Wednesday night’s episode of Big Brother proved that even the producers only care about three combatants in the house: scrappy Daniele, scrooge-y Brendon, and squawky Rachel. I’m sure you can’t argue. Daniele is our friendly double agent whose verve is wild, but mostly praiseworthy. Do we even have an option for another likable crusader? Professional sigher Jordan? Jive enthusiast Lawon? Rascal kindergartener Porsche? Actually, if you’re rooting for Porsche, you’re an advanced form of homo sapien, and I love and fear you. But for us meager mortals, Daniele’s the only beacon of humanity in sight.
At the top of the episode, Brendon and Rachel express their dissatisfaction with HOH Daniele’s choice to nominate them for eviction. They emit the kinds of screeches and coos that make me think they were born three minutes ago.
“I will strike!” exclaims Rachel in a tearful confessional, like some Muppet Baby version of Scarlett O’Hara. “You said I pulled the first sword, Daniele. Well, guess what? I’m back with Excalibur, and that sword is undefeated!”
You know she thinks Excalibur is the sword from The Pagemaster. Or Hook. Or a musketeer-themed episode of Muppet Babies, if we’re sticking to that theme. Either way, the more literary references Rachel makes, the better. Alas, she falls short in that department during her weepy exchange with Brendon, where the engaged couple hugs for hours, cries, and curses Daniele for playing Big Brother like a Big Brother player.
“Daniele’s such a mean girl!” Rachel hollers at us, pointedly ignoring an easy Lady Macbeth reference. “She sucks at this game!”
Brendon holds her against his tanktopped bosom and comforts her for some “snuggling time.”
“We’re getting married; we’ll be a team forever!” he explains, helpfully. Then he points at Rachel’s heart and unleashes a soundbite that will live in Big Brother infamy until as long as anyone can stand it.
“You’ve got a big one of these,” he says, patting her heart. “Well, it’s actually lower. It’s behind your mediastinum. You know I know that because I’m a Ph.D. student.”
Oh, is that why? I thought you knew it because a tag on Rachel’s torso said “mediastinum,” you prefab Nigel Barker jackass. Brendon’s preoccupation with announcing his Ph.D. candidacy is just so weird and funny, like when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar keeps calling himself “the copilot” in Airplane! before a child outs him as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In a similar fashion, I’d like someone to out Brendon as intolerable. Could just one person say it? Please? Lawon, I’d like it to be you. Say it while performing a little two-step! It’s less offensive that way, and everyone claps as you start to limbo under Shelly’s bowlegged stance.
Onto the P.O.V. contestant drawing: HOH Daniele and nominated goons Rachel and Brendon draw names from a hat and announce they’ll be playing against Porsche (whose attempts at competitiveness are always worth a chortle), Adam (who is still wearing that kneeslapper of an elf suit), and unintelligent Jeff. He has a plan to win the P.O.V. over Rachel and Brendon and save himself from a potential backdooring, but he’ll have to outrank some fierce opposition to make it happen.
The challenge combines elements of past games — the miniature golf course is there, the spelling-related hairy legs are back, and even the crater full of Keith’s humped-out milk returns in diminutive form. The six players are asked to estimate how quickly they can finish challenges on these various set pieces; the player who estimates the lowest time on each apparatus is forced to attempt the challenge — if that player fails, he’s eliminated, but if he succeeds, the player who estimated the highest time is eliminated. Confused? It’s Big Brother, so you can rest assured it’s much dumber and more amoral in person.
After a few rounds of sped-up mini golf, milk soaking, and spelling, the winner of the Power of Veto is that man of all seasons (or just one season: my own personal nuclear winter) Brendon. Argh! No! Why!? Now Daniele has to vote someone else into the nomination dungeon, and no other fanciable options exist. Shelly even asks Daniele about her decision, knowing that Brendon will save either himself or Rachel at the P.O.V. ceremony. After Shelly leaves the room, Daniele makes the episode’s best observation.
“She’s sketchy as hell,” she says to Kalia. And she’s right. Shelly is aligned with the veterans and the newbies, and now she’s making the mistake of demanding confidential information even from outsiders Daniele and Kalia. It’s messy, that gameplay. Shelly figured her beige haircut and face would help her blend into the faux bois for a majority of the season, but I suspect her demise is coming sooner than she’s planning. Also: I’m a Daniele zealot and will promote any conspiracy that helps her to victory. Don’t insult me by expecting objective journalism from this column again.
The last stretch of the hour is spent with Brendon and Rachel, who want to convince Daniele that Brendon will leave Rachel on the chopping block and save himself. That way, Brendon assumes, when he actually puts himself on the chopping block, Daniele will have to form a new strategy, select a more appropriate candidate to go up against Brendon, and perhaps make another enemy in the house. Here’s the problem with that argument: Brendon, everyone’s just going to vote you out of the house. There’s no contest. You have honeyed-up biceps, and those make you a target for extermination. Pretending otherwise is not a winning strategy. Being Brendon is not a winning strategy.
Lo and behold, at the P.O.V. ceremony, Brendon saves Rachel. Searing violins play. Daniele — who is not too flummoxed by the switcheroo, even though Brendon lied to her about his plans in a pointless meeting earlier — decides to replace Rachel with Jordan, one of her current alliance partners. Daniele reasons that Jordan won’t be voted out over a powerhouse like Brendon, and I’d call that a sane plan. Daniele: The Safe Planner Who Sometimes Messes Up. She could run for president under that slogan, I surmise.
What did you think of the episode? Low-key and expected? Kind of entertaining, when you squint a little? I have to agree. And do you think Brendon’s going home tomorrow? Hit me in the comments, read me regularly at Movieline.com, and follow me on Twitter at @louisvirtel!