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Where did it all go wrong for Shelli and Clay? Was it last week’s HoH competition, which Shelli threw to James, figuring she could trust his assurance of safety and not wanting to put a target on her back with yet another turn in the HoH thronebed? Or was it earlier, when Austin swung around on his apology tour, leading Shelli and Clay to loudly declare that they wanted to keep Mr. Judas around? Could they have somehow snatched victory from the jaws of defeat this week and forged a separate peace with James — maybe if Clay didn’t pout so much about honor, maybe if Shelli didn’t briefly-but-firmly banish Vanessa from Team Blondoid? Was it always inevitable that this season’s sole major showmance would fall under the sniper scope? Are the twins to blame?
Who can say? This time last week, Clay and Shelli were running the house. They had a strong, charming, supervillain-level strategist in Vanessa; they had a willing meatshield in Austin; they had Liz, and henceforth, they would also have Julia.
Personally, I stand by my theory that Clay and Shelli inadvertently invented their downfall by bringing their own worst enemy to life. Shelli was concerned about the “other side of the house,” before there actually was an “other side of the house.” This time last week, James and Meg and Jackie (and sorta Becky, maybe) were a loosely-aligned crew of friendlies. Now, James refers to them as his “team,” and says things like: “I hope they complete the mission and stay true to the game.”
This time last week, the Sixth Sense Alliance convinced themselves that Jason was the big threat. But Jason only talked big: Getting rid of him is the equivalent of a totalitarian government sending a couple of ornery university professors to a gulag. James isn’t a professor; James is freaking Castro.
James confronted Austin. He wanted to talk to him about the intel Shelli and Clay passed on to him. James successfully summed up Austin’s insane gameplay thusly: “I heard the Judas character was voting crazy.”
In the gigantic echo chamber between his ears, Austin decided that this meant that Shelli and Clay had thrown the entire Sixth Sense Alliance under the bus. Vanessa took this personally; she always does. I initially thought she was this season’s Derrick: A brutally dispassionate chess-player-of-people. But quite the opposite, she is very passionate, and seems physically pained whenever she has to go against a fellow gameplayer. This doesn’t mean she’s a shrinking violet. Far from it: She’s still my favorite to win this game — although James is just a hair behind her, and I’m hoping that Shelli can build a new strategy for the post-Clay world. But Vanessa might be an example of a whole new kind of archetype in this game: The Hotblooded Vulcan.
I couldn’t quite figure out if Austin was lying, or if he just didn’t understand what James was telling him. Either way, Shelli had to explain herself. She apologized for throwing Austin under the bus — helped, perhaps, by everyone’s knowledge that Austin nearly threw their entire Alliance under the Transcontinental Railroad a couple weeks ago.
AND NOW, A MOMENT WITH THE TWINS:
Julia: “I just realized. You’re the bitchier twin.”
Liz: “When you’re drunk, you’re bitchier.”
Julia: “You’re right.”
(NOTE: The names are a guess. I couldn’t actually tell which twin was which.)
The romantics in the audience could take heart from a lovely little moment on the backyard circle bed. Shelli and Clay were all alone. The moon was high. The sky was dark. Their hair was so, so golden. They kissed. The heroic music played.
Is this romance real? Better to ask: What effect was this romance having on the players? Clay decreed that he would not be trying to save himself: “There’s no way in hell I can campaign against this girl.” Shelli had a slightly different perspective on the situation: She would campaign, but “I am not gonna do it in a way that will hurt him.”
Things still seemed dire for Shelli. There was a meeting of the Not-Clelli side of the house, with Vanessa and Austin quietly campaigning to send Clay home first. James wanted to make it clear that he didn’t expect too much. “Really, the only thing I ask,” he said, “Is that we get Shelli out.” Vanessa threw out several arguments. Clay wanted to go home. Shelli was a bigger target — and wasn’t it better to keep the bigger target around for another week? This may have been a rare moment of overstepping for Spymaster Vanessa. Jackie — Jackie, of all people! — is starting to get suspicious. “I’ve been questioning Vanessa for awhile,” she said. “She’s planning on something.”
NEXT: The Hit