In the era of Peak TV, there’s no excuse for me to watch every episode of CBS’ Big Brother. And yet, I totally and completely do exactly that.
I wouldn’t call myself an expert on any level: I only starting watching in Season 13, never watch the live cams, and certainly didn’t get CBS All Access to watch Over The Top. (I legitimately have never heard a single person talk about that season. If a reality show contestant makes an insanely stupid strategic move, and no one hears it, did it actually happen?) I started watching because I covered it for another website, and soon enough its dumb, dumb tendrils had wormed its way into my head. Not since How I Met Your Mother have I committed to watching so much of something that makes me so mad.
I don’t know if there’s an audience to read about Big Brother here, but I thought I’d jot down five thoughts about the first three episodes of this season. If there’s enough interest, I’ll happy share them here, since it’s probably better than scrawling them in blood on my garage wall.
1) This show has given up any pretense about making this about strategy.
I contemplate a lot of things in life. Where is humanity going? What’s our place in the universe? Most importantly, would Big Brother be actually better or worse if it were cast entirely with people who are experts in game theory? Part of what I love about the show is its inherent instability: People who do well at this game have to master a consistent approach while incorporating the inevitable chaos that comes from certain outcomes. On the other hand, the show also doesn’t want to see another Derrick Levasseur come in and through an end-to-end perfect game. He was so much better than everyone else that there was little tension in that season. So in comes “The Summer Of Temptation,” which really just means, “We’re going to keep changing the rules to minimize effective strategies.” On one hand, that ruins a lot of the “art” of this game, but on the other hands…
2) These people are spectacularly dumb.
Maybe they just need to get their Big Brother sea legs under them, but voting out Cameron over Christmas in the initial eviction ceremony was beyond stupid. Returning vet Paul (who inexplicable wasn’t nominated this week) nailed it on the head: There was no reason to kick Cameron to the curb at that moment. Even if you feared he’d be the second coming of Steve Moses, there would be plenty of time for a physical challenge to place him in a defensive (and ultimately defenseless) position. It’s hard to play four-dimensional chess when no one even knows how to play checkers.
3) Cody might be a sociopath.
OK, strike that: He is one. His dead-eye stare plays like Jim Caviezel playing a serial killer. He’s the kind of guy who has a Tinder bio that says, “I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die,” only he’s never heard of the Johnny Cash song “Folsom Prison Blues,” it just describes something he did back in February. He’d be a spectacular TV villain if this weren’t a reality show. As such, I’m afraid for anyone alone in the same room with him. But that’s not the only reason I’m afraid…
4) There’s a core streak of sexism this season that Big Brother itself is already building into its narrative.
You didn’t need to be watching too carefully to see how the show edited the aftermath of the initial vote. Cody, Mark, and Matthew have formed a Bro Code that is straight up toxic in execution. It’s the show’s job to observe, not to interfere, and Lord knows there’s power in just demonstrating how awful their actions are without editorial commentary. But it’s still maddening to see a Reddit thread come to life and form an alliance on national television. There’s always been an underlying undertone of offensive behavior on this show, and some seasons (like Season 15) were so awful that it nearly put me off the show entirely. It doesn’t help when Sunday’s episode shows all three of the biggest offenders in instant showmances with three of the women in the house.
I can’t expect Big Brother to be a place in which attitudes like this magically change, but the show has expertly (if bluntly) set these guys up for a fall. That desire for comeuppance will spur on a lot of viewership, and while it’s better if these guys actually learn to be better people, there’s equal satisfaction in seeing their butts leave the house.
5) Maybe there’s just a streak of meanness this summer that won’t be overcome.
Confession: I wrote the first four points before seeing Sunday’s episode. I figured this final point would be about Raven chasing ghosts inside the Big Brother house, and how adorable that was. And then the “she said, she said” with Megan started, and everything went downhill in a hurry. The editing of the episode didn’t come down either way on Megan’s accusation, in the name of ostensible “fairness.” Here’s an instance in which those watching the feeds probably have a better sense of what actually went down, but all we saw on CBS was the absolute psychological destruction of a person who almost definitely didn’t deserve it. This TVGuide piece has a lot of the relevant background, most of which leads one to believe that Megan never should have been in the house in the first place, regardless of whether or not she was telling the truth. The way everyone else celebrated and then summarily moved on from this incident suggests there are a lot more like Cody than Alex in the house this season, and since Alex is now on the block and potentially going home, it might be a long, long, long summer ahead.