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Nat’s all there is on ‘Big Brother’

As the power in the house shifts, a newly powerful Natalie helps give Jeff the boot Thursday night on “Big Brother.”
/ Source: Entertainment Weekly

Ugh. Seriously, ugh.

Not only has Natalie won HOH, assuring her a spot in the final three, but she dedicated her victory to Chima? Talk about adding insult to injury. Frankly, it's going to be pretty hard to write tonight's recap: how can I speak about any events earlier in the week without being sucked down into despondency because I know where it's all heading? But soldier on I must; you'll have to forgive me if every so often I have to cleanse my palate with rage.

Sunday's episode — wasn't that a happier time? — began with everyone reacting to Russell’s departure. Hey, Russell, remember how you said Jordan had a big butt? Well, she upped the ante: ''Russell is the biggest butt I’ve ever met in my life,'' she said. Take that! She may be 30 percent big butt, but you are 100 percent! Jeff, on the other hand, gave him props for ''leaving on a classy note, and I applaud him for that.'' This was somewhat at odds with what I caught on Big Brother After Dark on Saturday night. Then, he grumbled that if he ended up in the jury house, Russell better stay away from him. (Incidentally, are there ten sadder words in the English language than ''…I caught on Big Brother After Dark on Saturday night''?)

Back to the in-progress HOH Challenge, where Natalie, Kevin, Jordan, and Michelle ran through chocolate rain to fill up a giant globe with cocoa. It was so slippier…slipperier? Slippityslammier? Falldowngoboomy? Help me out, Jordo! Now, like Jeff, I am a sucker for watching people falling down, so seeing everybody take chocolate headers was far more entertaining to me than any of the memory games they’ve played. Perhaps that’s how we can improve this game: no matter what the challenge, it should be done after spinning around in a circle 30 times. There’s not a game in the world that isn’t improved by watching someone stumble into the hedges.

(And not a game in the world that can't be ruined by NATALIE WINNING IT!)

Ahem. Where was I? Oh, the HOH challenge was good news/bad news for Jordan. The good news was that when she took one particularly high-velocity header, she did not pop a boob, as Jeff worried she might have. The bad news is, she is not very good at carrying cocoa when it’s slippiastic. Kevin had a solid lead, followed by Michelle, with Natalie trailing alongside Jordan. Natalie claimed that once she saw that Kevin was winning, she began to throw it: ''Why show any of the other houseguests that I’m a strong competitor?'' First of all, considering she hasn’t won any competitions, I don’t think there’s any chance of anyone having that revelation. But secondly, at this point in the game, why wouldn’t she want people to realize she has some skills? With her goose-egg record, if she made it to the final two, people would just see her as a floater who did nothing to deserve her position. Dr. Will didn’t win any challenges, but people knew he was playing a mental game. The only game Natalie has played is candy poker.

Kevin won HOH, and was rightfully miffed that Natalie wasn’t trying, leaving all the pressure on him. Meanwhile, Michelle was crushed, assuming she was the next target. She sat alone in the couch room, weeping and speaking aloud, ''This house is driving me nuts, and I have no one.'' (Is it a BB rule that no one’s allowed to have an unspoken thought? I guess they're told by the producers, ''Inner life doesn’t get the ratings, people, start talking to yourself!'')

After a trip to Kevin’s HOH room, we got a little dose of reality as Jordan recounted the sad tale of how her mom’s house went into foreclosure, and her family is now living with friends. It’s always jarring when real-world events are acknowledged in the house (most notably when the housemates in season 2 were informed about 9/11). I don’t like it: the game is so powerfully superficial that it renders superficial anything it touches. In the same way that you wouldn’t want to watch a Larry the Cable Guy special in church, you wouldn’t want the nation’s cataclysmic real estate collapse around Big Brother. Case in point: Jordan’s sad revelation was soon followed by a debate with Jeff over whether the fruit she was eating was a peach or a nectarine. It was clearly a peach, but she maintained it wasn’t because ''It’s soft, and it has the nut in the middle!'' Now how are you supposed to ponder the ramifications of greedy, shifty banking policies when the poster girl for the suffering is stymied by fruit? While I feel her pain, Jordan is the best press that mortgage companies trying to use the ''caveat emptor'' excuse could ask for.

One unrelated side note about this fruit argument: Through it all, Michele was off to the side, preparing something called ''Muscle Milk.'' Why exactly is she bulking up? Does she plan on going back to her lab and kicking nerd ass? Her coworkers will think twice about hogging all the test tubes once Dr. Gunshow, PhD, shows up!

(Ha ha! I laugh about Muscle Milk to mask the pain OH THE PAIN, THE PAIN, NATALIE WHY WHY WHY WHY?)

On Tuesday, we discovered the special HOH twist we were promised, and unfortunately, it didn’t have much effect on the game. Kevin discovered a room with a giant ''Pandora’s Box'' and a screen that read, ''To release $10,000, put your hand in the hole.'' Once his hand went in, it became trapped, and he watched on the screen as one-dollar bills fell from the sky and his housemates jubilantly grabbed for the cash. ''This has never happened in my whole life!'' yelled Natalie. Although, someone once threw a handful of poker chips at her head, which is kind of the same thing.

Kevin got angry as everybody was far more interested in grabbing money than saving him. Boy, you really see people’s true colors when it is literally raining money and they don’t stop to help someone who has already won $10,000. The nerve! In the end, Jeff got the most, with $3,181, but considering that he stuffed wads of cash deep into his pants, another twenty or so bucks may turn up in the next couple of days, depending on his diet.

Reality hits Jeff and JordanNext came the critical POV, a twist on the old meld-two-housemates'-faces game that pops up every year. Jordan thought she'd ace this one because she's so observant: Once, she was the first person to notice that her grandpa got new dentures. Did he shatter his old set biting into what he thought was a peach but turned out to be an orange rock? Unfortunately, she tanked it, and Jeff didn't do much better. Michele aced it, leading to a moment of cruelty as she attempted to congratulate Jeff, who just snarled, ''Get away from me'' and walked away.

Poor Michele. Forget the game for a moment and forget who you want to win, and just think like a human being: Can you imagine a more agonizing experience than being trapped in a house for this long, feeling completely alienated from everybody? And as I've said many times before, it's her awkwardness that has distanced herself from everybody, rather than her gameplay. She's just not built for the Big Brother level of intellect; perhaps she thought the Muscle Milk might be a good way to dummy her brain down so she could fit in more. She really tries: During the Pandora's Box cash race, she attempted to say things like, ''Free cash! This is totally crazy and totally awesome!'' but it came out of her mouth sounding utterly alien, kind of like when Pink Lady tried to speak English phonetically on Pink Lady and Jeff. This all leads to disconnects in the house: When, later in Tuesday's episode, she took herself off the block, Natalie said, ''Michele used what little brains she does have and used the veto on herself.'' Little brains? She's a neuroscientist! You're a poker player who also kicks people! Michele is so smart that Natalie doesn't even recognize it as intelligence.

(Yeah, I really stuck it to Natalie there! Bet that really hurts her. Oh, wait, she can't be hurt: SHE'S FRIGGIN' HOH.)

Jordan gave Jeff her blessing to fight to stay instead of her, which definitely helps her cause as an out-of-house girlfriend. (Last Sunday, when Kevin quizzed Jeff on his ''type,'' she was only batting about .350 on his answers.) Michele, now somehow allied with Jeff, went to Kevin and laid out the reasons why he should keep Jeff in and then work to get out Natalie, because she has more friends in the jury than he does. This was a brilliantly self-serving move on her part: Yes, Kevin has fewer friends on the jury than Natalie. But if Michele can get rid of both Kevin and Natalie and somehow get in the final two with Jeff, she's got less grudges toward her than Jeff does. In fact, Jeff may be the only person she can beat one-on-one.

But ultimately, it was all pointless. Puttering around the house, Jeff pretty much knew he was gone. He spent some last maudlin moments with Jordan, urging her to be strong when he's gone, sounding much like Debra Winger in Tears of Endearment. (Boy, he really talked it up like he was going to die. And that's an unfortunatel metaphor, because if heaven is the jury house, Jessie and Lydia are some really anticlimactic cherubim.) We also got some last cutesy moments, as the house couple, buried under a comforter, debated over how they'd kiss farewell on the live show. Ha ha ha ha GROPE.

A Hail Mary playJeff and Michele did come up with one Hail Mary play: assuring Natalie that they'd throw the next HOH if she kept Jeff. Their sales pitch was that this would not only assure her a spot in the final three, but would allow her to get rid of Kevin before he backstabbed her…which, Jeff said, he inevitably would. She pretended to consider it, but we all knew where this was going.

(Oh God…can't go on…so terrible…so very, very terrible…)

Before the inevitable axing, we were treated to an interview with Michele's husband Tim, who revealed that Michele was a nerd and an outcast in high school. Gee, Tim, where were you when we needed to clarify those supercomplicated clique assignments at the beginning of the season? Tim also claimed that Michele's problems ''remembering'' things were possibly part of her genetic makeup. Did these two meet online in a ''Bad Liars'' chat room?

We also got another peek into the jury house. As if to prime us for the nausea to come when Natalie won HOH, we saw more flirtation between Lydia and Jessie. Then Russell arrived, and Jessie ripped off his T-shirt in his best imitation of spontaneity. It's fascinating to me how Jessie tries to imitate wrestler moves, but does so awkwardly: it's like he's being a tough guy phonetically. (Which brings us back to Pink Lady.)

Anyway, back at the live show, Julie gave Kevin a straight line about Pandora's Box so he could make his prewritten joke: ''In any other circumstance, I wouldn't mind being bent over and handcuffed over a box, but…'' I see what he was going for, but there's something about the specificity of it all happening ''over a box'' that makes it really creepy, like he has some sort of Hold Everything rape fantasy.

But then came time for the voting. Jordan made a rambling apple pie speech, while Jeff went right to the point, telling Natalie in front of everybody to take his deal, because otherwise Kevin would backstab her. She passed on it, bragging that she was true to her word. Wait, isn't she the one who has been lying to everyone about her age? (That said, the shock and dismay in the jury house over the revelation that she's 24, not 18, was a bit overblown. Really, how is this that big of a betrayal? Does it really affect Lydia's take on Natalie to now know that she's actually old enough to rent a car?)

Then came the…sigh…HOH competition. The ''Fact or Fiction'' game usually comes around this time, so I don't buy any conspiracy that it was geared toward Natalie's strengths. (Here's my favorite fact from the game: Casey has been selling banana-themed merchandise. Although the judges should give a ruling on this because there's a big difference between ''offering up for sale'' and actually ''selling.'') It was a pretty stressful matchup, leading to a three-way tiebreaker, but then it happened. Natalie pulled it out. We all thought Michele would have a numbers game in the bag. (And we also knew deep down that Jordan would be wildly off, and possibly have written down a Greek letter in her answer instead of a number.) But no, Natalie was the victor.

Natalie was insufferable after she won, screaming again about how she had been true to her word, true to her word! She was clearly trying to paint herself as honest (as opposed to Kevin, who looks like the guilty one for lying to Jeff) to any future jury members, but it just came off ridiculously. And it didn't help when she dedicated the victory to a psycho who was ejected from the game for acting like a crazy person. Why not just give a shout-out to Squeaky Fromme?

Well, now we're stuck with her. So let's assume that she and Kevin will be gunning for Michele next week: With only four people left, the one person not nominated has the only vote, so if Michele or Jordan (who are both likely to be the nominees) win POV, Kevin goes up, and then, thanks to the POV victor, will go out. Dare to dream, huh?