On Wednesday, Big Brother tried to bribe one of the shut-ins to leave the show. The producers set out $50,000 in cash hoping that one of the six boring guests still remaining in the house would take the money and just leave.
We thought at first this was a clever plan to get this ordeal over with as quickly as possible, but it turned out Big Brother had another plan in mind: Replacing the departee with a runner-up in the original cast selection, the breasty, outspoken Beth, who CBS hoped would trash Jamie, bed Eddie, ruin Curtis and mop up with George.
The bribe didn't pay off. No one took the early money. But all is not lost for "Big Brother": It turns out that the producers are getting a week's worth of episodes out of simply offering the cash.
First, Cassandra and Jamie talk about their decisions. Classy Cassandra maintains that she didn't come on the show for candy: "I think there's something to be said for being able to walk out of here with your head held high and look people in the eye and say, 'Look, I did not sell my soul.'"
This reminds us of the old joke about the guy who offers the woman $1 million to sleep with him. She accepts.
He changes his mind, offers her $100.
She gets mad, says, "What do you think I am, a whore?"
He says, "I thought we'd already established that, and were just dickering on price."
The crucial transaction involving the residents' souls came when they agreed to go on the stupid show in the first place.
And of course, Cassandra can't know this, but no one even remotely associated with "Big Brother" is going to be walking around with head held high for a long time.
Eddie and Jamie bat the dollar signs back and forth. Eddie, still sporting the fashionable shirtless Abe Lincoln look, lays back on the bed and tosses a ball up in the air. Jamie addresses him, but she might as well be talking to the American people. She thinks those of us outside the house couldn't possibly understand the decisions they made.
The other night, Eddie points out, everyone wanted to split the prize money six ways -- everyone but Eddie, who's hoping he's got a lock on it. So, he says, in that patronizing "I've got this figured out" Eddie voice, imagine a scenario where Jamie wins, Josh takes second and Curtis picks up third. Afterward, all six in the house right now can meet in Toledo and split the cash, $108,000 each.
No, says Jamie. The idea was to remove the competitive element so that all six could enjoy themselves for the next three weeks.
But wait, says Eddie. No one took the $50,000 when it was offered, even though they'd all had 85 percent of their "experience." "That tells me people are in here for the big pay-off," he says.
Eddie, like all good competitors, is imagining that everyone else is as focused on the prize as he is. He's probably wrong, though, because he isn't taking into account peer pressure and the old cluelessness factor.
Jamie provides the payoff: "I think the last three weeks will be the most amazing of the experience."
They will be amazingly boring, we're sure of that.
Eddie says that he's not necessarily enjoying his time in the house. "I got better things to do," he says. "I have responsibilities. I'm here to provide for my family. I don't need the experiences. I don't need the fame."
Eddie is going to be coming back to this family thing several times in the next three weeks. It's his way of saying that he's a more worthy recipient of the prize money than anyone else.
Then he pulls out his big gun, and we're not talking about the personal equipment he's fond of flashing his housemates with: He needs the money because he doesn't know what the future holds. Because when he was 10 years old, he was on the track team. He got cancer and was told that he would die. He lost a leg instead.
Anyone who was thinking of calling in a vote to banish Eddie this week has to be writhingly uncomfortable.
Next, Jamie is in the Red Room. In that close-up camera, with her big forehead, extra-heavy coat of glossy lipstick and wide jaw, she looks a lot like a drag queen.
That $50,000 didn't seem real, Jamie tells Big Brother. But with a little time, all the shut-ins are thinking what good the money could do. She still has student loans to pay off, for instance. But she's going to be an actress, she notes, so the air time is more important than cash money.
She says that the only way that she could be bought is if "Big Brother" would give George $100,000 for her to leave -- that way, she would be sending his daughters to college.
Big Brother immediately calls her on her bullshit.
"So if you win first place and half a million are you going to give part of that to George?"
"Um, that's an interesting question," she says. "I have no idea."
In the next scene, there's another plane towing a message around the sky outside. This one says: "Josh knows why we fly anti-George banners."
On Wednesday, Brittany told Josh that George's wife and town are systematically banishing residents. As it happens, this isn't really true. But now Josh has a big secret that he's keeping from the other hamsters.
Cassandra sees it and points it out to Curtis. "I feel like I'm in the middle of some huge mystery," he says. If only.
Eddie and Josh see the banner too, and the discussion turns to whether or not to tell George. They think he's gonna freak out.
They decide to lie to him and tell him that "Big Brother" doesn't want him to go outside.
All the houseguests pretend like they're not paying any attention to the plane and try to distract him with phony small talk. The result is like something out of a really, really bad sitcom. "Home Improvement," say.
"Where are the eggs?"
"Want some beans?"
"Jamie, what did the doctor say about your stress level?"
"Stress level"? In the House of Somnambulance?
Even George can see through this. He goes to the window, squints and sees the plane.
He goes into the Red Room and gets mad.
"What's going on with this airplane scene?" he demands.
Big Brother says he doesn't know.
"It's starting to get to me a little bit," he says. "If anything, this airplane man is making the chicken man more pissed off."
George, who tried to make his own banner to talk back to the plane yesterday, is under the impression that the pilot of the airplane is on a one-man crusade to ruin him. It doesn't occur to him that people who fly planes like this are merely hirelings -- in this case, of slightly unhinged viewers.
"I'm thinking let him fly his damn plane," George says. "I'm starting to get pissed now and the more you make me pissed the more I'm going to hang in there. I'm a lot stronger than the damn airplane man. This bub out there wants me to quit, and I'm not going to quit. You can tell him that."
Is George really this clueless, or is this another one of his zany skits? No, it can't be a skit, because his ire is actually kind of funny.
Whoa, we were almost entertained by a segment of "Big Brother." Call the Nielsens!
Wait, we take it back. The challenge today is sort of like "The Price Is Right," except that it's called "Name That Price." There are six items on a table. Each one of them is an item that a houseguest wants. Another shut-in has to guess how much the item costs. If the guess is within a dollar of the actual price, the person who wanted the prize gets it.
Sometimes following "Big Brother" is like being trapped in a room and forced to watch old episodes of "Burt Luddin's Love Buffet."
Curtis's potential prize is a white T-shirt. George's is a pound of chocolate. Eddie's is a box of beer. Cassandra's is Hair Mayonnaise. (She's practically drooling.) Josh's is a package of disposable razors (for his chest hair, we guess). Jamie's is coffee syrup. ('Cause she's from, you know, Seattle.)
At the end of the game, the only winner is Curtis, because Cassandra guesses right for his T-shirt.
This what the producers meant when they said there were going to be more exciting challenges to carry the show as the number of shut-ins dwindled.
A trenchant sign of CBS's desperation is had at the break, when the announcer says that one of the hamsters will be taken by Big Brother to the Emmys.
Woo. We can't wait. The Emmys. Why not take them to someplace where something exciting or something of consequence might actually happen, like the International House of Pancakes?
This is also, incidentally, a complete violation of the very premise of the show, which is to isolate people from the outside world and watch what happens.
Finally, the hamsters discuss the social implications of this round of banishment. Cassandra makes an appeal to save herself from the next round of banishment votes -- if she survives this week. She isn't like all the other hamsters, she says, because she is black. (We thought it was just because she had class.)
"It certainly impacts the way I live my life here," she says.
Curtis points out that they're all characters. He's the Asian and the lawyer. Jamie's the beauty queen. George is the dad from the Midwest. Josh is the dumb jock. (Well, no, he doesn't say that last one, but anyway.)
Eddie busts in. "I don't think it's an issue that an Asian, black and disabled are up," he says. "These walls don't see color."
It's actually kind of a righteous moment for Eddie. Then he ruins it. "It sounds like a joke. You got a black, an Asian and a one-legged guy."
"In six days we learn the punch line," says Curtis.
The joke is on Curtis: They're all the punch line.