“Big Brother” — the story so far

Jordan the ho! Eddie the good son! Curtis the cipher! Episode by episode, a complete guide to the antics of Mega, Karen and Brittany the cuddle slut.

Topics: Reality TV, CBS, Television,

The producers of “Big Brother” create six episodes of prime time a week (broadcast Monday through Saturday), and feed continuous streams onto the Internet as well.

Wednesday’s show is a one-hour live affair in which either banishment nominations or the actual banishee is named. On Saturday, there’s a half-hour of recap and then a half-hour of new footage. Specials and sports programming occasionally cause preemptions, and once in a while the half-hour show is extended to an hour.

The story so far:

For new episodes, please click here.

Episode 42: Jamie: Being a beauty queen is hard!

Episode 41: Mud baths! Dry humping! Square dancing!

Episode 40: It’s the morning after, and Jamie’s not sure if she made the right decision

Episode 39: A new nomination round: “Oh, my god! The world is so horny!”

Episode 38: Josh isn’t gay! Neither is Curtis! Nor George! And not Eddie! And did we mention Josh isn’t gay?

Episode 37: Eddie gets a rubdown by a secret masseuse!

Episode 36: Now even Jamie’s getting paranoid

Episode 35: Brittany: I am the new alpha female!

Episode 34: The houseguests begin to unite against CBS

Episode 33: Karen the Unhinged continues to obsess

Episode 32: George visits Brittany’s hair salon

Episode 31: Josh and Karen freak out after the banishment vote

Episode 30: Karen puts two and two together — and gets five!

Episode 29: Julie Chen — the Christiane Amanpour of reality TV!



Episode 28: The key to this game is detachment!

Episode 27: The perfect Miss Jamie’s fatal flaw

Episode 26: George blows it

Episode 25: Eddie, please put that thing back in your pants

Episode 24: Girls against boys, just as the good Lord intended

Episode 23: The second banishment vote!

Episode 22: Time for heartbreak and degradation!

Episode 21: Only the sexually provocative will survive

Episode 20: Oh, Brittany, please shut up!

Episode 19: Josh to Jamie: My heart will go on!

Episode 18: Sex tease Jordan slices up Josh

Episode 17: The second round of banishment nominations

Episode 16: Eddie: “I’ll kick Curtis’ ass!”

Episode 15: Banding together to preserve Brittany’s virginity

Episode 14: Jordan gets the boys panting

Episode 13: Mega? Mega who?

Episode 12: Mega gets booted!

Episode 11: “I don’t want to be Mega poophead anymore!”

Episode 10: Jordan’s big secret

Episode 9: Mega gets nasty

Episode 8: Tensions after the vote

Episode 7: Who’s gonna get bounced?

Episode 6: Mega and Jordan check out each other’s butts

Episode 5: Lesbians and chickens

Episode 4: Karen trashes her husband

Episode 3: Mom and Dad freak out

Episode 2: The arrival of Mega

Episode 1: Meet the residents

Episode 1 (Wednesday, July 5)

On the first show, an hourlong affair, an instantly dislikable chucklehead host named Ian O’Malley shows us around the house while a dopey correspondent from CBS’s dreadful “The Early Show,” Julie Chen, acts enthusiastic as the 10 residents travel to the house, O.J. style, in a caravan of SUVs.

We’re given 10 minibiographies. They are:

William, 27, is a Philadelphian billed as a youth counselor. He’s African-American, bald (“Ladies love a bald head”) and brash: “My momma always said my mouth was going to get me into a world of trouble.” He has a rep as a ladies man, he admits, but contends there’s only one woman for him: his girlfriend Naima.

Brittany, 25, is a goofy, unconventional type — at least by Minneapolis standards: She has dyed-red hair and this or that piercing, but is seen going to church and claims to be a virgin. Her parents, she complains, don’t let her wear her nose ring “at home”; the impression you get is that here is a woman who should be living in her own apartment.

Eddie, 20, is a hunk: He studies at a college in Texas. He lost a leg to cancer as a preteen. Now he plays wheelchair basketball (we see him moving like a demon on the court) and gets around on crutches. He has a German girlfriend, Monica, of nine months; she’s a model.

Josh, 23, is another young jock. He owns a pit bull, and is an alleged “girl magnet.” We’ll see. He’s a student, a senior at Cal Poly. His mother died when he was 14. He says he’s going to bring … “a box of condoms!”

Karen, 44, is a mother of four from Indiana. She’s looking forward to “getting away from the everyday tensions of life.” Her husband is asked what he thought about his wife’s adventure: “I think she’s lost her mind,” he says. He doesn’t seem to be joking.

Curtis, 29, a D.C. lawyer, looks like the brainy one — he has a recent law degree from Stanford and will soon become a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles. He’s a Christian who’s going to be toting a Bible to the house, but he’s single and looking for action, he admits.

Just-turned-23 Jamie is a beauty queen — Miss Washington USA 2000. She’s billed as having had a 4.0 grade point average in college. “I love life!” she says chirpily.

George, 42, a father of three from Rockford, Ill., is another zany resident — we see a photo of him lying in the snow in his boxers. What a goof! And he looks like a load of fun on a miniature golf course.

Imperious, determined Cassandra, 38, is the house’s only 30-something. She’s a P.R. person at an arm of the United Nations. She’s black; she wears dreads, she says, to “simplify my life, to get back in touch with who I am.” No reference to boyfriends — or girlfriends.

Jordan is a pensive 27-year-old. She’s a triathlete, attends the University of Minnesota and says she wants to be a writer. Right now she’s making ends meet as a stripper — excuse us, an “entertainer in a gentlemen’s club.” She has a boyfriend, Ben, with whom she’s seen gamboling. She says she’ll get involved with someone else only “if I meet someone who totally kicks ass over Ben.” It’s not clear what Ben thinks about that.

O’Malley shows us the house, including the confession room (where, each day, each resident is required to go in and share his or her feelings) and the bathroom (monitored to prevent the residents from sneaking into the toilet or shower to have private conversations). Meanwhile, Chen chats vapidly with the residents’ friends and families, whom the show has gathered outside the house.

At the end of the hour, the residents finally arrive. They meet one another and go into the house. The door shuts behind them. They roam from room to room. A solitary Jordan is caught at the end, gazing at the cameras and the two-way mirrors pensively, reality dawning. It’s a lyrical scene.

(B.W.)

Episode 2 (Thursday, July 6)

William’s nickname is “Mega.”

The group sits around the kitchen table, sharing their life stories. The best part comes when Cassandra, who works at the U.N., says she’s from New York. “Harlem?” asks cocky William, a little too quickly. “Midtown,” she says calmly.

Eddie tells the others he lost his leg to bone cancer at 11, but never let himself feel sorry for himself. “There was no real period of ‘Why me?’” he shares. “It happened and I’ll deal with it.”

Jordan tells the group she’s a triathlete, but doesn’t let on she knows her way around a gentlemen’s club.

When it’s time for bed, William finds himself in the room with the women, and is dispatched tout de suite.

There’s a test for the residents, ` la the reward challenges on “Survivor.” They have to decipher a cryptographic message that tells them where some money is. (The money apparently lets them buy food from the producers.) They figure it out, but realize they have to wait until the morning to go digging in the backyard.

The women have a late-night pillow party and talk about their dreams; zany Brittany has a dream interpretation book!

Young Eddie tells the older Karen that there’s going to be trouble between Mega and “the sister” — Cassandra.

At the end of the day, Karen ends up in the confession room, crying about having left her kids.

(B.W.)

Episode 3 (Friday, July 7)

George, the dad from Illinois, and Curtis, the lawyer, get up early and dig up the residents’ $100 prize in the garden.

The challenge today is fashioning a clock using two raw potatoes as the battery. The chore would bore even an eager Cub Scout to tears; the audience could be forgiven for noting that the “Survivor” producers had their cast eating bulbous maggots at this point.

The kids are going to get sick of having Mom and Dad around. Over breakfast, George gives an impassioned speech about his children: “That’s my life, raising my family,” he says. “You should know, it’s not the sexual things, it’s the companionship,” he continues earnestly. Wonder if his wife feels the same way. He finally begins to cry. “I’ve never been away from them,” he bawls.

It’s the group’s first breakfast together.

This sends Karen to the confession room again, crying as well. She has been in the house all of 24 hours and it’s her second visit. George seems genuinely to miss his family; Karen, by contrast, is carrying a lot of negative emotional baggage. First chance she gets, she unloads on her husband in the confession room. “He brought up so much conflict, him being negative and not worrying about me,” she sobs. We now know why Karen’s in the “Big Brother” house. It was either that or Prozac.

More girl talk: Karen hates beauty pageants; she doesn’t know Jamie is a beauty queen. Later, Jordan confides to Jamie that she’s a stripper. She calls it being an “exotic dancer.” She decides she’s going to wait a while before telling the others. Jamie indicates that she won’t tell anyone.

Cassandra catches Mega in the bathroom and talks straight: “They’re gonna think you’re a certain kind of brother when you go around shaking your booty,” she says. She’s telling him he’s acting like a cartoon of a black guy. William’s having none of it. “I gotta get something emotional goin’,” he says. Speaking for many viewers, he says he’s sick of the endless biographies being proffered.

George has a very hairy back.

And then it’s dress-up time! Brittany, sporting green lipstick, dresses up Karen in a wig and kewpie lips. Wacky George gets ahold of the wig, dons sunglasses and calls himself “No Soul”; with a few posture pointers from William, he does the funky chicken.

(B.W.)

Episode 4 (Saturday, July 8)

On Saturdays, “Big Brother” runs a half-hour of recap and then a half-hour of new footage.

When the new material finally begins, it’s juicy. Karen’s telling the household — and millions of viewers — how screwed up her marriage is. Karen says her husband “hates to kiss … He doesn’t like intimacy at all, and I’m totally the opposite. I want to kiss. I want to hug. I want that snuggly kind of stuff.” She talks about how horrible her Mother’s Day was. George says, “That’s a day you honor your wife.”

Jordan asks if she’s in love with her husband. “Oh no. Not at all!” The only reason she hasn’t already left is because of her kids. Now she’s thinking about it. She says, “I’m definitely leaving … and that is why he didn’t want me to talk about it on here. The people at work don’t know anything about it.” Now they do.

Brittany says she is afraid to date and have children because she could be trapped in a situation like Karen’s. But Karen notes that Brittany has a career; she herself never got a degree and can’t hope to earn more than $10 or $12 an hour.

Later, Brittany tells William she’s not sure if she likes him. For him, that is fine. “If it was going to be ‘The Brady Bunch,’ we wouldn’t be here. It would be boring.” William talks about things being boring often.

He says, “Most people either love me or hate me. There is not much in between.” William and Brittany make a date to talk about their differences. William wants Brittany to get dressed up for it or at least change clothes. It’s an insulting request that isn’t lost on Brittany. She refuses; they argue the point for far too long. But we don’t get to see them have their talk.

Later, in the confession room, William is asked his opinion of others in the house. Josh, Curtis and Cassandra are boring, he says; Eddie keeps to himself, and he wouldn’t miss George (though he thinks Josh is cool and admires Cassandra). Brittany has spunk, but talks too much. “How am I going to get an opportunity to get some airtime when she’s always talking?”

William gets plenty of airtime.

He says that Karen is the first person he’s voting off. “I just think she’s got a little mental problem. I don’t know how she passed the psych test.” It is CBS that has failed an ethics test by letting her nuke her marriage on national television.

The announcer intones, “There is no place to hide in the ‘Big Brother’ house.” There are shots of Jamie in bed, taking a shower (they’ve hung a towel on the door to provide some privacy), walking and going into the bathroom — all set to really bad music.

Jordan and William lead what George calls the “‘Big Brother’ inaugural aerobics class” over more bad music (though there is no actual music in the “Big Brother” house). The day’s challenge is to make plaster masks of everyone. Hours are compressed into a few minutes as they are shown making the masks.

Jamie is lying outside to dry her mask more quickly. William comes over to her and says she’ll be the last person he’ll vote out. She is gorgeous and he needs something pretty to look at or he’ll go crazy, he says.

The last shots are of the completed decorated masks hanging on the wall in the kitchen.

(Steve Rhodes)

Episode 5 (Monday, July 10)

Outside the house, “Big Brother” is getting bad press. A New York Times story says its ratings are dropping. As if to compensate, tonight’s episode gives us straight talk about lesbianism, and the dramatic injury of a chicken.

Jordan tells Josh she has grown into love with Ben, her boyfriend; he says she makes them sound like an old married couple. He keeps interrupting her. Love has to be intense, he argues. Will she stay with him forever? “You’re going to find it out before you leave here,” Josh says with clumsy braggadocio, before walking off.

Later, Jordan floats in the tiny pool and talks about how she’s attracted to women too, much to the interest of Curtis and Josh, who are sunning themselves around her and trying not to pant. “But I know for a fact I would never be a lesbian ’cause I’m so attracted to men.” Would she do minages ` trois? asks Curtis, with what must have been purely Christian interest.

Jordan’s a first-class flirt. “I don’t want to answer that question right now,” she says, suddenly demure. Josh tenderly touches her air mattress with his foot.

In three days the group will have to nominate two people to be voted out by the audience. (The audience will then vote over the next week, via a 99-cent phone call, to evict one of the two.) Mega thinks he’s going to get voted out. “It’s not my crowd,” he says. It’s hard to disagree with him, but Cassandra tries to offer reassurance. Mega just keeps talking about himself; it’s always all about William.

One of the chickens is hurt; Mega doesn’t care. “I’m not crying over a dead chicken,” he says. Brittany, on the other hand, is crying. In a scene that may go down as an uncertain nadir in the history of television, the residents crowd into the red confession room and discuss giving the chicken CPR. The chicken is turned over to the producers. The next day the chicken comes back; it’s getting better!

William gets up early and starts rearranging furniture and the group’s face masks in the main room; he tells Karen he was given a challenge by the producers and that it’s a riddle the group is supposed to figure out. Karen and Curtis go into the confession room to get details, only to be told by the producers that William made the whole thing up.

“William has deliberately compromised the houseguests’ trust in ‘Big Brother,’” we’re told sternly in the voice-over. But shouldn’t the “Big Brother” people just watch how the ruse plays itself out, rather than interfering? At the end of the episode, William is told he has to fess up to the other residents.

(B.W.)

Episode 6 (Tuesday, July 11)

The residents have to figure out a big puzzle — they’re given the names of dozens of celebrities and told to decide whether they’re dead or alive. William comes in and apologizes for having made up a challenge.

Eddie complains to Brittany about Jordan; she’s always dissing models. “She knows my fucking girlfriend is a model,” he exclaims. (The show bleeps obscenities.) He goes on and on about it.

Brittany says her friends with breast implants are gross. The men all look bored. Implants “raise societal image issues,” giving the public a distorted image of the feminine ideal, Jordan says. Josh starts talking about strippers — Jordan doesn’t say she’s one.

But it’s still all about William; the next morning he’s complaining about Brittany (who’s not there). They’d apparently had a fight about who was doing enough chores. “I was doing chores when her fat ass was in bed,” he says.

William’s a colossal bore; later, during a big group discussion, he talks over other people and you can’t even follow what he’s saying. Thinly veiled nuggets of conventional notions fly from all. William tells the group that they all seem the same to him: “the music you listen to, the things you like to do, some of the life experiences you embark on.”

Brittany responds is her distinctive nasal Minneapolitanese to William’s provocation. “I feeeeeel? That you doooon’t? Want to leaaaarn? From uuuus?”

A few hazy, unclear accusations later, Brittany loses it. William takes a new tack:

“My point is to change the image of the black male.”

This cannot be good news for the average black male.

Brittany gets increasingly upset and starts crying. Mega just drones on, interrupting and patently not listening.

William and Jordan have a special booty bond. Much of the second half of the show is devoted to the two of them checking out each other’s butts. William says her ass is small, but that he likes it better when baby’s got back — “when you can see it when the woman’s facing you,” he says.

“You like that?” Jordan asks in disbelief. She follows him around interestedly, but turns down his invitation to let him see hers.

Curtis finds out that Jamie’s a beauty queen. Yawn. Eddie and Jordan resolve their differences. Whew!

(C.C./B.W.)

Episode 7 (Thursday, July 13)

Tonight’s the night the residents have to nominate two of their own for banishment. Those two will then be subjected to an audience vote; a week from tonight, one will be jettisoned from the house. Dopey Julie Chen is back for the special one-hour, mostly live episode, doing a dreadful job, as she did on the opening show. The best part is when a feed from the household features the residents all wondering who the fuck she is.

That’s the drama of live TV, folks!

The residents’ voting is interrupted by a chat with Dr. Drew Pinsky, from MTV’s “Loveline”; by a visit with a Las Vegas oddsmaker, putting down book on the 10 residents’ chances to win; and an astonishing sequence in which Karen’s husband, Tom, is allowed to respond to her utter trashing of their marriage on national TV. “He hates to kiss,” we see her telling the household again. “In 22 years of marriage he’s never given me a compliment.”

Pinsky notes that Karen is “enlisting the household and the public against her husband. It’s not a healthy way to deal with your feelings,” he understates.

Tom is interviewed by host Ian O’Malley. He concedes that he doesn’t express his feelings well and perceptively notes that his wife is in a lot of pain. He reads aloud a letter to her: “I was damned to love a woman who walks in sunshine and shadows,” it begins. She’s half-angel, half-demon, Tom says: “I loved, still love and always will love the angel, but I can’t tear it loose from the demon.”

The couple’s kids must surely be feeling new lows in the annals of public embarrassment of children at the hands of parents.

Here are the odds the bookmaker gives:

William: 100-1 (“a real long shot”)
Karen: 60-1
Brittany: 40-1
Jamie: 20-1
Cassandra: 15-1
Curtis: 10-1
George: 8-1
Josh: 4-1
Jordan: 3-1
Eddie: 5-2

Episode 7, continued

One by one, the residents go into the red room to cast their banishment ballots.

Jamie: “There’s no one I want to pick,” she says, not really convincingly. She names her victims quickly: “Will and Jordan.”

Curtis: Mega. “Much as I like him personally, he puts people ill at ease,” he contends. And Karen, while “sweet and wonderful, is experiencing stress that’s not good for her.”

Josh says Curtis made people feel comfortable, and that Brittany wanted to show her family a different side of herself; both have completed their personal purposes and can go back to their lives, he rationalizes.

Cassandra nails Brittany for being a slacker. “I love her a lot, but had to choose someone who didn’t contribute enough.” Also Eddie: “I also like him a lot, but he sleeps too much and he’s not around when we need to have work done.”

Jordan is characteristically honest. He chooses Eddie because “he has a bad attitude and he’s a conversational deadbeat.” And Karen because “I don’t really get anything out of Karen.”

Brittany votes with Jamie: Jordan and William.

William joins booty-buddy Jordan and dings Brittany and Eddie. He’s honest, too: He says he’s not compatible with Brittany and thinks she’s a slacker. Why Eddie? “I don’t feel I benefit from him mentally. And he sleeps late.”

George: “William is an individual person; as far as a team-type effort he has a hard time with that. Jordan for the same reasons.”

Karen is on the William (“He creates dissension and I can’t handle that”) and Jordan (“for the same reasons”) banishment bandwagon.

So’s Eddie. His votes make it clear that Jordan and William are the most disliked house members. The audience now has a week to vote. Since online visitors have already voted Jordan the house’s sexiest member, it looks like William is on his way out. He now has exactly one week to get Jordan into the sack.

(C.C./B.W.)

Episode 8 (Friday, July 14)

The outside world is abuzz at the hidden pasts of two “Big Brother” residents. Goofy George, it turns out, once killed a man — in a hunting accident, 12 years ago. Or so his wife revealed to “Entertainment Tonight.” And Mega is a camp follower of Khalid Abdul Muhammad, the New York Daily news reported. Muhammad is a former Nation of Islam member who managed to get himself kicked out for wacky beliefs: He publicly called Jews “bloodsuckers.” He doesn’t like white people generally, either, the paper says.

But the house residents know nothing of this. Jordan and William just want to know who and why they got nominated for expulsion. Maybe it’s true — annoying people just don’t know they’re annoying. No one’s filling them in.

William, the hatemonger’s friend, gets nastier. “Eddie and the old folks are their own happy family, with their crippled son,” he says privately to Jordan. Outside in the garden, Eddie tells Karen, the mom, that he’s worried that Jordan and Mega will eat all the food. “I can see Mega doin’ that,” he says. Dinner, unsurprisingly, is quiet. “I’m surprised more of you don’t pray,” William blurts out. “It’s a cultural shock to me.”

“You make me feel like an oddball,” he says accusingly to George after dinner. “I’m just rolling with the flow,” George says. Once you know about the death in George’s past, you look at him with a little more respect.

After dinner, Jordan and William again try to force the issue, but the group keeps its mouth shut. Jordan’s eyes are glittering with anger.

The pair lick their wounds in the backyard. “They saw us being open and real,” Jordan says. “Now they’re gonna divide us.” The two seem really to like each other; they wonder what they’re going to do without the other.

“It’s because they think we’re the ones that might win,” William says. This is Mr. 100-1 Odds speaking. “Screw ‘em all,” Jordan says. She says she’s going to be the one viewers bounce from the house. William laughs at this. It’ll be a very cold day in hell before an American television-viewing audience votes a stripper with confessed lesbian tendencies off a TV show.

“I feel like an icky person,” Brittany says, crying in the confession room. She tries to rationalize her not being honest with the people she voted to banish by saying other house members didn’t want her to, but she’s not even fooling herself.

Another silent dinner, with the amplified sounds of forks rubbing up against plates. The show is beginning to seem psychotic.

After dinner, the episode ends with an extended scene in which a tearful Karen admits to Jordan that she binged her. “It has nothing to do with you; I don’t want you to be hurt.” Karen cries a lot. At the end, the women are holding hands and clutching each other.

(B.W.)

Episode 9 (Saturday, July 15)

William has something up his sleeve. We are pummeled with foreshadowing, and then the anemic climax.

It’s time for the challenge; the household was supposed to look at a list of celebrities and figure out which ones had passed away. The housemates have wagered — the stakes! — 25 percent of their grocery allowance. They’re allowed three misses. George bungles one on the first try, and cannot stop apologizing. Curtis misses one, too, but shrugs, “It’s OK.”

Then William misses two and purposefully throws the game.

Karen seethes and bitches. Curtis sighs, “It’s OK, it’s OK.” Of course, it probably is OK for Curtis. Curtis has the law and Jesus on his side.

William may not be around to kick everyone around much longer, but the legacy of his words will live on. Jordan chides him for his poor sportsmanship. He replies:

“I’d rather die in a grave standing on my feet than live begging on my knees.”

That night, William comes out onto the porch as Eddie and George discuss what happened earlier.

“Whaddya got to say?” asks Eddie.

“My actions speak louder than my words.”

Would that it were true. The pair yell at each other for 10 minutes, with George looking on silently.

(C.C./B.W.)

Episode 10 (Monday, July 17)

Bwitney so cute! She wanna cuddle wid Karen and Josh. Wittle Pebbles! Bwitney so cute!

Cassandra tries to persuade William to stop manipulating the others. “You want everyone to be the way you are … But they’re not gonna be that way because they’re not from — they’re just not like that.”

She’s trying to get him to stop being so much of an asshole without damaging his ego. It’s delicate work. William: “I think we’re here to challenge our fears.”

Cassandra: “I know, but that’s you.”

Jordan, in the red confession room, springs another leak. She wants so much for her parents to be proud of her, she sobs. So she told them about being a stripper, “and they totally accepted me for who I was, and it was one of the most beautiful things in the world. Their primary concern was that I go on the show and have integrity about who I am.”

Jordan then calls a group meeting to tell everyone about the stripper thing. She was just another 24-year-old “curious about the industry” who was, as she pricelessly puts it, “in a really bad position as far as life management goes.” And just like that Jordan is one of Edith Wharton’s heroines. They had lots of life management problems.

No one asks Jordan what exactly her management issues were, though.

In a post-confessional tjte-`-tjte, William tells Jordan that she did a bad job: You talked over people; you didn’t listen to what they were saying; you just wanted to talk about yourself. He seems to be almost deliberately trying to make her feel bad. Jordan’s having none of it: “You do all those things,” she says.

Brittany, astutely sensing that cute pigtails and cuddling have got nothing on nakedness and dire straits, reveals that one of her best friends is a colleague of Jordan’s at her swank gentlemen’s club. “They make bank. She makes buttloads.”

Then she goes on to reveal the shocking, seamy underside of gyrating for tips. “It’s addicting,” she tells a mesmerized George. “It’s weird, ’cause your self-esteem gets whittled away, ’cause you’re a stripper! But when you’re there, stripping, it’s a big power trip. So you just want to strip more and more and more … And a lot of ‘em have issues.”

(We interrupt something mildly amusing to introduce challenge No. 2: Ride exercise bike a long time. Wager food. Sense contestants will not die of starvation on CBS soundstage. Back to interpersonal dysfunction.)

Karen no longer likes Curtis.

Curtis thinks Josh is gay. (This from his visit to the red room.)

William, also in the confessional, won’t say why he’s antagonizing the other houseguests, but will say this:

“A wise general would never reveal his plan to any potential enemies.”

Nor would an idiotic general, most likely, but that’s a story for another episode.

(C.C./B.W.)

Episode 11 (Tuesday, July 18)

Everyone mellows out. It’s a histrionics hiatus. It doesn’t make for the best TV ever, but at least the “Big Brother” household bears less of a resemblance to a dysfunctional family Christmas.

Jordan finally confronts Brittany. All Jordan ever wants to hear from other people is what they think about her. Jordan is an entertainment expert.

Brittany says Jordan is snappish and judgmental. Jordan calls Brittany an attention hog. Then they apologize and hug. Brittany asks the camera if they should make out. As usual, her attempts at salacious innuendo bring to mind G.W.’s attempts at simulating intelligence.

Cassandra, in the red room, says she thinks William is mellowing out a bit. For today, anyway.

Five minutes that can never be regained are devoted to a frolicsome cycling montage. (The group is still trying to generate 1,000 miles on an exercise bike the producers delivered in the previous episode.) Nanosecond of interest: Eddie can do a 100 miles with just one leg.

It’s time for another zany challenge: The contestants must spend an evening impersonating one another. It’s wacky, but there’s still enough tension in the house to generate quite a few cheap shots and insults.

William, with a dead-on imitation of George, emerges as the best comedian and actor of the bunch, capturing George’s tearful paeans to his family mercilessly: “And Theresa, even though she’s a big blubbergut, she’s my woman.”

The others do OK, except for Jamie, who is a hologram and therefore has no agency. George dons a wig and pulls off a hysterically ditzy Karen. (This is the second time the Midwestern roofer has experimented with drag, incidentally.)

Jordan, as Brittany, ditzes up her hair, puts on green lipstick, speaks only in questions and delivers a decent jab: “And I thought, maybe, if I lost my virginity on national television, that would be great.” Eddie, as Jordan, does a striptease, complete with a bare-butt slap. Brittany gamely tries to talk black in her stint as Mega, but her heart isn’t in it. Given the signal that the game is over, she pulls off Will’s hat eagerly. “I don’t want to be Mega poophead anymore,” she says.

But Curtis can’t act. Curtis can barely stay in character. What is it with Curtis? Is he a cyborg? An ice sculpture? Or is he just, as Karen says, the most boring guy in the world?

The latter seems the most likely explanation — until Brittany gets him cuddling and Curtis spills.

“The first time I remember my mom hugging me,” he says, “was high school graduation.”

Brittany the cuddle slut freaks out. Curtis just laughs.

“My first hug from my dad was on my 21st birthday.”

Brittany howls in disbelief. Curtis laughs louder. Then, “I think that’s why we’re all dead inside.”

No wonder he’s always so happy!

(C.C.)

Episode 12 (Thursday, July 20)

It’s the weekly hourlong Julie Chen episode. The big occasion is, of course, the impending, not-so-dramatic banishment of either Jordan or Mega. We’ve been over this before: We’re looking at a contest between a polarizing creep associated with a racist hatemonger and an attractive stripper with lesbian tendencies. This being America, the stripper’s not going to get booted.

Jordan and Mega both have their bags packed, and the houseguests, like the viewers, have to endure 45 minutes before Chen reveals the unsurprising results of the 99-cent phone poll.

The episode starts off with canned material from the past few days. Life in the house looks like the seventh circle of hell. Will and Eddie argue incessantly in the enormously pointless and irritating way only two overly testosteroned men can. There’s one good exchange:

“What did you come here for?” asks Eddie. “To keep it real? To show that your people suffered?”

“No, I came here to advocate for cripple rights,” Mega shoots back.

Then Will goes outside to berate Brittany. William wants to think that he’s getting banished out of some meaningful sociological conflict between him and the other residents. But he’s really getting the boot because he’s a jerk.

Chen brings us back to the studio: Jordan’s and William’s friends and relatives are there to witness the humiliation. Then we get Dr. Drew Pinsky’s insightful perspective. The confinement is really getting to Jordan, he notes. (At least on MTV’s “Loveline” Pinsky is paired with a host who can make jokes about anal sex.)

We get a featurette of the shut-ins in front of the bathroom mirror. Karen refuses to believe that there’s a camera behind it. Now we know she’s in denial.

Back to the studio for the results. Mega earned 73 percent of the home-viewer contempt. On hearing the news, Mega raises his hands in victory: “Yes! Yes! I’m outie,” he says. He grabs his bags and tries to walk out without saying goodbye. His housemates catch him at the door, and he hugs a few of them.

Interviewed by Chen, he tries to put a good face on the humiliation, saying he has no regrets about his unattractive behavior inside: “It was a competition,” he keeps insisting. It’s unclear how he reconciles this with the fact that he lost.

In a post-banishment interview, Chen grills Mega about his associations with Khalid Abdul Muhammad, a wacko black activist who has been known to call Jews and whites generally “bloodsuckers” and “devils.” Mega says he used to be the “national field marshal” of the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense, but won’t say why he’s not anymore. “That’s party information,” he says mysteriously. But Abdul Muhammad “speaks for me,” he adds. That’s the wrong answer, Mega! No one inside or outside the house is going to miss him.

(J.S./B.W.)

Episode 13 (Friday, July 21)

Mega William is gone. His bosom buddy, Jordan the stripper, could be forgiven for falling into a funk; just a few days ago, after all, we saw her practically ululating at the thought of his departure.

So why is she in the dark talking sex with the oafish Josh just hours after William walked out the door? Jordan, it turns out, has a modus operandi — attaching herself to the biggest hunk within eyeshot. When one disappears, she moves on to the next.

The house is transformed. With the combative William gone, the rest of the shut-ins turn to matters of love. Brittany is trying to play matchmaker for one-legged Eddie and beauty queen Jamie. Eddie is ready to hop to her, but the mischievous Brittany tells Eddie that Jamie’s on the brink of making a move.

Meanwhile, Brittany’s nursing a crush on Josh, who is apparently not gay. But she’s no match for Jordan, a pro in such matters. In the red room Jordan says there is a “silent connection” between her and the Southern California jock.

It’s apparently late Thursday, post Mega. The nine remaining shut-ins celebrate William’s ouster and their having won the bicycle challenge. They drink and recount Will’s greatest misses. Everyone’s got something bad to say about him. George offers the most pathetic remembrance: One night, climbing down from the top bunk, he caught his stomach on the mattress and kicked the guy in the head. Curtis changes the conversation; he wants to talk about what he liked about Will. The crew gamely complies. It’s a short conversation.

Josh gets hammered on a few beers and a couple of glasses of Coke, the consumption of which Karen obsessively watches. He gets up to stumble to the bathroom. Jordan follows him and gets touchy-feely. “When I got into this house and I found out that you had a boyfriend I was very disappointed,” Josh slurs. Jordan suddenly plays coy and tells him that he won’t be getting any that night.

After the commercial break, we get a glimpse into 20-something mating rituals at the millennium. Jordan and Josh are seen lying together in the dark via infrared camera. (A week ago, Jordan had Mega in the dark too, giving her a foot rub.) Jordan tries to whisper; it’s unclear whether she realizes she can be heard plainly on the microphones. She shuts down the competition first, telling Josh that she’s disappointed that he’s played cuddle with Brittany. He assures her that he’s much more interested in her.

The conversation quickly turns hard PG. “My sex drive is going crazy right now,” Jordan says. Josh wears the same cologne as her boyfriend, she tells him. This is apparently meant to be a compliment. Josh wonders if she’d be attracted to him if they weren’t in this situation. But of course, she assures him.

Mega? Mega who?

(J.S./B.W.)

Episode 14 (Saturday, July 22)

If this is the land of opportunity, then Jordan is a model American and Josh is what model Americans have for breakfast. Unencumbered by scruples as always, Jordan has decided that the way to avoid being nominated again is to keep as many of the houseguests as titillated as possible.

In the red room:

“I want intimacy now. And I emphasize now.”

In the bathroom:

“Josh, do you remember last night?”

In reference to “tent night”:

“I think I’m too sexually frustrated to be in such close proximity.”

Her parents must be prouder of her than ever!

But in Jordan’s all-consuming passion for herself, she has overlooked a tiny fact: Nobody likes a ho.

For at least the second time, Jordan floats in the pool (are her legs positively and negatively charged, or what?), free-associating wildly about sex as the boys of the house try to keep their tongues from hanging out. She’s sexually ravenous, she confides. She could be a nymphomaniac, she warns.

The other shut-ins begin to nurse the tiny seeds of discontent that will sprout into ravenous, snapping Venus’ flytraps of hatred for her. As Brittany gazes despairingly at Josh, and Curtis gazes despairingly at Josh, and no one gazes despairingly at Curtis or Brittany, Jordan is beginning to look like the guy in the Quentin Tarantino movie who’s been telling all the stupid jokes and forgetting to keep his voice down.

Cassandra and George spoof an infomercial. This bears mentioning only because we’d like to take this opportunity to ask CBS to refrain from asking the contestants to engage in anything else resembling acting in the future. Please, no more acting assignments. If we wanted acting, we’d watch “Walker, Texas Ranger.” Thank you.

In this environment, Jamie is beginning to distinguish herself as a giant of decorum and restraint. She’s beginning to change our opinion of beauty contests. Eddie gives her a back rub, and predictably starts making moves up the back of her shirt. She’s uncomfortable — even asks Karen if it isn’t inappropriate. Any and all signs of discretion are sure to work in her favor as anti-ho tensions in the “Big Brother” household heat up.

Later, the contestants talk about love:

Josh says, “I think love is caring for someone unconditionally.”

Jordan says, “I don’t believe in unconditional love.”

Brittany says she’s afraid of falling in love.

Jordan says that’s what she thinks about her too.

Curtis sulks because Curtis likes Josh and maybe not just as a friend. We’re beginning to think that when Curtis speculated that Josh was gay, Curtis may have been projecting a little bit.

Josh and Jordan flirt in the bathroom. Jordan gives him a toothpaste-laden kiss. They share a laugh over how everyone thinks that he’s going to get together with Brittany. The fools!

At the end of the show, there’s a lot of madcap bed switching, undoubtedly caused by cuddle-slut Brittany, who’s seen via infrared camera stroking Jamie’s hair in the dark. There’s a strange makeshift lean-to in the living room. Who’s inside? With all the milling around it takes a while before we realize it must be Karen and George!

(C.C./B.W.)

Episode 15 (Monday, July 24)

Brittany turns to sexperts Karen and George for advice on Josh. The cuddling went too far, she confides. She was getting turned on! The camera doesn’t catch George’s reaction to this unappetizing revelation. What in God’s name should she do?

“Don’t stay up late,” says Karen. “And keep a safe distance.”

Preserving Brittany’s virginity is turning out to be a group effort.

Jordan’s helping, too. “I think it’s a full-on love triangle,” she says grimly in the red confessional room. “I’ve got this little devil inside me that wants to antagonize Brittany. I think as long as I’m here Josh and Brittany aren’t going to be hooking up. If I can help it.”

They’re certainly trying: Sprawled across a bed, Josh and Brittany discuss the previous night’s cuddle. Josh: “Did you get hot last night? I got hot!”

Jordan comes in all sweaty from evildoing, and silence descends on the innocent youngsters.

What did Jordan’s proud parents do to her as a toddler, anyway? Strap her to her highchair, prop her eyes open with toothpicks and force her to watch reruns of “Dynasty” and “Dallas” until her gums bled? Where else does one learn such sociopathic bitchery?

Here’s Jordan in the kitchen, toying with Curtis: “My bed is always open to you.”

“Oooh,” says the “not quite convincing as a sexual being” Curtis, “whether it’s vacant or not?”

Jordan, slightly mocking: “Ooooooh, whether it’s vacant or not.”

All Curtis can offer in return is one of his seductive equine laughs.

The next round of expulsions is much on the residents’ active if tiny minds. The group has to make a new pair of banishment nominees on the live show Wednesday. Over the next week the audience, via 99-cent phone calls, will vote to expel one of the two nominated. Eddie reveals his nominating strategy to Brittany during an intimate tjte-`-tjte.

His death list: Jordan, Jamie, Josh — and then the residents whose names don’t begin with the letter J: Curtis and Cassandra. That would leave Eddie, his metaphorical mom and dad (Karen and George) and sister Brittany. Brittany’s fine with that.

Eddie, the good son, says it would be cool for George to be the final resident left standing. “I hope he walks out with the dough.”

“I still want to win, though,” Brittany says quickly.

“Jordan causes too much tension,” Eddie explains. “Jamie could get a soap opera,” he rationalizes.

“Yeah,” says the Minnesota moppet, excited at this strategizing. “And George could get a chicken commercial!”

The group’s new challenge has to do with dominoes. This excruciating development is followed by something almost unspeakable: a mock trial about flag burning, with Curtis (an actual lawyer) and Cassandra as the opposing attorneys. This may be the most pathetic thing ever seen on national television. Together, this group has the brainpower of one very dumb CBS executive.

Later, Karen runs down her hit list as well. Jamie and Curtis — they didn’t stand up to Mega. Cassandra — she doesn’t talk much. She likes Josh, she says, a bit dreamily. Josh now has Jordan, Brittany and Karen panting after him. Not to mention Curtis.

Karen still doesn’t like him, though. “I don’t think Curtis is very deep,” she tells George. The great oaf bobs his head (perfect for a chicken commercial) in docile agreement.

(C.C./B.W.)

Episode 16 (Tuesday, July 25)

Jordan joins Josh by the pool for an intimate late-night passive-aggressive ultimatum. She knows that Josh’s attention is wandering away from her to the less psychotic Brittany.

“I’m not competing with anyone here,” she smiles. “I’m not going to be in a love triangle — because I don’t think Brittany is gonna back off at all. And I don’t want to have any part of that. It’s just not my style.”

Jordan lies the way Karen smokes — with a powerful, almost physical reflex. She’s just trying to mess with poor dim Josh’s head. It’s the intellectual equivalent of kicking around a half-inflated soccer ball, however, and even Jordan’s going to tire of it soon.

Still, it looks like Big Josh and Little Josh are going to have to work out the Brittany-Jordan issue just between the two of them for the time being.

Meanwhile, George cooks chili for Eddie, the son he never had. He tells Cassandra he thinks the boy’s not feeling well because of some leftover problems “inside” from his cancer treatments.

“A person like him wouldn’t tell you if he wasn’t feeling well,” he says.

“If he talks to anyone, it’s gonna be you,” says Cassandra.

George chokes, “I’m just trying to look out for him. He’s a good guy.”

George shuffles around trying not to cry while Eddie lies on the couch being cool about it.

Cassandra and Karen have a heart-to-heart out on the porch. It’s a little prurient, but moms can’t afford to be squeamish about their kids’ sex lives. Even if they’re not really their kids.

After Cassandra asks, “So, what was going on last night?” Karen’s reply suggests that, should her husband refuse to let her back in the house, she would be a great asset to Soap Opera Digest.

“Brittany has feelings for Josh, but she’s really not sure. And Jordan, that night when he [Josh] was drunk, she was coming on to him or whatever. And she was like rubbing his hair or whatever. Then she took him back to the room and whatever and they talked or whatever. And she knows Brittany is spending a lot of time with Josh. And Jordan told Brittany that if there’s a guy someone’s interested in, and she is interested in him too, she’s gonna fight for him.”

Cassandra looks off into the distance, possibly wondering how she came to be in this particular place right then. Karen continues.

“And Jordan told Brittany a few days ago that Josh was sexually frustrated or something.”

Cassandra looks even less pleased. Karen drops her voice.

“So, I have no idea what it’s all about. I just think that the sooner she [i.e., Jordan] leaves, the easier it’s gonna be.”

Then Cassandra conspiratorially drops her voice too. “You know, I don’t have bad feelings, but after that whole episode [unintelligible] with Mega, [unintelligible] there’s no way Jordan was innocent in all of that … ”

Karen: [unintelligible] I think she’s playing everybody in here [unintelligible]. I just hope whoever’s watching isn’t mesmerized by her.

Cassandra: [unintelligible]

Ladies, please. You are not here to be discreet. You are here for our amusement. What’s with the whispering? Kindly speak up.

Wednesday night, the crew must again nominate two of their own for banishment. (The viewing audience then has a week to 86 one of the two via a 99-cent phone-call poll.)

Jordan whines to Curtis that she does not get to talk about herself enough. This can’t be a widely held view in the “Big Brother” household. “I just want to get away,” she says. “I’m constantly hearing Brittany’s yappy yappiness. And I’m not always giddy and happy and fluffy.”

Is she high? “Fluffy” isn’t a word we’d use to describe Jordan under normal circumstances.

“And sometimes I need to talk about things that matter to me,” she continues. “And tomorrow I’m going to get voted out again!” She means she’s going to get nominated again for banishment. Which she is. But again, we can’t see America voting out the house’s randiest resident.

Curtis just smiles his reptilian Colgate smile. Curtis can’t help her. “Suck it up and deal,” says Curtis.

Curtis could have a lucrative and glamorous career as a copywriter some day, he really could.

Meanwhile, back in the darkened bedroom, George confesses his innermost fears to Eddie, who is getting a little bitter because nobody is hitting on him while Josh seems to have everyone but George trying to get into his pants. Eddie’s a little sick of being everyone’s “best friend.”

“Curtis makes me feel stupid when we play cards,” confesses George. “To me it’s just a game. To him it’s like he’s performing open-heart surgery or something. I think he looks down on me ’cause I don’t have a college education.”

This is all because Curtis went to Stanford Law School. Stanford Law School graduates are just like Harvard Law School graduates, except their sense of entitlement is replaced by insecurity. They end up taking it out on the nearest roofer.

Eddie is not aware of the sociological origins of Curtis’ cruelty. But he generously volunteers to kick Curtis’ ass. This would improve the show immensely. George thinks about it but declines the offer.

Eddie, though he is lying down, still doesn’t take this lying down. “You’re better than everybody in this house,” he rages. “My vote just changed.”

(C.C./B.W.)

Episode 17 (Wednesday, July 26)

It’s the weekly live banishment show. The house is nominating two new candidates for expulsion.

Thanks to a refreshing lack of attention from the ladies, Eddie has plenty of time to study the big picture: “Jamie, Curtis, Josh and Jordan are on one side and Karen, George, Brittany and I are on the other,” Eddie says. “Cassandra’s floating in the middle. It’s all going to come down to fours.”

But — who really cares about Eddie? “Big Brother” is all about Josh — or Joshu-aaah! as we like to think of him.

“Maybe I’m being sensitive, but I just get this vibe,” Brittany whispers to a concerned Jamie. “Maybe he just does it to everybody, but I always bust him looking at me.”

Cut to Josh showing Jordan his ass.

The residents dress up like a glam-rock band. George, his hair tied up and glitter on his face, chases Josh around the yard. George has now symbolically joined the We Pant for Josh Corps. Charter members are Jordan, Brittany, Curtis and Karen.

We personally find the charms of lumpy Josh strangely resistible.

Now, pay attention: Brittany tells Jamie that Jordan told Brittany that Jordan and Josh discussed the sexual tension between them but decided to ignore it out of respect for Jordan’s boyfriend.

“What Josh wants is to hook up with the first person who has an open door,” says Brittany-as-Jordan. She ponders the implications of this. “And since she has a boyfriend, well then it’ll have to be me. I’m second best.”

If Jordan still has a boyfriend it’s because someone tied him to the radiator or he doesn’t have a TV. Jordan just likes to go around making other women feel bad about themselves.

Also some men. For the nomination hour, Jordan dresses up like a goateed man in a T-shirt with the legend “MODELS SUCK.” (It’s unclear how she managed to get the shirt made in the house — are the “Big Brother” producers supplying the residents with props?)

The shirt is meant to antagonize Eddie (who has a German girlfriend who’s a model), and therefore George, Karen and Brittany. Soon, the whole house will rise up in defense of oppressed models everywhere.

And all because she can’t hang. She just needs too much maintenance. We now know why Jordan is a stripper. It’s a way to get people to pay attention to her.

Meanwhile, back in the studio, Julie Chen tries to banter with the residents through a closed-circuit connection, but fails miserably, just as she did last week. Chen is obviously taking guidance from no doubt ever-more-exasperated instructions through an earpiece, and is plainly incapable of dealing with the distraction.

She brings on Dr. Drew Pinsky to uncover the origins of Brittany’s quest for cuddling. Could her libido be driving it? Dr. Drew says he thinks it’s healthy. What Pinsky does find interesting is Karen’s thing for Josh. We do too.

And now it’s time for the nominations:

Jordan nominates Eddie for his greed, sloth, profanity and flatulence, and Karen for being too domineering.

Josh nominates Curtis because “he has the most to gain from being out of house,” and George for having accomplished a break from his stolid small-town life. Now go home.

Episode 17, continued

Curtis nominates Karen because she can’t roll with things and Eddie because he’s as dumb as a bag of rocks.

Cassandra goes after Jordan and, strangely, Eddie, on the grounds that he’s “acting out” and that he hurt Karen’s feelings. The provenance of this feeling is unclear — we thought Karen loved Eddie.

Jamie rolls dice, nominates Eddie and Curtis.

Brittany nominates Jordan for “no specific reason” and … uuuuuuuum … Curtis.

Eddie bings Jordan (of course). Last week Eddie promised to kick Curtis’ ass. He settles on nominating him for banishment.

George, as predicted, nails Jordan for wearing the shirt and hurting Eddie. In the show’s most genuinely poignant moment yet, he explains why his second vote goes to Curtis: “He didn’t let me double-dip the taco chip in the salsa. At home everybody just dips the chip and that’s the end of it.”

Karen nominates Jordan for not working well in the group; also Curtis.

As the residents lounge around the living room, Chen delivers the news: Jordan and Curtis are the big losers. The show’s viewing audience votes over the next week to jettison one of the two.

Since Jordan has given America many reasons to believe that on any given day she might a) strip, b) become a lesbian or c) do Josh, we think she’s safe. Curtis is going to be history. After he gets thrown out he can think about turning in his double-dipping patrol squad badge.

“This isn’t funny now, you guys,” says Jordan when she hears the news. “I want know who nominated me. I want know now.” This is a joke — that’s what she said last week.

No one laughs. “All right, let’s do dinner,” says Curtis. Everyone gets up quickly. He just says he doesn’t want people acting weird around him for the next week as they await the result of the audience vote. Or at least any weirder, we suppose he means.

Later, Josh walks by the bedroom as Jordan takes off the offending garment. “Hey!” she calls out.

“Hey,” he says. “Are you taking off your clothes?”

Not only is Josh cute, you see, but he knows how to talk to the ladies.

“I’ve never seen abs like that on a girl before.”

“I’m not even in very good shape,” Jordan replies demurely.

They go into the bathroom, Jordan’s lair. “And I have a guy’s facial structure,” Jordan says as she washes off her beard. Josh grabs and dips her.

“You are a little, little man,” says Josh, in what he imagines is a seductive French accent. “A sexy little man.”

Is this what they mean in the theme song when they sing, “Feel the thrill of life and don’t be afraid”?

Because we are.

(C.C./B.W.)

Episode 18 (Thursday, July 27)

Many years ago, in the earlier days of the Internet, the pop-music sectors of America Online were largely devoted to the antics of Courtney Love. “AOL is great,” she once said. “It’s like a video game about me.

Jordan, the sex tease and former stripper with an almost Napoleonic talent for troublemaking and manipulation, now has a soap opera about her. It’s called “Big Brother.”

The big news is that Brittany, Jordan and Jamie go in and confront Josh about his lowdown dirty ways.

It starts with Jordan and Brittany, the Minneapolis moppet, whispering in the living room late at night, with comely Jamie, dozing, curled up around Brittany and Josh passed out on a neighboring couch.

What seems to happen is that both come to the realization that Josh has been making time with each of them — and denigrating the other woman in the process!

But what’s really happening is that Jordan, who knew all of this already, is letting Brittany in on the news in as harsh a way as possible. She does it by making it clear to her that Josh said he was attracted to Jordan sexually, but not Brittany.

This gets Brittany going: “I’m never gonna find a soul mate, I’m a virgin!” she says tearfully. “I get so tied of being everyone’s buddy, always being the clown.”

Brittany, you have orange hair and blue fingernails. You think you’re straight but you’re a virgin at 25 and you’re dry humping another woman on the couch. You are a clown!

The two discuss Josh’s lies and infidelities. Jordan says, “I don’t like people like that.” Of course, that’s exactly the type of person she is.

The next day, Brittany tells Karen the mom what’s going on. “Josh has totally been playing us. We’re going to confront him in front of everybody.”

Karen, of course, knows exactly what the true story is: Jordan is the root of all evil. “How do you know she’s telling the truth?” she asks Brittany. But Brittany’s not listening.

This puts poor Karen in a quandary because she hasn’t come to terms with her own feelings for Josh. (It is a mystery why virtually everyone in the house gets all tingly when the cloddish Josh is around.) Visibly upset, Karen immediately tells Cassandra and Curtis about the impending scene so Josh won’t be publicly humiliated. They all decide to have no part of it.

There follows a priceless entr’acte in Jordan’s HQ (the bathroom), in which she and Curtis discuss being the designated banishees for the week. Curtis knows his days are numbered. (As we mentioned yesterday, the audience isn’t going to let Jordan off the show while there’s a chance she’s going make herself available for sexual relations with anyone, male or female.) Jordan, who has no shame, bemoans the possibility of her “good friend” Curtis being banished.

“I get along with Josh but I think it’s ’cause he wants to sleep with me,” she confides.

“How do you know I don’t want to sleep with you?” asks Curtis, going for broke.

Jordan — did we mention Jordan used to be a stripper? — handles lines like this without even registering them. “I think our connection is a bit deeper than that,” she says.

Curtis didn’t know that.

Jordan thinks, correctly, that the other residents don’t like her and aren’t going to like her any more as the weeks go by. “Why,” she says, “I can see me being nominated every time.”

It is a giddy vision. A TV show, all about her!

Finally, the women go after Josh — Jamie, Brittany and Jordan gang up on him in a dark bedroom. (As with all dark scenes, we see the action through infrared cameras.)

Josh’s way of coping is just to interrupt, ask dumb questions and put his head under a pillow, ostrich-like.

“Our issue is that you’re trying to bag both of us,” Jordan says.

Josh: “OK, that’s the issue?”

“And you’ve been downplaying the other person.”

Josh: “Downplaying by doing what?”

“I’m not trying to be a bitch,” Brittany says.

“I don’t want to be an asshole,” says Josh quickly, “and I’ll just stay in here and mind my own business. I’ve been in these situations before.”

Actually, we kind of doubt that.

Josh is emasculated. Jordan’s mission is accomplished. Brittany won’t be losing her virginity to Josh, at least this week. And now Jordan can go back to sexually tormenting the boy to her heart’s content.

Karen remains all in a tizzy about it, however. She knows he’s been in the lion’s den, a.k.a. Jordan’s den. To her adoptive son, Eddie, she says, “You would have been chewed up and spit out.” (The implication is that Josh is tougher than Eddie, but that’s kind of what happened to Josh.)

Back inside, Brittany cuddles with Curtis. The scene would be more idyllic if she hadn’t voted to banish him 24 hours previously.

Curtis the milquetoast has a theory as to why he was named for banishment. “I refuse to kiss ass,” he says. That’s what we think too. Curtis: The Defiant One.

Karen, still exercised at Josh’s crucifixion, gets him alone in a room and warns him that bad girls will give him diseases that will fester, create pus and eventually lead to the amputation of his genitals.

Well, not in so many words, but that was the basic gist.

Josh confides to Karen that he’s really interested in Jamie!

It’s the last thing in the world she wants to hear.

(B.W.)

Episode 19 (Friday, July 29)

After nearly a week’s worth of Jordan’s power-plays for Josh’s affections and all the ensuing romantic chaos, we seem to have hit a lull. This episode only touches on all that intrigue, generating drama instead from a prop dropped out of the Red Room by meddlesome “Big Brother” overlords.

The show starts off with a brief shot of meathead Josh in the Red Room. He’s angry with Jordan, he says, because she treated the Brittany-Jordan-Josh triangle as a competition, and her conniving ways shut the whole thing down. “I just think that’s kind of mean,” he says. His minor epiphany is too little (his dormouse-sized brain is not capable of appreciating the grand scope of Jordan’s manipulations) and too late. Again, he tells us that he’s really interested in Jamie, the milky Miss Washington. Josh thinks this is a romantic tragedy of some note. In his head, the theme from “Titanic” is playing: “No one in the house has any clue about me and Jamie,” he says. (Indeed, Jamie herself would be mighty surprised.) But Josh realizes that after his public branding as a horndog he’s effectively been unmanned for the duration. (At least until Jordan decides to take pity on him.) We’re glad we’re not Josh.

Later, a tearful Jordan holds court with Jamie in her office. (The bathroom.) Her latest crisis involves Curtis. She and Curtis were marked for banishment on Wednesday, and they’re both feeling the pressure. (The audience is voting this week, and the actual banishee, who will probably be Curtis, will be announced on this Wednesday’s show.) Turns out that Curtis said Jordan didn’t have any control of her emotions, and that her behavior on banishment-nomination night was ugly. (Jordan dressed up like a guy and wore a T-shirt that said “MODELS SUCK” to piss off Eddie, whose girlfriend is a model.)

Let’s recap: Jordan has no control of her emotions, and exhibits ugly behavior. There’s nothing remotely controversial about those two contentions, but they’re enough for Jordan to get, well, ugly again. “At least I have feelings,” she says nastily. “I know that when he goes home he’s going to have a meltdown,” she continues, as if this were a bad thing. Jordan, by contrast, has several breakdowns a day, each one for an audience of 20 million people. “I feel like I shouldn’t even be here,” she confesses.

There’s a water-balloon toss during the middle of the day. The blue team wins. This is unimportant, however, because the blue team wins nothing. The most appalling thing about the sequence is the accompanying slap-bass music. It sounds like a porn soundtrack. Wah-wah-wah. A week ago, the New York Times ran an article about the crappy design of the house and its furnishings. The article wondered if viewers would tune out because it was just so ugly, so hard to watch. Well, sure, the masks hanging on the wall are disturbing, and the lighting recalls the institutional glow that you used to get when you could smoke in line at the DMV, but the music is the worst. CBS spent $20 million securing the rights for the show from the satanic European company that originally developed it. Apparently, about 20 bucks were left over for the music, which went to a yahoo working out of his parents house in the San Fernando Valley with an outdated keyboard and a bank of canned samples. Don’t even get us started on that stupid saxophone riff.

After a commercial, the shut-ins work a bit on the tedious challenge of creating the “Big Brother” logo out of 11,000 colored dominoes on a massive table. Cassandra, the calm United Nations p.r. person, is working hard, but she’s tired and knocks over a good chunk of the work done thus far. She takes a break, comes back to the table to try to help out again and knocks over another section.

No one says anything to her, but you can tell from the darting looks that they want to. Cassandra is in that small minority of house residents (along with Jamie and George) who have thus far maintained some semblance of self-respect, so anyone coming down on her would look very, very small. Still, when it comes to choosing sides for our next domino competition, you can have Cassandra on your team.

In the next scene, Eddie hands an envelope from Big Brother to George. It contains letters and drawings from his children. George bawls. He reads the letter aloud to the room. His teenage daughter sends her love, makes fun of his clothes and tells him that the family has already started spending the prize money. The note, and George’s teary performance, sets off a chain reaction of dewy eyes in the room.

It seems to us that Big Brother is playing a little loose with the rules. The premise of the show is to trap 10 people in a house and remove all forms of outside contact: no radio, no TV, no Internet. The producers should stick to that, even at the price of a few scenes of TV-friendly pathos. (Karen, remember, never got to read that pathetic letter her husband wrote to her.)

Josh is shaken by George’s mail. He finds a bed and falls face first in a welter of tears. Brittany rushes to his side, strokes his arm and presses her breasts to his back. “It’s OK to cry,” she says. Although seemingly incapacitated by sentiment, Josh suddenly realizes the position he’s in. If Jordan catches him in a dark room with Brittany he’s dead. He’ll also blow his chance with Jamie. He jumps up and bolts like a rabbit.

The show ends with Jordan commiserating with Curtis about being picked for banishment again. She hits him with full rhetorical force: “Have I just totally fucked up or something?” she asks. “I’m just being me. But everyone seems to think that’s, like, so bad, you know. Like, I’m just so bad being me. And I think, Am I? Do I suck?”

Jordan, don’t make us answer those questions.

(J.S./B.W.)

Episode 20 (Saturday, July 29)

CBS is trying to spice up the hour-long Saturday show — half-recap of the events of the week, half new footage — by adding new scenes to the recap half. What’s the point of that? So we see Brittany telling Karen that if she decides to leave her husband she and her kids can come live with her! (Brittany owns a condo in Minneapolis.)

The rest of it hits a new low of “Big Brother” tediousness. Too much of it is all about Brittany: the virgin, the clown, the Minneapolis moptop.

At the start, the women sit around and talk babies. Jamie, the beauty queen and valedictorian, says she wants lots — and to adopt even more. This horrifies Brittany: “I’ll just stay a virgin,” she chirps.

In the red confessional room, Brittany talks about Jordan. She’s finally beginning to grasp Jordan’s malevolence, in the manner of a mouse suddenly realizing she’s living in close proximity to a cat. “Knowing that she’s got this little vindictive mean streak in her I don’t feel safe being completely open with her,” Brittany says. “I don’t think she’d ever have my best interests in mind.”

In a group encounter session in the living room, Brittany shares: “I thought I was going to come in here and it would be, like, self exploration and [I could] figure out what my passions were and figure out what kind of job I wanted, and I haven’t at all!” she says brightly.

But, she says, giving a glimpse again of the tears beneath that clown’s face, “I don’t miss my life at all; I dont want to go back to how it was. There’s really nothing in 25 years that I’ve made for myself that really matters; so how happy am I?”

Then we’re forced to watch Brittany and Josh, still recovering from Jordan’s manipulative triumph of the week before, try to explain themselves to each other in a bedroom tjte-`-tjte. “I know I made a mistake,” says Josh, unconvincingly. “I want to be what I planned on being: the halfway decent guy I know I can be.” That’s what we like about Josh: He sets realistic goals for himself.

Brittany: “I want to believe you, but do I believe you because I believe you or because I want to?” Brittany’s quoting from her dog-eared copy of “Koans for Dummies.”

Then Josh ruins everything by bringing up Jamie again: “If me and Jamie ever had anything it would be outside of the house.” We think so, too: On the day before hell freezes over.

Eddie’s ruminating about himself as well, lounging in the pool, with Jamie leading a sympathetic ear. He’s beating to death a metaphor about what personal qualities he packed along with him for the “Big Brother” ordeal: “I do have a really caring side,” he says. “I left that at home. I brought the ability to handle exile, totally loneliness. So I can’t get damaged.” Eddie is a strong silent type in the Western of his mind.

“The part I brought — the arsenal I brought with me — I can grow and add on to,” he continues. “I brought my mind, I brought my observant qualities: my ability to stop, sit back in my chair and watch people. I brought my ingenuity.”

Eddie obviously has a saddlebag or two he hasn’t unpacked yet.

The group finishes setting up the dominoes. They all fall as they’re supposed to. Another flop of an achievement.

The last scene is a horrifying one: Half the household is up carousing and drinking at 4 a.m. Eddie hops into the bedroom to rouse George. Then we’re forced to watch Eddie, Josh and Curtis drink beers and talk about women, complete with burping, drunken accents and exaggerated gestures. To make things worse, Josh isn’t wearing a shirt.

Curtis on Jordan: “I think she’s physically hot and she’s pretty fun and pretty cool.” It’s amazing how you have a Stanford law degree and still be a freakin’ fool. The three then close the show va-va-vooming about Jamie and riotously discussing masturbating in the garden.

(B.W.)

Episode 21 (Monday, July 31)

After a week of somniferous ambivalence and puddle-deep attempts at soul-searching, the housemates have finally hit on something:

Monday night shall henceforth be known as the dawn of the Jordan Paradox.

The Jordan Paradox posits that a) Nobody likes a ho, but b) Nobody will vote a ho off the show.

Jamie appears to be the first to have identified the paradox and grasp its awesome power. Whether she herself will be able to harness that power remains to be seen. “Jordan is going to naked trampoline into the pool,” she intones in announcer voice. The pair are confabbing in one of the bedrooms.

“Tell America that,” replies Jordan. “Maybe they’ll keep me here.”

“And if she’s still here for the next nomination,” Jamie continues, “You’ll see her in a white stripper thong and two Band-Aids.”

“I’ll totally do that,” laughs Jordan weakly, realizing she’s being mocked.

Both are just beginning to grasp the implications of the Jordan Corollary: A ho, no matter how intriguing at first, can get really old fast.

A side-effect of the Jordan paradox is that, suddenly, the shut-ins seem to have realized en masse that only the sexually provocative will survive. Suddenly, the kids are going nuts.

The scene is an unappetizing all-night barbecue beer bash. It turns out that the only thing worse that being at such an event is watching one live on TV.

Curtis has forsaken Jesus in favor of Jordan, cigarettes and beer. Tragically, it’s too little too late for Curtis — unless he manages to coax Jamie and Brittany into a threesome, he’s marked for banishment on Wednesday.

Brittany, too, realizes that her virginity is starting to suffer from that not-so-fresh feeling. So, she lap dances for the newly nihilistic Curtis, who brays, “I am so unemployed when this is done!” (Then she lap dances for Karen, but we’d prefer not to discuss it.)

In fact, as the night progresses it becomes clear that this is indeed Satan’s barbecue, because everyone is approaching debauchery without a backward glance. Josh smokes cigarettes and feigns homosexuality. Eddie pours beer all over himself and jumps in the pool.

Finally, the revelers contemplate bed. Brittany emerges from under the covers with Josh on the sofa — and soon, after a brief consultation with Karen, crawls back in. Josh strokes her head.

“I want to be mad at you,” Brittany coos.

“I know,” says Josh, who has been in this situation before.

“I want to not to like you,” says Brittany, wanting very much for him to like her.

“I know,” says Josh, knowing.

Later, Cassandra and Eddie discuss the similarities between Monica, Eddie’s German model girlfriend, and Carrie Nation. Lips that touch liquor shall never touch Monica’s — or so she keeps threatening. (Monica wants Eddie to love her soooooo much that he will require no other amusements.) Eddie and George start brewing their own beer.

“I don’t even know if I like him or if it’s this dysfunctional house,” squeaks lost little moppet Brittany to Jordan.

“Just follow your feelings,” Jordan advises.

“This house just screws with your head,” Brittany says. It certainly seems to. Imagine Brittany turning to Jordan for love advice.

But Brittany’s getting crafty as well. Josh has been talking a little too loudly about his admiration for Jamie. Rather pathetically, Brittany figures she’ll procure her for Eddie. “It would be so cute,” she says, if Jamie and Eddie got together.

“They are opposites,” says Karen.

“Way too opposite,” says Eddie

“Look at each other and don’t smile,” says Brittany, who really needs for this to happen.

Later, she grabs Eddie, “You totally have a crush on Jamie.”

But wishing will not make it so.

Jamie tells Cassandra she sees a bloc forming and doesn’t like it. Because Jamie’s not in it for money. Jamie is trying to think about big picture, and how she’ll look when she gets out. Hating yourself in the morning is going to have nothing on hating yourself when “Big Brother” is over.

(C.C.)

Episode 22 (Tuesday, August 1)

If Monday unleashed the uninhibited party animal in everybody, Tuesday ties it once again to the fence. Tuesday is hangover day, day of atonement. Everyone is feeling a little sensitive, a little melancholy, one day closer to the vast, untelevised void. The roommates turn inwards and start asking themselves the important questions:

Cassandra: “What is the purpose of the love-bed?”

“I sleep better when I’m with someone else,” Brittany says. “There’s something about a chest, a heartbeat, breathing … ”

“Absolutely,” says Jordan. It’s difficult for Jordan to be in a conversation, because by definition it means that there are times when she’s not talking. “I’m learning to be more affectionate with both sexes, especially women.”

This is perhaps not something Jordan needs to learn more about.

“The whole affectionate thing — we didn’t have that,” Cassandra says flatly. “At home we didn’t have all this touchy-feely stuff.”

Right, neither did Jordan.

“I don’t want to be all over someone all the time,” Cassandra continues.

Wait, does she mean … ?

“If I’m going out with a guy, I’m like, don’t touch me!”

Um, okay, nobody knows what she’s talking about. An awkward pause, then:

“I’m aware that my need and desire for touch is not the norm,” ventures Brittany, the cuddle slut.

“Oh, it’s definitely the norm,” says Jordan, once again dashing the purple-haired one’s dreams of specialness. Poor Brittany. Weird was supposed to be her niche!

“But I know that I, personally, couldn’t separate it from sex,” Jordan continues. “Plus I know how it would look to the masses, and I totally don’t want to go there.”

The masses, indeed. Jordan has started thinking about her public persona, and shrewdly adjusted her behavior to please a larger demographic. Unfortunately, she’s realizing this after having been on national TV for three weeks. We know that she is Jordan, Queen of Evil.

Brittany doesn’t seem to have given the masses much thought. Brittany suffers from the delusion that they’ve all moved in together for good.

Brittany is headed for some major disappointment, and it will be satisfyingly crushing.

There’s a wacky exercise collage — Jordan, Curtis, Jamie and Josh work it on out. George pads by in the background like a hibernating bear.

Later, in a back-porch confab, Brittany tells everyone about Jordan’s strip club, where she once went. Apparently, there are cages and stages.

“Were you on a stage or in a cage?” she asks Jordan.

Both, says Jordan, But that’s not what’s important. What’s important are the sex-positive clichis:

“I was excited about exploring my sexuality and exploring this industry.”

“It was empowering to me as a woman.”

“It’s degrading but also empowering.”

“It’s liberating to be on a stage.”

“When I quit, I went through withdrawal.”

Jordan reminds everyone again that she’s “writing a book.”

Whatever. Time for heart-break and degradation!

Episode 22 (continued)

Brittany tries to engage Josh in a heart-to-heart and Josh reveals that he doesn’t really care about school (or anyone) as much as he cares about how his “Big Brother” exposure might help him in a career in the entertainment industry.

Josh is, in fact, considering not returning to school to complete the six months he has left for his engineering degree. It turns out there’s a Gandhian side to him. He always thought of himself as someone who would do something “good for a lot of people.” This has evolved slightly, and now he’s thinking of being a VJ.

“I can’t wait to hang out with people outside the house,” Brittany chirps.

“Oh, I think it’ll happen,” says Josh. “Once or twice.”

Brittany’s face crumbles so fast it looks as though an engineer may have to be called, but she puts herself back together without a degree.

“You don’t think we’ll keep in contact?”

“I think so, but we won’t see each other very often because we all lead very busy lives.”

Brittany tries a) to think of a single thing she has to do when she gets home and b) not to cry.

She goes off to the bathroom so she can talk to herself in pretend private and recite Minneapolitan morale boosters. “Don’t freak oat,” she tells herself as she brushes her teeth. “You’re a human bean.”

Later, by the pool, Karen breaks the news to her: “He’s not attracted to either one of you. He just wants Jamie.”

Later that night, in bed with Karen, Brittany calls herself “pathetic” and “a boob.” Karen disagrees. “You are a very special person. Don’t settle for anything less than what you are.”

If it weren’t so pathetic, it’d be pretty sad.

Tuesday’s challenge is hosting a “roast” for Jordan and Curtis. Surprise! Everyone delivers bad jokes. It’s not clear, but it seems like Big Brother provided the material.

Brittany to Jordan: “I thought you were a pole dancer, not a bipolar dancer.”

Cassandra to Jordan: “Jordan has been using the red room so much that Big Brother is renaming it the Red Room Lounge.”

Ba-dum-pum.

The show ends with Jordan and Josh discussing how straight he is. Man, is he straight. He’s so straight, that if he goes to visit her in Minnesota, and she doesn’t have a boyfriend, they’ll stay in a lot.

But what will the masses think?

(C.C.)

Episode 23 (Wednesday, Aug. 2)

It’s the Wednesday live episode. Here’s a funny thing: America is allowed to vote out either Jordan the manipulative stripper or Curtis the soulless lawyer, but we’re not allowed to do anything about Julie Chen, the cue-card-toting vacuous CBS hostette, whose very name is a synonym for expendability. There is something wrong here.

We see a patient Cassandra, in a taped segment, warning Karen, who hates Jordan, why the audience will probably not vote her out. “I can’t believe that!” Karen exclaims. We’re with the gentle Cassandra.

We get a collage of Jordan’s greatest hits. She’s nominated for banishment for the second time, and we see why: Shots of Jordan the schemer, the liar, the jerk, the creep, the sex tease. And, of course, we get the greatest hit of all, her darkened-room clutch of Josh the stud as she moans, “My sex drive is, like, going crazy right now!” Mostly it gives us another reminder that virtually everything Jordan says isn’t true.

Curtis gets a profile as well. We would provide a pricis, but frankly we’ve forgotten what exactly was in it. At one point, we seem to recall, he says, “How many [aired] clips will I get? I’m just whatever.”

Whatever.

The group is assembled in the living room, listening patiently to Chen’s halting, discombulated intros. She calls Curtis into the red room — what does that mean? Turns out he’s just lugging out a cake for Jordan’s birthday. It even has a picture of her on it. “It makes me look like Beavis,” she says.

George, we notice, has a really bad haircut.

Dopey Julie, in the studio, talks to Jordan’s dopey boyfriend, who says he hopes Jordan gets voted out so he can spend her birthday with her. He doesn’t seem to have been watching the show.

Then Chen reveals the banishee — to us, but not yet the residents.

Your faithful show encapsulators have explained in the past in some detail and with no little persuasiveness why Curtis would be banished by audience vote, and not Jordan: Countering Jordan’s numerous negative qualities is her sexual availability, and the fact that of all the residents she seemed to understand that all she had to do was act like a ho and America would never, ever vote her out of the house.

And did we mention that she was a stripper?

As H.L. Mencken once noted, America is a curious place. We’ll never know whether the audience didn’t want Jordan because she might have taken her clothes off any moment, or was mad at her because over the course of a month she hadn’t yet done so. But as it turns out, she is given the boot by a massive four-to-one margin.

Episode 23 (continued)

Chen turns to Dr. Drew Pinsky, a once-a-week visitor to the show, who says he was hella surprised. He says what we think: Far from craving controversy, the audience is gunning for anyone who creates instability in the house. “There are a lot of women tuning in, ” Pinsky says. “They don’t like it when people create instability.” It also might point out a flaw in the network’s banishment methodology: The fact that it costs 99 cents to vote means that those who do must be strongly motivated. It might turn out that dislike of certain residents will poll more strongly than competing desires, like to see residents boffing.

But there’s some consolation, Pinsky says. Curtis the cipher is coming to terms with himself. “Curtis is opening up,” he promises brightly. We’re not sure if that’s good news.

Chen talks to the residents, whom we see on a big TV screen. “If you look like Beavis,” Chen says to Jordan, “then I look like Butt-head.”

No, you are a butt-head, Julie.

She gives Jordan the bad news. Everyone is very quiet. Jordan hugs everyone with a fixed smile on her face, grabs her bags and says bye. She’s escorted to the Big Brother interview room, greets her boyfriend (“I missed you so bad!”) and faces off against Chen.

The hostette displays some of her big-network interviewing skills:

“You’re feeling kinda, uh … ?”

CBS shows a few clips of Jordan’s strip club, and catches Jordan in a few new lies. She told residents in the house she had quit stripping, but everyone at her club says she said she was coming back. She still has a locker there. Now she says she’s not going back.

Her flirting, she says, was innocent. She would never have shtupped Josh.

She’s also canny enough to mention repeatedly that America’s opinion about her depends on “how it’s all edited.” She brings this up a couple of times — it’s obvious that that’s going to be her rationalizing tactic. For the record, it’s specious. She’s trying to conflate editing with scene choices. Sure CBS could have chosen other scenes — like shots of her sleeping, when her behavior would have presumably come across as less sociopathic. “What about the several times a day I told the truth?” she seemed to be saying.

Chen asks her if she would pose for Playboy. “We talked about it,” Jordan concedes. “I would consider just about everything.” But even in this venue her nose starts to grow. “I’d say the chances are close to none,” she continues, as if she’d hadn’t just said the opposite. “I haven’t thought about it.”

But wait — didn’t you just say you had?

(B.W.)

Episode 24 (Thursday, Aug. 3)

Everyone knows at least one girl who can’t be bothered to flick on her personality switch unless there’s a guy around. Her name is Auntie Tom and she’s a traitor. She favors male friends, tells them secrets girls have told her, seduces guys her friends have crushes on and generally divides by conquering.

Jordan, we hardly knew ye — but we know your type.

We also know what happens when your type takes a hike. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief and human relations resume their natural, time-tested course:

Girls against boys, just as the good Lord intended.

Karen is mad at George for being rude and insensitive. (At the Jordan roast the other night, George had been noisy and hadn’t listened to Karen’s jokes.)

She’s also mad at Eddie for being hypocritical and insensitive. (Eddie was too nice to that slut Jordan — and then publicly said Jordan could come stay at his house some day, when he knows that any involvement with the likes of her would inevitably end him up syphilitic and in the gutter.)

Cassandra thinks they’ve both behaved like immature kids.

“You know how guys are, Karen,” she says. (We do! We do!) “They’re so oblivious.”

(Uninhibited late night girl-talk, repressed during the brutal Jordan regime, follows.)

Jamie is really bothered by Josh’s declaring his interest in her after having been confronted by Jordan and Brittany.

Brittany, still smarting from Josh’s tacit rejection, feels icky. Like, she feels “totally stupid and icky.” And her feelings are hurt.

Karen’s feelings are hurt because Brittany’s feelings are hurt.

While the two hug, cuddle and exchange reassurances and nonsense, we allow our minds to hope it will create new possibilities for intrigue.

Is Brittany — gay? Let’s see, a 25-year old “technical” virgin also denies being “some sort of Lewinsky” and chooses as her love interest the most unattainable guy in the house.

We turn to the Magic 8-ball for answers.

“You may rely on it,” says the 8-ball.

Is — Karen gay? Well, she hates her husband and left her real home and daughters to cuddle in front of millions with a 25-year-old surrogate sex partner who demonstrates a complete lack of interest in penises.

“Signs point to yes,” 8-ball confirms.

Things have clearly changed with Jordan’s departure. A seismic shift has occurred.

“The men in this house,” says Cassandra, shaking her head.

“There should just be girls here,” sighs Karen.

Episode 24 (continued)

Speaking of George’s relevance, is he still quite sane? (“Outlook not so good.”) He’s suddenly given to high-volume late-night monologues to the backyard cameras, accusing “Big Brother” of using the roast to set him up and precipitate his demise.

Of course, George would never actually say “precipitate” or “demise.” “If I’m gone, you guys are gonna miss the old man around here,” he yells to the heavens or the show’s producers. “If me and Eddie were gone, this place would be pretty damn stale.”

Poor George. It’s going to be hard to live that one down. In fact, if we had two dollars, we’d vote both of their marginal, peripheral asses off the show right now. Unless —

Is George gay? Why is he so obsessed with Eddie? Does anyone really buy this “son he never had” stuff? When did his voice get so high and shrill? He makes our pets leave the room.

Later, Karen confronts George about the roast incident. He didn’t listen, didn’t let anybody talk and was disrespectful to her. “Oh, that’s all right,” says George. “I’ll just sleep outside tonight.”

“Yeah, right!” snorts Karen, visibly shaken at the thought. “Like we sleep in the same bed.”

Their kids must be psyched. And proud.

“Anyway,” says George, “I thought that’s what a roast was — like the Dean Martin thing where everyone yells and screams at one another.”

“You’re thinking of Jerry Springer,” says Karen.

Eddie calls Jamie over.

“How pissed is Karen?”

Jamie suggests he ask Karen.

“Whatever. I’m just looking out for my boy.”

OK. Is — um — Eddie gay? We don’t think so either. But you never know.

Later, Karen gripes to Eddie about George’s scary “Single White Female” tendency to copy her every move. First it was befriending Eddie, then taking care of the chickens, then cooking —

She speculates darkly that it may be a devious “Gaslight”-esque plot on his part to drive her crazy. “What’s he trying to do?” Karen whines. “Get me out of here?”

“Mimicry is the greatest flattery,” says wise Eddie. “I would take it more as a compliment than a threat. George wants to be like you, that’s what I see.”

Then Eddie thinks for a second.

“I mean, maybe, I mean maybe he’s a mastermind … ” They ponder this possibility.

Nah.

But Karen confronts George anyway, and George gets even shriller and stranger than he was earlier, and it becomes hard to understand him, and harder still to come up with a reason to try.

As Karen speaks, George sits on the grass barefoot, looking at his sandals. Then he starts pounding them with a hammer. With his weird haircut he looks and acts like a recent electroshock recipient. The pair joke about hating each other. Maybe they are in love, because later, Karen runs into the bathroom sobbing, filled with regret over the mean things she said about the old man.

Brittany follows her into the stall. It is a truly eerie scene — a camera focussed on a toilet, as two figures, crowding to get out of the lens’ sight, huddle in the corner and exchange teary whispers.

“Do you miss your family?” asks Brittany. Karen doesn’t even dignify that with a reply. What is she, nuts?

“I just want to get out of here. I just can’t deal. I said things about George and Josh and it’s just not me.”

Eddie hugs her as she comes out of the bathroom and tells her he loves her.

After dinner, Karen says she “made something out of nothing and it’s so ignorant.” Karen feels better. Karen shuts up, everyone feels better. And after dinner they gather by the pool, just like a real family, to share stories and bash Jordan.

George recalls how she liked to stand right by the cameras, naked.

Brittany remembers Jordan standing around nude and rubbing lotion all over her breasts. “Then she put on her stripper thong and danced.” If this is true, CBS is exercising more discretion in its scene choices than we suspected.

The group debates whether Jordan’ll appear in Playboy or go back to stripping.

“You may rely on it,” says the 8-ball.

Later, Brittany tells Josh she felt a negative energy around Jordan once she got to know her. Josh replies that he felt it before they even spoke. “It’ll be different without her now,” he says — and it’s hard to tell whether that’s regret, satisfaction or total indifference in his voice.

But he’s right. It’s already different. The show closes with a buff, young, half-naked twentysomething preening in front of a mirror as imitation sexy music plays in the background. Some weird activity transpires involving a finger, some saliva and a nipple. And, guess what? It’s not Jordan. It’s Josh.

Um — is he gay?

(C.C.)

Episode 25 (Friday, Aug. 4)

After a month in the house, the boys seem to be devolving. Josh offers a money-back guarantee to all comers. And Eddie lets it all hang out.

“The hard part is that there’s nobody in the house that fights. There’s nobody in the house that causes ripples.” That’s mannered Cassandra at the top of the show on why voting the next two people out will be painful for her, but she might as well be channeling the Big Brother producers, who, without a loud-mouthed asshole stirring up the shut-ins or a mildly psychotic, self-absorbed stripper to sexually terrorize the household, have found themselves with seven bland non-personalities skipping rope and chasing each other around the backyard.

That might explain all of the dirty talk. On the edited, half-hour episodes, sex is everywhere but the bedroom. Not real sex, of course, but talking about sex. To start with, 25-year-old virgin Brittany tells jockish Josh and Edie the mook that someday, when she actually does have sex, she’ll “be going all out.” We’d rather not entertain the thought.

Brittany’s playing Britney — Spears. Like the sexless sexy teen queen, she’s innocent, but she wants the attention that girls get when they’re not that innocent. We think she’s more like a Spice Girl: Scary.

Josh says his favorite flavor is vanilla: “I was never a guy that was into, like … I never was into toys and role-playing and bondage and all that crap.” We’d take his rope and hang him here, but he gets around to it himself later in the show.

Josh and Edie start talking about wet dreams. Apropos of very little, Brittany whispers, “I like the noises that they make.” It’s not exactly clear what she’s talking about until Eddie “When Harry Met Sally”s a fake orgasm. Oh. It turns out that Brittany likes the sound that men make when they come. “I’m so embarrassed,” she says. Eddie turns it up, braying like a wounded donkey. Brittany leaves the room.

Gentle reader, we wish we could tell you that the bounds of good taste already breached would be the limit tonight. Unfortunately, we can’t do that.

In the next scene, Josh and Jamie, Miss Composure, are sunbathing in the back yard. The cameras linger on Jamie’s bikini-clad curves.

After being routed by Jordan in the Battle of Brittany, Josh told everyone who’d listen he was really interested in Jamie. The lawn date, though, is ruined by fidgety Brittany, who tries to rouse them.

In a red room confessional, Mama Karen saves the hosts a voice over: “I’m sure there was a lot of jealousy there.”

Brittany sits on Josh, spills water on his back and treads ever-more closely to his crotch. The rest of the shut-ins watch from the kitchen. “Can you imagine what she was like in grade school?” asks the parental George. Karen speaks for the audience: Groan.

“She wants him to really like her,” says Karen in the Red Room. “And I think she’s selling herself to this guy.”

Blue Light special: Cheap.

Soon, it’s back to sex talk. In a poolside pow-wow, Brittany asks who has better orgasms, men or women. Karen says women, then corrects herself: men. Curtis thinks women have better orgasms, but don’t get to have them as often.

Here comes Josh’s big moment: “I swear I must be the luckiest guy in the world,” he says, “’cause I’ve never been with a girl who didn’t.”

It’s a did-he-really-say-that? moment. Josh repeats the claim a few times to make the boast clear. He obviously wants Jamie to understand that Sears isn’t the only place she can get her hands on a power tool. We think Jamie shops at Bloomies.

“Maybe you’re just that good,” says Brittany. Everything Brittany knows about sex she learned from Cosmo.

The next scene, to our knowledge a first for American television, is even more awful. “So I need to take a leak, guys,” says Eddie to George and Josh.

George tells him to go take a leak.

He can’t, he says.

Why not?

“You know what happens when you go to sleep and then you have to take a leak?” Eddie asks.

“What happens?” asks George.

“This,” says Eddie. He hops up on his leg. Big Brother cuts to a camera shooting his back. Eddie reaches into his pants.

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhh.

It turns out the two boys aren’t the only ones who have been subjected to Eddie’s second leg. “Eddie’s got to learn to keep his pants on,” says Brittany to Karen and Jamie. Apparently, the would-be Dirk Diggler’s been letting it all hang out in front of her as well. “It’s not a pretty picture,” she says. “I don’t think the male genitalia are attractive at all.” But she finds the groaning, what, stimulating?

In the next scene, Brittany and Josh are flirting on the couch. Brittany strokes his hand. Cut. Brittany is sitting on a chair, Josh is lying on a couch and Karen is sitting on another couch. Oops. Mom caught the two kids petting. Karen tells Josh that he needs to slow down. “It’s like you never learn,” she scolds. “That’s why I say go back into that shell and then ease your way out slowly, slowly.” We wish she’d told Eddie that.

In the next scene, Eddie hops in and puts Brittany to bed. “I like you,” she says.

He pets her hair. “I like you too, kid.”

“I’m sure you’re old man’s real proud of you,” he tells her. We catch a glint of Brittany’s nose ring and remember her rhapsody to the music of the male orgasm. We imagine that, with a flasher named Eddie running his fingers through his virgin daughter’s pink hair on national television, Brittany’s old man is something other than proud right now.

(J.S.)

Episode 26 (Saturday, August 5)

The first half of the show reviews the prior week. We’ve been through all of this before: the jump-rope challenge, the comedy roast, the George-Karen conflict, the Josh-Brittany meltdown, gay talk and, most noteworthy, Jordan’s expulsion.

Three separate themes emerge during the second half. The first is what appears to be the final act of the Josh-Brittany melodrama. The second is a brief detour into house politics. Third, George loses all composure, appearing to crack under guilt and self-created pressure. But first, a little cookie before our sectioned-up TV dinner.

We get an infrared camera shot on the “Love Bed.” Eddie stands at the doorway of the women’s bedroom with the three sirens — Brittany, Jamie and Karen — attempting to lure him onto their island of cuddle. He appears to be awake, but he’s clearly dreaming. “What do you get when you get a one-legged guy in a room with a bunch of girls?” he asks.

What, Eddie?

“Trouble.”

Given Eddie’s recently revealed pride in his sexual apparatus — it turns out that he’s been vouchsafing glimpses of it with various of his roommates, male and female, of late — this is not an idle threat.

In the next scene, George and Karen are sitting on the back porch, talking about the next vote. Karen is fairly obsessed with banishment. On an earlier episode she told Curtis that she would rather have him around than Eddie. Today, Karen says that Josh is vulnerable and, amazingly, that Cassandra is too.

Josh seems to be a fairly obvious target. Later, Brittany will say that she’d rather get rid of him than to have a reminder of her own romantic ineptitude lingering around the house. Cassandra is also annoyed with his shenanigans. And Eddie thinks Josh is a good guy, but doesn’t really like his behavior.

But Cassandra? That’s something else. With the possible exception of Jamie, whose gravest sin is crippling, hollow sincerity, she appears to be the resident most closely in touch with her sense of self respect as she knew it outside the house. She’s really the only adult around; if the shut-ins get rid of her, we can see “Big Brother” devolving into a sandbox spectacular, interrupted only by short games of tag and maybe a little pattycake. Brittany will probably eat crayons.

Talking with Karen, George worries that he’s “an open bull’s-eye.” It’s something that no one else seems to be talking about but him.

A political conversation pops up between Jamie and Curtis. Jamie thinks that all of Karen’s voting talk is a bit too much. She worries that Karen might be influencing others. In particular, she notices that Karen talked a lot about Curtis before the last vote. Now, she’s talking about Josh. Is she influencing others?

Curtis thinks Karen, Eddie and George had an alliance during the first couple of votes. We think he’s confused “Big Brother” with a better, more interesting show, because “Survivor” is a series with unpredictable votes and conniving bastards and a glamorous tropical sun. “Big Brother” is nothing but a strategy-less popularity contest with bad lighting.

It’s time for the big jump-rope event. (That’s the first time anyone in history has written that sentence.) If all the shut-ins can jump rope simultaneously for 10 counts they will earn 30 percent more money for their food budget. If they miss, they lose 30 percent. The chant starts. As the third man in, George blows it. No one else seems to mind, but George crumbles.

Episode 26 (continued)

When we come back from the commercial, something alarming has happened. Brittany’s hair is dyed black and braided into a haystack of cornrows. She looks like a burnt Raggedy Ann doll.

She tells Jamie that she’s done with Josh. It’s over. Kaput. She’s going to avoid uncomfortable one-on-ones with him; stick to group encounters; exact a ban on cuddling. She says this won’t be hard. “It’s not like I am this huge sexual being,” she says. “I’m just the idiot who has feelings for him. How sad am I?”

Before we can answer her, Jamie distracts us with an ineffably “Big Brother” revelation. She tells Brittany than Josh has some fine qualities: “He’s nice. He’s so smart. He told me that he scored on the genius level of the IQ test.”

We scored well on that test, too. It was in the March issue of Highlights. Yesterday, we found out that Josh could rent himself out as an Orgasmatron: He told the residents that he’d gifted every woman he’d ever slept with with an orgasm. This information was apparently revealed as a bid in his pursuit of Jamie, his latest flame. Now we find out that he’s billing himself as a genius as well. We don’t know why valedictorian Jamie passed this info on. Does she believe it? Think it’s a joke? Just want to get this ordeal over with as quickly as possible?

After blowing the challenge, George is now absolutely convinced that he’s going to be banished. He melodramatically warns Karen to stop hanging around with him so that she won’t be guilty by association. “You don’t want to go down with the ship,” he says, playing his fatal moment over and over again. “I’m out,” he says. “Stay away from me.”

In the Red Room, George asks Big Brother what he needs to do to make a voluntary exit. He’s analyzing the moment when rope met leg like boxing fans looking for the phantom punch in the second Ali-Liston fight. He’s affected everyone, he says. He’s worried that Eddie will not have enough food. He says that he needs to consider his options.

Brittany goes into the Red Room and breaks down in front of the camera. She says the reason she has such a hard time with Josh and other men — the reason she’s held onto her virginity, in fact — is that she’s afraid that she will lose some of her independence. It strikes us that maybe Brittany and Josh might be perfect for each other, delusionally speaking. Independence must have been the last thing on her mind when she signed up for “Big Brother.”

Brittany admits that she’d just as soon get rid of Josh than have him around. She’ll vote for him in the next banishment round. But in the very next scene the two of them are holding hands on the couch, going over their non-breakup breakup plan. (You’d think these people had been together for five years.)

They both agree they’re going to “chill out” and try to not be awkward around each other. Then Brittany tells Josh that she’s more attracted to him now than she was when she moved into the house, even though she now questions his intentions and his integrity. Josh apologizes one more time. “I just want to go play football,” he says.

Didn’t Einstein say that right after he came up with the Theory of Relativity?

(J.S.)

Episode 27 (Monday, Aug. 7)

Monday night’s show will go down in “Big Brother” history as the episode that, quietly and without fanfare, revealed the seemingly perfect Miss Jamie’s fatal flaw: Vanity, same as everybody else. The thrill of being loved by strangers in return for nothing.

Faithful readers, we hear your protests. It is true she doesn’t hop all over everyone like a tie-dyed, Brillo-haired monkey, or publicly wallow in the slop bucket of her marriage, or boast about her sex stats, or indulge in the harmless activity of flashing one’s private parts every chance she gets.

Yet, in the end, you could take the girl out of the beauty pageant, but you couldn’t take the beauty pageant out of the girl. Jamie is a beauty queen and wants, needs, to be worshipped like one: On a pedestal, from afar, tears painting black lines down her face as a rhinestone crown slides and shifts fetchingly on her big, fat, swollen head.

It’s all about the attention.

The show starts out with Jamie and Curtis having a heart to heart. Jamie says she’s disgusted at Karen’s two-faced back-stabbing. Two-faced back-stabbing, of course, is usually considered a “turn-off” by pageant participants.

“It’s so tough to see someone who’s friends with people, and then have them totally go off on them,” she tells Curtis, the indistinct lawyer. “It’s just a shocking thing to witness — it’s on TV!”

Curtis and Jamie share a hearty laugh over this. They know a little something about image management and maintaining appearances — Jamie because she trades on it and Curtis because surely he’s read a book or attended a seminar.

Curtis: “You would think the camera would keep you more honest.”

You would think it would keep them more quiet. But “Big Brother” has defied all expectations thus far.

The pair are talking about banishment — on Wednesday each resident has to nominate two people to get evicted from the house. (The audience then spends the next week voting one of the two out for good.)

“It’s really easy when I see such blatant ugliness,” continues Jamie, talking about her upcoming nomination of Karen. “It just doesn’t have a part here, even though it’s to my disadvantage. When someone’s so quick to judge and talk poorly about other people …”

“You can get away with it for a little while,” says Curtis, “but it catches up to you.”

And he should know.

Meanwhile, somehow, Karen is concerned that she hasn’t gotten any letters from her kids. Brittany, her electric-red hair ablaze, tries to allay her fears by applying intense pressure to her wrist.

“Why would they not, if that’s what they said they were going to do?” Karen asks.

Hmm. Maybe it’s that their father has transferred them to another state. Or that they’ve entered the public-humiliation protection program. Or that the unrelenting derision of their peers has forced them underground.

Or that they are too busy plotting to kill her.

“You know your kids love you,” says Brittany.

“Oh, I do, I do,” says Karen. Almost as if she means it.

But let us leave Pathetic Woman and her spunky sidekick Froot Loop aside for a moment and rejoin our heroine as she reveals more of herself than she ever did in any swimsuit competition.

“Eddie likes me,” Jamie whispers to George — in front of Eddie, of course — “but he’s mean to me.”

Episode 27 (continued)

George becomes ecstatic by this revelation — and possibly aroused:

“Eeeeeddddiiiieee!”

“He always leaves the room when I come in and never does anything gross in front of me except pee,” Jamie continues.

The sexual implications make George’s wires cross something fierce. Who knows what bizarre transference is occurring when he yodels:

“You’re a pretty gal. If you were a younger man he’d be foolish not to look at you.”

Jamie demurely takes that, whatever it is, as a compliment. But who cares what George thinks of her? Jamie wants to know what Eddie thinks of her. Has her stock in the meat market gone up since Jordan’s departure? Has her newly gained status as resident sex queen gone to her head? And does she — No! Not Jamie! — really kinda like it?

“Why do you always touch Brittany, and put lotion on her ‘n’ stuff,” she asks, “and you never touch me?” We think “touch me” is a euphemism for “show me your thingie, as you do the other residents in the house.”

Eddie says he has his reasons. His “reasons.” Like? Like, “they’re for me to know.”

And for her to find out.

“They’re right on the wall!” squeals George, sounding like a hormone-addled Peter Brady. (We sincerely hope George is wrong.)

Jamie keeps pushing it. “What’s the difference?”

“The Red Room knows the difference,” Eddie says. For once we know what Eddie’s talking about. Just a week or two ago he tried to give Jamie a backrub, but was rebuffed when he went a squeeze too far.

Eddie, we’re sure, is a once-bitten, twice-shy kind of guy. It will all come out in his memoirs, lotion ‘n’ stuff and all.

Has Jamie fallen for our uni-legged hero? Or is she just indiscriminately high on the attention of a bunch of mediocre, if captive, men?

Later, the group debates the pecuniary logic behind May-December romances. Then they take on the age-old quandary: Would you rather be a handsome guy with a small penis or an ugly guy with a large penis?

Josh, the thinker, brings up what to his restless mind remains one of the mysteries of the universe. “It trips me out,” he says, “how you always see young good-looking women with rich older men, but never the other way around.”

Jamie says it’s because when women are older, they’re not shallow.

“They’re not horny for the young piece of meat,” adds Brittany.

“Oh, speak for yourself,” says Karen. Then she speaks out strongly in favor of large penises. And her family starts packing the car again and contemplating Alaska.

In the Red Room, Curtis announces that Jamie looks up to him, and that “in the outside world,” he would definitely consider going out with her.

Later, Josh and Brittany do the dishes and smirk knowingly at each other as their elbows graze. Overcome by the heady proximity to her beloved, Brittany squawks: “This house should let us have some privacy once in a while.”

“Doesn’t bother me,” says Josh, and delivers the moral of tonight’s episode: “Everyone should have an audience. Don’t you think?”

Well, maybe. Except Karen.

She’s embarking on round two of her televised jihad against her husband, and manages to strike a new note of hysteria. She tells Cassandra that she’s afraid of what her husband will do to her when she gets home. She also says that he gets too close to her daughter’s face when he yells at her and raises his hand as if he’s going to hit her. “He’s totally insane. To me that’s child abuse. It’s total intimidation.”

She confides that she told her daughter to call a local child-protection officer if she fears for her safety while Karen is away.

Can you say full custody and big, fat slander suit? We can, too.

A description of the next challenge, a pie-eating contest, yields two references to oral sex.

Karen: “I’ve done it before, and you gag on the crusts.”

Eddie vigorously disagrees: “You’ve got your hands tied behind your back. You just go down and eat the middle.”

Later, in the Red Room, Eddie frets about Jamie. She’s got a thing for him, he sighs. “I think she’s taken more than a comfortable liking to me.” He would contemplate going out with her “in the outside world,” if it weren’t for Monica, his German model girlfriend.

And, of course, reality.

(C.C.)

Episode 28 (Tuesday, Aug. 8)

It’s Tuesday night, and Brittany and Eddie are pillow-fighting. Eddie tries to bully the squealing attention-vortex into admitting he’s “the best.” But she shrilly defends her claim to the coveted title.

“Say it!”

“No! Brittany’s the best! Eddie sucks!”

Of course it goes without saying that Eddie’s taunts sound as genuine as smutty talk in a porn movie and that Brittany’s unfettered glee comes across as equally heartfelt. So would it be superfluous to mention they are play-acting for the camera?

“The love bed is now the bed of hatred and destruction,” declares the mighty Enunciator as Little Miss Loop collapses in feigned defeat.

Only two minutes in, faithful reader, and our annoyance level is dangerously high. High enough to make us briefly consider throwing in the laptop. But luckily, “Big Brother” has a plan: To remind us that public displays of strained affection and faked camaraderie have no place on a staged reality show based on a untrue story.

As Cassandra says later in the Red Room, “Some people are emotionally needy.” Which is problematic, because “some of the people that different housemates are leaning on are going to be out of here. And then they’re going to be in a crisis situation.”

Indeed. It is the great secret. The key to this game is detachment.

He who is centered in “Big Brother” will become one with “Big Brother.” She who refrains from playing will play to the end. As bullshit flows into sewers so does the Tao of “Big Brother” flow through those who do not resist it. The path is non-strategy. The way is non-action. “When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.” The master is empty. Solitary. Eternal. Unchanging.

The master is definitely not Karen. Or Brittany. Or Eddie.

Eddie, who has completely inhabited his televised persona (the one-legged tough guy with the balls of steel and the heart of gold and the brains of rock), finally gives in to Jamie’s demand for an explanation of his distant behavior.

“With Brittany there’s a bottom line. Nothing would ever happen between us,” he says, amid much drumming of the fingers and grimacing attempts at not smiling. “With you, I feel there’s a different boundary.”

“I don’t feel weird,” replies a serene, unfazed Jamie, letting the air out of all his birthday balloons at once. “I don’t feel different at all. I want you to be totally normal around me.”

He snaps back into character with a defensive twitch of the head.

“I don’t walk on eggshells for nobody.”

See how it works?

Episode 28 (continued)

“Those who nominate are going to feel guilty, and those who are nominated are going to feel betrayed,” says an epigrammatic Cassandra to Curtis on the porch.

“People have to realize that’s how it’s going to be,” concurs the Stanford-educated wise man, tautologically. “But I don’t think they do.”

“No, I don’t think they do, either. I think everyone thinks it’s like Never Never Land and you don’t have to face reality. But you do.”

“It’s a game,” he says.

“And someone’s going to get hurt by the game,” she says.

“Hopefully soon,” we say.

Later, in the Red Room, Curtis predicts the likely nominations for banishment, to be voted upon tomorrow, will be Cassandra, Josh and Eddie. He notes a change in dynamic from the “nuclear family” alliance to “women against men” (“or men against women,” he explains helpfully). We think he’s a little slow on the uptake, Stanford or no. “Girls against Boys” was yesterday’s alliance. Today it’s the sages vs. the fools.

But first, a letter from Karen’s kids.

Karen weeps as she reads a gushing letter from her daughter Ashley. It sounds almost mature enough to have been penned by a CBS suit.

Ashley says “a phenomenal turn of events” has occurred in her life but she “can’t divulge more,” adding, “You haven’t embarrassed us kids — yet.” Ashley has a very high tolerance for personal humiliation.

As she cries her tears of relief, George and Jamie discuss how certain Big Brother residents are two-faced. It sure sounds as if they’re talking about Karen.

“I see the affection and stuff like that –” begins the roofing soprano.

“I totally know what you’re saying,” replies Miss Observation. “You’re like, is that real?”

“They’re playing both sides.”

“And I think when you see false affection, that’s part of playing a game and not wanting to get voted out.”

George chortles in agreement.

“I think it’ll come down to who has the best heart,” sighs Jamie.

So much for girls against boys.

Today’s challenge is to describe today’s challenge as briefly as possible. The shut-ins must re-create a daytime talk show playing characters opposite their own personalities. It later becomes apparent that CBS assigned them their roles — it’s obvious that these people cannot be entrusted with anybody’s good time. The only notable thing that emerges from it, apart from the usual squawking and giggling, is that Cassandra confesses to being disturbed by the fact that she was made to “play into stereotypes that white America has about black people — the gum-chewing loud-mouthed woman on the Jerry Springer show.” Now that she’s the only black person on the show, she feels she has a responsibility. “This is the opposite of what I should be doing on ‘Big Brother.’”

Uh-oh. Can she say public persona?

(C.C.)

Episode 29 (Wednesday, Aug. 9)

The question on our weary, addled minds tonight is why.

Why a live show?

Why bother with Julie Chen “live,” when she looks animatronic?

Why give the C-Span treatment to the housemates, when together they have the personality of a Grape Nut?

Why the futile attempt to build suspense around “the new housemate”? Will it be David Letterman? Karen’s husband? Cher?

At the top of the show, Chen monotonously informs the housemates that tonight, on a Very Special Episode of “Big Brother,” one lucky bastard will be allowed to use a phone in the Red Room for 60 seconds.

The catch? The group must unanimously pick the lucky bastard, and the decision must not be made at random.

The housemates whip out their family values like credit cards at a Barney’s end-of-season sale. “George or Karen!” they blurt.

Karen graciously cedes the privilege to George.

Call us bitter, but we noticed on “Survivor” tonight that Colleen (who had insects living in the suppurated sores on her legs and who stood on a narrow plank for over two hours after having been rained on for two days straight) was voted off the island. Because that’s the kind of ruthless, cutthroat place it is.

“Big Brother” refuses to give us parasites or food shortages or exposure to the elements. (Incidentally, why is this so? Why this absurd “grocery allowance”? What are the residents doing that requires energy?) The least the producers can give us is bitchiness, scheming and treachery.

But no. We get — oops, we’re giving away the surprise! — a farting dog.

Speaking of which, Julie Chen, or more likely her agent, planted a story in the New York Times this week that she was actually a tough newswoman fighting hard against cheesiness on the show. This makes sense to us. You can see how when the role was presented to her originally she could have mistaken it for the “CBS Evening News.”

It’s the every-other-week nomination-for-banishment show.

Cassandra nominates Karen “for the sake of her children” and because it takes too much group energy to keep her in good spirits; and Brittany because it takes too much group energy to keep her from crying. As ever, it’s difficult to argue with Cassandra’s logic.

Eddie nominates Curtis “because his name just came up,” and Jamie “for no reason.”

Chen electrifyingly tells the residents how many votes each has, and Brittany makes the following observation:

“This sucks! Oh, my god!”

The dynamic Chen segues into a featurette about a hometown celebration of Brittany. Her family and friends gather in a bar, dress up like the Minneapolis moptop, speak only in questions and say things like “Oh, my god” a lot. We think Chen is already doing wonders with the show. The featurette reminded us a lot of a “60 Minutes” report we once saw on toxic dumping.

George, the chosen one, heads to the Red Room to call his wife, Theresa, whom the late Mega once cruelly but unforgettably described as “a big blubbergut.”

In a trenchant insight into what life at George’s house is like, Theresa tells him not to say anything. She pours out her heart for the minute allotted. Hang on and don’t give up, she says, the whole town — the whole country — is rooting for you! We love you and know you can go the distance!

George weeps shamelessly. Then, with 10 seconds left, he cuts in. “Theresa,” he says, “these people are really nice in here.”

That’s what he wants to say to her?

“I’m an extreme wiener about being away from home,” a teary post-call George tells all the nice people he lives with now.

He’s an extreme wiener, period.

Episode 29, continued

Karen nominates Josh for what she describes as his inconsistency but is really for his attempts to horndog Brittany. She names Cassandra because she “wouldn’t want her in the final four.” What makes Karen think she herself will make it?

Curtis names Eddie for being such a troglodyte (“We don’t have much to talk about”); and Josh because he doesn’t “get” him. Hmm. Hell hath no fury!

Josh, passing out payback, nominates Curtis because he knows he “wants to proceed with his job as a lawyer” and Karen because she’s be “happier with her kids.”

George nominates Cassandra because he thinks “she feels embarrassed with what goes on in here,” and Josh because of his “romantic affairs.”

“The Jordan issue and the Brittany issue,” George explains. “This is too tough a place to have this happen.” Tough how? Like an island? With monitor lizards? Suppurating sores? We don’t think so.

Time for the “new housemate” to be revealed.

A “friend” of the “new housemate” delicately informs us that the “new housemate” has a slight gas problem. We finally get to see the animal, a gruesome example of the species. It’s a pug, grotesquely ugly and no doubt prone to innumerable mental and physical problems from inbreeding. It’s also one of those dogs whose tail curls up in back, putting its anus on constant display. The “Big Brother” Web site tells us that the pug’s wrinkles “can trap dirt and moisture, and they will often get a little crusty.”

It’s funny — that’s what the site says about George, too!

The dog is apparently not housebroken but, sadly, doesn’t bite.

Julie Chen tries to get the residents to listen to her. We’re not a big-time serious newsperson like Chen, but shouldn’t a TV host at least be able to command the attention of people deprived of all other outside contact?

“They’re not even listening to me,” she admits in front of an audience of millions.

Chen brings on the show’s health and relationships expert, Dr. Drew Pinsky, to explain the effect the dog will have on the housemates.

They don’t pay us enough to transcribe what Pinsky has to say on this subject.

“We’ll see,” he concludes.

“Yes, we will,” quickly ripostes the Scintillator.

Brittany immediately proceeds to smother the animal. Josh likes it, too. Cassandra, we see, is a cat person. “What an ugly fucking animal,” we’re sure she’s saying to herself.

Jamie nominates Karen because she misses her kids; and Josh because she “hasn’t gotten a chance to get to know him.” What is there to know?

Brittany cursorily nominates Cassandra, then melodramatically nominates Josh; then she cries about it.

Do any of them understand that it’s a game? Not dorm. Game!

Josh gets the most nominations, five in all, and Karen and Cassandra are tied for second place. All three are up for banishment. The camera searches their faces for a reaction.

The dog farts in front of Cassandra. She reacts.

The camera tags behind the nominees to see if their post-nomination moods shed any “insight” into their “character.”

The dog is put outside and immediately falls into the pool. Pugs can’t swim. Eddie and Josh and the Ikea couch now have competition for the title of dumbest object in the house. It would be priceless if the thing drowns, but Josh jumps in and saves him.

It would be priceless if Josh drowns, but he climbs out.

Cassandra does the dishes, listens to Eddie’s inanities.

Karen angrily folds her laundry.

Josh pets the dog.

And another riveting episode draws to a climactic close.

(C.C.)

Episode 30 (Thursday, Aug. 10)

After yesterday’s banishment vote put mama Karen, cool Cassandra and jockish Josh in front of the 1-900 jury, it’s pretty clear from the edit job in this episode that “Big Brother” wants to keep Josh around.

Remember, if he goes, out goes the house’s resident Orgasmatron and any chance of the debauching of the virgin Brittany, the prospect of which has so far provided approximately 87 percent of the content that could be salvaged from these bored, boring shut-ins. The producers do the only thing that can make Josh look good in front of the home viewers: They keep him off screen.

The unpretty dog that joined the house Wednesday is pretty much absent as well, though we suspect that will change on Saturday. (There is no Friday episode this week.)

Karen, however, is a mess. The whirring eyes of the house track her pulling out grass, falsely accusing her roommates of voting for her and promising a deep French kiss to the first guy she gets her hands on when she gets out.

Her odd behavior and paranoid glares are interrupted only by a couple of segments in which Brittany talks about her cherry. After a month of exposure to Brittany’s incessant sex talk, we’ve decided that if we had a daughter, given the choice between the biggest slut in town and Brittany, we’d go with the slut, if she’d just not talk about it all the time.

Karen (1-900-740-1000) has only one more cigarette. She doesn’t want to make it a ceremony — it might prevent her from sucking every last drag — but the cameras turn out an MTV-style montage of that last smoke. (Get it?)

Karen is the antithesis of Bette Davis in “Now, Voyager.” She cranes her neck, clinches the butt in a grotesque palsy and tongues the filter as if it were a lover. So how does “Big Brother” get away with so much on screen puffing? Oh, we get it: It’s an anti-smoking public-service campaign! Karen’s more horrifying than that black lung and the old lady with the tracheotomy.

And, boy — going cold turkey is going to do wonders for her personality over the next few weeks.

Next, Jamie and Brittany share some lights-out girl talk on the Love Bed. Brittany is still reeling over Josh’s bod even though she voted to banish him yesterday. Jamie, who isn’t really helping (and who voted to oust Josh as well), points out his fine features and says that she can see why he was a model. (We picture him as an underwear dummy for Kmart, then quickly repress the thought.)

The two go on to size up the rest of the younger shut-ins. The string of Brittanyisms that follow make a sadly sobering spectacle for any boy who ever dreamed of listening in on his sister’s slumber party. On Eddie: “I used to think Eddie was really attractive, now he’s like Eddie.” On Curtis: “I wanted to squeeze Curtis.” On banished Jordan: “I never thought she was pretty.” On Jamie, who is curled up next to her: “I think you’re so pretty.” (Pretty vacant.) The camera cuts away before the two of them dress up in Mom’s high heels, call boys and play MASH.

Out in the living room, Karen (1-900-740-1000) is thinking out loud about what she wants to do when she gets out of the house, something just for her, something just out of reach. She wants that deep, passionate kiss, she says, but she knows she won’t get it from her husband: She told him before she went into the house that she would be divorcing him on the way out.

Her husband, she tells us again, hates kissing. “How’d you get pregnant?” asks Brittany, who doesn’t seem to understand these things, because she’s, you know, a virgin.

Finally, we find out exactly why Karen (1-900-740-1000) went in to the “Big Brother” house. She wanted to record the world’s most painful personal ad. Here’s what she’s working with so far:

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: Emotionally unstable soon-to-be DWF seeks anybody for passionate French kiss. Me: needy, competitive, occasionally vengeful; unpredictable due to raging bout of nicotine withdrawal; early 40s but acts 20, adores chickens. You: Breathing.

Episode 30, continued

After a commercial, Brittany tells papa George that when she visits him and his family, after the show, since they’re sooooooo close, she’d be happy to be a peer counselor for his teenage girls. As a 25-year-old virgin — did we mention that she’s a virgin? — she thinks she can really impress them with “the importance of waiting.”

George is pleased. He’d love for Brittany to bring her abstinence message along with that cool fuchsia hair, since she’s already been such an excellent role model for the three dozen or so high school virgins left in America.

Whew, “Big Brother” almost touched on some issues. No worries: In the next scene it’s back to Eddie the mook making fart sounds on the couch. Brittany imitates. Buddy Curtis whinnies uncontrollably.

Next up, Karen (1-900-740-1000) and Brittany wrestle in the kitchen. George steps in as referee/announcer. The highlight in the bout between “Mad Dog Karen” and “The Red-Haired Snake Woman”: “It’s the crotch grab!”

The pair end up in a tumble on the floor. The boys think about Jamie and the late Jordan wrestling.

Then it’s back to the Love Bed with Brittany and Jamie. The subject is Brittany’s 34-year-old ex-boyfriend, and the pair’s close call with actual coitus. We’ll run this Brittany monologue by itself:

“Probably at about six months we were fooling around. There wasn’t any alcohol or anything involved, but it was just real emotional, real whatever. We were just in my duplex. I had told him that I had wanted to be somewhere special just because it would be my first time. I don’t have any plans, but I just don’t want to do it in a car. You know what I mean?”

You bet, Brit. Turns out the guy said the duplex wasn’t special enough. He must have been broke, because apparently he could never raise the dough for the jacuzzi suite at the Minneapolis Motel 6. Brittany’s maidenhood remains intact. Or so she says, anyway.

Later, Karen (1-900-740-1000) obsesses about her banishment nomination. She talks with Jamie and Brittany about who must have voted for her. She figures neither George or Eddie would — they’re part of the nuclear family — and she knows that neither Brittany nor sweet, sweet Jamie would either.

She’s pretty sure she didn’t vote for herself either. That leaves Cassandra, Curtis and Josh, and she’s seething. Turns out she’s wrong. Jamie (who voted with Josh and Cassandra to bounce her) sits beside her, smiling blandly at her paranoia.

Karen, being Karen (1-900-740-1000), confronts Curtis in the bathroom about his supposed vote for her. Curtis, it turns out, is a man of principle and, as he notes, a banishment-vote survivor: He won’t say who he voted for.

Jamie comes in while the pair talk, and lingers while applying her lip balm, waiting to catch a shard of their stalled conversation.

Suddenly, the beauty queen starts looking like Tony Soprano. If Curtis rats — if he tells Karen he didn’t vote for her — the jig is up. Even Karen could quickly figure out that Jamie was marking her for death. That would expose Jamie as something other than a goody two-shoes, which would just ruin her whole pageant.

Curtis limits himself to making vague references to things not being what they seem.

Jamie is spared from having Pauly Walnuts shoot him.

The show ends with Karen in the Red Room, crying. She says she misses the unconditional love of her family. “There’s a part of me that longs for that feeling,” she says. “When you can fall into their arms and be this upset person.”

We suppose she’ll see them soon.

(1-900-740-1000)

(J.S.)

Episode 31 (Saturday, Aug. 12)

There are worse things in life than watching people you don’t like twisting in the wind. That’s what happens tonight.

Karen, Josh and Cassandra were nominated for banishment Wednesday. The audience has a week to vote one of them out via a dumb 99-cent phone-call process. As a consequence, Karen, the neurotic mom, is acting even more bipolar than normal. And Josh has become virtually comatose, not a bad thing.

Cassandra is being gracious but is not without her own secrets. “I think she’s so terrific,” says Cassandra to Curtis about Karen. Cassandra doesnt say she nominated Karen for banishment.

But Cassandra’s mad at Karen and Josh’s behavior. “We have to do this and it’s their responsibility not to stress everyone out.”

“I have enough faith that everyone is goodhearted and rational,” ripostes Curtis.

Sometimes oxygen seems to be something that’s wasted on Curtis.

There follows a thoroughly enjoyable montage of Josh being morose. He’s living a filmic drama. Unfamiliar with the idea of a Gary Cooper or Humphrey Bogart, he settles on Adam Sandler, grim and determined to go it alone through grade school in “Billy Madison.” He sulks in the pool, mopes in the backyard with only a foul pug for comfort and stands looking pensively out of the chicken coop.

Brittany’s the only one who’s buying what he’s selling. “How can you be OK without talking about it?” she asks dramatically.

“That’s how I am,” Josh says. “The only person I question is myself.”

Brittany looks at him uncomprehendingly.

“Try not to look at me any different,” Josh says. “I’m still the same person.” Brittany kisses his temple tenderly. If only she could tell him that she voted to banish him!

Distraught, she goes for a bedroom cuddle in the dark with Eddie: “He’s hurting and it’s all because of me!”

“You gotta be strong for Karen,” Eddie says. “Don’t worry about Josh.” Brittany uses her shirt to wipe her tears off Eddie’s broad chest.

Indeed, Karen is going batshit. She’s convinced Curtis voted her for banishment on Wednesday. (He didnt.) Now she barely talks to him and spends a lot of time glaring in his general direction. He’s not telling her the truth; it allows him to play the martyr with the other women in the house.

He plays the wounded guy as well in the Red Room during his Big Brother confessional. “As patient and kind and caring as I think I am, it will have limits,” he says portentously. “I feel slighted, and it’s unfair, but I’ll wait and see.”

“I think it’s unfair for her to condemn me for something I haven’t done,” he says, emotionally, for him. “I think how you respond to something like [being nominated for banishment] reveals something about your character.”

Poor Curtis — so unfairly victimized by Karen, who thinks he nominated her for banishment when he didnt!

He doesn’t mention that he did nominate her the first two rounds of banishment votes. Did we mention Curtis is a lawyer?

Episode 31 (continued)

Brittany thinks Curtis nominated her.

“I know it was Curtis who voted me,” she says, in her way, during a bedroom cuddle with Jamie. (She’s wrong, too — it was actually Cassandra.)

“I’m a little bit hurt at him voting me cause I felt like we got so close,” Brittany says.

“You never know,” Jamie says. “He might not have.” She knows — she, not Curtis, was Karen’s third vote.

But that’s not what Brit’s really interested in. “Do you think I should talk to Josh?” she asks Jamie.

“He’s very, very smart,” Jamie says. For the record, Josh isn’t smart, let alone very, very smart. Jamie, struggling to be demure, is covering up her interest in Josh’s pecs. “I have a hard time understanding his response to being nominated,” she says.

“Cassandra is handling it the best,” Brittany says with some satisfaction. She nominated Cassandra.

Later she’s back looking for solace with Eddie. “I thought I would know who cared about me and who didn’t,” she wails, as Eddie strokes her hair in that heavy-handed way Eddie does. “I thought I would know who I mattered to and who I don’t!

“I dont want to cry anymore! I don’t want to eat a pie tomorrow!”

She’s referring to the pie-eating contest that will make for a nauseating end to tonight’s episode.

Brittany is like Jordan in that when she’s mad she lashes out at others. She gives Eddie what she thinks is a gimlet eye. He said at one point that he wanted to date Jamie, she says. Then he said girls like Jamie were just a dime a dozen. What’s the truth? she asks.

Eddie gives this response:

“One of those upon which I said was totally true; one of those upon which I said was totally false. Now it’s up to you as an individual whether or not you know me to know which one is truth and which one is bogus.”

Brittany’s logical synapses look like they’re going to explode as she tries to untangle this formulation.

Fortunately, Kaaren comes in, freaking out. “I want out of here! I want out so bad!” She’s crying.

Besides, she says, “I don’t think there’s a chance of me winning.”

Eddie, we notice, is wearing one of those T-shirts about beer drinking that people who drink too much think is funny. It’s a parody of an old Volkwagen ad. “FARFROMPUKEN” it reads.

The volatile, crazy and unsettled Karen is still crying. “I’m too volatile, I’m too crazy and I’m too unsettled,” she says.

She starts lashing out as well.

“He makes me crazy. He makes me freakin’ nuts!” she says about George.

Cassandra, Josh and Karen are given 30 seconds each to make their case for staying in the house to the American people.

Cassandra says, “I really want to stay here and spend time with this great group of people.”

Josh pours out his soul: “I’m having a great time here, and, so, I’m just here for every American who’s sitting at home going, ‘You know, dammit, I wish I could be on TV!’”

Karen: “My kids are my No. 1 priority, so if they’re unhappy banish me for them. But if they want me to be on, well, I guess it’s up to you.”

The show ends with a pie-eating contest that was too difficult to watch, much less describe. We closed our eyes after seeing Josh vomiting into a bucket.

(B.W.)

Episode 32 (Monday, Aug. 14)

Only two nights to banishment: Karen the cranky mom, Josh the oafish jock and Cassandra the relatively normal person are up for dismissal. The house is surprisingly free of drama. So free, in fact, that much of the show winds up devoted to George, the middle-aged roofer, and his adventures in hairdressing.

George, we have noticed, has become greedy for attention. His unrealistic aspirations keep popping out over the tops of pants every time he bends over for the camera.

It’s becoming clear that the workaday world of construction has lost its allure for George. George wants to live forever. He wants to learn how to fly — high.

In addition to the blue hair (more on that later), George has acquired the cool detachment that’s going to come in handy once he’s a star. Happily, he has not yet hired the voice coach.

“After da nominations,” he says in the Red Room, “[Karen] more or less went off on a little, um, I would probably call it like a ‘temper tratrum’ dat really kind of put a change in me, when it come to something like dat derr. You can’t exactly be da same old George after dat.”

No, you certainly can’t. But what will the new George be like?

“I don’t think you’ll be roofing anymore,” says Brittany as she bleaches George’s tresses.

“Who knows what I’m in for derr,” he agrees.

“We need to prepare ourselves,” she says, “if we are famous.”

(If they ever make “Caddyshack III,” George can play the Bill Murray role — but only if the picture goes straight to video after video has been phased out.)

His hair bleached, George comes out into the living room and plants himself in front of the camera (he seems to have located every camera in the house) and announces:

“It’s the new me! The younger me, the leaner me … ”

… and dat’s about it derr den.

Later George’s hair gets dyed cobalt amid much flattery and chatter about the bringing out of his blue eyes. George is a new man, albeit one with no idea how stupid he looks.

“I kinda like this scene, man.”

He means his hair. “I’m kinda diggin’ it. Do you think I’m cool?”

Later, as George climbs into bed and bids Eddie goodnight, he feigns concern over his professional future.

” I think I’m gonna have a hard time getting a job after dis.”

We think so, too. But he can always fall back on roofing.

Then Brittany dies her own hair green and puts highlights in Josh’s and Curtis’ hair. Josh and George bottle their home-made wine — which looks like the runoff from Brittany’s last dye job. And the group is presented with the next weekly challenge: an invigorating divertissement involving a big road map of the United States and memorization. We can’t wait!

George is daunted, however: “This is a tough one.”

“It would be easy for me,” parries Karen. “But I won’t be here.” (She think’s she’s going to get banished on Wednesday.)

Curtis and Cassandra loll by the pool, now fenced off so the dog won’t drown itself. He asks her if she thinks about the nominations when she’s alone.

Cassandra’s response raises some questions about Cassandra that we’ve been grappling with for some time now.

Like, Why did she go on the show? And why does she want to stay? And why does she talk about this “great group of people”? Our guess is that Cassandra is the only person on the show, with the possible exception of Curtis, who never, not for one second, forgets that there’s half a million dollars waiting for the final inhabitant. Everyone else hopes to be paid in celebrity, cuddles and deep kisses.

Episode 32, continued

But Cassandra’s sure she’s a goner for three reasons: 1) She doesn’t have “a niche, generationally,” 2) “the black community is a wild card” in terms of voting and, inexplicably, 3) “the other two have the lovability quotient. ”

The lovability quotient? We thought what Karen had was the excruciating factor.

In the next scene, Karen displays her lovability quotient in a conversation with Josh. The two are discussing Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason.”

“I’m 23, you’re 43,” says Josh, the newly crushed puppy. “I think I can say that know the difference between right and wrong. So, 20 years from now I should really know the difference.”

Because it’s double the years, get it?

“At 43, you know what’s right and wrong, more than at 23,” retorts Karen, sensing she’s being insulted by an underdone beef patty. “But you start realizing that right and wrong isn’t the only answer. At 43 you realize that life is short. You start justifying. You start becoming a little selfish.”

Asking if she can be brutally honest (as if she’s ever been anything but brutal and anything like honest), Karen tells Josh that she only thing she doesn’t like about him was his inconsistency in the Jordan-Jamie-Brittany affair.

Josh looks as though he’s on the verge of tears. We haven’t seen remorse like this on TV since Jim Bakker. Suddenly, Jamie appears to say goodnight. Josh embraces her as though for the last time. As Karen resumes yammering Josh follows Jamie with his eyes. As soon as she’s out of ear shot, he blurts:

“Okay, want to hear more blatant honesty? I never met anyone, in my entire life, who is more like me than Jamie. I wish I had just come in here, and it had been just me and Jamie, because now I look like a fool.”

He’s referring to the fact that he spent his first two weeks in the house playing footsie with Brittany and the maniacal Jordan — until Jordan publicly humiliated him.

“I don’t belong with the wild and crazy girl or the hard-headed girl,” Josh continues, referring to Brittany and the late Jordan. “I belong with someone just like me.”

Dumb, we say.

“Earthy,” says Karen.

And before we can mourn for Josh and his dashed hopes, Karen gives us another demonstration of earthy. She’s in the bathroom with Cassandra and Brittany and merrily keeps pushing the bathroom door open as she pees. When she comes out, she drops her pants and tries to moon the “Big Brother” cameras. The dancing dot doesn’t manage to conceal the thong beneath her cargo shorts. We will be contacting the dot’s lawyers.

Later, after a conversation between Eddie and Cassandra too dull to detail, Brittany advocates for idiots’ rights. “I was at my job for three years,” she says of her job as a medical-supplies sales representative, “but if I had changed my hair to pink, I would have been fired.” She thinks “something should protect you if you want to change.”

Karen points out that in Brittany’s line of work, pink hair might have resulted in dissatisfied customers.

This prompts George to affect the sort world-weary, jaded tone that will come in handy when swatting aside impertinent questions by frenzied reporters in his post “Big Brother” life. “I have hired people with every type of piercing, tattoos, hair, you name it,” he says. “And I have had a lot of people who worked for me who have spent some time in jail.”

Cassandra asks why he gave them a chance.

“Why not?” he says, “You just can’t dispose of these people.”

You said it, George, not us.

(C.C.)

Episode 33 (Tuesday, Aug. 15)

Tuesday night’s episode kicks off with Karen Dearest rethinking the nominations.

“I believe Cassandra voted for me and that doesn’t surprise me.”

Nor does it surprise us — though we’re not entirely sure why. All we know is that last week, at the very end of an episode, Karen made a pointed remark to Brittany about not wanting to play “spades” anymore. We noticed it, our readers noticed it and, apparently, the “Second Big Brother Roast” joke writers noticed it. Now the housemates are in 24-hour regret mode. Everyone’s wishing they had nominated Karen instead of Cassandra and Josh.

If there were still such a thing as a cutting room, we’d like to be a fly on the wall of it, because we’re getting the sense that the “Big Brother” editors had their work cut out for them this week. Back in the Red Room, Karen the Unhinged continues to obsess about who marked her for banishment. She’s coming to realize it wasn’t Curtis, and (still not suspecting Jamie) she wonders if it was Eddie.

“I felt some loyalty toward him. I don’t know why, but I felt it,” she scowls.

And on that note, the rest of the episode turns to matters of love.

If love means never having to say shut up, we don’t think Brittany’s ever going to find it.

“Twenty-five is pretty old not to have ever allowed yourself to get really close to somebody,” she frets. She’s talking about being a virgin again. “I have so many friends that all they remember of the past five years of their lives is the last two guys they dated.”

But that can happen with anything, Karen says, seeing an opportunity to bash her husband and seizing it. “I thought I was doing myself a favor by marrying someone who was going to be my” — here she makes the international sign for air quotes — “‘father.’”

Obviously a mistake, since what she clearly wants is a — here we make the international sign for air quotes — “boy.”

Speaking of boys, the boys of “Big Brother” all seem to be working out some heavy issues all at once. Their special boy dramas have been percolating for some time.

Curtis, the lawyer of steel, has started subtly hitting on Brittany. So subtly, in fact, that she can’t hear it above the sound of her own voice. He also appears not to have left her side in 24 hours.

“She needs a nurturer,” Karen says of Brittany. “She needs someone who’s going to stroke her.”

“Curtis, are you a nurturer?” purrs the grinning vortex of need. “Will you marry me?” “Let’s wait till we get out,” says Curtis. Brittany laughs gaily.

Later, the two share a moment in the — international sign for air quotes –”pool.” As they float on a raft in the 4-foot hole in their yard, limbs intertwined, Brittany continues to paint her color-by-numbers portrait of Prints Charmeen for Curtis’ edification.

“I wouldn’t marry someone who doesn’t have an education,” she says, “or who has financial problems, or who goes out drinking every week, or who smokes pot on a regular basis.”

We wouldn’t marry a virgin, we say. “You could marry me, then,” Curtis says.

But Brittany is on a rampage. “I want someone who goes to be thinking aboat me, who wakes up thinking aboat me, who can’t wait to see me. I don’t want someone who’s like, ‘Ooh, I kinda like her, and I kinda like her.’ I wants someone who’s like, ‘Ooh, if only I could get Brittany.’”

Ooh! Curtis visibly twitches!

“It’s like, I’m not about to settle because I think I can have it all. I want, like, a storybook.” Well, a storybook is easy to find, but a guy who’ll put up with Brittany is another story. Unless —

She turns to Curtis:

“Wouldn’t that have been cool if you came into this house and met the chick of your dreams?”

“Maybe I have.”

Curtis’ romantic modus operandi is now clear: He hangs around and tosses out odd little passive-aggressive hints, accompanied by his braying laugh. It is an eminently resistible approach and, indeed, Brittany again laughs out loud at the suggestion.

Curtis, foiled again!

Episode 33, continued

While we feel mildly sorry for Curtis, Josh’s raging unrequited passion is breaking our hearts. Well, OK, not our hearts, but doubtless the hearts of every ‘N Sync fan in the nation. Josh — post-Jordan, post-preening, post-nomination — has become our unlikely tragic hero. And truth be told, he’s not bad in the role. In fact, Josh is now quietly emoting all over the place. He’s falling to pieces with a smile on his face and a kind word for everyone. The boy is a symphony of pain and hope. He’s a sad country ballad.

And he’s trying really hard to stay out of trouble.

“Jamie recommended that I sleep in another bed the last two nights,” he tells Brittany, who has nonetheless doggedly followed him to his new digs. He’s apparently still been cuddling with Brittany in the Love Bed in the girls’ room.

“I don’t want you not to stay in there because of me, if that’s what you’re asking,” she says, refusing to get the message. “Not at all,” he replies unconvincingly. If this were a movie, the score would get all tense and stabby right here, all weird violin sounds and a bass drum pounding like an anxious heart. What if Jamie walks in?!

“I’m glad I met you,” purrs Brittany, bedside. “I really do want to be friends. You’ve taught me some stuff.” Please leave now!

“I just want you to know I don’t have hurt feelings.” OK, sure. Leave!

But she drones on, now back to the subject of the perfect guy for her. “For the first time ever,” she says, “I really want to find a soul mate. The guy for me is going to be, like, ‘Ooh, Brittany!’”

“The guy for you should, I don’t know how to explain it,” whispers Josh, “when you know, you know … You have a quality I really like in girls: Your feet are grounded but you’re spontaneous. And I love that.”

And next thing you know she’s in bed with him, ruining his chances with Jamie.

Later, in the Red Room, Josh says, “Brittany and I are like the couple who start dating, then realize they’d be better off as friends.” Or even as strangers, who knows?

“But I think Jamie and I will get closer and closer,” he says. “I don’t know where it’ll lead, but I hope I’ll spend more time with her in the real world where the real people walk around and do stuff.”

Do Jamie and Josh really have a shot at eventually walking around and doing stuff? Not if “Big Brother” can help it. After a game of aquatic basketball during which Cassandra is almost drowned by an ever more hostile Eddie, it’s time for the second “Big Brother” roast. The housemates are asked to honor nominees by pelting them with insults.

Once again, it’s hard to tell whether the jokes were written by the show’s producers; and once again, it’s hard to tell what George is trying to be — though we suspect that, in his tiny mind, he’s gone Hollywood.

After George rolls up a napkin and lights it as a faux cigar, Karen says, “I wish I had a cigarette that size.” To which he quips, “You wish you had anything this size.” Naughty George!

Next, a series of lame United Nations jokes directed at Cassandra falls flat, and it looks like the roast is toast — until the bizarre insults and insinuations start flowing.

(“You’re all cool cats,” says George, oblivious.)

Curtis to Karen: “I look forward to more spades and cuddles and cookies and kitchen time.”

George to Josh: “I can’t wait for your new book to come out, Sloshy: ‘How to date two women in an 1,800-square-foot house and lose 500 grand!’”

Eddie to Josh: “Josh, you got a history of going after bitches — Jordan, Brittany, Jamie. No wonder the dog’s hiding under the couch.”

Someone gasps. George laughs alone.

And finally, Jamie to Josh: “We’ve all noticed in this house that you always like to get things off your chest. In the Red Room you get your opinions off, in the bathroom you get your hair off, in the bedroom you get Brittany off.”

Busted! Josh dies inside. Cassandra looks really angry. Later, she calls it unfair. “The spotlight was turned on others.”

“This is something they did to us,” says Curtis, referring to Big Brother, as he rubs a dejected-looking Jamie’s arm. George slumps, deflated, by the pool.

“The only thing we can do now,” Curtis says, “is band together.”

Later the Red Room becomes a vale of regret.

“If I could change my vote today I would,” George says. “I wouldn’t have nominated Cassandra.” He would have picked Karen instead.

Curtis regrets nominating Josh and wishes he had pegged Karen instead, too.

Brittany would do anything to take back her vote for Josh. She would have voted for George because he had no other votes. “Big Brother” has finally lived up to its name: The housemates are paranoid, afraid of how they’re being perceived, afraid of each other, afraid of themselves.

In the last scene, a furtive, paranoid Brittany confesses to George about what she said in the Red Room.

“I’m paranoid about editing now.”

George looks up at the camera.

“You guys are bad people.”

(C.C.)

Episode 34 (Wednesday, Aug. 16)

It’s the live Wednesday night broadcast and tensions are running a little high — between CBS and the houseguests.

The housemates have bonded and Julie Chen is not having a good time.

Chen is the host of the tackiest infomerical on TV. After explaining that tonight, for the first time, we “have a choice of three houseguests to banish from the ‘Big Brother’ house,” Chen gets a malevolent gleam in her eye. “But first, we have a surprise for the houseguests.”

The consensus among the houseguests? “So what?” Eyes roll. No one looks at the cameras. They just glance at each other and smirk. The houseguests hate Julie. And she hates them.

“You’re probably wondering why there’s a TV in the house,” she says.

“Eh,” they say, not biting.

“Well, it has to do with tonight’s challenge. We’ve got a great surprise for everyone in the house. But in order to get the surprise, you must first watch a tape.”

Silence. The last thing the housemates want is another “surprise” from CBS. After five long seconds of dead air that Chen is at a total loss to fill, one of the houseguests (who is off-camera, probably being threatened) drawls, “Great,” like he means it.

“Don’t say great yet!” bleats Chen. George squints. Is she stupid?

The challenge, which will be decided by majority vote, is this: The group can watch a tape of themselves making their banishment nominations from the week before. If they do, they get a “surprise.” (“It’ll be really great, you guys will really love it,” says Chen.) Or don’t watch the tape and don’t get the surprise and you’ll never know what the surprise was.

This pathetic threat elicits chuckles from the houseguests.

She gives them a few minutes to decide. It takes them two seconds.

“No way.”

“I say life’s good either way,” Josh says, “without the crap they give us.”

“Especially not knowing what the ‘surprise’ is,” Curtis snorts.

Everyone cracks up.

“Too bad for Julie,” laughs Josh in the strange accent they’ve all adopted. “No drama.”

“I can see the surprise being Mega and Jordan waiting outside to say hello to us,” Eddie says.

“It just goes to show what happens in the Red Room might just wind up in our faces,” whispers Cassandra.

“They may just show it to you,” Josh adds.

Julie returns, seething. “All right, no one wants to watch the tape, so apparently no one wants the surprise. Except Eddie, maybe … ”

He raises his arms in an exaggerated shrug.

Jamie? “Nope.”

Cassandra? “Absolutely not.”

“OK,” says Chen, sounding like she’s just swallowed glass.

The camera cuts back to the studio. “They’ll never know,” sniffs Chen.

On banishment night, we get a montage of each nominee’s lowlights of the month. Karen’s first. We see every bad thing Karen ever said about anyone topped off with a crying jag over feeling “gossipy.”

The nominees are then given 30 seconds to talk about how they feel about the nominations. No one says anything bad. So CBS retaliates by showing a montage of Cassandra that paints her as a judgmental outsider who doesn’t want anyone to have any fun.

Chen tries to get Dr. Drew Pinsky to say something bad, but he won’t either. “We just heard Cassandra say that she didn’t want to be involved in the alliances. Do you believe that?”

“Oh, yeah,” he says, “that’s vintage Cassandra.”

Then Chen asks if he was surprised that the shut-ins didn’t take the surprise.

Dr. Drew was not surprised.

Furthermore, he was moved by Karen’s, Josh’s and Cassandra’s gooey goodbye speeches. It gives the group “closure,” he says.

“They’re close enough now that they can bring up these spontaneous feelings about each other,” he says.

Chen doesn’t really understand. She’s never had spontaneous feelings, though we have them about her.

Episode 34, continued

Finally, the time comes to let everyone know who has been banished.

Chen, the clumsiest woman on TV, tries to be mysterious. “Josh,” she says. And he waits. And she waits. He starts to get up. “You got 9 percent of the vote.”

Karen, of course, gets 76 percent. This sets off a crying jag that will continue for the duration of the hour. Karen’s relief is palpable, and as the shut-ins hug and kiss her goodbye, you get the surreal sense that this must be what it’s like inside a hijacked 747 when the hostage with the heart condition gets released.

They group-hug with the dog.

It doesn’t seem as if Karen is ever going to make it out the door, but eventually she does and the roommates get a glimpse of the outside as she walks toward the gate. They stand there, squinting in the sun. George says, “The crowds are getting bigger.”

When they come back, Josh and Jamie give each other the longest, deepest, most lingering hug we’ve seen so far.

A few seconds later, Karen embraces Julie, which doesn’t have quite the same effect on us.

“What’s running through your mind?” asks Chen, making “running through your mind” motions with her hands.

Karen tells her it was different than what she thought it would be. “I thought it was going to be all fun and games, but it was stressful. You could never get away.”

“Was the Red Room an escape for you?” asks Chen.

“It was a nightmare,” Karen responds. “You never knew how the public saw you.”

Karen, who likes to think of herself “as a caring, compassionate person,” has no idea just how bad she has been made to look.

The big, weird, exploitative surprise of the evening comes when Julie reveals that they’ve brought Karen’s much-derided husband, Tom, on the show. But first, Karen is forced to watch the video of her husband reciting his now-infamous “I was damned to love a woman who walks in sunshine and shadows” letter. “Fragrant as jasmine with soft arms in which to rest at the end of a trying day,” he continues. “My love is hard and cold as a gulp of freezing winter air. This is unpopular love. What she fails to comprehend is that it is so deep that no one except God will ever be able to see it.”

That’s beautiful, Tom. But a lot of good it does her.

Still, Karen buckles. Tom gets hauled out, they hug, even peck a kiss or two. He tells her it’s OK. Then Julie says, “I’m sure you have a lot to talk about — and this is neither the time nor the place.”

“Big Brother” is all about discretion.

Finally, Chen gives Karen the chance to say goodbye to her former roommates one more time. Karen talks as though she’s died and gone to husband heaven.

“It’s great! It’s awesome! It’s everything I wanted it to be!”

As the credits roll, the remaining roommates turn back to more pressing matters — their distrust and hatred for CBS.

“I’m all for sticking together,” Eddie says, renewing his vow not to ask or tell about nominations.

“It’s tough enough as it is,” agrees Josh.

“We can’t let them win,” Eddie says.

(C.C.)

Episode 35 (August 17)

Brittany, her hair now a shade of electric chartreuse and her skin unnaturally tan, looks like one of those troll dolls kids play with.

She incessantly says she feels ridiculous, and indeed she looks ridiculous. But this feeling competes inside with her naked desire to become the house’s alpha female, particularly with the departure of Jordan, the manipulative stripper, and Karen, the bipolar mom.

The trouble is that these two residents each had a personality that, however rebarbative, was built out of something more than hair dye and a detachable nose ring.

This makes for some amusing developments.

Brittany fancies herself possessed of a Jordan-level knack for confrontation. So, just as Jordan did, she decides to ambush Josh about his being two-faced. We already know Josh is two-faced, and we’ve already seen Jordan’s spectacular ambush from two weeks ago, which displayed a Napoleonic deviousness and efficiency.

Under Brittany’s generalship this move is undertaken somewhat more clumsily and produces less satisfactory results.

She and Jamie lure Josh away from the pool. Brittany, with Jamie by her side, lays into Josh for telling Karen that he was more interested in Jamie, even as he crawled into the love bed with Brittany.

Her basic point is that he’s still cuddling with her while he really has the hots for Jamie. But of course we know that if Josh didbring something up about Jamie Brittany would crucify him for that as well.

Josh isn’t really crushed. He isn’t afraid of Brittany, as he was of Jordan. Also, Brittany cries through most of the proceedings.

Also, she keeps saying things like, “Imagine how it feels to be me!”

Let’s not go there, Brittany.

The only mildly interesting side effect is that Josh, who admits that he has been reduced to spending most of his time outside so he won’t get into trouble, is so relentlessly under the gun, and has to repeat his rather reasonable explanations to Brittany so many times, that he actually manages to elicit our sympathy.

“I just feel like a sucker,” says a weeping Brittany. Suckers always set themselves up.

Jamie, meanwhile, wants to make sure that everyone knows she voted for Karen’s banishment because Karen in effect asked her to — not because Jamie didn’t like Karen.

Ms. Perfect is playing some pretty catty cheerleader politics, however covertly. Karen was sure her third banishment vote came from Curtis, when in fact it came from Jamie. Jamie kept her mouth shut through the ensuing drama. But Karen busted her in front of the other residents Wednesday night, right after she was banished.

Episode 35, continued

As a consequence Jamie’s worried that she might look bad to the other shut-ins. Thus begins a one-woman PR campaign. Jamie’s staying on message: She voted Karen off because Karen wanted to be voted off, and she didn’t tell Karen when Karen started freaking out because, well ….

We can see earnestness on Jamie’s face as she walks around the house with this message, from Brittany to Cassandra to Eddie.

The shut-ins are increasingly paranoid.

“It’s crazy in here, bro,” says Eddie in the Red Room. He thinks that Big Brother is really starting to play games with the residents — making Cassandra get her hair wet in pool games when Big Brother knows she hates it, for example — and that some of the shut-ins are starting to crack.

Indeed, the other big topic of discussion is Big Brother’s gambit Wednesday to have the shut-ins watch each other’s banishment nominations. They didn’t bite, and of course they’ve all been aware that they were being watched from day 1, but now they’re slowly realizing how much power they’ve been giving Big Brother by speaking freely or being honest in the Red Room.

Next time, the residents realize, they might not get a choice.

Eddie also says that he knows that “Big Brother” is a contest, and that he wants to win that $500,000. Jamie, outside, is somewhat disappointed by this part of Eddie’s personality. She discusses this with a few others, which reminds us of the subtle way she went from person to person a week and a half ago complaining about Karen and what she saw as Karen’s attempt to influence the voting of the other shut-ins.

Otherwise, the house decompresses after Karen leaves. Jamie and Cassandra, with George, make themselves feel better about nominating her by reminding each other of how happy she was to see her kids.

Meanwhile, Curtis consoles a weeping Brittany in the bathroom. He offers this line about the dearly departed Karen: “She’ll be watching out for us.”

Brittany goes out to seek succor from the chickens.

George, master of the obvious, tells the Red Room cameras that people leaving creates empty spaces, and that those spaces are … spacious. “Weird.” He says he can’t imagine what it will be like for the last three house hostages.

We flash forward two months in a blank stare of horror and abject boredom. Yes, maybe it can get worse than this.

Episode 36 (Friday, Aug. 18)

Day 44: It is the halfway point for the unremarkable residents of the house of forced laughter.

“I could be out of here in 14 days,” says a reflective Eddie in the Red Room, “as opposed to 44.”

“For me personally,” he continues, “it’s a big day because every second that passes is one second closer to walking outside and down those stairs [to] my loved ones, my mom and my dad, beating up my little brother, seeing my girlfriend again and palling around with my boys.

“The next 44 days,” he concludes pensively, “will have its highs and lows.”

Brittany gets up early to make biscuits, clean the house and wave good morning to the sun. With her green pigtails and unnaturally round eyes she looks like an electrocuted elf.

Jamie, the generally demure beauty queen, is all exercised because she thinks the “Big Brother” producers are making a big deal out of her having voted Karen for banishment. She’s picking up clues from the questions the “Big Brother” questioners ask her and the other residents in their daily Red Room confessionals.

Karen was voted out Wednesday, after spending a week thinking it was Curtis, not Jamie, who’d voted for her. Jamie never gave her a clue that it was actually she who’d provided the (as it happened) decisive vote. Like a certain Republican presidential administration a quarter-century ago, Jamie’s discovering that you get nailed not for the crime but the cover-up.

“I know it’s a story line [but] it kind of makes me mad,” she says. Now she knows how Nixon felt when Woodward and Bernstein came calling.

Besides, Jamie can’t stand being as thought of anything less than perfect.

The residents now plot to talk to certain questioners in the Red Room. Since they live in a house specifically designed to capture their every utterance, it’s difficult to put one over on their masters.

Jamie, displaying Stockholm Syndrome behavior, tries to sneak in when her favorite interrogator, Christine, is around. She gets a guy instead. “Oh,” she says, crestfallen.

Jamie’s in a special form of hell — entering a beauty contest and working on looks, talent and personality, only to find out that the sole important category is scheming.

“The thing that sucks right now,” she tells Curtis, “is that I feel like I have so many sides to my personality and [yet] what’s focused on is who I voted for.”

This was the late Jordan’s take on things as well — she said the show was edited in a way to make her look bad. As we’ve noted before, this rationalization doesn’t wash. It’s kind of like a bank robber who says, “Well, why don’t you show the surveillance tapes for when I wasn’t robbing the bank?”

Curtis accidentally says something we agree with: “You have a lot of control over who you are and how you’re acting.”

Episode 36, continued

Eddie’s bored. “Hello, Big Brother!” he hollers. “We need something to do. It’s fucking boring in here!”

Why isnt he studying for the geography challenge?

Instead, he gets into a rubber-band shooting match with Jamie. She nails him once in the eye and twice in the nipple. Maybe hell start wearing a shirt.

There follows a scene that reminds us of what Jamie has to put up with on a day-to-day basis. She and Eddie are lying in a darkened bedroom — on separate beds — chatting.

Zany Brittany bursts through the door. “Can I come in?” she asks brightly. Gracious Jamie, of course, says yes. Eddie says no. Brittany ignores him; she and Eddie then get into an argument, half in merriment, half serious, right out of “Dumb and Dumber.”

Brittany’s ripostes are generally along the lines of “I’m dumb? You’re dumb!”

“I am so over you,” Eddie says finally, speaking for humanity.

The battle ends when Eddie burps heroically and then starts howling every time Brittany tries to say anything. He can’t know it, but many viewers at home do the same thing.

Finally Brittany leaves. Her tearful reaction to this rout will probably take up a big part of tomorrow’s episode.

Jamie doesn’t say a word during the whole exchange. Forty-four more days, she’s thinking.

There follows a pair of scenes in which the residents are challenged to say three bad things about each other and then three nice things.

It’s not Jamie’s day. Most of the jokes surround the boys, and most are about boy things: snoring, farting, cleaning the bathroom and drinking — all punctuated with more of the slightly discomfited laughter that increasingly characterizes the house.

But Jamie ends up taking it on the chin.

You wear too much makeup, Eddie tells her.

“You’re so self-conscious about being around the pool; ’cause you have a very nice body and you should just enjoy it,” offers Curtis.

George, a man unfamiliar with a world in which people don’t say the very first thing that pops into their minds, tells Jamie, “You don’t always say what you mean.”

Jamie gives him a look.

“You have something to say — you can see it’s in your head,” says Brittany, “but you just don’t say it because, well, I don’t know why.”

It’s called discretion, Brittany, Jamie is thinking.

(B.W.)

Episode 37 (Monday, Aug. 21)

If there was a “Big Brother” episode on Saturday, Aug. 19, your humble chroniclers missed it; CBS preempted it for football in our viewing stations on both coasts.

Anything could have happened. But we’ll just assume that Brittany shared, Jamie fretted, Eddie seethed, Cassadra held up graciously and Josh, Curtis and George went about their unexamined lives.

On Monday night, in a typically unspecial “special one-hour episode of ‘Big Brother,’” Brittany and Eddie lie in a bedroom and talk about breaking the seal.

Breaking the seal. You know. The Divinyls sang about it.

Eddie thought about breaking the seal “hard” last week.

Brittany is “super thinking about it.” But she’s worried about the cameras.

Eddie, riveted, tells her not to worry. He’s very encouraging.

As the conversation goes on other boys magically appear in the room, with that sixth sense boys have whenever a woman starts talking about letting her fingers do the walking. Jamie comes in, too.

It’s quite a scene: A zany virgin, her hair starting to resemble Kentucky bluegrass, delightedly talking about not masturbating in front of a demure beauty queen (Jamie), a mad flasher (Eddie) and the house’s resident Orgasmatron (Josh, who always gets the ladies off).

Brittany explains that her sudden urge to break the seal is due to the academic demands “Big Brother” has placed on her of late. She’s studying for the weekly challenge and that’s what she does when she studies, she explains.

Instead of a cigarette, she gets a Mountain Dew, breaks the seal and then studies some more.

Experience Dew indeed!

“One thing about being a virgin,” Brittany says, “is that you have to engage in that frequently. So when you take that away, it’s a big deal.”

Yes, Virginia, it sure is. But despite the unanimous youth vote, Brittany declines to put on a virgin-on-virgin love show.

George and Cassandra, the house’s new mom, share some deep thoughts on the obvious. Today’s topic: What it’s like to be a contestant on “Big Brother.”

“I don’t know if it’s the confinement, but everything is compounded,” says George.

Cassandra: “There’s nowhere to get away. We made the choice to be here, but when we get outside, freedom is going to be so precious.”

Applause erupts in our minds. A little voice yells, “Bravo!”

We tell it to shut up, because it’s time for the road-trip challenge.

On second thought, the road-trip challenge — which involved memorizing the interstate highway system — is about as exciting as a flatulent pug.

And yet, the challenge has awaked the slumbering scholar in George. George, though not by nature one of those dads for whom the interstate highway system is a topic of frequent dinner-table conversation, is on fire. He wins the challenge for the group. In this way, he redeems the shame he’s been carrying around since blowing the jumping-rope challenge a week ago.

Episode 37, continued

George’s inner intellectual giant comes to life when he is able to figure out how to get from New Haven, Conn., to Atlanta.

He does it via Jacksonville, Fla., and San Antonio, but never mind.

Now he’s got a whole new outlook on finishing his education.

“Today was rather a very good day,” says George in the Red Room, practicing his big words.

He stays there for what seems like hours, raving about how he’d always regretted leaving school, but that his resounding success in the road-trip challenge made him view higher learning in a whole new light and, well, gosh darn it, he was really going to think about going back to school!

We see him playing opposite Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School II: By George!” And New Haven would be a fitting setting.

The shut-ins’ next daily challenge is to paint one another like animals. The result is in some cases eerie. Oddly enough, Brittany, painted to look like a giraffe, looks more normal than she usually does. Then the group is told to prowl around the yard.

We don’t think we can withstand the thrill, until we’re treated to what feels like 10 minutes of Brittany’s yoga stretches set to some canned music reminiscent of “Fanfare for the Common Man.” Then we know we can withstand anything.

Later, Jamie and Brittany discuss the nominations. Or, rather, Jamie tries to say something very important and confidential and fascinating without saying it. Finally, she pulls out a book and points to two words.

Next thing we know, Jamie’s been called onto the carpet in the Red Room.

“I was wondering if you could tell me what words you were pointing to,” says a disembodied female voice.

“Um.” There’s a long pause. “Is that something I have to do?” asks Jamie.

“Well, I am asking,” replies the softly maternal voice of pure evil.

“This is weird,” says Jamie. “This is sudden. I don’t know what to do.”

“I’d like you to tell me.”

“It’s not a big deal at all, but I’d like to know why you want to know.”

“Well, if it’s not a big deal, then why are you hesitating?”

“I’m just thinking about what I should do. Is this whole thing being videotaped right now?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, great. So, if I don’t tell you, I’m breaking a rule?”

“Yes.”

Like a member of the French resistance tortured by the Gestapo, Jamie finally collapses under the merciless interrogation.

“We were having a conversation about voting,” she says. “And she was saying she was going back and forth between two or three guys. I pointed to the word ‘two’ and the word ‘men.’”

Then she sighs. This is not at all like she thought it would be.

Episode 37, continued

A sumo-wrestling challenge — fat suits, plaster hair and all — follows. An anti-defamation suit from the sumo wrestlers association will surely follow this. Eddie wins the challenge, and is told his prize will be a massage. But to get it, he must remain blindfolded.

Oh, the zaniness.

Curtis leads Eddie into the Red Room and helps him lie down on the massage table. After Curtis has gone, a man dressed in orange comes on-screen and begins to pound Eddie.

“All right,” yells Eddie, sensing that something is up. “You obviously don’t know what you’re doing. Who are you, Bozo the clown?”

The mystery man continues to abuse our friend, as housemates in the next room listen in, worried.

Guess who it was? That’s right! That hostile freak, Mega! And for no reason at all!

When Mega’s finished with Eddie, he holds up a sign that reads, “You can vote me out, but you can’t count me out.”

He’s got us. We had counted him out, and here he is back in our lives again!

Later, after Eddie tells them about it, the shut-ins speculate on who the mystery jerk was. The names David Letterman and Craig Kilborn are bandied about unrealistically.

Josh, wanting to participate, thinks hard and comes up with the biggest celebrity name he can think of:

“Pauly Shore!”

Then Curtis guesses Mega. But Eddie doesn’t think so. Neither does Cassandra.

“I don’t think he’d even want to get involved with CBS or ‘Big Brother,’” she says.

The residents are going to be surprised at the paucity of opportunity this experience will provide them on the outside. What do they think they’re on? “Survivor”?

At dinner that night, Brittany confesses to telling lies in the Red Room.

Oh, my god, says Curtis in that voice — what’s with that weird voice? — “You’re this false character.”

She said she lied about Jordan a lot — in particular when she said Jordan’s behavior wasn’t bothering her. Actually, we saw Brittany freaking out all the time about Jordan. She’s lying about lying.

“I tell them how I’ve decided that I want to feel,” Brittany says. “So if I wanna feel that way but I don’t feel that way, they hear outta my mouth what I wanna feel.”

“So are you a virgin,” asks the new Curtis voice, “or do you feel like a virgin?”

Everyone laughs and laughs and we can’t help joining in.

Cut to George in the Red Room.

“I’m gonna be honest with you guys,” he says, speaking in the slow voice he uses when he’s deeply moved. “When Brittany said she’s not always honest with you guys … Maybe she isn’t being honest with us.

“How can I put this? If you’re not gonna be honest about it, don’t say nothin’ at all. It’s not like you guys are gonna put a hammer to our head, or beat on us, or take our food away, or shut the water down, or anything else like this.”

Well, not yet anyway.

And Big Brother doesn’t like being reminded of it, because next thing you know, the guests are told this week’s challenge is a dance marathon. Two people must dance, 24 hours a day, until Friday at noon.

“They’re trying to get us,” says Eddie.

The fabulous sounds of a torpid Herb Alpert knockoff well up on the sound track, and Cassandra and Josh — the first couple to take to the floor — pooh-pooh it and despair.

And it’s only Sunday.

(C.C.)

Episode 38 (Tuesday, Aug. 22)

It’s Tuesday, day two of the week-long dance-marathon challenge, and the boys of “Big Brother” are giggling like schoolgirls.

They don’t want to seem homophobic or anything, but men dancing with men is just kind of … gay.

“Girls dancing is fine,” Curtis informs Cassandra, as he pushes her around the glamorous back porch, where the dance marathon unfolds.

Cassandra hasn’t laughed this hard since the late Mega told her he fancied himself a role model. “Why?”

“Because girls do this together, boys do not.”

You’re going to have to give us more than that, Squire.

“Put your finger on it for me,” Cassandra urges. Cassandra lives in New York City, and is occasionally reminded that’s she’s living in a house with a lot of country mice.

“You know how some things give you the willies and you don’t know why?”

“Yeah.”

“There, I put my finger on it.”

Saucy! And that’s not the only thing he’ll be putting his finger on before the episode is over.

History creates the oddest catalysts for progress. In the Big Brother house, it’s the fact that there are three women and four men. To equally distribute the burdens of the dance marathon, the guys realize they’re going to be doing some man-boy lambadas whether they like it or not.

At a dance-marathon planning meeting, George tells the group there’s a way for men to touch each other in a 100 percent non-gay way.

Eddie shares with the group what he plans on holding of Josh’s. The words are bleeped out, but we can tell from the movement of his lips that they sound like “knapsack.”

He helpfully holds out one hand in a perhaps too-practiced cupping motion

Eddie is too comfortable with the idea of dancing with the boys for George’s taste.

Later, in the Red Room, George charmingly reassures the producers on this important matter.

The men have figured out a way to dance together, he says, that doesn’t make them look like they’re “companions or anything else like dat.”

Which is a relief, because we couldn’t take anything else like dat.

“It’ll look proper,” George assures the champions of propriety that have required this of him. He notes that “Eddie is a real team player” for volunteering to dance with guys.

Team player? Isn’t that a euphemism for … gay?

Later, Eddie casually mentions that if Jordan the stripper were there, it’d be a lot more entertaining.

“Oh, wouldn’t it!” squeals Papa Smurf. “‘Cause then we could stick a pole out der!”

The “Big Brother” producers treat us to a rare glimpse of their Satanic goosing when they rouse the slumbering inmates for an “all-dance” at 8:17 a.m.

The group is given 30 seconds to get up and boogie en masse.

They shuffle onto the porch and convulse their faces against the glaring sun. George speaks for everyone when he says, “I really had to pee, too.”

Episode 38, continued

Later, Cassandra and Jamie analyze the events of recent weeks. “Whatever Big Brother throws at us,” Cassandra says, “as long as we keep our heads and support each other, we can handle it. Whoever’s left at the end will have persevered and should be proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

“Looking back,” Jamie agrees, “if you were the first or second to leave, you have no idea what ‘Big Brother’ is about. It’s wild!

“This is, like, challenging all of your traits and your standards … but everything you do is in the public eye.”

We know just how she feels. Just, like, watching the show is challenging our standards. But we’re in it for the money too.

Out back, Curtis cuts in on Josh, who is now generally called Sloshie by the group, and Brittany.

The boys don their alien accents for the occasion.

“This isn’t happening,” says Curtis, taking Sloshie’s hand.

“I’ll just pretend you’re a girl with man hands,” Sloshie replies.

A montage of manly hand-holding follows.

The daily challenge involves matching the houseguest with something they said. Things proceed dully and uneventfully until someone pulls this quote from a hat:

“I’d do a guy before I’d kiss him.”

Jamie, whose turn it is to guess, stumped, considers the different women in the house who would say something like that. ‘I’d say Jordan, but she’s not here.”

It doesn’t enter her mind a guy could utter those words.

It’s Josh, of course. And he’s not thrilled to have it brought up again.

He feebly tries to explain the point, but that only makes it worse.

Curtis is gurgling uncontrollably. George can’t get over it. Josh said he’d rather do a guy … haw! He’d rather do a guy … phrlmp! He’d rather do a guy …

This is just a small part of the general hilarity that ensues. Josh leaves the room.

Brittany follows him to the bathroom, where he’s brushing his teeth.

“Well, the worst they can think is that you’re bi,” she says comfortingly. Having been the object of Josh’s affections, she knows he’s all man when it comes to her.

He gives her a you’re-not-helping look. “You’re not helping!” yodels Curtis from the other room.

“Man, you took that one in the wazoo!” says George, coming into the bathroom.

There follows another group razz. Josh hasn’t been so crushed since Jordan publicly took him down for flirting with both her and Brittany.

Sloshie and Brittany climb into bed together. Brittany strokes his head. “I feel bad for you!”

“I feel bad for me, too!”

“Not that you’re one of them.”

Yeah, yeah — we know.

(C.C.)

Episode 39 (Thursday, Aug. 24)

Julie Chen looks marvelous. For tonight’s live nomination show she’s wrapped herself in a vaguely vinyl casual suit the color of Brittany’s seafoam hair. With its pointy shoulders and scooped neck, it might have been tailored by the same costumer who designed Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”-era frippery. Matching up with Brittany makes for a gesture of solidarity the house hamsters will never be able to appreciate, but those of us at home are lucky enough to marvel in its splendor.

Also, Julie has a new stance: She stands with her right foot in a straight line in front of her left. It kind of makes her twist her hips, and it looks like she’s walking on a balance beam, but it certainly does say “newswoman!”

Just in case that suit doesn’t transfix everyone, the show tonight offers us the household’s every-other-week banishment nominations. (This is generally done on Wednesdays, but it was preempted this week by all the “Survivor” foofara.) After each set, the cameras cut to the living room for reaction shots. There are no shockers tonight, just serendipity.

Well, one shocker, actually. Jamie is faced with a decision that for her creates a major crisis of conscience. A few days ago she won a contest that involved answering dumb questions about her fellow shut-ins. Her prize, engineered especially for her, is two minutes in the Red Room with a guest. Chen tells her that she can talk with a “Top Hollywood casting director!”

Jamie ooohs, cause she has a dream of going to Hollywood and making it!

But there’s a catch! Jamie’s mom is waiting in the Red Room as well — but Jamie can only talk with one of the two! We see a shot of Jamie’s nice-looking mother sitting there expectantly.

Gentle readers, you who have come along this journey of reconstitution with us — you know Jamie as well as we do. She’s demure and selfless, a sweet family girl: She’s a composite Miss Washington, Miss Congeniality and the homecoming queen, caked with a little extra eye shadow. Too much foundation, too, but never mind.

She has 10 seconds to decide. Does she go into a room with her mother, who has flown all the way down from Washington for a 50-50 chance at seeing her daughter for two minutes? Or does she go into a room with a man who’s won an Emmy, an indiscriminately awarded statuette cast out of recycled aluminum cans?

There is only one answer, of course, but Jamie doesn’t give it.

She goes for the aluminum.

He’s a Hollywood type all right, all composure and smiles. If he’d had Jamie’s best interests at heart he would have confided to her that America likes its sweethearts to vote for mom any time they have a chance, particularly when the alternative is a guy with a casting couch.

The most exciting parts of the rushed conversation reveal that Jamie’s been on an episode of “Baywatch” and that she’d liked to be an actress like Meryl Streep.

The casting director knows what we know — that right now Jamie’s displaying only the skills that’ll get her the part of “second murdered co-ed” in a slasher film.

We’ll always think of this episode as “Jamie’s Choice.”

Episode 39 continued

It’s voting time. (They were taped before Jamie’s decision.)

Eddie nominates Curtis and Jamie. A disembodied voice asks what the hardest thing about nominating Jamie is. “She’ll take it personally,” he says, keeping his true feelings wrapped up inside.

Eddie sees himself as Bogart, sending Mary Astor up the river at the end of “The Maltese Falcon.”

Cassandra nominates Brittany: She thinks Brit will have a hard time coping toward the end of the show. (In the past, she’s also pointedly remarked that Brittany doesn’t do enough work around the house.) She also nominates George, who didn’t receive any votes last round. She figures that no one else will pick him. We admire Cassandra, but this looking out for other people thing in the nomination booth is a bit phony: “I loved him, your honor, which is why I had to kill him.” Also, what if everyone does what she does?

Julie gives the shut-ins the first votes. There’s a lot of uncomfortable laughing. Josh and Cassandra move together in the background, still grooving for the 24-hour dance challenge. Brittany and Jamie look nervous.

We see a featurette about a party for Josh in his hometown, Fresno, a blazing armpit of a city in farmland California. The mayor is there. Friends and family recount favorite Josh moments and offer advice. “If Brittany falls into the pool don’t jump in and save her,” says one. Others recount their favorite Josh moment on the show thus far.

Someone who owns one of those restaurants with the words “brewing company” in the name says: “America loves Josh!”

Josh nominates Curtis and Cassandra. His reasoning: They have respectable jobs that prevent them from wanting to embarrass themselves for the amusement of the other hamsters. Josh understands that pretty boys from Fresno can get drunk, attempt to horndog every female in sight, vomit in the middle of a pie-eating contest and get snookered by a stripper without suffering undue consequences.

We realize we dont have a favorite Josh moment.

Curtis nominates Eddie and Josh. He gives his usual line about not knowing Eddie very well and having doubts about Josh. We think he’d like to eliminate all romantic competition so that he can move in on Brittany. Or Jamie. Or whoever.

Dr. Drew Pinsky, the MTV “Loveline” guy, drops in to talk with Julie out in the live studio. Drew says that experiments show that if you put people in a threatening situation, seal them off from their loved ones and the outside world, open them up for personal failure and torment them with emotional and interpersonal stress, they just might become paranoid. What kind of doctor is this guy? Maybe it isn’t a coincidence that all the guys with the good weed in college were psych majors.

Pinsky also predicts that Jamie’s gonna pay for screwing over her mom. This is a household in which family counts for a lot, he notes.

Another zany feature: a rally for George — George! — in Winnebago, Ill. There’s a man on a flatbed truck behind a podium. “Welcome to George Day!” he says. There are a few bales of hay, a marching band and another mayor! What fun! Winnebago High School classmates of George’s reminisce. We’re not surprised to learn that he was the tackle dummy on the football team. “He liked to be the life of the party,” says George’s high school English teacher. “To honor George is to honor everyone who is a hard-working middle American,” says the mayor.

It’s another hard-hitting report hosted by Julie Chen, Intrepid Newswoman. A lot of the people in the features are wearing specially made shirts, many with the “Big Brother” logo. But we don’t think the show is actually organizing or paying for these oh-so-spontaneous celebrations. Because that would mean that Chen, who has a very convincing newswoman’s stance, would just be introducing created fluff engineered by CBS to hype its own show, and how intrepidly journalistic is that?

Episode 39 continued

Regina Lewis, who’s billed as the AOL “Online Advisor” (hahaha), joins Chen on the live set. She relays opinions left on the online message boards. “Please someone take away the hair dye,” says one post. We agree.

Chen tells the houseguests that an online poll makes Brittany the most popular guest, winning 33 percent of the vote. George comes in second with 17 percent. The other residents get about 10 percent. Curtis loses with eight percent of the vote.”

“Oh, my god! The world is so horny!” says Brittany, who somehow seems to know that those Internet readers have been trading naked pictures of her from last year’s Burning Man festival. Fortunately, as Internet writers, we know that everyone online is a crackpot freak. We dismiss the harrowing vote and move forward.

George votes for Josh because he found out earlier in the week that Josh had said that he would “rather do a guy than kiss him.” George is moved: “I don’t want him to say anything more in here that could damage his character.” We thought about that line for a long time, but we’re still not sure what George means precisely. We think it’s too late, in any case. George’s second vote is for Brittany. He’s giving her payback for a slight (it’s not clear exactly what) during the Sumo wrestling competition.” So does this mean that all hard-working middle Americans are homophobic and petty?

Jamie votes for Eddie and George, supposedly following a throw of the dice. Big Brother asks if she has ulterior motives. She claims she doesn’t, but it’s a pretty unconvincing lie: She’s shown whisper-consulting with Brittany in a couple of clips while she searches for her answers.

The votes are very evenly distributed. Whoa! The shut-ins realize that there could be a seven-way tie. “That would not be good for me,” says Curtis, who is unpopular on the Internet, you know.

Next, the houseguests find out that it was indeed the late and unlamented Mega who gave Eddie a crushing massage a few days ago. The house hostages all laugh at Eddie’s expense. Eddie keeps his mouth shut. When prompted by Julie, he says, “I’ll still smack him.” Eddie’s a tough guy, but these are the words of a tough guy in a safe house. Mega would kick Eddie’s ass, and laugh doing it.

In the Red Room, Brittany nominates Cassandra and George. “Cassandra’s a lot older than me but there’s a lot I can learn from her?” Brittany says in her ever-questioning voice. She also notes that the two “do most of the chores and most of the cooking,” she says. These are good reasons for banishing someone, we think.

Last episode, Brittany voted for Josh. First she tried to sleep with him. Then she tried to get him kicked out. In this episode, she’s like a teenager punishing her parents for sending her to school and putting a roof over her head.

Julie doles out the final results. George leads with three votes. Everyone else, except for Jamie, is tied with two votes each. That means six out of seven will be up against the 1-900 jury this week. We’re going to spend the day calling in votes against Brittany. On the company phone lines, of course.

In one of the final moment of the live show, Jamie mentions an airplane. No one who hasn’t been paying attention to the Web casts could know what she’s talking about.

Turns out that some Salon Table Talkers, appalled by CBS’ editing manipulations of the house footage, rented a banner airplane and sent it over the “Big Brother” house on Wednesday. (Salon had nothing to do with the stunt.)

According to Web cast transcripts, the shut-ins were mightily confused by the message. Some incorrectly guessed that it might be a message from Karen.

“Big Brother is worse than you think,” it said. “Get out now.”

We wish they’d all follow the advice.

(J.S.)

Episode 40 (Friday, Aug. 25)

That crazy George. Thursday, he received three votes for banishment, mostly because he hadn’t received any the prior round. Now the house Dad is in the middle of a six-way competition for banishment. (The only house hamster not up for ouster is Jamie, and Jamie … well, more on Jamie in a minute.)

George promises this doesn’t bother him, but tonight he’s hatching a plan that he figures will keep him in good with the viewers at home.

Mission: Zany!

But first, we’re still looking at the fallout from Thursday live hour-long episode, the one hosted by Julie Chen, intrepid journalist. Those of us outside the house — including, obviously, the “Big Brother” producers — are mildly scandalized at Jamie the Perfect. After winning a house contest, she was given the opportunity to meet for two minutes with her mother — or a Hollywood casting agent.

Jamie made the wrong decision, and now we get to watch her squirm.

First, “Big Brother” goes back in time to set up her decision. Dancing with George outside on the patio, she wonders what prize she will win. “The coolest thing would be to talk to someone at home,” she says. “But actually cooler than that would be to be blindfolded and taken into the studio and, like, co-host the live show with Julie Chen. Wouldn’t that be awesome?”

Jamie, obviously, hasn’t seen Julie Chen actually hosting the show.

“I would do it. I would love it. And I’d be good,” she says. We think back to the roles Meryl Streep has played throughout her career. We’re pretty sure she used that line in “The Deer Hunter.”

Apropos of nothing, George thinks that she’ll get to look at a newspaper for one minute. Better her than he, though, he says, because he’d forget everything in the paper. He rethinks his position and tells the cameras that “Big Brother” should give Jamie what she wants.

This is what’s called a set-up, but in perverse “Big Brother” logic, we’re hearing it as reverse context.

Now we go back to George. The dry narrator who introduces the scenes is particularly lively tonight: “George is up to something.” Papa Smurf roots through the kitchen for supplies and sneaks off with a few dried beans, a bag of pretzels, some Elmer’s Glue and piece of cardboard ripped from a box of Cap’n Crunch. (Hey, we thought these people were on a budget — what are they doing buying brand-name sugar cereal?)

It’s arts and crafts hour: Apparently he’s making a sign.

Some sneaky music plays while he labors. When he hears the other shut-ins nearby he rushes to hide his handiwork. We get a glimpse him making letters by gluing some pretzels and beans to the paperboard. It looks like it says something like “Save the hero.”

In the next shot, Curtis is badmouthing the romantic competition in the Red Room. He thinks Josh might be lying to the houseguests. For example, the Fresno jock told Curtis he’d never smoked, then puffed on Karen’s cigarettes like he knew what he was doing. (We remember Josh turning it into one of the many gay jokes that have popped up on the show.)

Josh also told Curtis that he has some sort of “secret relationship” with Jamie. Maybe she’s pointing out special words to him in her book. Nah — Josh can’t read. “He’s either really confused or he’s lying,” says Curtis, who would really like to get to the bottom of all this. “Or maybe Jamie’s lying …. I don’t know.”

George is up next in the Red Room. One of the voices asks him if he’ll jump naked on a trampoline. (Naked trampoline jumping has been a punch line in the house from the first week.) “There is no way,” he says between snorts of laughter. “If you could promise me the $300,000, no, the half-million dollars, I would have to consider it.”

George is under the false impression that he hasn’t already embarrassed himself on national TV — as yet for free.

Next, all of the houseguests bounce around the naked trampoline idea. “I’d do it for $20,” says Eddie, who comes cheap.

“I’d do it for $100,000,” says Brittany, before correcting herself. “What am I talking about, I’d do it for $30,000.”

George would have to call home first. But, he says, Mom would give him permission.

Dance party! Music blasts over the house system. All seven shut-ins leap up and start boogieing. Curtis does the swim. Jamie does the hand jive. Eddie is not amused. Cassandra is not amused. The dog, standing in for the audience, looks on with a blank stare.

Episode 40, continued

After the groove segment, we get footage from the day of the banishment nominations, as the hamsters go into the Red Room one by one to give their two nominations.

The residents don’t like the pressure. “They’re breaking my balls,” Eddie reports. Cassandra’s livid at having her motives questioned by the “Big Brother” interrogators. “I’m so insulted. I’m so totally insulted,” she rages.

Jamie gets grilled as well, and comes out to say it was like one of Hitler’s “firing ranges.”

We think the rigors the house residents are undergoing haven’t yet reached Holocaust levels.

Then we zoom forward to material taped after last night’s nomination show. Jamie is mulling over the decision to shaft her mom. Like many a desperate starlet who’s done something a little unclean to get ahead in the game, she’s feeling a little confused in the morning. Welcome to Hollywood!

Brittany, Eddie and George mouth supportive comments, but it all sounds a little forced.

Brittany’s rationalization is the most convoluted: To get ahead in Hollywood you have to show that you’re willing to do anything, so it was good that Jamie demonstrated that she was willing to “give up everything” to be an actress!

We think it’s just going to get Jamie a lot of casting-couch invitations.

George is still on Mission: Zany. He cuts up a yellow sheet, apparently making a turban of some sort. He locks his bean-and-pretzel signs in a suitcase. He hides the key. He stealthily takes a bottle of ketchup out of the kitchen. He takes the ketchup and puts blots on a shirt. He locks the shirt in the suitcase.

What is he up to? In the next scene, with George and Eddie dancing out in the back yard, we find out what’s on George’s mind. He’s a little upset about being up for banishment.

“I kind of got torpedoed tonight, Teresa!” he hollers to the cameras. Teresa is his wife.

With Eddie whistling next to him, George appeals to “the beer drinkers of America” to keep both of them in the house. “Bars of America unite. We could use your votes!”

Now, we’re not sure that George understands that votes are not what he needs. He wants people not to vote for him.

It occurs to us that the beer drinkers of America are just the people who need this explained to them carefully and repeatedly.

“We’re thirsty, too,” says Eddie the mook. “Maybe you should just vote us out so we could come drink with youse.”

Eddie’s off-message.

“Will George and Eddie’s appeal to the public backfire and create resentment among the other houseguests?” asks the narrator. “Tune in tomorrow night and find out.”

In the last segment of the show, George brings his top-secret zany suitcase into the Red Room. We see what he was up to with the ketchup: He’s made himself a shirt with bullet holes, representing the three votes he got for banishment.

“Look at me,” he says to the camera. “I got three wounds today. I need you guy’s help in order to stay in here. I want to stay.”

How much does he want to stay in? Well, he danced for four days. “Look at my feet.” Before we have a chance to turn away, George raises both hooves for the camera. They’re sweaty, and seem to be pocked with sores.

He’s says he’s going to dig deep in his suitcase of zaniness to entertain the American public. We ain’t seen nothing yet, he says. We’re waiting for him to break out the Elvis impersonation, but we’d much rather hear about the time he killed a man.

Here’s something else we’ve noticed: The last three people banished were the ones who took up the most airtime after they had been nominated.

George doesn’t know this, so as he “uses the ammo” he promises us he’s got “to fight this one,” he’ll probably be moving himself in front of the 1-900 firing squad, even if it isn’t as bad as the Hitler firing range that Jamie was talking about.

Last requests? How ’bout less of that zany behavior?

(J.S.)

Episode 41 (Saturday, Aug. 26)

The first half of the show is a recap of the very little that happened last week: the Sumo wrestling, George’s homophobia, the dance contest, Josh and Brittany’s flirtus interruptus, the paranoia, Jamie’s wack decision to see a casting agent instead of her mother, banishment votes, and George’s zany attempt to entertain the American people with costumes to save himself from banishment.

Then it’s on to a new half hour, which centers mostly on the lame challenges “Big Brother” has to think up in order to keep this sagging drama watchable. They need something to lead into “Candid Camera.”

The new episode starts off with a series of Red Room questions. With six guests up for the ax this week, who does each shut-in think voted for him or her?

Eddie figures Josh and Jamie. (He’s half right.)

George guesses Brittany because they “don’t click sometimes.” He’s forgotten that she said she would vote for him because he didn’t get any votes the previous week. He’s not sure about the others.

Brittany fingers Cassandra, which is right, and Josh, which is wrong. Then again, she thinks it could be George or Curtis. (The other one was George, giving payback.)

The Minneapolis moppet works in an appeal to the 1-900 jury as she talks in the Red Room. “I don’t want to leave,” she says. “I don’t want to be banished. It’s weird. I feel like this is my home now.”

And home is … the kind of place where you get roused from sleep with your fellow hamsters for a bracing round of morning square dancing. Cowboy hats and neckerchiefs are provided. Yee-haws! are added by the residents.

We’re unable to watch the following event because of a certain incident in fourth grade involving square dancing, in which, besides being publicly humiliated, we were forced to touch girls. (Ewww.) Do-si-do’s now give us immediate acne; we curl up into a little ball and wet ourselves when we hear the words “Virginia reel.” Mrs. Dawson, if you’re out there, know that you have permanently scarred our psyche and prevented us from ever enjoying what, most certainly, is a joyous American pastime.

Anyway, the residents end up winning the week’s dance marathon. According to Internet transcripts, the shut-ins only netted $40 in grocery money for this activity because “Big Brother” docked the cost of the pug’s veterinarian bill from their cash.

The houseguests were apparently livid, but none of this makes it into tonight’s show.

Instead, Big Brother forces another one of those conversations that help fill the maw of six episodes a week. The topic is what the shut-ins find physically attractive about each other.

Eddie likes Josh’s hair and Cassandra’s hair.

Josh likes Jamie’s eyes and Brittany’s nose. He turns his gaze to George, who says, “Don’t even say nothing,” while making with his hands the international sign for “I am uncomfortable with my own sexuality: Do not toy with me, you temptress queen.”

Cassandra likes Curtis’ eyebrows, which arch independently, like those of a ventriloquist’s dummy. She thinks George’s mid-section is “adorable” and finds herself at a loss for words to describe Josh’s “upper-body type.”

Jamie likes Brit’s teeth and Eddie’s eyelashes.

Brittany likes Josh’s “little smile” and George’s cute squint.

From reading the “Big Brother” transcripts online this week, we know that the shut-ins have talked about suing CBS, pondered an airplane banner sent up by anti-fans of the show (organized in Salon’s Table Talk, of all places) that told them to leave the house, and engaged in serious debate about the international politics of female genital mutilation.

But you know, that stuff is boring: We home viewers would much rather hear about George’s cute squint.

Episode 41, continued

The next scene is a relay challenge. The houseguests have to turn the back yard into a mud pit. The goal is to crawl through the mud with a clean baby doll without getting it dirty. They’re provided camouflage fatigues. Cassandra covers her dreads with a hat and some kind of wrap.

They succeed. Cassandra splits. Eddie spikes the baby like a football. This is mildly amusing until he leaps into the mud, grabs the doll, and repeatedly smashes the doll into the ground.

After Eddie’s little episode, all of the houseguests, except for classy Cassandra, wrestle in the mud.

We think this looks mighty familiar, and spend a few minutes imagining what “Survivor” challenge “Big Brother” will rip off next.

We hope it involves aiming blow darts at Brittany.

Cassandra troops into the Red Room to give Big Brother what-for. She has hair issues, she notes. She has dreads, she points out, and they must not be mussed with; they can’t get wet, be muddied nor smooshed with cowboy hats. Any black American will tell you that hair is sensitive subject, she says.

Cassandra also had a little trouble with square dancing. When she was in school, her mother got her out of square dancing because it wasn’t part of her cultural heritage, she says. (So that’s how you thwart Mrs. Dawson.) She wonders what black Americans thought of her yee-haws. She hopes her housemates have to make “cultural leaps” the same way she does.

We think Cassandra has a point, and also that people who volunteer for hamster duty on a television show get what they pay for.

In the next scene, all of the shut-ins are wearing fake beards and black hats with ringlet curls at their temples: It’s the seven-day shiva challenge!

Just joking.

Eddie and Brittany start with a conversation about women and weight and end up complimenting each other on their babe-aliciousness .

“You’re very attractive,” says Brittany.

Eddie’s not so sure. “It’s not like I’m a bag of teeth,” he concedes, which is quite possibly the best expression ever used on “Big Brother.”

“You’re could be sexy,” Eddie tells Brittany, who thinks she is merely cute.

“I feel like everybody’s little sister,” says Brittany.

“Everybody in here has a degree of narcissism,” says Eddie.

Brittany pauses with a blank expression on her face.

“Self-love,” offers Eddie.

“Oh, I know what narcissism is,” says Brittany.

In the next scene, Brittany, Jamie and Josh are in one of the bedrooms. Cuddle slut Brittany provides a demonstration of how she likes to sleep with her boyfriends.

It involves him on his back and her straddling him, laying her head on his chest and wrapping her feet underneath their knees.

She demonstrates on Jamie. The infrared cameras in the bedroom give us several behind shots of this position.

We wish they wouldn’t do that. Jamie looks like she’s being dry-humped by a koala with a thyroid problem.

She does Curtis and then moves on to Josh.

It’s an obviously sexual position, and he can’t resist making the following comment: “I was thinking that there is one way that I could fall asleep like this.”

With Sloshy’s power tool — the one that by his own admission has never let a woman down — poking her in the back, Brittany leaps up and vamooses.

J.S.

Episode 42 (Monday, Aug. 28)

It’s Monday, Day 53, and “Big Brother” wants to teach us a valuable lesson about beauty pageants — and boring, noncompetitive reality TV shows.

What counts in pageants, as in “Big Brother,” as in life — OK? — is not how pretty you are. It’s how popular you are. Beauty breeds passivity. Popularity is power.

The first rule of popularity is always to apologize for your opinions when they don’t jibe with everyone else’s — or with anyone else’s, for that matter. None of the contestants on “Big Brother” know for sure where they stand. Nor do they know where their housemates stand.

But they do know that you don’t get to be popular by cutting other popular people down. Sure, bitchiness is the eventual goal, but the road to popularity is long — and it’s paved with asses puckering up to be kissed.

Exhibit A tonight is Jamie, who navigates a road filled with insults with equanimity.

“This is how bad I am about pageants,” Brittany says to the beauty queen. “All I know is you’re in a gown, you’re in a bathing suit and you, like, sing.”

Jamie carefully arranges her facial muscles to convey strained but infinite patience and the sort of pity usually reserved for homeless children.

“When I did Miss USA, I was there for three weeks,” she says. “There are interviews, one-on-ones with judges, tons of stuff like that. So, yeah, it goes way beyond that.”

It is an indication of the seriousness with which Jamie takes this subject that the words “one-on-ones with judges” are uttered in a way that would positively prohibit sniggering.

As a voluntary human show pony, Jamie is no stranger to prejudice and narrow-mindedness:

“Did you have a stereotype in your mind about people who participate in them or win them or whatever, just like you might have a stereotype about someone who has piercings and green hair?”

This rather pointed Christian metaphor is lost on Brittany, who has piercings and green hair.

“I mean just the name of it, ‘beauty pageant,’” Brittany chirps self-righteously. “Someone’s judging you and deciding whether or not you’re beautiful.”

“So do you think it’s just this external thing,” asks Jamie, “or more based on who you are?”

Jamie thinks beauty pageants aren’t just for babes — they’re for babes who are better people.

First there was the Karen nomination, then casting-gate, now this. Will Jamie’s wholesome image be irreparably damaged? Josh comes to her rescue. The coolest people, he says — not the prettiest or the smartest — always seem to win beauty pageants.

The reigning Miss Washington, who we’ve noticed has become a bit breathy and actressy of late, nods in rapt agreement, demurely biting her lip. “Yeah, yeah,” she exhales. Finally, someone who understands!

We never knew we could long for Donny and Marie, but we realize anything is possible when we hear the words “Welcome to the first-ever ‘Big Brother’ pageant!”

There’s a swimsuit competition, in which Jamie demurely wears a dress shirt over her bikini, and a talent competition, in which Eddie promises to “juggle on one leg!”

The best part is the “spokesperson round,” when each contestant talks on a subject that’s important to him or her.

“Lawyers don’t sue people — people sue people!” Curtis, the lawyer, says, topping off this mot with an earsplitting bray.

Eddie talks about disabled rights, Cassandra about world hunger.

Jamie, all lip-glossed and wet-eyed, takes a strong stand on world peace: “I think that the golden rule, which is that you treat other people like you want to be treated, I think if every single person in the world did that, the world would be a better place.”

OK, OK it wouldn’t do much to the Taliban, but we can see how it would get a one-on-one with a beauty-contest judge off on the right foot.

Episode 42, continued

Cassandra opts for stroking CBS during the talent competition with a poem about “opening up our hearts and lives to this amazing TV adventure.” Eddie’s moves in the swimsuit competition consist of a doing a quick tour of the rug while rolling his eyes; it seems to be an effort to make up for his last “prize,” which was getting smacked around by Will Mega blindfolded.

Brittany doesn’t do anything telegenic except antagonize Jamie in the previous scene.

The house hamsters vote Eddie Mr. Big Brother; Brittany and Cassandra tie for Miss.

Later, Brittany reprises the roles of both Jordan and Karen by talking obsessively about herself and the nomination. Li’l Tufty is also starting to sound a little addled. On yesterday’s show she said the house now “feels like home.” In bed with Jamie, she says:

“Like our challenges are getting so cool and I’m scared to leave; I don’t want to go back to the world.”

The latest challenge is a jigsaw puzzle.

The pageant winners are treated to the meal of their choice.

“This is immaculate,” says Eddie elegantly, if nonsensically, as he digs into his surf ‘n’ turf. “Big Brother” entertains us with contrasting shots of the haves and the have-nots. Poignant piano music plays as the haves eat. They weren’t allowed to share, you see. They feel bad. Eddie claims to feel like a vulture. Vultures are bad.

This is the second blatant “Survivor” ripoff in as many shows.

George is outside when he sees a small plane trailing a banner flying overhead.

We’re actually excited. As we’ve mentioned before, a group of disgruntled fans organized a flight over the house: The message was: “It’s worse than you think — Get out now.” We know from Internet transcripts of the house feeds that the residents saw the plane, and we’re glad that CBS isn’t grimly keeping the incident off the air.

Turns out this is a different plane. This one says: “Vote George — Save Brittany.”

Who could have sent this hurtful message? According to the live-feed transcripts, the inmates think they know: Whoever sent the first plane sent the second. But no mention is made of the first plane in tonight’s episode.

George emphasizes his “coolness with it” until we’re sure he’s far from cool with it. We haven’t heard his screechy hen voice since he was last not cool with Karen. In fact, he can’t let it go.

“It’s OK! It don’t bother me any!” George squawks long after anyone has stopped asking how he feels, which it’s not clear they did in the first place.

But despite the state of George’s lightly battered emotions, the situation calls for an analysis of Brittany’s feelings.

It’s time to head for bed, jump under the covers and summon her courtiers, Josh and Curtis.

It’s weird, but she feels weird for some reason.

We start to feel weird for some reason, when we notice that besides the boys around Li’l Tufty, Jamie sits huddled in a corner, sneering in the center of attention’s general direction.

Did we see that? Was it actual hatred?

The camera lands on Jamie again, closer this time, eradicating all doubt. Jamie is seething. Is Brittany, like, more popular than she? Does she have, like, fans in the real world? Could Brittany — gasp — be, like, America’s sweetheart now, or whatever? Whatever!

Judging from that look, one thing is certain — no more Miss Sunshine as far as Miss Washington is concerned.

The show ends with George in the Red Room, sporting a makeshift Arab headdress and sunglasses, and pretending to be a Middle Eastern convenience-store owner exhorting his tribe to rally behind a “good customer” and vote pro-George.

We’re glad he’s not our dad — and guessing if voters don’t get him, the fatwa will.

(C.C.)

The next episode

Jeff Stark is the associate editor of Salon Arts and Entertainment.

Bill Wyman is the former arts editor of Salon and National Public Radio.

Carina Chocano writes about TV for Salon. She is the author of "Do You Love Me or Am I Just Paranoid?" (Villard).

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    The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)

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