The High Rollers Room finally opened, unleashing three potential new powers on the House -- and revealing America's favorite Houseguests.
There was a lot going on in the "Big Brother" house in this one episode, with an entire Head of Household competition playing out, the new High Rollers Room bringing the potential for three new powers into the game and the new HOH putting up their nominees.
Underneath all of that was the slow sizzle of The Cookout, which has been dominating this game since the very beginning. In recent weeks, they've implemented Tiffany's duos plan to great effect, but things are starting to get real.
Strategies look good on paper, but perhaps the biggest challenge of "Big Brother" is how glacially it moves. It takes a week between evictions, and in that time real relationships form and meaningful connections that have nothing to do with strategy.
Contestants live together on "Survivor," too, but eliminations there happen every three days or so and the whole thing knocks out in about five weeks. This show is nearly three times as long with way more downtime to bond.
That becomes a problem because emotions and feelings start worming their way into great strategies. And because of the social aspect of the game and the fact we're starting to build our Jury with this next vote, it's not always a good idea to just push those aside and play with your head. Jury management has cost many a great (but cold) player the top prize.
From the beginning, we've described The Cookout as more of an understanding, and we might even call it a statement. It's not a tight alliance of people playing together more than it's a group of people actively not playing against one another, and protecting one another.
It's a very clear statement about how Black players have inevitably fared on the show, not to mention overt and outright racism that's been experienced in past seasons. They're making history this season not just in overall representation, but in how well they're doing.
That's a far cry from most alliances, and it's why this one struggles in wholly unique ways. This week, Tiffany opened up to Xavier about the challenges she's having now that her own plan is starting to bear fruit.
Xavier was the first to lose his non-Cookout ally in Christian, and Tiffany was lamenting this week that some of the bonds she's forged with people in the House on a personal level than the connection she has with some Cookout members.
Claire is her number one and the two have been tight since the start of the game. Meanwhile, Tiffany and Azah have butted heads at almost every turn. Whereas Tiffany usually navigates with her reason, Azah is clearly driven by her heart. They'll never see eye to eye. The question is, how long will they continue to work together?
Derek F is another one that could become problematic. Thus far, he's proven incredibly loyal to The Cookout, but that could change when his Joker girls Britini and Azah are being legitmately targeted. He may not be able to save Britini, but if he and Azah start to look like a duo, and they're already very different players than the rest of The Cookout, they could be in trouble -- but later.
This Head of Household required Houseguests to be able to recall past competitions and what they were vying for (HOH, POV, Wild Card). It was also a head-to-head matchup with the winner of each round picking the next two competitors.
Right away, Azah's emotional gameplay left her feeling attacked. Britini chose Kyland and Sarah Beth to play after she won her round because they're an obvious duo and it would eliminate one of them. He then returned the favor and chose Britini to play Azah for the same reason.
After winning, Azah chose Kyland to compete again against Alyssa, so he again chose her to compete against Derek F. Eventually, Tiffany put the two of them together and Azah asked him to throw it to her, but he didn't.
Azah took it all very personal, even saying she thinks Kyland picked her four times. He did pick her twice, but the first time he was actually picking Britini. The second time was probably because Azah had just picked him. Either way, none of it mattered.
As Derek F noted, The Cookout outlasted everyone else in the House, all sitting together on one side of the podium. It's amazing that this alliance is so incognito (another reason Kyland said he picked Azah was to keep it secret) when it has had so much influence.
We have to admit we worry a little about future seasons being wary of Black players aligning together, but players are always worried about women doing that, too, as an all-women alliance. Derek F even brought that concern up again this week as women definitely have the numbers right now (7-4).
In the end, Kyland agreed to throw it to Tiffany -- but then she got the wrong answer and he won. It was bad news for him, as the House was next ready to target Sarah Beth and that's his non-Cookout ally. That means no Sarah Beth this week, and he had to pick from Britini, Allysa and Claire.
Derek X is not in The Cookout, but they never bring him up as a target. We suspect that either they're respecting his loyalty by making him the last non-Cookout Houseguest standing, or maybe they really just want to make the boldest statement by getting out all of the white players out of the game first to emphasize how poorly minorities have had it on this show.
Azah was still fuming when she came up to see Kyland about him not throwing the HOH to her. Nevertheless, he considered putting her up as a pawn next to Britini with the latter being the House target.
It almost seems cruel at this point, with The Cookout in so much control of the game, but it is how the game works. But when Claire came up to try and plead her case, she inadvertently chose a bunch of Cookout members as targets, and that put her right in his crosshairs.
Even if Britini is his ultimate target, he needed backup plans after backup plans with these potential new powers coming into play. While talking to Derek F, it again became clear that Azah just cannot be used as a pawn. She's too volatile.
Her relationship with The Cookout seems more tenuous than anyone else, and if anyone would flip and betray it in a moment of heated passion, it would be her. That means managing her potential outbursts and that's why she's never been put on the Block.
Realizing this, and knowing that Britini is really no better -- as we've seen three times now -- Derek F volunteered to be Kyland's pawn. He put Claire up next to him because if these nominees stay the same, he's fine with Claire going home.
If she or Derek F come down, he's just as good sliding Britini in there or even Alyssa and having them go home. In this mid-game with so many non-Cookout players basically powerless, he is lucky to have options. It also means the show could get a little boring
If The Cookout keeps winning HOH, then the others will just get picked off one by one. If they don't win HOH, Tiffany's duo plan could well still keep The Cookout strong as one of those duos will get chosen and the non-Cookout member goes. If it works, it'll be damned impressive.
The High Rollers Room does more than just unleash potential new powers into the game. It also serves as a huge ego and reality check for the Houseguests, as this is their first opportunity to see how they're being perceived by America.
That's because of the BBBucks aspect of the game, where America gets to pick their favorite Houseguests. The top three vote-getters earned BB100, the next three earned BB75 and everyone else got BB50. So they learned right away if they were loved, liked or in the Bottom 5 with America.
The High Rollers Room introduced three new powers, and each of them are pretty wild. for BB50, players could compete in the Veto Derby with a chance to win a shot at voting for the next Veto winner. If their person wins, they win a second Veto.
The Chopping Block Roulette costs BB125 to play and allows the winner to remove a nominee from the Block, but a random roll of the roulette wheel will pick the nominee. Finally, BB250 gives a player a shot at playing with the Coin of Destiny. With one coin flip, they could overthrow the current HOH and take over their reign.
Players are able to bank their money and not compete, saving up for the chance at bigger powers in future weeks. As BB100 was the most anyone could earn this week, only the Veto Derby was an option, but several players nevertheless took it.
Sarah Beth played to ensure that someone would win it this week so it wouldn't be available in the future (as she's confident she's safe no matter what this week with Kyland in power). Tiffany also played, landing a big goose egg in points, as did both nominees and Kyland himself. We'll see how it all plays out in the Veto.
As for the popularity part of the competition, it was bad news for Azah, Alyssa, Claire, Kyland and Sarah Beth. We're a little surprised to see Kyland and Sarah Beth here, but they haven't resonated as positively on-screen in recent weeks as some other players.
Coming in second were Hannah, Tiffany and Xavier, and in this case we have to think a lot of it is respect for the games that they're playing. All three are doing stellar work in the House.
The top group included the most obvious winner in Derek F, alongside Britini and Derek X. We suspect America is in love with Britini's heart, and the tough journey she's had in the House on the Block three times only to save herself, while Derek X probably has America rooting for him as a great player who's just on the wrong side of history with The Cookout.
America is probably trying to give Britini and Derek X a fighting chance to change their fates in the game. As for Derek F, they probably just love that dude because we all love that dude!
Xavier Prather (27) slides into the top spot because he has taken it upon himself to be the guardian of The Cookout and he is killing it. With Christian out, he has no other allies to distract him, so he is focused and in the game. He's been very impressive as the voice of compassion and reason, and on top of that, he's a great mental and physical competitor. He's got a quiet resume, which keeps him off of radars. It's a great game. Grade: A+
Kyland Young (30) took power reluctantly, but he is making the best of it and we love the level of loyalty he is showing to The Cookout, even when it's proving challenging for him. He didn't quite have the sympathetic ear Azah was looking for -- it sounded like she just wanted to be heard and have her feelings validated, but he wasn't sure how to do that -- but he's nevertheless making all the right moves for his alliance and himself right now. Grade: A+
Hannah Chaddha (21) is cool, calm and collected and (so far as we can tell) not falling into the emotional traps that Tiffany is. Granted, no one is targeting her duo ally, Derek X, but his time will come, too Will she keep it together? She is playing one of the smartest, lowkey games in the House, but people are starting to see what a mental threat she could be. Grade: A
Tiffany Mitchell (40) is struggling within the brilliant plan she came up with, going so far as to say her goal this week is to protect Claire, even if that is the House target. We don't think she'd sacrifice Derek F for Claire, but she'll try and make a change in the nominees. We think this is just a temporary distraction until it's Claire's time (whenever that is), but if Tiffany decides she's not as enamored with the message of The Cookout as some of her real connections, that could throw a wrench into everything. Grade: A-
Derek Frazier (29) made a huge statement, not just to Kyland but the entire Cookout by agreeing to go up as a pawn. He's lying to Azah and Britini about it, because they can't handle it, but it proves that he understands the plan, what's at stake and the moves that need to sometimes be made to ensure things go the way they should. We love that he could set it all aside and do what needs to be done and that will serve him well in the future. Grade: A-
Derek Xiao (24) lingers just outside The Cookout, but each week there are more and more cracks on the edges of that alliance. Will they really hold it together to the six as several are determined to do? We suspect they will, but there's a lot of game between now and then, and we still think this is the guy to crack that armor if it can be done. Grade: B
Azah Awasum (30) would be the one to break it apart, or abandon or turn on The Cookout, if anyone is going to do it. She's been frustrated with so many people in The Cookout and when it comes time for her ally, Britini, to go, she's not going to let it happen without a fight. Or maybe she'll surprise us when the time is right. She does get what's happening intellectually, but her mood can be mercurial. Grade: B-
Alyssa Lopez (25) is a self-proclaimed "lone wolf" now that Christian is gone. That means she's not really a target right now, as no one is worried about her. But she's also not aligned with anyone and no one seems to see the need to do that, so she's left to just float around until someone wants an easy target. Even an HOH win would probably only buy her a little time as she's got no one, and The Cookout has the overall numbers at this point. Grade: C+
Sarah Beth Steagall (28) is the target of The Cookout, but not the current HOH. That basically buys her one week of safety, unless she can win HOH herself next week. If not, she'll likely see the Block and if she can't get freed from it, a lot of votes come next Thursday. Grade: C
Claire Renfuss (25) is a great target for Kyland this week, but we have a lot of faith in Tiffany lobbying to save her. And with there being other options, no one in The Cookout will likely fight too hard if Tiffany does manage to pull it off. But even if she's saved this week, with Kyland knowing she's actively interested in targeting Cookout members, her time is coming very soon. Grade: C-
Britini D'Angelo (24) is reaching the end of her journey, too, and could become the target this week if Vetos come into play. She's a loyal player and right now her loyalty is to the former Jokers (Derek F and Azah), but that only can take you so far. It's just the game at this point. Her Veto win actually hurts her, as they might decide to take the shot earlier in case it takes more than one to get her out. Grade: C-
"Well, this is awkward. We're all over here." --Derek F (realizing only Cookout members remain in HOH competition)
"Thank you. Stop picking me." --Azah (after Kyland picks her for the second time to compete)
"I want this. I would really like this." --Azah (to Kyland right before Tiffany picks both to compete)
"Sorry." --Kyland (after immediately buzzing in with right answer)
"I just told you I wanted to win it. Bro, what are you doing?" --Azah
"I know." --Kyland
"I want a letter. I want to see my son." --Tiffany (to Kyland in final round)
"Alright. Just don't let me be foolish." --Kyland
"The thing that makes me sad is that I know he's gonna put Britini up. It's gonna be me and her that go up there and Britini's probably going home this week." --Azah (to Xavier)
"He didn't have to win." --Azah
"Keeping The Cookout together is one of the hardest jobs I've had in my damned life!" --Xavier
"One of us won HOH. And at least we know it's a guy, because I'm still worried about all these girls being here." --Derek F (to Kyland)
"You gotta be careful about SB ... You guys are the next Alyssa and Christian. Everyone's like, 'She gotta go.'" --
"Basically, I need three possible targets. Number one, Claire, number two, Alyssa, number three, Britini." --Kyland (concerned about High Roller powers)
"These are people who put their trust in us and then, like, here we are just kind of like toying with them." --Xavier (to Tiffany about non-Cookout allies)
"I struggle with that because we had these other relationships that we've been building. And some of the people who are outside the six I feel closer to than I'm in the six, and my game would be totally different. I don't want anyone to think that's in this House that our connections aren't real, that our relationships aren't real, our bond's aren't real. In my heart, I know what we have to do, in my mind, I know what we have to do." --Tiffany
"I know we've already made history. And now we've just gotta keep making history." --Xavier
"Why did you keep picking me?" --Azah (to Kyland)
"Keeping The Cookout hidden is my ultimate goal. That is what's best for The Cookout. So, with that, I'm in the game and telling everyone the obvious choice is the allies of the person who picks you." --Kyland
"I think the feelings that I have are valid and they're not being heard." --Azah
"If you're gonna target The Cookout, I may have to take you out sooner rather than later." --Kyland (after talking nominations with Claire)
"And if I win Veto I'd take you down." --Kyland (trying to convince Derek F to be a pawn)
"I don't know what's wrong with me. I don't know if it's 'cause I don't have enough sleep, but I am going to put myself as a pawn to protect my girls, Azah and Britini. And then that will allow him to figure out who he wants to send home and hopefully this will actually work out." --Derek F
"I can't have Britini up there. I can't have Azah. I'll do it. It works out. It's fine." --Derek F (to Kyland)
"Kyland, what are you doing? I go up at the first opportunity that I could, by my former teammate and ally. This could be a plan to get me out." --Claire (after getting nominated)
"America loves me. America thinks I'm cool and I need help -- which means they're right." --Britini (after earning BB100)
"Aw, America doesn't like me." --Alyssa (after earning BB50)
"I'm gonna go against what Kyland wants. This is Mission: Get Claire Off the Block this week." --Tiffany