Survival of the hamsterest

Episode 66 (Monday, Sept. 25): Finally: Some naked trampoline jumping!



Bill Wyman - Jeff Stark - Carina Chocano
September 26, 2000 11:00PM (UTC)

It's the first day of the very last week -- and it's not a lick more exciting.

The teaser -- the minute or so of footage that runs before the opening credits -- is just that tonight. "Big Brother" opens with a fleeting shot of Jamie in a bikini. This is quickly trumped by Josh, who pulls his pants down to his thighs and does a few hops on the backyard trampoline.

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Naked trampoline-jumping has been a joke in the house since the beginning weeks. CBS and Endemol Productions, which came up with the "Big Brother" idea, must be happy. We can hear the execs talking now -- "See, we told you! We knew it was going to get racy sooner or later!"

Much later, as it turns out. The residents' time left in the house can be measured in hours.

Finally, CBS can drag back out the blurry spot it used for Richard Hatch's ass in "Survivor," the good reality show.

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We see the dance of the digitized dot over Josh's dewey nethers. This sequence is not repeated later in the show.

As we said, it's not a lick more exciting.

Endemol has resorted to brief hamster nudity, or partial hamster nudity, in an effort to pique our long-gone interest. We're amazed even they still care. Actually, we're amazed they're still here. Can they get a table anywhere in West Los Angeles, or are they doing a lot of lunches at Pink's hot dogs these days?

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In the next scene, Eddie talks about how he lost his leg. Curtis asks a couple of unobtrusive questions; Josh and Jamie just sit in uncomfortable silence. Rightly sensing that the conversation that is going nowhere, Eddie ends it on a positive note: New Year's Eve was fun in the hospital, he says. He got to see the fireworks.

The others just sit there feeling guilty.

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It took them 81 days to ask him about it. It's odd -- we noticed Eddie was missing a leg right away.

In the Red Room, Eddie says you don't appreciate what you have until its taken away from you. Now, when he sees a junkie or an alcoholic "pissing their life away," it drives him crazy. He doesn't say how he feels about sacrificing three months to the house of sloth, however.

Is this Endemol's idea of irony?

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Next it's time for another plane. Yes, fans are still shelling out big dollars to fly banners over the house. We would be tempted to mock the fans, but if it weren't for the outside contact, we'd have a show about potatoes on our hands.

Wait -- we do have a show about potatoes on our hands.

But more on potatoes later.

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"Jamie 2-faced in R[ed] R[oom]," reads the banner, which is brought to us courtesy of SaveEddie.com.

Apparently, it's all the fans can do to hire the plane. Coming up with an original message is more than they can manage.

"That makes me mad," Jamie says, evincing no emotion.

Eddie is irked that the Web site is called Save Eddie.

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"It saddens me that there's a Web site called SaveEddie.com," he says. "Like I need saving."

Jamie, still operating under the assumption that the quickest route to celebrity is to remain as still as possible, does not yell, curse or kick the dog.

"Well, I hope you know that's not true," she intones breathily.

There's only one genre of film where this limited range of dramatic ability is considered acceptable, and we don't think it's the kind that Jamie has in mind for herself.

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Eddie rightly ignores her. He's still quibbling with the banner's choice of words.

"Why save Eddie?"

"I think it's good. At least you have fans," says Curtis.

"Yeah," Jamie exhales. "You have nothing to worry about."

Fans, she knows well, are the true measure of a man's success. But Eddie is delighted. He won't let it go.

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"Why save Eddie? Why not PraiseEddie.com?"

Jamie just smiles one of her long-suffering smiles and makes for the door.

Curtis starts to follow her, then turns to watch Eddie squint up at the sky.

"Are you gonna bask in the glory of SaveEddie.com all day or are you going to come in?" he asks.

Eddie wisely chooses to bask.

"SaveEddie.com. Thank you," he says to no one but us.

Inside, Curtis hugs Jamie and assures her that nobody in the house thinks the same way as the banner. He doesn't say it's because they don't have the same reasoning capacity.

"It sucks enough being the only woman in the house, then you get all the planes," she says.

Eddie suggests she not to get her panties all in a bunch.

"You know, I'm more sensitive to stuff like that --" she starts.

"Aw, don't be sensitive," Eddie says, cutting her off. "Tough it up."

Jamie smiles the smile again. Eddie goes outside to work on his triceps.

Jamie then assumes a series of photogenic melancholy poses, enhanced by her choice of wardrobe. She's finally lost the sweatshirt and is wearing a tight, short black shirt. She leans back on the counter and rocks sadly. We see midriff. Alas, it's too little, too late.

Red Room voice then brings us up to speed on the residents' "sa-ba-twah" challenge. Josh has successfully set the potato clock back half an hour, and so far, no one has caught on.

"They think it's getting dark early," Josh says. A clip illustrates his point.

"Curtis might be on to something," he says. Again, an dramatization.

Josh's strategy heretofore has been to wait until everyone's asleep to set the clock back.

He has a new masterful plan and, for a few minutes, he has our respect. He decides to do it right in front of everybody.

That way, they won't suspect anything. It's a riff on the old Auguste Dupin gag.

Now for the montage: "Big Brother's" answer to "interesting."

Cheesy electronic "spy" music plays as Josh fumbles with the potatoes. We'd fall out of our seats if we weren't laying down. The music rises to an exhilarating crescendo as Josh continues to poke the potatoes with wires as his housemates wander around him.

What we want to know is: What effect will a slow clock have on their lives? What are they gonna do? Be late for the couch?

What's next, the "Who left the toilet seat up"" sa-ba-twah challenge?

Honestly, can you believe we're still here?

Hello?

And it's time for another plane.

This time the banner reads:

"Chickanman lives AB.C."

That's right, "Chickanman." They wonder if the message is from George.

"He spelled it wrong," observes Jamie.

"Yeah, so it could be him," says Curtis. No one wonders what the "AB.C" part means.

Josh guffaws. The dog looks up at the sky. A caption reminds us that her name is Chiquita. Curtis imitates George. Everyone laughs. We insert a fork in our eyes to remind us what it feels like to be alive and stimulated.

Later, Eddie puts on a baseball cap and pretends to be a black guy like the ones he's seen on TV. He notes that he makes the hat look dope. In fact, he rocks this fly hat.

Eddie then attempts to engage Curtis in an impromptu Ebonics lesson.

"Curtis -- what up, kid?"

Curtis brays good-naturedly, but backs away slowly

Then Eddie launches into a rap about a chicken buffet.

Josh and Curtis stay near the sink, preferring to tackle the dishes. They wish he would just shut up, but clearly not enough to make him.

"Alright, time to go back into reality," Eddie says, weary of his own antics. "Flashback into Eddie world."

"Yeah, we're waiting for you here," says Josh, tapping the soiled dinnerware.

"Assume the bitch position, Eddie," says Eddie. "Eddie the bitch."

We find Eddie to be a charming and erudite companion.

Later, Curtis asks Josh -- amid much hemming and hawing --if he would date Brittany after the show.

"When I saw her on the video, I missed her," says Josh with a smile. "Once we get out, I'll see."

The question Curtis clearly wants to ask but doesn't: What about Jamie? We wonder if Curtis, despite his current degraded status as best-friend man, is nursing a little crush on Jamie. He wants to know what he's up against.

He craftily encourages a Josh-Brittany alliance. But then he asks if, back in the halcyon early days of the hamster house lo those many eons ago, if Josh was hitting on Jordan.

Perhaps, after all, Curtis is nursing a little crush on Muscleboy.

"I was just basically physically attracted to her," Josh says. "But with Brittany, I really got to care about her."

Curtis's equine face assumes a wistful position.

Back to the wrenching drama of the house saboteur.

The narrator tells us that Curtis is on Josh's trail.

There was only one flaw in Josh's plan to do his "sa-ba-twah" work in front of everybody.

Since he did it in front of everybody, they noticed that he sure was spending a whole lot of time fiddling with the clock.

Well, at least Curtis did. We recall that Curtis went to Stanford Law School. He is soon on Josh's tail.

As Curtis conducts a potato investigation, the music whips itself into an electronic frenzy, then stops.

But after the boys go to bed, it soon starts up again. It's dramatic cellos set to a drum-machine beat. Josh gets out of bed. Violins start up. Josh eats something brown. We resist the urge to do an interpretive dance.

Curtis enters the kitchen, sniffs the air. The music rises to a deafening crescendo. It's as if the musicians were plucking at our very nerves. Curtis exits. Josh pokes at the tubers one more time, returns to bed.

After the commercial -- and a disconcerting message calling for interested participants in a future version of "Big Brother" -- we are informed that has Josh inadvertently stopped the clock.

He is so busted.

A long sequence of Curtis walking toward the potato clock follows. This footage -- possibly the most exciting footage ever filmed in Studio City, if you don't count the shot of the Hoople family's minature poodle getting caught in the garbage disposal, which won an honorable mention on "America's Funniest Home Videos," back in the original and, some would say, more distinguished Bob Saget days -- is set to dramatic Harrison Fordesque marching music.

Curtis wanders into the Red Room, seriously underwhelmed.

"I guess I wanted to make my guess in that secret agent game?" he says in a Minneapolitan accent he picked up from Brittany, not believing the depths to which he has sunk. "I guess the covert operation is to sabotage the potato clock, and I'm pretty sure it's Josh?"

"Are you sure?" asks the Red Room man, wishing he were Regis. Wishing he were anyone, anywhere.

"Yeah," says Curtis.

"Okay," replies Red Room man, annoyed.

Curtis twitches slightly.

(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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