Who are you rooting for in Big Brother this season? I asked myself that question constantly over the last couple of episodes. This week, the entire house turned against Howard. Everyone insisted that he was shady, that he was a liar, that he was the greatest threat to anyone and everyone in the house. The dissonance between this image of Howard -- as a plotting mastermind deviously planning everyone's downfall -- and what we actually saw of Howard was striking. Howard had a weirdly ineffective social game; besides his epic ants vs. grasshoppers speech, he never managed to inspire any feelings in his listeners besides confusion and outright hostility. But he was a smart dude, and he prayed a lot, and he stayed true to his boy Spencer even when all their old dreams of Big Brother power started to fall away like tears in the rain. He could never really seem to decide if he was playing a quiet espionage game or an aggressive power-play game; he also never recovered from a bad alliance. (He also couldn't win anything.)
In hindsight, Howard made a handy straw man, a fake villain created by a unique series of circumstances. Right now, the house is dominated by three powerful women: Helen, Amanda, and Aaryn. Because Aaryn won HoH, and because she stayed true to her promise of fealty to Helen, those three women were all united this week. Each of those women has a devoted underling. Amanda and McCrae have the season's most genuine showmance (they're Big Brother engaged, whatever the hell that means.) Aaryn has a pet GinaMarie. Helen remains devoted to Elissa, although even she realizes that Rachel's sister is a volatile commodity who doesn't add much of anything to the house now that the MVP twist has left her behind. From that perspective, the Howard-Spencer-Candice trio looked dangerous. (Meanwhile, Judd, Jessie, and Andy float along.)
Spencer could see the power dynamic. He tried to make a play for the underling vote. He talked to GinaMarie, who seemed receptive to a power shift. He spoke to Andy and Judd. He tried to roadmap the future for them -- a future the Helen/Amanda/Aaryn coalition clear out the house. Andy nodded, and then ran to the pantry to tell Amanda that Spencer was launching a counterattack.
Amanda took it very personally. Too personally. The problem with Amanda is she has never really been in anybody's sniper scope this season. She has risen to power without fighting very hard for it. She was on the right side of history in the first month: She spoke out openly against the Confederation of Evil Hot People. But she was shocked, shocked to discover that someone was plotting against her. This led to one of the single most tense exchanges in recent BB history, which went mostly like this:
Amanda: "I know what you think you're doing. But it's not gonna work, and you're just making yourself more of a target."
Spencer: "I don't think that."
Amanda: "Don't go against me because that's gonna hurt you. Change it to Candice, a lot of people won't look at you as the main target."
Spencer: "I don't really give a s---, Amanda."
Amanda: "You should."
Spencer: "Well. I don't. You act like you're badass. I'm not some punk bitch who's gonna kiss ass. I know that you're the reason I 'm up on the block this week. Shut up, Amanda"
Amanda: "You're a bully."
Spencer: "That is such a chickens--- way out. If anyone calls you out, call them a bully. I know that you think you're all-wise or all-knowing, but that's not the case."
The interesting thing about this conversation is that, even if you think Spencer was dangerously harsh with Amanda, he was mostly right. Amanda is the reason he was up on the block this week -- and it's not like he came to her knives out, just because he knew that. If anything, you could argue that Amanda was the bully in this situation. (This happened the same week that McCrae, heretofore everybody's fun younger brother, suddenly started aggro-posturing right in Spencer's face.) The biggest fallacy any Big Brother player can make is to assume that their power will always last. Ever since Aaryn's misbegotten first HoH reign, Amanda has been riding high. But she went into a minor tailspin this week, crying her way through a week on the block. To me, her position looks decidedly less secure than she seems to think; in a pinch, Helen would eliminate her before Aaryn, if only because Helen (like everyone in the house) is still operating under the delusion that Aaryn cannot win this game.
But even if Spencer won that argument, he lost the war. And it was all thanks to Candice.
NEXT: House meeting!