"I wanted this year to be different," said one black contestant, tiptoeing around the show's recent issues with racism and marginalization.
We're not going to go into all of the optics problems CBS is facing with this current season of "Big Brother" -- we've already said a lot about it here and here -- but tonight's live eviction and comeback competition closed the chapter on an ugly opener with the worst image yet.
First of all, it wasn't all bad news as we did get to see some genuinely exciting and hopeful developments in the house, though it remains to be seen if any of it will matter in the long run. Remember we thought we were getting somewhere when Nicole exposed to Nick and Isabella that their own alliance was gunning for them.
It was true, but Gr8ful managed to fool the couple into believing it was Nicole behind the whole thing, leading to some of the most uncomfortable bullying we'd seen all season. And just like that Nicole was on the block. And the only oddly encouraging thing about that was that with Cliff and Nicole on the block, it guaranteed the fourth person evicted wouldn't be the fourth person of color evicted.
Of note, the only non-whites remaining in the house are Jessica and Isabella. Jessica has been targeted literally since Day One, along with the first three evicted people of color. Isabella has been tight with the dominant alliance Gr8ful, though now she and her showmance Nick are being targeted by them.
You always remember your first, and Nick and Bella are sure to remember this one. They were so gung-ho to get Nicole out it actually freaked out the rest of Gr8ful -- who solidified their stance against Nick and Bella by forming the sub-alliance 6 Shooters -- to the point they decided to flip the script and keep Nicole.
Remember these are the people who told Nicole they wanted to get Nick and Bella out, they told Nicole that Bella was a bully and Michie threw that errant vote in the last eviction and pinned it on Nicole to make her a target. Now, all of a sudden, they're ready to forget about all of that in hopes of keeping Nicole so she can do their dirty work for them and target Nick and Bella.
It's largely the same way they used Sam to do their dirty work for two POVs in a row until Jack slipped up and revealed Gr8ful to him, leading to the creation of the largely ceremonial and fake Unde9able coalition. In other words, this group of six have been dominating the game and they are willing to do anything to get to the end, including lying and turning players against each other.
It would be ingenious gameplay if they were a little more savvy about it and a little less "mean girl."
And yet, in the closing minutes after blindsiding Nick's HOH by voting to keep Nicole, you could already hear Jack and Christie in Nick's ear trying to give him another snowjob as to why they did what they did. Honestly, Nick and Bella deserve to be blindside and evicted already for how badly they've treated Nicole on a personal level over game lies.
If they fall for another Gr8ful wall of lies, then here's hoping they get shown the door next. On top of that, we'd love to see Gr8ful crumble because then there's hope for anyone outside of the 6 Shooters.
When Cliff got evicted, it really felt like it was anyone's game to get back into the game. And when the comp involved rolling a ball down a twisting incline, that was even more encouraging as it was a comp that didn't blatantly favor youth.
What no one surely expected was for Cliff to totally dominate the competition like he's got this game set up in his backyard at home and had been practicing it for years just in case it meant life or death in this game.
The goal was to score six balls first. And while they had a three-minute time frame, Cliff barely needed more than two. In that same span, Ovi sunk one ball while Kemi and David managed to do exactly nothing. It was particularly difficult for David who got banished on Day 1, returned to the isolation of Camp Comeback and then saw his game end. He never really got to play at all.
And thus, CBS found itself facing its worst visual moment of the season. After they were evicted, here was Julie sitting next to three brown-skinned people while all the white people were still enjoying the game. A visibly emotional David said, "I wanted this year to be different. I wanted this to go further this year."
He didn't elaborate further, and Julie might be glad he didn't. "This" was clearly not referring to David but to minorities and how poorly they've done on the show in recent years through sublte and occasionally blatant racism from too many of the white HouseGuests (not all, but too many!).
He'd said in a previous interview he wanted to represent African-Americans in a positive way and prove that they could win this game, too. No black person has won "Big Brother" and he was hoping to be the first. Instead, he's one of the first three people evicted from the house, and none of them were white.
While it's impossible to lay this image solely at the feet of racism, it's a factor that can't be ignored. We also talked about issues with casting on the show in relation to diversity (race, background, sexuality and age) that have helped foster these early cliques and lead to the marginalization of players who don't fit the young, white, "popular kids" mold the show casts in large numbers because they apparently think they look better in a bathing suit.
Michie and Jack are effectively running the house together as the heads of Gr8ful, Unde9able and 6 Shooters. Even if they aren't making all the decisions, like the one to save Nicole, they're still seen as the heads of the whole thing, and they certainly feel like this is their house. It's hard to argue at this point, as they've had nothing but smooth sailing so far. Grade: A
Sam is playing a much smarter game than many give him credit for, even if he is largely on the outside of the power alliances. But as we've seen, those are not as solid as they think they are and he's savvy enough to see how the house is split and friendly enough with everyone to take advantage of it. He may be Gr8ful to be in Unde9able, but he also looks poised to flip this game when the time comes. Grade: B+
Analyse and Holly are only marginally behind their respective showmances -- though would the Jacks choose either of these girls over each other in a final two situation (we don't think so). There is a clear four even within the six, and they are aligned right where they want to be. Plus, for now they are hardly seen even as they are involved with major decisions, which makes them smaller targets. Grade: B+
Tommy is pretty loyal to the 6 Shooters, which is good and bad. He gets a little over-excited at times, which seems to shut down his independent though, falling to herd mentality. But when he clears his head he's got a pretty good grasp on how things work. He's also good at cozying up to the other side. He's well-positioned for now, though, within his alliance, though Christie could become a liability. *Grade: B
Nicole escaped certain doom this week, and now she's in a good spot to try and regroup and build numbers around her since the 6 Shooters want her to do their dirty work for them and target Nick and Bella. They may yet find that leaving her in the house was a mistake, if she can buckle down and be willing to fight her battles and take on the bullying forces running the house. Grade: B-
Christie went paranoid and then blabbed her secret power to a duo on the outs with Gr8ful. She's in the 6 Shooters alliance, but Nick and Bella have a powerful bit of information about her. Her paranoia was so extreme, too, it rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and if it flares up again she could be seen as a huge liability, shortening her time in the house. Grade: C+
Cliff earned his way back into the house and will surely partner up with Nicole again. If they can rally against the more obvious alliance, securing other outsiders like Kathryn and Jessica to their side, they may have a chance to make this game interesting. A lot depends on what happens with Nick and Bella. Cliff and Nicole have reason to want them out, but the enemy of my enemy should be my ally. Will they sieze this opportunity? Grade: C+
Isabella and Nick are suddenly in the crosshairs of their own alliance. If they don't win HOH and the 6 Shooters get their way (again), they're the obvious targets. It would be more interesting to see the house turn on the 6 Shooters, but that would mean putting aside a lot of hurt and betrayal and lies, and we've not seen that capacity from these two. Grade: C
Kathryn remains in a largely invisible place in the house, despite her comp victory. Could that change her visibility in the eyes of the power alliances. If not, it certainly raises the question why they keep targeting someone who's never won a comp in ... Grade: C-
Jessica has been the focus of pointless targeting since Day One, like all the people of color. It's hard to find another reason they keep coming after her than the fact she's a Latina woman. She's not a physical threat, so maybe they fear her social game? Not really buying it, but it's a real struggle to come up with a real reason they want her gone so bad. Grade: D
Kemi, Ovi and David are finally and officially evicted from the "Big Brother" house, so there will be three less people to rank from here on out and this will get a little shorter. It's unfortunate it looks as bad as it does, but there it is. Could they have done more to try and last longer in the game? With the exception of David, who didn't get a chance at all, you could argue yes. Did the color of their skin have to do with their eviction? It certainly looks like it. Grade: F
Before we get to the "House Chatter," which has some good lines in it, we do want to emphasize that we don't think CBS is entirely to blame for the apparent racism on display in the house. They can't control what the HouseGuests do or why they do it. What they do control, though, is what makes it on the airwaves, and that is where they're failing.
Julie had a chance to go there while interviewing Kemi, Ovi and David, but she clearly didn't want to be the one to say the words "racism" or "race," leaving David to try and be diplomatic about it when he was clearly emotionally distraught.
The network had no problem showing Kemi make threatening and menacing comments about Jack and Michie, but we've seen none of the abhorrent things they said about her or David or that possible use of the n-word or when Jessica (a Latina) was called "Consuela."
"Big Brother" is a microcosm of the real world, and CBS has an opportunity within it to emphasize the growing divide within our own country. As President Trump demands for Conressman "go back to" their countries in a callback to one of the most classic racist lines of all time, it is clear that racism is alive and well.
Yes, it's uncomfortable. Yes, it's hard to talk about, but it's important to talk about. And it's relevant when it seems to be informing the decisions of these HouseGuests and feeding into the feelings of isolation that three people of color experienced living segregated from the rest of the house in Camp Comeback.
This is a conversation we need to stop shying away from because it is real and it is happening and it is hurting people. And exposing these thoughts, revealing the nastiness and seeing how it affects real people is one way to try and open people's eyes to how wrong it is. You can't choose your heroes and give them the "hero" edit no matter what they do on the show.
Yes, Gr8ful is dominating the game, but they've also said and done some pretty questionable things. Stop giving them favorable edits and show them for what and who they are and trust that your audience can make their own decisions. And if a racist bigot happens to win ... well, it won't be the first time that's happened in this country.
"I want to be here because I deserve to be here but at the same time I can't take it away from other people. Dammit!" -Nicole (too kind for this game)
"Every time Nick talks, there's just something about it. I don't quite buy it." -Michie (Gr8ful strong!)
"Even though we've been an alliance of eight and then an alliance of nine, there's still been these six of us at the core of it all. And honestly, we would have taken a shot at Nick and Bella if Nick hadn't won HOH this week." -Michie (just like Nicole tried to warn Nick and Bella)
"Thank you, Nick and Bella. We are really Gr8ful for your services. It's time to get shot down." -Michie (after formation of 6 Shooters)
"I'm not voting out Nicole. I'm sorry, I don't want to go to nine with them. I want to go to six and I want someone else to take the shot at them and I don't want it to be one of us. So I'm not gonna vote out somebody that's going to potentially help us." -Christie"I love your headspace." -Holly
"I think this week I have been really nice to people." -Isabella (good one!)
"We're not asking people to treat us any different; just have conversations with us. We know what it is to feel different and be pushed aside in actual real life. From a game standpoint, there's no reason to mistreat anybody in Camp Comeback because there's a possibility they might come back." -Ovi (feeling marginalized in Camp Comeback)
"You need help with a little bit of perspective and I'm gonna tell you why. And it's gonna be out of respect for you and I really care about you." -Jack (no good conversation starts this way)"Okay?" -Kemi (she's been mansplained to before)"You have a tendency to put your shaker bottle in the fridge as well your drinks in the freezer. If all of us put our shaker bottles in the fridge, what would the fridge look like?""It would be full.""Okay, so what is so special about you that you get to put it in there?""I mean, I just noticed no one else did, so there was space.""But if we all did it, there'd be no room in the fridge." -Jack (this has been helpful. I have really made a difference. I am a good guy.)
"Jack's obsession with hating me is so confusing." -Kemi (but is it really?)
"A very wise and strong woman told me to grab life by the boobs and that's what I want you guys to do. Not grab my boobs, but I mean-- Maybe later we'll celebrate, I don't know." -Nicole (in her save-me speech)
"One minute left on the clock." -Julie (during Comeback Comp)"I don't need that long." -Cliff (as he sinks last ball and wins)
"I'm so happy for Cliff, because based on the past, he's not supposed to get this far. He beat me down twice and I'm so proud of him and what he's did." -David (after Cliff's dominant performance -- and yes, he's talking "BB" ageism there; another recent problem)
"I wanted this year to be different. I wanted this to go further this year." -David (trying to avoid talking openly about racism)