The great toilet-paper crisis

Episode 58 (Friday, Sept. 15): Eddie: "I'm in it for myself!"



Bill Wyman - Jeff Stark - Carina Chocano
September 16, 2000 11:00PM (UTC)

On the 72nd day, Eddie the mook looked and around the room and saw that it was dull. The honeymoon was over. And so, with the tough-guy sangfroid he's displayed on so many thrilling occasions, Eddie launches into the speech.

"Well, it's been fun and everything so far, it's been a pleasure --"

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For a heart-stopping instant, we think Eddie is breaking up with us. We almost spill juice on our beloved's beloved Porthault sheets.

Then we remember we're not actually dating Eddie. It's just all so familiar; the easy let-down, the tough-but-tender tone, the casual, off-hand neck scratch. It's like he really cares, except not really.

"It's an honor to still be here and everything, but we all know by now that nominations and banishments are nothing personal. I'd really like to encourage everyone to just enjoy their time here, whether it's the final week or up to the final minute. Best of luck to everyone."

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It's not them, in other words, it's him.

Curtis' ears prick up. George's feet twitch. Josh, having long ago lost interest in Jamie, pets the dog mournfully.

The flatulent pug is all he has now.

Jamie just stares, lips flashing, nostrils flaring. She's been here before and she swore it would never happen again!

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But Eddie is in charge now. He saw the chance and he took it. There's nothing like a stealth-dump to make a guy feel powerful.

"I know me, personally, my nominations will be a -- strategy, if you want to call it that. In the past, I haven't used my nominations to their fullest ability. I've nominated for foolish reasons. But since I've been here, I've learned a lot. I've gotten wiser, and I've learned to see my nominations as a gift that are given to us here."

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The one flaw in this otherwise airtight scheme is that Eddie, a true preux chevalier, is giving the dumpees advance notice. In this sense he's given up the element of surprise, we notice.

We're not sure this is a smart thing to do -- Eddie managed to get 41 percent of the banishment votes a couple of days ago. We think he should be ingratiating himself with the audience, not reminding American womanhood of their first husbands.

But the heady feeling of dumping four people at once has gone to Eddie's head and it's put him in an oratorical mood.

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"I'm going to be looking out for me, bottom line. I came here to win, and I'm going to do what I have to do to do it. If anyone has any problems with it, contact me on the side."

Curtis is wondering why no one else is wondering why Eddie just showed his hand. Then he remembers with whom he's dealing and calmly returns to his coffee.

Jamie continues to stare her bovine stare as Eddie wishes everybody luck for the third time. Nobody responds. We know who'll be contacting him later "on the side," though.

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And just in time for the shit storm.

A toilet-paper crisis hits the "Big Brother" house.

Curtis enters the Red Room to inform his leaders that the house is down to half a roll. Quickly taking the blame ("It's totally our fault for not buying enough"), he wonders if it would be possible, perhaps, to get a Charmin advance.

But Red Room man, who talks a bit like Brittany, is a cruel master: "Uh, I wouldn't count on it?"

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Lest we think less of "Big Brother" for depriving its "houseguests" of this most basic of American commodities, the producers show us a recap of what led the improvident five into such a predicament in the first place.

There is a moment between Curtis and Josh on the porch, when Josh says to Curtis, "Us guys, we use a lot less toilet paper."

"Way less," concurs Curtis.

"I'm a once-a-day kind of guy," Josh volunteers.

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Yet we watch in horror as Josh, in a nightmarish, slow-motion sequence, uses a recklessly long piece of toilet paper to clean the toilet. Then the men are shown using the bathroom repeatedly.

Jamie, as suspected, does not go. Girls like her never do.

She does, however, plead on her brothers' behalf. In the Red Room she confirms that the house is now completely without toilet paper. Big Brother reminds her it is their house and their budget.

It's their fault.

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The indignity of it all is too much for her.

She can only reply by inhaling sharply. Discussing her wiping needs is not what she had in mind when she eagerly signed on to become a star.

The Red Room man explains that they can use the $40 of grocery money they have left over to buy toilet paper -- but they have to buy $40 worth!

Jamie laughs sardonically. (How the house has hardened her!)

"'Cause you don't think we have a very good chance of winning this next challenge, huh?"

She is referring, of course, to the impending juggling contest, a bitter reminder of the failed putsch. Eddie bet 50 percent of the week's food budget. If they lose, which they will, food will be in short supply.

The castaways on "Survivor" spent their last weeks eating nothing but plain white rice. They were on an island in the South China Sea.

The hamsters would appreciate the irony, if they could appreciate irony, of being in a house in Studio City and going hungry.

Jamie puts the matter to the others, who decide they can make do with paper towels and the garden hose. We can't wait to see George hosing off in the backyard. They're going to need the money for food. (It's not said, but we assume the boys are also thinking they'd rather have beer than toilet paper.)

Jamie returns to the Red Room and informs the cruel-but-fair Red Room man that they've decided to save their money.

Red Room man tells her that the same thing happened in other "Big Brother" houses. "One of them went a week without," he says.

"Without going?" she giggles.

"Without toilet paper," he says gravely.

Jamie's face drops. She's already starting to get that not-so-fresh feeling.

"Oh."

She's thinking --

"Wow!"

But that was in, like, foreign countries!

"That's gross," she shudders.

While Jamie ponders the repercussions of every casting director in America knowing that she is not currently at her squeaky-cleanest, Josh and Eddie discuss their future careers in Hollywood. (It's different for guys.)

Josh sees himself as a very marketable commodity. But Eddie points out that he is limited by his disability.

"You put me in front of a camera lens," he says. "You see one leg. You can't fight that. Let's say I wanted to get into acting or something like that: Bro, you can't catch me doin' James Bond, bro. I can't be running off no fucking cliffs."

Pierce Brosnan must be very relieved.

Josh, who only sees the best in people, tells Eddie he's limiting himself.

"You'll be getting roles based on your personality, not your athletic skill," he says

Neither boy catches the irony in this statement, which is a testament to something, we're sure.

"Hope you're right, man," Eddie says.

The next day, apparently early evening, another plane flies overhead trailing yet another anti-George message.

"Read it to me guys," says George, who is perhaps less intellectually endowed than was originally believed.

"G signals who to vote out," reads Curtis, the smart one. "Points to your mask."

Early on, the residents made masks of themselves, which are hanging in the dining room. The message is accusing George of telling the Rockford voting bloc whom to target. If he has been doing that, it hasn't been broadcast.

The plan strike us as a little too ornate for George.

George tries to diffuse the situation with his singular brand of non-funny humor. He's the only one laughing, though. He's the only one smiling, actually.

"You waited all day to drop a bomb on the chicken!" he says.

But Jamie looks up at the sky with that squinty look she's had of late, nervously sucking her teeth. Josh and Eddie occupy themselves with balls. When Curtis brays, "Take down your masks!" he's only half-joking.

"Oh, well," squeals a desperate, red-faced George. "I don't know what to tell you guys, I've been getting bombed all week long."

"I'll break your fingers if I catch you pointing at my mask," the new Eddie replies.

"You guys, the chicken does not have no power."

George's confidence is failing him. He's demoted himself from "chicken man" to "chicken," but this is not enough to win back the trust of his fellow inmates.

He may be a Quayle, but he's got a Marilyn on the outside.

At least, this is what his fellow hamsters believe. More on that later.

George continues to laugh his mirthless laugh in the Red Room.

"Man! Every single day!" he squawks. "I'm just better off staying in my room in the dark!" He laughs and laughs, though inside his heart is clenched. "I don't have a plan for survival! But you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to try not to think about the bad things. I can't read the minds of the people in here, but I know what they're probably thinking. What's going on with this guy? You know they gotta be thinking, 'cause probably if I was in their shoes, I'd probably be thinking the same doggone thing."

Last week, we recall, George's discomfort at the news that his wife was organizing votes prompted him to volunteer to leave the house.

That, of course, got the Great Hamster Rebellion of 2000 underway, with the vale of tears that followed.

The omniscient voice informs us that the houseguests still believe George's wife has control over votes.

"I have no idea whether it's a good thing or a bad thing to nominate George," says Curtis in the Red Room, "or whether it's possible for anyone but George to win."

Curtis wonders if nominating George would only incur the wrath of the Rockford coalition. "I guess I'm just going to go ahead and do my business," he says.

Given the toilet-paper crisis, this strikes us as an unfortunate choice of words.

The housemates are given a new challenge: to make up their own challenge. The winner will win "the crown jewel of prizes," an extra nomination vote.

Surprise! The conflict-averse hamsters opt not to do it, even though it's clear they no longer like each other.

Next, they're given another challenge: make up words to the "Big Brother" theme song. There's nothing like watching these guys thinking real hard.

"I'll tell ya," says Josh helpfully. "All good music rhymes."

This nugget doesn't help. The group decides to divide up the parts of the song, with each person devising his or her own words. This is perhaps not a constructive way to write the lyrics to a song.

It strikes us again that one of the odd qualities of the house is that there is no one with leadership qualities.

Watching "Big Brother" is kind of like an interminable jury duty with a kid with ADD for a foreman.

The hamsters are really lemmings, and the only reason they're all still around is that no one has accidentally fallen off a cliff to get things going.

No one can seem to come up with anything, lyricswide, except George, who is clearly in a conciliatory mood:

"We cared for one another."

No one reacts.

In the next scene, we see Chiquita desecrating Jamie's "Happy Birthday" sign for her brother, Dennis, Jr. The sign is propped against a box of Rice Krispies, and the dog has shoved its snout into the box.

Not that big of a deal, save that the houseguests have noticed that the horrid animal is fond of having chicken feces as an appetizer before dinner each day. It's not clear from which of the houseguests it picked this habit up.

Curtis is horrified: "Jamie puts a full box of Rice Krispies out here and Pugita eats the whole thing!"

Eddie busts a gut laughing.

"After eating chicken shit!"

Jamie comes outside to look.

"Oh, they were just barely opened, Curtis!"

Jamie is annoyed. "The top of this opened," she tells George in the kitchen. "So Curtis is saying that we shouldn't eat them 'cause her face touched them."

Uh, Jamie? We think Curtis may be right for once.

It's clear from the shots of Jamie looking wistfully out the window that this is the end of Jamie. She hates it here now. Everybody is soooo meeaaan!

And the boys have had it with her, too.

Eddie asks her later, "What do you see when you look at these walls?"

"What do you mean?" she asks.

"What is this all about to you? Like when I see us in here, when I see us in this compound, I see a game."

"Hmm."

"What do you see? Because I see a game."

We think Eddie's trying to tell us that he sees a game. Jamie, bitter, exhausted, and entirely without conviction, repeats her motto.

"I'm in it for the experience, and all the cool things we get to do."

"So you see this compound as an opportunity for experiences."

Eddie sighs. This was her last chance.

"I mean, of course I want to be here until the end, of course I could use the money, but I just see it as more than that."

"Okay," he mutters.

"You don't see those things?"

"Nope."

Yeah, neither do we.

(C.C.)

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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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