Live, from Rockford -- it's Lady MacGeorge!

Episode 44 (Wednesday, Aug. 30): Another banishment round, with an unlikely victim.

By Jeff Stark - Bill Wyman - Carina Chocano
Published August 31, 2000 7:02PM (EDT)

It's apparently casual Wednesday at CBS.

Julie Chen, understated in autumnal slacks and cardy, seems to have abandoned her fashion experiments as inappropriate attire for the evening one of the house hamsters gets their walking papers.

She's also been working on her Intrepid TV Reporter stance. This, you will recall, involves standing with her two feet in a balance-beam line.

And the evening gives her not one but two different opportunities to be Julie Chen, Hard-Hitting Journalist!

Jamie shocked -- shocked! -- viewers when she chose to spend two minutes with a "top" casting director when she could have spent them with her mother. Now Julie wants to know: Is Jamie really serious about her career?

"Is she ready to take her career aspirations to the next level?"

By "the next level" Chen means co-hosting the show with her. By "co-hosting the show with her" she means remaining inside the house and talking to her housemates with a microphone in her hand. Is she ready for that next level?

"Well, let's give Jamie her chance," says Chen magnanimously.

Cut to the living room: Jamie is kissing butt like a champ, profusely thanking Chen.

Chen reminds Jamie that holding a microphone and pretending to host a show is a very, very serious responsibility. Millions of people will be watching, including agents, casting directors, managers and producers!

(Why would we make this up?)

"-- And they will be watching you make your network, prime-time, co-sta -- co-hosting debut!"

Uh, that's right, Julie! Millions of Hollywood agents will be tuning in to watch Jamie impersonate a local news reporter. In fact, all of Hollywood has been thinking the same thing: Sure, she's cute. But can she act?

As Jamie beams, Chen runs down the brief. Jamie's responsibilities will include interviewing a house guest, presenting a video clip -- and announcing the banishee.

Just like on "Star Search"!

Well, except for the fact the hopeful has already been hogging the airwaves six nights a week for the past six weeks! But never mind.

"You know this is a very special opportunity, don't you?" Chen asks gravely. Ed McMahon fears for his job.

"Yes, I do," nods Jamie

It is explained to Jamie that the name of the banishee will be revealed to her in the Red Room, but she must keep it a secret until it's time to announce it.

Jamie reads the name and exhales. Chen gives her a little professional advice.

"It's important for you to demonstrate your ability to be objective tonight --"

Tip No. 1: Serious newswomen are known for their objectivity.

"-- and remember, you're always on camera, so even the slightest facial expression could give it away."

Tip No. 2: Being a serious newswoman is kind of like living a Hitchcock movie.

"And if you blow the secret, you'll be ruining the suspense for millions of viewers who are watching right now."

Tip No. 3: Get out while you still can.

Jamie, of course, had no idea that suspense and facial control were so integral to good journalism. Neophyte!

Back in the living room, Chen asks Jamie to interview the housemates she thinks had the hardest time being nominated. Jamie chooses George, who doesn't let her get a word in edgewise. Then she and he plug his "pure spring hose-water," saying it'll be available "shortly."

George takes this as a sign that he is the one to go.

Jamie's crushed!

Episode 44, continued

We cut from flustered, slow-moving and not-ready-for prime-time Jamie back to flustered, slow-moving and not-ready-for prime-time Julie Chen.

We see a montage of friends and strangers back in Seattle, Jamie's hometown, discussing the fateful episode of "Jamie's Choice" we saw unfold a week ago.

Her mom confesses that she cried when her daughter chose the casting couch over her. Her friends all agree it wasn't the smartest thing Jamie the valedictorian has ever done.

It's going to be lonely on the way to the top. People just don't understand the sacrifices one must make.

Another montage.

Live, from the Midwest! It's Lady MacGeorge!

It turns out that in the nation's home of heartland values and real people, Teresa is determined to see George on the "Big Brother" throne. So she gets the whole town drunk and has them vote against Brittany.

There's even footage of the local magnate promising to pay for all the 99-cent calls!

It's a plot, and the whole town's in on it! Brittany, they feel, is the competition.

"And you gotta get rid of the competition," Teresa says. "It's all a popularity contest on 'Big Brother.'"

Brittany's mother is horrified at the montage. George is from around Rockford, a cowtown in northern Illinois. People from Minneapolis look down on Rockfordians, and here's a good reason why.

Dr. Drew Pinsky isn't thrilled, either. Brittany's mom has a point, he says. "It seems unfair and it's not pleasant."

But then, who ever said Orwellian dystopias were pleasant?

Pinsky doesn't think George would like it if he knew. "But," he adds, "we've also seen that George would go to whatever lengths to stay in the house."

Yes, we have.

Chen tells him about George going into the Red Room with ketchup all over him, pretending to be shot.

"It shows George is getting desperate," Pinsky explains. "We expect caring, but we see desperation and deceit and other things that are unsettling to see."

It's funny -- we keep thinking he's talking about Julie Chen. She's unsettling to see.

Chen the Intrepid Newswoman then spends a few minutes promoting America Online, in the form of the Internet Advisor Lady, who delivers some important "cyber" news.

"'LOL' ... stands for laughing out loud in 'cyberspeak.'"


And apparently someone posted this about Jamie:

"She didn't choose her mother? She should carry that guilt for the rest of her beauty queen life."

We had no idea Woody Allen was a fan.

"They don't call her Hollywood for nothing," posts another angry "cyber" guy.

But what does Jamie care? She's getting her Big Break!

Jamie has quickly acquired the wide-eyed gaze of a serious journalist who needs always to be on the lookout for a scoop! or something. The funny thing is that she's picked this up from Julie Chen, even though her interaction with her is non-visual and limited to an hour a week! That's natural talent!

"Here's a story about one houseguest who will never be banished -- Chiquita."

Oh, yay. The ugly dog montage.

Pug runs, pug barks, pug plays, pug eats, pug sits, pug farts, pug drags ass on pavement.

Gee, can't get enough of the dog, but it's time for the announcement.

Episode 44, continued

Jamie, looking dewier than ever, trying really hard not to ruin the suspense for millions of viewers, opens the envelope with a shaky hand.

It's Brittany.

Rockford roars. Who said cheaters can't be winners?

Brittany says goodbye. The hugs are long, deep and meaningful. Letting go of Josh is hard. They huddle, they cuddle, they carry on. We want it to stop.

"Jamie, it's now you're responsibility to make sure Brittany leaves the house," says Chen, who wants to go home.

So, Jamie grabs her zany buddy by the elbow and hustles her to the door. Big Brother has apparently told the residents they can no longer wave from the door when the banishee leaves. So Brittany walks out alone.

She is her mother's daughter. As the compound door shuts behind Brittany, the mom rushes up to her immediately, hissing the big news: "You were voted out because you were the most popular and George's family organized a campaign."

But Brittany can't register it. She's going to be on TV with Julie Chen!

Back in the garden, Ed reassures Jamie that she did the right thing while George consoles a despondent Josh.

George: "Josh, I did not expect it." Josh: "Me either, me either." Jordan's gone, he's thinking. Brittany's gone. Now I can have Jamie!

A tender and unexpected moment. But, back in the studio, Brittany is erupting! She is not cowering and cringing in shame like Karen; she is not lashing out in anger like Mega and Jordan. No. She is skipping and laughing and waving!

And then it hits us like a ton of unproduced scripts:

Brittany is going to get a TV job and Jamie isn't.

Jamie is just not that comfy on camera. Brittany is just not that comfy without one. For a moment we are sad for Jamie. Or something that resembles sad.

"How do you feel right now?" the Chentrepid reporter asks the recently banished cosmetology experiment.

"Really weird."

Chen is to conversation what wood chippers are to logs.

"I also don't know how big this is?" says Brittany in Minneapolitanese. "You'll find out," Chen says quickly. She could have also said, "Uh, not that big, Brittany; this isn't 'Survivor.'"

There follows perhaps the show's most deeply pleasurable moments thus far, as Brittany is forced to watch her ludicrous self in a montage of house moments. Her face flashes alternately with apprehension and then genuine pain as each little scene begins and then unfolds.

Now Brittany knows what we've been going through. Not that this will stop her in the future.

Chen asks Brittany a few soporific questions, and shows Brittany a Josh montage.

"This is pathetic! I'm so pathetic!"

"Here," says Chen, fanning a legal pad in her direction, "dry your tears."

It's a classic Chen moment: Awkward, annoying and ineffective.

"Life inside the house is weird because you have nothing else to focus on," Brittany says, trying to explain herself. "So my feelings were like so out of proportion."

From the house to the studio, Brittany has had a few changes of heart. She doesn't think Josh really likes her. She's throwing him over for Jamie as well -- just as he is! Her friendship with Jamie is more important than her friendship with Josh, she says.

Once in a while, we feel sorry for Jamie the beauty queen. After more than 20 years of it, it must get annoying to have weird people always obsessing over you. Chen's big moment of Being a Journalist comes when Brittany tries to say that she really wasnt taking about being a virgin all the time. You said it in the pre-show interviews, Chen reminds her. Well, not in the first one, Brittany responds.

At the end of the interview, Chen asks her what she'd like to do next. Brittany chirps, "I'd like to go into entertainment."

Something tells us MTV will be calling, and that Brittany and Jamie aren't going to be friends forever.

At the end of the show, Brittany says goodbye to the shut-ins, who all look a little pale and anemic. Jamie's "sad face" suggests that Meryl Streep has nothing to worry about. Brittany's gone. And we're left with George, Cassandra, Curtis, Eddie, Josh and Jamie.

Surely, we will perish of over-stimulation.


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Jeff Stark

Jeff Stark is the associate editor of Salon Arts and Entertainment.

MORE FROM Jeff Stark

Bill Wyman

Bill Wyman is the former arts editor of Salon and National Public Radio.

MORE FROM Bill Wyman

Carina Chocano

Carina Chocano writes about TV for Salon. She is the author of "Do You Love Me or Am I Just Paranoid?" (Villard).

MORE FROM Carina Chocano

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