At long last conflict!

Episode 57 (Thursday, Sept. 14): Don't worry Jamie; no one will notice. Hardly anyone watches "Big Brother"!

By Jeff Stark - Bill Wyman - Carina Chocano
September 15, 2000 11:00PM (UTC)
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Last night, after Cassandra left, we figured the "Big Brother" house would devolve into a Cro-Magnon frat party. Something like "Animal House" meets "2001." George would play the John Belushi role. Eddie and Curtis would be the apes.

Josh would be the bone.

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That's what happens tonight, sort of, except the whole affair isn't very cinematic and it's a lot less funny.

Oh, yeah, plus Jamie throws a fit!

But first, in what's become a "Big Brother" specialty, we take a ride in the wayback machine. Just to keep perspective on how little actually happens on "Big Brother" -- even with $50,000 on the table, an hour of banishment and revolution in the air -- remember that this is a show that tapes as much as 24 hours a day in order to produce just 22 minutes of programming a night.

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It's now Thursday. And we're still getting footage from Sunday!

Curtis just got back from the Emmys. He carries a fat program and an empty bottle of champagne.

The hamsters are waiting. "It was off the hook!" he shouts as he bursts through the Red Room door.

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We've never heard anyone describe the Emmys -- the cheapest statuette-dispensing affair west of the Blockbuster Awards -- with such an evocative exclamation. But when you think about it, Curtis' thrill is a decent barometer of the lifelessness inside the "Big Brother" house.

If we lived with Jamie, we'd be thrilled to meet the mom from "Malcolm in the Middle," too.

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It appears that in Curtis' absence, the shut-ins spent the night chewing gum. As Curtis walks in, they all chomp away and pelt him with questions.

"Did you talk to people?" asks Cassandra.

"They give you wine and everything?" asks George.

Yes and yes.

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Curtis offers his own little speech. "First of all, we need to stay," he announces, nailing the door shut on that whole revolt business. "The easiest thing to say is that by just being here and having fun we've already won."

This puts paid to George's theory that "Big Brother" is the Special Olympics of television: Everyone's a winner!

Jamie, the special athlete with no soul, is competing against herself to quell her raging jealousy. Her face ties up just thinking about stepping on that red carpet. She was this close to Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.

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Curtis changes out of his monkey suit and gathers court on the sofas. "It is so weird to be out there," he says. "Even just driving in the limo on the freeway."

Wait. George has to ask a question: "Now you were blindfolded?"

Of course he was blindfolded, George. Otherwise Curtis might be able to find his way back to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion some day.

Now it's Josh's turn: "Did they talk to you?"

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Yes. They asked him questions like, "What's it like to be out of the 'Big Brother' house?"

"It just feels different to be out there," Curtis says. "It sounds so hokey, but you sort of have an appreciation for life."

Right. It strikes us that treatment centers employ the same premise to dry out alcoholics: Put them in a sealed building with a lot of messed-up people, monitor their bowel movements and make them share parts of their personal lives that they probably shouldn't talk about in public.

This gives us an idea. We press pause and get on the phone with our agent. She puts us on hold and makes a few calls to NBC. She has good news.

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We're announcing it here first! Look for "Drunk Tank," our new reality show, on NBC this January. It's the story of ten lonely dipsomaniacs who didn't mind resorting to Listerine when things got bad. They realized they were powerless -- except for when it came to ratings.

We digress. The limo driver asked Curtis if he wanted to be kidnapped and hauled out to Vegas. Curtis thought this comment meant that the driver heard a conversation in the house where he talked about wanting to go to Vegas. "They know everything we talk about," says Curtis with amazement. "Everything, everything."

"I like to have sex with midgets!" shouts Eddie.

He scratches under his arms, watches George and thinks, Hey, I can use this rock as a tool!

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Meanwhile, Jamie bites down furiously on her gum, flipping through the program. This is just too much for her. It's like that one time in the pageant when she said that everyone in the United States deserved homes and love when she meant to say everybody on Earth deserved homes and love. That little mistake made her walk home with second place that day.

Jamie hears the word "celebrity" and snaps out of it. Curtis arrived on the red carpet before the big stars, he says. He also overheard people saying his name. The peons in the cheap seats threw him the USC fight symbol, which from really far away we're guessing looks a lot like an extended middle finger. The photographers shouted his name.

Jamie's lip actually quivers.

He did interviews with "Access Hollywood," ABC.com -- ABC.com! -- "Entertainment Tonight" and Melissa Rivers. He met Rudy from "Survivor." The old man said that he could tell Curtis how to win the show, then walked away without saying another word.

We watched every episode of "Survivor." We didn't realize we had anything in common with Rudy until this moment.

Cut to commercial. When we come back, we're still looking at pre-banishment footage. Eddie is in the bedroom, flipping through a thick book, looking for pictures. George sits next to him. Eddie's worried about being up for banishment. He has a bad feeling. But if he makes it, he says, things are going to change around the "Big Brother" house. We get kind of excited.

Cut to the Red Room with Eddie. "From here on out, I will be playing the game as strategically as I can to protect what is in my best interest and that is myself making it to the end of the game and ultimately winning," he says. He wants to go up against George, just for the thrill of the fight. He's seen the banners. He knows that some people really hate George.

In a stroke of fine editing, the next scene is another plane bearing a banner. "Geo's racist-sexist R[ed] R[oom] skits outrage viewers!" says the banner.

George holds a summit on the couch. "We need to talk more amongst ourselves," he says. "Rather than just let stuff sit in our minds."

He thinks that the hamsters need to talk about the messages flying overhead. We're thinking that someone just wasted another 300 bucks -- these things really aren't working the way they're intended.

Then, something kind of amazing happens.

George has just made the 398,789th banal, trivial observation and suggestion since he entered the house 70 days ago. But, for the first time, someone disagrees.

It's Jamie. She'd rather just ignore the planes, because if they talk about them, then the cameras can record the conversation and "the story line will be out there."

Remember, one of the banners called her "two-faced," which is probably one of the most honest messages flown.

Curtis, mediator and expert on reality TV (he did meet Rudy from "Survivor," after all), points out that there is very little separation between life in the house and story line. "These planes are flying," he says. "We are seeing them. We can not pretend for a minute that we do not feel their impact. It's whether you're going to bottle it up inside and not deal with it ... which seems a little strange."

"I'm not going to deal with it," says Jamie, lying back on the couch. "All that does is create entertainment for the show."

God forbid.

Gee, maybe they should all walk out together en masse and end all of this once and for all!

Classy Cassandra, our only hope for a deserving winner of this cursed show, is gone.

The shut-ins play croquet outside. It's what we used to call a sausage party. Four guys. One woman. The devolution starts with a seemingly innocuous comment about Jamie's big shoes, which recalls an earlier event.

This is classic "Big Brother." Instead of showing us a scene from earlier in the day when something actually happened -- in this case, the boys laughed at Jamie when she went out to tan and never took off her shoes -- the producers show us a couple of people talking about it. They gang up on her. They giggle. She's angry.

"Who's turn is it?" she shouts.

Someone plays a shot. "Don't choad it," says Eddie.

"What's choad mean?" asks Jamie.

"You don't want to know," says Eddie.

(Choad [noun]: a. slang term for penis; b. slang term for the area between the scrotum and the anus.)

The boys laugh.

"This game is sexist," shouts Eddie. "We run around with sticks and balls."

Eddie is reliving his fondest recess memories. Schoolteacher Cassandra is nowhere near.

Jamie bites her lip. She asks a rule about the game.

"Aw, let her have it," says George.

"No, not her," says Jamie.

The boys know they messed up. But instead of politely apologizing, they hoot and holler, calling George a "sexist pig."

In the next scene, Jamie corners Curtis in the bathroom. "I think there's a fine line between making fun of friends and being distasteful of women -- on TV," she says.

And we, for maybe the first time, agree with her, even as we note that Jamie sure seems to be talking a lot about TV lately -- that Emmy night is really splitting the ends.

Curtis says that he hasn't been distasteful. Jamie reminds him that he and the boys wouldn't say the things they say to her to, for instance, Cassandra. And if Cassandra was in the bathroom, Jamie says, Curtis wouldn't say something to the cameras about having to go to the bathroom because it would come at the expense of the person in the stall. (Again, talk after the event.)

"That has nothing to do with the way I treat women," says Curtis.

And by the way, she won croquet, fair and square, and the boys couldn't handle it.

"I didn't realize that," says Curtis. "I think that was unconscious."

Which is kind of her point.

But then we get to the real problem, which really isn't about sexism or misogyny or even loutish animal behavior out in the yard. The real problem is not that these things make her look bad as a woman, it's that they make her look bad on TV.

She tells Curtis she doesn't even like to bring these things up because -- here's that word again -- it provides story lines for the whirring cameras. In fact, she's removed her mike for this conversation, she says under her breath. She doesn't realize that "Big Brother" has the room miked.

It strikes us that Jamie's going to make a great suburban mom someday. Bad marriage? Nothing's wrong. Grandma's going senile? Nothing wrong? Kids on drugs? What drugs?

Jamie needs to pretend everything is perfect. This is a woman who applies three coats of lip gloss just to eat a bowl of cereal.

Jamie's made her point. "I don't want to say anything more," she says, getting up and walking across the bathroom. "You know how I feel."

This drives Curtis nuts. "Because you don't want to make it a story line by having a full conversation with me?"

"I have insight into how things will be portrayed and you may not," she says. (Someone get this woman a job in public relations.)

"I respect your decision," says Curtis, "but it's frustrating wanting to talk about things, especially as close as we are."

"There's nothing you would want to talk about that I wouldn't want to talk about," she says, invalidating this entire conversation, trying to patch things up with him.

"Everything around you is a story line," Curtis reminds her. "You can't control it."

"I can control this," she says. "And now I'm upset that I even brought it up."

The two finish and start to speculate whether or not "Big Brother" will air this little conversation. Jamie doesn't see any mikes near her. She starts peeking into the mirrors.

Don't worry Jamie; no one will notice. Hardly anyone watches "Big Brother"!

Curtis points out that he might be leaving "tomorrow," dating the conversation to Tuesday. "You can not air stuff after someone is banished," he says. He has no idea.

Back to Wednesday night, the boys joke around about making the cut. Since there is another banishment vote coming on Saturday, Curtis decides not to even unpack. Eddie makes some noises. The competition's just begun for him.

A satellite turns in orbit. Spray-painted on the back, it reads, "Party on."


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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