Growing on Me 

I don't know if anyone ever changes really, but we can evolve, right? I mean, that's what we're trying to do, isn't it? Just become better versions of ourselves.”—Deputy Siobhan Kelly  

Experience does not magically produce wisdom. It’s not that easy. Experience is simply data; it’s on the user to find meaning in it. And here’s the problem with that: As users, we are imperfect. So sometimes we see experiences through a distorted lens. We learn the wrong thing. 

Da’Vonne’s Big Brother 18 start was not an auspicious one. After her team lost the first round of the Hit the Road competition, Da’Vonne says to the camera indignantly, “I just wanna play by myself.” It sounds like an echo from last year. Round and round we go: She’s clashing with her number one pick Paul, and she is bucking against the team construct. It’s Da’Vonne against the world. 

It really worries me that, uh—that my fate this summer could be in the hands of other people.”—Corey 

The tragic irony here is that your Big Brother fate is always in the hands of other people. This isn’t golf. You need to work with people, people that you like and people that you don’t like. These bonds can be fictive, but you need to connect with others. Your advancement in the game is contingent on that. 

I will submit to you that Da’Vonne knows this. Her breakdown was a momentary regression, an ugly byproduct of the growth process. Two steps forward, one step back. What’s important is that she was able to identify her misstep and orient herself back on the straight and narrow.[1]

Just check out Day’s recovery: She made up with PaulOK, so her opinion of him did not change. She continued to think of him as an obnoxious goon, and she erupted into laughter whenever he left the room. Yet she kept up appearances, and it paid dividends for your girl. Paul and Jozea told her everything: four week plans, suspicious conversations they had with other houseguests, their allies, their targets. They gave it all away, and they gave it away unsolicited. 

Similarly, instead of blackmailing Tiffany, Da’Vonne buddied up to Miss Rousso. She made herself availible and let Tiffany confide in her at Tiffany’s own pace. “Last time I got evicted because I ran my mouth too much,” says Da’Vonne. “But it’s a new Mamma Day, OK? I’mma keep this information to myself; that way, I can use it to my advantage in this game.” 

I was incredulous at first, but I must admit: It’s a beautiful Day.  


Let It Be 

The important thing is not what; the important thing is why. Last week, I gave Big Brother props for throwing in the towel on Battle of the Block. However, after suffering through Thursday’s asinine HOH competition, I’m beginning to think that they, in fact, did not learn anything. Battle of the Block may be history, but by forcing the 14 remaining houseguests to compete in their respective teams, they have re-engineered the same problem.  

Teams incentivize mega alliances, and mega alliances are mega boring.[2] It means that select people from the majority alliance will throw the competition in order to prevent people from the minority alliance from winning. Sounds familiar, right? And as long as the competitions are as stupidly exploitable as Berry Balanced, it will never matter how good Victor, Natalie, and Bronte perform. With James on their team, they will always lose. 

The inevitability of this is crippling. What’s funny is that under normal circumstances, a Paulie HOH sounds pretty good to me; as much as I like rooting for the underdog, I can’t carry the flag for Paul, Victor, and Bronte. Their incompetence is too much to bear. But having them lose like this mars the whole enterprise. If losing does not exist as a viable possibility, where is the thrill in winning?

The Big Brother producers ultimately just need to get out of their own way. They need to stop shoehorning narratives into the season before the game has even commenced. Survivor can get away with this. They can have Millennials vs. Gen Xers, and, yeah, it will be on the nose at first. The contestants will talk incessantly about their superior generational mores: “Gen Xers are better at building improvisatory shelters in the middle of the jungle because Pearl Jam,” says some flannel-clad malcontent. That sort of thing. But the structure of Survivor is flexible enough to withstand that. By the time tribe swaps start to happen, the initial tribe jingoism has begun to fray. 

Big Brother has more structural limitations, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. They simply must acknowledge these limitations exist. We love you for who your are, Big Brother. Stop trying so hard to be something you’re not. I know you think you’re making the game more exciting by introducing these wacky twists, but you are actually doing the opposite. Trust the game you’ve built, and let the cast make it their own. 


[1] It will be interesting to see if she can stay composed when she is in true danger.

[2] Roadkill produces the same effect. It may be neutral with respect to Veterans vs. Newbies, but it’s just another weapon to be harnessed against the outnumbered.