Life after Brittany

Episode 46 (Friday, Sept.1): Has Josh ever made any sense?



Bill Wyman - Jeff Stark - Carina Chocano
September 2, 2000 11:14PM (UTC)

No more Minneapolis Moptop. No more impish behavior from the wackiest girl in dullsville.

Brittany's virginity, always nominal, never stopped her from expatiating violently about anything having to do with sex; it allowed her to play the roles both of the cool girl who'd done everything and the good girl who'd never done that. So we got discussions about that weird little grunting look guys get when they orgasm, and about the friend of hers who liked getting her toes licked, and all of the other not-that-shocking things she was always nattering on about.

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Or aboat, as Brittany would say.

If we missed Brittany, which we don't, it would be because everyone else is so plain. It occurs to us that "Big Brother," a show with potential, has faltered because of an unfortunate number of major miscalculations on the part of CBS. Their cast members, instead of being engaging and likeable, have tended to be rebarbative and unpleasant, and neither of these qualities in an interesting way.

The show has never made clear that the point of it is to torment the residents. Absent that, a lot of the hoops the residents are made to jump through seem senseless.

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And since 10 people sitting around a house doing nothing is not compelling, the producers have also had to come up with ever-more-banal "challenges," which even the pliable house hamsters have found beneath them.

And then there's Julie Chen.

But the biggest miscalculation is letting the outside world vote on the banishees. Whether it's the 99-cent calls or just the type of person who tends to watch the show, the audience, instead of bouncing the less interesting people, has inexplicably tossed out the show's most high-profile characters one by one.

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Each of these -- Mega the creep, Jordan the schemer, Karen the fright and now frivolous Brittany -- have deserved their fates.

But it must be said that what's left is worse.

Let's go down to the Red Room, for example, where we've got Josh giving his perspective on the post Li'l Tufty situation:

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"The change isn't going to be an eternal change, I think it's going to be a change in the sense that, we know that we've lost one of our stronger characters in the house and that makes us a tighter group in the sense that we know we have to stay together and we have to bond together to face the challenges we're going to meet, and her leaving made us realize that."

OK, Josh, go ahead back and play with the pug now.

"No one's ever going to fill the space that Brittany left. She's an individual on her own, definitely."

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No, really. See you later.

Cassandra and Curtis talk things over in the backyard. Curtis is now coolly analysing his uncharacteristically emotional reaction to Brittany's departure: "I don't know why I would have reacted so strongly to her leaving. I don't know if it was the surprise, or that we were very close."

"You guys were really close," says Cassandra.

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"Also, I was really worried about her," Curtis goes on.

"I know. I know. I understand that," Cassandra says.

They talk about strategizing to win the ordeal. "I haven't allowed myself to get competitive about it," says Curtis.

"I know," says Cassandra.

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"[Winning] doesn't rely on skills or anything you can do," reflects Curtis.

"Umm-hmm. Umm-hmm," agrees Cassandra.

"It's just a big popularity contest," Curtis goes on. "Which, by the way, we can not at all gauge what makes someone popular or non-banishable, which are two different questions."

"Yeah. Exactly, exactly," says Cassandra.

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Curtis is referring to Julie Chen's having told the group that Brittany was the most popular resident. They think it's odd that she was banished.

There are two possible explanations for this dichotomy. One is that a pathetically small number of people care about "Big Brother," and that as a consequence Rockford's pro-George call-in campaign had an effect.

The other is that Chen didn't make it clear to the house hamsters that the poll was a voluntary one, and on America Online to boot.

Taking a poll on America Online about anything is about as reliable as some of the ancient techniques for determining whether someone was a witch.

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Episode 46, continued

Cassandra nearly catches her finger in the manual clothes-wringer in the backyard. She tells Curtis she's already done it once, and it hurt.

"I do terrible things to myself and no one ever knows -- isn't that funny?" ask Cassandra.

Yeah. Exactly, exactly.

Eddie is still on his money kick. He's thinking about the $500,000 the last resident in the house wins. "You know what would take the happiness right out of here?" he says to George. "You bring in three suitcases of money. Let people see it and smell it and taste it."

They're lying in their beds in the dark. This will remind everyone what the game is about, Eddie says: "It's not just getting by, it's about getting paid."

George chuckles appreciatively. "You're ruthless, Edward," he says.

"What's hilarious," George goes on, "is that there's no place to spend it here."

"Use it for toilet paper," says Eddie.

"You've never do it, though!" says George.

"I would if I wasn't going to win it."

Eddie wants to win. He wants to provide for his loved ones. Curtis is supposed to be the smart one, but Eddie may have the show figured out. Play the audience-sympathy card. A vote for Eddie is a vote for Eddie's family!

Then Eddie goes outside to reiterate to Josh his idea about having a trunk of money in the house. It wasn't all that interesting the first time.

Josh tries to play it cool. He's not interested in the money. Here why he wanted to be on "Big Brother":

"I didn't come with that original instinct," he says. "My original reason coming in here was because here, you see me 24 hours a day, you know? I spend so much time by myself, it bugs me that, like, my family, my friends and everyone see different parts of me and don't get to see all of me."

We don't have the faintest idea what he's talking about. Why doesn't he spend less time by himself?

Josh the loner, the man with an unknown side he wants to be on display for the entire country 24 hours a day, shakes his head with a secret sorrow. "It's kind of rough living your whole life like that, you know?"

"I suppose," says Eddie.

This is Eddie-speak for "Up to a point, Lord Copper."

Eddie has one leg. He knows from rough.

We suppose, too. Just like Eddie.

Cassandra's in the kitchen peeling a cucumber. Someone makes a lewd joke. Everyone laughs.

"You guys are so sick," Cassandra says.

The group sits on the back porch discussing whether they would rather be rich while young and then poor later in life, or vice versa. In its forced contrivance it's obviously another dictated "conversation" subject from Big Brother.

We nodded off during the ensuing discussion.

The centerpiece of the show comes when the residents are ordered to go into the Red Room and tell the audience five reasons each deserves to win. The house hamsters are given 10 minutes to think about the question, and are told to go into separate rooms, apparently so they can't discuss it among themselves.

There follows a thinking montage. This is possibly the least interesting thing the show has thus far broadcast, which is saying something.

Episode 46, continued

The producers leave the pug out, lest he show up Josh, who in the event seems to be struggling. Eddie uses his fingers to keep track of his reasons. Curtis, surprisingly, moves his lips while he thinks.

Next, the residents troop into the Red Room one by one to give reasons he or she should win.

Eddie plays the poor-family card. "We can't get ahead," he says. He'd put his brother through school, he says, and provide for his parents.

Josh clumsily notes his "humble beginnings" as well. He says he'd put his niece through college and promises not to abuse the privileges the money might give him. He doesn't say anything about how the money would allow him to bring his patented Orgasmatron lovemaking technique to women around the world.

George, referring to himself as "George," says he wants to finish his education. (Since he helped the house win a challenge that involved memorizing the U.S. interstate highway system, he's been obsessing about going to college.) He says he's been living from paycheck to paycheck his whole life; it would be nice not to do that any more, he says. He'd also send his daughter to college and get his mom a new car.

Cassandra says she's been a positive force in the house. "I've tried to be true to who Cassandra is," she says. Why is everyone talking about themselves in the third person? She wants to do something for her mom. Also, she notes, the women residents have been dropping like flies of late, and men have always won the "Big Brother" shows in other countries. It would be nice, she says pointedly, if that doesn't happen here.

Jamie says she'll pay off her student loans and recites a lot of blather. "If it's meant to be, it'll happen; if it does I'll enjoy every minute of it," she chirps. But, she says, "there are people with good hearts here; I'll be happy for any of them to win."

Curtis doesn't have a poor family to mention. It's hard to generate sympathy for yourself when you've gone to Stanford Law School. "One, I'm a decent person, and I've tried to lead a decent life," he says. "Second, while in the 'Big Brother' house I've continued to lead a good decent life." Isn't that the same reason? He also says he'll still be a lawyer but the money will free him up to be a "good public servant."

As the show goes to a commercial, an announcer says that next Wednesday Big Brother will offer $10,000 to any resident who wants to take the money and run. We think Curtis should think hard about the offer when he hears it.

The show ends with George, who's getting more feeble and quavery by the day, noting that the household has gotten less cliquish. "People would stick with people and this people and this people," is the way he puts it. "I notice now this isn't the case any more."

Before, he said, he'd see Josh and Jamie, say, talking, and "I felt it was uncomfortable to step into that conversation. But I feel like anytime now I can sit with you guys and it's no problem whatsoever. And that's really neat."

The other residents moan in sympathy. We moan, too.

(B.W.)

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Bill Wyman

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

MORE FROM Bill Wyman

Jeff Stark

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

MORE FROM Jeff Stark

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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