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Big Brother 8 - Episode 1 Summary

'But First...' By cahaya
Original Airdate: July 5, 2005

But first… you, dear reality TV viewer, should know that this is the very first episode of Big Brother that I have ever watched. For the past twenty years as an expatriate, I lived in socially conservative countries whose governments (Big Brothers in and of themselves) would deem this Big Brother broadcast a dangerous and inflammatory moral evil that would corrupt the very social fabric of their well-ordered societies. But this is America, and this is Big Brother. So, here you have a review from someone uninitiated, carrying no histories, no memories, no prejudices, and no expectations of even the unexpected, said like it is.

Our hostess, Julie Chen, dressed in what Chinese culture considers the auspicious color of red, greets us. Her dress falls loosely over her non-descript physique as if she's a clothes hanger. Not quite the looks of a Chinese anti-freeze toothpaste magnate's mistress, but close. In reality, very close.

In her lilting, yet impassive voice, Chen informs us that we will soon meet the Big Brother houseguests, one of whom will win the sum of $500,000 as the final remaining resident of the house. A paltry sum, as far as she's concerned, given that there's absolutely no tonal emphasis on the said sum. Can you imagine Chen shouting out "Fiiiive... hunnnndred... THOOOOUSAND... dolllllars!" with gleeful excitement? Me either.

We are reminded that this is a competition, to see which houseguest will out compete and outlast the rest of their housemates as they all vie (vilely) against each other, using whatever wiles and methods they can devise, none of which will escape our attention or our imagination.

As we get a visual tour of the house, Chen informs us in her as-usual clinically detached dental assistant voice that there are something like 51 cameras and 74 microphones spread out throughout the house, with every move and every noise captured for the world to see and hear in a 90-day social experiment to last the entire "unique and exciting" summer. The house looks like another house-building reality TV series gone wrong. Although the theme for the decor and furnishings is based on "Alice in Wonderland", there aren't any cats, rabbits, playing cards or hookahs around (but we'll get to the mushrooms shortly).

No doubt, you think, "I'd never do my house that way!" Somehow, I have a notion some hardcore BB fanatics will try it, though, even at great expense. And sure enough, unwelcome houseguests will soon disappear even more frequently than once a week until you have the house to yourself again.

The Barbie dollhouse is just the backdrop. What we're interested in are the housemates! At last, they come in groups, standing up on the front steps to the house, wordless. Chen reminds us that they can't say a word to each other until they've already entered the house in choreographic submission to the rules. But wait; there are only 11 housemates on the steps. Where are the others? We'll soon find out. But first (heh, heh), let's introduce the original eleven, in the order that they were grouped to enter the house, with some background information that we either looked up way before the premier started (like the vast majority of you BB fanatics), or will soon discover from events and conversations within the house:

Group 1:

Carol, a single 21 year-old college student from Kansas. She has the looks that could stir up a tornado. And not just in Kansas.
Joe, a single gay 23 year-old receptionist from Windy City. No code decipherment necessary. He says he's gonna blow away the competition. Now that's code. But watch out for the gonorrhea.
Mike, a single 26 year-old painting contractor from Three Lakes, Wisconsin. His first job really should be to repaint and re-decor the house.
Amber, a separated 27 year-old cocktail waitress from Las Vegas. You know, she does look like one of those bimbo extras in Vegas.

Group 2:

Daniele, a single blonde 20 year-old waitress from Huntington Beach, California. Now that's two waitresses. Underage drinking in the house is going to be a problem for this lady, though. At least she's not underage for certain other activities.
Jameca, our token minority housemate, a 28-year old school counselor from Waldorf, Maryland.
Nick, our resident anti-social "happy go (un)lucky" wimp jock wannabe, a single 25 year-old former football player from Kimball, Minnesota.

Group 3:

Kail, the only married one of the household, a 37 year-old straight-laced Bible-toting business owner from McKenzie Bridge, Oregon, who claims she owns half the town. In that spirit, she says she's gonna run the household. I'd guess starting with Bible study at 9 a.m. on Sunday mornings. We'll soon see if the household slop deserves grace or not.
Jen, a single 23 year-old sleek brunette nanny from Beverly Hills. Face it, you'll never see a Rodeo Drive mom with spoiled brats in her tow, folks. Even for the parking spaces. Jen may not have much in the way of financial assets, but she (truthfully) says she has ample physical assets. Sadly, she finds none of the guys attractive, but she hasn't commented yet about the girls.
Eric, a single 27 year-old talent management assistant from New York City, probably because he hasn't got much talent himself.
Zach, a single 30 year-old graphic designer from Burbank, California.

As these housemates wander around and stake a claim to a bed, as instructed by our hostess in red, (with only first group getting the bigger beds), we cringe at the thought of who'll be the first to:
a) Whack their head above the tiny opening of a door in a drunken stupor or fit of rage.
b) Get leg cramps the first night and end up sleeping on the floor.
c) Have to share underwear and intimate apparel in the same teeny-tiny dresser drawers.
d) Obtain a Five Foot Bed Club membership card, conceivably possible only through certain yogic positions that would challenge even the most seasoned Mile High Club members.

As the new housemates settle in and later gather downstairs, our toothpaste magnate mistress in red informs us (as if we're surprised) that there are three more people who have secretly been watching every move and hearing every word of the original eleven housemates. But, there's a twist! (Right foot - red, left hand - green, anyone?) Dick's hands momentarily find themselves on Jessica's shoulders! (Oh, that wasn't the big twist, but it could be the first of many little ones.) With this, it's time to introduce the other three housemates who are observing the others with more than casual interest:

Group 4:

Dick, a single 44 year-old bar manager, from Los Angeles. Wow, look at those tattoos, a walking art studio! And judging by all those cigarettes he brought, he's a black-lunged Marlboro man.
Jessica, a single 21 year-old college student from Kansas (hey, that sounds familiar). She, on the other hand, has looks that could kill a tornado. She says that the only person she'll be cheering for is herself. Well, she'll probably be the only person cheering for herself.
Dustin, a single 22 year-old shoe salesman from Windy City (now, isn't that a coincidence). Compared to Joe, he's the Hush Puppy.

These three are supposed to be the nemesis of three other housemates downstairs. I don't know about you, and I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but it's more than obvious who they are, even before we see their reactions and we're told who the nemesis pairs are. Dick is Daniele's estranged father who have been out of communication for two years, Dustin and Joe are ex-mates who clearly despise each other, and Jessica and Carol are ex-friends over some stupid deal about five bucks in the distant past.

Now tell me, who is this show's target demographic? Well, of course people like you, but sit back a moment and think about it. Oops, we aren't given time to think about it as our hostess Chen rushes us to the next event of the day, the Head of Household (HoH) challenge.

First, the original 11 housemates have to pair up for the challenge. Ah... (mathematical geniuses)... that leaves an odd one out. Not messing around, Jameka grabs Joe, while the others pair up: Amber and Carol, Danielle and Mike, Jen and Zach, and Eric with Kail.

Meanwhile, Nick goes into a total mind freeze. "Duh. Eleven divided by two is... shoot, I can't divide." Geez, dude, you're supposed to be a football player. Show some hustle! I suppose we need Payton Manning as co-host to do the signal calling. "Eleven! Two! Five! Hut-hut!" But instead Nick offers the excuse that he wants to lay low and not attract attention. Geez, dude (again), the whole friggin' world is watching you and you want to pretend to lay low, with all the cams and mikes in this house? You're on TV now, which is more than what can be said for your football career. Think again, Nick - oops, sorry, that's asking too much.

While the HoH challenge kicks off, Nick sits on the steps, out of the playoffs at 0-10, as he mentally relives his inglorious days on the gridiron. His chemistry with the ladies in the house makes us wonder whether he even had a cheerleader girlfriend. Joe, however, seems to think Nick is gorgeous with great hair. Makes you wonder if Nick won't end up being a tight end before this season is over.

Meanwhile, the other three watch the challenge with some amusement. They are ineligible to become HoH, but they also free from possible first-round eviction.

One partner answers the T/F questions while the other sits on a mushroom, which we soon find out starts spinning when the partner answers the question incorrectly. True to Alice in Wonderland, we should be seeing a caterpillar smoking a hookah, but we don't. I don't know about you, but at this point in the show, I could sure use a hit.

True or false questions:

1. Five of the housemates had cosmetic surgery. False, only two. (Yikes, at least one of these gals in their early twenties already did the Botox! Kail is the other logical candidate.)
2. More than half of the housemates would give up their best friend for half a million dollars (there it is again, Chen's vocal disdain for paltry sums). False, only four. (Get a clue, producers. Offer a million, like any decent RTV show, and then it'd be more than half.)
3. More than two of the housemates would not give up their seat to a pregnant lady on a bus. False. Only one. (Hmmm, wonder who?)
4. More than three of the housemates are members of the Mile High Club. False, only one. (And that was probably space head Nick, who wouldn't understand what the question actually meant.)
5. More than half of the housemates have no problem about saying something malicious about someone. True. (From what we've heard so far, probably all of them, even Kail.)

And these aren't enough questions to get the mushrooms spinning fast enough, so instead the mushrooms will just go faster and faster from this point onwards. Joe, for one, hits the dirt and acts like he just got injured on the play. You'd think Nick would register something at this point, given his football career, but no, he doesn't even know which game he's watching.

At the end of it all, Kail manages to stay on the longest, with Eric as her partner. The three secret housemates get to vote on which of these two become HoH and they quickly pick Kail, now christened The Queen of the Mushrooms. Tada! HoH challenge done. Congratulations, everyone. I'm amazed you did it. Ok, hey, pass the hookah over here one more time and I'll take a bite of one of those 'shrooms to go with it. My head can't spin any more than it already is.

"Expect the unexpected." Of course, in Big Brother, that's lesson number one. Our dear hostess in red finally announces the news to the original eleven that there are three more in the household, people with whom there is some unfinished business three of the original housemates.

And then the shocker: "You will be sleeping with your nemesis, literally." First the first time all night, we detect an imperceptibly evil tone in Chen's voice. Oh, man, did I hear that right? Was that sleeping in the same house or the same bed? With Joe and Dustin fighting under the covers in a five-foot bed? Or Jessica and Carol fighting over the blanket? Or (gasp of horror), a father sleeping with his legal-age daughter? Don't let your imagination run riot - the BB housemates will do it for you.

Joe looks worried, hostile even, with no avenue of escape from reliving a past nightmare. Dustin looks all too ready to oblige Joe. Joe goes into a tirade about sexually acquired diseases. Danielle appears shocked at first, but she had already voiced her thoughts about what to expect. She disappears into the bathroom, followed by others who console her as her tears flow. Dick seems to take it in stride, but with an irritated, defiant look (usually looking away from Daniele) that says he plans to continue ignore Daniele. And the two wicked witches get ready to call their Kansas-original broomsticks from the closet, ready to wage war with each other over whom between them will be the Dom of Wonderland with $5.00 on the line. No magic slippers here. Just Joe and Dustin wearing each other's shirts, oddly enough.

Almost ready to conclude the show, with just a hint of glee in her voice, you can tell that Chen and her faithful viewers will be savoring every opportunity to tell us every little detail of the impending emotional train wrecks, outbreaks of turf wars, and sudden flashes of radioactive nuclear ego explosions.

But first... there's still one more gimmick. This year, we have "America's Player", whom viewers can send messages via text or online through the network web site. If America's Player can do five of the assigned tasks, the player wins $10,000. Now that's a paltry sum, especially by Chen's standards. And America's Player is... Eric! I kind of feel sorry for this guy. We all know how good at strategy America is, and if this obedient soldier is in the game very long, it'll be because the insurgency in the BB household hasn't hit full steam yet.

I honestly can't imagine Big Brother without our dear hostess Julie Chen. Pick a host or hostess of any other reality show, and could they host this show anything like Chenbot does? Not even close. As brainless as this show is, it calls for an equally brainless hostess. And as often as emotional outbursts will certainly flare into confrontation, it calls for a sadistic, emotionally detached hostess who can coolly give us a blow-by-blow account of the unfolding horror. Yes, I love Chen in this role. This show fits her perfectly, even if her red dress doesn't.

"This is going to be a crazy and interesting summer."

So, there we have it. Big Brother 8. The very first time for me. Will I come back for more? Maybe for just one more episode. Maybe just two. Maybe even more. Maybe I don't even know. Maybe it'll be like {fill in the blank} and, just like you, dear viewer, I won't be able to get enough of it. Ever. Time will tell.

Next network showing, Sunday at 8:00 EST, except for those of you junkies mainlining on the live feeds. Meanwhile, I feel the urge to pop another Endemol.

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