John Nash in the House!

At the beginning of the season, I thought Amanda lacked the requisite tack to have any kind of longevity in the Big Brother house. She was starting nonsensical fake fights (and telling other houseguests that it was fake,) taking all the credit (and the heat) for plans that her allies devised, and blowing up over the slightest provocation. But somehow all of this has counterintuitively worked in her favor: People are concurrently frightened by her overtness and disarmed by it.

For the majority of the season, Big Brother 15 has been about the schism of Amanda and Helen. Notwithstanding their respective faults, they were the two linchpins of the house.  I was rooting for Helen because—after Andy defected to Amanda’s side—she seemed like more of an underdog. But as I watched Helen campaign last week, something became glaringly clear: Helen is not in the same league as Amanda.

Helen seemed resigned to her doom before she even put up much of a fight. While Amanda was plotting a fake alliance to give Helen a false sense of security, Helen was altruistically apotheosizing Elissa for winning the Power of Veto. Her only move—which seemed to be spearheaded by Elissa—was to threaten (more on this later) Andy for his vote.

If Andy did not give vote for her to stay, the move dictated, her, Elissa, and GinaMarie would be gunning for him. And what happened? Andy feigned offense that Helen would have the effrontery to question his loyalty, and Helen apologized profusely. She rescinded the threat, knowing that Andy was probably lying to her.

Amanda would never do that. She would never let her personal feelings for someone obtrude on her gameplay.[1] The foundation of her game may be lousy with fissures, but her dedication right now is superlative. She is so focused that she won’t listen to the HOH’s CD, because she fears taking her mind off of the game even for a few minutes.


Public Service Announcement

I’m not in the habit of showering praise upon Elissa. It’s not like she needs my help; like any other kind of fandom, her deficiencies [2] are often downplayed, and her successes are inflated. As silly as it sounds, writing a positive piece about Elissa almost feels like selling out, as if I’m making some gauzy attempt to tap into that sweet demographic that is the Brenchel Army.

But as someone who was bullied throughout their adolescence, I feel impelled to say that she handled Amanda’s intimidation tactics with aplomb. As Amanda was prancing about, screaming invective at her, Elissa mostly smiled and laughed.

I know it sounds clichéd (and I know saying it sounds clichéd  sounds clichéd,) but that is what you have to do with these people.[3] You can’t let them faze you. You have to be confident in who you are as a person. And if bullying is preventing you from having a healthy self-image, the best thing to do is fake it till you make it.[4] It worked for me.

You don’t have play on their terms. Do what I do: When someone flips you off, just smile and wave benevolently at them.


Dictionary Wars

In Helen’s aforementioned failed attempt at securing Andy’s vote, there was a discrepancy over the meaning of the word, threaten. Elissa asserted that their action did not constitute a threat but rather a “game move.” The disagreement precipitated into a fight between Andy and Elissa, culminating with Elissa storming out of HOH.

Now I’m not on either person’s side here.  I’m just surprised no one cared to point out the obvious communication breakdown, that they were working from two preconceived notions of what threaten means and—more importantly—what threaten means in the Big Brother house.[5]

Actually, there was one person who had the good sense to bring this up. Do you care to venture a guess? I’ll give you a hint: Our hero is known to feverishly roam around at night in search of Nick’s hat.


[1] Amanda’s sensitivities lie on the other end of the spectrum: As discussed in the last House of Mirrors, she is too easily riled up. But I have yet to see this detract from her game—yet.

[2] The way she threatens to leave jury if she is evicted, or—in her fight with McCrae over touching people’s property without asking (something her good friend, Candice, was notorious for)—when she snidely tells McCrae, “I would never want to touch your gross things.”

[3] For the record, I think it is very problematic to label Amanda as a bully. She undeniably bullied Elissa this past week, but you have to remember that this is a competition, and the environmental strains placed on the houseguests are tremendous. 

[4] I am also a proponent of the James Brown “I don’t know karate, but I know ka-razy” stratagem.

[5] Elissa thinks that Andy is using threaten in a violent way, as a pretext to get her tossed out of the game; Andy is using threaten in more of a comprehensive sense (i.e. punishment and/or inconvenience.)