Jonathon Dornbush
August 24, 2015 AT 02:35 AM EDT

Like Steve, I have to hand it to Vanessa. For most of tonight’s episode, it seemed like she was going up on the block, or at the very least would be the target of a backdoor later this week. Everyone wanted her out for at least a few minutes. And yet somehow the hour ended with Vanessa sitting safely off the block (for now), and Austin putting up two people with whom he had made alliances last week.

Not that alliances matter much in this season of Big Brother. They’re more plentiful than competitions, more ubiquitous than Vanessa’s breakdown sessions or Steve’s corner ramblings. And while an alliance could once be your guaranteed ticket to the season finale, this year, they feel like menu items, particularly for Austin. He has everything on the menu available to him, it’s just a matter of choosing what he’s most in the mood for this week.

And apparently, while it might have seemed like he’d chosen Betrayal à la Vanessa, he instead decided to go for a disappointing side of Johnny Mac and Steve. Let’s back up to how he got to the night’s nominations, as the road there included plenty of revelations for Austin, an eye-roll-inducing appearance from Judas, and such sage commentary from James as “Hmm, uh huh.”

The episode picked up from Thursday’s Head of Household competition, as the racers continued to test their might in mini bouts of endurance. The herd thinned out more from false starts than actual races, but eventually it came down to James and Austin, with the latter coming out on top. James probably blames it on the neck pain.

It honestly at first seems like a boring victory—you wouldn’t expect his HoH reign to be that different from Liz’s rule, and it means the show’s crewmembers can just leave the room as is and let the last showmance standing resume their HoH room lovefest. (ASIDE: Liz may say in the Diary Room that she’s warmed up to Austin, but she’s not fooling anyone about this being more than a means-to-an-end showmance. Not that the cavernous pause when she determines just how big a percentage she likes him (“Ninety… [20 minutes pass by] three percent,” she not so convincingly says) showed any attempt to hide that fact. She’ll ditch his “pretty good kisser” butt if it means protecting Julia in a heartbeat, while Austin likely might sacrifice himself if it meant keeping Liz in the game. END OF ASIDE)

But Austin throws a wrench into expectations by immediately making a deal with James after the HoH competition. He promises to keep James and Meg safe, with the idea being that, as far as others are concerned, this deal came up while the two were waiting around in the final round of the HoH races. James happily agrees, and so the deliberation of how goes up, and who’s the actual target, commences.

Liz and Julia are obviously safe, and initially, the plan sounds like it’s shaping up to ensure Vanessa leaves the house by the end of the week. Johnny Mac is for it, Steve is for it, Meg and James are definitely for it, and Liz is certainly interested in ousting her after last week’s revelations.

NEXT: Judas makes his return and it’s… kind of disconcerting.

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