The only thing more hilariously lame than the first 55 minutes of last Thursday's "Big Brother" was the way Julie Chen concluded it in the final seconds. Paraphrased: "Did you like last week's mundane episodes of 'Big Brother'? Well, HERE COMES THAT VERY MUNDANITY AGAIN. Next week we're bringing you the same boring challenges, the same boring final five, and for some reason we're adding more episodes. Cheers! It's like I always say: Expect the unexpected. Unless you expected something insufferable. Then go ahead and expect that."
At the end of last week’s episode, Claire left us with a brick wall cliffhanger. Would she out Dougal for his terrible wibbly-wobbly definition of “guest” or would she lie to the British platoon to avoid a shootout? Either way, this seems like a no-win scenario. Sort of a six of one, half dozen of a the other when it comes to an undercurrent of sexual violence.
Regardless of her choice, tonight we meet “The Garrison Commander.”
Last week saw Twelve and Clara in a stand-alone episode. “The Robot of Sherwood” had some great dialogue and character insights wrapped in a candy coating of absurdity. I don’t know about you guys, but I was along for the ride right up until the last ten minutes. A leap of faith via suspension of disbelief is acceptable…even expected…but the “golden arrow” might be the new “jumping the shark.” Can this week’s episode “Listen”, written by showrunner Steven Moffat, right the ship?
It's time to see what the "Big Brother" Rewind actually means, because no matter how many times Julie Chen half-explains it, I don't have a clue.
All I know is that there was a button, it was pushed and it's going to undo an impressive run of challenge excellence from the otherwise irksome Frankie.
And that's going to be fun.
Or is it?
Honestly, your guess is as good as mine.
Let's find out...
No matter what way you slice it, we're down to five distinct characters on "Big Brother 16": the clear frontrunner, the clear frontrunner's gay understudy, the hapless beefcake, the even more hapless beefcake, and a perfect sliver of God named Victoria. That's what we've got. As the final week of "Big Brother" rolls by, it's clear it's going to take a miracle for a major turnaround in the game to occur. Who's capable of such a feat? Anyone?
To help us analyze everyone's game this week, we've again enlisted the help of our friend Andy Herren, the winner of "Big Brother 15." Join us as we grade everyone in the house and basically just start applauding when Derrick's name comes up.
Victoria the Star
Andy Herren: I really want to live in Victoria’s version of reality. In Victoria’s mind, she has played a brilliant social game alongside Derrick, dubbing herself the Batman to Derrick’s Robin. To this I exclaim, “Thank goodness for Victoria!” Say what you will about everyone’s favorite nobody, but her delusions of grandeur, random bouts of crippling illness, and fantastic diary room sessions (funniest DRs of the season) have made her someone I find myself consistently glad to still see in the house. Remember when she made the biggest move of the season by cutting up Zach’s iconic pink hat and then gloating about it in her goodbye message to him? BRILLIANT. What about when she managed to be the only shoulder in which floundering Nicole could cry on, even though she had no interest in Nicole whatsoever? SENSATIONAL. Victoria is turning into the breakout star of "Big Brother 16," and by “breakout star” I mean “most glorious joke in the show’s history.” I imagine Victoria going into the Diary Room at some point soon and exclaiming, “I vote to evict Hayden!” to which the producers are like, “Victoria, Hayden hasn’t been in the house for a month,” to which Victoria replies, “There is a unicorn that lives in my room and it told me to vote out Hayden and I only listen to this unicorn and Derrick, and Derrick hasn’t talked to me in three days.”
HitFix: It used to be fun for me to revel in the vacant Build-A-Bear glow of Victoria's big eyes, but I think her charms have peaked. This week we watched her sit in the diary room, call Derrick "the Robin" to her Batman, and "brag" about how strong a social game she's played all season. I don't know. It all sounded a little force-fed to me, like the producers are seizing on Twitter's ironic love for Victoria and forcing her to play into it. I'm not saying she isn't truly delusional, but is there any way she could possibly believe she's played a strong game? Any time she participates in a challenge, she announces she's "over it" within 90 seconds. Any time she converses with another houseguest, she doesn't even consider bringing up gameplay. She thinks tearing up Zach's (borrowed) hat was a brilliant strategic move. You can pretend like Victoria's been an endless pile of classic moments, but she hasn't been. She's mostly been terribly dull, and for some reason it's become entertaining to pretend she's given us anything except nervous confessionals about being a confident "princess." Victoria, you were fun while you lasted, but I'm not actually sure you ever lasted.
Frankie the Obstacle
Andy Herren: Derrick is the clear favorite to win "Big Brother 16," but he has one sparkly, attention-starved obstacle in his path: Pop sensation Ariana Grande’s great grandmother Frankie Grande. Frankie has proven himself to be a competition monster throughout the course of the season, and if he can win his way into the final two, my hat goes off to him. With that being said, Frankie’s only path to the end is through competition wins, as no other players want to be sitting next to him come finale night. Yes, Frankie’s crippling obsession with always being the center of attention is maddening, but you have to hand it to him: He knows how to play Big Brother, and he has definitely been playing all summer. A Frankie victory would also be neat because it would mark two years in a row in which smart gay men have been able to take home the $500,000. Frankie is nowhere near as brilliant as last year’s adorable winner, but he is definitely a strategist. For a show that tends to cast doomed gay guys (I love Lawon, but come on…), it is refreshing to see a sneaky gay who will do whatever it takes to win.
HitFix: To deny Frankie his props for a game well played is ridiculous. If anything, he's been the most strategic gamer of the season. He pairs an understated sense of competitiveness with a very charismatic social technique. Though he has a mixed reputation among diehard fans of the show, I guarantee their number one problem with Frankie is that his obnoxious antics successfully endear the other houseguests. People hate how much Frankie isn't a joke, even as he marches through the game in infantile shorts and a haircut that looks more and more like a demented birthday cake every day. You know why Team America succeeded in its mind-numbing task this week? Because Frankie committed to a terrific charade that forced his competition to pay attention. Yes, Derrick was a good actor too, but it was Frankie's delirium that riled up Victoria, bedeviled Cody, and forced Caleb to seem concerned (and therefore kind of human!). I wish Frankie had the guts to replace Victoria on the block with Derrick, but even a gifted strategist like Frankie is somehow no match for Derrick's plans.
Andy Herren: I’m not sure what Caleb’s role is in the Big Brother house. For much of the summer, he was the shocking misogynist; stalking Amber while the houseguests championed his behavior and shunned her for being uncomfortable. Then, once Amber was evicted, Caleb became the harmless buffoon, never really knowing what was going on yet showing slight moments of insight from here to there. Now, in the endgame, he has become the loyal knight, protecting his king (Derrick) and his queen (Frankie). I don’t think Caleb will win "Big Brother 16," but I could easily see him making the final two and receiving a few votes. For someone who really has no idea how to actually play "Big Brother" (he bases good game play almost entirely on competition wins), he has made it farther than I initially thought he would, and for that I give him credit. But has he made it this far on his own merits, or because the smarter players (Derrick and Frankie) know he is too stupid to see their devious master plans? I would argue a stronger case for the latter.
HitFix: We just saw Caleb's most inspired gameplay of the season. Did you miss it? Rewind. Check it out. Watch when he's standing around with Cody and slapping that mysterious button with comical karate moves. That's his "big" move. That has been the only time he's actively tried to affect the fate of the game. Caleb has been the essential pawn this game, a guy who congratulates himself for winning challenges while overlooking the real game at hand. I suppose we can applaud him for earning Frankie's trust, but the truth is it feels utterly random that he's still in the game. This is a man who has the confidence to call himself a near-gibberish nickname but no drive to unseat the house's true power players. It is a testament to Derrick's ingenuity that he's still here. I also think Amber called the authorities and they trapped Caleb in the house for her safety.
Derrick the Winner
Andy Herren: By all regards, Derrick deserves to win "Big Brother 16." He has been a frustrating player, as he has had complete control over everyone and everything since the beginning of the season, and in doing so he has robbed the season of drama and controversy. Have we truly had any actual fights this season? No. What about shocking votes? Not even close. Thanks for that, Derrick. BUT with that being said, Derrick is playing the best game that suits Derrick, and I would argue that this game could be the best single game played in the history of "Big Brother." He has NEVER been a target, and he has influenced the vote to go his way EVERY WEEK. One argument that fans hurl at me when I claim that Derrick’s game may be the GOAT is that Derrick is playing with weak competition, and I find this laughable. Fans said the same thing to me last season as well, in a season that consisted of more huge fans of the show than ever (Judd, McCrae, Helen, Amanda, Spencer, myself). Let’s look at two case studies: Rachel Reilly and Dan Gheesling. In season 13, the season in which Rachel went from shrieking villain to comeback kid hero, she was up against arguably the weakest cast of newbies the show has ever seen, and there were blatant twists that worked in her favor. In Dan’s original season, he was competing against players like Renny and Jerry, who were each at least 150 years old, forcing competitions to be geared toward not allowing these geriatrics to kick the bucket at some point. Then, in season 14, Dan was given a pass for nearly a month in which he couldn’t be evicted, and he was also against players like Ashley, Chef Joe, and Jenn City, who I don’t think anyone would claim are powerhouses. Fans claim Rachel and Dan are some of the best players to ever play the game, and if they are at the top, Derrick deserves to be as well. In fact, he deserves to be above them. Let’s do this, Derrick.
HitFix: I have to second everything Andy just said. Derrick hasn't just played an exceptional game; he's duped a bunch of people who should honestly know better. With the exception of Frankie, Derrick is the only member of the house who is capable of looking a competitor in the eye, lying for 15 straight minutes, and earning that person's sympathy and confidence by the end of a single conversation. He is not afraid to ingratiate. He's not afraid to seem defeated. And he's not afraid to manipulate you in broad daylight. If Victoria has proven the virtues of playing the ultimate non-game, Derrick has proved the opposite: If you form a powerful alliance and rigidly organize that alliance's goals and machinations, you can remain in charge of the game from a stealthy, inconspicuous position. It's not exactly thrilling to watch Derrick operate, but he is nonetheless operating and fighting and sorting through his potential risks with the quiet precision of a mafia don. On top of it all, I appreciated the way he lied about the size of the rat's tail in the Team America challenge. Solid play-acting, sir.
Cody the Cutie
Andy Herren: I had high hopes for Cody for much of the season. I thought he was brilliantly riding Derrick’s coattails, and in my heart I just KNEW that he would cut Derrick at a pivotal moment. He could still do this, but the likelihood is waning. If he in fact does cut Derrick, he will instantly become the best player of the season, but if he doesn’t, his claim to fame will be that he remained consistently adorable from June to September. His giggle is the type of giggle that makes koala bears self-immolate because they can’t compete with it. His coy smile is so f**king sweet and demure that it makes PEEPS weep. I don’t really know what else to say about Cody. I’m excited to give him a hug at the end of the season.
HitFix: I don't know why it's taken me this long to establish, but Cody is basically Shane from BB14. He's always been in a small huddle with the game's true power players, but he's never been mistaken for a real winner. And he seems really disturbed to realize he's the lowest-ranked member of the highest-ranking alliance in the game. But why, Cody? Why would you be surprised about that? Not to tout my cowriter's achievements, but this is why Andy Herren formed the Exterminators at a key juncture of the game last year. You have to be able to anticipate when the game will shift and you can become the most powerful player in a new alliance. For now, the only alliance member he can truly trust is Zac Efron, and it appears the DVD extras of "Neighbors" won't be enough to land him a top-two finish.
If you still haven’t watched Tuesday night’s "Sons of Anarchy" season premiere then go do some naked pushups, get your canned stew aligned and catch up immediately or you might be angrier than a dude in a wheelchair being dragged down the street when you’re spoiled by this review.
When we left things on Thursday night, Nicole and Christine were sent packing, which wasn't exactly shocking, though maybe we're supposed to be surprised by how close Frankie came to being backdoored.
Oh and then we had the introduction of The Reset Button, which will either change the game forever or else not change the game at all.
Let's see how things go on Sunday (September 7) and let's see if Jordan accepts Jeff's proposal!
Last week, Peter Capaldi’s sophomore episode showcased a more alien doctor. A Doctor who is having a harder time relating to humans than other recent incarnations. The Doctor has really always been willing to make hard choices, but now the candy coated shell of charisma has been shed in favor of blunt straight-forwardness. How will this personality change — coupled with his new dynamic with “carer” Clara — translate in a fluffier, stand-alone episode? Let’s find out!
Remember that chalk drawing from “Deep Breath” the Doctor abandoned? Looks like he remembered it and has continued whatever equations he was working on. Of course, we’re not privy to that information yet, but for now let’s assume it has something to do with Heaven/Paradise.
After the necessary setup to get Capaldi sorted out as Twelve, the show can finally get back to the fun of just traveling through time. The Doctor suggests Clara pick anywhere. She chooses Robin Hood, which the Doctor promptly puts down as a never existing. He even breaks out a book to show her and wow, Twelve has a much better grasp of how to utilize the near-magic powers of the TARDIS. Clara is undaunted however, so obviously Twelve can’t turn down the chance to prove himself right, so it’s off to medieval Nottingham. Where the TARDIS is immediately hit with an arrow from none other than the legendary outlaw himself.
The Doctor is confused by Robin Hood. He absolutely shouldn’t exist. Meanwhile Robin Hood is straight up like, “I like your box. It’s mine now.” Which isn’t exactly stealing from the rich to give to the poor but legends usually stray far from their source material…like a generations' long game of Telephone. Of course Clara takes this exact moment to appear in a beautiful red dress. I would like to take a moment to wonder if the costume designer and Moffat are putting Jenna Coleman in this much red this season on purpose and, if so, what could that symbolize? It’s probably just a reflection of her personality but hey, fan theories are half the fun!
Clara is instantly attracted to Robin Hood and the feeling appears to be mutual. This leaves the Doctor in the position of looking like a nonplussed father who has opened the door on prom night to discover his kid is dating a member of biker gang. Is a paternal role a step forward or backward from being the object of most companions' affection? I’m tentatively saying it’s a step forward as Twelve is being protective but not in a way that infantilizes Clara or negates her agency. He just hates being wrong.
After a bit more banter, during which Robin Hood channels his inner Westley from “The Princess Bride,” he engages the Doctor in a duel for possession of the TARDIS. On a log in the middle of the river. Because reasons. Twelve accepts but instead of fighting with a sword, he pulls out a spoon. Now this could be a reference to “The Matrix” or the viral video by Rejected from the early aughts. But most likely it’s a delightful throwaway moment to the Doctor’s seventh regeneration, who used to play the spoons.
Clara watches as the Doctor succeeds at pushing Robin from the log only to have him return the favor by sneaking up behind Twelve. Peter Capaldi looks good wet. Just sayin'.
Cut to a village in Nottingham. A Mr. Quail is trying to save his daughter from being taken hostage by the Sheriff’s men. It is not going well. Apparently they mean to use her for hard labor, and since this is a family-friendly show, I’ll take that statement at face value. With all the self-preservation of a martyr, Mr. Quail spits on the Sheriff and is immediately murdered for his trouble. The daughter is taken off by armed knights, screaming all the way. As you do.
Back in Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood has mysteriously given up his quest to steal the TARDIS and instead is introducing the Doctor and Clara to his Merry Men. Clara is freaking out, properly starstruck. Twelve is less enthusiastic…stealing blood samples, and hair, and shoes, from various legendary outlaws. He seems almost accusatory when the tests come back as human, as if these people are actively being obtuse to confound him. Maybe they are?
Clara however, is more than willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Especially since Robin is pinging on the “heartbroken rogue masking his pain” radar. She is completely enthralled by the idea of living out the adventures of the Merry Men in real time. Including the infamous archery tournament.
I know the show is running on a time table but things seem to be happening at an alarming pace. Before we know it, we’re at the contest to find the best archer in the land. But the tail end of it where only the Sheriff and Robin — incognito — remain. As the legends go, Robin handily wins but just when he’s about to accept the prize of a golden arrow, a NEW CHALLENGER APPEARS. Twelve puts an arrow right through Robin’s arrow which kicks off a thinly veiled metaphor as the two battle for archery supremacy. The Doctor’s prickly petulance at letting a perceived huckster get the best of him pays off when a knight is accidentally revealed to be a robot. Twelve is triumphant in victory. He knew something wasn’t right. He knows it all the way to the castle dungeon.
Capaldi is playing the Doctor as grizzled and short-tempered and it’s so different from all of the previous New Who playbook. Not everyone will like it, I’m sure. But personally I’m enjoying every cantankerous second.
Less enjoyable is the character development whiplash Clara is still experiencing. It’s probably growing pains but it’d be less obvious if they’d managed to lay any groundwork in the previous season. As it is, having her declare she knows Taekwondo while brandishing a spear is both jarring and unconvincing. Especially when said martial arts skills would’ve been useful in half a dozen previous adventures…or hell, even in this one. Her complete deficit of personality as Eleven’s companion is making her appear as if she is a whole new character and it’s weird. If they wanted to make her spunkier and more in charge, why not reset with a new version of her?
Case in point: this dungeon sequence. Robin and the Doctor continue their pissing match over who is the better legendary hero. Their one-upmanship becomes so bad that Clara is forced to step in as a combination mother/voice of reason. Where was this take-charge attitude the 800 times Matt Smith’s Doctor could’ve used a verbal slap in the face? Of course, Clara acting like a teacher with two crabby schoolchildren signals to the enemy that she is the leader. Again, while I adore this new direction of putting Clara on equal footing with the Doctor, it’s too much, too fast.
A quick interlude back to Sherwood Forest, where the Merry Men have stolen the golden arrow from the archery competition. Turns out, the Sheriff has only been stealing gold…he has no interest in precious jewels or silver. This is pertinent information to have since we cut immediately to the peasants slaving away in the underground chamber where the gold is being processed into computer parts. Because robots.
Hold that thought though, because Clara is being entertained by the Sheriff of Nottingham. He wants to know how the Doctor used his magic wand — aka the sonic screwdriver — to blow up the archery target. Instead Clara deflects, convincing him she has also seen the lights in the sky and the mechanical men they brought. The Sheriff is very to eager to share his story and monologues at length after Clara strokes his ego a bit. Turns out the Sheriff is going to use the mechanical men for world domination, because what else would a caricature of evil do with a serendipitous bounty of murderbots? When Clara reveals she lied to get the Sheriff to reveal his plan to her, he’s not even mad. In fact, he thinks it’s hot. Are we beyond the Mary Sue pale yet?
Look, this new Clara is a martial artist with the manipulation skills of a master intelligence agent. Why is she even hanging around with the Doctor?
Last week left Claire in quite the predicament. Having earned Dougal’s tentative trust, he was now willing to put her into more danger. But that also meant she’d finally get out of Castle Leoch and closer to the standing stones that might take her home. I assume she figures there are IKEA-like instructions carved somewhere to get the stones to work at will AND transport her the correct direction in time?
So it was with that level of optimism, Claire loaded up with Clan MacKenzie to go collect the “Rent.”
Over a gorgeous vista of a quiet lake between two distant peaks, our heroine recites a passage from “Absence, Hear Thou My Protestations” because reciting verse from a not-yet-born poet would render the time/space continuum asunder. For a moment I wonder why Claire has taken to speaking aloud, but oh it’s to give us an excuse to meet a new character.
Enter Budget Ben Franklin, the tax collector. Budget Ben — also known officially as Mr. Gowan — is also a fan of 17th century wordsmith John Donne. Sadly the real author of “Absence” will have to wait until the 21st century to reclaim his poem.
Okay, that was a Google rabbit hole I didn’t mean to trip and fall down. Focus.
The academic discussion is brought crashing down as the boys of Clan MacKenzie create a ruckus. In the downtime between tenants, they choose to wrestle. Scottish Santa is on hand to pass out hard liquor instead of gifts. And Budget Ben let’s Claire know they’re all goading one poor kid by implying he should engage in relations with this sister. Is her name Cersei?
Sensing an intellectual equal, Claire chooses to ignore the testosterone laden fisticuffs and follows the tax collector. He gives us some exposition about how the 18th-century Scottish IRS works but I can’t focus because all I want is for Claire to give me her coat! It’s gorgeous and if Starz has a lick of sense, they’ll be rolling out an official line of clothing and accessories post-haste.
Throughout Budget Ben’s explanation he is coughing so hard I assume he has consumption and should head for the Moulin Rouge but wait, no it’s just asthma. Claire gives him a pipe full of thorn apple to relive the symptoms, which obviously draws Dougal’s attention. And ire? He seems way too pissed off that she’d ease an old man’s discomfort. WHY DO YOU HATE CLAIRE FOR DOING THE JOB YOU KIDNAPPED HER TO DO?
On the road, Claire sticks by her new BFF Budget Ben because at least he’ll talk to her and seems to have a grasp on words with more than three syllables in them. He regales her with tales of how the highlands used to be more dangerous when he was a young lawyer. He craved adventure in a time when men were men. He actually says this, “When men were men,” because I guess daily fearing for your life from the British army is child’s play. So the longing for the legendary nonexistent ‘wild west’ of our ancestors is centuries old?
Oh my God, we’re camping again. This is too much. Claire is a saint. And a magician. It’s the only explanation for how she’s dressing herself, doing her hair, and staying clean without any help. It took Mrs. Fitz like an hour to get Claire presentable, but somehow she’s been using fashion witchcraft to change outfits alone.
Not that anyone notices how she looks. Claire was invited along but is now being shunned like she invited herself. God, this clique is worse than The Plastics. At least the Mean Girls have the decency to throw shade at you in a language you can understand, so you’ll be properly insulted. How is she supposed to know how much you hate her? Oh, I guess giving her the rabbit version of the Crypt Keeper to eat will suffice. At least Jamie took pity and gave her edible bread.
Look, I’m not gonna tell the MacKenzie’s how to haze their new toy, but if you suspect this chick of being a British spy, maybe don’t piss her off in a place where she could poison you all and no one would find you until spring?
Claire huffs away from the group because, honestly, her tenuous grasp on not just murdering them all in their sleep is slipping. Jamie follows her and I think he’s going to give her a pep talk on how to deal with men several hundred years before the advent of feminism. He tries but, bless his heart, fumbles at the one yard line. He basically says the men don’t trust her and why should they? He knows she obviously tried to run away. Jamie, honey…does Scottish nobility adhere to the Disney’s Beast school of “guest” definitions? Because if you’re going to invite her to be your “guest” at least have the common decency to break out the dancing silverware.
Sometime later, Dougal and Co. have entered Hobbiton. I mean, the first village from which they will collect rent. Claire is still hanging around Budget Ben because he’s the nearest thing to a gentlemen for 10,000 miles. It doesn’t take long for her to get bored. So she’s off to explore.
Tweedle Dumb — now properly ID’d as Angus but the moniker stays because honestly just look at him — is absolutely terrible at guard duty.
It doesn’t take Claire long to find her people. And by her people, I mean the village women. They aren’t exactly friendly, but after traveling for weeks with a posse of men carrying an undercurrent of menace and distrust, it’s a step up. At least Claire can relax her guard for a minute. Side note, why do 18th century dresses have more practical pocket than 85% of the clothes in my closet? This is an outrage!
It's time for the season's second Double Eviction Thursday on "Big Brother."
I missed the last one for some reason and didn't get to recap it and what's the point of recapping Thursday night episodes if you're not going to get to handle the double eviction chaos.
But I'm here tonight, even though I know that even if some miracle saves Nicole in the first vote, her chances of surviving a second vote are virtually nil.
So will it just be Nicole and Victoria/Christine going home or will something shocking happen in the second HoH/Nominations/Veto/Vote maelstrom?
Let's find out!