Some power alliances aren't as strong as previously thought as members are already starting to plot and scheme against one another.
Julie Chen wasted no time at the very top of this third eviction episode of "Big Brother" in revealing who was getting evicted, because there was just no point in trying to pretend there was any uncertainty.
In fact, this week's entertainment came not from wondering who would be leaving the House but rather just how oblivious the House could keep Brent up until the moment he walked out the door.
What we didn't anticipate -- and shame on us -- was just how oblivious he would be even after getting evicted. Either that, or with his pride hit he was just trying to "man up" and cover his true emotional state with bravado and more arrogance.
In his exit interview, Julie tried her absolute best to get Brent to admit he was blindsided, perhaps reveal that he felt betrayed by people he genuinely thought had his back, but he couldn't do it.
Instead, he fell back on his belief that he was one of the biggest threats in the house, he's a real mental and physical powerhouse that everyone could see even though he hadn't done anything to prove any of that.
And yet, in footage we saw, twice he walked by people or even right up on people talking about how great it would be to have him out of the house and he missed it. He was so excited and confident that he was about to blindside the HOH by not getting evicted, and yet he was the one blindsided.
To talk to him outside of the house, you'd have thought he knew it was coming. But before he could put that shield over his face when Julie revealed he was voted out unanimously, it was clear he had no idea what just happened.
He even took it well when Hannah dropped a savage farewell video on him, calling him out for his incredible arrogance. Perhaps when the cameras stopped rolling, he had a genuine reaction to all of it, but he was gameface/save face while chatting with Julie, rendering the entire interview pointless.
After he first tried saying he wasn't blindsided, the show cut to commercial and we found ourselves wondering if production tried to urge him to be more honest and vulnerable with his responses, but it just wasn't going to happen. He may be in for a shock when he watches the show back, or sees how he's been perceived by Live Feed viewers (it's even worse than TV-only watchers).
We tease production a lot here for how heavy-handed they can be at times, and we've definitely laid into them for casting people who've all said they don't really take chances into a season all about taking chances (no one has done so yet), but we've got to give credit for this Teams plan.
It's not the first time they've done it, but this time it was done in response to the past few summers being dominated by alpha players forming mega-alliances and dominating the whole summer, making for boring television.
They also made a conscious effort to cast more diversity than ever before, giving us more Black players and POC in the House at one time than we've ever seen -- usually it's a token or two. This has created an interesting multi-layered dynamic.
The Black players quickly formed an alliance called The Cookout, but it came together more as an understanding between them that Black players simply weren't going to target other Black players. For the first time in "BB" history, they have the numbers for that to mean something.
Considering the deporable treatment of Black players in this game, both intentionally and unintentionally, this statement -- such as it is -- of solidarity is absolutely deserved for the show's legacy, and proving to be a powerful thing.
Even when Derek F is going off the rails and trying to out Xavier's true profession as a lawyer, or Azah is coming to him trying to beg him off of nominating Britini, or lashing out at Tiffany for how mean it is, there is no indication that any of this is going to cause them to go after one another at this stage in the game.
It definitely has more weight than the Royal Flush, which includes several Cookout members, aligning the Kings and Queens teams. But that's where things get even more interesting, as those Teams carry weight.
On the one hand, they genuinely carry weight as entire Teams are earning safety with each HOH (for now), but it's also a pre-forged strategic bond. Already this week, we could see the overlapping alliances and Teams fraying at the edges as the Queens (plus Derek X) started thinking they might need to knock out a King to even Team numbers.
They've no idea how long Teams will be a thing, but for the sake of the future it's in their interest to even out Team numbers at three apiece, even if that means going against their own Royal Flush alliance -- though they're at least smart enough to want someone from the outside take the shot.
So producers get exactly what they wanted, as even the biggest alliances in the House haven't held as much control or power because of those underlying Teams and the power they wield in the structure of the game. The Cookout is a bonus, but it's also a little smaller at six players.
It could still be that The Cookout dominates this summer, though we're still surprised no one is floating the idea of an all-girls alliance. At this point, they've got the numbers 8-5 with Brent being the third guy in a row voted out.
It seems unlikely to happen, though, simply because of the strength of The Cookout and this unspoken understanding that POC players will not vote out POC players. So far that's resulted in three, white males getting voted out (with lots of other factors, of course) ... which is a pretty big statement in itself.
The Kings don't even realize how much they needed this HOH win, so they had to have been thrilled when they pulled off the Team puzzle-building competition, with Christian emerging as the new Head of Household.
Christian worked right alongside Xavier last week to get Brent out, and he's already suggested that he thinks Whitney would be the best person to target this week. That would knock the Aces down to two members, with one in the Royal Flush and the other in The Cookout.
The Kings have no idea how tenuous the Royal Flush is, though, with even the Queens agreeing (with Derek X) that the Kings should be trimmed down to three to balance out those initial Teams.
As it is, the Kings are actually in a dominant position in the house, though not as strong as they think. And The Cookout isn't the type of alliance where anyone would give Xavier the heads up before lopping off one of his Teammates.
As he's the only Cookout member in that team, even his fellow Cookout allies might start to see him individually as having too much power with a fully intact team on top of their other alliances, so they might try to trim away Alyssa, Christian or or Sarah Beth.
That's why we say The Cookout is more of an understanding than a traditional alliance. They won't target one another directly for now, but they're not openly sharing information and they're still plotting against one another's interests as it suits themselves. So far, it's making for an interesting summer, for sure.
It's almost like CBS would have been well served to up their diversity on this show years and years and years ago. The more divergent life experiences you can put together in the House, the more unexpected things will happen. Next up, maybe we can address the ageism that's crept in to the casting.
Tiffany Mitchell (40) is playing the kind of game where no one realizes what a huge threat she is. Her hands are in virtually everything, she knows everything that's going on and to this point, everything has gone exactly the way she's wanted. If there's a puppet master orchestrating things behind the scenes this summer, it's her. Grade: A+
Xavier Prather (27) pulled off the second seamless HOH in a row, despite his penchant for trying to overcomplicate things. He was almost outed as a lawyer by his own teammate, Derek F, but he seems to be wiggling his way out of it for now. He's definitely playing a very savvy and understated game, with one of the best poker faces going. Grade: A
Derek Xiao (24) continues to rise in our estimation, navigating deftly between the Kings and Queens, while keeping one toe in the Aces. He's got a keen insight into what needs to be done for his own game, knowing he's on the outside of all the Teams at this point, but working with just about all of them. He's savvy enough to make this work. Grade: A
Kyland Young (30) and Hannah Chaddha (21) have the protection of The Cookout and a seat at the table of power this week. Even though Christian is the one in power, he and Xavier are tight, so in many ways this could prove a continuation of Xavier's HOH, with Tiffany definitely weighing in heavily. Grade: A-
Christian Birkenberger (23) was the loyal soldier this past week, helping his teammate orchestrate Brent's eviction. With his own power this week, we suspect he'll stay loyal to Royal Flush and pick off another of their very few targets, if competitions don't take them away as targets. What's hurting him right now is ChrisAlyss, his showmance with Alyssa, which is already raising red flags with the Kings at full capacity and including a showmance now. Grade: B
Sarah Beth Steagall (27) has safety with the Kings, and still has one of the season's strongest social games. No one is targeting her, while she's also showing that she's got skills in competitions. She'd be a dark horse contender to really shine later in the game ... but only if The Cookout ends early. Grade: B
Alyssa Lopez (25) hasn't proven herself in competitions yet, making her an easy target to pick off should her allies lose power because of her showmance with Christian. We're happy to see this summer's players not about the showmance game, as we've seen too many be allowed to dominate, but it's bad news for Alyssa. If Christian can win his own safety, she could get cut to cut that tie. At least she's safe this week and well-aligned. Grade: B-
Azah Awasum (30) and Derek Frazier (29) continue to sit at the bottom of The Cookout. While it appears to be the strongest alliance in the house, should it crack or break before it's burned everyone else in the House, these two are the first likely casualties of it, if the others have any say in how things go down. Grade: B-
Claire Renfuss (25) is in a tougher spot than she realizes because the Royal Flush alliance is already starting to show cracks, and she has no idea. She's a great competitor and a strong strategic player, and appears well-liked in the House, but she could find herself on the wrong side of the numbers after the two remaining non-Cookout, non-Royal Flush players are evicted. Grade: C
Britini D'Angelo (24) has seen the Block a lot, but unfortunately, she's just on the wrong side of all the numbers and all the alliances in the house. No one dislikes her, so it's all game at this point, but that doesn't change the fact she is one of only two easy nominees this week. If she does go up, it would be as a pawn ... but pawns do go home and how long can her luck hold out? Grade: D+
Whitney Williams (30) is probably going to be the target this week. Her worst-case scenario was for a King to win HOH because taking out a King was the most logical move she had to shift the target from her. With Christian in power, she's his best and easiest choice to target. She needs to win Veto or safety somehow, probably, to save her game this week. Grade D
Brent Champagne (28) played himself, and is still trying to pretend his gut was right and he knew this was coming. He didn't. Grade: F
"Brent is excited for the first big blindside of the summer. The only problem is, it's going to be on him." --Julie (at top of show, not even bothering with suspense)
"If you're going to go to war, you kind of need an army. And right now, he ain't got a pawn, he ain't got a soldier, he ain't even got a little drummer boy. He's got nothing." --Xavier (about Brent)
"The votes should come out 6-5 in my favor, which I'm just gonna sit back and laugh because it's all because of me." --Brent (delusional)
"The Mafia alliance isn't real ... Everyone knows it's fake other than Brent." --Tiffany
"Next week, we're back to square one as there are no more House targets after Brent leaves." --Hannah (to Derek X as Brent walks up)
"What's up?" --Brent (still oblivious)
"I think we all agree we'll just throw it to you." --Derek X (talking HOH to Brent)
"I believe everybody is what they say they do for a job. X is the only one I think who's super-smart that could be a lawyer. I think he's a lawyer." --Derek F (to Sarah Beth and Xavier)
"Derek, we're both in The Cookout, okay? We grilling together and you putting my ass on the fire." --Xavier (about Derek F)
"You're not allowed to be a model and [lawyer]. That's not fair, and I will be mad if I find out you're both." --Sarah Beth (to Xavier)
"Babe, let me tell you something right now, I've been a target since Day 1. So if anyone has a problem, I could give two s----." --Brent (to Whitney)
"See, play smarter." --Whitney
"The thing is, my strategy is amazing so far in this game." --Brent
"Is your strategy amazing if you're already being targeted so many times?" --Whitney
"It's a game, guys, so don't worry about it." --Brent (to House after getting evicted)
"For people to keep saying I was an amazing competitor before I even got to compete, I don't know, I think it was an easy way to put a target on my back." --Brent (who was saying this other than you?)
"Oh Brent, the number two rule in 'Big Brother' is if you feel too comfortable or safe, that's usually a good indication that you're going home. But unfortunately, your arrogance didn't allow you to see that. So this is Hannah speaking from flight BB23, enjoy your flight home." --Hannah (farewell speech)