Summer has officially started: Big Brother is finally here! The iconic and guilty pleasure reality TV show is back for its 21st season, and this time, it’s heading to camp. For the 20th year of the summertime juggernaut, the houseguests are playing summer camp with all the forest games, activities, and memories that made us cringe from our childhoods. Even if you never went to a summer camp, you probably had a summer or school activity that brings on the nostalgia. But did all the camp fun mean a thrilling first week of Big Brother 21?
Firstly, the Big Brother 21 house isn’t the most beautiful setting we’ve seen yet. If you’re a nature buff, this house is definitely for you. Hanging trees, wooden furniture, and camp décor make up the house to give it that extra touch. I particularly enjoyed the boat on the upper landing, especially with the ladder that leads to the top. This style inclusion reminds me of the rock-climbing wall from Big Brother 20; it doesn’t make a huge difference for the house, but it’s a cheeky setting for future strategizing. Beyond that, the bedrooms are standard and the colours aren’t particularly pleasing to the eyes. Also, the layout of the kitchen with the lowered benches in front of the table will be a nightmare for the editors in the future.
When it comes to the cast, Big Brother 21 has a good mix of players. You have the typical bro jock (Jackson), awkward nerdy girl (Nicole), the “old guy” (Cliff), the spiritualist (Christie), the random hotties who want fame (Analyse, Jack, Holly, Kathryn, etc.), and a variety of other high-level roles. It wouldn’t be a Big Brother season if you couldn’t describe a houseguest with a 1 to 2-word title. Although, it’s a shame that the casting skewed young this year, and with more recruits than fans. Production should’ve learned after the success of Big Brother 20 (and the failure of Big Brother 19) that incorporating more fans makes for a more thrilling season – the players are happy and the viewers are happier. We’ll have to see if these houseguests adapt and learn to play the game; if not, this could devolve into a highly messy season.
Similar to Big Brother 14, Big Brother 18, and Big Brother 19, this season incorporated a Night 1 Eviction (i.e., when a houseguest gets eliminated within a few hours). As a Big Brother writer and superfan, I detest this twist. Plenty of effort goes into even getting on the show, what with psychological tests, screenings, interviews, and months of leg work to pass the qualifications. For all of that work to end within a few hours is a crushing blow that fans don’t forget. (You will be avenged, Jodi, Glen, and Cameron!) But I digress…
The Camp Director twist was an interesting play off of the Big Brother 10’s first twist. The houseguests essentially voted for their first Head of Household (called “Camp Director), but there would be no Power of Veto or eviction vote – the elimination came down to a challenge. All these houseguests had to do was play behind-the-scenes and let the bigger personalities target each other for the power position. Jessica, David, and Cliff could’ve easily avoided going on the block if they had not sought power. Though, we have to give Jessica some credit for her campaigning. At one point, she held the majority of the votes and could’ve led a strong women’s alliance … but as any Big Brother fan can confirm, this typical alliance has a terrible shelf-life. (Check out Big Brother: Over The Top to watch a successful women’s alliance dominate.)
Jackson may have won Camp Director and inadvertently created the “Gr8ful” alliance, but he played a messy game. Him turning against Cliff, Jessica, and David after making a deal to not nominate them was a bad move. His betrayal turned three people permanently against him, and his reluctance to protect David, who WANTED to work with him, destroyed the perfect potential alliance. Nominating Kemi was a smart move since she didn’t talk to him at all, which is mind-boggling that anyone would do that in the first week. However, why didn’t he talk to her instead? While being in power, you should never avoid making a deal to protect yourself. Jackson dodged a bullet since his alliance won the following HOH, but things could’ve turned out bad for him.
David’s abrupt elimination in the blackout challenge is both a sad and satisfying conclusion. On one hand, no one should be eliminated without truly playing the game, and we’ll never see how he would’ve fared during Big Brother 21. David seemed manipulative and could’ve worked people to his advantage. On the other hand, David is a recruit who knew nothing about the game. Literally, David only started watching Big Brother once he got scouted to audition for the show. Look, there’s nothing wrong with recruits and some of the best players in Big Brother history are those who adapted to the game. BUT, if someone had to go first, at least it’s someone who didn’t know the game instead of a die-hard fan who would enjoy the most out of the experience.
The second half of the week brought the game back to form with the typical HOH, nomination, POV, and eviction format. And typical to Big Brother history, a majority alliance seized control of the early vote. The Gr8ful alliance, with Christie as HOH, had carte blanche of choosing which outsider they’d kick out of the house. You would think that it would be a quiet week without any drama since the majority alliance had the votes? You’d be wrong.
Christie went on an emotional tailspin during every single power decision. All she had to do was sit back and let Kat or Cliff get evicted, but she didn’t stop from getting inside her head. At one point or another, Kat, Cliff, Kemi, Ovi, Bella, Jack, and Nick popped up as potential targets for who should go home. From all of the decisions, there were probably more discussed too! She openly discussed her targets and changed her mind on several occasions. After this week, Christie should take a breath and avoid winning HOH for a while. She avoided slapping a target on her back since she was in a big alliance, but the next time might not be so lucky.
Though, Christie isn’t the only one to blame. Here’s a quick rundown on some of the messy gameplay: Bella openly threw her friend Kemi under the bus and spilled her secrets, Kat wouldn’t stop accusing people of conspiring against her, Kat and Jackson hooked up before the live feeds … and he doesn’t want to be with her anymore, Ovi got pegged as a creepy for confusing reasons, and Nick and Bella got together … but they argue a lot.
Also, let’s not forget the PROBLEMATIC tour de force that is Jack. Seriously, this Aquaman-wannabe has already said some troubling things, from elitism to racism, so much so that it’s shocking he didn’t get a bad edit during the episodes. I can’t wait until he gets evicted – he’s the biggest disappointment of Big Brother 21.
A new edition to the camp theme is the “Whacktivity” competition: a weekly game where a small group of players compete for a special power. Yes, the name is cringey, and yes, the floating twists could throw a wrench into the season later on. However, I do like that the powers need to be won instead of voted in – this mechanic gives the players an equal chance to win. Ovi desperately needed to win the power; he didn’t know it at the time, but the power could’ve helped him had he stayed in the game. I’m curious to see who else wins the remaining two abilities.
Speaking of Ovi, his game imploded at a remarkable speed. He never truly clicked with the other houseguests, and while he might be a nice guy/popular out of the house, the egocentric and elitist players only saw him as a creepy dork. He kept trying too hard to fit in and it worked against him at every turn. Plus, after he discovered the early mentions of the secret majority alliance, that group had to get him out of the house. Ovi kept sharing his secrets with the wrong people; he quite literally kept having bad luck. In any other season, Ovi might have had the social game to make it to jury, but Big Brother 21 did not fare well for him as this combination of players didn’t want to work with him. Hence the unanimous vote in favor of keeping Kat.
In addition to the Whacktivity challenge, Big Brother 21 introduced a new form of the returning player twist: the “Camp Comeback.” The evicted players wouldn’t be leaving the house upon elimination; they’d all stay together until one person returns after four weeks. I like that the evicted houseguests get to stay in the house and work on their social games; it has been a disadvantage for those eliminated to try and reintegrate with the other players. With this strategy, they’ll have an equal footing to compete alongside the others. Ovi and David should use this extra time to chip away at the majority alliance and foster new friendships. They need to show the others that they’re the only ones they can trust to bring back to help their games. Without those bonds, neither stand a chance.
Week 1 of Big Brother 21 hit a bumpy road in its first outing. The season started off on a twist that no one likes after 20 years on the air, and the players played a seriously messy week in what should’ve been a calm round. I love a dramatic week, so I enjoyed the messiness, but the players need to get a grip. Also, if we want any chance of a strategic season, the majority alliance needs to be broken up soon. We can’t go through another few months of a disaster like Big Brother 19 or Big Brother Canada 7.