The following is a guest post from Rob Has a Website Contributor, Andy Baker
1) Over the last few weeks, my frustration with Big Brother, and Dan in particular, has grown exponentially – and I finally figured out why. Surprisingly, it’s not because of how Grodner rigged the game for the Coaches, nor is it because so many of the post-reset newbies have been so staggeringly stupid (strategically speaking). It’s because so little of this version of Dan feels genuine – everything is so calculated and devoid of emotion – which makes the endgame feel both antiseptic and sociopathic. There’s a reason people don’t remember Survivor: Thailand fondly; Brian Heidik was an unsympathetic and unempathetic winner. That’s Dan in BB14: someone who toys with marionettes who have no idea that there are strings, never mind that there’s someone pulling them.
2) Part of the equation is how hard Dan is selling himself to us, the viewers. From the jury room mention of DanGheesling.com, to his eviction speech references to his books, Dan is brazenly pitching his post-BB business. Part of the marketing plan: Creating memorable moments. I swear, everything from Dan’s Funeral, to his involvement in the Quack Pack, to his exhumation of the Renegade Alliance, to each and every “shocking” blindside, all of it isn’t simply in-game strategy – he’s establishing and expanding the Dan Gheesling brand. Knowing that he’s probably never going to play again – seriously, how could he follow this up? There’s a reason Dr. Will didn’t return for a third bite at the apple – Dan is doing everything he can to not just be a BB icon, but to become the singular face of the franchise, and in the process elevate himself to the Mount Rushmore of reality television. That’s the only way to avoid being relegated to pop culture obscurity once the viewing audience has moved on – and it’s an incredibly difficult thing for modern reality show contestants to do. We remember the early season houseguests and castaways far better than those who have been on more recently; becoming a part of the pantheon, one of the brightest pinpoints of light in the constellation of stars, is easier when you’re one of the giants whose shoulders others stand on. Anyway, I’m clearly overthinking this, but my point is this: Dan is out to create a profitable legacy for himself – and he’s succeeding. That doesn’t mean I have to respond positively to how he’s going about it, though. Is it so wrong to have wanted the game to unfold naturally, spontaneously, rather than to feel like it’s all been part of a larger commercial master plan?
3) Of course, Dan’s not just selling himself to us; he’s also making his pitch to the jury long before finale night. Reality show conventional wisdom tells us that if you send one angry person to the jury, the damage is containable; send several, and the tide will turn against you. But what if you betray EVERYONE? That’s the question that Dan is seeking to answer (and likely sees as his only path to victory): Is it possible to pack the jury house so full of players whose backs you stabbed and throats you cut that they’ll collectively realize that you played the best game? If Russell Hantz is any indication, the answer will be a resounding “No!” But BB isn’t Survivor; the jury house and ponderosa are far different beasts. Is Dan 2.0 likeable enough, relatable enough, and respectable enough to get at least four votes? Or will he get Hantzed? At the moment, I really don’t know; more to the point, I’m not sure what I want the answer to be.
4) Don’t get me wrong – I LIKE Dan, and would love to personally congratulate him on a job well done. In a season that already showcased a meta-game – the Coaches playing a related but discernably different competition – Dan created a meta-meta game, one that acknowledged that BB, for those who play it well, can be a means to a much greater end. It wasn’t enough to simply play to win; Dan 2.0 had to utterly eviscerate people. The end result: even if Dan loses, we’ll remember him as the guy who should have won. We wouldn’t say the same thing had he gone the nice guy route after the reset; better to play big and risk a bitter jury than to play safe and forever be second fiddle to Dr. Will.
5) Random armchair psychology observation: Dan fans like to point out that he’s playing a character right now, that he isn’t really this ruthless, that he’s a nice guy simply doing what he needs to do to win a game. I’m not buying it. You can’t fake it this long and this well – being aggressively cutthroat is, for better or worse, in Dan’s nature. And you know what? I don’t think Dan would deny it.
6) So it’s time to, as the old-timers would say, get down to brass tacks: Can Dan win? The numbers say no. Here’s the breakdown of where I think the houseguests’ heads are at (in order of eviction):
Ashley: I have a feeling she’ll follow Frank’s lead, which means it’s highly unlikely she’ll vote for Dan. Also, given her persona – “If I put it on my dreamboard, it’ll come true!” – it’s a safe bet she wants a “deserving” winner, someone with a good heart and all that jazz. That, to state the obvious, isn’t Dan 2.0. As for the two other houseguests in the final three (there are people in the house other than Dan?!), Ashley’s jury house reaction to the news that Ian had become HoH leads me to believe that she’d go for Ian over Dani.
Britney: Given how she was talking in the jury house segment, I’ll be shocked if she votes for anyone but Dan. Maybe Ian, since she was aligned with him and said some kind things to the Chenbot during her exit interview. But there’s no way she votes for Dani, whom Britney sees as a goat (and rightly so).
Frank: It doesn’t appear as if a couple of weeks in the jury house is going to do much to damper his bitterness towards Dan. Perhaps he’ll change his mind come finale night, but I doubt it; I think he ranks the three remaining players Ian—Dani——————-Dan.
Joe: We are who we are, and in the jury house, Joe will be who he was in the game, a floater easily influenced by the other members of the jury. If I had to wager, I’d bet on Ian getting his vote, followed by Dan (I don’t get the feeling that there’s much love lost between Joe and Dani; did they ever have a substantive conversation about anything?).
Jenn: I have a feeling that Jenn City is going to stick with girl power; Dani was her only “friend” in the house, so if Dani’s in the F2, she’s got Jenn’s vote. I think Jenn would pick Ian over Dan, too, because she shares Frank’s anger over Dan’s unapologetic dishonesty, and will likely be outraged by Dan’s heartless showmance murder.
Shane: If Dani’s in the F2, she gets Shane’s vote. If Dani ends up on the jury, however, she will convince Shane to forgive Dan. While that sounds utterly implausible, and really makes no sense at all, I have no doubt that this is precisely what would happen.
And the last two votes possibly in play:
Ian: While he would feel incredibly betrayed by Dan if Dan wins the final HoH and doesn’t take him, I think he’d ultimately reward great gameplay and vote for Dan over Dani.
Dani: Without a doubt, Dan’s got her vote.
With all that in mind, let’s run the numbers:
Dan vs. Ian
Ian wins 5-2
Dan vs. Dani
Dani wins 4-3
Ian vs. Dan
Ian wins 4-3
7) You know what, though? I don’t care what the numbers say. Dan is going to bring an industrial-sized can of Dan Mist to finale night and unload it on the jury. YOU CAN’T RESIST THE MIST.
8) By the way, If you thought Dani’s slack-jawed reaction to Shane’s eviction was riveting television, just wait for her response, both physical and emotional, when Dan throws her under the bus on Wednesday. Honestly, I’ll be shocked if she can speak once Dan’s done with his opening statement; at that point, we may bear witness to a nationally-televised nervous breakdown. At the very least, we’re going to see eighteen pounds of make-up and mascara slowly erode in a river of tears. As annoying as I’ve found Dani all summer long, I don’t feel the least bit good about this inevitable conclusion.
9) And yet, Dani brought this upon herself; how could she have been so oblivious to what Dan was doing? If Shane had stayed in the house, Dani was guaranteed a spot in the F2 (both Shane and Dan would have taken her); if Ian were to stay, it’s Dan whose spot would be guaranteed. And yet she bought Dan’s post-eviction rationale that he evicted Shane because Dani couldn’t beat him! Okay, now I don’t feel quite as bad that she’s going to need therapy for the remainder of her life.
10) Speaking of Shane, in a summer of bad decisions – the hair, the pink shirt, the late-summer capitulation to Danielle’s relentless romantic overtures – allowing himself to be put on the block FOR NO REASON (the idea that it would make he and Danielle look less like a power couple/voting block was utterly asinine) tops them all. On the bright side, though, at least Shane has temporarily escaped Danielle’s clutches; the blindside wasn’t so much a ruthless betrayal as it was Shane’s Showmancipation. Free at last.
11) Fortunes rising: Ian. He might not have staged a mock funeral, and he may not understand how or why it happened, but Ian has risen from the dead; he was GONE and he knew it… and now he has a solid shot at $500k.
12) Fortunes falling: Dani. It’s bad enough to lose a game like BB; to lose when you fully expect to win is another animal altogether. Dani’s going to go into finale night assuming that her victory is a formality (for the record, I HATE entitled attitudes like that), and, being insecure, needy, and emotional, she’s going to be psychologically annihilated when it dawns on her that she’s going to lose. I am convinced that the fallout is going to be unforgettable; I am equally convinced that it is going to be ugly. And what does it say about me that I’m planning to tune into something that I know is going to be a train wreck?
13) Prediction time (spoiler time!): Dan won the first stage of the final HoH competition thanks to Ian’s idiocy (apparently, he threw the competition to Dan). I have a feeling Dan will win the third stage, either by playing it straight or convincing Ian or Dani to throw it; and then, because he can spin the “I coached her to this point” narrative on finale night, Dan will evict Ian, creating one last enemy (not that Dan cares about that at this point). The jury will be angry, and almost all of them will unload on Dan, but in the end, they’ll understand that their season will be judged upon the legitimacy of the winner, and reluctantly crown Dan as BB14 champ.
That’s it for this edition of The Baker’s Dozen – see you after the finale!