Big Brother

Friday, June 23, 2006 by

Well, thanks to a loose wire or somesuch other technical indiscretion, Lisa and her mouth the size of a bus park very nearly didn’t get their marching orders. Davina McCall told them who she was and implored them not to swear three times before the gathered throng of spruced-up wannabes finally sparked into life.

“Give me some indication you can hear me!” begged the worried hostess. “Yeees!” they bellowed back. Previously, thanks to the unplanned speaker silence under the red on-air lights, they had been featureless, characterless, numb-faced statues. You may now add your own punchline.

Still, Lisa’s gone at last. In a four-handed eviction contest, the Chinese-Mancunian upholsterer with a toilet for a mouth (both in size and content) and a million-a-day smoking habit took 60% of the vote and bounded up the inner staircase and through the sliding doors in a dress that looked more like the underwear she should have been wearing beneath it. It wasn’t wholly flattering, but she rose nicely above the inevitable (and, now, tedious) booing and was dragged by the flustered Davina to the studio for words. It ended an eventful and, with her eviction consequential, definitive week in the house for her.

There has been a new spark between the BB walls since the influential Grace departed the previous Friday. Although cliques and tensions remained, no-holds barred bitchiness reared its now familiarly ugly head and calls continued to be made for the word “arselicking” (or, as high-maintenance brat Nikki rather more extremely describes it, “arsehole-sucking”) to be banned from the BB vocabulary, there seemed to be a more serene element to proceedings. Mikey, the Scouse horizontalist whose full-scale Iranian roots were revealed to a bored public by a vindictive press this week, wasted little time in drying his tears and putting his memento pic of Grace to one side in order to snuggle closer to Imogen, the hugely uncharismatic Welshwoman with turquoise bras and next to nothing to say. He’s brave, that Mikey – firstly as Grace and Sezer may feel blighted by his move towards Imogen, and also because he is in danger of dying of boredom in doing so. Bridges were tentatively built elsewhere and a new week began with the atmosphere changing depending on weather, task responsibilities and menstrual cycle.

The new-look love-in didn’t start immediately after Grace’s departure as there was the aftermath of the witlessly-dubbed Watergate to get through. Grace clearly muttered her plan to tip a beaker of water over nemesis Susie in the seconds prior to leaving within approving earshot of both Imogen and Lisa, whose general acceptance of the idea didn’t, er, wash with Susie or her main defenders Richard (articulate, fearless and just on the right side of vindictive) and Aisleyne (principled, strong and vastly undervalued by this ever-repentant reviewer).

Susie, the Golden Housemate whose own entry through the doors has caused all sorts of stink within the advertising industry, was more than capable of fighting her own battles but while she chose to diffuse the situation by rightly just using it as a vindication of her concerns over Grace, the hot-tempered Lisa went into full-scale yelling mode, with an expletive every second word, at Richard after entirely misquoting him over what he and Aisleyne said they had heard. Lisa’s inferior intellect, misplaced desire to defend her absent friend (who would go on to care little – she was out of the house partying and kissing the much-missed uppercrust housemate George, unperturbed by any flak she’d caused) and generally insufficient ability to realise that the truth was different to what she’d heard, prompted an hilarious, out of context vocal fight with raucous Manc taking on camp Canuck. Richard, cruelly but effectively, did a mincing impression of Lisa’s foot-stomping indignance to quell the tirade and she stormed off.

BB ticked Richard off for provocative behaviour, but he largely did little wrong. Lisa’s grave was already being dug by herself, and when she and four others were forced to stand up and receive punishment from BB for discussing nominations, her fate was sealed.

The five – Lisa, Imogen, Nikki, enhanced mother figure Lea and comically breezy Welsh adolescent Glyn – had all been variously overheard by BB discussing nominations in one way or other. In front of everyone, they each had to nominate one of the other rule-breakers, with a public vote awaiting the person with the most. Voting for oneself or refusing to vote at all would render further sanctions for everyone.

Lisa was a little unlucky as the vote was, as always, alphabetical, and therefore as the penultimate voter she proved crucial thanks to the pattern of the casting which went before her. Glyn chose Nikki; Imogen chose Lea and Lea reciprocated, which meant that Lisa only had to choose Glyn and Nikki was in a position to save herself and the others by making it one vote each. Whether she had the intelligence to realise this is unlikely, although the benefit of the doubt is worth applying as we’ll never know for certain. Potentially it was a show of solidarity of which Lech Walesa would have been proud, and it might have saved Lisa’s bacon knowing that the bordering-on-mad Lea – the only one of the five with a chance to be evicted ahead of her – was there in the mix. But Lisa went for Nikki, probably due to panic, and Nikki burst into uncontrollable sobs. Her vote was rendered pointless as she was up for eviction again whatever happened, so she still took Lisa’s name as her vote and ran off.

Like Jonny Regan in BB3 and Jon Tickle in BB4, Nikki has developed a sense of invincibility within the nomination stakes. The housemates want her out, but the public want her in and will be happy to keep rejecting the housemates’ Diary Room pleas to maintain her entertaining, divisive presence. Jon went eventually thanks to an unlucky combination of having winner-in-waiting Cameron as an opponent and a first-ever double eviction (notice that hasn’t been tried yet this year) weakening his chances, but Jonny saw off Lee, Sophie and Adele in successive weeks before eventually sealing second place and heroism in his year. Nikki will only ape Jon’s ill-luck if she’s pitched against the flawless Pete, and is therefore more likely to follow Jonny’s lead to the last day, with bookies making her second favourite to win the whole thing. This week her reputation grew as, for the first time, she really was the victim her previous histrionics had often made her out to be.

Lisa had, just minutes before BB’s call to admonish, assured a vexed Nikki that she wouldn’t be up for eviction this week, having had a stressful fortnight (and inflicted the stress on all the others) in surviving the votes which had seen Sam and Grace ditched ahead of her. Then Nikki saw Lisa become turncoat, and it was this which the lifeskill-lacking but somehow beguiling footballer’s fiancée-in-waiting could not get her head around. Her sobbing, her argument, her disbelief – for once the housemates understood her pain and did not privately accuse her of overreaction. Nikki told BB she wanted to go, which prompted a truly reassuring piece of humanism from the three elder statesfolk of the house, as Susie, Lea and Richard all gently cajoled the flighty bimbette into a rethink after a night’s sleep. She recovered.

The remaining quintet of law-abiding citizens had voted in the normal manner, although they were not allowed, sensibly, to vote for Nikki as she was already before the bear pit. Two would still need to come from the Diary Room musings, and as expected, there was a split, with Imogen, Lisa and Mikey all emerging from the name-calling and character-assassination as potential public fodder.

Few admitted it in the house, but they all knew as well as the public that this vote was really now between Imogen and Lisa. Even Richard, the labeller of the “plastics”, was sorry to see Mikey nominated as he had not broken the rules and did not deserve to be put up for eviction when other felonious housemates – Glyn and Lea – had passed it by. His venom in nominating Glyn on the slightly baffling grounds that the naïve Welsh mountain boy’s demeanour was “turning” (the editing had not shown this assertion to any great extent) was cancelled out by his wonderful later assessment of his biggest nemesis – Imogen – as someone who does nothing and thinks of nothing except to wake up, look in the mirror and try to decipher which camera is on her. “Miss Wales? I don’t think so.” A rather uncivil appraisal, but it’s the truth. He was also right to air disgust over Imogen’s prolific indiscipline over discussion of nominations, and it’s entirely justified to wonder how someone so lacking in any form of vitality or interest in the BB experience can flout the rules so many times. What was most astonishing was that Richard, despite the accusations, arguments, camp impersonations, misquotations and general angst, chose not to nominate Lisa. He was, perhaps, intelligent enough to realise that she’d be held before the punters even without his help, and his real target was Imogen.

His vote for Glyn was a waste as the Welsh hobbledehoy was easily clear of the others, although only runaway favourite Pete – whose week started quietly and ended dramatically – now has yet to receive any nominations at all. He is adored and respected by everyone, choosing to appease the bullies, comfort the victims and not partake in any cliques or respond to any barefaced attempts to draw him in too close. Yet he’s anything but an outcast. He transcends the housemates and their differences, and few of BB‘s legends can say they’ve done that. His Tourette’s is entertaining but he remains unaffected by the affliction in terms of bonding and does not, crucially, attract pity from the others.

Mikey received nominations through his defence of Grace (Susie rightly said in selecting him that Mikey had no rights when he drew a veil over the Watergate incident – only she could do that), while Imogen largely got put up because of the little contribution she makes and the idiocy she has undoubtedly shown in breaking nomination rules every week since arriving. Lisa’s high-profile deceit and belligerence made her a cert, but only mere chance is keeping Imogen inside. From the current crop, it’s hard to imagine her staying even at the tiresomely mollycoddling Lea’s expense.

Once nominations were out of the way and Nikki accepted a deranged, translucent apology from a petrified Lisa, the week’s task came along. The housemates were given majorettes’ outfits, complete with pleated skirts and batons, and required to rehearse and perform a routine to earn their luxury shopping budget. Clearly timed to coincide with the departure of professional choreographer Grace, it was Glyn, as the person who responded to the Diary Room call, who was instantly appointed group leader. He had to organise and instruct the others and perform extra moves exclusive to himself.

There was real entertainment value to this task, on a four-fold basis. Firstly, it finally exposed Richard’s misgivings about Glyn’s attitude, as the teenage leader, feeling hugely insecure at the 30-something waiter’s attempts to help, told him in no uncertain terms to leave well alone. His protest was way too strong. Richard objected but backed down, muttering under his breath about Glyn’s short fuse while practicing his marches and twirls.

Secondly, it showed off Pete’s own natural performance mentality yet again, as he mastered the twirling action while gossiping about the task in the Diary Room (having become, apparently, a “MajTourette”).

Thirdly, it allowed a spot of real comic relief as the sex-starved girls – who otherwise only had a shy Tourette’s sufferer, a half-built Welsh youth and a gay Canadian cheerleader as eye candy – took ample opportunity to laugh heartily and stare lustfully at the unfortunate bulge developing under Mikey’s ill-fitting skirt.

Fourthly, it made Nikki happy. She took to the task, danced well, enjoyed some rather rhythmic high kicks of celebration and claimed in the Diary Room that being a majorette had been a lifetime’s ambition. Her smile was a joy to behold. She was gleaming, and the house’s own mood – as always – changed with hers. The task was passed thanks to the limit of three mistakes being unbreached.

As the end of the week, as eviction day loomed, Pete finally allowed the penny to drop over his continuing influence on the sexually-charged women in the house. Lisa had initial designs on him which faded after he made it clear to her he wasn’t interested, and although Imogen had steered clear (not just of Pete, but of controversy, of conversation, of anything resembling a personality), the remaining three finally made their points known. They think they’re in competition, as like most women, they believe that a man always wants a woman and will enjoy the attention. Pete rates all three as friends, and certainly is way too genteel and thoughtful to offend them, but he has made it clear, both publicly to Lisa and privately in the Diary Room, that he is not in the house for “that sort of thing”.

Nevertheless, the deluded Lea confessed her feelings in whispers to him; while Nikki has yet to deny the hearsay that she has her eye on his affections too. It’s oddly touching; more so, however, it’s frightening. And that’s just for the viewer, so heaven only knows what it’s like for Pete. His compulsive smile and naïveté will see him through, but he finds himself in a corner and needs to maintain in his head the knowledge that neither Nikki nor Lea would have even the slightest interest in him if they had met prior to BB. Meanwhile, Aisleyne is the third member of the Pete groupie troupe in the house, though less obviously, and she seems to be more assured of her status as a confidante and friend ahead of any romantic inclination which the heightened atmosphere of BB – not to mention the perennial sexual frustration felt by all – may root within her. She’s more intelligent, less desperate for attention and more fearless than Lea or Nikki. And such attributes has made the likes of Mikey tease Pete about it, rendering him very modest and bashful, and only able to open up when minds have been occupied or the Diary Room door is closed behind him. His admission that he feels flattered but utterly gobsmacked leaves him with work to do. The public will let him do that work.

Nikki and Imogen were, like Lisa, convinced they were off, although Richard was among one or two others who knew both privately in the communal area and via the Diary Room that Nikki was going nowhere. Lisa took her defeat on the chin and the process of departure was gratifyingly incident-free after the shenanigans of Grace seven days earlier.

Her interview wasn’t brilliant but in truth, beyond the early coquetry with Pete and the swearing (88 expletives in the Diary Room during a 20 minute counsel were shown to her), there wasn’t much more about Lisa’s own stay for Davina to bring up. She doesn’t believe in Richard, she doubts Mikey and Imogen will get it on (despite the revelation-of-sorts about Grace and George) and is as sure as anyone else that Pete will win. For the first time since the opening night, she appeared quite likeable. Reflecting, it’s fair to say she was never dull and always very dedicated to the role of housemate; her reaction to the tasks was refreshingly industrious as she won the Waiting Game endurance test and successfully completed her spell as cleaner during the Temping Agency fame a fortnight earlier, despite the ungodly hours and being given what looked like an entire branch of C&A’s worth of crumpled shirts to iron. As long as she had a cigarette in her mouth, she could cope. Ultimately though, it was her brainless hypocrisy towards Nikki and her awful temper which did for her chances.

One last thing about this week. Now that Susie has ceased to enjoy Golden Housemate privileges, does she appear to have anything to contribute at all? If the complaints do find against Big Brother about the honesty of her arrival, then the powers-that-be will look mighty stupid in fixing it for someone entirely free of charisma or general bellyfire to get through the doors. Although the “plastics” are running almost on empty, one more split vote, courtesy of Pete and Nikki, could now see Susie on the nomination podium. She doesn’t deserve any of the bileful personal stuff chucked her way, but she ain’t exactly on all cylinders, even with her demotion down to regular peasant status, her own suitcase and a place in the communal bedroom.

In her interview, Lisa did get it right when she moaned that Susie was, “too posh, only drinks tea and goes to bed at half 10 every night.” That sort of behaviour does seem a tad pointless. And if she did spend four grand on chocolate and then go via eBay to make the house, one would have expected her to embrace the chance before her a little more flamboyantly. If she’s there with three weeks left, send Grace back in …?

Davina, before parting company with the viewers, announced that a smaller facility had been built next door to the house and five new contestants would shortly be going in, plus one existing housemate from next week’s viewer vote. The current housemates will not be made aware of their new neighbours. Wait until it happens by all means, but innovations can go only so far. More housemates might excite the ones already playing the game, but there is a risk that too many viewers will grow weary of intruders barging in a whole six weeks through the procedure. Keep your eyes peeled.


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