One week into Big Brother 14, Coach Dan looked like a washout. He drafted an all-lady team suspiciously overstuffed with ex-models, and he watched two of his players walk out the door almost immediately. Britney schemed off the back of the athletic Shane. Janelle formed a solid voting bloc of brainless floaters. Boogie formed a strong fellowship with Frank -- an alliance with a power dynamic I finally understood when I looked at this picture of Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and realized that Boogie was literally a pink brain with a big mouth and measly little tentacles and a big strong neckless body named Frank.
While all that was happening -- while all the power players were power playing -- Dan was lying back on the couch, reading his bible, soaking in the sun, making haphazard alliances with everyone and no one. He looked like a has-been, an aging player who unretired himself one too many times. He was Michael Jordan on the Washington Wizards. He was Rickey Henderson on the Newark Bears. He was Shaq on Shaq Vs.
The distance between that moment and the moment we find ourselves in now is best understood by considering a single image from last night's episode:
Dan has done it. He has defeated all his enemies. The only two people left in the house are people who he has made final two deals with -- and they are also two people who seem to have barely communicated individually, possibly because girls make Ian nervous, possibly because boys who don't look like stunt doubles for early-'90s Tom Cruise make Danielle nervous. And the best thing is that Dan has made it this far by barely ever getting his hands dirty. You could say that he is a mad genius. You could say that he is Big Brother's version of Jigsaw, the puppetmaster from the Saw series, who never actually kills anyone, although he does have a funny habit of teaching people lessons using chainsaws. Dan has betrayed everyone who has ever believed in him. He is the Destroyer.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Last night's episode began quietly enough, with the Quack Pack achieving Final Four dominion inside of the house. The second Jenn walked out of the house, Shane led everyone in a stirring rendition of their quack-hand secret code. Everyone knew that the fun couldn't last. Someone had to go home. Ian figured it was a 2-on-2 battle: The Couple Alliance vs. The Renegades, POW! Shane and Danielle figured it was a casual 3-1, and so long as Ian didn't win the veto, they were safe. They were planning for a quiet final weekend in the Big Brother house. Danielle was planning a weekend of staring longingly into Shane's eyes and stroking his perfectly-stubbled cheeks. Shane was planning a weekend of staring longingly into the mirror and stroking his perfectly-stubbled cheeks.
But Dan had other plans. Dan knew that the Final Four layout wasn't 2-2 or 3-1. It was 1-1 vs. 1-1 vs. 1-1: Dan and Ian, Dan and Danielle, and Danielle and Shane. Guess which team Dan wanted to break up? His plan started out very casually. He told Danielle to put him up on the block next to Shane. "No no," she said, "I couldn't do that." Dan insisted -- "I did it to you!" Danielle still refused: "That doesn't mean I want to re-payback the favor!" But Dan begged her to. He said all the right things. He said that he deserved it; he said that it made a good cover; he said, flatteringly, "The student has beaten the teacher."
So Danielle pulled out Shane's key at the nomination ceremony. She said she was sorry -- and she really was. She loved everyone -- and she really does. "You both backdoored me," she said, struggling for a decent explanation. Everyone understood. And as the houseguests stood up, if you were looking closely, you saw Dan look straight into the camera's eye. Just for a moment. But the message was clear: He knows we're watching. He knows we know what he was going to do. He knows what we think of him. And he doesn't care.
Next: Bedroom Politics