The big news: Eric is cured, praise Godric! There’s not a lot of wasted time building up suspense about it, either: in the opening minutes, he grabs ahold of Sarah Newlin, who begs him to kill her so that she can “return as the Princess of Peace, the Messiah!” Instead of killing her, Eric chomps on her, and lo and behold, the map of blighted veins spread across his body like deadly tattoos clear right up. But there’s no time for celebrating: there’s business to be conducted. Eric, Pam, and Mr. Gus, Jr. and his yakuza minions repair to Fangtasia, where they chain Sarah up in the basement, which is turning out to be the single most overworked set on this final season of “True Blood.” Mr. Gus, Jr. explains that the work of synthesizing Sarah’s blood has been done, but he’s not going to be rushing out to market just yet. What they have must be tinkered with, for maximum exploitability. “We don’t want it to work too well,” he says, sounding all Montgomery Burns as he lays out his plans for New Blood. “We want it to be a healthy habit. Not a cure.” He doesn’t actually throw his head back and laugh “Mwah-hah-ha,” but that’s clearly implied.
Welcome, East Coasters, to a special late night edition of "Big Brother," delayed nearly three hours by the conclusion of the PGA Championship.
Or, perhaps, Welcome East Coasters who missed tonight's "Big Brother' due to the lengthy delay and want to find out what happened.
This is why everybody should live in the Pacific time zone. Our CBS Sunday lineup always airs on-time. Earthquakes, mudslides and the occasional wildfire are a small price to pay.
But anyway... When we left things on Thursday, Jocasta had been sent home under normal circumstances and Hayden was the victim of the Week of "Big Brother" in 35-ish minutes. I miss The Rationale already.
Let's see how things shake out.
Upfront disclosure. I've never read Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series. And before the Starz media blitz had never even heard of it. Somehow despite utilizing both time travel and historical fiction — two thing I love reading about — I missed it.
So based only on the ad campaign, I know this is a historical sci-fi drama about a WWII era British woman who gets mysteriously thrown through time to 18th century Scotland. Somehow her modern immune system manages to instantly adapt to this bacterial utopia (life finds a way!) and our plucky heroine is forced to navigate her new reality.
We open in Middle Earth. Sweeping vistas of the Scottish highlands are breath-taking but somewhat marred by our heroine’s voice over narration. I keep looking for the Fellowship but alas, Gandalf and the Balrog are on a smoke break. Bagpipes play as Claire laments how people vanish all the time...and sometimes, they’re never found.
Cut to Farrell's General Store. Narrator Claire waxes poetic over never having lived somewhere long enough to own a vase. Meanwhile her onscreen self gazes forlornly into the shop window. Look, I’m not going to tell Claire how to measure the quality of her life but maybe chill out about £.35 flower pants.
Suddenly there is flashback within this flashback. Double flashback all the waaaaaaaay. Gone is Scotland with its existential crisis vase, replaced with a makeshift WWII hospital. And shit just got real. Claire is trying to stop a femoral artery bleed-out, slipping in blood while the patient writhes and screams in a puddle of his own gore. Dude this show needs a “Saving Private Ryan” style PTSD disclaimer.
A shell-shocked Claire is still literally dripping blood when a fellow lady solider runs up with a group of exuberant cohorts. The war is over! Which is kind of a George Bush “Mission Accomplished” level gaffe when extras are still bleeding to death on the hospital tables. Claire is smart enough to know this and chugs a bottle of celebratory champagne like the jaded field nurse she is. Guys, I think I just fell in love.
And just like that, the magic of the moment is broken. Claire is back on about the blue vase. So is this vase important? Is blue important? Blue roofs, her blue dress, blue gargoyles on the town well. Is this like red in “The Sixth Sense?” Will blue be the context clue for Important Shit™?
We return from the credits to strains of 1940s music as Claire and husband Frank drive though Middle Earth. It’s supposed to help set the mood but since modern audiences are more likely to associate post-war pop hits with with video game dystopias like “Fallout” or “Bioshock,” I instead feel the need to shoot bandits or splicers.
Upon reaching the quaint village they’re vacationing in, Claire is 100% unfazed by bloodstains on the door frames of the villagers’ homes. Maybe this IS a video game dystopia?
(You like the picture I chose above? Doesn't it look like a creepy Victorian portrait of two dead Silverlake hipsters? Anyway.)
I didn't think there was a way to make a double eviction night on "Big Brother" anticlimactic, but Julie Chen proved me wrong when she announced several times (in her favorite "sinister newsreel" voice) that the evening's evictees would earn the chance to reenter the game. Ugh. What? Already? I half-expected Julie to kick a hole through the big studio TV screen and laugh, "This episode doesn't even matter!" There is nothing about getting 10th or 11th place on "Big Brother" that strikes me as reentry-worthy, but tonight's evictees, who would normally rank 11th and 10th, may well be on their way to a highly unimpressive victory. Hooray?
Bottom line: It's hard to know what to make of tonight's episode. So instead of lamenting the evictions of bow-tied sorceress Jocasta and goofball prince Hayden, let's count up 10 moments that did matter in this kooky, breathless hour of TV.
1. Cody revealed he is terrible at looking unsuspicious.
Though Cody ended up in the right alliance, one that would end up saving Zach and voting out Jocasta, he sure looked like a damn moron trying to play cool as other houseguests walked in on him conspiring. When Frankie waddled in on Cody and Derrick's discussion about evictions, Cody's immediate cover-up was to -- yes, this is real -- yap, "Hello, sir!" in a cockney accent. That impenetrable ruse. J. Edgar Hoover developed that technique in the '30s, and it's still the FBI's chief form of espionage. Cody added to his brilliant disguise by asking, "How was your nap? W-was it good?" Cody may as well have covered his eyes with his hands and cried, "YOU CAN'T SEE ME, FRANKIE, SO THERE'S NOTHING SUSPICIOUS HAPPENING HERE."
2. Frankie looks like Diddy Kong when shocked.
And when we can see his hair, he's more Dixie Kong.
3. Zach's rhymes? Were hot.
Even when we knew Zach wouldn't be going home during the eviction ceremony, he dazzled us with an inspiring and defiant series of "Seussical"-style rhymes for his pre-vote speech. The final quatrain in the poem was pure magic: "Your decision tonight is crucial / The wrong choice may cost ya / So when you walk into that Diary Room / Please vote to evict Jocasta." Leave it to Zach to point out that "cost ya" rhymes with "'costa." Love you, new Chaucer.
4. Jocasta revealed that God is a sh*tty ally.
After Jocasta (literally) sashayed out of the house during her eviction, Julie quizzed her about her performance in the game. Was she shocked by her elimination? "No! God gives you great discernment! I think this is what God wanted! That's my homie!" Apparently Jocasta worships a god who wants her to finish in 11th place. To quote the immortal Tori Amos, "God, sometimes you just don't come through."
5. Ariana Grande is a ponytailed Chicken McNugget from an '80s McDonald's commercial.
Frankie's sister, the renowned problem-haver Ariana Grande, appeared in the audience for a brief moment this episode. We caught the footage on tape. At 0:05 she even gets in a fun soundbite.
6. There hasn't been a grimmer moment on TV than when Caleb of all people won a challenge called "Mathcathlon."
Caleb won a math-based challenge for HOH. Spoiler: Caleb is stupid. This is horrible. The only math he knows is how many times he'll let Amber refuse his advances before giving up on a date with her. The answer is double infinity + never.
7. After being put up on the block, Donny won the veto challenge for reasons I still don't understand.
Caleb threw Hayden and Donny, two of his four non-alliance members left in the house, on the chopping block as HOH. The Power of Veto competition was a "Big Brother" classic: Jump into a ball pit and retrieve objects in a speedy fashion. In an outcome that defies all sense of normalcy and decency, kindly caterpillar Donny defeated Hayden, Zach, Caleb, Christine, and a non-living pile of molecules named Victoria. What? How? Donny is SLOW. I'd be suspicious except Donny's entire life seems to defy space and time. After the competition, he panted loudly and for a long-ass time like Odie after being kicked off a table. Whatever. Wheeze on, Donny, you precious prospector prince.
8. Angry Nicole is the best Nicole.
Nicole tried to act angry after Hayden was evicted. She announced, "This is ridiculous!" She sounded like this.
9. Hayden was blindsided by his elimination.
He declared, "I got boned!" Then he awkwardly laughed and added, "Sorry." Word to the wise, Hayden: Never apologize for getting boned.
10. Turns out we still have two HOHs to worry about. Ugh.
I thought we'd heard the last of the Battle of the Block competitions, but they'll resume this Sunday. I suppose that's better than the old standby, those pointless Have/Have-Not grudge matches. The only slop I want to hear about is the mushy affection between Frankie and Zach, thanks.
Julie Chen says the phrase, "It's a double eviction" the way the doctor in "Love Story" tells us Jenny has leukemia. Grim, unsmiling, heavy monotone -- and she's right to establish the stakes. It's a life-or-death moment, and I'm glad we're getting to the most dramatic type of "Big Brother" week just as I realize I can't take another minute of the "Battle of the Block" rigamarole. Two houseguests are voted back into society tomorrow (which is a scary idea as is), and it seems like spanky Zankie is in grave danger. Is this good or bad for "Big Brother 16"?
Instead of recapping every moment of this better-than-usual Wednesday episode, we're breaking down the events with seven crucial questions about the game at hand. Who's game is most impressive right now? Whose game is suffering from dramatic setbacks? Who does the best job of remembering Victoria's name? I consider all of these questions along with guest commentator Andy Herren, who won a freakish little season of TV called "Big Brother 15." Without further ado, here are the seven observations Andy and I consider most important and Earth-shattering and Chen-hardening at this given moment.
7. Victoria isn't playing a winning game, but she's playing a game.
Andy Herren: Victoria is going to get second place. Seriously. She’s dead weight, and she cares more about shopping than winning "Big Brother." I still don’t know if she understands that shopping does not exist in the Big Brother house. Someone smart will drag her to the end. I cannot wait to hear her pleas to the jury. I imagine her saying something along the lines of, “…….I have a cat!” Zach will probably vote for her to win.
HitFix: I haven't seen the live feeds recently, but I'm told that Victoria is more endearing when experienced in real-time. I relished her torturous sentence with Caleb, who by now has the dead, sad eyes of a washed-up porn star. I noticed that Victoria has a sense of humor, but for the most part she spends her time assuring us that she's a princess and responding to almost any problem by nervously muttering that she's over it. Infuriating and juvenile? Yes. But is her unassuming presence a surefire way to blow past people like Christine, Nicole, Derrick, and Donny when they're revealed to be double agents? Also yes. (By the way: Her performance in the veto challenge was horrifyingly pitiful.)
6. For some reason, the world is still ignoring Jocasta's star power.
HitFix: You know what seems unfair? Jocasta's alliance with Jesus. Those two get along like a couple of old hens high-fiving and freak-dancing the night away. Some tweeters have indicated that Zach might've wriggled his way out of a near-guaranteed elimination this week, and I'm stressing out that we may lose Jocasta. She's full of loud soundbites that don't always make sense, but her attitude is so positive that she kind of transcends the game. I hope we get to see her dial up "the old Jocasta" on her hand phone at least once more.
Andy Herren: Jocasta is the star of the show, and nothing you say will change my opinion. The bow tie wearing formerly bisexual minister has the best Diary Room sessions of any houseguest, frequently receiving phone calls from The Block, which she has a penchant for ignoring. Her excitement at getting third place OUT OF SIX COMPETITORS tonight solidified how perfect she truly is.
5. Christine isn't given enough credit for being a dynamic player.
Andy Herren: Christine is being prepped as the new villain of the season. This is a stretch, as Christine is generally rather friendly with everyone, but she is driving a wedge between Hayden/Nicole and Frankie/Zach, and if we know anything about "Big Brother," it is that stupid fans hate it when anyone tries to break up a showmance, as evidenced by Rachel Reilly exclaiming, time after time, “Nobody comes between me and my Neanderthal, er…man. Yes, man.”
HitFix: You'll have to excuse me, but I always sympathize with the most human-seeming player in the house. One year it was Kalia. Another year it was (ugh) Andy Herren. I root for the players who acknowledge their own neuroses and shortcomings while having a sense of humor about the game, so I'm into Christine this year. She seemed to be weaving between alliances with some style for awhile, but since Nicole told Hayden about her shady rumor-starting, her game is in jeopardy. Look, she messed up, but I think she's savvy enough to realize she messed up. I could get back to championing her game if she somehow levels with Hayden and acquits herself from danger. A Derrick/Christine final two would be pretty compelling to me.
4. Nicole's plan to backdoor Frankie was the right idea.
Andy Herren: Nicole, as reigning HoH, kept talking about a plan to backdoor Frankie. I so wish the HoH this week had been Cody, and that he had the same plan. Just thinking about Cody backdooring anyone puts me in an emotional state that I can’t go into more detail about, as kids could possibly read this article.
(Slightly NSFW video, language.)
HitFix: I'm a big fan of keeping "Big Brother" interesting, and for that reason I really chafe at the thought of Zankie being jeopardized in any way. Face it, they're the most fascinating part of BB16. Maybe Frankie is an overcompensating dullard who wishes he were funny, but he really has a magnetism that draws in a hefty percentage of the male houseguests, not just Zach. For that reason it's unreal that no one in the house has made a serious move to overthrow him. I supported Nicole's plan, and I'm sort of stunned she couldn't organize that effort better.
3. Let's not forget that the veto challenge was spectacular.
Andy Herren: The Veto competition involved actual artists from DC Comics drawing comic book art based on the houseguests. This was so freaking cool. I’m jealous we did not have this competition last summer. I think I would have been, “The Red Ghost: He’s Here, but Nobody Notices Him!” or “The Ginger Avenger: Protecting the Monster and Her Pizza Boy!” or “The Indestructible Bottom: Getting Backdoored Continuously and Persevering!”
HitFix: Jesus, Andy.
2. Is Derrick the hero we deserve?
HitFix: We saw the first signs of anti-Derrick panic this week, but for the most part he remains a furtive and cool player who isn't rushing his gameplay a bit. Even a casual "Big Brother" player has to wonder if he's got this game in the bag. The truth is that the game would be more interesting without him since he's so good at keeping his mouth shut, but for such a cautious strategist, he does give good Diary Room insights. I don't know. I'm torn about how much we want him in this game.
Andy Herren: Derrick remains levelheaded and intuitive. Sure, he has been jumping from alliance to alliance, which could make him a “floater,” but he is doing it strategically, which makes him a “competitor.”
1. Zach can't leave the game because Zach is "Big Brother."
Andy Herren: Zach is quickly becoming one of the most reckless players of all time, which also makes him one of the most entertaining. He is also so damn adorable. His temper tantrum after losing the Veto competition was the sexiest thing I’ve seen in months.
HitFix: Zach is the Raphael of "Big Brother." And I do mean the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, not the Renaissance master. Cool but cruel. Nasty and seething and funny and willfully ridiculous. "Big Brother" was built on a tradition of Zach types who call themselves master manipulators and peeve the other houseguests with senseless spectacle. I am terrified about his potential for eviction tomorrow. Do I want him to win the show? Not really. But I want him to start more unnecessary fights that get people like Hayden and Derrick mixed up in perilous situations. If he's gone, who's our provocateur? Yikes. Now that's something to be grim about, Julie Chen.
Sound off: Do you guys want Jocasta or Zach out? Andy is OK with Zach's elimination, but I'm apoplectic at the thought of it.
This episode feels about three hours long. Technically speaking, a great many things happen in it, but most of them don’t feel significant, partly because none of the plotlines that were going somewhere last week achieve any forward momentum. As the clock is ticking down towards the closing credits, there’s a brief, wordless scene of Lafayette and Lettie Mae digging up the yard they saw Tara clawing up in their shared vision, just to let us know that that particular plot thread is still in play and hasn’t been forgotten. But there are also long, meandering scenes in which Sam (drowning his sorrows at Arlene’s bar, where he now seems to be the only remaining customer) and Andy (taking a break from searching for his daughter to stand by the side of a lake and have a good cry) whine about how fed up and frustrated with their lives in Bon Temps, while at the same time expressing sorrow at the thought that their lives there will someday end. It’s as if the writers’ and actors’ mixed feelings about finally finishing up this job and having to go look for work elsewhere were infecting the narrative.
When we left things, "Big Brother" had misgauged the attention-paying skills of this season's hamsters and 12 questions weren't enough to crown a Head of Household.
That means that Sunday's (August 3) episode is going to feature an HoH, nominations and Battle of the Block in one tight hour, right?
First off, special thanks to Ryan McGee for filling in last week when Louis and I were up to our necks in Comic-Con.
Second off, can we please put an end to Caleb/Amber as an available pairing? Other than serving as stealth promotion for CBS' "Stalker," the non-showmance has accomplished nothing beyond sheer creepiness. And since "Stalker" is horrible, I'm not sure that stealth promotion for it is something I want to endorse away.
Will the hamsters send Amber home?
Let's find out...
Some of our questions about "Big Brother 16" are truly unanswerable. For instance: Do Julie Chen and Les Moonves joke in their monstrous bed about what a crybaby creep Caleb is? Or: Is Jocasta outfitted by Brooks Brothers? And most importantly: How can Frankie be 31-years-old and thrilled about receiving a Justin Bieber album? I'll leave the FBI or NASA to understand that one.
Wednesday's episode was a so-so hour that mostly confirmed what we'd already guessed: Frankie would find a way to remove either Jocasta or Victoria from the block and replace that person with Amber. Hayden, in fact, won the power of veto in a highly libidinous cowboy-themed challenge (We'll get to it in a moment), and Frankie seized that opportunity to replace Victoria with the totally blindsided Amber. Poor girl. If you weren't calling her Leona LEWZER before, now you have an official reason. Girl will be bleeding love right out the door tomorrow unless she finds a miraculous reason to get everyone to vote out Jocasta. Doesn't seem possible to me, kids. Imagine being asked to vote Jocasta out of your life. You couldn't! You need to keep at least one friend around who talks in tongues, and that friend should be Jocasta. That's an obvious survival tip.
After Wednesday night's silly hour (which culminated in Zach's pathetic "argument" with Amber that wasn't even juicy enough to earn Team America their milk money), we had seven questions we wanted answered. Here they are.
1. Did we just witness the most sexually suggestive game in "Big Brother" history?
Was anyone else clutching their pearls (and their favorite pair of chaps) during the veto challenge? I was positively scandalized watching Hayden, Christine, Donny, HoH Frankie, and potential evictees Jocasta and Victoria ride a fake horse like horny coeds on a spring break dare at Saddle Ranch. There was a lot of... pelvic pulsing? Hip swiveling? Er, y'know: SIMULATED SEX-HAVING. I have to give Frankie credit for riding with one arm soaring in the air. That's how all the great cowboys ride -- or at least the one in Madonna's "Don't Tell Me" video, who counts as the only cowboy I've ever really seen. Tell the rain not to drop, Frankie!
2. Why/how on Earth does Caleb think he's running the house?
We don't have enough time to discuss all the ways in which Caleb is the worst person in the house, but the ordeal can basically be summed up as such: When he follows around Amber, I am scared for Amber. He is a man possessed by "love," a.k.a. furious entitlement disguised as affection, and he is chilling. This week he inspired me to kick over a plant when he referred to himself as "the king of the house" who allegedly controls the game. Uh, what? Huh? Look, I know when you're stuck in the BB house for weeks, you're entitled to get a little bit delusional -- but in what way could Caleb possibly justify the idea that he runs the house? Does he think he was responsible for Brittany's elimination? Or... anybody's elimination? Or... anything? What is he thinking? What isn't he thinking? Why aren't we thinking of arresting him immediately after he leaves the house?
3. So, Zankie. Is that bond satisfying for either party?
Say what you will about Frankie's phony screen presence or Zach's arrogant attitude, but I don't think I've ever seen a relationship between two guys on reality TV quite like Zankie. They're seemingly attracted to one another and they're raring to discuss that bond in explicit detail -- but they're not willing to actually consummate because 1) "Big Brother" is a perverted goldfish bowl for the universe to ogle, 2) They're not actually dating, and 3) Zach is not actually gay. But there's chemistry there, somehow? They're like a living episode of pseudo-gay fanfiction. We think we understand their characters, but a gigantic sexy force is threatening to take over their bond. Frankie told us that he's waiting for Zach to make a move, and Zach tells us he'd make a move if only he were gay. I don't really know why they don't at least make out, but in case nothing ever happens between them, we can write naughty Tumblr posts imagining what it'll be like. Maybe then it'll finally come true? I feel like we're only 2-3 episodes away from a little Zankie-panky.
4. Is Christine actually screwed?
For weeks we've been noticing that Christine is situated ideally in the game. She's ensconced within protective alliances and no one had quite noticed (until the past couple of episodes) that she was a savvy but somewhat ineffectual player. Sometimes sly, unthreatening social skills can propel a player far in the game (Andy Herren, anyone?), but I'm wondering if Christine has too many friendships too early. Zach threw a tantrum establishing her as the weak player in his alliance, but is that a damning enough allegation to stick? I question and re-question Christine's chances in this competition so often. She doesn't seem like she'll make it as far as Frankie and Derrick (the two obvious frontrunners at this moment, at least to me), but I can't see her being eliminated immediately either. Christine! You and your IMAX-sized glasses confound me again.
5. Is Victoria a functioning organism with a respiratory system and means of obtaining food?
Remember when Victoria participated in the veto competition? It was almost like she was a contestant on the CBS series "Big Brother." She even tried throwing us a soundbite: "Everyone thinks I'm a princess in this house. But I'm a warrior princess." Nice try, production, but there is no way Victoria is aware enough of the universe/anything to make a reference to Lucy Lawless. She was fed that line, which means Victoria is capable of being fed like a functioning organism. Victoria lives! But as what? My guess: a spore with a MAC counter gift certificate.
6. Could Zach be any worse at starting fake arguments?
I don't know why Zach was so quick to fabricate a fight just because Frankie asked him to do it (in the name of Team America, secretly), but his display of "hostility" towards Amber after she'd been nominated was pretty random. And she didn't even flinch, which is probably a sign that the entire house is fed up with Zach's volcanic outbursts. I want him to be a great game player, but he's mostly just a bizarre one. For now.
7. Is it lame to say I enjoy seeing all these women get booted?
The strangest problem with "Big Brother 16" is that -- with the possible exception of Christine, who at least develops gameplay tactics for herself -- there are no interesting female players left this season. Nicole, Amber, Jocasta, and the mysteriously tall spore known as Victoria offer nothing to shake up house dynamics or even compete with the prevailing alliance. This is the polar opposite of last season when Amanda, Helen, and even Aaryn could wheedle everybody for at least a few episodes. This year we're waiting for the gals to crumble like Stilton as self-satisfied dudes power on through. I have to say: I'm OK with the male domination. If the male players are unanimously more interesting (and I do think that's the case), they should be the ones competing. Hell, Donny is a better player than all of the remaining women. That is remarkable considering Donny is a kindly old prospector with innocent Beanie Baby eyes.
This brings me to my final question, which I'll leave open to you: Is it even possible for a woman to win "Big Brother" this year?
Tonight’s episode brings Will Yun Lee, formerly of “Witchblade” and the ill-fated “Bionic Woman” reboot, on board as Katsurou “Mr. Gus, Jr.” Ryouichi. He’s the son of the CEO of the Yokonomo Corporation and the head of its North American division. The Yakuza forces capture Eric and Pam in mid-rampage and deliver them to Gus Jr., who shares Eric’s vengeful hatred of Sarah Newlin; after all, by tainting the Tru Blood supply and creating the Hep-V epidemic, she bankrupted his company. The vampire and the businessman-gangster come to an agreement to share information and split the work: Eric, who knows that Sarah has an infected vampire sister living in Dallas, will kill her, and Mr. Gus will take the body. I would assume that, after a quick stop at the taxidermist, he’d have the corpse stuffed and mounted in the lobby of the Yokonomo corporate headquarters, as a warning to others. But we just found out from “The Bridge” that even in Texas, this sort of thing don’t fly.