The debacle continues

Episode 50 (Wednesday, Sept. 6): "We'll give you $50,000 to get lost!": Can CBS bribe one of the boring house hamsters to leave?

By Jeff Stark - Bill Wyman - Carina Chocano
September 7, 2000 11:00PM (UTC)
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How boring is "Big Brother"? Ten thousand dollars -- no, $20,000 -- no, $50,000 worth of boring. That's how much the producers are willing to spend to swap out one of the nested hamsters for Jordan II.

Last week, the show bleated that it would offer one of the residents $10,000 to leave, trying to make it seem as if the offer was an exciting new development as opposed to a frank admission of surrender in the face of unmitigated, six-days-a-week boredom. As the week went on, it sidled up to $20,000, and becomes $50,000 on the actual show.


Guess who took it?

At the start of the hour-long show -- hosted by Julie Chen, Intrepid Newswoman -- we see a video montage of Beth, an alternate from the original casting session who didn't make the final cut. Having found Jordan, CBS obviously figured that it needed only one hot, catty chick with something resembling a brain who would steal boyfriends and make the other women jealous.

We learn a bit about Beth from the video. Beth is determined. Beth hates to lose. "I'm opinionated," she says. "And that's sometimes misconstrued as being a bitch."


She's Jordan all right.

She's also got a boyfriend. The two of them ride go-karts, play air-hockey and dance.

"She can be a bit melodramatic," says her sister. "She can be a drama queen."

(Just what "Big Brother" has been missing: drama.)

Most importantly, we see in an unnecessarily long beach-cavorting sequence that Beth has healthy teeth and she can really fill out a bikini. She's going to look great tormenting Josh, Eddie and Curtis by the side of the pool.


In the studio, Beth tells Julie frankly that she's in it for the money, and that she already has her rifle scope set on Jamie (good) and figures that she could be buds with Eddie (bad).

After nominations, we'll find out if Beth will join the Staid Six inside the passive panopticon.


Inside the house all of the hamsters wear sunglasses and camouflage fatigues for the live show. They're telling the producers that they're under fire. That zany George hides under a hat fashioned from a wilted plant. He's pasted four stars across his sleeveless shirt.

"This is not war," wanly protests Julie Chen, who is still standing in that funny way.

On to nominations. Curtis serves up Eddie and George, maintaining his pattern of voting against the men in the house while insisting that he votes without reason.


Josh marks Curtis and Cassandra because they have good jobs in the real world.

Cassandra nominates Eddie and Jamie, explaining that she's voting to toss the two people who do the fewest chores. She's "physically tired" of taking care of the others, she says.

Eddie, wearing a fashionable Abe Lincoln beard, nominates Curtis and Cassandra. He still maintains that he doesn't know why, but he explains that he won't vote for the other three: George needs the money; Josh is his buddy; Jamie is "too sweet and nice." He didn't feel that way last week.


Meanwhile, Miss Too-Sweet-and-Nice's face looks like a round of floured pizza dough when she gets to the Red Room. She's moved beyond her method of voting by dice because "she has reasons this time." Cassandra and Eddie -- they're not playing in the house reindeer games, while the others are "trying to make this experience the best it can be for each other."

Jamie still thinks she's at acting camp.

George, talking in a creepy third person, has developed into some sort of feminist. He's casting votes for Josh and Curtis. "The house has to have women in it," he says, simultaneously cultivating and repelling votes from all those XYs out there on the other end of the 1-900 jury.

Julie Chen, newswoman, reads the votes back to the houseguests: Curtis, Cassandra and Eddie are all up for banishment.


Not 10 minutes into the show, we already have what the producers usually stretch out for an hour. It's not clear if this is supposed to make us feel cheated or impressed. Whatever. Julie's already moving on, because what's coming next is so, so, so exciting.

That's right, it's the live Beth challenge and there is money involved. If one of the shut-ins decides to walk away with a pile of green, he or she can leave tonight. Julie isn't telling them, but the audience knows that in addition, Beth will take the place of the walking guest. The nominations from tonight will also be invalid.

First up, Cassandra fetches a briefcase from the Red Room. It holds $20,000 in cash. The shut-ins look unimpressed. They sniff the briefcase, but no one will bite.

"Think about what your chances of actually winning are," says Julie Chen, anchorwoman and tease. "And keep in mind, this is an absolute sure thing. If not one of you takes it, three of you will leave with nothing at all."


She's talking like she'll receive double the money in a big fat Intrepid Newswoman bonus if she can sell 'em on it. No takers.

Chen tells Josh to go into the Red Room. He finds another briefcase. This one contains $30,000.

The offer is a total of $50,000 and the eternal gratitude of CBS for making something actually happen on this show.

They're tempted.


"I could put my daughter through college," says George.

"Let me remind you," says Julie Chen, "three of you will leave the show empty-handed."

(Read: "Leave, you losers, so we can get someone who might actually be fun to watch on the show.")

Eddie tries to get someone to take the money. "No more chicken doo," he promises.

"Who was it who said that you could always make more money in your lifetime?" asks Josh. "When are you ever going to have another opportunity to be here?"

(That was Jordan, Josh. She's gone now, and she danced in a strip club making more cash a week than you'll see working commercials for scale all next year.)

Jamie's with Josh: Camera time is more valuable to her than money. She still thinks overexposure is getting caught in the rain without a bottle of conditioner.

Curtis says his dad will kill him for not leaving.

Cassandra is impressed, but she's holding out.

George mutters to himself before telling Eddie to shut the case.

Curtis tells Julie that he came in without anything so it's OK if he leaves with nothing. "I'll have good memories and stuff." Curtis is confusing emotional scars with pleasant memories.

Bye, Beth! We hardly knew ye!

CBS is left with nothing to do but continue to broadcast four hours a week of a boring show populated by characters who are as exciting as standing traffic.

Hey, we have an idea -- replace Julie Chen with Beth!

It's probably not a terribly bright decision on several of the hamsters' parts. Eddie, Cassandra and Curtis have a one-in-three chance of being banished in a week. And in any case the housemates have but a one-in-three chance of making more than $50,000 in the "Big Brother" finals. Next, Dr. Drew Pinsky drops by for his weekly visit. He perceptively points out that there is a "powerful group dynamic" in the house. Dr. Drew's job is to point out the obvious.

Dr. Drew on Eddie: "He wants to win."

Dr. Drew on Brittany: "The spoke at the center of the wheel." (We thought she was the stick jammed in the spokes that makes you fly over the handlebars, but OK.)

Dr. Drew on Jamie: She's a liar.

Back from commercials, there is a video montage dedicated to Curtis. All of the USC cheerleaders who ignored him in college whip up a little cheer for him. His sister points out that his laugh is really, really annoying. But we knew that already.

And then it's the weekly visit from Regina Lewis, the America Online Internet Advisor. (Hahahaha; we're still not tired of that one.) Most of the loonies on the Internet guessed that no one would take the bribe to get out of the house. Further, most of the loonies love Brittany. "Brittany is the rage on America Online, particularly among teens," she says.

Lewis also says that the online contingent guessed that George would be embarrassed if he knew that his family was campaigning to keep him in the house. We're shocked that his family isn't embarrassed by him.

Next up is a video segment of banished Karen and her two daughters. She's left her poetic, unkissing husband in Indiana for the City of Angels. (Now she will truly walk with them.) We see her moving into her new house in L.A.

Brittany shows up for a delighted reunion and a tour of the new digs. "There's no cameras!" she notes for the camera right behind her. Apparently they're going to move in together!

In the studio, Karen sits down with Julie for an interview. Julie wants to know what happened when she first returned to Indiana. "The first night was weird," says Karen. "I got online and went to all the bad Web sites to see what everybody said about me, which was not a good thing."

We think she was talking about us!

Other people were nicer to her. Folks from "all over and Canada" called her and said nice things. These were not the same people who voted her off the show, we're guessing.

Brittany replaces Karen in the seat next to Julie. She appears to have been attacked by a glitter truck. She tells Julie that she feels like everyone she meets is like an old friend from high school. "It's like meeting friends from high school over and over again." (This is a good thing?)

She's also shocked -- shocked -- that an interviewer would ask about her virginity. Gosh!

When she hasn't been meeting friends from high school and giving interviews, she's been watching tapes of the show. She's changed her mind about all those great friends in the house.

Now we see Brittany's vengeful side come out.

Eddie, Josh and Curtis are OK, she says, but the others are not to be trusted. "George -- I don't know where to start ..." she says. She didn't like his reasons for nominating people, notably her.

Brittany on Jamie: "I'm hurt." She was upset that Jamie said they were "sisters" but that when, after Brittany was banished and Josh and Curtis were acting all mopey, Jamie just talked about her acting! "She wasn't honest with me," Brittany says.

We don't hear what she has against Cassandra, whom Brittany herself voted for banishment and who always voted Brittany for banishment because she didn't get up off her lazy ass and help around the house.

Julie says that she can talk to one of the hamsters, but the group must decide. The group picks Jamie. The audience bursts out in hoots because Brittany's just badmouthed her. But just before the beauty queen can get up to go into the Red Room, Brittany cheats. She blurts out: "Josh, I want it to be you. Talk to me. Not Jamie!"

Julie Chen is mad but there's nothing she can do. Josh gets into the red Room and Brittany erupts:

"You can trust Curtis, you can trust Eddie, but the rest of the house, there's questions about them! Don't worry about the producers and stuff, don't worry about all that editing, everything's OK, it's pretty accurate! George's wife organized this whole vote-Brittany-out campaign and they got the whole town and all this stuff and they're going to vote out every single person that's the next-most-popular, so, like, they have this friend in the phone company that's not charging them, it's crazy! It's crazy outside, it's mean. It's mean outside!"

This is far too much info for Josh to handle. "I'm going to be your friend forever," he says, angling for that post-house de-virginizing session.

"Do I wanna talk!" shouts Brittany. (Read: "I am so all over that Orgasmatron of yours.")

Josh is assaulted by Brittany's information. He says that he's going to forget everything she told him. "I want to keep it real in here," he says. "I'm not going to think about the stuff you just said."

Back in the living room, Josh holds out on the others, telling them that the information he holds is very destructive. "You have to trust me," he says.

The show closes with Brittany, back in the studio. Here's the best thing she's ever had to say, about "Big Brother" or anything else:

"It's not healthy."


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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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