To understand just how brilliant last night's gamechanging episode of Big Brother was, it helps to remember the third season of 24. Season 3 is remembered now as one of Jack Bauer's best bad days -- right up there with the endlessly influential season 1 and the nonstop death orgy/Nixonian melodrama that was season 5. But season 3 actually began with one of the show's worst run of episodes. Jack had an inexplicable heroin addiction; the villains were a dull pair of Mexican druglord brothers; Kim, formerly the world's most annoying daughter, was now the world's least helpful CTU agent.
Then, like magic, the show completely rebooted right in the middle of the season. The show refocused on an entirely new villain: Paul Blackthorne's Stephen Saunders, a renegade MI6 agent who basically became 24's version of Alec Trevelyan. Throw in a chemical weapon attack on a building, a race against time, the death of two major characters, and a memorable appearance by a fire axe, and what had been a potential trainwreck transformed into one of the great slow-burn suspense-thrillers in mid-00s television.
So. Big Brother. There have been many, many complaints about this season's coaching twist. The producers of Big Brother implicitly admitted that the twist wasn't working for viewers last week, when it offered America a choice: Should the coaches be allowed to join the game as players? Tonight, Julie Chen revealed the results of that vote. No surprise: America wanted the coaches to compete.
And here's where things got interesting. I had figured that the re-entry would be offered to each coach as a personal choice. But the actual decision was much more complicated -- and for once, the show's tendency to make their twists overcomplicated was actually a masterstroke. The Chenbot 3000 laid it out simply. The coaches would go into the diary room, one after the other. Inside the diary room, there was a giant reset button. If even one of the coaches hit that button, then every coach would join the game. There would be no eviction; instead, the housemates would proceed straight to the HoH competition. (If none of the coaches wanted to rejoin, then some previously evicted players would get the chance to rejoin the house. I can't imagine anyone getting excited for a twist like that, except for the outside chance that it would result in a love rhombus between Danielle, Shane, Jojo, and the Hefner-approved Kara.)
Let's take a close look at how every coach responded to the deal, and make some ridiculously early predictions about the road ahead for them. Heck, let's throw in some odds, just to make it fun.
Britney's Reaction: Of all the four returning players, Britney had been the most vocal about her suspicions that a big twist was coming down the line for the coaches. And yet, she was by far the most flustered. When she sat down inside the confessional, her mike cut out -- a special prize to anyone who could make out whatever Janelle was whispering, as the Big Brother sound engineers struggled to organize their sound equipment. But Britney looked like she hadn't planned for this eventuality. In a panic, she hit the reset button.
Ridiculously Early Prediction: Britney has a strong connection to Shane, if only because -- after the one-two departure of Willie and Jojo -- they've been each other's only allies in the house. But Britney has never been a power player in this game. (In her season, she was fortunate enough to be good friends with a powerful alliance...but she never even realized that they were in an alliance.) She's a fierce competitor, but if she doesn't start pulling her weight, I see her falling into the same trap with Shane -- remember, he already had a rough alliance with Frank and Boogie completely under Britney's nose. I see Britney going far in this game, but unless she's really learned her lesson from "The Brigade," she vibes Final Three pawn to me. 6-1
Boogie's Reaction: Uncle Mike made some very visible "Don't do it!" hand gestures to the other coaches, and he was the only coach who didn't hit the reset button.
Ridiculously Early Prediction: Mike's problem is also Britney's problem. They both formed strong relationships with their best players, but both Frank and Shane are much better situated in this house than their former coaches. Heck, Boogie has spent his first month in the Big Brother house glorying in how little other people trust him. And the fact that he didn't hit the reset button indicates that Boogie simply doesn't have the same old hunger to win this thing. On the other hand, Boogie has one of the most powerful personalities in the house; even if Frank loses interest in Chilltown 2.0, it's a good bet that Boogie will maintain a powerful voting bloc with Jenn and Ian. Boogie will probably win an HoH at some point, but his ego makes him a prime backdoor candidate. 7-1
NEXT: Dan and Janelle take their turn