That's entertainment!

Episode 64 (Friday, Sept. 22): Jamie: "A sa-ba-twah is amongst us!"



Bill Wyman - Jeff Stark - Carina Chocano
September 23, 2000 11:00PM (UTC)

There are only four hamsters left. We find ourselves thinking back to the final quartet on that other, better reality television show. At that point, the flea-bitten and starved "Survivors" were ready to chew each others faces off. We were so excited to see who would win we could hardly stand it.

"Big Brother" is now down to four, and big whoop. The show starts off tonight with a short chat in the back yard and Eddie drop-kicking a ball over a fence.

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It's really difficult to imagine how boring the houseguests must be the other 23 hours and 38 minutes of the day for a piece of video like this to make the final cut -- much less lead the show off.

Eddie tosses the ball up in the air, leaps off the ground, makes contact and lands on his back. The ball soars over the fence.

One-legged man falls down. That's entertainment!

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We used to like the "Is It News or Not?" challenge, in which the shut-ins have been working on a list of headlines to decide whether they are true or false. But now, on the third day of it, we've had our fun. The actual contest has the hamsters answering a dozen questions.

Get this -- they have to get half of them correct.

Next week: The breathing challenge.

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Each stands up at a cheesy makeshift dais, answers the question and then waits as the announcer, with his best imitation of the Regis pause, tells them whether they are correct.

The contest is yet another betrayal of the show's principle of no outside contact: It feeds the hamsters news. Now they're getting phone calls, outside visitors, Emmy runs and an impending visit with the ousted Cassandra.

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There are quieter airports.

But we've made this complaint before. Have we mentioned the cheesy AOL commercials? Have we mentioned that Jamie looks like a powdered blow-up doll?

The first question: Is Jordan premiering the hamsters' take on the "Big Brother" theme song on her "new show"? (What kind of show Big Brother doesn't say. It's just a radio show.)

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A little information is a dangerous thing. When it turns out to be true, Jamie's mouth drops and spreads into a big smile. She squints and claps her hands. Because if Jordan -- the mean one who was only on TV for a month, the one people didn't even like enough to keep around -- then Jamie, Miss Washington, will clearly be hosting at least something with Julie Chen!

And that would mean she would be famous!

The houseguests get the answer wrong, but they all agree that learning this fact is better than eating. Now they actually have something to talk about for the next week.

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They're asked whether Brittany's mother and George's wife faced off on a "CBS news show." The answer's true. The question makes it sound like they were on Dan Rather.

We suspect a more honest phrasing of the question would have been, "Did the two appear as some sort of promotional, manufactured fluff on one of CBS's many low-rent infotainment franchises, probably on a small-town affiliate?"

We start to realize what a cruel mindfuck the challenge is. The game -- with the headlines suggesting to the housemates that "Big Brother" is something more than it is -- is setting up each remaining hamster for a massive meltdown.

All four probably think they'll be leaving to be caught up in a swirl of David Letterman appearances and guest spots on "Hollywood Squares." What a colossal disappointment it will be when they walk out of the house, finish up with Julie Chen and go home to maybe get a guest spot with the local morning zoo. They'll find out what we've known all along: No one really cares.

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The challenge continues. They're shocked to find out that there are nude pictures of "Big Brother" houseguests on the Internet. (A couple of pictures of Brittany at Burning Man are out there.) The group figures that their faces have been Photoshopped to other bodies.

Jamie says she hopes her face was put on a nice body. Eddie hopes that he would have been put on a two-legged stunt nude.

One question is about whether the location for the new big reality show is the Mir space station. The hamsters say no, of course. They get it wrong, because it's another misleading question: The new show, envisioned by the guy who did "Survivor," is really to be set in a space training camp. The last contestant standing will get shot up to Mir.

They're happy to hear that Rosie O'Donnell is a big Eddie fan; again, we would be surprised if O'Donnell has done anything but casually mention the fact. Jamie is visibly glad -- though twisting inside -- that she hasn't spawned a lip-gloss trend. They're also excited that Brittany signed a deal with a "major" Hollywood agency.

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The hamsters win the challenge by a whisper. Of course, "Big Brother" could have easily generated this outcome: The producers gave the questions to the inmates beforehand and have watched them rehearsing their answers. Ho-hum.

As a bonus for winning, each hamster can ask for the correct answer to one of the questions they have been studying this week. Eddie asks if there is a NWBA fund in his name. (True.) Josh, amazingly, wants to know if a feed of the shower cam was leaked live at the Latin Grammys. Whoa, it's false.

Curtis wants to know if Karen has her own show on the Food Network. (Nope.) Jamie wants to know if there's a "Wizard of Oz" Internet parody with "Big Brother" hamsters standing in for the Dorothy and the others. She says she thinks it would be "hilarious" if it were true, but we figure she just wants to know if she was indeed portrayed as the Glenda the Good Witch of the North. True.

They all have a laugh. She doesn't know that her face is a target in an Internet game.

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In the next scene, Josh tells the others that he's concerned about Cassandra's visit. It's another one of those nonsensical issues he creates when he's had an extra Budweiser or two. There's a certain amount of information that he'd rather not have. He goes into the Red Room.

"I've decided that I don't want to know anything about myself from her," he says.

He really just makes it too easy to make fun of him.

He thinks this information would distract him, maybe keep him from having fun.

Wait, who's having fun? Where? When? Are we missing something from the shower cam?

Fortunately, Cassandra hasn't watched a single tape or one show since she left the house. (Why would she? Like she misses them ....) She won't be able to tell him what a horndog he looked like back in the halcyon Jordan days, what a chucklehead he looks like when he philosophizes, or how dumb he sounded when he said that he'd never slept with a woman who didn't have an orgasm as a result of his amazing sexual powers.

He has nothing to worry about.

The announcer says the houseguests are going to experience "Big Brother -- the board game."

Wait, did he say "bored game?"

It's what appears to be a genuine board game with dice and turn-cards and little plastic pieces. We're guessing that it's kind of like Life, except for that instead of growing up and starting a family and becoming a lawyer or doctor you sit around all day and take naps.

Jamie is psyched. There's a game! About them! That means they're all famous! The look on her face when she finds out this is all a ruse will be the greatest thing on television since the kicking deer in the debut episode of "When Animals Attack." We decide that the deer should be present when Jamie learns the truth.

All four of them sit down to play the game. Judging from their wooden faces a few minutes later, the game isn't likely to show up under many trees this Christmas.

By the way, have licensing standards had slipped this low in the game world? After having been force-fed a diet of commercials for the new CBS fall season, we're aghast at the possibilities. The C.S.I. Game, complete with plastic fecal samples? Craig T. Nelson Twister?

When we come back from commercial, Eddie is in the Red Room saying that he's really looking forward to Cassandra's visit. "If I know Cassandra at all," he says. "I know that within 24 or 48 hours she had seen all the tapes and read almost any and all articles written about the show for any interviews that she might undergo."

Sorry, Eddie. We guess you don't know Cassandra that well. Maybe you should have slept less and talked to her more while she was in the house.

A new challenge. One hamster is going to be the saboteur, and will secretly mess around with something in the house each day. The other have to track him or her down.

Jamie reads the instructions. She was the valedictorian of her college, but has never run across the word "saboteur."

She pronounces it "sab-a-twah." She naturally turns to Josh for confirmation.

Yeah, that's right, he says.

Josh has told everyone that he has a very high IQ. As we've noted before, he seems to be under the misapprehension that it's done on a scale of one to 100.

Jamie runs around saying "sab-a-twah" until Curtis mercifully corrects her. Then she pronounces it "sabadder."

Josh picks a card that makes him the saboteur. So what is he supposed to sabotage? Will he shave Eddie's chest? Poison Curtis's food? Hide all of Jamie's make-up?

Nope. In a classic "Big Brother" move certain to ensure mass boredom, he is supposed to set back the house clock a half hour each day. (It's a clock fueled by raw potatoes, which the hamsters built during their first week or two in the house.)

Josh isn't sure if he can do it.

He sneaks out of the bedroom that night to do the deed. Not all the snappy editing and spy music in the world can make it interesting.

The next scene is a chat between Curtis and Josh. Curtis says he figures that "Big Brother" viewers and story editors might know more about the hamsters than they know about each other.

Oh, yeah, says Josh.

Because they get to see what happens in the Red Room, says Curtis.

"I'm thinking the Red Room might be totally shocking," says Josh.

Curtis opines that shocking might not be the right word.

It's not. "Boring" would be appropriate. "Tedious," perhaps. "Soporific" and "dull" are other options.

"Maybe not shocking -- interesting," Josh says quickly.

Then both of them agree that they can't imagine that the inmates behave that different in there.

But Curtis says that he can't imagine that the viewers would allow houseguests to get away with that.

It's pretty surprising that Curtis, who seems to have half a brain, really can't figure out what's going on with the votes. It's probably because he has a different image of himself than the way people see him. First Mega, then Jordan, then Karen, then Brittany, then Cassandra, then George. The 1-900 jury has that old "Sesame Street" song in its head whenever it calls up to vote: Which one of these is not like the others?

He doesn't realize that his own innocuous, milquetoast behavior has saved his ass every time he's been up for banishment. No one feels strongly enough about him to vote him out.

As someone pointed out when "Survivor" ended, on "Big Brother," fat and offensive but entertaining Richard Hatch would have been the first to go.

Will Mr. Bland be the last?

(J.S.)

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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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