In some ways, tonight's live show was the final "Big Brother" show. The last losing hamster was evicted; the remaining three are winners.
In the loosest, most meaningless sense of the word.
The last four hamsters are Jamie, Josh, Eddie and Curtis. We grant you that Eddie is mildly colorful, and that Jamie is a study in repressed rage and a host of other repressed things.
Still, we're beginning to think that "hamster" is almost too energetic a sobriquet for this crowd.
This feeling is buttressed by the letters we've been getting from America's proud hamster owners, who are dismayed at the association.
For a final round of a full-time game show that has lasted almost three months, tonight's episode was oddly lacking in -- comment se dit? -- thrills. And no amount of the Chenimator in perky pumpkin-colored vinyl pants could compensate.
A see-through polka dot shirt? What are we, suckers?
Well, someone seems to think so. Tonight's show is another formal exercise in contempt and condescension, packed with all the flavor and chewy goodness of a styrofoam peanut.
Only less useful.
Chen, who makes Al Gore sound like Carol Channing, makes a wooden announcement:
"The votes are in ... they've been counted ... and we have a change ... of plans."
Man, can that lady pause.
"For the first time ... we have two banishments."
The hamsters look nervous. Obviously, they haven't learned a thing. Those of us who've been watching all along know this is just another lame CBS red herring.
The suspense, which is of course killing us, will last all of three minutes. But, oh, the thrilling climax.
"We're going to do things a little differently," Chen drones. "We're going to start with a tribute, shall we say, to the banished housemate."
Why don't we just get to the, shall we say, point? Because CBS has an hour to fill and Julie Chen is no Regis. She's not even a Katie Couric.
We can hear Chen's therapist now: "We can't all be Bryant Gumbel."
So, are you ready for it? The banished houseguest is the farting dog. Surprise!
No! Really? The dog? Can we stand it? We thought for a minute they had banished the toaster.
Chen really had us going there. The dog! You don't say.
No explanation is given, none is demanded. Nobody cares.
Curtis perfunctorily says, "Love ya" as the dog waddles out the door.
What is the dog supposed to do with that? Say, "Right back atcha, babe"?
Curtis just hasn't been the same since he came back from the Emmys.
Next, more filler! This time, it's clips from the new hit CBS movie, "George: Pig in the City."
Did we ever mention how much George, seen here in a whirling "six hours of fame" p.r. trip with his wife Teresa, reminded us of Dudley Moore in "Arthur"? Only less poised and coherent?
"Who would have thought People magazine would have been interested in someone like myself?" George asks.
People magazine generally draws the line at hemi-demi-semicelebrity. But George is going to be in the magazine's new weekly feature, "Nobodies who manage to get on TV for a bit."
"Why would anyone be interested in me?" he asks again.
Well, George, it's a long story. See, there are thousands and thousands of TV channels now with thousands and thousands of available hours that need to be filled and MTV bought CBS and is in the process of debauching it and -- oh, never mind.
As George and Teresa hop in a hansom and are whisked off into Central Park after dark, Dr. Drew Pinsky joins Julie on the set.
Pinsky shows us some clips that show some of the "defining moments" in the house.
Ah, yes. The defining moments. We were sick that day.
But Pinsky has drawn some big life lessons from the experience, along with a paycheck that we hope, for his sake, was worth it.
"And I just wanted to say, Julie: This experience has been really powerful and fascinating for me here at 'Big Brother.' And I just want to point out to people that, in fact, we're all really "Big Brother," aren't we? We're all the ones doing the watching here."
Busted! Julie scrambles for an explanation. "There was nothing in my contract about watchi --"
Lucky for her, Pinsky is talking, not listening.
"-- And we do that because we wanted to learn something about ourselves," he continues. "We wanted to learn something about other people, and that's really what compelled us to watch --"
That's funny. What compelled us to watch was our sadistic, desperate, no-standards editor.
"These courageous people really have taught us something. They've taught us about the triumph of community --"
The music swells.
" -- a community that's stressed, even a community built on individuals whose self-interest is their primary goal; they taught us that they didn't have to sacrifice the integrity of the community.
"Given the choice between peace and conflict, they chose peace. They seemed to choose healthy choices."
Like us, like any CBS exec with a brain, and like the vast majority of the American public, Dr. Drew is basically saying the show was boring.
Well, at least they've got their health, according to Drew, and he's a doctor, right?
Brittany, on the other hand, isn't satisfied with mere freedom from disease.
She wants to be a star!
Let's see how she does on her very first movie audition!
For starters, no one has told her that, when going on an audition, it's important to dress like someone the casting director could actually picture casting. Glittery eyelids and uneven pigtails, unless you are trying out for an alien horror movie circa 1963, tend not to be a good look.
Two, scrunching up your face and imitating Susan Lucci is not generally considered acting.
There's a reason it took her 20 years and five face-lifts to get that Emmy.
Three, upon reading your sides, it's normally not wise to collapse in a heap on the table and yell, "Oh, I suck!"
And four, unless you are auditioning for a comedy, it's best not to make the casting director laugh.
That kooky little freak!
We kid Brittany, but at least she's not an America Online Internet Advisor.
Tonight, Regina Lewis tells us that "the online crowd" are die-hard fans.
"People," she says, "think Eddie has the best strategy." She means AOL people.
Eddie's strategy, as far as we have gleaned, consists of repeating the word "strategy" as often as possible.
She says, "Whole states want Eddie to win." (One person wrote "Vermont loves Eddie.")
She says Curtis is considered "husband material."
She says Josh is considered "humping material."
Lewis and Chen exchange a knowing look.
Our lives have been so enriched by Regina Lewis.
The show is half over, and already nothing has happened. But that doesn't stop Chen from withholding the action a little longer to show us all the ways in which the show has brought us "The unexpected, the unbelievable and the unforgetable."
She forgot to mention the unwatchable.
After a tear-jerking montage of "Big Brother's" zaniest banishment moments, we find out that Jamie has been booted.
Jamie feigns immense happiness for the three remaining pallid boys in the house, all of whom are winners, even if she isn't.
The boys hang around outside for the next few minutes, as part of "Big Brother's" beloved weekly "moments of stasis" feature.
We are willing to bet cash money that tomorrow's all-boy show will be "Big Brother's" lowest point yet, action-wise.
We're talking Fireplace Channel, here, folks.
Chen doesn't tell us the voting percentages. CBS releases that info on a strict need-to-know basis. It might conflict with the AOL online polls, which are much more reliable.
Jamie walks outside and begins talking as she walks from the house to the outside gates, even though there's no one around.
"I love you, mommy!" she yells, very convincingly, and is let loose upon the world.
She hugs her mom and another person she seems to recognize. Then she moves on to the crowd and starts hugging other people. At first we think she's hugging friends, but then some of them start looking surprised.
There's no telling who these people are. In fact, CBS is rumored to have hired the services of Rent-a-Crowd to act at the banishment shows.
Jamie will take a connection where she can get it.
So she hugs the cameraman.
It almost makes the three months seem worth it.
In the studio, she hugs Chen.
"My co-host!" she says. Chen laughs condescendingly.
Wouldn't it be great (now that she's out of the house, now that she has lost, now that she knows that maybe everybody doesn't love her as much as she hoped) if Jamie displayed anything similar to a real honest emotion?
Huh? Wouldn't it be great it springs popped out of Julie Chen's ears?
It didn't happen, OK?
Jamie had nothing to say. And Julie tried, she did. She asked her about keeping her feelings to herself. She asked her about why she didn't protest when banners told lies about her. She asked her why there were no sparks between her and the boys.
"I didn't want that to get in way of my experience."
But why, Julie wants to know, why no sex?
"I wanted to enjoy every single moment of it."
Because, as everyone knows, sex always gets in the way of fun.
Julie is as close to intrepid as she's ever been. We wonder for a moment why Chen is always so much rougher on the female residents, but then decide to just take what we can get.
But why? Chen asks, drilling in some more. Why was Jamie so worried about how she would be portrayed on camera?
"What was it that you were so afraid of?"
Well, you see, Julie, a Miss Washington needs to think about being a role model for girls in her state.
"But by not expressing yourself in response to a banner that is false -- is that being artificial?"
"I thought long and hard about it, and maybe the banners are true and maybe they're not -- but I want to enjoy every single moment of it here."
In other words, no matter what, Jamie is going to follow her motto and "live life."
Even if it means being inhuman.
Later, when she says goodbye to the dudes, Jamie reminds them to "feel the moment."
"You feel your moment," Josh replies, and for a minute, we like him.
The show ends with the boys being summoned into the Red Room to tell "Big Brother" who they think should win the not-really-that-big $500,000 first prize.
Curtis leaves it up to the public to decide. Non-threatening, but, as it turns out, not self-sacrificing enough. Curtis, we predict, will be dinged for third.
Eddie says Josh should win -- because he needs to provide for his niece. He makes Josh sound like he's the only hope for his impoverished village.
Then he winks at Julie.
Josh says Eddie should win -- because he needs to provide for his family.
It's almost like that story where the husband sells his watch to buy a set of brushes for his wife's beautiful hair, and the wife cuts off and sells her hair to buy a gold chain for her husband's watch. You know that one?
Then Josh calls Julie "Babe."
We're so going to miss them when they're gone.