Puppet Masters

Several houseguests draw Skittles candies to see who gets nominated, August 15th, 2014.

Several houseguests draw Skittles candies to see who gets nominated, August 15th, 2014.

It’s the 59th day in the Big Brother house, in what will be the longest US season in show history, both in terms of duration and the boredom it has given live feeders. Nicole Franzel was the latest casualty of the tidy house Derrick has been running, although she has a one in four chance at a return this Thursday.

I had high hopes that once we got past the jury level that the game would get more interesting with the power structure slowly turning on each other. After the frenzy driven of a double eviction and Frankie’s revelation (which he planned before the season ever began) that he’s a media mogul and Ariana Grande’s sister, things have once again slowed down to a veritable crawl once again. The house seemed united to get Donny out of the game this week, but in a twist of fate that proved more karma than anything else, Donny and a unhelpful Christine won the last Battle Of The Block (hopefully ever), meaning Frankie could enjoy his second full-time and fourth overall reign as HOH, and Donny once again fights to live another day.

If this were a NASCAR race, Derrick would be leading everyone by three laps with 40% of the race to go. That wide a lead is not insurmountable considering the Rhode Island cop could always run into bad luck despite being so dominant in the social game and perhaps the weak play of everyone surrounding him. The true test will come in the 38 days left, where mental fatigue will come into play in earnest.  Plus all these days are opportunities for him to fumble the ball, or for others to figure him out and evict him.

Frankie won POV last night in a competition that marked the return of the comedy stylings of the Zingbot along with the BB debut of comedian Kathy Griffin. If I’m Zach, I’m watching my six here. There’s been acrimony in the “Zankie” alliance in recent days, and I’m expecting Frankie to get in the kill shot while he can by backdooring (in a game sense) Mr. Rance, much like Christine couldn’t avoid the “glory of the kill” (to coin an old Star Trek phrase) on Nicole when she had that chance last week.  In the end, there are some who play honorably and there are some who play to win the $500,000 in the end.  Frankie and Christine seem to be interested in the money, not any sense of fair play.

I just hope if Frankie asks Zach to commit a homosexual sex act on him in exchange for staying in the house, Zach turns him down if that is truly how he feels.

Finally, I’d love to comment about Robyn Kass’s tweet over this week past, which she said…

kassremark

….but CBS and production are doing such a good job this season without my advice, I think I will refrain from making such comments.

ZING!

Talk to you all next week!

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A Grande Stand Play

A pensive Zach Rance sits in the living room before the double eviction on August 7, 2014.

A pensive Zach Rance sits in the living room before the double eviction on August 7, 2014.

Historians of the reality TV genre may have reason to look back at the events of the late evening on August 8th, 2014 in the Big Brother house. It was on this night that Frankie Grande, cornered and apparently doomed unless he won one of two contests over a two day period, won a Battle Of The Block under what even fellow contestants are calling suspicious circumstances. Then, he revealed his hidden identity to the cast as an explanation as to why he had been such a devious player, and that he is the brother of the very popular (at the moment) pop star Ariana Grande, playing the game for charity.

Even if the BOTB competition had been setup well in advance and above board (and not changed at the last second so that an individual can win for the team), why would Frankie promise to make these revelations ahead of the comp if he didn’t get approval from production before hand, and regardless of the outcome? Furthermore, why would he do so at this point in time with two comps left to go to seal his fate, knowing he can only play this kind of card once? The show has now become (or probably should be) a laughing stock, a personal commercial for all things Grande. While the houseguests are contractually obligated to continue on to their eviction and/or jury sequestration, has CBS and the powers that be forgotten that we the fans are not under any such obligation?

They sold out long time fans of the show who were LIVID on social media the past 36 hours or so, all in search of that teeny-bopper money and a younger demographic. It is beyond disgusting that this one houseguest has basically been permitted to become a walking commercial, and is now allowed to accept “bribes” from the other eight to remain in the game just a little bit longer. Want to see Justin Bieber, Caleb? Keep me in the game for a while. This will allowed to go on and on until the season ends. You watch.

Here’s the kicker to all of this: the announcement was so well coordinated, the CBSTweet twitter page even mentions it at 10:13pm Friday night, Pacific time. That meant production was most likely in on the whole thing.

cbstweet

At that very moment, Frankie had already begun his revelation to Derrick, Cody, Caleb, and Zach. Frankie had revealed who he was on the feeds by 10:05pm. Eight minutes later, CBSTweets is posting about something that “may” happen that already has happened.

1013pmaug8th

There was one blessing in disguise in all of this: the houseguests who were his closest allies in the game most of the way are now repulsed by him almost to every last contestant, including Christine Brecht, the reigning HOH in the eighth cycle. (It should be noted that Andy Herren won the eighth HOH competition, and wound up winning season 15. An omen for Christine, maybe?) So, with an unhelpful Caleb and with Frankie going solo to win his way off the block (and Caleb along with him), they are safe another seven days, and the other houseguests may have found other targets by then.

And as usual, the POV competition brought another sharp turn with Zach winning, removing himself from the block, and putting either Victoria, Derrick, Cody, or Nicole on it come Monday. After a brief and loud series of quarrels over the past couple of days that led to Frankie’s revelations on Friday night, the two mended fences the following night, and all was well in the world of Zankie once again.

Were we go from this point, who knows. Donny suddenly looks done for, despite an eleventh hour miracle of the kind that saved Zach winning a week ago or Christine renoms a bigger threat. I still say the game is in a shambles at this point with Frankie weaponizing his identity, and his apology to “Rancey Pants” last night just might buy him the time he needs. Plus, if this very clear case of production manipulation takes place now, will they manipulate somewhere else down the road before the show ends on September 24th?

Talk to you all again next Sunday, a day where hopefully we are seven days closer from Frankie Grande not being rammed down our throats. I usually don’t dislike contestants this much, but Frankie Grande is the Big Brother Antichrist.

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Born Again

The Zach Rance "comic book" that aired during the POV competition Wednesday.

The Zach Rance “comic book” that aired during the POV competition Wednesday.

The New York Post on Tuesday called this season’s version of Big Brother the most boring ever. Well, it looks like the first of two double evictions of the season might have changed all of that.

The alliance in power led by Derrick, Cody, Frankie, and Christine executed some excitement in the form of a major house flip. In the first of two evictions on the live show, it appeared for most of the week that the controversial and outspoken Zach Rance was a goner. Leave it to the “Beast Mode Cowboy” to figure out that ditching Zach and keeping Jocosta would not be in their best interest, but apparently Caleb did the math that Derrick failed to do. With a 6-2 eviction vote, the attempting flip of the house was successful, and Jocosta became the first juror (as confirmed on the live show), but will also have the chance to re-enter as was the case last year. More thoughts on that later.

With the seventh eviction cycle beginning and ending all within the hour, Nicole and Hayden were not happy at being blindsided by the rest of the house. Caleb won the HOH (a competition to find ONE HOH for tonight only, the dual HOH’s return after this stage for a couple of cycles, it can’t continue mathematically beyond that), making him the first to hold the title two times on a full-time basis. He nominated Donny and Hayden, with Donny winning POV. Nicole went up in Donny’s place, with Hayden winding up going to jury with Jocosta, ousted with a 5-2 vote.

Overall, I was pleased with the live show, although I noticed how repetitive the competitions were.  The HOH competition was a classroom setting, much like the first double eviction comp of a year ago, while the POV competition was similar to one held two years ago that Frank Eudy won.  The contests were a bit different than their predecessors, but the similar sets shows what I’ve been theorizing all along this season: a lack of originality among production on the feeds and on the TV shows. That and the “twists” revealed in the hour (that most of us in social media easily figured out) plus recycling the “revive-a-juror” twist from last year shows their laziness and a TOTAL lack of original ideas.

Was Zach’s saving something the production may have had a hand in? You can make that argument about a lot of events in the history of the show, with some arguments being legitimate and some not. Personally, I think there was manipulation going on behind the scenes because the producers had motive and opportunity. If the manipulation went on and somehow failed, no one would have noticed, and the criticisms of the show being boring would have lingered. As we all now know, the manipulation (if it did happen) was successful, and now we have a lot more excitement in the house and things to talk about with each of the nine houseguests remaining at this point in time.

As double evictions seem designed to do, there are some realignments going on in the house, Nicole and Donny realize they are on the outside looking in, with Miss Franzel going to work calling out Frankie and Christine and went word to word with Zach Rance, someone who you don’t want to verbally joust with.  Nicole then spilled the beans about the “Rationale” alliance, seemingly reuniting the bosom buddies for most of the season back together like a rock band with tumultuous relationships.

Derrick is far beyond any other houseguest this season in terms of strategical intellect. Even without power, he played his fellow contestants like puppets on a string. It would be easy to say Derrick is going to go all the way and take the $500,000 jackpot at the end, but it takes a little skill to get that money. Ask Neda from the second Big Brother Canada season that. If Derrick falters down the stretch, keep your eyes on Caleb (yes, Caleb, I said that) and Frankie, who are still well insulated despite the recent attacks Nicole and Hayden put on them.

On Sunday, I’ll be back to look at the eighth eviction cycle that has already begun, and with Nicole and Christine as the pro temp HOH’s, it’s going to be an interesting week.

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Halfway Home

Frankie Grande flanked by the now departed Amber Bozotra (left) and Nicole Franzel.

Frankie Grande flanked by the now departed Amber Bozotra (left) and Nicole Franzel.

Today is the 45th day of the 16th US season of Big Brother (or so I thought when I typed this…the season will last 97 days this year, the longest season ever here in the US), which marks the season’s halfway point, or perhaps we may be beyond that point. Amber Bozotra was the latest departee, setting the remaining eleven contestants to be either jurors or the two finalists if last year’s structure holds. (It would be nice to get confirmation of these things and not have to be forced to use reasonable speculation, wouldn’t it?) In a way, I’m glad Amber’s out of there, though it costed her a shot at half a mil. Her “no-mance” with Caleb seemed to be getting out of control at the end, and if she had stayed in their with the “Beast Mode Cowboy”, who knows what would have happened? She brought class to this year’s proceedings, but this is a show where only one can reign supreme at the end.

We had another spectacle at Thursday’s live show where a live question and answer HOH competition produced no winner at show’s end, something that’s never happened before in the history of the show. It goes to prove a theory of mine that production of the live feeds and the TV show hasn’t brought their A-game this year. If the TV show is supposed to be a one-hour commercial for the live feeds, and the live feeds can’t show certain things to boost the ratings of the TV show, then the whole process becomes a dog chasing it’s own tail around, trying to bite it. It’s not really fair to treat your paying customers this way, gang, although you’ve been jerking us around for years. I’d tell you to stop doing that, but we the viewers all know you won’t, just like we know the show won’t be changing producers anytime soon.  And if you live feeders are unhappy about things, simply don’t pay for the feeds and quit giving them your money to screw you over. That’s the best thing you can do.

As for the game this week, kudos to Donny and Nicole for making interesting nomination choices. They each went with tandems of a weak player teamed with a strong player (in what will likely be the final round of dual HOH’s), with Donny’s team of Caleb and Victoria winning their way off the block. That left Nicole as the reigning HOH with Zach and Jocosta up as the week’s tributes heading into Monday.

Heading into a week where two more houseguests will be heading to make up the jury, there is legitimate intrigue. Christine won the POV late last night, and with her rocky relationship with Zach over the past couple of weeks, whether or not she uses the veto is an open question to be strategized over the next day or so. (My thinking right now: she won’t use it.) Then you have Frankie who acts in the house like he’s waiting for just the right spot to screw his buddy Zach to blame it on others. Also there are other houseguests who are on to Frankie, probably looking to do likewise to him if they can do it without getting blood on their hands.

Many thanks to the 540 or so following me on Twitter. For those who haven’t yet, it’s easy peasy. Just head over to my Twitter page and click the “Follow” button. I’ll be back on Friday with a special edition of the BBD, recapping the craziness of the double eviction, and then back on Sunday to recap the start of yet another HOH cycle of events and mayhem.

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Fork In The Road

Britney Martinez back heels her 2,400th goal last Sunday as part of her POV punishment. She also wound up going home four days later.

Britney Martinez back heels her 2,400th goal last Sunday as part of her POV punishment. She also wound up going home four days later.

Before going on with the meat of this week’s entry, I’d like to extend my condolences to Frankie Grande and Derrick Levasseur, as they have each lost grandfathers this week past. Whether they win or lose the game in the weeks ahead, my deepest sympathies go out to them and their families, and I hope the community that follows this show would take a moment to extend their sympathies as well.

This week that went by in the USA’s version of Big Brotherland claimed Brittany Martinez as its fourth evictee, but unlike the dullness that enveloped last week, there were some captivating moments this week, including a moment that will likely impact future events in the coming weeks and months as the season moves forward.

On Monday, then-HOH Cody Calafiore wrestled with the decision of who to re-nominate in lieu of Victoria Rafaeli’s POV win. One school of thought was to put Caleb Reynolds up against Brittany Martinez in the head-to-head vote on Thursday, thinking momentum would gravitate towards Caleb going home. Cody’s game allies, led by Derrick and Frankie, each wanted Donny Thompson up as a pawn to ensure that Brittany would wind up going home.  As the feeds went into “blackout mode” (so that the meeting airs exclusively on the TV show and not the feeds) it appeared Cody was going to shake up the game and put Caleb up, but Cody went with Donny as his renomination pick.

Thursday brought two more pro tempore HOH’s who wound up being Frankie (via most of the house throwing it to him) and Zach Rance.  Zach reminds me of Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman character, played so well in it’s five seasons on AMC by Aaron Paul. He is oil to Frankie’s water, the one who always asks questions and makes observations where others fail, either for lack of courage or an abundance of intelligence. He is unlike any other player I have seen on the North American shows even dating back to 2000 and Will-Mega Collins, as Zach always seems to have a counterpoint to anyone’s other points. You would think his recklessness may cost him his shot at 500K over the coming weeks, but he has executed his strategy well thus far. He might be more of a genius than anyone gives him credit for at this point, if that’s possible.

I haven’t talked at great depth about Caleb and his “nomance” with Amber Bozotra.  Mr. Reynolds vacillates back and forth between liking Amber and hating her, depending on his moods over various days. Recently, Caleb has gotten more aggressive when he likes Amber, kissing her while she slept at one point during the week. Many on social media thought that would be enough to earn Caleb a disqualification from the show, as the action could be perceived as a form of harassment.  Personally, I would be quite all right if either one of them went home in this week coming up, so that one of them makes the jury while the other watches the rest of the game on TV. I wouldn’t even care if production rigged things so this happens. They need to get these two away from each other before something bad can happen.

Saturday, as usual, gave the game a new spin to work on leading up to the POV decision coming tomorrow. Hayden Voss won it, and vowed immediately to grant safety to Victoria, leaving Jocosta Odom up against the replacement nominee Frankie names on Monday. At this point it looks like Amber is going to be that replacement, but Frankie is the type of player who always looks for the way to do something that leaves the best perception amongst his competitors.  Amber could go up, so could Caleb, and even Zach could go up as a pawn or if Frankie gets ticked off at him again.

I know a lot of fans on social media say this has been a boring season. I still consider this to be a very good cast, but keep in mind a good cast needs a good story. The double-decker HOH’s and nominees twist has weeded out players who don’t have the best social games or are weak physically so far. Once we get to the final 11 and beyond and we get to the conventional game, I still expect we will see the intensity ratchet up at last. There are some very good players in there this season, it’s just that they haven’t been challenged yet, and that will change soon.  Hopefully.  Maybe.

Talk to you all next week, and my thanks to the 500 plus followers I’ve gotten over on Twitter. As those 1980’s guys Bartles and Jaymes used to say, I thank you for your support.

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Half-A-Millionaire Men’s Club

Brittney Martinez (left) and Cody Calafiore (right) have a heated discussion early Friday morning. Cody would wind up nominating Brittney a few hours later.

Brittney Martinez (left) and Cody Calafiore (right) have a heated discussion early Friday morning. Cody would wind up nominating Brittney a few hours later.

To be totally honest, it was probably one of the dullest weeks in recent show history. The house circled their collective wagons to dispose of former minor league ballplayer and father Devin Shepherd, who’d be the first to tell you about his daughter in his stay in the house. The odds were in favor of the house succeeding, as they often are when it is thirteen against one, and Devin knew he was a goner when he lost the Power of Veto competition the previous Saturday.

I found the feeds unwatchable most of the week, with a no-brainer decision ahead of the house, plus world events (such as the deliberate downing of a passenger aircraft by Russians or their sympathizers) really didn’t lead to captivating viewing. One side of the house, mostly led by men, were running up the score on the inferior opposing side, led mostly be women who have yet to figure out that they need to pool their efforts. It does not make for exciting TV to watch a baseball game in the third inning with one team sporting a ten run lead, so watching a house where one side is in total control is a bit dull. The dominant side of the house, seemingly led by Providence policeman Derrick Levasseur, has grown a bit more arrogant, wanting to break up the rest of the women in the game before they finally realize aligning with each other is in their best interests. The one upside to this group’s now arrogant ways is it will probably led to their breaking up sooner rather than later. I could easily see Zach Rance rubbing Frankie Grande the wrong way (no pun intended) or Cody Calafiore.

The house did have a touching moment or two, however. Donny Thompson, the previous week’s POV holder, made a symbolic move in saving Georgia minister Jocosta Odom from the block. Odom made history in that competition when she became the first nominee in show history not to compete in the POV contest due to exhaustion and dehydration. Donny made no bones about showing Jocosta his veto medallion and making his intentions known as soon as he won. He’ll gain a lot of fans for doing that, but the landscape of the game as it stands now probably means he will go home sooner or later. Being a honest player or a total liar usually sends you home by the more skilled players at neither end of the truth spectrum.

Thursday brought the unique spectacle of the CBS primetime show promising live coverage of the ongoing Head of Household competition that began as the show concluded, then reneging on the promise when the feeds came back a half hour later with winners already determined. To me, it was another “bait and switch” by production who has been doing such tactics for years, who tell you the feeds are 24/7, but reserve the right to interrupt that whenever they chose. It would be nice if the powers that be would air a POV or a Battle of the Block competition live on the feeds at least once a year. As Mike Myers said in the Austin Powers movies, “Throw me a frigging bone here!”

The comp itself was one of those random pairings of two events where one team attempts to complete a task before the other teams do. Cody, the man who would be HOH from the men’s side in week two, and Frankie wound up the winners. The stratagem of putting up nothing but the women was continued in the fourth round of nominations, with Brittney, Jocosta, Amber Bozotra, and Victoria Rafaeli being put up on the block. The team of Amber and Jocosta won Battle of the Block, keeping themselves and opposite HOH Cody safe another week, and thereby keeping Brittney and Victoria each eligible for eviction going into Saturday.

Friday night brought a rather bizarre incident involving Victoria and the Diary Room.  Rafaeli was summoned to the DR repeatedly around 5-6 pm PT/BBT, with Rafaeli distraught every time she reemerged back into the house. When other houseguests asked what was up with Victoria, she told whoever questioned her that the topic was out of bounds. If it came up, the feeds would go to fish for several minutes at a time, re-emerging at some other conversation point. From what I read on social media on Saturday, it involved allegations and violations of rules by Victoria, but that’s about all I could gather.

It was another incident, with all due respect, that shows production’s continuing lack of transparency. Imagine watching an NFL game where a penalty is called, but the referee can’t tell you the foul committed. I realize I probably harp on production a bit too much in my rantings, and that it’s not an easy job to run a house inside of a studio, but if we’re paying over $20 for the feeds, we shouldn’t be crapped upon anytime production pleases.

Yesterday brought word of a “holiday miracle” with Victoria winning POV, and other competitors winning and trading punishments and rewards. That win probably seals Martinez’s fate come Thursday, with Donny the like renom with little chance of eviction. Brit likes to speak about which of her fellow houseguests are the most deserving of being there, something the game is designed to decide beyond reasonable dispute. Much like Devin this week past, Brittney will be reunited with her children sooner rather than later,  and if she can’t win, that seems the most humane fate for her.

Talk to you all next week, and a special thanks to the over 450 of you following me on Twitter.

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The Officer Reports For Duty

Devin Sheperd sits at a table alone on July 11th, while a group gathers at a kitchen.

Devin Sheperd sits at a table alone on July 11th, while a group gathers at a kitchen.

As this Sunday approaches, season sixteen is now more than 25% over with. Currently, Derrick Levasseur is the reigning HOH holder, while Donny Thompson has again won POV. Jocosta Odom (who did not compete in the POV competition due to hydration and exhaustion) and Celeb Reynolds are the nominees, with Odom likely to be replaced by Devin Shepherd. Shepherd appears to be on his way out come Thursday, although there is a bit of a move to get rid of Caleb instead as this entry went to press.

Zach Rance lured Shepherd, the previous week’s HOH, into nominating him Monday in an interesting gambit that showed Zach’s pure genius and immaturity simultaneously. A series of arguments immediately followed the POV meeting, in which Rance and Paola Shea (who was evicted Thursday past) each called Devin a liar and a disgrace to his much talked about daughter. The vote itself was academic, with Paola the 10-2 loser, keeping the “model always goes out second curse” alive another year. A brilliant move by Mr. Rance for sure, but that much effort to survive the second week might bite him in the ass later.

The week was made to order for the TV show, but failed to show that Frankie Grande had lobbied Devin to put Zach on the block on Sunday, which is an important point. Without that point of context, TV show viewers thought Zach was the aggressor in the Zankie tiff, and not the other way around. Grande also lobbied for votes to get Zach evicted during the week, something else that went sight unseen on TV. Why give Frankie such a favorable push, and Zach such an unfavorable one? Do they want Frankie fans (and Ariana Grande fans by default) not to be fully informed on how he’s faring? An interesting point as time moves on.

The Team America alliance came together in the form of Derrick, Donny, and Frankie, and they were given the all important mission to…wait for it…spread rumors that a current houseguest is related to a former one, which was kind of mindless. I take that back: it’s ridiculously mindless. As I’ve been saying previously, I’d much rather not see audience participation in Big Brother, and let the houseguests play their own games.  Who knows if Zach, and the allegations of him being Amanda Zuckerman’s cousin, wind up hurting him at some point down the road?

As for the house, it appears at this point that once Devin leaves, the former members of the Bomb Squad minus Devin will be pitted against the six others: Brittany Martinez, Nicole, Donny, Hayden Voss, Jocosta, and Victoria Rafaeli. The Bomb Squad remnants appear more united and aligned than the rest of the house appears to be, but I look for Christine Brecht and possibly Amber Bozotra to emerge as floaters, especially if Caleb’s awkward relationship with Amber goes sour. Brittany should be the most vocal of the non-Bombers, and the most likely to jump to the other side if the right deal is cut. Depending on how the HOH’s and POV’s bounce, I look at Caleb, Victoria, and Brittany to be on the endangered list as the season progresses.

Finally, can we get rid of the whole Have Not business? It’s just not cool anymore, especially with Frankie’s circulatory issues and Christine’s need for gluten-free foods. I just don’t think watching people starve and putting them in rooms that might make them sick is exciting as a case of venereal disease. Talk to you all next week!

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