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02 September 2013

Big Brother 15: “I’m Gonna Go Get Chocolate Milk”

By // TV

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Amanda, age 6

This is my first time chiming in on season 15 of Big Brother so I’ve got plenty to say. It’s “the biggest season ever” and also one of the most frustrating. The season’s only great strategists lack both the subtlety and charm to compete on the level of the BB legends, the big competitors are also the season’s most alienating personalities, anyone who began the season as an amusing or witty DR commentator has either been evicted or turned into a lunatic, and the eviction trail is lined with the bodies of would-be strategists whose big moves were blocked by the bizarro cowardice that seems to be overlaying this entire season. What happened to the BB15 that kicked off the summer with two of the most smartly sneaky power-shifting weeks of play in the history of the show?

I’ll tell you what happened- Nick got evicted. I know, I know- Nick being evicted Was the great smartly sneaky power-shifting move of the game. Why am I complaining about that? Hear me out. The underdog side of the house that was so easy to root for in those early days- Helen, Elissa, Amanda, Candice, Andy- their triumph came so game-changingly early that they ceased entirely to be underdogs. Sure, there were still some dopey highschool bullies left in the house to casually hurl hatred and flip the mattresses of the less follically blessed, but the power to send them packing was entirely in the hands of the early outsiders. And that power went to their heads. They became lackadaisical, drunk on power, and, in some cases, wildly intolerable as they swiftly eliminated the cool kids.

Meanwhile, the remaining dregs of what the great Darren Franich calls “The Coalition of Evil Hotties” got their act together. Following the departures of their allies (David, Nick, Jeremy and Kaitlin), Aaryn and GinaMarie reined in the sort of Mean Girl behaviour that turned the house (and a continent full of viewers) against them and wisely learned that being casually racist wasn’t funny (*For more on The Big Brother Prejudice Problem, please see the Lengthy Footnotes, Part 1*). They stuck together, they formed key alliances, they didn’t step on any more toes, and they came through in clutch competitions (*For more on Aaryn: What Could Have Been, please see the Lengthy Footnotes Part 2*).

At one point, America had to nominate someone to go on the block and Aaryn (the poster child for  everything everyone claimed to hate about this season) was finally available (meaning she wasn’t HOH or already nominated). And what did America do? They nominated Amanda. Because they hated Amanda (and it’s only gotten worse *For more on Amanda: What Happened?, please see the Lengthy Footnotes, Part 3*). They hated Amanda not because she said a specific thing (or many things, as the case may be) that was objectively offensive (she did that later) or because she was aligned with the Bad Guys (in fact, Amanda has unconditionally in her corner one of the only consistently likeable people of the season *For more on McCrae, You Poor Boy, please see the Lengthy Footnotes, Part 4*). They hated Amanda because Amanda can be annoying and sometimes hypocritical and is generally lousy at competitions (not in a fun or strategic way like all the great bad-at-competitions players of the past). Amanda was nominated by America as though it were a regular season and everyone was just voting against the person they wanted off their TV screens (and likely away from McCrae, this I think was the secret motivation of the American voters). Aaryn had crawled her way back from being Reviled by being quiet and acceptably charming (except when she did the revisionist history crap when confronted, that is a Huge pet peeve of mine) and Amanda- who was on the side of the underdog “Good Guys” from the start, was one of the Diary Room’s only witty commentators, and had an adorable pet McCrae at her side- had become so overconfident and controlling that she was now hated not only more than the bullies who had once made her look like a Social Justice Warrior (this video is horrifying, but she for awhile really did seem like a Social Justice Warrior), she was hated More Than The (more widely acknowledged) Racist Chick!

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Helen failing to convince Judd of something. I don’t remember this exactly but reason says that’s what’s happening.

Helen, for her part, the mastermind of the whole underdog alliance, played an excellent game. But she didn’t play it charmingly enough. Literally, she only had two big problems and the charm was No. 1 (well, that and Andy. *For more on Andy: AAARRRGH!, please see the Lengthy Footnotes, Part 5*). Helen had all the potential in the world to be one of the greatest Big Brother players ever. She read the house well, she was good at winning the personal respect and friendship of the house (the evolution of her friendship with Aaryn was Fascinating, *more on that in the Lengthy Footnotes, Part 1*), she knew how to keep her temper, she was cold and calculated in her betrayals, she could win clutch competitions without seeming like a threat, she had a collection of loyal allies and only one that she would never betray (Elissa, *For more on Elissa: Unexpected Hero, please see the Lengthy Footnotes, Part 6*), she worked with the twists instead of pretending they weren’t there. But, when push came to shove, if Helen was buttering you up, you knew Helen was buttering you up. She wasn’t a good actress and she could never get anyone to do anything they didn’t want to do (yes, she orchestrated the coup in week 2, but all those people were Itching to turn on the Coalition of Evil Hotties, they just needed a leader to unite them in their cause).  The great players of yore- Will, Dan, Danielle Reyes, Dani Donato- they weren’t just good strategists, they were those evil people who could make you do whatever the hell they wanted you to do. I’ll never forget Jase coming out of Big Brother: All Stars and confessing that he was wary of Will Kirby before he even entered the house but “you talk to that man for 5 minutes and he’s convinced you to kill your puppy”. That’s how you win Big Brother– by being someone who can talk your way out of anything while talking everyone else into things they never thought they’d consider. Helen never had that ability.

But neither did anyone else, and therein lies my principal frustration with this season. There was a lengthy amount of time when I was rooting for, wait for it… Jessie. Yes, Jessie “they’ll vote me out because I’m pretty” Jessie. I hated her week one but as the tide started to turn on Helen, and Amanda quickly lost her sanity (in all fairness, Amanda Totally had the ability to make people do what they didn’t want to do, but… audience hatred. Again, see Footnote Part 3), I found myself cheering for the sad little puppy who shared her bed with Judd and just Desperately wanted someone to listen to her. She tried to save Howard. She tried to save Candice. She tried to save Judd (*For more on Judd: Why The Hell Were You Evicted?, please see the Lengthy Footnotes, Part 7*). She tried to do ANYTHING, specifically split up Amanda and McCrae. Jessie tried to split up Amanda and McCrae WEEKS before all the other terrified idiots got it together to split up Amanda and McCrae. I mentioned that Helen had two fatal flaws, this was the second: she refused to move. For someone clearly capable of making the harsh moves, Helen was way too scared of Amanda to win this game. She kept listening as Crazypants McBoobs invented random threats like Howard and Judd (Sorry, Amanda, that was harsh. You should read Lengthy Footnote, Part 3!). And poor Jessie lost potential ally after potential ally until it was just her and Spencer floating in floatersville, clearly not meaning to be floaters but unable to rally the troops to form a liferaft (*For more on Spencer: What Could Have Been, please see the Lengthy Footnotes, Part 8*).

This week someone is finally making their move against Amanda and McCrae. Now, what’s monumentally frustrating about it is that the move is coming WAY too late when the only people actually left in the game who at all deserve to win it Are Amanda and McCrae. Now, I like Judd (*Footnote 7*) and I even like GinaMarie (*For more on GinaMarie: A Cultural Study, please see the Lengthy Footnotes, Part 9*). Hell, I’ll even take a win from Spencer (if only because it strengthens his shot at playing again and I firmly believe that man has a good game in him somewhere *Footnote 8*). But no one in the “Exterminator” alliance has made any moves this season that are even remotely admirable (though GM does get credit for this week- she made the move, her speech was great, she knew how to save herself once her final ally was gone). At least Amanda and McCrae have been playing (him much better than her, *Footnotes 3 & 4*). So I’m rooting for McCrae, I guess, even though his game has been hindered, subdued and just generally tragically altered by this showmance that, at first, was cute, unexpected and really easy to root for. Here’s hoping for Amanda’s eviction this week so we’ll finally get to see what McCrae is made of and maybe there’s a decent winner in there somewhere.

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I got tired of GM-approved pictures of Nick looking hot. Here he is likely mocking someone, which is better.

So how does this all relate back to Nick? First of all, this would be an entirely different season if the producers had been smarter about the MVP twist. It was a great idea and would have been Really interesting if they hadn’t made the boneheaded move of introducing it in a season where someone was set up to win it every week without doing anything. Elissa is a massively boring (and really annoying) player with little of her famous sister’s huzzpah (Rachel was aggravating, but she really gave you someone to root for), but Elissa won MVP three weeks in a row off Rachel’s good name. That was a Massive unfair advantage given to the underdog side of the house. An advantage that put people in charge who only sort of earned that right. Helen did wrangle some votes I didn’t think she would get (mostly Jessie) and Candice did identify the threatening alliance out of thin air (*For more on Candice: Double Identity, please see the Lengthy Footnotes, Part 10*) but without the extra nomination that was securely, predictably, and unearnedly in their control, the coup could never have been so sudden or severe and we likely would have gotten a more interesting and strategic game with fewer unanimous votes (*For more on The MVP Faux Pas, please see the Lengthy Footnotes, Part 11*). I’m sad for the missed great opportunity of the twist, but mostly this annoys me because it quickly and unceremoniously put out the one person in this season’s cast who I think was probably a Fantastic Big Brother player. Nick was charming and fun to watch but he had ice in his veins and a brain in his head- all Big Brother fans know that there is no combination more deadly than that. Yes, I suppose Nick should have been watching his back a little more closely- he underestimated Helen when he really shouldn’t have. But if you take away the MVP advantage, or even just take away Elissa and let the audience vote only on what they’re seeing this season (I think they would have given it to McCrae), I think Nick’s still in this game.

Big Brother 15 has been a weird combination of frustrating and boring. But I think there was one person in that house whose strategic gameplay and colour commentary could have made it a great season (maybe not a season 2 or 7 but certainly a season 10, or close to it) and he was taken down by producers who just didn’t know how to handle their own ammo. Here’s hoping the casting directors saw what I saw and think to do a season down the road where they bring back players who were cut down before their time so we can finally see what they’ve got.

** The title of this post is a phrase used by Spencer TWICE in Sunday’s episode as a way of excusing himself from uncomfortable conversations (always involving Amanda). The absurd boringness of it to me perfectly encapsulated this season. It makes me want to excuse myself to go get chocolate milk.

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