Big Brother recap: Sugar Power Highs and Lows

Original article available on EW at this link.

The Reign of Cody is over. As we say in Kevin’s hometown of Boston after a big sports win while prepping for the victory parade: “Cue the duck boats!” It’s out with the emotionless dictator, who still seems irritated Big Brother is a television show with (gasp) cameras tracking his every move, and in with someone new. It’s time for another houseguest to get punch-drunk on power — or, in the case of this house, a sugar high.

We kick off the night in a Candy Crush-themed HoH competition as houseguests scramble through mountains of lollipops looking for silver tickets to get chances at landing a ball in a hole. You’d think they’d be searching for themselves, but no. Most houseguests immediately hand tickets to Paul, grandmaster of this candy-filled hell. Paul (who also happens to appear on CBS’ premiere of Candy Crushtonight) is like Willy Wonka holding court over his magical factory of Oompa Loompas, even before he lands a ball and gets his golden ticket for the week, clinching the HoH win.

While Paul undeniably needed to take the Pendant of Protection to keep himself safe for three weeks with a clear target on his back in week 1, he didn’t need to win HoH with half the house handing him the win. The vet says Cody tried to “make a maverick move and take me out of this game. You shot, you missed, and now it’s my turn to shoot back.” While that may be true, Paul seems dead set on revenge at the expense of his long-term image in the house. When you’re so big a threat, why be the one holding the gun to make the kill shot when the majority of the house has the same target?

It’s not just the HoH win that could be problematic for Paul down the line, but more on that later.

What Goes Up Must Come Down (and Vice Versa)

Speaking of power shifts, right when you’re down, Big Brother gives you gifts and you’re up just like Christmas (morning).

In the Den of Temptation, Christmas is tempted with the Ring of Replacement, which gives her the ability to swap herself into a POV competition in place of someone else. She takes it. America, congrats on granting someone with a broken foot an advantage that will likely require her to stand.

If you subscribe to Paul’s line of thinking that there are “snakes in this game, but there’s also a devil,” the good news is that America gets its vengeance on Cody, this season’s Lord Voldemort, and Jessica, his Bellatrix Lestrange. Since Christmas takes the temptation, Jody will have to suffer along with Jason, forced to hop around in “V-Toad” costumes. Cody with a hop in his step? Now that should be a sight to see on Wednesday evening.

Jessica and Christmas get into some heated verbal judo after the eviction, and Cody aggressively gets in Josh’s face, calling him a liar and snake. It doesn’t stop there. Jody’s mission in the wake of losing the eviction vote becomes laser-focused on ripping into house punching bag Josh. Cody mocks him for making “victim noises” and tells him he’s like “a pouty child that sits there and cries all the time.” Josh ends up in tears and is comforted by some of the more empathetic houseguests. When she’s not beating up on Josh with Cody, Jessica does some serious pouting herself and wears an I-don’t-want-to-be-here face that’s more convincing than any social move she’s made so far.

Just as Cody and Jessica were blinded by power, they’re blinded by the loss of it. They’re demonstrating an embarrassing dumpster fire of a social game and, more importantly, missing a serious opportunity. However things go down, one of them will survive the week. They’re the underdogs, and with the opposition alliance so large, there are people on the bottom. Now is the time for Jody to cultivate relationships and create new options for people who may grow weary of Paul as the days wear on.

If there was one thing I learned on Survivor, it was that the pace at which you fall is indicative of the pace at which you can potentially ascend. Use your time on the bottom to eat some humble pie and connect with others who feel vulnerable too. Maybe when they get their toad costumes, Jessica will kiss Cody and he’ll turn into a prince, complete with manners, a little sensitivity, and respect for others. I won’t hold my breath.

Pawn Talk

Paul fills everyone in on his “A+ plan” to backdoor Cody. He suggests Matt and Raven go on the block as pawns to lower the likelihood Cody can pull himself off by winning the POV competition. Paul’s core alliance members (Matt, Raven, Dominique, Elena, Mark, and Christmas) are a little skittish about risking it and putting up one of their own, so Paul appeals to Alex and Josh, who agree to take on the pawn roles.

It looks like Paul’s plan is going to work. But Ramses, who was cursed with putting himself up on the block as a third option within three weeks when Paul took the Pendant of Protection, decides to go up since Cody is such an obvious target. The only potential complication to Paul’s plan will be if Ramses pulls himself off the block with a POV win and can’t be replaced since he’s a special third nominee. Only time will tell if Ramses’ serpent curse bites Paul in the asp.

On the surface, Paul’s leadership seems democratic enough. He says he wants people to feel comfortable and doesn’t want to leave “everyone in the dark” like Cody did. Mark even commends Paul for his transparency and team spirit. But despite the pleasantries, there are some cues Paul may be succumbing to the same sugary allure of power that tempted him to gun hard at winning HoH.

There’s a lot of “agenda,” “newbies,” and “pawns” talk, which indicates to me that Paul wants control now, sees his skills as superior, and isn’t considering the emotional effect of asking people to go up on the block. Ask someone to be a pawn (or on Survivor, the deke out vote) and it screams: “I’m fine with you being collateral damage.” Paul needs to realize friendship and democracy only get you so far. How your actions make people feel will affect your game far more than your words.

There was a way for Paul to use his three weeks of protection to sit back, lay low, and blend in so he’s setting himself up for success. He couldn’t resist the temptation of playing hard. There’s no turning back. Paul, be the vet you say you are and wake up. When you’re sleeping on top in 1000-thread-count Egyptian cotton in the HoH room, the only place you can go is down.

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