Stunning, cruel, and effective plan saves Dan, maybe even Big Brother 14

What Dan Gheesling did on Big Brother 14 to Danielle Murphree was undeniably cruel. It was also effective, brilliant, and made for compelling television that this season has been completely lacking.

Let’s face it: We usually sit around watching Big Brother pretending that tiny strategic moves or dumb alliance names constitute “strategy” or even something interesting. We’re desperate. But this series of events has vaulted this season into something that’s finally worth watching, and if it holds up, it may even kick this season into the upper tier. Pretty incredible considering the fucking bullshit the producers pulled less than a month ago.

One not-to-be-ignored effect was that the episode didn’t follow the normal paint-by-numbers pattern, which added to the entertainment. Nearly immediately, we started with the Draw Something-themed veto competition. (I appreciated Mike McComb’s observation that “Draw Something has now jumped the shark twice.”) It was basically designed to see who wanted it most, since they had to take punishments, of varying degrees, to earn points. Shock number one in this episode was Frank cheating by whispering an answer to Britney–and then actually being eliminated, considering breaking the rules has regularly been part of challenges on this show.

Shock number two was Jenn deciding to, you know, play, taking the veto even though it meant eating slop until the end of the season (we’ll see if that holds up in reality), which is three more weeks. She won the veto so she could align herself with Frank and feel like she was part of the game.

Much to the consternation of Britney, who was trying to save their alliance, Dan tried to win, because he was trying to save himself. He accepted 24 hours of solitary confinement, during which, he later explained to us, “I came up with a master plan to try and save myself. Step one, invite all the houseguests to Dan’s funeral. Step two, go talk to Frank and blow up the Quack Pack.”

The “funeral” came after Dan exited the spiral room and wandered around looking dazed and sick, which was some nice acting. He sat everyone down and praised almost everyone effusively, and there were tears. They must all really be suffering from being locked in that tiny, smell house.

Then this happened.

That face happened because Dan ended by telling Danielle, “You are dead to me.” She was literally stunned. So was I. She wailed, “What did I do?” and collapsed into Frank. Everyone was shocked.

Dan then did two things: He made a final-two deal with Frank, asking Frank to convince Jenn to use the veto on Dan, which is so absurd that it actually worked. The look on Britney’s face when Jenn vetoed Dan’s nomination was almost as stunned as Danielle’s stunned face.

Earlier, though, Dan talked to Danielle in private. “I just saved us both. I had to do that,” he said, revealing that it’d been an act. She hit him with a pillow and then started crying. “You broke my heart,” she said. “You humiliated me in front of the whole house. Dan, I would have gone home for me.” Dan’s only reply: “I want us both to stay in this.”

Danielle summed it up: “You are one sick person, Dan. … So you’re using my emotions.” That he was–but damn, did it work. Danielle also seemed to rebound quickly, although something she did last night on the live feeds is interesting.

When Dan won last time, he was the first non-abhorrent winner in the show’s history, staying relatively clean. That won’t be the case this time. His emotional abuse of someone who did his dirty work earlier in the season and would have followed him blindly anywhere was pretty awful and cruel. It was also ridiculously smart, and a non-emotional response to what seemed like a foregone conclusion: his exit. He perfectly engineered a series of events that saved him this week and may make him the winner three weeks from last night.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.