'Big Brother': End Game
We have a winner for Big Brother 10: Dan! And it wasn't even close: he trounced Memphis, 7-0. (You can read Lynette's interview with the winner today on PopWatch.) But what other way could it have gone? After all, who could turn the little schmoozer down? While talking to the jury, he went on a charm offensive that never stopped. Even after the jury members cast their votes, he'd toss them a little extra bonus serving of friendship — "Portuguese Princess from Providence!" he chirped to Michelle after she'd turned her key — as if to say, "That one's for free! I love you that much!" If anyone hadn't initially voted for him, they might have turned back, ripped Memphis' key out and swapped it for Dan's, saying, "Aw, I can't vote against you, ya big crazy lug."
But let's begin at the beginning. On Sunday night, we were subjected to a clip show that was a rip-off of my least favorite staple from Survivor: the "farewell to our fallen comrades" parade of false camaraderie. But on Big Brother, instead of walking/paddling great distances and lighting effigies of the game's losers, Dan and Memphis just moved from room to room in the house, setting up old clips. Just how were they prompted to do this? Did Big Brother's voice boom over the loudspeaker: "Memphis, please reflect on Ollie and April mucking about on a bed in the 'Boom Boom Room.'" I was surprised the producers had the restraint not to ask Memphis to play a harp in the corner, all the better to score the fades from Dan's spoken memories into the appropriate clips as he scratches his chin and says, "Golly, I remember Jerry saying, 'Screw you people!' as if it was just yesterday..."
As usual with reality shows, the never-before-seen footage we were promised turned out to have been originally omitted for good reason. Amidst the greatest hits — Keesha's birthday party/neverending screaming match; Ollie and April's insufferable "I will live with you!" pool pillow talk — we got an extended remix of Brian's puppet show, Jerry scrubbing his dentures, and Renny doing impressions of everyone. The only worthwhile thing in this episode was that it made me reflect on how different my opinion of Renny is now versus what it was after the first week of shows. Watching the early clip of her quacking, "It's locked!" in the middle of the night, I remembered how she initially seemed like a garden-variety nut job who would be gone within weeks. But now, after weeks of seeing her low-key Diary Room statements, and other occasional mellow moments, I find her kind of endearing...just as long as she's not screaming about matching socks.
One last thing on the contrived clip show: I loved how at the end, the two guys stood up, proclaimed, "May the best Renegade win," and then walked in different directions as the show ended. It was meant to be a dramatic, pre-fight moment, like Ivan Drago telling Rocky, "I will break you." But in that movie, the two men went on to beat the crap out of each other. Here, Dan and Memphis turned around, walked away, and then found themselves alone on opposite ends of an incredibly dull house. It makes it a far less dramatic showdown when you picture Dan slinking back out of the bathroom area and saying, "So...uh...Memphis, wanna play Rummikub?"
But on to the main event: last night's star-studded finale, with an audience packed with such BB luminaries as Bunky, James, Adam, Matty, and Zach...who was there to compare notes with Jerry about what it's like to always have a room empty when you enter. The show began with the traditional squeezing of the sour grapes as the jury got together. Before they could even get to tearing Dan and Memphis apart, they warmed up by taking apart Jerry. It was like old times when he arrived in the midst of them mocking him, and we got another poorly edited intercut of insults. I don't mind that these yelling matches don't ever make any logical sense. I don't need to know the literal context of their argument; I just like the squabbly mood set by this general cacophony of grievances. It's like angry modern jazz.
When they got tired of arguing with Jerry, the jury moved on to discussing the Renegades. It went as it always does, with everyone passing hypocritical sanctimony around like a Wonderball. Jerry wondered who was the "worst of two evils," April (who was dressed like a dominatrix jockey) said that Dan's mind games were "heartless," and Renny said that he was "immature," and that Memphis was "the most insensitive person I've ever met in my life." Keesha was livid about Memphis but forgiving of Dan. And Ollie, of course, took all sides at once: He started off saying that Dan disrespected him, Michelle, and even Dan's own teammates, but then later said, "They played the game well....Dan lied and betrayed me, that's part of the game, I tip my hat to that." I remain amazed at his ability to simultaneously hold two contrary opinions. When he later entered the finale stage by doing a somersault, I expected him to then grab the mike and say, "Seriously, kids, tumbling is for losers."
Then came the grilling. Or, as Julie Chen dramatically said, "The jurors wanted answers. But could they handle..." — too-long pause — "...the truth?" I would just like to point out again that Julie is a newswoman at the network that brought us Walter Cronkite. That is all.
Dan and Memphis sat there, all gussied up in sport jackets. Where did these come from? Although I guess I can see why this event would be semi-formal. Sitting while Michelle operatically airs her grievances is like going to the symphony: You need to show respect for the artistic achievement. Dan was in full charm mode during the questioning, wearing his coy little smile and tossing in random compliments. When telling Libra that his best move was backdooring Michelle, he defended it by citing the fact that Michelle was a tough competitor, so he needed to take her out before she did the same to him. It's the inverse of the old strength-as-a-weakness job interview trick, where when you're asked what you're bad at, you say you work too hard. In BB, when asked how you mistreated people, you talk about how you only mistreated people who were just so darned awesome!
Memphis tried the same thing with Michelle, but she wasn't buying it. That's about how it went with everything for him: He could say the same exact thing as Dan did, but the jury members would simply roll their eyes at him, while winking at Dan and saying, "Oh, Dan, you little minx, you're trouble, you are!" At that point, it was clear Dan was going to walk away with this. He had an answer for everything that nullified all anger. When Ollie asked him why he swore on his girlfriend Monica and then broke his pact, Dan had a very strategic answer: He said he knew Ollie played with his heart, so if Dan pretended to do the same thing, Ollie would believe him. Ollie was convinced, mostly because it ratified his own opinion of himself as a sensitive lover. I'm not entirely convinced this was Dan's thought process at the time; he probably assumed Ollie would ask this question, and retrofitted his actions to this theory. But hell, who cares: It worked.
After the grilling finished, we shifted back to the live show, as Julie introduced the Jury and let them run through the audience's high-five gauntlet. They all seemed to get off on the attention, especially Renny, who curtsied and then slowly edged down the catwalk as if she'd just been crowned Miss America. She had a look on her face as if she were about to tear off her wig and toss it in the air like Mary Tyler Moore. Keesha, on the other hand, awkwardly tromped down the aisle as quickly as possible, looking very uncomfortable. (Yet another reason I found her an underrated personality in this house.) And finally, down came Jerry, who looked unable to bend down to receive the crowd. That is the true pain of aging: knowing that you can no longer exchange low high-fives the way you did as a younger man. And don't even get me started about the joint pain that makes asking friends to "pull my finger" a hazard.
The votes were cast, and everyone seemed to have calmed down a lot, and lost their anger at the finalists. The voting was led off by Libra, who made the bewildering comment "Contrary to popular belief, people think this game is real easy. I say, when everything else fails, just go crazy." It sounded like she'd accidentally mixed up her BB speech with an old note card she used to rally her sorority sisters at Spring Fling. (Magna cum f---ing laude, motherf---ers!) Renny, apparently concerned that she hadn't milked enough airtime with her entrance, decided to filibuster. I will now provide the text of her speech, annotated with what I think the producers of the live show were saying in the control room at the same time:
"As a businesswoman, this decision was very easy to make." That's it, Renny, just cast your vote and let's bring out Keesha. "In the game of life, and in the game of TV games..." Wait, what is she talking about? "...I think it's very important that people don't take for granted just the little things..." Is she casting a vote or giving a Sunday school sermon? Get her off!" "...a 'Thank you,' a 'Good morning,' a 'How are you.'" Julie, can you hear me? I need you to hit Renny in the head with a chair. A P.A. will be out momentarily to drag her back to her seat. "It is with great respect that in this game, I think it's good that you get in touch with a person's you-man spirit..." I'm going to run in there and strangle her myself with her own Mardi Gras beads! "...and on a you-man level, and I believe that way in life, and I believe this way in this game. So with this, that is why I'm voting for this person tonight!" Oh, my God, I think I blacked out. Is she done? Tell me she's done!
Before the votes were revealed, there was an interesting segment in which the four non-voting housemates voted out early were asked for their take on the show. They were the only ones who'd actually seen it, and thereby had an insider and outsider perspective. Brian, who so overplayed his hands at the beginning of this game, gave a wonderfully clearheaded wag of the finger to Michelle and April for their personal attacks against Libra and Keesha. The lesson was completely lost on Michelle, of course, as she spent the entire time mouthing disbelief and rolling her eyes. Even showing her the tapes won't teach her a lesson: I have a feeling that she has such a powerful defense system built up against her own faults that if you show her video evidence of her own ridiculousness, she'll abruptly succumb to temporary hysterical blindness.
Then, after a typically mushmouthed conversation with Jessie about how Dan, as America's Player, messed with him, the votes were read, and Dan won unanimously. As he celebrated, a woman in a black dress came skittering toward him and embraced him, and from the back I thought it was Julie Chen. Had his old-fashioned charms finally won her over? Would she yell, "From now on, you can call me Mrs. Dan!" But no, it was his girlfriend, Monica.
Then came time for the viewers' choice $25,000 prize to be awarded to their favorite jury member: Jerry came in second, which was odd. Considering how you readers have been trashing him on the message boards, I wonder if somewhere out there a Bizarro BB TV Watch exists, in which Jerry is regularly hailed as a hero. But the winner was Keesha, which I was happy with. What I like about Keesha is that she was clearly cast to fill the hot, flirty, ditzy-blonde slot, — but, barring her screechy laugh and cooing over her dog, she refused to play the part. She was smart (enough), sensible, and reasonable; even though she was angry at Memphis, she quickly thawed when he said that his evicting her was a game decision, and he was sorry it "might have ruined a friendship that I might not ever get back."
And speaking of things you can't get back, how about the 29 hours we all spent watching this show this summer? Dan was a great player, but it wasn't a fantastic season: The last four weeks were too predictable, with Dan dominating and steering the proceedings. But it won't make me abandon Big Brother next season: Unlike Dan, I'm no Judas.