Sonja Fleming/CBS
John Cochran
July 29, 2013 AT 04:00 PM EDT

Mere minutes after losing her closest ally in the Big Brother house, Aaryn – the wide-eyed, foul-mouthed rabble-rouser – ascends to power as the new Head of Household.  What havoc will she wreak during her reign?

Not much, it turns out.  It’s a shame, too, because the setup for Aaryn’s tenure as HoH was perfect; almost Shakespearean, really.  Think about it: the vile, wretched villainess, having been separated from her one true love (David) and her two crass cohorts (Jeremy and Kaitlin), is seemingly left without hope.  But soft!  What light through yonder BB window breaks?  It’s the Head of Household key, and it’s snagged on some of Aaryn’s golden locks! 

Before we have a chance to start speculating on the ways in which Aaryn will completely rock the house, however, she reaffirms her commitment to Helen, agreeing to nominate Spencer and Howard.  After that, the rest of Sunday night’s episode is little more than a formality.

It’s not surprising that this would happen, either.  Without any allies left in the house, Aaryn’s options as HoH are frustratingly limited.  She can either make her nominations out of a desire for revenge (and alienate herself further in the process) or just try to appease the majority within the house and hope that it wins her some new friends.  By pursuing the latter route, Aaryn cements herself as a neutered HoH, nominally wielding power, but in fact doing the dirty work for the house’s real power players (Helen and Amanda, I imagine).  A villain without any power is little more than an annoyance, and that’s precisely what Aaryn is at this point.

As painful as it might be to watch, though, Aaryn could find herself in a good spot come next week.  Virtually everyone else in the house is paired up with someone. You’ve got Amanda and McCrae; Howard and Candice (and Spencer?); Elissa and Helen (although there looks to be some trouble in paradise there); and Judd and Jessie (?).  In a game where everyone’s hyperaware of couplings, a free agent (or “slave” to the house, as Aaryn somewhat uncomfortably put it) like Aaryn can suddenly become very valuable.

Everything about this episode felt a little bit like it was running on autopilot.  There are the obligatory moments of Aaryn-Elissa tension, perhaps best exemplified by the silent DiGiorno stand-off in the kitchen.  McCrae and Amanda share a special moment in the bathtub together, romantically punctuated by McCrae’s own gaseous emissions (aww!).  Andy animatedly and excitedly gives interviews in which he talks about stuff that has absolutely no impact on the game whatsoever.  Clowny makes his triumphant return, but – despite the great lightning special effects and wacky voice filters – ultimately falls flat.  Judd, with apparent self-satisfaction, incoherently mumbles his way through his own distinct brand of comedy gold (“FBI” standing for “Female Body Inspector”?  Hilarious stuff, bro!).

Certainly the nadir of Sunday night’s episode was the Have/Have-Not competition.  First off, I’m not entirely sure why this competition still exists.  For all the excitement surrounding America’s choice between kielbasa and kale, croutons and capers, and pastrami and pickles, the effect of the challenge’s results on the players is never made particularly clear.

And can we talk about the challenge itself?  I’d love to have been a fly on the wall of the brainstorming session where production decided that watching the houseguests put a bunch of crap onto shelves was riveting television.  Even Poppy Montgomery (star of CBS’ Unforgettable, Sunday nights at 9/8c!) seemed nonplussed by the whole ordeal in her pre-recorded segments.

Fortunately, America is then treated to an extended video reel of Elissa performing yoga throughout the house.  It’s a month into this game, and I still don’t have a handle on Elissa.  Clearly, she inspires strong feelings in houseguests and viewers alike, but I just don’t get it.  She behaves like an alien life form that has only recently inhabited a human body.  That’d explain her slow, clumsy manner of speaking and her insistence on contorting her body so frequently (she hasn’t yet figured out the mechanics of her mortal coil!).  And maybe one-piece bathing suits are, like, dishonorable on her home planet.  That doesn’t quite account for her Amelia Bedelia-esque decision to cover herself in Saran wrap, though.

Back to the game!  The houseguests have a hard time feigning interest in Aaryn’s nominations, too.  In an emotionally charged, bizarre interaction with Howard, Candice announces that “Whatever happens, happens; I’m over it.  It is what it is.”  Following the nomination ceremony, Spencer echoes this sentiment: “It is what it is.”  My god, must the entire house speak in such trite little riddles?  Although I guess they are doing a fairly good job at describing Sunday night’s episode, if not Aaryn’s entire HoH reign: it is what it is.  We can only hope that the announcement of this week’s MVP will live up to the game’s promise of “expect the unexpected,” rather than continuing the somber, resigned sigh of “whatever happens, happens.”

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