Please don't feed the hamsters

Episode 63 (Thursday, Sept. 21): Is Eddie losing it?

By Jeff Stark - Bill Wyman - Carina Chocano
September 22, 2000 11:00PM (UTC)
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The opening scene, taped before the teary banishment of George Wednesday night, shows the five remaining shut-ins sitting listlessly around the dining room table.

Josh leans on his hand. George, still brooding over the collapse of the Great Hamster Rebellion, pages through a magazine. Jamie rocks to and fro, staring at nothing two feet in front of her face. Curtis hums.


Eddie surveys the scene with contempt. His eyes dart back and forth. A small grin spreads across his face. He rears back, screaming, "Dammit you people!"

George rockets out of his chair.

"Is this what three months does?" continues Eddie. "Everybody's so fucking quiet! Aggghhhhh!!!!"


What took him so long?

"Big Brother" is leading off the show with a terrible admission: These are five sorry zoo animals who have swung on every vine in their cage, sniffed out each others genitals, eaten all the bananas and crashed on a fake rock to soak up sun while they wait for feeding time.

Eddie's screaming to amuse the equally bored tourists behind the glass. What with the toilet-paper shortage, it's only a matter of time before he tries to pelt us with poop.


The next scene is another moment of honesty. There's another banner plane flyby. We kinda think the people who spend money to send up cryptic messages for clueless house hamsters are weird.

Why can't they just write exhaustive recapitulations of every show the way normal people do?


Still, we have to admit that they've made the show much, much livelier. Paranoia is good. There should be more. "Big Brother" should send in spies to sabatoge the kitchen, steal socks or booby-trap the bathroom with live, hungry eels. But we'll take mean airplane banners until CBS gets around to that.

The first message reads: "Vote out Jamie Lookout Josh -- 2Faced [unreadable]."

Jamie goes into damage-control mode, suggesting that when the chicken-on-a-spit infomercial deal dries up she has a career in public relations ahead of her.


First, she points out that the banner might be saying something bad about Josh. (Deflection.) Then, she says, "You know, I haven't said any bad thing about any one person in this house, since I've been here, in the Red Room. And I've done it on purpose, so I guess that's for Josh, but I don't think Josh would have done that either. Gotta love the aerial assaults. Ha-ha-ha." (Denial, misplaced virtue, deflection, blame, unnecessary forgiveness, diffusion, joke, distraction.)

This girl is good. Curtis squeezes her arm.

The next banner is a fan letter from someone who likes the National Wheelchair Basketball Association: "Go Eddie. supports"


"Phat," says Eddie. "That makes me feel good."

"That is cool," says Jamie, who can't believe this is happening to her.

The airplane wakes up Josh, who sleeps a lot and hasn't been on the show much lately.

The hamsters explain the earlier message and its vagaries. Even in his sleepy state it's clear he gets it.


But Jamie is staying on message. "It doesn't matter who you voted for -- anyone in here is your friend," she says, her voice kind of going into a high, incredulous whine of the sort cheerleaders use to talk after getting caught cheating on their boyfriends, or losing to those bitches in the state quarterfinals. "No matter who you pick, anyone could say you're two faced."

It's fun to watch Jamie squirm, we decide.

We're also cautious fans of the "Is It News or Not?" challenge, which gives the hamsters a couple of hundred headlines for news that may or may not have happened on the outside during their incarceration.

The challenge is done with typical CBS incompetence, however: Some of the items are ambiguous. Earlier this week, for example, one item was "Daily Variety: U.S. 'Big Brother' cast most boring to date."


This is the equivalent of "Popular Science reports earth revolves around sun." But it could be technically termed false because Variety didn't actually bother to report something so obvious.

Also, some of the items are dishonest and self-promotional: "Big Brother Web site number one," for example. A legend on the screen tells us it's true.

Really? Bigger than Yahoo? We hope that after Viacom finishes debauching CBS that it just dries up and disappears.

Still, the challenge is kind of fun. A lot of the news items involve interest in the hamsters outside of the house. It plays on their vanity, and makes them try to look like their imaginations aren't tickled when we know they are.


We're pretty sure Curtis told the residents that interest at the Emmys in "Big Brother" was pretty lackluster. The hamsters would have had to get the idea that if people at the Emmy Awards, for crying out loud, weren't interested, the outside world must be pretty much ignoring them.

Again, it's a true-or-false quiz:

"Rosie O'Donnell big Eddie fan." (True, they went to the same high school.) The hamsters guess right, but for Jamie and Curtis, it's a bit of wishful thinking. "You're set if she's your fan," they both agree.

"California heat wave pushes electric users within five percent of capacity." Both Josh and Curtis, who are from California, say no way. It's true, but how could they know? The cameras are always on in the "Big Brother" house. Which gives us an idea for saving some kilowatts ...

They guess that Maya Angelou isn't doing a rap record with Puffy, and guess wrong that the Bush campaign got caught trying to use subliminal advertising.

Then it's back to the subject they love best: themselves. "Brittany returns to Hollywood for film audition." They guess the right answer, true.

"They could say 'Brittany eats dog crap' and we'd still say it's true," says Eddie. So would we.

The next question is about '70s rocker Ted Nugent. Does he have a book on the New York Times' best seller list? No one knows who Nugent is, save George, who suddenly comes to life. "The Motor City Madman? You don't know him?" he asks incredulously.

George sounds a lot like Homer Simpson trying to explain the genius of Grand Funk Railroad or Bachman Turner Overdrive to Bart. He stops before doing an air-guitar rendition of "Cat Scratch Fever."

"Josh named to People magazine's Top 10 most eligible bachelors." False, and they get it right.

"Entertainment Weekly reports Curtis's ex says, 'I want him back.'

No way, says Curtis, and he's right.

"Now is that the shower girl, or the S/M girl?" asks Eddie.

Wait, what did we miss?

"National Enquirer says 'Big Brother' houseguest hiding alpha-numeric pager." They guess true, which is wrong.

"Daily Variety speculates Curtis may nap his way to the grand prize." It's false, but they get it wrong.

The audience is napping.

"Playgirl magazine's 'Men of Reality' issue includes Mega spread." False, but they guess true.

"Texas town adopts George; Teresa given key to city." It's true, but they guess false.

"Actual plane banner letters for sale on eBay." It's true, but they guess false, again.

"'Cooking With Karen' to debut on Food Network next fall." False, but they guess true.

"Teen magazine reports Jamie spawns teen lip gloss trend." It's false, but all three guys crack up. They think it's true.

The next scene is sad. It has Eddie festooning the mask of his face that hangs in the dining room with a red AIDS ribbon. It's for his uncle, who died of AIDS. He tells about going to his house the day of his death and seeing him carried out in a body bag. We're going to hold back cynicism on this one and believe that it's a moment of genuine remembrance and honor and not an appeal to seem more sensitive in the final rounds. "He was pretty good to me," Eddie says, shuffling a deck of cards.

After that is another scene with the boy hamsters sitting around the dining room table -- everyone except for Jamie. Eddie is telling the fellas about how the voice of "Big Brother" needled him out of bed that morning. Out of nowhere, a voice comes out of the speakers. It's in Spanish, and it tells them to go to bed. This really cracks everyone up. We like this.

Jamie stumbles out of bed, having missed the joke. We like this too.

Then the show devolves back into a typically pointless "Big Brother" episode, full of unattractive behavior. Jamie sits down for breakfast. Eddie is bored, and imagines suddenly slugging her at the dinner table and knocking her down to the floor. It's a mildly psychotic moment. It goes on and on until it's positively icky.

Jamie watches him unblinkingly. "And you would find pleasure in that," she says.

Eddie won't quit. We understand the urge to smack Jamie, but it still makes us uncomfortable. He fakes a punch. Josh and Curtis don't stick up for her. Jamie gets up and walks away from the table, scowling.

The next scene, however, filmed a day earlier, has Jamie visiting Eddie in bed. She gives him a copy of her favorite poem. Fortunately, we don't hear the poem. She tells him how great it is to have lived with him. "You're so different," she says. "And guess what? I like you."

We're not quite sure what to make of this. Is it a best-friends-forever moment? 2 cool 4 school? Is she trying to save her ass when the next round of banishments come up?

She says something about him having a good heart, and something about him not realizing something until he goes home and sees the tapes. He shuts her down: "I can think of a lot of other ways I'd like to spend my summer," he says.

She gives him a lingering hug and a kiss on the face and leaves for the yard.

Next, all four remaining shut-ins talk about losing George. Eddie thought George was going to go. Jamie thought the Rockford masses would come after her. They all realize that three of the four remaining hamsters will get some money out of this gig.

Eddie is already congratulating them all. They figure that the show is really going to take off here at the end.

We doubt it.


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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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