Flashbacks reveal what happened during Thursday's Double Eviction before the endgame is set with blindsides still very much in play.
It may be down to the Final Four on "Big Brother" and it may look like things are all but sown up as far as who's going to do what, but there's still a lot of game to play -- and more time means more chances to lie and backstab.
We'll be completely honest, we were absolutely hoodwinked by what we thought were the strongest alliances in the House -- especially after what went down during the Double Eviction on Thursday where Tiffany and Hannah were sent packing in short order.
One confessional changed all of that, and now we're not sure what to believe and we certainly aren't nearly as confident that we have any idea how this is going to play out.
Muddying the waters even more, the Final Four Head of Household has limited power. The biggest thing they're accomplishing is that they've assured their own spot in the Final Three. Beyond that, so much of the power lies in the hands of the Veto holder.
Nevertheless, before we could get to that, we got some context and insight into Azah's seemingly erratic choices during her short HOH reign on Thursday night. In particular, we couldn't fathom why she would put up Hannah so confident that Xavier would go home.
It turns out that Azah is Cookout through and through. These people have been lying straight to the faces of everyone in the House all summer long, and doing a masterful job of it. Why wouldn't they be able to turn that honed skill on one another now that it's every person for themselves?
Footage from the commercial breaks (we don't believe it was live at all, but we'll play along) revealed that Azah had no intention of keeping Hannah safe at all. She's working closely with Derek F, and Xavier secondarily, so her plan was always to throw her lot in with them.
What she didn't know was that Xavier and Kyland had a Final Two deal as the Gentlemen. And it was in service to this deal that Kyland used the Veto on Xavier, forcing Azah's closest ally, Derek F, onto the Block. It was this move that she had no warning about that had Azah tearing up, and angry at what looked like her HOH being usurped.
In the end, though, she got her target out of the House and emerged as the unlikely last woman standing. That said, it's not as surprising as it may seem. Azah has played a smooth social game, but she's also been non-threatening in any way all season.
Floaters like that can ride toward the end because they're seen as easily expendable at any opportunity. So why not use them for their vote until no longer necessary. They can create in others a sense of security that they're no threat to anyone's game. But Azah just proved she can be a threat.
It's certainly a testament to the interesting dynamics of this game that Azah just won her first competition and Derek F has still won none, and both are in the Final Four. A bit part of that is because of the power of The Cookout, but it's also proof that there are so many ways to play and succeed in this game.
It may not mean as much in regards to power and control as other HOH competitions, but it's still an important victory. Not only does it pad the "BB" resume for the argument with the Jury, but it also assures at least the HOH's safety for the week.
After that, they can throw two people on the Block, but the real power lies with the POV winner. If the HOH doesn't win it themselves, then the Veto winner assures themselves safety, and the other two Houseguests are on the Block.
The only way the HOH can really have control of the nominations is to win the Veto. But first, they have to win HOH. This week's competition made that a tall order with a clue-hunting comp inspired by the upcoming "CSI: Vegas" revival series.
The Houseguests had to find five clues under a black light in a museum setting, then they had to remember the details of those clues to pick out the right cards from a ton of possibilities. And they had to do this five times with five different clues.
Honestly, we're surprised they all did as well as they did, with no one taking more than 15 minutes to finish the task. We have a feeling we'd still be out there.
We had to feel bad for Derek F as he once again came up short behind another Houseguest by less than a minute. This guy has to be due a break soon, right? Unfortunately for both him and Kyland, their close scores were nowhere near Xavier's.
Is it coincidence that the House's secret lawyer totally owned this competition based on investigations and clues? If nothing else, it's an interesting connection -- and at least one he can be proud to have his clients see.
The biggest bombshell of the hour came toward the top when Xavier slipped into a confessional after once again crowing with Kyland that they were sitting pretty and their Gentlemen agreement was rock solid. There, he revealed that his Final Two with Kyland was a means to an end -- and that end didn't necessarily include Ky.
Instead, Xavier had previously entered into a Final Two deal with Derek F, and it was to Big D that he felt the most genuine loyalty. In fact, he quickly started to realize the amazing opportunity in front of him right now.
With Tiffany and Hannah out of the House, his biggest competition threat is Kyland. And with this week's HOH eligible to compete again next week, why not eliminate that competition and only have to face Azah and Derek F?
In order to implement the plan, Xavier had a careful conversation with Derek F where he planted the seed. He then put Kyland and Azah on the Block. As we said, Veto means everything here, but this is easily the smartest move for Xavier's game.
Only one person will vote to evict this week, as HOH and nominees are ineligible. Azah is too much of a wild card to trust with her vote, so it comes down to Derek F. X need only smooth things out with Big D and plant that seed that this could be the time to take the shot at Ky. And if Big D takes the shot, X's hands are squeaky clean.
If Kyland manages to win Veto and pull himself off the Block, then Xavier simply continues to move forward with their perceived Gentlemen agreement, and more than likely Ky would take Azah out, setting X and Big D up for a second shot at Kyland next week. As plans go, it's almost as perfect as Tiffany's side duo plan for The Cookout.
Xavier Prather (27) is just blowing us away. We've been impressed with his subtle game play all season, but he's been playing more of a mastermind game than we even gave him credit He needed this win to have control, but how he's positioned everything to propel himself forward in every scenario is strategic perfection. Grade: A+
Derek Frazier (29) has been playing in the shadows all season, and still has the best social game going. He's the only one with a chance at winning based on it and it alone -- it would even be a testament to make it to the end with zero wins. That he has a Final Two with Xavier is too much fun. That he could be the one to take out Kyland is incredible as that would make a huge statement to the Jury about his game. He's still facing a tough battle as Kyland is such a strong competitor, but he's in a better position than we thought. Grade: C+
Azah Awasum (30) is on the Block, and in potentially serious danger. If Kyland wins Veto and takes himself off the Block, he'll cast the sole vote to evict. It will most likely be pointed right at Azah, ending her game in an instant. Anyone else winning, and she might survive another week. After that, though, she'd need to win to advance more. Grade: D+
Kyland Young (30) is in far more danger than he realizes, but he has the tools to change his fate this week (and probably remain blissfully unaware of how close he was to going home). If he doesn't win Veto this week, he's very likely going to be taken out as Azah would keep Big D over him, and Big D looks ready to take him out, as well. Without knowing he needs this win, he might not gun for it as hard, which is another tip of the hat to Xavier's subtle handling of this whole situation. Grade: D
“I’m feeling great. I don’t know why these bitches won’t get me out of this house, but they keep keeping me.” --Derek F
“I didn’t like that little Veto stunt. They have a lot of explaining to do because they are supposed to be loyal to me, not to each other.” --Derek F (about Kyland pulling Xavier off the Block)
“I lied. I lied to the youngest, sweetest, cute little thing in the House. I did it, I’m gonna ask God’s forgiveness and move on.” --Azah (after telling Hannah she was safe during double eviction)
“Did you tell Chaddha that you were voting to keep her?” --Xavier (to Kyland before vote)
“I would like to, to be honest.” --Kyland
“I just told her that I was voting to keep her. I didn’t know. I thought you said you were going against it.” --Xavier
“Those two are gonna go to the end together. They have a final two.” --Hannah (while Ky and X are chatting)
“I’m ready. I already knew.” --Derek F (on the Block next to her)
“I don’t feel like I’ve been played any time in this game and I feel like I’ve been played now.” --Azah (after Kyland used Veto on Xavier)
“We’re good. And I think she knows where we are at this point.” --Xavier (to Kyland about Azah)
“I voted out Hannah to make Kyland feel like I’m loyal to him during the double eviction. But my loyalty is primarily to Big D. The first Final 2 I made was with Big D.” --Xavier
“This one was big. The joy that I feel is insurmountable. This HOH very well could be the difference between me winning $750,000 and now I feel like I’m in a very good position. It’s a great feeling.” --Xavier (tearing up after winning HOH)
“There you go, you win when you needed to. You needed to beat Kyland and you did.” --Xavier
“I’m a dummy! How was I so stupid?” --Kyland (after losing HOH)
“Do you have a FInal 2 with Ky?” --Azah (to Xavier)
“If you did, would you tell me the truth?” --Azah
“During this conversation, I at least want to plant a little seed about the possibility of taking Kyland out this week. Truthfully, if Big D cuts Kyland this week, he gets all the blood on his hands and Kyland has nothing negative to say about me to the Jury.” --Xavier (talking to Derek F)
“Azah, the fact that you have made it this far without being nominated speaks volumes to your social game, but also how much everyone respects you as a person. Kyland, your competition record speaks for itself, and you have a smile that anybody would vote for. However, we all know these nominations hold little weight, the real power is in the Veto competition.” --Xavier (making his nominations)