise is an offer to Frenchie. This "Double or Nothing" offer, should he choose to accept, would see Frenchie trying to throw two large dice onto a small platform in less than 45 seconds. If he succeeds, he'll get two weeks of protection from nominations for his team. If he can't do it, he loses the HOH. As fun as the twist could be, I think it'd be silly to give up first-week safety for such a gamble. Frenchie knows that too, and he declines the offer. Julie still makes him play the competition "for fun" and he does manage to complete the challenge, but that doesn't really tell us if he'd actually get it done with real stakes. A silly way to end the episode, but hey, that's Big Brother.

Well, folks, that's a wrap on the season premiere! Would love to get your initial reactions in the comments. So far I'm loving Frenchie and the Jokers team, they're very easy to root for, and I think there are some interesting personalities (there are also a few contestants here who already annoy me, but I'm saving that rage for future recaps) in the house that could create some fun moments. We've had some dull seasons lately, so we deserve some good gameplay and intrigue this time around! See you all on Sunday for the next episode.

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