Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Oak Cliff Confidential: Chapter 27

  “Ruby Wednesday?” asked Sharon incredulously, looking at the drunken limbo dancers gathered around her. “What the hell kind of name is that?”

  “I can HEAR you,” said the voice on the phone. “I‘m not an idiot.”

  Sharon brought the instrument to her ear. “So sorry about that. It was rather rude of me. Please understand that drinking has been involved.”

  “Got it,” noted Ruby. “Forgiven. Now, what can I help you with? I don’t normally talk to strangers because I find them highly irritating, but since my sister got off her ass long enough to call me, I’m thinking this might be important.”

  “Well,” said Sharon, seating herself again in one of the comfy chairs. “I’m not really sure how to go about this delicately, so I’ll just get right to the point. Why do you have a pentagram on the back of your ashtrays?”

  “The restaurant ashtrays?”

  “Yes, those.” Sharon glanced down at the tiny ashtray on the coffee table. “Or at least the one we have here. I’m assuming the others have that symbol as well?”

  “It’s for the Wiccans,” said Ruby, then apparently turned away from the phone and utilized a spittoon. “Sorry about that. Sinuses. Kill me this time of year.”

  “Wiccans?” repeated Sharon. “As in witches?”

  Ruby made a scoffing noise. “They don’t like that word. Wrong image. Anyway, they’re good customers, nice tips, and they rent the backroom out once a week. So I advertise. Sue me. Now, tell me why you need to know this.”

  Sharon hesitated. It was entirely possible that Ruby knew about The Game, since apparently everybody else on the planet did. But she wasn’t sure. “Well, I’m in this… competition. Sort of like a scavenger hunt. We have to figure out clues. I think your ashtray is one of them.”

  “Oh,” said Ruby. Another ding of the spittoon. “So you’re playing The Game?”

  Damn it, thought Sharon. HOW did everybody know about this except her? Was she really that clueless about what was going on around her? God. “As a matter of fact, yes. Just started, still learning.”

  “Got it,” said Ruby. There was a metallic crash followed by a female voice accusing someone of immense treachery. “Excuse me a sec.” Ruby half-heartedly covered her mouthpiece, then berated an underling with expert precision. There may have been tears, but this was not clear. Then Ruby was back on the line. “Sorry about that. Pretty busy at the diner right now. Issues. Now, you need to come by?”

  Sharon paused, not sure. “Well, probably. I think there’s something about your diner that plays a part in whatever the hell it is that I’m doing.” She signaled for Alejandro to freshen her drink. “You wouldn’t happen to know why your diner might be considered important to The Game?”

  Ruby chuckled. “Hell, I don’t know. But I can say this. Get people like you in here a lot.”


  “Yep.” Spittoon. “Something about this place. Maybe it’s the history. Before Raz helped me buy this joint, there were a lot of fires.” Ruby briefly muffled the phone to yell at somebody else. This person clearly informed Ruby of where she could shove it and how deep. Ruby cackled and then spit again. “Sorry about that. Busy. You still there?”

  “Yes,” confirmed Sharon. “What do you mean by fires?” She winked at Alejandro as he handed her a perfectly-proportioned cocktail. “Are we talking about people dying?”

  “Don’t really recall that part, don’t remember it being in the newspaper. But yeah, some people think this place is cursed. People buy it, business booms, then there’s a fire. They sell. Always had my eye on this place, so I just waited till I had the money.”

  “Really?” asked Sharon, taking a sip of her dandy lemonade. “Why would you want to buy a place that keeps burning?”

  “I don’t know,” said Ruby, fiddling with something that might have been a cash register. “It’s a good location. Lots of people want to eat around here. And there’s some memories.”

  “Is that so?” asked Sharon, glancing briefly at a topless April as she chased a topless Alejandro, waving what looked like something you would snake a toilet with. Theresa and Raz were clapping in support of whatever this misadventure might be. Sharon chose not to think about that right now. “What kind of memories?”

  “Oh,” breathed Ruby, “just stuff. Grew up around here. Back in the day, this was a soda shoppe. Had a lot of fun back then.”

  Sharon’s heart skipped a negligible but still noticeable beat. “Soda shoppe? Exactly where are you located? Surely not near Sunset High School.”

  Ruby chuckled. “One and the same. Right across the street. Of course, there ain’t been ice cream up in here since that first fire.”

  Sharon instinctively reached for her purse to grab a cigarette, then realized where she was and didn’t know if Theresa and Raz would appreciate her lighting up, although it was clear that somebody around here smoked. “The soda shoppe burned? When did this happen? What year?”

  Ruby paused. “Well, quite a while ago. Hang on. Let me go check with Delta Jo. She’s been around forever, keeps getting hired back by the new owners because everybody loves her. But she’s kinda old. Let me go make sure she’s still alive. Gonna put you down for a sec, okay?”

  “That’s fine,” agreed Sharon. There was a clunk as Ruby’s phone was apparently hurled against the wall of the diner.

  Sharon lowered her own phone and looked at Theresa, who was in the midst of encouraging April and Alejandro to leap frog over each other while screaming lyrics from “The Sound of Music”. What the hell had Sharon missed while confabbing with spit-girl Ruby? She waved her hand to get Theresa’s attention. Theresa reluctantly looked her way, a bit sad about missing the end result of the leap-frogging.

  “Girl,” said Sharon, “did you know that the soda shoppe burned?”

  Theresa was understandably a bit perplexed. “What are you talking about? You mean the one from high school?”

  “Yes,” nodded Sharon. “The one across the street. Ruby says it burned.”

  Theresa also nodded. “Well, yeah. It was a big deal. Don’t you remember that?”

  Sharon didn’t. “I had no idea.”

  Theresa just looked at her, trying to politely hide her surprise. “Were you… out of the country for a few years?”

  Sharon slumped back in her chair. “No. Apparently I just don’t pay attention to anything. No wonder people think I’m a bitch. I thought it was just the money.”

  Squawking sounds suddenly came from Sharon’s lowered phone. She raised it to her ear. “Yes?”

  “Okay,” said Ruby. “I finally found Delta Jo, lost and confused in one of the bathrooms. That poor thing is one big mess. Can’t tell you one whit about what’s happening today, but she remembers the first fire just fine.”

  “Oh?” said Sharon, a sinking feeling already descending. “And when did it happen?”

  Ruby spit again and then returned to the phone. “1985. Right after the Sunset High Zucchini Festival.”

Click Here to Read the Next Chapter.

Click Here to read this story from the beginning.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Searching For Signal: #163 - “True Blood” - Season 3, Episode 11

We start out with something a little different, where they do an “In Memoriam” thing, where we get to see shots of all the people who have died on this show, while pretty, wistful music plays in the background. It’s kind of fun, but I was startled at how many times I went “Who the hell was that? Did I miss an episode?”

Anyway, we get to the real action, with Bill storming into Fangtasia, all huffy because he just got the intergalactic “I’m in trouble again” mind message from Sookie. Pam’s there, all irritated about something, as usual, and she tries lying to Bill. “They’re not here.” Sorry, Trixie, but Bill can smell her in the basement, a lovely aroma of sunshine, baked cookies, and the inability to mind her own business.

So Pam tries another angle. “Maybe she’s afraid of you” and that’s why she’s here. Bill does not want to play, snarling threats at Pam, which basically should be a standard day for her and her negative attitude. Pam snaps back: “I’m not the enemy. There’s a bigger picture.” This leads to a physical tussle, which Bill should easily win, being older and all, but Pammy cheats by whipping out a clever bottle of silver mist and spraying him in the face. He drops to his knees, totally caught off guard by the evil air freshener.

Roll opening credits.

Cut to Sookie, quivering and wild-eyed in the basement, and we see that foreign girl, no idea what her name is but she’s the one that didn’t get squat in Eric’s will, traipsing down the stairs with some bolt-cutters or something. She’s still mad about the inheritance exclusion and is going to set Sookie free just to piss off Eric. She gets to cuttin’ and snippin’.

Upstairs, Pam and Bill are rolling all over the place, with her going all hog-wild with squirting her compact death spray. Furniture gets broken, and somebody’s drink gets knocked over so they are NOT going to be happy when they get back from the bathroom.

Here come the duo from downstairs, with foreign girl whirling a heavy silver chain like it’s a rodeo. She manages to subdue Pam with such, while Sookie hovers around the blinded Bill and chatters endlessly, one of her specialties. During all this, Pam reveals that Sookie was going to be a gift from Eric to Russell, but that might not quite happen since Pam is now strapped to a stripper pole while Bill and The Gift race out the door.

Cut to Lafayette and Jesus, still basking in the afterglow of their acid trip with the V. Jesus thinks the whole thing was a real hoot, and wants to do it again. Laff is not so enthusiastic: “The blood can lie.” Jesus: “Did it feel like a lie? Let’s do it again! I wanna see my people!” Laff tries to talk him out of it. Not a good idea, hooker.

Suddenly, Jesus turns into this snarling gargoyle demon thing and lunges at Laff. Then it’s over, and it’s just Jesus again, smiling seductively. “What?” Laff blinks his heavily-painted eyes, not sure if that was real or a weird flashback. He decides to sleep on the meaning of it all. Alone. He sends Jesus packing. Holla at ya later.

Now we have Jason and Crystal, with her explaining that she’s a “were-panther”. That’s nice. Jason: “You could have given me a heads up.” Crystal gets really defensive really fast, so I guess were-panthers can be manic-depressive. Crystal: “Stop blaming me for things that aren’t my fault!” Jason, apparently not remembering the rest of his lines, runs out the door to look for Sookie instead of learning more about his hairy girlfriend.

Jessica and Hoyt are making out, on what looks like one of Bill’s ancient couches (I bet there’s some serious coinage up in there). Hoyt: “I can’t do nothin’ without you.” Jess: “I missed you so much!” Hoyt: “You saved me!” Jess, not fully understanding romantic wordplay: “I killed a trucker!”

Hoyt: Oh… um… you couldn’t really help it, right? An accident? Jess: Nope. Did it on purpose, I was still learning the trade. But you have to understand this is what I really am. I have to have human blood. I’m not gonna stop. Hoyt spends about three seconds on his response, then: “Drink me.” Girl is ON it, pronto.

Cut to the Jackson Art Museum. Russell is staring at some painting, missing his lost love Talbot while clutching the Waterford urn that contains Talbot’s gooey remains. Eric shows: “You loved him more than anyone.” That’s why he had to die. Russell: “Don’t be obscure.” Eric: Fine, then. A thousand years ago. Vikings. Dead parents. Blah, blah, blah. All because you wanted a crown for your stupid collection.

Russell smiles. “I’m SO excited to kill you.”

Eric: No, we’re even. Let me help you now. Russell: “You can’t possibly comprehend what I’m after.” Then he moves in to snap Eric’s neck or something. Eric: “I can offer you day-walking.” Russell pauses, skeptical. But if it’s really true: “No one could stand against me.” Eric: “If I’m wrong, you can kill me tomorrow.”

Then Eric’s phone rings. (Ring tone: “Aint’ We Got Fun!”) It’s Pam. Thought you might want to know that your parting gift for Russell has parted herself.

Bill and Sookie in the car. He wants to know why she went to Eric. She blows it off, which leads to Bill bringing up trust issues, and Sookie countering the trust issues with not being sure she can believe either one of them. Bill, wanting to save the relationship: Let’s try again. Want to? (Very sweet. But really, let’s cross off “staying alive” on our checklist first, shall we?)

Quick shot of Tara at Eggs’ grave, crying.

Merlotte’s, with Holly and Arlene chatting about the non-abortion abortion that Arlene is seeking. Holly: There’s not a 100% guarantee that it will work. Arlene: I just wanna get it over with.

Suddenly, Sam comes staggering into the bar, totally wasted. He’s all about the drunken hollering and rudeness. Terry tries to calm him down, but Sam responds by calling Terry a “shell-shocked” really bad word. That sets Arlene off, and she tears into Sam. (With Holly in the background, helpfully adding “And you’re polluting our vibes!”) Sam continues with the attitude and the meanness, causing Holly and Arlene to rip off their aprons and storm from the bar. (But not before Holly cryptically tells Arlene “Grab the salt. I forgot mine.”)

Cut to Jason in his truck, leaving a voice message for the non-answering Sookie. Oh look, he just happens to be parked outside the high-school football stadium. Let’s go see what’s up and relive our glory days when we were a star athlete and we didn’t have to be responsible for our lives.

Turns out some of the football team is having a late practice, including that cocky quarterback boy that we can’t stand. He’s throwing the football really hard, knocking people over. One of the passes even sails off into the night sky, never to be seen again. Oh? Jason nods knowingly.

Now we’re at Hoyt’s momma’s house, and there’s a knock on the door. It’s Summer, crying about Hoyt not wanting her baking skills. “I even offered him my virginity!” Mom: “I appreciate that. Even if you broke God’s law.” Summer: “I showed him my best underwear!” Momma, realizing that this is one of the most profound sacrifices a girl can make, hugs Summer. “We are NOT finished.”

Back to Merlotte’s, where Sam is now serving the tables because he’s made everybody mad. Tara strolls in and walks over to Sheriff Andy. “Mind if I sit?” she asks politely, but her expression is making it clear that if she gets any hint of disagreement she will cut. She just sits there and glares at him while he rattles about inane things. Then she finally interrupts him.

Tara: “I know about Eggs.” Then she launches, anger and invective filling the air. “You’re a dirty, dirty cop.”

Andy: “What are you gonna do?”

Tara: “What can I do?”

Andy: “I never wanted to be a hero.” Then he tells the truth about Eggs going crazy with the knife and being in tight with Mary Ann and other tidbits of nastiness that Eggs did. Tara is stunned, her fire suddenly out.

Sam marches up to Tommy: Get out there and “take some orders”. Tommy has no intention of doing so, not his fault if Sam chased everybody off. This turns into a huge fight, with Sam finally firing Tommy and telling him to get out of the rental house. Tommy: “Where am I supposed to go?” Sam: “Don’t care.”

Then Sam marches out into Merlotte’s proper, and orders all the patrons to leave. Tara completely ignores him, sitting at the bar and taking shots from what looks like a five-gallon barrel of tequila.

Bill and Sookie, still zooming down the road in her crappy car, imagining what life would be like if they could do anything they wanted. She wants to be a real estate agent. (Which I guess would make sense. There’s a lot of turnover in this town, what with folks dying all the time.) Bill wants to teach third grade. (Where the hell did THAT come from?)

Speaking of, Russell and Eric suddenly appear in the middle of the road, with Russell slamming his fist on the front hood of the crappy vehicle and causing it to almost flip over, which is kind of neat. Oh boy, change in plans.

Holly and Arlene are in the middle of some field, with Holly pouring a big salt circle and chanting. She’s also waving around a very impressive dagger, so let’s hope it’s for ceremonial purposes and not, you know, killing. While she’s flitting about, Holly compares momma stories with Arlene, and it seems neither one of them had very good relationships.

Holly suddenly blurts out: “You need a decoction!” Arlene and the audience stare at Holly in puzzlement, because that sounds really painful. Turns out it’s just a fancy name for the bubbling brew that Holly as been preparing in between rounds of flinging table condiments. Oh, and we just need one final ingredient. A drop of Arlene’s blood, as a sacrifice. This is SO not like going to Planned Parenthood.

And Holly has some final words as Arlene prepares to drink. “By the way, if a spirit is meant to be born, you can’t stop it.” Great.

Back to the football stadium, where the cocky quarterback is still pushing his team too hard until they get fed up and leave. Jason walks up to him. “You’re on V.” Cocky: Maybe. Jason: “That makes you a liar and a cheater. I’m taking you down.” Cocky: No you’re not. My parents are paying for the V and the principal takes V and has sex. Not worried.

Jason stomps off into the night, disillusioned. I’m wondering where I can get my hands on a brochure for this school.

Cut to Laff’s place, where he suddenly wakes up to find that all the cute little voodoo dolls in the den have turned evil and are having a party.

Over to Fangtasia, where the Sookie-mobile rolls up and the gang piles out. Eric whispers to Bill: “Hit me!” Just do it. Bill does, and they get into a nice hair-pulling rumble. Russell ignores the rough-housing and drags Sookie inside. Once the door closes, Eric says to Bill: “I have a plan.”

Tara and Sam, alone at Merlotte’s. Tara: “What crawled up your butt tonight?” Sam: Hey, you get to show your feelings all the time. Tara schools him on the proper way to retain employees. Sam: “We got nobody.” Tara: “You got me.” This leads to flirting, quickly followed by tonguing, and the next thing you know we got hot and sweaty sex back at Sam’s place.

Quick shot of Tommy breaking into the safe in Sam’s office at Merlotte’s.

Next we have Arlene fishing in some swamp, and we know she don’t mess with dirty stuff so it’s got to be a dream. She hears her momma calling but doesn’t really feel compelled to go see what she’s hollerin’ about. Suddenly, Terry is waking her up back in her own bed. She starts to get out of bed, and then sees that there’s blood everywhere.

Terry starts to call 9-1-1, but she stops him. “I’m okay. But I think we’re losin’ the baby.” When he starts to break down, she soothes him. “We’ll cry later. Can you get me that big box of pads out of the bathroom?”

Jason gets home, and finds Crystal. Jason: “I don’t wanna break up. No one in this town is who they’re supposed to be.” Crystal: That’s swell. Now, can we go stop the drug bust at the meth lab before all my inbred kin get kilt?”

Back to Fangtasia, with Russell ogling the nubile Sookie. “Fairies? Am I a fool?” Eric: “She may be the last of her kind.” Sookie: You ain’t gonna drink from me. I ain’t nobody’s supernatural sunscreen. Bill stops her in mid-screech: “Just do it. He may let you live.”

Sookie’s eyes burn with confusion and raging at hatred towards Bill right at that moment. (Girl really needs to make up her mind about Bill, just sayin’.)

Russell has one condition for Eric about this arrangement: “You go first.” Eric: “Love to.”

Arlene and Terry at the hospital, with her consoling him even though she’s the one being forced to wear a backless gown. The doctor comes in with some interesting news. “The baby’s still on board. He’s one strong little critter.’ Terry turns handsprings. Arelene gulps.

Fangtasia. Sunrise.

Pam and Eric are off to one side. Pam: “Don’t do it. What if it doesn’t work?” Eric: “It will.”

They walk over and join the rest of the happy crowd. Bill’s chained up, Sookie’s chained up and still glaring at Bill, Russell’s thinking of who he can hurt next. He and Eric approach Sookie.

Bill: “Don’t drain her.” Otherwise, no more midnight fairy snacking, ever.

Russell gets impatient, grabs one of Sookie’s arms, and feeds. Eric quickly joins him.

Then Eric walks out the front door and into the sun. He does not burst into flames.

Russell and Pam watch on a security monitor, awed, while Sookie is sprawled on the table behind them, half-dead and not looking very pretty. Bill: “Unchain me! I have to feed Sookie!” They completely ignore him, gazing at the non-flaming Eric, eyes dancing with delight and potential daylight killing sprees.

Eric motions on the monitor for Russell to come out. Then he turns away from security camera, muttering “don’t let them see me”. We realize that his skin is starting to smoke. Uh oh.

Russell babbles some nonsense about manifest destiny, then he walks out the front door as well, almost in rapture at the touch of the sun.

Back inside, Pam is still watching the monitor, blood-tears dripping. Bill screams in the background, still insisting that he be allowed to feed Sookie. Pam couldn’t care less about anyone’s nutritional needs right at the moment.

Back outside, Eric suddenly turns to face Russell. Just as Russell realizes that Eric’s face is burning off, Eric snatches Russell’s arm and handcuffs Russell to his own body.

“Be brave. We’ll die together.”

Roll end credits.

Searching For Signal: #162 - “Big Brother” - Season 12, Episode 23

We start with the typical review of the last few episodes (Ragan figures out that The Brigade exists and who the members are, Matt runs to tell The Brigade, and they all freak out and can’t concentrate on their weight-lifting, which is probably the most difficult thing they’ve ever encountered in their limited lives). And the Announcer Guy is asking “Who is going to win HOH!?!” Well, how are WE supposed to know that? Aren’t you tight with Julie, even though you apparently don’t have a physical body?

Diary Room confessions, some of which take place during the last hectic episode, where they crammed a full week of activities into one hour, so things get a bit confusing. Just ride the wave:

Hayden, about the surprise HOH Competition on Eviction Night: “I’m all tingly with stress!” Are you sure that’s stress? Because it could be crabs. Did you and Kristen have “the talk” before you played Doctor?

Enzo: “I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” Well, good. The first step to recovery is accepting that you have a problem.

Britney: “Matt did it to himself.” Well, we know this. Because his hand is/was always in his pants. But thanks for the news flash. You can go back to your room now and organize your hair dryers.

Then, inexplicably, the BB producers decide to go back through all of the events that we watched in the last episode. Sure, they throw in a few snippets of houseguests plotting in between the frenetic activity, but we don’t really see anything new. This is just lazy.

The single interesting thing, to me, concerns The Brigade members, mainly Hayden, telling Brendon that he’s just a pawn, the target is Ragan. (Hayden confirms this in the Diary Room: He’s fine with Brendon. Ragan should leave. Oh?)

Cut to Enzo in the Diary Room: He’s more than ready for Brendon to leave. “You and Rachel go make ugly babies.” (But I bet they won’t be prematurely bald, Enzo. Just sayin.)

Ragan in the Diary Room: “I have mad respect for Brendon,” making it this far despite all the odds. Then Ragan does a high-kick, which sort of dilutes the impact of his respectful statement.

Anyway, we finally get around to seeing new things.

Britney and Ragan in some room, with a quick confab that one of them has GOT to win HOH. (Britney in the Diary Room: “I’m definitely nervous.” Then she gets very upset with one of her hair curls that didn’t look totally stunning on camera. Ragan in the Diary Room: “I’m certain I’m going up on the block.”)

We have The Brigade in the Swamp Room, being very cocky, because this is all they really know how to do. Hayden: “Back-to-back Brigade wins!” Then he high-fives someone who isn’t really there. Enzo is all about putting Britney and Ragan on the block. Lane is all about not wanting to be a part of this conversation, with a smidge of not wanting to stand too close to Hayden and end up with facial lacerations from Hayden’s out-of-control hair.

Lane in the Diary Room: If I win HOH, I would have to choose between Britney and The Brigade. I hope Enzo wins and has to make that decision. Then Lane high-fives one of his biceps.

Time for the HOH Competition.

Basically, it’s a twisted version of Blackjack, where Hayden shows the players two face cards totaling 21, then the players have to roll balls down this flip-ramp thing and try to make the balls land on the selected cards. You get a total of five tries per round, and the person who sucks the most each round is eliminated.

Enzo in the Diary Room: “I have to win this thing. If you go home now, it’s your own fault.” NOW it’s your own fault? As opposed to the two months before this where you didn’t win a damn thing and you’re still here? What do you not understand about “winning”?

Britney drops out in the first round.

Enzo drops out in the second round.

Lane in the Diary Room: He’s mad because he wanted to throw the competition so he wouldn’t have to decide between Britney and his bottom-shelf buddies.

Hayden in the Diary Room: “Enzo is terrible!”

Enzo in the Diary Room: “The more I stay in this house, the more embarrassing it gets.” Exactly. Meow-Meow should have been sent home with some consolation catnip a long time ago.

We get down to the very last ball roll, where Ragan MUST hit the target in order to stay in the game with the surprisingly adept Lane, and they cut to commercials.

Seriously? This episode has totally hit the failblog in keeping my attention.

We finally come back from learning that Viagra can totally improve your life, unless you have a heart attack, check with your doctor. Ragan in the Diary Room: “I’ve got to win!” Lane in the Diary Room: “I’ve got to win!” Hayden in the Diary Room: “Is it possible for me and my hair to get any hotter? Really, touch me, you will sizzle with delight”

And Lane wins HOH.

Lane in the Diary Room: “Now I’m stuck with a difficult decision.” Damn those people from New Jersey who can’t win squat, despite their unshakeable belief that their mere presence in the room is somehow akin to loaves and fishes appearing magically at just the right mass picnic moment.

Britney in the Diary Room: “I am SO happy. This is the best-case scenario.” Because Lane tosses me through the air at random, so surely he’s going to keep me around.

Ragan in the Diary Room: “Of course I’m going up.” Then he drops to his knees and prays to Liza for some form of redemption.

Enzo in the Diary Room: “Blondie’s gotta go up.” And he earned the right to call the shots when?

Brief shot of Ragan sprawled in the Daybed Room, looking anguished and hoping that someone at home is taping all the episodes of “Design Star”.

Lane, Hayden and Britney, sitting somewhere. Lane: “Who wants the pawn spot?” Of course, neither of the other two does, looking everywhere but at Lane. Then Hayden feebly offers: “Enzo?”

The Brigade is such a joke. All three of them would sell each other out to win. Or for a free shot of tequila. Same thing.

Time to see Lane’s HOH digs.

Everyone runs up the spiral staircase, gushing with false love and fake excitement. Once the fawning court is assembled, Lane stupidly explains that his “oil company” job is really not about actual physical labor. It’s more about schmoozing clients with golf-playing and dinner dates.

Cut to Britney and Hayden swinging in the hammock. Britney basically says that, although she thinks Lane is the bee’s knees (He makes me airborne in a totally non-sexual way!), he doesn’t really need the money. Hayden and his hair perk up, sensing an opportunity.

Hayden and Enzo in the Pantry, celebrating their standing in the game, with Hayden hollering “Final Four!” Then Enzo has a moment of angst. “What if Ragan gets POV?” Hayden just kind of stands there, because having to think about too many things at one time is not really his specialty.

Then we have a series of scenes with Enzo, in his penguin outfit, losing his mind while straddling one of the weight benches in the courtyard. It’s supposed to be funny, something about so many days in the house causing temporary insanity, but it really comes across as “are we making up crap, AGAIN, just to fill this hour out?”

Lane wanders into the HOH Room, and there’s that Pandora’s thing again. His teaser video shows “money growing on trees”. There’s over $10K supposedly hanging on said tree. “I’m gonna do it!” He squat-thrusts his way into the special Pandora room for another explanatory note.

It seems that he can pick up to three envelopes off the sparkly tree, but each envelope equals one punishment for the house, including himself. His first pick yields $79, the second offers $12, and the final choice gets him 17 cents. Whoops.

Lane in the Diary Room: Now I have to go downstairs and tell everybody I was a dumb-ass.

So he does. “We’re gonna get three punishments. So sorry.” (Hayden in the Diary Room: “For all we know, he WON the $10K.”) Turns out the first punishment is that no silverware or cups are allowed in the house for 1 week. This is followed by shots of sad houseguests drinking cola out of bowls and spreading mayo on their sandwiches with a flapjack flipper. Diary Room whining ensues.

Britney and Lane, discussing. Britney: Who you gonna put up? Lane: Ragan for sure. Maybe Enzo? Britney: Ragan could win the Veto. And it would be more fair to put Hayden up, since Enzo was just on the block. Lane: “I’m not putting Hayden up.”

Oh? Britney has some choice words to share about this statement. So you like Hayden more than you like me? Fine. You are SO not throwing me in the air today. Hate you.

Lane, Hayden and Enzo, sitting around in their Mutual Admiration Society. Enzo: Are you gonna put those two up? Lane: Hey Hayden, wanna go up? It’s been a while. Hayden most definitely does not care for this plan. (In the Diary Room, Hayden: “No way!” Enzo: Lane and Britney have something going on!)

Cut to Lane doing the “who will I nominate” thing, staring at the now-puny Houseguest Wall and scratching his head. This cues more Diary Room business.

Ragan: “I will be shocked if I don’t go up.” (Ragan has said variations on this same line at least 46 times in this episode. Gee, do you think he’s worried?)

Hayden: “The pawn could be anybody!” (Um… duh?)

Enzo: Better not be anybody from The Brigade. (Then he fondles himself through the penguin outfit, thus sending an entire generation of youngsters running to their parents with uncomfortable questions.)

Britney: “I’m gonna be pissed if it’s me.” (Which would then cause you to do… what?)

Lane: “I don’t like hurting people.” (Then don’t win things, Lane. Done.)

Time for the Nomination Ceremony.

Britney’s key is the first one out, which is something of a political statement. The next and final key is Hayden, also a statement, but much more mystifying. This leaves Ragan and Enzo on the block. Lane to Ragan: “It’s all strategy.” Lane to Enzo: “The POV is the real deal.”

And we end back in the Diary Room.

Ragan: “I’m completely by myself in this house.” (Then he whips out his Broadway Cast Recordings collection and searches for a mournful tune that can be warbled on a dimly-lit stage.)

Enzo: “That was such a baby move!” (Then he uses some colorful language that is bleeped. My guess is that he feels Lane does not understand Enzo’s firm belief that he has been anointed by God to save the human race.)

Lane: “Enzo hasn’t won anything. Maybe Britney should stay and YOU should go.” (Then Lane shoves his already overly-large head at the camera, and people in Tokyo scream. Not again!)

Roll end credits.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oak Cliff Confidential: Chapter 26

  Sharon suddenly realized that she could hear calypso music. Coming from somewhere in the house. Great, she thought. I’m dealing with the aftermath of voluntary kidnapping while those idiots are up in there playing “Fantasy Island” or some crap.

  She picked up the small ashtray and studied it again (Ruby’s Diner? Why did that ring a bell?), then turned to go inside. She paused, reached back for her empty tumbler (which was not going to remain so for long), snatched up her purse, opened the screen door, and went through.

  Sharon eventually found the rest of the tribe in the living room, where Alejandro was holding April out in front of him, parallel to the floor, while Theresa and Raz were trying to limbo under opposite ends of her stiff body. God. Leave these people unsupervised and anything could happen.

  Sharon had to yell over the music. “Okay, twits and twats. That looks very festive, but can we settle down for just a second? We need to talk.” Her statement somehow upset the balance of Nature in general, and Raz chose this very moment to trip over something non-existent on the floor, careening into Alejandro, who then inadvertently hurled April over the back of the sofa. Weighing all of three pounds, her crash landing sounded like a crouton skittering across the wood floor.

  “What am I doing down here?” came April’s muffled voice. “Where you trying to hit Sharon with me? Because I can sort of understand that.”

  “My bad,” said Alejandro. “The mean one with the blonde hair knocked my trick knee.” He stepped around the end of the sofa to survey the damage. “Are you okay?”

  More muffled voice. “I’m good. But I’m not sure why my foot is so close to my head. I don’t remember wanting that.”

  Theresa, her face flushed and sweaty because lesbians take any athletic competition seriously, even if music is involved, turned to Sharon. “Where’s Hexom?”

  “He had to leave suddenly,” said Sharon, approaching what was left of the impromptu mini-bar and quickly fixing herself another beverage. “I need to talk to you about that, April.”

  “I’m listening,” hollered the tiny one, then said in a quieter voice to Alejandro: “Honey, could you help me pop that back into place? Thanks.”

  Sharon slid into one of the comfy chairs. “Are you able to move, April? Can you come out and join us?”

  “I kind of like it right here,” explained April. “The floor is nice and cool and feels good against my face. And there’s a dust bunny that reminds me of my first dog, Cucumber. Hey girl, want a treat?”

  Sharon looked at Theresa. “How many of those damn lemonades did she have?”

  Theresa shrugged her shoulders. “I really wasn’t keeping score. But you were out there on the porch for quite a while. We had to do something to pass the time. Not that I’m complaining. Alejandro is very creative.” Theresa gazed over the top of the couch at Alejandro’s bobbing head as he helped reassemble April, her eyes aglow as if he had just parted the Red Sea and everybody had received a free toaster.

  Sharon quickly decided that she really didn’t need any more details on what may or may not have transpired in this house while she had been distracted by Hexom causing issues with her stones. She turned back to the couch. “April, darling, really. It would be nice if I could see you. Talking to someone that you’re not really sure is there is too much like church.”

  April suddenly launched into view, all smiles, with what might be the remains of Cucumber the Ghost Dog in her hair. “All better now. Alejandro has great hands. Plus, I’m really very bendy. Seriously. I can blow smoke up my own ass. Wanna see?”

  “Most certainly NOT,” muttered Sharon, shuddering slightly and then taking a swig of lemonade. However, the other three potential respondents in the room glared at Sharon for once again sucking the joy out of the party. It had really been much more fun when Sharon had stayed on the front porch and no one was negating entertainment options.

  April sighed, pouting slightly, but then walked around the sofa and sat down. Alejandro joined her, one of Cucumber’s puffy friends entrapped in the glistening sheen on his right pectoral. He plucked the puff off and handed it to April, who graciously thanked him for the gift and absently petted it as Sharon began to speak.

  “As I was saying, Hexom was… called away urgently. And he may be gone for a few days or so, it’s not clear. So, April dear, I was wondering if I could arrange for your services. I’ll pay you well, of course.”

  April was confused. “But I just cut your hair.”

  “And you did a very nice job,” inserted the now slightly-less sweaty Theresa, fingering one lock of her identical ‘do. “It’s very flattering.”

  Sharon shook her head at April. “No, I was speaking of other services. You know. Help me out with this… other business. Since Hexom can’t be here. That business.”

  Raz paused in refreshing her own beverage. “Are you talking about The Game?”

  Startled, Sharon glanced in Raz’s direction. “You know about The Game?”

  Raz nodded her head with great enthusiasm. “Sure do. I knew that we had seen two stones tonight, but I tried to stay out of it.” She looked at her partner. “Besides, Theresa has been trying to explain to me lately that everybody else’s business is not necessarily my own.” They reached out and took each other’s hand, sharing a brief moment of tender love and support, then they were quickly over it. “So I’ll help you,” said Raz, taking her own seat. “If April can’t.”

  Sharon turned to Theresa. “So you know about it, too?”

  Theresa smiled. “Yes. In fact, we have a dear friend who is also playing. Although, now that you mention it, I haven’t heard from Sara in a few days.” She looked over at Raz. “Have you spoken to her?” Raz shook her head.

  Sharon heard a dim bell go off somewhere in her mind, but she had a more pressing matter right at the moment. She turned and looked off-camera at the writer. “Is there anybody in this town, besides me, that doesn’t know about this game?”

  The writer calmly plunked a sign in front of him, reading “Would you like to become the first actual body in this thing?”, and kept typing. Sharon made a noise of personal dissatisfaction and turned back to the other actors, her lips pursed to show her unspoken thoughts on the matter.

  “Hold up,” said April, still petting her new friend, and realizing that she wasn’t quite ready to give up co-star billing. “I didn’t say I wouldn’t help you, Sharon, especially if money is involved. But I have GOT to go to my Momma’s barbecue tomorrow. There’s no discussion. She will snatch me bald if I don’t show up with that turkey.”

  Sharon considered this. “Can you eat fast?”

  April nodded. “Sure can. Give me a couple hours for that, and then you can start handing me cash. I’m your hookup.”

  “And your hooker,” said Alejandro, suddenly grabbing April’s dusty friend and throwing it over the back of the couch and onto the landing pad, because he wanted quality screen time as well.

  “Sounds like a plan,” confirmed Sharon. Then she picked up the tiny ashtray from where she had placed it on the coffee table. “Now, since everybody seems to know more about this game than me, I could use some help. Theresa, do you know where you got this? Because I think it’s important.” She flipped it over. “See this pentagram? It’s on the back of the second stone that April spit across the room because she’s an attention hog.”

  April made a noise indicating that people named Sharon better not walk home in the dark.

  Raz spoke up. “That’s actually mine. And I think we might as well go directly to the source. She whipped out her phone, hit a button, waited patiently, then spoke: “Hey, girl, ‘sup? Uh huh. Uh huh. No, that’s really not interesting and that’s not why I called. There’s someone here who has a question for you. Her name is Sharon. Be nice, okay?”

  Raz walked over to Sharon and handed her the phone. “This is my sister. Her name is Ruby Wednesday…”

Click Here to Read the Next Chapter.

Click Here to read this story from the beginning.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Backup Dancers From Hell: Danielle Staub featuring Lori Michaels - “Real Close”

Editor’s Note: This video was kindly (or perhaps cruelly?) suggested by my buddy Laura. I normally don’t mess with “TV clips” of live songs, but this one is truly astonishing and I couldn’t help it. Danielle Staub was supposedly on that “Real Housewives of New Jersey” show on Bravo. I’ve never watched the thing, but after getting a load of this mess, I probably never will. Enjoy.

Right away we know we’re in trouble, because there’s a quick glimpse of the cover art for the single, and it looks like Danielle is trying to snap Lori’s neck. No explanation is given as to why Danielle might be trying to take someone’s life, perhaps this is just how they say “hello” in Jersey, but I’m going to guess that Lori made the fatal mistake of using up all the hair color in the house. Or maybe Lori was just trying to back out of the mess that’s about to take place on stage.

Then the music starts, and it’s a crappy loop of peppy but sappy disco, so they didn’t even bother to hire real musicians to record this thing. We see some queen of a dancer waving his arms like his panties are on fire, with Danielle in the background, hidden behind two muscular guys who are studying their shoes. If only she had just stayed there, perhaps things wouldn’t have gone so pathetically wrong.

The queen finally stops flailing and drops to the floor in a sad split-squat move, which signals the muscle duo to break formation and skip to the front of the stage, where they do a few hand flutters of their own, followed by an odd move where the bigger guy pretends to “swallow” the other guy with his body. Or something. I really don’t know what that was. If this had been filmed in Arkansas, they would have been arrested.

Then the lighter of the pair runs halfway off the stage, then turns and races back, flinging himself into the bigger guy’s arms. Big guy then lifts Little Guy over his head and then twirls him around like a pinwheel. I kid you not. Little Guy makes sure to spread his legs wide open, showing his wares to the world. (In the background, we can see that Queen Guy’s panties are still on fire. Or maybe he’s signaling to the hot-dog vendor that he’d like a foot-long. Don’t care, really.)

The twirling duo eventually stop that mess and run to the back of the stage, joining Queen Guy and Danielle, then the four of them strut forward in a supposedly choreographed dance move. (That snap you just heard was Janet Jackson turning off her TV in disgust.) Then Danielle opens her mouth so we can finally hear her sing.

And the entire Eastern seaboard immediately snaps off and plunges into the ocean out of pure shame. Holy cow she’s bad. To make the pain stop, the muscle duo starts doing calisthenics and boxer-kicks, while Queen Guy prances about in dramatic anguish, begging St. Divine to reach down from Heaven and snatch him up. This does not happen soon enough.

Danielle, not noticing that people are screaming and running out of the audience, keeps singing. The muscle guys cover their jewels with their hands, pretending that it’s a street dance move, but really trying to block Danielle’s piercing wail from making them sterile. Amidst all this, with Danielle trying to wriggle her hips seductively but looking like she’s got a gas bubble, we get a close-up of her face, and we learn two things. One, yes, those sounds ARE coming out of her mouth, and two, that face is NOT the one she was born with.

The camera cuts around a little bit, and we can see that the dancers are either really dumb or only learned their routine about twenty seconds ago. They keep looking at each other to see if they are doing the right thing. Well, the duo keeps looking at each other. The Queen is twirling and flitting so much that he often is nothing more than a blur of motion and glitter.

Some benevolent sound tech behind the scenes takes pity on us, and actually turns the music up a little, trying to drown out Danielle’s gaseous expulsions. Sadly, she will not be denied her moment in the spotlight, and screams even louder.

At some unknown cue, one that most likely has nothing to do with the song or artistry or even sense, the dancers close in on Danielle. (Perhaps they are also bodyguards, ready to deflect produce projectiles that should be incoming at any moment?) The slender muscle guy bends over like he’s about get some lovin’, but since Danielle is directly behind him. I think he might be a little confused. The bigger muscle guy is pretending to stare at Danielle with absolute lust and devotion, but his eyes keep flickering to his proffering Cirque du Soleil partner. (The Queen, meanwhile, is pirouetting with such gusto that Dorothy and Toto just shot by.)

Then the quartet kind of stumbles around the stage, not even pretending to know the dance moves any more, although at least the big muscle guy still remembers that he’s supposed to want Danielle’s body more than anything in the world. His method acting? He stares at Danielle’s butt with fake intensity and holds his hand to his jaw, as if in shock and awe at the mesmerizing power of her derriere.

Then there’s another predetermined signal, and now the three guys are running around Danielle in a circle, reenacting the evolution of man from swamp glop to Wall Street. Danielle raises her hands over her head, and she’s really good at that, so maybe she has a shot at an actual career holding up round numbers at wrestling events. (The Queen continues to channel Diana Ross, getting it eerily right, almost to the point where you expect him to shove Mary Wilson off the stage at any moment.)

Now we have the muscle guys lifting Danielle high in the air (the Queen tries to help, but really, he’s just there to look pretty), with her looking far too comfortable at having the hand of a total stranger shoved up her butt. And this, apparently, is the signal for Lori to come out and pick up the song. She’s sporting the same basic wardrobe as Danielle, only there was a dryer mishap and her shirt is too short.

The muscle guys finally land the Danielle plane, so she and Lisa stand next to each other and try to gryate their hips to the beat, but I guess they weren’t really paying attention in music class that day. They trade vocals, if you can call it that, then all five of them start acting like they can’t get enough of each other’s overpoweringly hot bodies. It’s completely believable, especially when the Queen does a few high-kicks of lust and only seems to be interested in touching himself.

Oh, and there’s hair-whipping by all three of the divas, in case such things interest you.

We wrap it up with Lori and the muscle duo doing some more half-hearted choreography, which includes fist-pumping, because it’s not really a dance routine until you do that. Danielle and the Queen quietly (and thankfully) just stand in the background as the song fades, completely forgetting what they are supposed to be doing now. Hopefully, the audience will forget that they ever saw this. Because they’re going to need therapy if they don’t.

Whew. Made it through. I wasn’t sure if I could at a few points.

But hey, if YOU see something like this that really needs my personal interpretation, send me a Facebook email or slap something on my wall. Because we have to know that these things are out there, and we have to be prepared. We’re in this together, right?


Click Here to Watch the Video on YouTube.

Friday, August 27, 2010

10 Totally Astonishing Things That Are Happening Around Me Right Now

Setting the scene: I’m at Tierney’s CafĂ© and Tavern. (This being a Friday night, no one should be the slightest bit shocked.) At the threat of physical violence and dismemberment, I have been banned from doing a Live Blog due to the sudden arrival of several co-workers who have made it very clear that their actions will NOT be captured for posterity. Fine. Plan B: Some commentary about what I’m seeing as I sit here, creatively restricted, but unable to fully contain myself…

1. The apparent Day Care facility that has been incorporated into the area around the pool table.
There are two highly-frenetic children who are bouncing off the walls. They are firmly convinced that nothing is worth saying unless you can scream it at the top of your lungs. As an added embellishment, they also feel that anything they do, at all, should be accompanied by the flinging about of any loose object they can find. I instantly hate them.

I stop our server. Perhaps he could share some details about why the urchins are leaping about down yonder. Well, it seems that these heathens belong to the cook. Everybody loves the cook. She makes incredible delicacies and she shows up to work on time. Ergo, it’s okay with management if the offspring frolic until secondary child-care arrangements are made. Okay, then.

Then the munchkins discover a pair of hula hoops. Where in the HELL did they find those in this place? Seriously. Why would drunken people need large plastic rings? Anyway, there they go, whirling and grinding and gyrating. Screaming with joy the entire time. Why is energy wasted on the clueless young, and withheld from the older folks who actually need it just to get out of bed?

2. Everybody wants to be an interior designer.
So this troupe of low-rent Junior League types clatters in the door, all fake-baked and sporting enough jewelry to fund a mid-range corporate takeover. High-heels clicking, they wander all over the main seating area of the bar, trying to determine which of the many table options will satisfy their needs. Apparently none of them.

So the trollops throw down their purses, roll up their sleeves, and then start shoving furniture left and right. Chairs fly through the air and table condiments skitter across the floor. We have huffing and puffing and designer silk shirts becoming moist and clingy. Finally, the city officials leave after having signed the construction permit, and the Design Star wannabes sit their asses down.
For roughly three seconds.

Then one of them glances out the enormous floor-to-ceiling windows, that have been there this entire time, and discover that there is patio seating available. So off they go, thundering out the door, where they immediately start pulling up paver stones and uprooting the shrubbery. I race to the patio door and throw the lock. Then pull the curtains closed.

3. The ceiling fans are not on. None of them.
It’s 98 degrees outside, and the front door keeps flopping open as people rush inside for draft beer, meaning blasts of Texas heat wash across the room every three seconds. I don’t know who is responsible for this oversight, but that person must die.

4. Lewisville, Texas has some butt-ugly people.
I really don’t know how such a high concentration of mirror-challenged citizens could populate one area. And we’re not talking “oh, she could be a little cuter with a nice rinse job”. No, we have ventured into “you poor thing, you will never marry” territory. The only real career path these people could have is volunteering to be a replacement bait if the chum runs out on the fishing boats.

Holy cow, did lightning just strike nearby? Wonder what that’s all about?

5. No matter where you go, some men are homophobic in the restroom.
Okay, here’s the deal. I just want to pee. I’m not in the bathroom for entertainment or dating opportunities. I don’t want to see your business. Don’t thrust your crotch against the urinal so that the danglies aren’t open for interpretation. Don’t scream and run into a stall, slamming the door and triple-locking the access. And the most irritating thing? Most of these guys who are so intent on hiding the jewels from predators firmly belong in Entry Number 4 above. Your tackle does not even remotely interest me.

6. Karaoke is scary.
I understand that alcohol emboldens some people who would otherwise simply eat their salad and leave. Sadly, alcohol also convinces completely untalented people that they should get on a stage and bellow like the Love Boat is setting sail. And what songs do they pick? Songs that I previously praised and loved. It’s totally demoralizing and life-altering to have something you used to sing along with on the radio turned into a mating call for chimpanzees.

It’s hard to go on after this happens.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the evil clapping. If someone staggers on the stage, vomits out a song while doing hideous dance moves inspired by some ill-advised hookup with Satan, and then manages to fall down and shove the microphone through their mouth and out the back of their head, this person should not be rewarded. Do NOT applaud and encourage. It’s cruel. Especially for me, because they might sing again. We should hear crickets chirping, not adoration.

7. Really efficient servers can be deadly.
It’s very nice that my nearly-depleted beer is immediately replaced with a fresh frosty. Great attention to detail. But this leads to confusion and mayhem. Before you know it, the constant flow has lead to over-exuberance in the social spectrum. You love everybody. You mistakenly believe that everybody loves you. Random sex could potentially take place. And we all know, after a certain age, that spontaneous couplings lead to degradation and shame-filled clothing retrieval in the morning.

8. People disappear for inordinate amounts of time.
How is it that your friends, who were just sitting at your table and conversing about pointless but amusing things, can suddenly wander off and not be seen for three hours? What activities are taking place in the shadowy nether regions of this bar that people get sucked in and apparently enter an alternate universe? They finally stumble back to your table around Last Call, eyes aglow with adventure and satisfaction, and you realize that something is truly missing from your life.

9. Despite all rumors and news reports, Tammy Wynette is not dead.
She just walked in the front door. Five of her. There was an immediate altercation concerning the use of mascara, hairspray, and big-hair zoning regulations. Nobody stood by their man, and fake eyelashes were found in the most surprising places.

10. The mystifying synchronicity of people watching the sports games on the various TV’s.
This never fails to get my attention. No one in the entire bar is paying the tiniest bit of attention to what’s happening on the TV’s, but at the absolute second that a team or player does something extraordinary, like score or put something in a hole, 74% of the bar will erupt in a frenzy of maddened worship and celebration. How do these people know something has happened? They can’t even say their own names at this point, but some base instinct has been triggered. I guess I’m missing that gene. And I am truly thankful that such is the case. Word.

10.5 Did I order this?

Oak Cliff Confidential: Chapter 25

  Hexom flipped his phone open. “What?”

  He glanced at Sharon while The Voice let loose with a stream of apparent invective. She couldn’t hear the actual words, but the tone was clear. Outrage. Sharon started to step closer, but Hexom held up his hand. She paused, then shrugged her shoulders and grabbed her glass. When all else fails, drink.

  Eventually, Hexom was able to get a few words in. “I understand that, but I think you’re over-reacting a bit. It’s not like-” The stream started up again, this time with more intensity. Hexom rolled his eyes at Sharon. She smiled and made a dismissive gesture with her hand. Get rid of him so we can have some more fun.

  Suddenly, The Voice said something that had Hexom’s full attention. “Wait, no, you can’t do that.” The Voice appeared to reply that he most certainly could. “But we haven’t even been able to-. No! WAIT!” Hexom’s phone went completely dark.

  Startled to see this, Sharon looked down at her own phone, then picked it up. No signal, no power. She glanced at Hexom. “What’s going on? How can he control the phones?”

  Hexom slid his phone into a pocket. “When money is no object,” he muttered, “you can do anything you want.” He reached down and took another cigarette from Sharon’s pack, lighting it and then releasing a surprisingly powerful gust of smoke out over the yard. “But it does give us a very short opportunity that we normally wouldn’t have. While they reset the grid, they can’t hear us.”

  Sharon lit her own cigarette, but her expulsion was much more dainty and demure. “Reset the grid? What are you talking about?”

  “Alistair just invoked protocols for a security breach. Everything is being reprogrammed and re-encrypted. The phones will be back in a few minutes. But I probably won’t be here for that. Alistair has also dinged me with a three-stone suspension.”

  Sharon’s head was spinning, but not in a pleasant, adult-beverage kind of way. “I’m very confused, Hexom. Can you maybe start over? Like with this morning?”

  Hexom shook his head. “Seriously, we have a very short amount of time, so I need you to listen to me very carefully. Can you do that?”

  Sharon nodded absently, reaching down for her glass and draining it. “Yes, I can do that. Go.”

  Hexom took another drag on his cigarette. “Alistair is my brother. We are NOT close at all, emotionally, but we are forced to tolerate each other because of this game. It’s a very long story and we don’t have time for that.”

  Sharon interrupted. “So Raz did see someone that looks like you.”

  “Probably, but not necessarily. More details for later. This three-stone suspension. We will not be in contact with each other until after you have found the fifth stone.”

  “How in the hell am I going to-”

  “Just listen, Sharon. The van is coming, I can hear it. You need to find the next three stones. Talk to April. She knows more than she lets on, and she’s helped find a lot of these things. She goes by the book more than I do, but it’s because they pay her and she needs the money. I, obviously, don’t.”

  He took another drag. “Your next clue is ‘Bishop Arts’.”(How does he know that, Sharon briefly wondered. I don’t think I told him yet. But she kept her mouth shut.) “I’m not sure what that means, but clearly you should head to that part of town. Get some sleep and go in the morning. Sometimes the clues can only be seen in daylight, and you might waste your time tonight.”

  Sharon couldn’t keep quiet any longer. “But what do the first two stones mean? A piece of concrete? What is that? Are the stones also clues, or just….stones?”

  “Sometimes they’re clues, sometimes they’re not. Or at least not clues that proved to be important in the end.”

  Sharon suddenly thought of something. “What did you see on the back of the ruby earlier? I meant to ask, but then-”

  “I think it was a pentagram,” said Hexom. “But I don’t really know. My eyes are not the greatest. Good thought, get someone to look at that.”

  A dark van slid up to the curb, but whoever was inside did not seem to be in any hurry. No movement, the engine idling.

  Hexom glanced at it. “Good. It must be Sebastian. He’s giving me time.” He turned back to Sharon. “Okay, my mind is racing. It’s hard for me to think of everything you might need to know. I’ve done this too many times and it’s almost second-nature. You try. What pops into your mind first?”

  Sharon frantically tried to focus. “Um…. The clues and the stones. Am I supposed to be learning something? What triggers me getting a stone?”

  Hexom nodded. “Okay, each stone is designed as an experience. And the experiences are different for everybody, it’s based on you, what’s happened to you in your life. You get a stone when you’ve worked your way far enough into a situation that you’ve seen what you need to see. Or hear, whatever. But it could be anything. And sometimes the stones work together to tell you something else, something unrelated to the individual stones. I haven’t seen enough of your clues to even guess where he’s going with this.”

  “Alistair, you mean.”

  “No, Sharon. Alistair isn’t in charge. He’s just a player.”

  The passenger door on the van popped open, and someone stepped down onto the street.

  “I’ve got to go,” said Hexom. “Find the three stones, Sharon. So we can talk again.” He stubbed out his cigarette in the ashtray next to Sharon’s phone. Then he briefly hugged her. “It will be okay,” he said softly. “Just think. Think about everything you see and hear.”

  She smiled weakly. “I’ll try. It’s all I can do.” He patted her on the shoulder and turned to go. She suddenly grabbed his arm before he could pull away. “Hexom?” He turned back. “What’s it all about? What’s the end goal with this whole thing?’

  He returned his own thin smile. “If I told you that, you may never find all of your stones. Or want to. And I need you to find them.” He patted her a final time. “Good luck, Sharon.” He trotted down the stairs with a wave behind his back, then walked to the end of the sidewalk, where he shook hands with the shadowy passenger. They both walked around to the other side of the van, and a door slid open. A few more sounds of people getting situated, doors closing, and the van pulled away from the curb.

  Sharon sat down on the second porch step, finishing her cigarette. This was just wild. This whole mess. Sharon hesitated at throwing her butt on the ground, then noticed that someone else must enjoy smoking while sitting on this step, because there was a tiny, overstuffed ashtray near the handrail. She stubbed out the remains of her cigarette.

  Her phone rang back on the table.

  She thought of just letting it go, but then changed her mind. Snatching up the small ashtray so she could empty it, Sharon crossed to the table and picked up the phone. “Hello, Alistair.”


  “Fine. Hello, Roboto.”

  “Greetings, Sharon. Have a bit of excitement, did we? Do you miss your buddy already?”

  “When do I get him back?”

  “Well, that depends on you, Sharon. I trust that Hexom, during the downtime that he caused, vented a bit and you are now a fount of knowledge. Bullseye, Sharon?”

  She made a disgruntled noise. “Do you have anything interesting to tell me, or are you just fishing?”

  “I have a proposition for you. Are you in the mood for such?”

  “Why not,” said Sharon blithely, because that seemed like an interesting way to say things. “The night is relatively young, and you seem intent on snatching away my playmates.”

  “And that is exactly what I’d like to discuss.” There was a slight pause and the possible shuffling of papers. “This is what I propose: Let’s get you a new handler. And if you agree to such, I’ll let you have him or her now, rather than waiting until the five stones are collected. Did Hexom explain the penalty?”

  “Yes, he did,” said Sharon, absently fiddling with the full ashtray as she stood there. She looked down, realized it was still full, and dumped the contents into the larger ashtray on the table. She was just about to flip the smaller ashtray back over when she noticed something on the back, tiny and barely noticeable. She brought it closer to her eyes as she continued talking. “And if I don’t agree to a change?”

  “Then you will have no assistance for the next three stones. None, not even from me.”

  Sharon chuckled. “You really hate Hexom, don’t you?”

  “I wouldn’t say that. I also wouldn’t say that I care for him very much.”

  Sharon suddenly realized what she was looking at on the back of the ashtray. A pentagram.

  She made up her mind. “I believe I’ll just wait for Hexom’s return. Thanks, though. I’m sure you do what you do out of complete love and concern for humanity. I’ll be going now.”

  She broke the connection.

  And flipped the ashtray back over. Now that the contents had joined their friends in the bigger bowl, she could see something printed at the bottom of the ashtray. Two words.

  "Ruby’s Diner"

Click Here to Read the Next Chapter.

Click Here to read this story from the beginning.

Searching For Signal: #161 - “Big Brother” - Season 12, Episode 22

We start out with Julie live, all giddy that tonight is a double eviction and we get to send two houseguests packing. Yay!

Cut to the review of the last few episodes. These things are starting to get a little sparse, since the house is getting pretty small at this point. (By the end of the season, the review will just be two people staring at each other with total hatred.) Anyway, we see shots of The Brigade wanting Matt gone, and Matt running around and plotting against Ragan. Then the Announcer Guy: It’s going to be a double eviction! What, do they think we’ve had a memory lapse since Julie just mentioned that 37 seconds ago?

And here’s Julie again: “Two houseguests will leave tonight!” (Just shoot me in the head, Vern, and get this over with.) “Who will be left standing when the night is through?” Oh, and The Brigade is a secret for now, but that won’t last for long in the Big Brother house. Then Julie grins manically and tosses her hair about.

We have a run of Diary Room confessions.

Matt: “I gotta pull another rabbit out of my hat.” (Sorry, but my mind goes immediately to Matt’s incessant need to shove his hand in his shorts. I have a lot of endearing names for my tackle, but I’ve never called it a rabbit.)

Britney: I was fine with Matt until he threw his friend under the bus. (Gee, I wonder how she’s going to feel when Lane does the same with her?)

Enzo: This is how The Brigade is going to send people home - Matt, Brendon, Britney and Ragan. (Then he gets kind of quiet and tries to remember what he was talking about. You could say that the penguin outfit is throwing him off a bit, but something tells me Enzo was thrown a long time ago.)

Cut to Ragan sprawled out in the daybed room, looking all tragic and pale after learning that Matt is not going to marry him and have children. Britney wanders in, and instinctively nurtures one of her gay acolytes. “If you wanna talk, come find me.”

Matt moseys by the daybed room, and asks Ragan: “You available?” (In another context, I could twist that question around into all kinds of sordid interpretations.) Ragan responds: “Not quite yet.”

Scene with Britney and Matt in the kitchen area, with Britney looking around like she doesn’t understand why the servants haven’t cleaned up the spilled sesame seeds. Matt: “Is Ragan upset?” Britney pretends like she doesn’t really know why Ragan is wallering around on the daybed and sobbing. Matt: Can you talk to him? Because, like, you’re a girl and can understand him better.

Oh, really, Matt? Only a GIRL can understand a gay man? Do you realize that you just lost the support of half of this show’s viewing audience? Oh wait, you’d already lost it. Never mind.

Matt in the Diary Room: He figures out that Britney must have told Ragan that he tried to backstab him. “I’m in big trouble.” Yep.

Still, Matt gives it another shot with Ragan. Stupidly, Matt tries to act like he didn’t “realize” that telling Britney to evict Ragan could be considered “throwing Ragan under the bus”. Then Matt ups the dumb-ass factor by saying that everybody in the house knows that Ragan was campaigning to keep Matt. (Ragan in the Diary Room: I don’t want people to be thinking THAT.)

So Ragan marches out to the courtyard, where the rest of the house is lolling about and waiting for anything of interest to happen. Ragan makes it clear that he is NOT in an alliance with Matt. (Who moseys outside during this, hands in pants, and presumably hears the tale.) Then Enzo, because he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, mumbles something about how the guys had planned to split the vote on the last eviction.

Ragan quickly does the math, considers the variables, and then runs to the Diary Room. “There’s an alliance between Enzo, Matt, Hayden and Lane!” Well, hallelujah. He’s not the first to suspect this, but hopefully he’s the first to actually do something about it.

Ragan is listlessly swinging in the hammock, still swooning with shattered friendships and wondering if he should clutch a calla lily to his chest, when Matt wanders up. “Are you okay?” Ragan: The boys are working together. And you were a part of that. Matt denies such.

Matt in the Diary Room: Wait. Can I flip this around in my favor?

Matt runs to Lane and Hayden. Matt: Ragan knows a LOT. He told me that he’d target you and Lane. Total lie. (Hayden in the Diary Room: How do we know that it wasn’t MATT who told Ragan?)

Scene with Ragan lying on the daybed, running through events in the house and trying to memorize things, strategizing. (Ragan in the Diary Room: “I have to bring this alliance down.”) Fingers crossed.

Cut to Julie, who then informs the assembled houseguests that tonight will be a double elimination. We’ll have a week’s worth of BB in one hour.

Crickets chirp in the Couch Room as most of them have no immediate comprehension of what this means. Britney briefly seems to have a moment of insight, but it may have just been a gas bubble.

Then Julie says that the eviction nominees will give their “save me” speeches now, and the houseguests realize it’s WAY too early in the episode for that, so slight fear shadows their otherwise catatonic faces. Enzo is up first: He says he wants to prove himself and he wants to do things. Vague, right? Then he says he thinks Matty is “a cool dude”. And then he’s unable to stop rambling about pointless things. Julie, grimacing, finally cuts him off.

Matt stands: He promises to keep it short, and then goes on forever as well. (Quick shot of Julie on her communication device, asking why the snipers are not firing from the rooftops. We have commercial break commitments!) Finally, Matt’s obtuse plane lands and we get to the actual voting.

It’s unanimous that Matt is going home.

To his credit, he’s very gracious when he leaves, hugging everybody. He marches out the door to a surprising round of applause from the studio audience. (Maybe it’s just me, but I’m thinking that the audience should have pelted him with rotting garbage for his lies about his wife’s non-existent illness. Then again, maybe it’s my bad. I forgot. People don’t have morals any more.)

Exit interview.

Julie: You threw the HOH competition. Why? (See, I still don’t know how we’re supposed to know this, but apparently we are.) Matt: I was too confident. Maybe my worst move. Julie: Why did you remain loyal to The Brigade. Why not out them? Matt: I was gonna ride this week out and see. (Weak answer.) Julie: Why did you throw Ragan under the bus? Matt: I did feel bad about that.

Then Julie shoves Matt off the stage and gets to her next sound bite. “Coming up. The HOH Competition!” Then she beams to show that her dental insurance has been well-spent.

And we go to the competition in the courtyard.

Basically, Julie is going to ask a question. The answer will be two houseguest names. The players have to then jump over this crappy pile of boxes, and then dig in a pen of packing peanuts for little placards that have names. You can only bring one name back to the finish line at a time, and if you bring a wrong name you are eliminated.

The whole thing is over in roughly 12 seconds, with Hayden winning.

Julie gets back on the monitor and tells the houseguests to get their asses back in house pronto, because we’re live and we have things to do.

Then Julie turns back to the cameras and says: “Let’s eavesdrop on the strategy taking place in the house.” This sounds fun and exciting, but the payout leaves a lot to be desired. We see Hayden and Brendon talking. Can’t hear a thing. We see Haden, Lane, Enzo and Brendon talking. Can’t hear a thing. Great. Learned a lot.

Julie summons the underlings to the Couch Room. Hayden, commence with the nominations.

He names Brendon and Ragan.

Then Julie shoos people back out to the courtyard, because we still have things to do and, more importantly, commercials to show.

Power of Veto Competition. This is one of those “Before and After” things where Julie mentions two events in the house and the players have to figure out which came when. Since we’re on a tight schedule, suffice it to say that Julie barks “I need an answer!” several hundred times. Eventually, Ragan wins POV.

Julie, apparently having been informed via her mind-control headset that we’ve still got a bit of time, taunts us again with “Let’s eavesdrop on the strategy in the house!”. This consists entirely of Britney running about and making sure that if she goes up, everybody is going to vote for Matt. She also adjusts a bra strap, if such things are important to you.

POV Ceremony.

Brendon gets to offer up his “save me” speech. It’s fairly stupid. Something about shoes.

Ragan, no speech necessary, removes himself from the block. But he still manages to throw in a “Janelle” reference.

Hayden names Britney as a replacement. No surprise, since the other options are all Brigade members.

And we cut directly to the Eviction Ceremony. (We’re living in the fast lane, people.)

“Save me” speeches, again.

Britney: She’s totally boring, feeling completely secure and not even trying.

Brendon: He’s actually kind of human. “The dysfunction in the house makes us a family.” But it’s too little, way too late.

Brendon is evicted unanimously.

Exit interview.

Julie: Just before the vote, we heard the other guys saying that you were just going to be a pawn on the block. (Um, Julie, no we didn’t. We couldn’t hear a damn thing. Your little minions were censoring everything so that the one small child who is actually watching this show wouldn’t be offended.) Brendon shrugs it off. That’s how it goes. Julie: Do you have no clue of the truth in what was going on? Brendon: Probably not. Julie: Of the people left, who’s playing the best game? Brendon: Britney.

Julie shoves Brendon off the stage, and turns to the cameras. “Let’s eavesdrop on the house and see what they’re thinking!” Because that worked SO well the first two times we did this.

We basically see one continuous shot of the fish tank, which means people are cussing.

That was a wealth of information, Julie. Thanks for that.

Roll end credits.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Oak Cliff Confidential: Chapter 24

  “Excuse me,” said a voice at the door.

  Sharon and Hexom both turned to look. Alejandro stood on the other side of the screen door, proffering two large tumblers full of what appeared to be cool and refreshing vodka lemonade. “I thought you might be a little parched.”

  Sharon flung the door open and snatched both glasses. “I knew I kept you around for a reason. Thank you so much. Now, scamper back inside and frolic with our new friends. Please explain that I will rejoin them shortly, after I have castrated Hexom.”

  Alejandro nodded solemnly and disappeared.

  Sharon marched to her chair, placed one glass on the small table, and took a healthy slug from the other. Once refreshed, she glared at Hexom. “I’m waiting.”

  Hexom shifted in his own chair. “Are you seriously not going to let me have the other glass?”

  Sharon smiled. “Completely serious. No confession, no beverage. This might not seem very torturous to some, but I have a feeling that, with you, restricting your alcohol access could prove very beneficial.”

  Hexam gazed out into the now-darkened front yard. “I really hate you right now.”

  “How sad,” said Sharon. “Tears me up inside. Now, start answering my questions. Or this glass goes over the railing. If you don’t think you can say it out loud without Roboto raising hell, then write it in the tablet.”

  Hexom’s eyes widened as Sharon mentioned this last item.

  Sharon smiled again. “Don’t worry. He knows about the tablet. And he’s fine with it. For now. Who knows what the hell he’ll think about it in two minutes.”

  Sharon’s phone rang.

  “Well, good God.” She flipped the phone open. “Change your mind already?”

  The voice chuckled. “Not yet. We’ll ignore some of the rules for the moment. Only for a short bit. You’re on the right track, Sharon. But I caution you to tread carefully. Remember, he wants to win as well. Show him your strengths, but don’t push him too far. Not yet anyway. You need him. For now.”

  The phone went dead.

  Hexom watched Sharon slip the phone back onto the table, take another swig of lemonade, and then settle back into her chair. “How does he know about the tablet, Sharon? Did you tell him?”

  “Maybe,” said Sharon. “But really? Aren’t you the one who is supposed to be answering questions? After all, Roboto seems to think it would be a really swell idea.” She turned and yelled through the screen door. “Alejandro!”

  His face appeared within two seconds. And his shirt was gone again. “You desire something, Miss Horizons?”

  “Many things, Allie. But we don’t have time for most of them. I seem to have misplaced my purse. Would you be a dear?”

  “Certainly.” He opened the screen door and handed the purse to her.

  She smiled. “Always prepared for Momma, yes? Thanks. Let me know if those folks in there get boring or cranky and we’ll see if we kind find some entertainment. Now scoot.” As he vanished once again, Sharon dug around in her purse, pulling out a pack of cigarettes.

   “You know,” said Hexom hopefully. “Having one of those could certainly loosen my lips.”

  “Really?” asked Sharon, shaking a cigarette out and lighting it. “That’s nice. Well, if you finally start answering my questions, I might give you one. Answer another, and I’ll think about letting you have the lighter.” She took a deep drag on the cigarette. “Have you met Roboto?”


  “Well, see how easy that was?  Why did you tell me you hadn’t?”

  Hexom sighed. “At the time, I was playing it safe. I thought it was better that you think I know less than I really do. I suspect that Roboto has informed you, by now, that we are somewhat in competition with each other, yes?”

  Sharon nodded. “That’s the impression I get, although that only leads to more questions I have for you.”

  “Of course it does.” Hexom looked at the pack of cigarettes. “That’s two answers. May I?”

  Sharon shook out another cigarette and tossed it to him. “Three more answers and I’ll let you have the lighter.”

  “That’s hardly fair.”

  “You’ve been a very bad boy, Hexom. You must suffer. This pleases me.”

  Hexom sighed again. “How did our relationship fall apart so quickly? We were getting along splendidly.”

  Sharon took another drag. “We don’t have a relationship, Hexom. We have an acquaintanceship of roughly eight hours. And stop using phrases that sound vaguely British, only certain people can pull that off. But I will say that you DO intrigue me, so all is not lost. There’s still hope. Next question. How long, really, has this game been going on?”

  Hexom pulled out his phone, fully expecting it to ring. It did not.

  He looked at Sharon. “What did he say to you? When he called just then?”

  “That we could bend the rules for tonight. I’m sure he’ll stop us if we go too far. How long, Hexom? It hasn’t really been three years, has it?”

 “In one sense, yes,” said Hexom. “The ‘network’, if you want to call it that, has been in place for that long.” He glanced at the still-silent phone. “But in another sense, the game as we know it now has only been in operation for about a year. It took some time to perfect.”

  Sharon took another swig of lemonade. “Even if it’s only been a year, how is that you haven’t found all your stones in that time? I found two in less than a day. Granted, you’ve been helping me, but still. Something seems off.”

  Hexom again studied whatever murky object he had found in the front yard. “My tasks are a little different than yours, much more … detailed. Part of what keeps the entire thing going is the fact that I haven’t completed my … missions. If I do, things change dramatically.”

  Sharon lit another cigarette, causing Hexom to whimper slightly. “Nobody’s really in any physical danger, are they? That was just some crap to get me to play.”

  Hexom shifted his gaze from the yard back to Sharon. “On the contrary. It’s much more dangerous than you probably realize. Because of who Roboto really is.” He paused. “That’s three, Sharon. Lighter?”

  She tossed it over, then leaned back in her chair, studying Hexom. “And who IS Mr. Roboto?”

  Hexom lit his own cigarette, then let the smoke slowly drift out of his mouth as an odd grin slid across his face. “His name is Alistair Breen.”

  Hexom’s phone rang. The line had finally been crossed.

Click Here to Read the Next Chapter.

Click Here to read the story from the beginning.

Searching For Signal: #160 - “Big Brother” - Season 12, Episode 21

We start off with the standard review of the last few episodes. (Britney completely lying to Brendon about her intentions, Ragan crying about something or another, Enzo finding yet another reason to compliment himself, and Hayden continuing to misunderstand that his jacked-up hair is not sexy in any way.) During this, the Announcer Guy says that Matt intentionally threw the HOH Competition. He did? I’m thinking the BB producers are once again babbling about something we didn’t see on the regular show. (Correct me if I’m wrong.) We end the review with Lane exposing his bicep and screaming “The Beast!”

And a round of Diary Room confessions:

Enzo: He’s still stunned that anyone would nominate him for eviction, despite Britney’s assurances that he’s not the target. “I’m on the block! If I survive, I’m coming after her.” (But that would mean you have to actually win something, Enzo. So I guess Britney is safe.)

Matt - “I’m fine with either one of them going home.” (But he seems to be more fine with Enzo packing his bag.)

Britney: Let me repeat. “Brendon is the target. (Then she rips a chunk of plywood off the wall and uses it for a nail file.)

Brendon: “Britney is definitely going to regret this.” (I guess that Brendon still doesn’t understand that ANYBODY would have put him up.)

Then we have Brendon in the Swamp Room, curled up in a blanket, putting on one of those sleep mask things (so we can’t see him cry? what the hell?) and then praying to Saint Rachel for guidance. Enzo wanders in, and discussion ensues, if you can call it that when two flavors of Neanderthal grunt at one another. Brendon cusses everyone in the house, especially Britney for going back on their agreement. Enzo eats SpaghettiO’s from a can.

Quick scene with Britney and Enzo in the HOH Room. She paints her toenails and promises Enzo that he’s safe. He seems to have just realized that he HAS toenails, and gazes at them in wonder. (Ezno in the Diary Room: I don’t know about Britney and her promises. She had a deal with Brendon, and look where that went.)

Hayden and Lane on the deck in the courtyard, flexing and admiring themselves. Hayden: “Matt thinks he owns this house. He needs to get back-doored.” If he doesn’t go home, he will win this game. Yo, Lane, go talk to your sister.

Lane scampers up to the HOH Room. (Well, scamper is perhaps not the right word for someone who is so muscle-bound that he can barely brush his teeth.) Lane: Got something important to say but you can’t tell anyone. Back-door Matt. Britney: But if I do, and he doesn’t go home, he’ll come after me. (Yep.) Lane: He’s going to put you up anyway. (Lie, Lane doesn’t know this.) Britney counter-offers: No, he’s going to go after one of you guys. Lane: He’s going after couples, like you and me. Now, can I throw you in the air a few times and catch your squirming, supple body?

Britney in the Diary Room: We haven’t even played Veto yet! What’s this back-door talk? These people know that I want Brendon out and they better support me. This makes her want to throw up, of course, because everything eventually does.

Time to pick players for the Veto Competition. (And we do this while Matt is once again laid out on the couch with his hand shoved down the front of his pants. Dude, it’s still there, you don’t have to keep your hand on it.) Britney pulls “Houseguest’s Choice” and fingers Matt. Brendon draws Lane, and Enzo gets Hayden. Which means the entire Brigade is playing Veto. So one would think that one of them would pull this off and keep Brendon on the block. Right?

Well, maybe not. This is one of those things where you start off with a certain amount of points (50), and then you gain points by accepting punishments and lose points for accepting prizes. Whoever has the most points at the end of the temptations will win Veto.

Oh, and nobody gets to find out exactly who took the prizes. Only the punishments will be revealed. Great. We can fully expect some of the people who are not on the block to easily buckle and snap up the prizes, because this always happens. Always.

And off we go. They only let us see certain results in some of the rounds. Suffice it to say that Lane took at least one of the prizes, and Hayden took at least two (gleefully so, I might add). From what I could tell, Britney and Matt don’t take any of the prizes, and Enzo actually takes two of the punishments, big ones, thinking this will put him in the winner’s circle. Trouble is, Brendon basically takes the rest of the punishments.

And he wins Veto.

At the end of the competition, the punishments are doled out. Brendon has to take a certain number of chum baths, he has to be chained for 24 hours to the house guest of his choice (he fingers Britney, much to her shock and dismay), and he gets his head shaved by Ragan. Enzo has to wear a penguin suit for a week and has to give away all of his clothes to charity

Lane in the Diary Room: “It’s not the end of the world.” We can still back-door Matty. Then Lane caresses himself in a startling manner.

Britney in the Diary Room: She’s livid about her supposed partners in the house. “They all walked away with prizes. I’m considering everyone as a replacement nominee!” Then she takes a high-heeled shoe and stabs one of the cameramen out of pure spite.

Cut to Britney and Ragan in the HOH Room. She’s crying and wallering all over the bed. (I guess I should clarify that Britney is the one doing this, while Ragan stands there slightly confused that someone has usurped his designated role in the house.) How could they do this to me? Matt wanders in as Britney is wailing about the Brendon thing. “How can we not get ONE person out?”

Shift to Enzo, Lane, Hayden and Brendon (oh?) sitting around discussing what just happened. Lane actually fesses up to taking the “phone-call-home” prize. Hayden doesn’t say a word, hiding behind his bush hair. Enzo: “So Matty took it ALL!” Hayden continues to hide. Bastard. They send Lane up to see what Britney thinks about all of this.

When Lane arrives in the HOH Room, Britney sends Ragan and Matt out. Then she unleashes on Lane. “You guys don’t know what it’s like to be targeted.” (Um, sweetie, Lane was just on the block. I think he probably has something of an idea.) “I’m in a bad place, and I feel used!” Then Britney flops around on the bed like Scarlett O’Hara digging for turnips in a dusty field and proclaiming that she will never go hungry again.

Lane: “I’m not gonna put you in harm’s way.” (Quickly followed by Lane in the Diary Room: “I will manipulate Britney, if needed. My loyalty is straight with The Brigade.” Really? That same Brigade that Matt is in? Because you’re not being loyal to him.)

Later, Britney wanders up to the HOH Room, fresh from, I don’t know, a Brazilian wax courtesy of Ragan and some Scotch tape. She discovers a Pandora’s box offer. She reviews the teaser video, which is just a giant box with a question mark on it. Hmmm. Then Brit reads an additional clue that her prize would be “one hour of advice with a houseguest from a previous season”. Oh? Well, then. Britney happily agrees to the terms and runs into the Pandora room.

Where she is startled, and then horrified, when Jessie pops out of the box, strutting and preening. Oh, and that one hour of advice? He’s going to give exercise tips so that Britney can look just like him. No game strategy. Just weight-lifting whilst the King of Self-Absorption strikes poses.

Meanwhile, all the guys are downstairs in the courtyard, enjoying a nice luau for one hour while Britney is trapped upstairs, complaining that lifting a two-pound weight is just too hard for girls from Arkansas. She’s finally released from the Jessie torture (his presence alone is deadly, never mind the weight-training) and she rushes to join the luau. But of course it’s over, with the guys belching and patting their bellies.

Brendon and Britney are ordered to the Diary Room, where they are fitted with fuzzy handcuffs, locking them together for 24 hours. Oh, and the BB producers have arranged that Brendon must take his hourly chum baths during this bit of enforced closeness, so they have to deal with that. At one point we see both of them in the Diary Room, chained, with Brendon fessing that the chum baths aren’t really all that bad. While he’s pontificating, we see Britney at his side, mouthing the words “Help. Me.”

That right there was priceless. We had to rewind.

The hourly chum cycle continues all night, with Britney gamely trying to avoid the chum splashing and the subsequent shower rinse. At some point the next day, Ragan finally approaches them with a key and releases the duo. Britney immediately flees across the courtyard, intent on joining a nunnery.

Matt goes up to Britney in the HOH Room. Matt: What’s up? What’s going on? Britney: Well, it’s down to you or Hayden for replacement nominees. (Matt in the Diary Room: Yeah, Ragan’s my friend, but screw it. It’s time for a sacrifice.) So he pushes Britney to put up Ragan. Nice guy, right?

Then Matty leaves the HOH Room and immediately runs to Lane, meeting up in the pantry and throwing out the Ragan angle. “You have got to talk to Britney.” And by the way, can I touch one of your biceps, because damn, they fine. Maybe you should wear my skanky hoodie, it does great with muscles.

Matt dashes to tell Hayden and Enzo the same spiel. Ragan is the Anti-Christ and Linda Blair will show up if we don’t send him home. Hayden and Enzo act like they are totally on board with this plan, but they’re not. (Hayden in the Diary Room, after the Los Angeles zoning commission has given approval for Hayden and his hair to actually remain in the house: “We are going to back-door Matty.”)

Lane meets with Britney in the HOH Room. He spills about Matt’s plan to get Ragan out, but that’s not what The Brigade, I mean “I”, want. Britney: “If you’re playing me for a fool, I will kill you.

Let me insert this: When a girl from Arkansas mentions death as retribution, she ain’t playin’. Take heed.

Hayden and his hair run to Britney, and pushes for Matt to go up. Enzo runs to Britney, and pushes for Matt to go up. He also throws in the bonus plan of swearing that Britney will be in the Final Four. (Really, Enzo? Can you even name those final four right now?)

Britney in the Diary Room: “If Matt would do this to a friend (Ragan),” then what will he do to people who are not his friends. Like me. (Sleep on that, Britney. Sleep hard.)

Britney saunters up to Ragan. Britney: Just wanted to let you know that we’re good. But people have been saying your name. (To her credit, at least at this point, Britney does not say who. ) Ragan: “Why me?” Britney: When your back is against the wall, people do things. (Very fair.) Ragan: I feel like I’m going down the wrong path. And that’s not good for either of us.

Cut to Brendon staring at the Houseguest Wall, and pretending to be troubled about how he is going to use his Power of Veto. (Why do they even do this? If you’re on the block, of course you’re going to save yourself. Unless you’re Evel Dick. Or dumb-ass Marcellus in Season 3. That was just stupid, girl.)

Outside on the deck in the courtyard, which is where everyone is apparently banished while POV winners do their fake quandary with the camera crew inside, we see Ragan mouth to Britney: “Did Matty throw me under the bus?” Britney nods, and then plays with her hair.

POV Ceremony.

Brendon wastes no time in saving himself, then throws it back to Britney.

Britney: “This was a tough decision.” Then she nominates Matt.

Which leads to a final round of Diary Room confessions.

Britney: “I don’t trust Matt. He turned on his best friend.” Fair enough. But your best friend is Lane. And he’s completely lying to you. You seem to realize that something is going on with those four guys. Put down your hand mirror and wake up.

Matt: Astonishingly, he still thinks The Brigade has his back, and that this is all Britney’s doing. Then he fondles his pecs in a disturbing manner.

Enzo: “Britney went with The Brigade plan!” No she didn’t, she has no idea what your plan is. And more importantly, Matt IS smart, whether you like him or not, and he could still pull something off. And by that, Enzo, I don’t mean himself. Dude, you better pack your bag, just in case.

Ragan: “Things have changed. Matt stabbed me in the back.” And if there is one life lesson you need to take away from tonight’s developments, it’s that you should never underestimate the power of a queen who has been scorned.

Roll end credits.