'Big Brother 8': Much ado about nothing

Dick_bigbrother8_240 What a difference a few days make! From wearing the largest target on his back last Sunday, Dick has soared to rule the Big Brother household this week. After the whimpering exit of both Carol and Joe, Dick has a chance to make the Outsider Housemate gimmick actually work for Big Brother 8. Can he turn the house upside down? How many housemates can he yell at in the course of one hour? Will Daniele ever have a non-tactical conversation with him?

It's time to find out! Previously on Big Brother 8: Nick reveals his true feelings ("I like you so much!" "I totally wrote you this note in Geometry this morning!") to Daniele; Jen puts Dick and Daniele on the chopping block for their negativity; Kail's scheme to oust Dick from the household blows up on her, as her employees stage a revolt. Best of all, to add insult to injury, Dick wins the Head of Household competition.

Oh, and Joe got the boot, which is mentioned almost as an afterthought. Don't try too hard to betray your embarrassment at letting that guy into the house, eh, Big Brother producers?

We start off with a B&W retrospective of Joe departing from the house, Dustin's glee and Kail's sickening realization that her cheese stood alone in voting for Dick. Jen confessionals that she felt her mission as Head of Household was a successful one, except that she was really, really hoping Dick would go -- which, given that Joe was almost unanimously voted out, doesn't make it so much a "success" as an "abysmal failure."

At least Joe's gone, Jen goes on to note, and that seems to be the prevailing attitude among everyone else as Day 20 dawns on the Big Brother 8 house. Good luck to you, Joe. You got even less departure screen-time than Carol did. Try to live with the shame of that.

As we flash back to the Head of Household competition, Zach's voiceover comments that the Alliance of Four (is that the first time anyone gave it a name?) is failing, and might probably be done. We're treated to a replay of the tie-breaking question, which much to Jen's delight is all about her and the blinding red unitard. Cue the rockin' guitar music as Dick makes the right guess, and some jubilation from him in testimonial.

Jen_bigbrother8_240 And with Dick's joy comes squeamish discomfort from others, Jen and Kail in particular. Jen, still securely encased in her unitard, can only imagine that Dick will nominate her in retribution; Kail rationalizes that she didn't do anything to personally insult Dick, aside from vigorously campaign to get him booted out of the household. Delightfully, there is much footage of frozen smiles, uncomfortably adjusted strapless dresses, and furtive frowning to underscore the commentary.

Oh hey, and Daniele is pleased. Looks like she does have some time for her good old Dad, when it serves her.

With the past behind us, we find ourselves storming huffily alongside Kail as she goes in search of her employees-- sorry, that is, her alliance-mates. She finds Mike first, who stares blankly at her as she confronts him. In testimonial, she credits the death of their alliance to weak wills that couldn't withstand the pressure of their first test ... you know, the test where she tells them what to do, and then they do it? It takes a lot of character to pull that off, you know.

Cut to a shot of Dick poking his head into a room full of his housemates, all of whom are sprawled in couches or the floor as though they'd just been anesthetically gassed. Maybe they were anticipating how riveting tonight's episode would be, and the prospect of seeing what might be in Dick's Head of Household chamber seems thrilling by comparison. Whatever the case, we're soon treated to more wailing guitar music in the background, as the housemates pore over the not-at-all-awkward pictures of Dick and Daniele up on every wall.

I mean that, too: Daniele seems genuinely pleased by the photos, the group all fuss appropriately over the shots, and we are supplied with -- wait for it -- Amber bursting into tears over the moment in her testimonial. Dick wraps up the moment by mentioning that he doesn't plan to spend any more time in his room than he has to, preferring to mix with the others and keep the alliances separated.

And speaking of that, some creative editing brings us what seems to be Dick confronting Kail in one of the bedrooms, over her flip-flopped vote. We're quickly corrected on that, though, as Kail asks to explain her voting, and promptly dimes out her alliance and everyone in it. So much for strength of will, huh Kail? Dick agrees with me, and asks her, "So why are you telling me all of this now, to save your own ass?" Kail does her best to fall on her own sword, scrambling to peg herself as a bad player and no threat at all, but Dick is unconvinced. As we head into commercial, his testimonial talking head tells us his nominations are "set in stone" with Jen and Kail.

Nick_bigbrother8_240 What would a night be without some purely insane, Jen-based comedy? We come back from break to a completely bizarre wrestling match between her and Eric, which started with him asking, "Wanna fight?" and ends with her throwing Eric around the floor and cruelly pinning him. Elsewhere, Nick makes the monumental miscalculation of admitting that he has a Top Five Hot Guys list in front of Zach and Dick, who do everything short of give him noogies as they razz him about it. Much braying and high-fiving ensues as they chase Nick out of the yard, but oh! The joke is on them! Nick parlays his injured pride into an opportunity to totally girl-talk with Daniele, who is mysteriously wrapped up in bed in the middle of the day.

There's more to their exchange: Daniele tells Nick he's an idiot; he counters that no, in fact, she is an idiot (Oh, Oscar Wilde, eat your heart out!). My brain is dying in chunks as each moment of this wears on, so here's the key thing: Nick drones on with his A-List material ("Everyone on my Top Five Girls list is Daniele!"), Daniele sits and listens to it, and in confessional reminds us all that she has a boyfriend in the real world who she actually cares about. Out on the hammock, she sits with Dick and spills her heart out to him. He awkwardly tries to give her advice, as she pushes out a crying jag that even Amber could be proud of. This isn't going to end well at all, sports fans.

Just ahead of the food challenge, we're treated to a sequence of the true agony brought on by Big Brother slop. Jameka suffers mightily through a serving, describing its horrors as Amber looks on in support. Jen offers her insight ("I suck at feeling bad for people, but I feel ... something") as Jameka expresses just how truly important it is to her to eat real food again. This week probably gives Jameka the most screen time I've ever seen her get, and after Dick makes a joke about "starving kids in Africa", we start to see more of her actual personality too. She explains to Dick, and echoes in her testimonial, the pressure she feels as the only black house member... and because it's Big Brother, there's some more crying to be done.

Did Amber publish a weeping manifesto this week? Was it distributed to the cast? Even Dick was crying earlier, for the love of Pete. But you know what lightens the mood better than anything? A food challenge! Especially one with a totally hilarious name like "Mission Inpastabowl"! Puns will never be the lowest form of humor, not as long as Big Brother is around.

Eric_bigbrother8_240 This time the contest is to feed the entire house, with the cast broken up into pairs. Each pair has to travel down their slide and into their giant bowl of spaghetti marinara, where they'd have to scramble around to find meatballs with different foods written on them. Once the finds a set of matching balls, the house wins that food for the week. Nobody has any questions about the rules, but I have one: Has there been a food challenge yet where the objective was not to soak the houseguests in food? Ever? Is it wrong that I love that? The challenge is more or less a mercy from the production team: The cast gets five minutes to rack up as many matches as they can, and perform admirably -- the selections range from the warmly welcomed (lobster tail, a BBQ grill, beer) to the confusing (bananas, cucumbers, sweetbreads). After Dick tallies up the take from the food challenge, we check in with Eric, America's Player.

This week's challenge? Get Jen nominated for eviction. Eric crows that this is the best day ever, and sets off to take care of what he hopes is a no-brainer. He charges hard at Dick, reminding him not to overlook the obvious, and urging him to remember the two people who campaigned to get him kicked out of the house -- and put him up against his own daughter, in the process. Will playing such a sensitive card help America to live out its vicarious dreams through Eric? Only time will tell!

As we come back from commercial, we're treated to a montage of questions, as Kail explores the depths of her insensitivity toward gay men. Is there any more tactful a way to go about that than to quiz Dustin about which cartoon characters are homosexual, and whether or not one can tell a gay from straight person just by looking at them? "It's easy to forget that Dustin is gay," Kail tells us in her testimonial, in a tone that's meant to be complimentary. Dustin optimistically explains that he hopes to open doors for Kail, but the confused crinkling of her mouth tells us that he's going to need a crowbar to do it.

The nominations approach, and as they do we get a sequence of visitors to the Head of Household suite. Zach is up first, and wriggles uncomfortably as Dick shares Kail's exposure of the alliance; next comes Nick, who is all too pleased to connect himself as closely as possible to Daniele. That seems to backfire badly, though, and soon Dick is agitatedly gelling his hair and swearing eternal vengeance if Nick does anything to hurt his daughter. "Things would be a lot easier if Nick wasn't in the house," Dick says in testimonial, and now maybe his nominations aren't as rock-solid as they were yesterday.

Finally, it's nomination time. As the housemates gather nervously around the table, Dick explains his decisions. He intends to upset the balance in the house, he says, and disrupt the alliances that nearly led to his ejection. "Let's get going," he concludes, and the keys are drawn. Jameka is safe, as is Jessica. Amber, Eric, Daniele, Dustin, Nick, Zach, and finally Mike are all drawn as safe. Jen's nomination is explained as simple tit-for-tat ("so to speak," Dick smirks), though Kail doesn't fare nearly so well. Before adjourning the meeting, Dick promises that he will do everything he can to send Kail home.

Kail_bigbrother8_240_2 You didn't think we were done yet, did you? Not without one more person crying! "This sucks, going up against Jen," Kail says, but tearfully pledges to fight on and make her children proud of her. She's so sincere about it, why, you could almost forget she's a homophobe.

With that, we cut to the housemates parting ways, and face the gripping questions posed by the week to come: Who will win the power of veto? How will Eric spend the money he just earned by helping Jen get nominated? Will we ever see more housemates cry over the course of an episode where basically nothing happened?

Find out all this and more next week, on Big Brother 8!