Stop, Collaborate, and Listen

“Like, I’ve worked Black Friday—I know how to deal with Vanessa.”—Becky

As I was watching the Big Brother 17 introductory interviews, I was struck by how smart this cast sounded. They were all making intelligent pronouncements about the game. But here was the thing: They were all making the same intelligent pronouncements about the game. “It’s imperative to stay adaptable to the vicissitudes of the house,” they would say. “I plan on doing more listening than talking.”

What is going on here? Are they reading cue cards? Is there a memo circulating that I don’t know about? Oh, there is? That makes sense.

But talking a good game isn't mutually exclusive with playing a good game. In fact, there aren’t many people who have actually played with that disposition. I would definitively say that Shelli, Vanessa, and James have all been adaptable. James stands out in that set because (1) he has had more opportunities to prove himself than the other two; and (2) despite being the only person in his alliance who gets things done, his allies regularly mock him for being gullible.

This started during Audrey’s comeuppance. Sensing her doom rapidly approaching, Audrey attempted to rally support on the opposite side of the house. Guess who was there to listen to her: James. Audrey told him about Clay and Shelli working with Vanessa and Austin. When James relayed this hot information to Meg, Meg laughed at him for believing anything Audrey said. And when Jason got backdoored the following week, they all saw what James saw one week prior: Audrey was right.

I understood their skepticism at the time. Audrey, far and away the biggest schemer in the house, was operating from a position of desperation. Why let her into your head now of all times?

“Well, I feel like I’m playing Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and I’m Roger Rabbit.”—Audrey 

Labeling someone a liar (or anything for that matter) is a simplification that rationalizes your own laziness. You excuse yourself from truly interacting with them on a moment to moment basis. It’s a shortcut. In reality, no one is so easily categorized, not even Big Brother houseguests.

James had the fortitude to hear Audrey out, and he was lucky enough to be told the truth. But even if Audrey lied, it would’ve been worth it. It’s important to acquit yourself as a kind and rational person. It establishes rapport with the evictees, and you are going to need a majority of their votes in the end.

Vanessa is our most recent casualty of the game. After being nominated in Steve’s stead, she decided to rattle off all of the dirt she had on Becky to James, Meg, and Jackie. She told them how Becky knew about the Jason backdoor well before the ceremony, that Becky was ecstatic to join their alliance, that Clay and Shelli knew they were being nominated the previous week because Becky told them, that Becky was the person who suggested that Vanessa nominate James instead of Jason[1], that Becky started a sub-alliance with Shelli and Vanessa called the Generals[2], etc.

It seemed like nothing had changed: Jackie kept interrupting Vanessa, saying that Becky already told her everything; Meg was simply present in the room; James thoughtfully listened and engaged with Vanessa.

And yet, later that evening, when James suggested voting out Shelli, Meg and Jackie were not only receptive but contributed meaningfully to the discussion. If they keep Vanessa, Vanessa would target Becky and Johnny Mac; if they keep Shelli, Shelli would target James. Sure, Becky will be upset with them, but by keeping Vanessa in the game, Becky has much bigger problems than her lukewarm allies.

Meg and Jackie wised up, I think. They are at least beginning to see how badly they need to protect James.

As for Becky, she is looking at another failed HoH. Once again, she broadcasted her target to the whole house, and her target appears to be staying. Looks like those Black Friday shifts aren’t paying off after all. I did not see that coming.


Now That’s What I Call Out of Context Quotes Volume 2

Johnny Mac: “Liz, if you could fight any dinosaur, which one would you fight and why?”

Clay: “Quaaludes is a cool word. Like, I just wanna just say quaalude. And I wanna name my kid Quaalude.”

Steve: “Evolution does some crazy things.”

Johnny Mac: “Hey everyone, it’s time for the Fish Taco Ceremony.”

Austin: “Are you familiar with any Jean-Paul Sartre plays?”

Julie Chen: “I have no programming in my ear.”

Jace: “Everyone’s been playing me like a fuckin’ guitar.”

Becky: “Seriously, you can’t even pronounce half of the names of the people I date.”

James: “I sleep wild.”


[1] They momentarily forgot James (and Liz) won Battle of the Block and couldn’t be nominated.

[2] This was particularly salient, for Becky also tried to form an alliance called the Generals with James's crew during the first week.