Overlapping alliances butt heads as the potential danger of the ChrisAlyss showmance emerges when Alyssa offers up insightful strategy to Christian that doesn't sit well with all the Kings.
It's very hard to juggle multiple alliances in the "Big Brother" house, and when those alliances are both large and overlapping, it can be downright impossible.
Choosing the priority of those alliances is key, and that much at least seems to have happened. Everyone in the Royal Flush alliance is definitely down to keep that group tight until the very end ... at least, everyone that's not also in The Cookout.
The stealth alliance -- that we call more of an understanding around here -- has pretty much established that it is the strongest in the house, and the quietest. So far, no one outside of The Cookout even knows it exists.
It also helps that they are not actively working together in any way. This week probably saw their most overt actions, and it was more about trying to divert the Head of Household's attention from one of their members.
The Royal Flush is comprised of Kings (Christian, Alyssa, Xavier, Sarah Beth), Queens (Claire, Kyland, Tiffany) and their "Ace in the hole," Derek X. But within that eight-person behemoth, Xavier, Kyland and Tiffany are also part of The Cookout with Azah, Derek F, and Hannah.
For Xavier, in particular, he was put in the impossible position of trying to steer Christian and the Kings away from Hannah, as she suddenly emerged as the top target for both Sarah Beth and Alyssa. And as Alyssa is in the ChrisAlyss showmance with the HOH, her words carry weight.
That left Xavier on an island alone trying to convince these people, who actually were using good logic and strategy to consider Hannah as a target, that she shouldn't be their target -- all the while needing to make sure he doesn't expose himself or The Cookout.
It took four weeks, but producers finally came up with a Wild Card competition worth its weight. More specifically, the gamble that was offered the winner was one that actually had enough appeal to create a potential dilemma (though not really).
Claire and Whitney were the only options for the Queens and Jokers to compete, and after missing out on the HOH competition, a dejected Derek F deferred to Azah as the Jokers' best chance at victory.
It was a long, wobbly balance game, running a ball (olive) down a twisting path (martini glass stem) into a slot (straw) on the end, with intermittent flickering lights to make it more challenging. Right away, it became clear who was going to win.
Whitney was just too fast and reckless with her movements, sending her ball off the edge almost immediately. Azah was going so slow we think she'd still be out there trying to move her ball onto the path if they hadn't stopped the competition.
Claire, despite her long limbs and 6' height, managed to buckle down and use her understanding of mathematics to mentally figure out what to do and then begin to execute it. Inch by inch, she got closer until she finally secured victory.
Then, she was offered an actual temptation. She could secure victory for her entire team for the week or herself alone until Jury. Now, if they follow recent "Big Brother" seasons, we're actually close to Jury, so she only picked up two weeks of safety, but that's still tempting.
Plus, "BB" is all about "expect the unexpected," so maybe Jury won't kick in when there are 11 players left. It probably will, but nevertheless it was too tempting of an offer for Claire to deny. Plus, with her Royal Flush in power, her team was feeling pretty safe.
To their credit, Tiffany and Kyland were genuinely happy for Claire that she chose safety for herself, because anyone who didn't would kind of be a fool. Some temptations are too sweet to ignore.
Strategically, though, the move does nothing to impact Christian's decision this week because neither Claire nor anyone on her Team were in his crosshairs. If anything, she kept things more straightforward by denying Whitney victory.
For the first time this season, the HOH put up two nominees without a clear target. Going into the week, it had pretty much been decided by the Flush -- and especially by The Cookout -- that Whitney was their best target.
Sarah Beth jumped on the Hannah bandwagon with Alyssa, though, rightly arguing that Hannah would totally go after the Kings and she's a much bigger strategic threat than Whitney, based on what we've seen before.
They also think her a stronger competition threat, but Whitney did win that opening threat that made her the Aces captain, while Hannah hasn't won anything, despite some solid efforts. In our estimation, the jury is still out on that one. Maybe Claire could let us know when she gets there.
Xavier and Cookout members tried to convince Christian that maybe he should consider Britini as a third possibility (without impacting either alliance), but he was shy to piss off two different teams -- and the Jokers had been on the Block the past two weeks.
In the end, he put up Whitney and Hannah without a clear idea what the House might do with that information. We suspect that collectively, including those outside the Flush, Whitney is going to be the more clear target, as her name has been thrown around more.
Sarah Beth and Alyssa may try and talk up Hannah as a potential target, but with the entire Cookout talking her down at the same time, we don't expect the notion to gain enough traction. The House has voted as a collective so far, and if Whitney is where they were looking after Brent, we don't see that changing now.
Tiffany Mitchell (40) continues to play one of the most deft behind-the-power games we've ever seen on this show. Her hands seem to be in every decision and she knows exactly what's going on at every turn. Even with Hannah on the Block proving she's not all powerful, we still have faith things will go her way. If the House catches wind of how good she is, though, that could change. Grade: A+
Xavier Prather (27) is handling an impossible position this week, but doing so with brilliant savvy. Despite almost his entire Team leaning toward Hannah, he's doing an effective job of not only putting doubt in their heads, but keeping Whitney as a viable target with the rest of the House and we have a feeling that's who's going home (barring a shock POV win). Grade: A
Derek Xiao (24) doesn't even know what he needs to do, but we have a feeling that if anyone can infiltrate The Cookout before it has to turn on itself, it will be him. He is also a Person of Color, who shared his story as the child of immigrant parents from China, connecting even more with the mission of The Cookout. Plus, he's one clever and devious player who can concoct complex plans and execute them effectively. That's dangerous. Grade: A
Kyland Young (30) is quiet and subtle, but definitely has the ear of his Cookout allies, working closely as well with his Queens teammate Tiffany to maintain a keen understanding of where the game is moving. He's a strong physical and mental competitor very well-aligned at this stage. Grade: A
Sarah Beth Steagall (27) is so smart in this game. She's probably right to want to target Hannah, but we're not confident she'll be able to pull it off. She's in an interesting position, as our estimation of her capabilities is growing episode by episode. The fear for her is that the House will also see it before she has enough influence, and see her as a better target than strong ally. Grade: B+
Azah Awasum (30) and Derek Frazier (29) are laying low and being the good little Cookout soldiers, which is absolutely the right move for the Jokers. They need to keep their entire Team off the radar right now, so of course they pushed this week's nominees. That it went their way is indicative of their good standing, even out of power. Grade: B
Claire Renfuss (25) may have only picked up an extra week of safety for herself, but she proved herself a viable competitor in challenges and she was able to come through for her alliance in a clutch situation to keep the likely House target available as an option. She's a strong team player, which will work for now ... but The Cookout could burn her eventually. Grade: B-
Christian Birkenberger (23) followed the guidance of his showmance and his alliance in putting up Whitney and Hannah, but he also exposed the strength of that showmance, as it was Alyssa pushing very hard for Hannah to be up there and the target. This House is definitely duo shy, going so far as to say there are two HOH's this week, which puts a huge target on both their backs. On top of that, he's emerging as this season's comp beast, and it's way too early for that to not be a problem for him. Grade: B-
Alyssa Lopez (25) remains the more vulnerable of the two, based on what we've seen so far. If Christian is available for a nomination, or better yet a backdoor, we suspect that will happen sooner than later, but if he can save himself (and as the emerging comp beast, he probably can), the House could easily cut Hannah just to weaken the two-headed beast Grade: C+
Britini D'Angelo (24) managed to avoid the Block, but if either nominee comes off, she could find herself there. She'd probably again survive it against Whitney, but perhaps not against Hannah if The Cookout can save her. The bottom line, though, is that if the Flush and/or Cookout maintains power, she's going to become the target soon. Grade: C
Hannah Chaddha (21) has a lot of people in her corner fighting to keep her in the game, and we think it will be enough. But she also has a lot of people who've now stepped out to say she's a huge threat and should be a target, and that's not easy to shake off. She needs to hope her allies stay in power, or she could be in trouble. Grade: C-
Whitney Williams (30) was our prediction for the target this week, and she still is. Unless something miraculous happens on Wednesday with the Veto, we think she'll be asking Julie if she'd wear a sports bra with a buckle to the gym on Thursday. It's not so much that she's a huge threat as the mega-alliances are running out of targets, and she is the most aggressive and direct person left they're not working with in some capacity. Grade: D-