Only Claire holds safety, thanks to her Wild Card win last week, as the season's first endurance competition sets stage for new Head of Household in a game of singletons.
It's time to test the strength of this first month of Team play on "Big Brother" as Julie Chen announced that they are officially no longer even before the new Head of Household competition began.
Will Houseguests continue to hold loyalty to those initial Teams now that they don't exist? Will the Teams become natural mini-alliances within the game? Will the Royal Flush hold together without the added security of Team safety hitting half their numbers if they win HOH?
Other than emerging Final Two deals, with Sarah Beth & Kyland's 2Sweet and Tiffany & Hannah joining the already established ChrisAlyss showmance of Christian & Alyssa, Houseguests are clearing looking at the long term.
But the duo strategy is actually going much beyond that this season, with Tiffany quickly proving that perhaps only Derek X has a mind as crafty, devious and elaborate in its thoughts as hers.
We knew she had a good read on this game, and a lot of chess moves floating around in her brain week to week, but she laid out one of the most impressive strategies we've ever seen this week. It will be amazing to see if things go her way.
Cookout Complex Recipe for Success
As we've been saying for a while now, The Cookout is more of an understanding than a formalized alliance. They aren't strategizing together and they aren't overtly working together toward common goals.
Instead, they are all playing separate games, but working to protect one another within the machinations of the game. We saw that play out this week as the various members of The Cookout did everything they could to make sure Whitney was the target over Hannah.
But this week saw them for the first time starting to explore what the future of the game looks like for The Cookout now that Jury is looming. In particular, Tiffany decided it was time to lay out her master plan for the rest of the summer and see how her "alliance" took it.
The plan was brilliantly complex, and yet so simple that it's designed to work even in the case that someone from The Cookout is not in power. With people traditionally wary of duos, their plan is to create a House of duos, with The Cookout members making up one half of each of those duos, except for Derek F.
Even better, most of those duos are pre-existing relationships in the house established naturally, so the flow will be all that much smoother. She paired Xavier with Christian, Hannah with Derek X, Azah with Britini, Kyland with Sarah Beth, and herself with Claire.
If they can get the house seeing those groupings as power duos, they can try to get it to where they are put on the Block as pairs just like that. If only one Cookout member is up there at a time, they'll have the numbers to ensure the other person on the Block goes.
Obviously, with so many people in the House yet, there are many, many ways this plan could fall apart. Even if it begins perfectly, as non-Cookout partners go home, that leaves Cookout members pair-less, and vulnerable to hitting the Block with another Cookout member.
Still, it's a very well-conceived plan that not only is designed to keep The Cookout intact until the end, but it's even better designed to keep anyone in the House from knowing The Cookout ever existed in the first place. We love a stealth alliance!
A cookout is only as good as its grill, and it's grill-master. Right now, Tiffany is the grill-master making the rounds to see what everyone wants on the grill so they can all sit down together for a great Top 6 dinner later this summer.
Or is that a Top 5? One of the drawbacks of an alliance that's more of an understanding than an actual overt allegiance is that the members aren't necessarily tight together, and in some cases aren't even actively working together.
That came clear when Tiffany was speaking with Azah, who had a different understanding about Hannah's role in the group. Hannah was not a part of the initial five that informally put the Cookout together in the kitchen.
Tiffany and Azah were in with that first group, including Derek F, Xavier and Kyland, that agreed that the Black players in this game would not target the other Black players in this game. As she is also a Black player, Hannah was added in later, but Azah thought she was just padding the initial five.
Tiffany did not correct her, because one of the keys of an understanding is letting people understand as much as they will or do so long as it doesn't break the whole. But there being two different understandings of just who is in The Cookout isn't great for it's long-term standing.
Will Azah stay true to The Cookout including Hannah, or would she be willing to see Hannah go before someone outside of The Cookout? And what happens if and when Hannah gets wind of this? She and Tiffany are tight, and equally intellectual in this game.
Hannah just isn't as good at hiding it as Tiffany is, which could see her become a target as a strategic threat sooner rather than later. If that happens soon, will she have the entire Cookout in her corner, or only part of it? If it's not all of them, could it be enough to save her?
The first endurance competition kicked off after a unanimous vote for eviction that saw The Cookout having Hannah's back this week, at least. Whitney was evicted with love and respect from the House for her character and strength as a mother, businesswoman and person.
She was stunned to learn of the Royal Flush, though Julie opted not to tell her about The Cookout just yet. While knowing about the Flush helped Whitney understand why she'd be targeted -- she was going after two of its number -- knowing about The Cookout would have made it very clear why Hannah was spared.
With Whitney out, it was time for the rest of the Houseguests to climb on the tilted wall and see how much they could endure as it tilted them forward and pelted rain on them. Live Feed watchers got the results already, but TV viewers were left wondering who would rise to power.
With the Team twist gone, only two people will be safe at the end of this competition. Claire still enjoys her Wild Card safety until Jury, and the Head of Household will be safe. But that's it, meaning there will be more target choices than ever before.
The Wild Card twist also ends with the end of Teams, so things should get a little more traditional "BB" as the week progresses. Alliances will be tested and Tiffany's elaborate plan will truly be put to the test if a non-Cookout member wins HOH.
With Christian out of the running, our other comp beast Derek X is at least the favorite on paper to take home his first HOH. His slight frame also gives him another advantage, as this competition has traditionally favored people shorter and thinner.
That could be a boon for some of the women players, with Alyssa, Azah and Tiffany in particular seemingly well-suited for success based on some previous winners. Derek F for his size and Claire for her height are probably going to struggle the most.
Tiffany Mitchell (40) is playing this game at a different level than anyone else. Her grand plan has yet to be tested, but that she conceived it at all and got the entire Cookout onboard is a testament to her prowess and influence already in this game. All hail the queen! Grade: A+
Xavier Prather (27) has the charisma and the charm to coast right along at the top of this game. He deftly maneuvered the Kings into targeting Whitney over Hannah this week, and has done a pretty solid job of keeping his allegiances to The Cookout on the down low. On top of that, he's building great alliances outside of it, too. And with Whitney gone, he could have Azah in his back pocket if he wanted to play on her crush (that would be dirty, but effective). Grade: A
Derek Xiao (24) is perhaps second only to Tiffany in his complex understanding of the nuances of this game. Add to that his own comp beast status and he's a huge threat. The only detriment to his game is that he is outside of The Cookout, but we're still holding faith that if a big enough crack forms, this is the guy who can get in there. If he figures them out, that could change everything. Grade: A
Hannah Chaddha (21) rises considerably, thanks to her standing with Tiffany, who has proven the best manipulator in the game. She is also a grand thinker about this game, but she does so more overtly, which is dangerous. Nevertheless, she's aligned very well, so that coupled with her own mental game should carry her far. Grade: B+
Kyland Young (30) is playing a very cool game, laying low and letting The Cookout do the work. His grade is elevated slightly above other members doing the same thing because he's a proven competition winner, which gives him a slight edge at controlling his own destiny that way on top of his social and strategic game. Grade: B+
Derek Frazier (29) is right there with Kyland, but it's his social game that is stronger than anyone else in this game. He's not shown anything yet in challenges, and we suspect tonight's wall was not for him, but he's in a great overall position right now both in The Cookout and outside of it. Everyone loves Big D. Grade: B
Azah Awasum (30) is a bit of a dark horse even within The Cookout. She's not really playing the same game as any of them, already grating on Tiffany's nerves a few times for their different perspectives and Azah playing more with her heart than her head. That makes her the most vulnerable member of The Cookout -- but still a member. Grade: B-
Christian Birkenberger (23) is the biggest threat in the House who's not a part of The Cookout. The question now will be that with him out of power (he couldn't compete), will the House feel it's time to take a shot at him, or let him continue on. The Royal Flush is not as strong as The Cookout, so he will become vulnerable soon. This week's HOH winner would be a fool to not at least look at him. Even then, he will probably prove very difficult to get out, save a backdoor situation. Grade: C+
Claire Renfuss (25) is another vulnerable player once The Cookout starts to take control of this game more directly, assuming they can. She's shown some competition prowess, which could help her, and she's well-liked but she's just not aligned strongly enough that we've seen to really weather the coming storm. Grade: C+
Alyssa Lopez (25) is no threat at all by herself, but as part of a duo showmance with the biggest threat in the House, she makes herself even more vulnerable than him. Shots that miss him could well land on her, and we're not as confident she can avoid them. Grade: C
Sarah Beth Steagall (27) is making herself a target simply by being wise in this game and starting to put the pieces together as to what may really be going on and who's really working with who. She may become the victim of her own abilities simply because she doesn't have the numbers on her side. The Cookout will want her out before she figures them out and tries to break them apart ... and we believe she will figure it out. Grade: C-
Britini D'Angelo (24) is the most vulnerable person in the House right now with the end of Team play. She has no other alliances that we know of, so she's the easiest target to pick off for someone looking to keep a minimum of blood on their hands. She's petite, so has a chance to win this wall comp, but saving that, she could be in trouble this week. Her saving grace, though, might be that bigger targets could yet emerge, allowing her to float through to the middle of the game. Grade: C-
Whitney Williams (30) did her best, but with the way the Team twist organized the teams, and the influential power of The Cookout to save one of their own, there was really nothing she could do to change her fate. Sometimes you're just on the wrong side of the numbers. Grade: F
“I have the numbers. But I am worried that people are starting to catch glimpses of how I process information, and how analytical I can be. This early in the game, you don’t want all eyes to be on you.” --Hannah
“If somehow, it could be me and you at the end, I’m good with that.” --Tiffany (to Hannah)
“If I took you, that would be a win for me because a Black woman would win for the first time.” --Hannah
“Kyland is the only person in this House I am loyal to.” --Sarah Beth
“If there was ever a choice between Sarah Beth and The Cookout, it would have to be The Cookout.” --Kyland
“It’s us six down the middle. We need to each bring a pawn with us.” --Tiffany (trying to bolster Cookout’s strength with allies)
“X has Christian. You have Derek X. I have Claire. Big D doesn’t need anybody. Azah has Britini. Ky has Saray Beth. That’s the Jury. Do you see it?” --Tiffany (to Hannah)
“We have to stay in good communication with our pawns. We have to keep them in our back pocket.” --Xavier (to Tiffany)
“We make up our Jury and then decide in what order they leave.” --Tiffany
“Then after that, we battle it out.” --Xavier
“Christian is really trying to do my walk right now and it looks like a hot-ass mess. He looks like a zombie. He has two left feet and no rhythm.” --Derek F
“He looks like a robot.” --Alyssa
“Why do you have no flow in your hips?” --Xavier
“I’m sorry that you felt ignored.” --Kyland (to Tiffany)
“The fact that Kyland is coming to Sarah Beth’s defense leads me to why their connection could be problematic in the future.” --Tiffany
“You realize Hannah is one of the six, right?” --Tiffany (to Azah)
“I don’t trust her.” --Azah
“The goal we were going for was to make sure the six got to be six.” --Tiffany
“I thought it was the five, plus Hannah.” --Azah
“If I can sway Alyssa, she should be able to get to Christian for me, and he can get the rest of the Kings.” --Whitney (plotting for safety)
“Hannah thinks I’m persuaded easily. I wonder what she would think if I were to sway the rest of my people to vote her out this week.” --Christian
“I really think the world of Whit.” --Hannah (after Whitney’s eviction)