The reveal of a game-changing twist, speculation about a houseguest’s true identity, the birth of a powerful alliance, showmances galore, and a squirrel in a cowboy hat eating corn – all this, and it’s only the second episode of the season?
Most Valuable Panderer
Julie Chen’s announcement of the much-hyped MVP twist left several of the houseguests reeling from its implications. “Wow, that changes the game completely,” belched Jeremy. “This BB MVP might really hurt me,” confessed McCrae, worried that the MVP could neuter his HoH reign. A beaming, glitter-eyed Aaryn was more optimistic: “I think that I’m gonna get MVP more than once,” she chirped. “Now you have to suck up to everybody,” moaned Andy.
You’re right, Andy; now you will have to suck up to everybody, including all of America.
Despite Julie Chen’s promise that the MVP twist will discourage the sort of directionless, submissive gameplay derisively referred to as “floating,” is there any doubt that the MVP vote is little more than a weekly popularity contest? And as such, it seems more likely to reward likable, bubbly personalities over gutsy, bold strategic maneuvering. The battle for MVP will be fought not between houseguests in the kitchen or backyard, but in the diary room. Who can deliver the funniest zingers in their interviews? Who looks the cutest when pouting about the ramifications of a Have-Not competition? Who seems the most sincere when waxing poetic about a potential showmance partner? The MVP, that’s who!
For Love or Money
“MVP” means different things to different people, though. Hanging out with Jeremy, Judd wondered out loud what might happen if, hypothetically, Kaitlin won MVP. “Kaitlin has my MVP, bro,” Jeremy grunted in reply, deeply satisfied with his fratty bon mot. Judd agreed: “She is mine for sure, brother.”
And that exchange captures, I think, the zeitgeist of the Big Brother 15 house. The “game,” in the strictest sense of the word, seems to be of secondary importance to most of the players. The houseguests are aware of the different components of the game – there’s an HoH who does something important, a Power of Veto that can, like, totally change stuff up, and (oh my god!) an MVP – but they can’t tell (or don’t care) how those different pieces fit together.
When Kaitlin – in a hushed, severe tone – tells Aaryn and Jessie that they “need to come up with code names” for the hunky guys in the house, it’s unclear whether she feels the need to do so out of a reasonable strategic desire for discretion in communication, or just because it strikes her as the sort of thing someone playing a game like Big Brother would do. I’d be willing to bet that we never hear the “code names” Ken (David), Big (Nick), or The Sailor (Jeremy) ever again.
Conversations in the Big Brother 15 house have the veneer of strategic discourse, but some light scratching reveals pettier, more comical motives. Jessie wrings her hands over whether to pick Jeremy or Nick – not as a strategic ally, but as a romantic partner. Floppy-haired David fantasizes about “working” with Aaryn because it would be “cool and awesome.” After all, David admits, “I came in here, actually, for more of a showmance instead of the money.” Amanda pleads with McCrae to nominate Jessie for eviction. Her reasoning? “Nobody likes Jessie … and she has a way better ass.” Jeremy [somewhat inexplicably] is convinced that women will always win MVP, and so he resolves to have a “snuggle session” with each of them. Practically every moment of strategic insight demonstrated by a houseguest is almost immediately undercut by the articulation of an absurd or irrelevant rationale.
Moving on Up
The only functioning strategic unit within the house seems to be the, ugh, “Moving Company.” I don’t know what’s worse: houseguests feeling compelled to come up with stupid names for their alliances, or the pride they take in the stupid names they end up choosing. “Moving Company” – which includes Nick, Jeremy, Spencer, Howard, and McCrae – is honestly one of the worst alliance names I can remember. The eagerness with which Spencer volunteered “Moving Company” as the name makes it even grosser (and reveals that he’d probably put a lot of thought into it long before arriving at the BB house). His explanation – that the alliance would be “moving sh— out of here” – did nothing to win me over. And you just know that, even if Spencer goes on to contribute virtually nothing to his alliance or the game for the rest of his stay, he’s always going to derive some pleasure from knowing that he was responsible for that idiotic name. Shame on you, Spencer.
Still, the Moving Company does contain the two players who seem like the most competent of the entire cast: Nick and McCrae.
Although Jeremy would like you to believe otherwise, Nick is the clear brains behind this operation. He smoothly recruited his four other alliance members, and pitched the sensible plan of recruiting “floater” girls to round out the “Company.” Listening to Nick’s commentary on the game makes clear the extent to which he is playing on an entirely different level from everyone else. His diary room sessions are devoid of the sort of petty, personal statements that characterize most of his fellow houseguests’ interviews. It’s not saying much considering his competition, but Nick is far above the rest.
I only worry that he might be wandering into the territory of the cold, unfeeling “gamebot.” Though he was effective in recruiting his allies, Nick’s pitches struck me as somewhat impersonal and, perhaps, a little patronizing. While the cadence of Nick’s voice suggested friendly conversation, the content of what he said was basically a series of direct, inflexible orders as to how the alliance should be run. Ending a sentence with a curt, rhetorical “right?” doesn’t actually turn that sentence into a question; Nick left his “Moving Company” allies with no real options, and solidified himself as the uncontested leader of the pack. This might work on a lunkhead like Jeremy, but I suspect McCrae, Howard, and Spencer will eventually wise up and become disenchanted with their boss.
McCrae, the other promising player from the “Company,” has taken the opposite approach from Nick. Rather than telling his compatriots what to do, McCrae goes to great lengths to essentially crowdsource his HoH duties. By basing his nominations on whatever the majority of the house wants, McCrae can free himself of much of the blame. And his hands-off approach seems to be working: polling houseguests about what they want to have happen forces the other players to disclose their own motives to him, rather than the inverse. He even got Elissa to reveal her true identity to him! (Pretty anticlimactic, yeah?). It’s yet to be seen, however, whether McCrae has the social skills to succeed in this game when he isn’t in a position of power. His creepy Buffalo Bill dance in front of the HoH room camera was discouraging, as was his complete inability to make eye contact with Elissa during her confession to him. Still, I have high hopes for the BB superfan. Jessie and Candice might have been somewhat unexciting first-week nominees, but I think they’re uncontroversial enough that McCrae should be able to leave the HoH penthouse relatively unscathed when the week is through.
Who will the first Big Brother MVP be? Who will win Power of Veto? Will Jessie end up joining Team Edward or Team Jacob? I can hardly wait to find out!
John Cochran is a former Survivor winner, a Big Brother fan, and currently writes for CBS’ The Millers.