Big Brother

Baker’s Dozen: Trying to Make Sense of the Willie Incident

Andy BakerThe following is a guest post from Rob Has a Website Contributor, Andy Baker


As I wonder what would possess anyone to wear a bow tie on a nationally televised first date, allow me to Monday morning quarterback last night’s episode of BB:

(One quick note: The following blog entry is SPOILER FREE. I’m going to focus on the drama and discord in the CBS broadcast, and since the producers didn’t show the nominations, I won’t write about ’em.)

1) Okay, so what REALLY happened between Willie and Joe? There’s a MASSIVE gap between what the houseguests said on the live feeds and what we saw in Sunday’s episode: Ian claimed that Willie head-butted Joe four times, but CBS showed us only one, and that one looked largely incidental. I’m hardly a Willie defender – frankly, I’m glad he’s gone – but if the producers thought this footage would help viewers understand why Willie was removed from the game, they were wrong. Here’s my take on this mess: There’s no way Grodner removes Willie from the game unless she HAS to – which means the confrontation between Willie and Joe was much uglier than we saw. If that’s true, then we’re left wondering why the producers didn’t show us everything that transpired…

2) … and makes it all the more troubling that the producers spent a lot of time rationalizing Willie’s behavior. Honestly, I HATE that they made me feel bad for Willie – but they did (up to a point). Being socially ostracized from a group is one of the human animal’s most powerful corrective forces, and in a group dynamic like the BB house, which removes everything that makes an individual feel connected even when they’re alone (TV, newspapers, the internet), being ignored, feeling everyone pull away, has to be emotionally and psychologically devastating. People don’t, as a rule, deal well with being powerless; this is especially true for those with aggressive, controlling personalities. Facing a week of increasing isolation – not to mention hunger, since he was a Have Not – Willie was going to do whatever it took to reestablish personal power. In this case, that meant he was going to leave before the houseguests had a chance to vote him out. Seen in that light, sacrificing himself was Willie’s last, desperate attempt to reassert his dominance over the other players. I would argue that this was also Willie’s way of apologizing to, and a plea to be forgiven and accepted by, the players (such as Jojo) who rejected him. Now, I’m aware that I’m armchair analyzing without a psych degree, but I’m guessing that this is precisely how the producers want us to think and feel about Willie; we certainly got a lot of footage that fits this narrative. The question, as always, is why: Why did Grodner go to such lengths to make us think that Willie’s not that bad?

3) Now that he’s out of the BB house for good, Willie has GOT to be kicking himself. It’s pretty clear that Kara was sequestered, which means that the producers were hedging their bets about a potential early Hantz eviction. Had Willie endured a difficult week and been voted out, Grodner would have found a way to put him back in; once Willie got violent, though, he made it impossible for the producers to reintroduce him into the game. The biggest beneficiaries of this, of course, are the Coaches; not only does the number of players left mandate that they get their own house keys, but in a house without a Hantz, former Coaches battling for $500k will be needed to fill the dramatic void created by Willie’s departure.

4) One last thought about reality shows, the psychology of competitive-cooperative games, and the Hantz family: To thrive in a game like BB or Survivor, one needs to be able to handle the mental and emotional challenges involved in three distinctly different power dynamics: When you’re in power, when things are balanced, and when you’re weak. The pressures you face in each situation are distinctly different, and, while it’s not critical that you be brilliant in all three, it’s imperative not to be BAD at any of them. Love him or hate him, Russell Hantz excelled across the board in his first two Survivor stints; Willie, as my perceptive wife pointed out at the end of Sunday’s BB episode, is horrible at all three.

Okay, enough of the heavy stuff… some quick hits:


6) Did we really get an Ashley gameplay sighting? In what seemed like her first diary room confessional, Ashley claims she voted Kara out because she wanted to be the only under-the-radar player in the game. I guess she’s forgotten that Jenn is in the house? And doesn’t that mean Jenn is playing the best UTR game of all time?

7) The challenge designers remain on strike. Honestly, it looked like one of the interns typed “90’s hip-hop stereotypes” into Google and handed some print-outs to the production crew. How else to explain the Hammer pants, the “phat” graffiti on the wall, and phrases like “Peep this, yo” finding their way onto the cue cards? Unfortunately for them, all that stupid clearly infected the houseguests, what with Boogie stepping down before hitting the buzzer and Ian volunteering to go on slop for a second consecutive week. Brutal.

8) It’s time for this week’s installment of “How to Improve Big Brother!” I’ve got a quick fix this time around: Get rid of the “Who wants to see my HoH room” sequence. There’s good drama and there’s bad drama, and at this point in BB’s evolution, mistaking social awkwardness for good drama is inexcusable. Watching houseguests be forced to attend an HoH room unveiling violates the primary directive of reality programming – “Don’t Be Boring” – so lose it. BAM! Big Brother is now 9% better.

9) One of the reality competition tropes which keeps me interested in shows like BB and Survivor is when players are reminded of the world outside of the game. Which is why I’m a total sucker for things like Boogie seeing a picture of his son and the conversation Janelle had with Dan about missing their loved ones. Yes, moments like these are emotionally manipulative, but they’re also humanizing, grounding, and, in a genre which often feels more packaged than scripted television, refreshingly real. (Quick footnote: The undeniable cuteness of Boogie’s son wearing a “Team Boogie” t-shirt almost made up for Boogie’s diary room abomination with Frank; we get it, Boogie, you miss Dr. Will. So do we.)

10) If the producers are going to manipulate the game anyway, why not have fun with it? Why not put a huge poster of Sid Vicious on Frank’s HoH wall and have him try to explain it? Or put a letter from Dr. Will in Boogie’s room in which he says that he loves Boogie’s plan to team up with Janelle? If you’re going to screw with the houseguests, SCREW with them, amiright?

11) Fortunes rising: Janelle. At this rate, she’s going to rejoin the game with her team both intact and loyal; of the Coaches, she’s easily the best positioned for a deep run. Dan and Boogie will be targeted as former winners, and Britney is already self-destructing. The road is considerably less rough for Janelle, especially when Ian, the resident BB historian, will be warning everyone, “If you try to vote her out, Grodner will call you into the diary room and kick you in the groin!”

12) Fortunes falling: Britney. I can’t be the only one who noticed the egotistical irony of her lecture to Willie. “You’re so selfish! You don’t think about anyone but yourself! What about me? I looked like a fool defending you! Whose game did you ruin? Mine! Who’s paying the price? Me! ME ME ME ME ME!” (Okay, so maybe it didn’t sound exactly like that, but it’s close enough.) Britney has forgotten yet another Reality Show Commandment: It’s okay to THINK it, just don’t SAY it. Everything she did with Willie after Frank became HoH was on the short list of things NOT to do; Willie was ready to explode, and Britney was a whiny little kid with a blowtorch looking for a fuse. Just awful, awful gameplay.

13) Prediction time: If I were Frank, I’d forget about Britney’s team now that Willie’s gone and target Danielle. There are two extremely tempting reasons to do so: 1) Evicting Danielle might send Dan home, too, and 2) If Dan ISN’T sent home, removing Danielle will at the very least trigger the producer’s plan regarding the Coaches. At this point, the houseguests have to assume the Coaches will soon be players, and isn’t it better to get them into the game ASAP than let them be shielded from nominations for another week or two? I say yes. Danielle’s gotta go.

That’s it for this edition of The Baker’s Dozen – see ya Friday!

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