TV Guide's Zoe Alexander doing her best Big Brother headshot pose
What happens when eight journalists are picked to live in a house for 12 hours with no cell phones, Blackberries or contact with their news desks? Well, let me give you a hint — it wasn't pretty!
I'm not what you would consider a homebody. However, I spend my life at my computer banging out copy for editorial deadlines. So when I have free time, I'm not fond of spending it in close quarters with random people.
So why in the world I offered to spend twelve hours locked in a house with eight strangers for 12 hours on the set of CBS's reality game show Big Brother where contestants from all walks of life go head to head through psychologically grueling and sometimes physically demanding challenges to battle for the title of "Head of Household" is beyond me. Especially since I, unlike the real contestants, wasn't competing for the $500,000 prize. I must have been having a frivolous moment. The last time I had one of those I was in Las Vegas, but I digress…
Meeting My Housemates
Housemates are like Christmas presents when you were a kid. The first moment you meet them, you are so excited but by the end of the day, you're sick of playing with them.
Unlike real BB contestants we actually got to meet each other before we walked into the house. So right there in a tiny little room I met my new best friends for the day. They were Entertainment Tonight reporter Kevin Frazier, Yahoo TV blogger Brian Gianelli, People reporter Reagan Alexander, TVWeek.com’s Joe Adalian, The Advocate's Kyle Buchanan, Gretchen Massey from 97.1 KLSX radio and Jennifer McBride from CBS2 in L.A.
I thought, 'oh man, if something embarrassing happens in the house, everyone in the English-speaking world will be able to see, hear, and read about it so I better be on my best behavior.' But first I needed a cup of coffee. Coincidentally, so did Gretchen. So right there over a cup of coffee before we even set foot in the house and while BB minions searched our belongings, it happened.
Gretchen and I formed our first alliance. In BB-speak, an alliance is when you and another player basically decide you are going to have each other's back — at least until you get rid of everyone in the house and it's just the two of you, then you pretty much try to throw your former friend under the bus to win the money. Since there was no money involved, I was hoping we would still like each other by the end of the day. Gretchen was a comedian with a raunchy sense of humor and was a newlywed like me, so we had a lot in common. I felt a bit relieved. Then one by one, we entered THE HOUSE.
The Season 10 house is a beautifully appointed soundstage that is built to resemble a house. This house had a huge '50s-style diner as the kitchen, a hippie bedroom (where I plopped my stuff even though I'm not a crunchy-granola type at all) and another bedroom that looks like Laura Ingalls Wilder might have lived there. Like Las Vegas casinos, there are no windows in the house. One thing I learned quickly is that people fall into stereotypes immediately. Reagan from People was branded the bad boy the moment he stepped into the house because he rides a motorcycle and has tattoos, plus he tried to sneak a camera into the house. Once everyone learned that, like lemmings we turned on him. Why? I’m not really sure. I think it was the audacity of it all that bothered us. So from that point on, the rest of us decided Reagan was going down. (We got into it immediately).
The first challenge was trivia and the winner got to be Head of Household, which is basically "the boss". Kevin and I formed an alliance during that game because we "helped" each other answer the questions. (If I tell you how exactly we did that, I'd have to kill you.) Kevin ended up winning the title of "Head of Household", which was fabulous because his first order of business was to put half the house on "slop" and I knew Kevin would have my back and not make me eat slop since we formed an alliance. Slop is a green-hued oatmeal product created by BB producers that tastes like hell but is supposedly full of nutrients and fiber. No one had eaten breakfast, so when Kevin put Reagan, Jennifer, Kyle — and in a shocking turn of events — himself on slop, I felt terrible but that didn't stop me from getting my grub on. As we all know, when people are hungry things turn ugly.
So by mid-afternoon, between everyone having to ask Big Brother for permission to do everything and being locked in the house with nothing to do but talk to each other, the slop-eaters were getting pretty testy. King of the slop eaters, Kevin, snapped out of nowhere and went off on Gretchen. Now Gretchen is from Texas and I know better than to mess with anyone from Texas so I stayed out of it. Plus, Kevin was Head of Household and just like folks from Texas, you don't mess with the HOH. Besides, we had already decided that Reagan would be the one we voted out at the end of the day but the best laid plans…well you know.
By the end of the day, there were alliances within alliances and no one really knew who their allies were. It became stressful, so I decided rather than stir the pot, I'd cook dinner. We were given ingredients to make pasta and the smell of pasta sauce simmering on the stove set off the slop eaters since they couldn't have any. Right when I thought poor Jenn McBride, a tall blonde from my hometown of Laguna was going to break, Big Brother announced a challenge and the winning team would get $500. The challenge was to cross a balance beam holding glasses full of liquid and to stack as many without spilling. Now, Jenn and I are both former gymnasts but thanks to the fact that I haven't touched a balance beam in 15 years, we were destroyed by the fancy footwork of Gretchen and Brian. I felt bad because she really wanted the money. Luckily, she didn’t have a chance to focus on our trouncing because we had the eviction coming up and she was really focused on not getting evicted.
In a twist, Gretchen ended up trading her half of the winnings for the opportunity to choose who would be spared from eviction. Gretchen spared Reagan for some reason. Maybe a secret alliance? Who knows. After much back-stabbing and attempts to throw each other under the bus, the grand plan of evicting Reagan was foiled. Brian, dear sweet Brian, who didn’t do anything to anyone, ended up being the sacrificial lamb (Hey, at least he won $500!).
In the end, I felt that playing BB is kind of like hot dogs. If you like hot dogs, you probably don’t want to know how hot dogs are made.
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Take a look at the reporters' 12 hours in the house right here.