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Expect the Unexpected on ’Big Brother 16’

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Friday Jul 4, 2014
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The cast of "Big Brother 16"
The cast of "Big Brother 16"  (Source:Cliff Lipson/CBS)

Hello. My name is Jason and I’m a "Big Brother" addict.

Hello, Jason.

For the last 14-years my summers have been devoted to watching the CBS reality show, "Big Brother." Since 2000, I’ve spent three nights a week, between June and September, with host Julie Chen and an array of house guests. The rules, the cast and the actual house may have changed since its debut (when I was just 12), but I’ve come back to the reality show over and over again to watch this epic social experiment, which unlike other reality competitions, like "Survivor," takes place in real time, and to find out who will take home the $500,000 grand prize.

Last season ("Big Brother 15") was the reality show’s most controversial. A bunch of house guests came under fire over the course of the season for using racial, anti-gay, violent and misogynist language, causing "Big Brother" producers to put up a disclaimer before each episode.

Out contestant Andy Herren, 27, ended up winning, but was criticized for his sketchy game play and even his use of language. Many on the Internet slammed other house guests, especially the other two competitors who made it to the final three, after making racist and homophobic comments throughout the season - something they didn’t know was even a problem until they left the house. Runner-up GinaMarie Zimmerman lost her job as a dance teacher and Aaryn Gries’ talent agency dropped her.

It’s no surprise that for "Big Brother 16" producers are being extra cautious about the current season, and the new cast members are probably aware of last year’s controversy. Still, before "Big Brother 16" even started, it was revealed that newbie Caleb Reynolds, a hunky Southern hunter and Iraq vet, made anti-gay remarks on his Instagram and reportedly called President Barack Obama a "monkey" long before he was drafted to be on "Big Brother." Nevertheless, the #problematic narratives that dominated last season have not reared their ugly heads yet; granted the show has only been on for a week.


Caleb Reynolds  (Source:Cliff Lipson/CBS)

This new cast is one of the youngest and sexist groups "Big Brother" has ever had. It’s pretty clear producers are aiming for a younger audience -- even the show’s intro is glossier and sexier. Producers are also aware how open a younger demographic is and that they probably don’t want to spend the next three-months with a group of bigots.

As of this writing, all 16 house guests have been living with each other for about two weeks, even though the show went live a week ago. Tonight, the house voted out the first player, Joey Van Pelt - the 27-year-old Seattle-based makeup artist and self-identifying liberal, but everyone seems to be getting along hunky dory. Even Joey, who knew the end was near, was chipper to the very last minute. This is most definitely not "Big Brother 15."

Still, the eight men and the eight women who make up "Big Brother 16" would not be on the show if they were all BFFs for the next 90-days. Drama, though pretty minimal (at least by "Big Brother" standards), has popped up and it namely involves single father, former minor league baseball player and current motorcycle salesman, Devin Shepherd, 26, who has been labeled by fans, blogs and podcasters as one of the worst "Big Brother" players.

Full of self-delusions, Devin thinks he’s charming and charismatic and believes he doesn’t stand a chance going home because he’s in an eight-person alliance (that’s half the players in the game) called "The Bomb Squad." He is a beast and could probably beat the shit out of anyone in the house in less than 30-seconds but has no idea he is pretty much everyone’s next target. Still, because he’s 100 percent muscle, it would not shock anyone if he ends up saving himself from going home next week by winning a one of the three challenges that guarantees safety.


Devin Shepherd  (Source:Cliff Lipson/CBS)

Another storyline developing revolves around Frankie Grande, 31 (though he tells everyone he’s in his late 20s), a YouTube personality who has a bunch of followers but probably owes some thanks to his sister, pop star Ariana Grande. Frankie has several ties with people in the house - he’s a member of The Bomb Squad, and frequently chats with the non-Bomb Squaders, holding yoga sessions that seem to hypnotize everyone under his spell. He’s also very, very close with Zach Rance, a 23-year-old unemployed college grad from Florida.

Initially, these two had a bumpy first encounter. Frankie, the only out houseguest this season, told Zach he is originally from Boca Raton, Florida and Zach called him out, saying it was a ritzy area and he knows how "those people" are. Somehow, Frankie has overcome Zach’s abrasive, trying-too-hard-personality and the two have a true deal to make it to the end together. But maybe their relationship goes beyond that of just an alliance.

Warning, the rest of this story contains spoilers

This is the first time I’ve purchased the "Big Brother" live feeds, which allow fans to watch the houseguests’ every move 24/7 by logging on to CBS.com. Earlier this week, live feed watchers, including myself, caught the handsome Cody Calaflore, 23, chatting with the hot mom Brittany Martinez, 29.


Frankie Grande  (Source:Cliff Lipson/CBS)

"I’ll tell you this, but please don’t say anything. I swear to god, I’ll know it was you, please don’t tell anyone because I’ve kept this in," Cody said. "But he [Zach] came up to me when we were at the photo thing, and he was like, ’Bro, I wanna fuck Frankie.’ I was like what?

This was day 2, me and Zach hadn’t talked much till then," he continued. "And he just said, ’Bro, I don’t know, I just wanna fuck Frankie so bad, he is turning me on so much right now.’ And I didn’t know if he just like, hadn’t come out yet."

Brittany didn’t seemed too shocked, maybe call it mother’s intuition, and said Zach was "looking [Frankie] up and down and was like, ’You’re making my dick hard.’ And me and the girls were like what?"

There’s never been a same-sex relationship on "Big Brother" or even a same-sex showmance - it’s quite possible Zach is just playing up the gay angle to get closer to Frankie; out of everyone Zach appeared in his post-show interviews to want to play the hardest, saying he will do anything to win $500,000.


Zach Rance  (Source:Cliff Lipson/CBS)

It’s hard to tell what CBS producers will do with this narrative. Is it too controversial for network TV; will they just let it live on the feeds and only "Big Brother" feed watchers and those who read transcripts be aware of Zach and Frankie’s budding romance?

Maybe they’ll play it up to distance themselves from last year’s bigoted shit show. I can imagine the producers getting together: "Hey, here at CBS we support same-sex relationships!!" But we know how that will play out... thanks, One Million Moms.

Whatever happens, it will be interesting and probably launch thousands of think pieces. But if Zach is actually developing real feelings for Frankie, it will be pretty mind-blowing to watch a young man come to terms with his identity and sexuality on a national platform. As Julie Chen says, "Expect the unexpected."


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