Big Brother

Friday, July 21, 2006 by

Cruelty is something Big Brother likes to administer on its housemates if there is a danger of the series becoming a little too unremarkable in mid-run.

Granted, the maverick windypops Jayne had made BB’s capacity for unkindness easy by breaking every rule in the pamphlet, giving the masters a simple opportunity to create tension through sanctions, but sometimes that extra edge of meanness is required.

It’s been a watchably pigeonholed week in the house. With the fabulous Nikki gone and an enormous gap left behind in both entertainment and cliqueyness, the production team needed to don those thinking caps again.

The housemates had already been punished by Jayne’s random, reckless (but one feels, slightly intentional) snapping of the laws, but it wasn’t enough. The point was that the Slough recruitment consultant wasn’t gaining too many enemies. The odd tenant had a whinge behind her back, but nobody confronted her and nobody had a serious go in her direction over her mindless crime wave.

However, Jayne felt the tension spread like wildfire when Nikki departed. Everyone except Jayne herself had been put up for nomination as a consequence of her enormous mouth, and Nikki got the chop. For all her foibles, Nikki was popular in the house and certainly the likes of Pete, Richard, Imogen and Mikey had reason to be dismayed at her sudden demise. Therefore, they had reason, should they have wished to use it, to deflect their frustrations back in Jayne’s direction, and Jayne – who herself was close to Nikki and accepted the blame – could feel some of the daggers drawing.

Nikki had gone, and a week on basic rations (alienating more food-centric housemates like Glyn) was ahead. Jayne’s antics had turned her not quite into a pariah – she was apologetic and sociable enough to maintain her relationships – but certainly into a target, which was brought closer by another offence which rendered the pool and bath out of bounds, and the hot water on a one in 24-hour rota. For the housemates who loathe or can’t cope with the process of nominating their peers, they had an easy choice and a straightforward reason, and therefore only one piece of soul-searching ahead. Although runaway favourite Pete surprisingly avoided choosing Jayne (despite being the one most affected by Nikki’s farewell, and enduring a tiptoeing Jayne trying to close in on the bed left empty by his soulmate afterwards), a big chunk did for reasons of behaviour, selfishness and, naturally, burping.

Canadian wind-up merchant Richard, who is fantastic to watch and clearly a nightmare to live with if not on his level, also picked up a lion’s share. His clashes from one end of the gay spectrum with Michael, the Mancunian newbie with a cuddly toy cat and less of a reliance on his sexuality, at the other end have been fascinating and discomforting at the same time. While it’s certain that Richard has a propensity, instilled by his own obvious confidence and pride in his status, to go a little too far in his terminology and innuendo, the younger and more deep-thinking Michael is struggling not to react, and has consequently become a rather self-conscious and passive figure. He is right to point out that there is more to him than his sexuality, but he needs to stop rising to Richard’s bait. The bully which some have previously described Richard to be, through words and confidence rather than force, is being given a chance to emerge again. By the end of the week the two had come to a grudging understanding, but it’s all likely to hit the fan again now the public have extended Richard’s stay.

Jayne and Richard, pals together, faced the vote and gratifyingly it was Jayne whose name was announced by Davina McCall. It was time for a newbie to go, if only to reassure the remaining originals that their hope of success remained, and keeping Richard in was always going to affect more people than the more superficial issues which hindered Jayne. She could have buttoned her trap and everything would have been sweet, whereas Richard, providing he doesn’t break the rules, will have no intention of keeping quiet, especially when subtly goading Michael on the outside and unsubtly destroying Imogen from within the Diary Room. The looks on the faces of Michael and Mikey when Jayne’s name was announced made their feelings abundantly clear.

For all the vindication Richard must feel as he re-empties his suitcase for a fourth time, it’s fair to say that he is unwittingly bringing out the more human qualities in second-string contestants. Certainly the role established by Mikey in recent weeks has been to defend the pressured or back the underdog, confident in his own debating skills and general integrity with those around him that he has the gravitas to do so. That said, it’s also likely that the near-Scouse chiller chose to back Michael up because his assailant was Richard, someone whom Mikey publicly dislikes and frequently nominates. This, however, continues to be Mikey’s only role in the house. The rest of the time he’s happy to relax, play fiddly fingers at night with decorative Welsh mute Imogen and give the splendid Glyn pep talks on life after school. It’s his way of avoiding nomination, but it might not work forever, and this is where the interesting housemates will always, ultimately outweigh the well-mannered ones. If you happen to be both – Pete, Glyn – then all the better.

As Mikey has unfinished business with Richard and the confidence to turn on him at appropriate moments, it will perhaps do him good in the longer term to endure another week or more with the Canuck stirrer as a room-mate. Although Jayne was witty and certainly real, she wasn’t exceptionally pleasant, either in attitude or manner, and the abundance of shade over light – plus the obvious block vote for Richard saving his bacon again – made her a goner. Out she came to a reasonable reception and her interview with Davina was the best of the series so far as she treated it with the deference it deserved, answering the hostess’s questions thoroughly and politely and laughing heartily as medleys of her peccadilloes and burping were shown. Housemates like Jayne remind us that Davina is good at this Big Brother lark providing she has a switched-on contestant to work with.

Elsewhere, it’s been a fractious week. Spiral, the teetotal Dublin rapper, has come across as an argumentative, inarticulate and largely imbecilic piece of work as altercations over next to nothing provided discomfort for Aisleyne, Michael and Jennie in succession. The last two both said they didn’t wish to talk to him again, while wannabe “biatch” Aisleyne was rather more clever in her retributive measures by merely massaging the bruised ego which had caused their spat. Spiral needs to stop treating her like a sex object, which is admittedly a strain when she is forever in clothing which shows off the washing instructions on her underwear. He hasn’t learned the golden rule of looking without touching, and is coming across as a nasty, vengeful piece of work with little charm or lighter side. His bouts of fury – and his roots – are not unlike those of Ray Shah, the Dubliner who finished runner-up in BB4, but Ray always had the excuse of alcoholic refreshment on his side. Spiral’s abstention make his outbursts more distressing to watch.

His arguments with Michael and Jennie were more down to basic differences in personality and certainly the two seem to have nowhere to go. There is a lot of support building for the teenage Scouser but I can’t quite see what she has just yet, even though the number of nominations she picked up suggests the other tenants see her as a threat or a nuisance, and she fought her corner – and won – with Spiral with points and oxygen to spare. She has a palatable and gentle rapport with fellow adolescent Glyn, the sort which is unflirtatious enough for her dad to enjoy, and has some great T shirts (“I KNOW WHAT BOYS WANT” was one).

What did the boy Glyn want? Well, it was Welsh lamb and chips, with some garlic bread on the side and raspberry pavlova for afters. This brought Spiral to the boil again, as BB assigned the housemates a walking task, with pedometers attached to their persons, having already asked the ravenous rabble what meal they would like as reward if they won. Glyn went for his localised lamb, won the task by managing more than 15,000 steps, and found the meal in liquidised form in the Diary Room as the nauseated others watched on the plasma screen. Glyn, whose desire through hunger had been so prominent that he evoked the greatest sympathy from the equally underfed housemates, ate the side order of garlic bread, tasted the mush (as if to prove a point), called BB “shitheads” in Welsh and departed. He was angry but understanding of BB’s facility to be in total control, fairly or otherwise. A raging Spiral was not so, and the rest turned on him when he protested that they didn’t have the nerve to fight back. Idealism gets you nowhere when you’re locked up and fighting the same battle, and Spiral lost a lot of ground.

It was a week to admire Glyn, and pity him too. As an inexperienced drinker used to home cooking, his meals were hugely important to him. Who else could give the humble and controversial black pudding market such a huge lift as he did? So, having begged BB later for secret food to be passed to him – he was naturally refused – he ended up trying to make himself some nocturnal porridge and succeeded only in burning the pan. He was hungry, and hunger affected his sunny disposition. He didn’t quite turn on anyone – he did well to check his temper – but he became a morose, solitary figure at times, only lightening up when Susie served up the meagre supplies and then at the end of the week when the group passed an assault course task and were rewarded with an ’80s party complete with costumes, wigs, wine, a brief soundtrack from Yazz and – most importantly for them all, including Glyn – a substantial buffet.

The return of a luxury shopping budget will restore the smiles to the BB housemates next week. Lady of the manor Susie can quietly re-distribute the stash of bread, preserves and tea bags she hid in her bed without the need to inform others – only the exited Jayne knew about them – and the housemates can start redefining their stays after a poverty-stricken week on chickpeas, rice, carrots and strictly limited drinks.

Pete still holds the key and has finally come to realise it, such was his sudden change in mood via the Diary Room at the end of the week. It’s still him they have to usurp, and they’re unlikely to do so. The confidence of the Tourette’s lad has been low, and on numerous occasions he has preferred a tranquil corner of melancholia with only his thoughts for company, but gentle moments like shouting, “I’m pissed off!” prior to sobbing toddler-like upon Nikki’s exodus, and then later wanting to nominate Michael’s stuffed cat Scruples for eviction, keep him in line for the swag. However, Davina tells us now that the coming seven days will see the housemates pairing off – resulting in a double eviction and the business end finally in sight. If Imogen and Spiral end up in a duo, then do the nation a service and get voting…


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