Big Brother

Friday, July 7, 2006 by

So, goodbye to Lea. Numerous nomenclatures have been thrown at her in her seven silicone-enhanced weeks in the Big Brother house, but the description of her by housemates as the First Lady of Big Brother is the most befitting. And the most flattering.

The woman with Britain’s biggest breasts and a dubious “adult” past has been on a proper journey, the type that too many inane attentionados of BB‘s passim claim to have made when in truth they have rarely got beyond the passenger door.

Once the flurry of early withdrawals and ejections was done, everyone had a reason to dislike or not trust Lea at one point or another. She had real enemies, but she also had people who fiercely trusted in her, accepted her motherly wiles and adopting begrudging admiration. Her breasts might have been the biggest, but she wasn’t the only housemate to have endured enhancement surgery, and so three other women found themselves unable to press that particularly easy button.

The return of a standard eviction process was gratifying because it has been a relatively turbulent and busy week for BB. Aisleyne’s eviction-that-wasn’t got mixed responses as she was shunted into a colourful but restrictive House Next Door and joined by five more wannabes. Although BB tried to keep an element of one-upmanship going on, Aisleyne was not to be outdone, and her new, unjudgemental crowd of co-tenants allowed her ample opportunity to assess her own character in the main house and also examine the proper reasons as to why BB had done this. She initially took the news that she would eventually go back to her old housemates after evicting four of the newbies with incredulity; but once she got rid of the first, the task got easier thanks to a slipshod BB.

BB was a fool to itself. For all the itinerary to ask Next Door housemates to keep the noise down in the Diary Room, or to ensure the two gardens were occupied strictly on a rota system to avoid audio from the neighbours, soundproofing indoors should have been the main priority if the plan was always to keep Next Door secret from the main house, especially with a new housemate like Jayne. Thirtysomething, loud, bluff and refreshingly unladylike, Jayne’s incessant chattering and comic burps rendered her likeable but in restricted doses, and Aisleyne got rid at BB’s behest after 24 hours because she couldn’t sleep in her excitable company. Seconds after a massively annoyed Jayne shut the exit behind her, a high-pitched scream came ringing through the walls and ventilation. Jayne had gone next door, Nikki had found her and the world knew. Most importantly, the neighbours knew.

BB refused to confirm Aisleyne’s suspicions but the Next Door occupants weren’t to be fooled. The conversation about BBs hatchet plan on Aisleyne got deeper and – without confirmation – more accurate in its findings. Aisleyne therefore deliberately chose positively rather than negatively when she was asked to ditch two more. This was a result for the gracious Mancunian Michael and lairy Scouse teen Jennie, both of whom had said more vigorously than the other pair that they had high ambitions to get into the main house. Off they popped through the Diary Room to sit at a grandiose dining table in the garden while their fresh roomies were shielded in the bedroom. Eventually, the curtain came up and all hell broke loose, with Jayne following instructions to keep Next Door a secret by also introducing herself to them.

By now, the main house was also getting suspicious. The off-peak timing of the new arrivals, plus the lack of thrilled animation which one would normally expect of a brand new BB housemate, had got cogs turning in even the less active brains. Nikki had her stern, deep-in-thought face on. She produced no theories, but she was trying. Only Richard, in the end, expounded his thoughts and was almost entirely accurate when he pointed in the general direction of the wall between the Diary Room and the exit door and claimed there was a secret room where people were living.

Michael and Jennie said nothing, as instructed, and nobody thought to ask Jayne, who’d only been there for 48 hours, although she had became big motherly buddies with Lea, had terrifically entertaining camp gagathons with Richard and visibly annoyed the prim Susie with her outlandish burping. There’s one immediate nomination you can put your house on.

Amid all this, the regular housemates – Jayne excepted – had been through the nomination process. Still in the belief they were shot of Aisleyne, they went through the usual procedure. Despite Richard’s weekly tirade against Welsh nonentity Imogen, she escaped with ease again. Pete got his first nomination, courtesy of Glyn, who mistook a Tourette’s lull of melancholia as rudeness, and Nikki managed to keep the slaggings down. Ultimately Lea’s manipulation of others – which Aisleyne pointed out so publicly a week before – and the chagrin some felt from Richard’s smart alec comments, put the self-styled “Dicky and Dolly” together. Big pals who had endured their differences, but who needed each other at that point. An interesting poll would be cast as the days went by, but the televisual highlight of the BB week was still to come.

BB gathered the housemates into the lounge for an unspecified reason while also ringing Aisleyne on the Next Door phone to ask her into the Diary Room. What followed was an excruciating, unmissable half-hour of television on so many levels, which began as Aisleyne was flicked on to the plasma screen and the realisation sunk in with the other original housemates that she was still involved.

For the benefit of the old guard, BB recapped Aisleyne’s week since the exit door had shut behind her and she had climbed the stairs, frantic and shuddering, only to be called back down by an aide with a headset and ushered into the Next Door complex (the “penthouse” as its newbies called it; the “yard” as wannabe coloured girl Aisleyne initially named it). As the recap continued, the housemates were aghast. Mouths were open, lots of “oh my God”-type expressions, interspersed with Nikki, as usual believing it was all about her, claiming over and over that Aisleyne would now evict her. Suddenly, it dawned on the housemates that Michael and Jennie had known Jayne from before, and it was Jayne who came to the fore here, bitterly insulting Aisleyne on the strength of one 24-hour period.

Aisleyne cried her heart out from this moment on as BB told her to evict, for real, one of the two remaining Next Door housemates. The other one would then join her in the main building. She took forever to regather her thoughts, such was her affinity with the newbies and her attempt to re-establish her own personality after hearing the boos from outside. Jayne yelled frantically and brashly at the plasma screen; many of the rest simply asked what the remaining two were like. Eventually, on the basic premise that he had said he didn’t mind what she did as he appreciated her difficulties, Cumbrian bouncer Jonathan – arguably the most level-headed of all the newcomers – got Aisleyne’s boot.

This was all screened live, with Davina McCall anchoring, and it was expertly directed as the viewer got right between Aisleyne’s eyes and saw Jonathan’s magnanimous, controlled reaction to seeing his dream die. Aisleyne spent the remaining time hugging him, sobbing loudly and elongatedly. Jonathan held her tightly, making no sound and giving nothing away. The saved housemate, Irish rapper and DJ Spiral (real name Glen), offered gentle condolence and reassurance but ultimately sat out of the grief. Although a soupcon of sympathy could be directed at Jonathan, ultimately there had been no journey for the viewer to take with him, and in many eyes he will be the one who had the lucky escape, in the same way that Bonnie and George will also be able to shake off the tag of unskilled greasy-pole climber. The real sympathy lay with Aisleyne, and the hardest of hearts in the main house, among those who argued with her, belittled her, bitched about her and nominated her, all melted at the grief she was going through. Except for Jayne.

Jonathan left in the usual way, except there was no crowd, and was graceful and co-operative when Davina interviewed him, even though there was little to talk about. What mattered at this point was getting Aisleyne back into the main house, with Spiral alongside her. This happened after Jonathan’s interview had been completed, and was made all the more dramatic and humanised by Aisleyne still in floods on the floor of the Next Door kitchen, with Spiral trying to comfort her as best he could, when the phone rang again. Now was the ideal time for the viewers, but the worst possible time for Aisleyne, to relaunch her. And that’s precisely what they did.

Aisleyne went from the Diary Room into the main house without announcement and ran in hysterics to the bathroom. Spiral followed her, politely saying hello to the people he’d not met as he went along, and with the ever-concerned Pete and – yes, maternally yours – Lea, hard work was done and old clashes were forgotten as the milk of human kindness got to work on reviving the old Aisleyne within the confines of the bathroom. It took a while, but she got there.

Not everyone was impressed. Jayne made it clear to all and sundry that she couldn’t abide her, while Nikki ran to the Diary Room and put on one of her finest 10-year-old-girl tantrums of mock tears and wails to scold BB for bringing her old nemesis back. Remarkably, the individual who finally dried Aisleyne’s tears was the scornful voice of the Diary Room that evening, who dryly mickey-took Aisleyne’s street slang as she tried to gain shelter from the others. She went in still a mess, and emerged with a smile. Everyone except Nikki and Jayne got a hug, and Spiral had done his share of introducing himself. Now we had 13 housemates, when seven weeks earlier we had started with 14. Time was long overdue to get one out.

In the last 24 hours before the votes were counted, Lea had a wobbler which forced BB to agree to her request to walk rather than be evicted, and give Richard a free run to the next week. Astonishingly, where the wisdom of Susie and Aisleyne in trying to dissuade the Nottinghamshire mum failed, the outrage of Nikki – herself more than prone to wanting out when on the verge of hurtling into the lions’ den – changed Lea’s thinking. Nikki, emanating a brand of astute ponderance of which she was previously felt incapable, reminded Lea that Richard respected her and would not approve in the slightest of being saved by anything other than the eviction process. And, she pointed out, there was less of a guarantee about Lea’s departure than there had been about any of the previously evicted housemates.

Nikki had nothing to back this up, but she wasn’t far wrong. Lea garnered 53% of the vote and Richard 47% in one of the closest calls in years. If Lea had gone up against a peripheral like Imogen, Susie or this week’s invisible housemate Mikey, she’d have stayed put, such was her complex nature which made her all the more fascinating and relatable. She was manipulative, and Aisleyne was right to say so, but very vulnerable, awfully insecure and comically uncouth and brazen. She was fun when she was up, and she generated viewer empathy when she was down.

Lea spent her half-hour stay of execution in tears, hugging her beloved Pete and ignoring Susie’s pleas to stop crying as it would ruin her make-up. Ultimately, Lea reconstructed herself, said her proud goodbyes and managed to issue an uncensored c-word at the sliding doors which will get Channel 4 into all sorts of bother. The reaction wasn’t perfect but it was largely an excellent and welcome one after so much out-of-context booing over the weeks, and Lea looked relieved and shell-shocked at not being pelted with tomatoes.

The interview wasn’t great but Lea had done what she set out to do; to prove that “big tits and blonde hair” didn’t mean an empty head. She tagged Pete as “gorgeous inside and out” and felt vindicated by her time in the house. Her departure at least equals that of Sezer for the major effect it will have on Big Brother, and many will miss her: Nikki for the advice, Jayne for the immaturity and swearing, Susie for the motherly chats (although Lea’s tune changed as she called her a “bitch” over and over in the interview for reasons never fully uncovered) and Richard for the silliness. Glyn will miss her for his nocturnal fantasies, but the return of his major crush Aisleyne and the arrival of Jennie – a girl his own age – will help him along there. The disbelief of Glyn at Spiral’s nerve when, on his first night, he asked Lea outright for a feel as the three shared a bed (“I’ve been trying to work out a way to ask that for ages!”) became another inspired Glyn moment which kept his own claims for victory nicely ticking along.

So with Lea gone, Aisleyne back and four new housemates settled in and eligible to win, we feel like we’ve just started. Shahbaz and his wild histrionics seem like forever ago now, but really BB should kick the innovations into touch and start thinking about getting more folk out. A double eviction or two must be in store, if only for scheduling reasons, unless they’re planning to have half a dozen or more in the house to count down on the final night. Back to basics again is the plea – tasks, games, nominations and all the fallout from them.

And the newbies? Well, Spiral and Michael (fearless and likeable respectively) have the characters to gatecrash the business end of BB; Jennie is in a similar position to Glyn in his first week as she tries to come to terms with these more grown-up people before her, and Jayne, as an acquired taste in humour and habit, could find herself on the chopping block before long. Although the Next Door project failed logistically, as both Aisleyne and Richard managed to work out, albeit without confirmation from within, that something was amiss, the actual quality of the housemates produced did contribute to something of a salvage job.

That said, there’s no history of latecomers making the last week and, while Pete, Nikki, Glyn and Richard all remain, it would take a split nomination to get any of them out and give the others, including the newcomers, a fighting chance. The main interest now lies in Aisleyne’s attempts at rehabilitation, and the need to get some of these damned people out!


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