Big Brother recap: Victoria and the Bombonators

Nicole struggles to stay alive, while Derrick struggles to maintain his status as House Puppetmaster.
Ep. 31 | Aired Sep 3, 2014

NOT THE RED WIRE! Nicole, alas.


All hail King Caleb, Emperor of the Great Circlebed, Sultan of Sweat, Bringer of Biceps, possibly Jeremy Renner or some kind of Renner Clone. Few people have ever run the Big Brother house better than Caleb, according to Caleb. If Victoria looks out at the Big Brother house and sees a colorful cartoon forest filled with her animal friends, Caleb the First looks out at the Big Brother house and sees a kingdom of small folk who are too cowardly to fend for themselves. This is a strategy, in a way. Part of what makes Caleb a great competitor is his weird semi-Calvinist assurance that he has already won Big Brother: You get the sense that this whole season is a mental victory lap for him, a way to confirm his obvious awesomeness.

Like, on Wednesday's episode, Derrick walked into the HoH throneroom. From Caleb's perspective, it was like seeing an embarrassingly weak-willed lower vizier crawling on hands and knees. "Praise your cruel power, Master Caleb!" said Derrick, kneeling at the throne, unwilling to even look his master in the eyes. "Truly, you have played the finest game in all the land—the finest player this world has ever seen, will ever see! Great Caleb, would that I could have played one half, one percent, one half of one percent as well as you! But alas, I am nothing! I should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas!"


Of course, we know the gag. Caleb's muscle on top of muscle; Derrick's the brains. We got to watch Derrick play Caleb like a fiddle. He built up his ego; Derrick played down his own game; Derrick pointed out that there were some other players who could beat Caleb, but not him, not poor Derrick. If Big Brother were Game of Thrones—and never forget, Big Brother is just Game of Thrones with less violence and better clothes—then Caleb is one of those empty-headed boy-kings, a puppet in king's clothing.

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Meanwhile, Derrick: What a player! Is there a trick this guy misses? Nicole weeps for a competition loss, and Derrick is there, building her back up, telling her she needs to stop crying and start playing. When Derrick wants someone gone, he never tells his alliance member: "I want this person gone." He talks around it; he gets them thinking. He has an astonishing way of explaining someone's own game to them—and he always explains it in a quiet, professorial, even jocular fashion. Derrick is one of the great cerebral players. He never strikes; he lets other people strike for him.


And perhaps this will be his undoing. The veto competition came down to Derrick, Nicole, and Christine. Derrick was in an excellent position; it turns out he has a photographic memory. But he didn't want to beat Nicole—and he didn't want to be seen to actually take action. So he self-destructed... at the precise moment that Nicole's strategy of "singing a memory song" finally let her down.

So Christine won the veto competition. This was specifically what Derrick did not want. Derrick's a smart player; he pivoted. Right after the competition, Frankie ran up to Christine and whispered something in her ear. This whisper immediately became a point of major contention among the Caleb-Cody-Derrick contingent. Caleb was suspicious. Cody asked Christine what Frankie said—and Christine, amused, revealed that all Frankie said to her was "I would've made it to the final round with you." Not a word of congratulation; not even a word of secret alliance-making. Frankie wanted Christine to know that Frankie would have beaten her. For Cody, this was reason enough to eliminate Frankie. Derrick was more low-key, but it's clear that Derrick understands the endgame. "Frankie's my biggest competition in the house," said Derrick. This, I think, is the core of Big Brother 16, and it's why I think/hope the final act is going to be exciting: The two biggest players in the game have been on the same team since week one, and it's not even clear that one of the players knows the other one exists.


So let's talk about Frankie. I know some people don't like/utterly despise him. To me, he's a satisfyingly frustrating player: Strategic but prone to rash decisions, nervous but prone to egotistical outbursts, a solid competitor and a great social player. But there's a darker tinge to Frankie Grande in these closing weeks. Paranoia has taken hold. While Derrick has fundamentally played a quiet game, Frankie has gone in the polar opposite direction. He stabbed his best friend in the back—with poetry. His new best friend, Caleb, was only a couple weeks ago willing to throw a competition to expel Frankie from the game.

Evidence of Frankie's final-act paranoia: His bizarre fixation on getting Nicole out of the house. Nicole is a good player, but her status as This Week's Target mostly derives from a fragile détente within The Bomb Squad. (They have to target her; otherwise, they'll target each other.) But the mission to Kill Nicole is sending Frankie into a spiral. His chip didn't get drawn for the veto competition—and he actually reached in to make sure his chip was there. It's like Frankie started this season as Judy Garland in A Star is Born, and now he's slowly transforming into James Mason in A Star is Born. Or, translated into English: Frankie is going crazy. In the Big Brother house, paranoia runs deep. Just ask King Caleb:


NEXT: The Plan. And then, The Other Plan.

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