Liberty! Equality! Wishy-washyness!

Episode 55 (Tuesday, Sept. 12): Rebellion? Who said anything about a rebellion?

By Jeff Stark - Bill Wyman - Carina Chocano
September 13, 2000 11:00PM (UTC)
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On Tuesday, the disembodied omniscient voice of Big Brother evinces its contempt for the residents.

It announces: "While the houseguests consider leaving the 'Big Brother' house Wednesday night and being replaced by alternates, they are given their next week-long challenge -- a juggling contest."


We could be wrong, but we don't think Big Brother is taking the house hamsters' threats to leave very seriously.

It's not just any dissidents who are asked to juggle while they plan the revolution.

The stakes of these challenges generally involve the residents' betting some percentage of their food money for the week.


The male housemates -- in particular Eddie, who already knows how to juggle -- are feeling reckless and devil-may-care. They'll take the challenge. They'll risk it all -- cereal, chips, no sacrifice is too big! Come Wednesday, they're walking!

"Fifty percent!" Eddie shouts.

"Fifty percent!" chirps Curtis.


Then Jamie's breathless monotone cuts in on the euphoric moment:

"The women of the house say 20 percent."

"Yeah, 20," concurs Cassandra morosely.

What is with the women of the house? The women of the house are all business.

Mrs. Lenin probably would have said similar things.


"Vladdy, please ignore the czar's borsht challenge. We have a revolution to administer."

The czar didn't offer the revolutionaries borsht challenges, though. He was worried about having his family put up against a wall in front of a firing squad.

Call it hubris, but Big Brother has no such concerns.


Cassandra has herself convinced she's Rosa Parks in Ikea-land, while Jamie thinks she's on the world's longest audition. We tire of them quickly these days, we find.

Luckily, the boys win out. "We're gonna wager 50 percent," a cocky Eddie says later in the Red Room, balls in the air.

We now feel that there is genuinely something at stake in this juggling challenge.


In the next scene, the voice informs us that the houseguests have decided "for sure" that they are all going to leave the house on Wednesday. Of course, we've known since Sunday that this is not going to happen, but who can blame our Dutch friends for milking the tension?

This is the most exciting thing that's happened on "Big Brother" since Karen peed with the door open.

Then Red Room man speaks to the assembled residents in the living room. It's time for another installment of "Humiliate the Hamsters!"

"You all wanted to come into the Red Room to tell us why you're leaving, is that right?"


They nod gravely. "That is correct," states Josh.

"So, I guess what I want to tell you," Red Room man continues wearily, "is that you don't need to come into the Red Room."

OK? Leave him alone!

"It's actually not a soapbox for telling us why you want to leave."



"You've obviously discussed it amongst yourselves," he continues. "What we're doing is, obviously there are a lot of arrangements we have to make -- we've started making them, actually. We've started to get in touch with family members --"

From his chilly tone, the words "family members" sound an awful lot like "next of kin."

" -- so what we're going to do is we'll let you know tomorrow how we proceed, and, uh, that's all I need to tell you. Have a good night, and it's been a busy day. Lot going on for you and for us, but life moves on and, uh, we'll talk to you tomorrow."


Jamie's lantern jaw drops. The affrontery! Cassandra glances sideways, letting us know that she's very suspicious.

"Something don't seem riiiight," observes George.

What don't seem right -- to George, Jamie and Cassandra, aka, ye of unrealistic expectations -- is that Ed McMahon hasn't already rung the doorbell and handed them all a big check and the Nobel Peace Prize; that Richard Dawson hasn't busted in, treated everyone to a tongue bath and yelled "Good answer!"; that God himself hasn't come swinging through the window in a basket singing hosannas and crowned them all emperor of Hollywood for finally showing the world that greed is not what "Big Brother" is all about.

What don't seem right to George, what is making Jamie cry, what is making Cassandra trust no one, is that none of this has happened.

Instead, "Big Brother" sounds kind of -- mad.

Maybe Big Brother doesn't like them anymore!

Curtis senses that perhaps the unrealistic fringe is experiencing some doubt.

"No matter what anybody says or thinks out there, you've got to feel good about your decision," he says.

"Absolutely," says Cassandra absolutely.

There are murmurs of agreement from the others.

Jamie just bobs her big painted head, polyeurethaned lips twitching.

"What do you think would happen if we stayed and refused to nominate?" she says. (Translation: "My air time! You fools! You'll cost me my air time!")

"We live here under their terms," says Curtis, patient explainer of the obvious.

"But what do you think they would do?" asks Jamie. She looks like she's about to cry.

"In terms of the game, we forfeit," says Eddie. "In terms of ourselves, we win."

Jamie's great chest heaves.

We know from the house's live feeds, however, that Big Brother will now busy itself calling the residents into the Red Room one by one, poking around and finding the hamsters' weak spots.

Exhibit No. 1 is of course Jamie.

Jamie is in the Red Room with her happy contestant face on. Contestants always see the bright side, remember?

"It's amazing how the house has changed in one hour," she says, smiling her relentless "Love me, you assholes" smile.

Then we get to what she really wants to say: "But everyone in this house really has interests in terms of working in this business outside of it," she says. "And that's a concern of mine. I guess I have a slight internal conflict in terms of quitting the show.

Jamie's worried that she's never going to eat lunch in this town again!

Now, we're back in the living room for a group discussion.

We've seen the residents agree to leave. They spoke ringingly of the point that'd make to the world.

They made a hamster pact, and even did the secret hamster rebellion handshake.

So why is everyone sitting around talking about not leaving all of a sudden?

Cassandra thinks she's going to get banished on Wednesday. She doesn't feel comfortable trying to urge other people to leave at the same time.

For the first time in the show's two-months-plus, Josh says something trenchant and to the point:

"If we all stay three people would benefit greatly," he says. "It would change our lives and the well-being of the people around them.

"The benefit of leaving," he continues, "would be to show that society doesnt have to be about greed."

Hamsters hate it when matters are presented to them so starkly.

Eddie breaks the silence. Sometimes we love Eddie, we really do.

"OK. Can we still establish that point without leaving?" Eddie asks the group after Josh is done.

Uh, no, Eddie. That's the point. You have to make a sacrifice.

Jamie's wavering, too. She suggests that the hamsters plan their nominations so that the entire house is up for banishment every time.

That way, they can stay on and have it be a popularity contest. What's wrong with that?

Eddie urges everyone to stop, think and recollect. "There's nothing more that I'd like to do than please our families, please ourselves, please our fans and get the payoff."

This might not be the great lesson George is looking for.

Curtis the lawyer is wavering too.

"We're constrained by two facts," he says. "One of the three of us will be leaving on Wednesday. Secondly, George has announced his intentions -- I don't know if its current -- that he plans to leave on Wednesday regardless. "

Actually, neither of those things are "constraints." The entire house has already announced its intentions of leaving en masse.

Curtis conveniently doesn't mention that.

He's just hanging George out to dry, publicly reminding him that he's already said he's going to leave.

George doesn't know what hit him. "I don't know what to do," he says mournfully.

George, yesterday's fearless instigator, is today's spineless worm.

Steve McQueen -- or even the head chicken in "Chicken Run" -- would rally the troops with a stirring speech. Maybe even knock a few heads together.

If Fidel Castro had been more like George, Elian would have grown up on a steady diet of Happy Meals.

In the Red Room, Eddie says that if he walks, he risks humiliation. George's talk of defection, he says, liberally mixing his metaphors, "pushed the envelope over the edge." From now on, he says, you have to "watch all sides."

Later, he asks Jamie what she really wants to do. Jamie, of course, wants to stay. She just doesn't want to say it aloud in front of her roomies. Being liked by everybody is such hard work! Popularity is hard!

But there's another plane circling outside tonight, and the message is for her. "Brittany knows you're two-faced," it reads. Again, Jamie doesn't understand.

And again, she displays her impressive range as an actress by not reacting to emotional stimuli whatsoever. Doesn't she know the Academy only gives Oscars to women who know how to freak out? You'd think Jamie of all people would be familiar with the filmic works of Sally Field.

The scene is evidence that Big Brother is feeling increasingly merciless.

Next we see an uplifting montage of Curtis getting dressed to go the Emmys.

He won a challenge the other day and gets to go as his prize. This is a gross and pathetic violation of the show's precepts, incidentally.

Outside of just being a gambit to bring anything from the outside world in to make the show more interesting, the move offends because one of the few things interesting about the show is watching the hamsters make decisions based on faulty information.

Were sure Curtis is going to be monitored at the Emmys, but he's inevitably going to be given a host of clues.

People ignoring him, for one.

People saying "'Big Brother' sucks!" for two.

The montage, remarkably, lasts longer than the Emmys and is much less fun to watch. The scene ends with Curtis saying goodbye. Jamie hates him so much right now she just can't help hugging him.

Eddie and Jamie repair to the bedroom to discuss how they feel. What they're really doing is helping each other rationalize reneging on their agreement to leave.

And miraculously, within just a few seconds they've convinced themselves they should stay!

Jamie's best reason -- and we can barely type these words from snickering -- is that she thinks the group would be letting down the fans!

"I think the fans would want us to stay," she says.

This is a difficult statement to refute, actually. "Big Brother" doesn't really have fans. We wouldn't know how to find a fan to ask if what Jamie says is true.

But we think we can say -- speaking on behalf of all humanity -- that we would indeed like the residents to leave.

For those keeping score at home, here's the current state of the Hamster Rebellion:

George: Confused.

Cassandra: Abstaining.

Curtis: Chicken.

Jamie: Selfish.

Eddie: Reneging.

Had such stalwart stock overseen the American Revolution, we'd all be eating fish and chips.

With mayonnaise.

Hey, what about Josh?

He's back in the Red Room man telling Big Brother that everything he does is from the bottom of his heart. He can't stand to see people hurting, and George is going through a lot of pain. That's why he's sticking to his guns. He's going to walk.

But first, he's going to tell George about Teresa's anti-Brittany campaign. Which he does. Then they hug. The hug continues. George is teary.

"I could not be prouder of a person," George says, still in his "Chicken Run"-inspired dream world.

Saint George the Insane is back! And he's got that creepy smile on his face again.

Josh, confused, reminds him that everyone knows that the Rockford campaign was not his fault.

George is enraptured, however. It's too late.

"I'm walking out the door Wednesday."

"But there's no reason for you to go, George. You didn't do anything."

"I know that," he says, his eyes wild. "What I'm trying to tell you is this: If we all go, we all win."

Oh, sweet angel of mercy. Not again!


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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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