The Houseguests enter the "Festival" themed season and immediately battle for Head of Household -- check out our first impressions of all 16 new players.
Another summer, another new season of "Big Brother," and this one is jumping on the festival bandwagon with a "BB Fest" theme throughout the summer.
There's even a hotel design theme in the House to make the 16 new Houseguests feel like they've traveled to their favorite festival. We didn't get to spend much time there, though, as Julie Chen got things moving right away.
We didn't even get a chance to see the Houseguests get to know each other or fight over bedrooms. It was straight into a series of competitions to determine the first Head of Household, and a random draw that created an unexpected power (and danger).
As such, it's hard to have much of an impression of any of the 16 new faces in the house outside of their introductory packages. Still, when has a lack of information ever stopped anyone from making their opinions known?
As the season progresses, we rank the players and grade their performances in our "Houseguest Report Cards" with each episode. But as this is the first episode, there's not much to grade, so we'll be offering up our (poorly informed) first impressions instead.
"But first" (copyright, trademark, and weirdest slogan ever by Chenbot), we'll see which two Houseguests rose to power, and which three Houseguests emerged from Night One with a bizarre and needlessly cruel punishment.
The reason we had no time to get to know anyone is because the Houseguests were randomly divided into three groups of five (we'll get to that math discrepancy in a bit), which each group facing a different competition. Those comps were effectively Round 1 in a two-part HOH competition, with the winner of each advancing to compete for power.
The first one reminded the Houseguests to "expect the unexpected" by trashing their Night One ensembles. Everyone makes such an effort to look cute and in some of their best clothes, so why not blast them with blue goo right away?
It was a listening competition, identifying which number was said the most in an overheard competition across four rounds. Get the answer wrong, or be the last to buzz in if everyone is right, and you're out and doused! This competition gave us Monte, the personal trainer with a mechanical engineering degree, as our first of three competitors.
Stickin' It to the Man
We're not sure about this competition, as it appeared to prove that either the winner is incredibly quick with their hands, or the competition was absolutely terrible. The competition itself was quite simple.
The Houseguests had to put jewelry in ten different spots on their face to match a diagram presented to them. Making it even easier, it didn't appear to matter which item was place in which spot.
So it was absolutely amazing to watch Turner lose the tenth item from his face not once, but twice (dropping it all the way to the ground) and still emerge victorious. What was everyone else doing? Maybe it was harder than it looked, and with the Night One jitters, too.
The final of three competitions was even simpler in execution, as it tasked the five Houseguests with reaching up, grabbing onto a t-shirt, and hanging on for as long as they possible could. It was easy in concept, but far more difficult in execution.
It's not even about strength as much as it was probably about grip. The t-shirts were hung as if on hangers, so there wasn't much to grab on to. The three ladies dropped in quick succession, but the guys weren't that far behind them.
Ultimately, Daniel outlasted Michael, though he indicated it wasn't by much. We'd imagine everyone started slipping immediately, so it was a combination of luck, will and sheer determination that determined this victor.
All of that was to give us three finalists to compete in the actual Head of Household competition: Monte, Turner, and Daniel. As those first competitions were so different, there was no way to predict how this one might go.
And this challenge proved different as well, with the three having to assemble a full-sized drum kit puzzle on a makeshift stage in front of them. Again, there was a diagram to help them.
The puzzle didn't look all that challenging, so it was really a matter of who was moving fastest to get through each of the pieces. In the end, it was Daniel who pulled it off, becoming the first Head of Household of the season.
We'll have to wait to see what he does with it, but traditionally, the first HOH enjoys sustained power and influence early on because of their Week One immunity and everyone pitching themselves to them. At least this season, the first HOH won't hold power longer than any other week.
In a totally random draw, one of the sixteen "BB Fest" tickets didn't send its holder to any of those three pre-HOH competitions. Instead, it gave Pooch the not-so-coveted title of Backstage Boss.
After all of the other comps were done, Julie explained that this gave him safety for the week, but it also excluded him from competing in any competitions or even voting in this week's eviction. That's not a great reward as it potentially removes him from strategizing or solidifying a position or alliance, unless he works extra hard.
But wait, it's even worse!
Julie then told him he had the power/obligation to immediately select three of his fellow HGs (whom he barely knows) to also get Backstage Passes. Only their passers are all bad because they don't compete and can't vote, but they're also not safe (they can't be nominated, but Julie noted they could still go home -- wha-huh?). Who knew a backstage pass could be such crap!
In an effort to minimize the damage to his own social game, Pooch picked his first two by going with who came last in the quiz and hanging competitions. But that didn't work for piercing, so he selected Brittany because he said she stood out.
This is an opportunity for the House to take an easy shot at any of those three women, but it's also an opportunity for them to secure an easy ally by promising to protect them in such a vulnerable state. One of them will be saved by America, but we'll bet Julie won't tell them until next week's eviction episode.
Alyssa Snider (24) is a superfan of the show, which is less of a benefit this season as there are a lot of them! She's vulnerable right now with a Backstage Pass, but from what we've seen, she may be able to charm her way through the week. We thought she'd have more grit in that t-shirt hanging competition as she looked strong early on, making us wonder if she has enough of a mental game to dig deep and power through.
Ameerah Jones (31) could surprise some people. The single mother who's traveled the world while working from home appears to have a lot of determination and an ability to adapt to all kinds of different people, cultures and situations. With a more diverse cast, she's well positioned to be able to connect with a lot of different people, which could give her an edge on her social game.
Brittany Hoopes (32) is quirky and a little awkward, from what we've seen so far, and she was part of that disastrous piercing competition, so we're not sure how she might fare in competitions. It's not great that she stood out for what's effectively a "punishment," as it means she's being noticed for the wrong reasons. If she shows a spunky, unique personality, though, those very qualities could endear her to America (who might save her) and the House. If not, she'll find herself the odd woman out.
Daniel Durston (35) is another superfan, so he's certainly going to take advantage of his position of power to start the season off right -- or at least we certainly hope so. He seems to have a level head on his shoulder, as well as a strong competitive drive (that's technically two competition wins on Night One). If he can solidify some working arrangements, he could go deep.
Indy Santos (31) is intriguing and has layers of strength to tap into just from her story. She grew up poor in Brazil and moved herself to the U.S. at 21. She has learned to use her assets to succeed, and as a superfan of the Brazilian "Big Brother," she may have unique insights the Americans will miss. She hung in there a bit on the t-shirt, so it remains to be seen how she'll do in competitions, but we suspect the other HGs will be delighted with her at first -- how she takes advantage of that will be key.
Jasmine Davis (29) is probably going to give us some of the best soundbites in the Diary Room throughout the summer. She's also going to be underestimated by the rest of the House because of her thick Southern accent and farm upbringing (if she's smart, she'll lean into that). We fully expect Jasmine to be one of the most beloved in the House, which should carry her far. We'll have to wait and see how she fares in competitions; if she's got some strength there, she could be a real threat.
Joe "Pooch" Pucciarelli (24) was given a raw deal right out of the gate, so he's going to have to put on the charm in double-time to recover. Hopefully, he smooths things over with Brittany right away after giving her a Backstage Pass based on her standing out rather than doing poorly in a competition. A superfan, he's prepared to flirt and find a showmance, so he's ready with the charm offensive, and he's going to need it to solidify something before next week rolls around. Otherwise, there's no reason for anyone to be talking strategy with him this week, which could destroy his whole game.
Joseph Abdin (24) could be a strong contender this summer if he can lay low about his training to be a lawyer and instead let people know him as a personal trainer who is absolutely ripped. Like Xavier last season, he's a double threat in that way, but Xavier kept his legal side on the down-low. All these superfans would target him right away if he comes out with it. If he doesn't, a keen analytical mind wit potential challenge prowess could carry him deep into the summer.
Kyle Caapener (29) is ... a lot. Seriously, this former Mormon has more energy than the rest of the house combined and he's not afraid to show it off. In fact, we're not entirely sure he can turn it off, which could either make it to where people love him or they quickly get sick of him. He's a goofball that CBS is going to love because he is loving every moment of this and cannot shut up, but we really can see that becoming a problem in his game. Dude has to reign it in. "Let's go!"
Matt "Turner" Turner (23) is a bit of a surprise, as we weren't expecting a whole lot out of him. Now, he did drop his final item twice before finally securing his win, but this raised-by-hippies (and every stereotype that entails appears to apply) dude nevertheless fought hard. He's very low-key, which makes us think he'll be well-liked. It's too soon to know if he has any strategy in there at all, though he did prove an absolute disaster at putting together a drum kit.
Michael Bruner (28) isn't going to be able to hide his intelligence, so hopefully he can pair that up with some challenge prowess. Early in a season, the smart ones are seen as potential targets by power alliances -- especially if another "jock" one emerges -- and Michael has that target plainly all over his persona. He's yet another superfan who has crunched the numbers, so his best play would be to move quickly and forge his own alliance of brains and superfans to head off any potential blindside before it happens.
Monte Taylor (27) has a similar pedigree as Joseph, as a jacked personal trainer with a secret brilliant side. In Monte's case, it's that he has a degree in mechanical engineering. He also proved he's got a quick mind and good memory, easily navigating his way through the first challenge. Like Joseph, though, Monte is going to give off big Xavier vibes if people pick up just how clever he is on top of being a huge physical presence, so he either needs to downplay it or quickly get himself some allies to keep him safe when he can't do it himself. We suspected he'll have a good run into this game and is one of our favorites.
Nicole Layog (41) is another favorite for us and a real contender to win this season. As a superfan, she knows the game. She touted her ability to get along with and connect with both men and women, which is huge in navigating the social elements of this game. On top of that, she was a cop for ten years, and those skills and that savvy could be the secret weapon this private chef needs to go all the way. Also, the chef parts means she'll be feeding her fellow Houseguests, and no one wants to take out the person keeping them fed!
Paloma Aquilar (22) is going to be a flirty social butterfly this season, but we're hoping there's a little more strategy in there than just that or she could be in trouble early. She has a likable and endearing personality, but we haven't had an opportunity to see much else out of her. Her work in real estate and interior design should give her an ability to connect with -- and sell to -- a variety of people, so if that's paired with strategy, she could potentially sell her vision of how things should go.
Taylor Hale (27) comes across very cold, which for us is very much about how she barely moves her face or mouth when she speaks. It's almost statuesque and very unusual. Hopefully, when she relaxes, that all comes down a notch or ten so she can connect with these people. Otherwise, with an aloof demeanor (real or not), she's going to be one of those people who it's easy to target early on when you don't know anyone real well. She says she's confident working with strong men, so she could get through these early weeks if she puts in the work of seeking people out and making connections because her demeanor doesn't really invite warmness from what we saw tonight. Hopefully, it's just a first-night jitters thing.
Terrance Higgins (47) seems like the cool uncle you just want to hang out with. He's filling that middle-aged guy demographic. While this season has a little more age variance than in some previous seasons, there's still only one other person in their 40s. Terrance is blue collar as a bus operator and down-to-earth, so he's going to be well-liked in the House. If he can perform at Challenges, he can make his own destiny. If not, he might follow in the footsteps of other well-liked middle-aged men who get carried toward the end and then cut because no one wants to go up against them.
Overall, we have to give credit where it's due as this appears to be an enjoyably diverse and memorable group of Houseguests. For too many seasons, we'd find ourselves struggling to differentiate between the half a dozen or so frat boys and beauties in the House, but this is a truly interesting group with a lot of distinct personalities emerging already.
That should make for a more fun season. Now, if we can somehow avoid a mega-alliance from emerging and dominating the entire season, maybe the game will be fun to watch, too.
"Let's go!" --Kyle (way, way too often)
"As a little girl that grew up on a farm washing mess off of eggs, like, never in a million years did I think I would be here." --Jasmine
"Even my mom thinks I'm gonna go home the first week." --Kyle
"This is where all the legends sat." --Daniel (in Diary Room)
"I'm funny. I'm not really funny in English, but I'm super funny in Portuguese." --Indy
"Big Brother" returns this Sunday at 8 p.m. ET and then settles into its regular routine of new episodes every Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET, Thursday (eviction) at 9 p.m. ET, and Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. on CBS.