Summer can officially begin: Big Brother is back.
On Wednesday night, host Julie Chen introduced America to eight of the 14 new players who will be locked away in a camera-rigged house for a record-setting 98 days while they battle it our for the $500,000 grand prize. We'll get to those introductions in a moment -- but first, the Chenbot also shared some new information on the twists that will keep the houseguests "scrambling all summer long."
First up, the Battle of the Block is back. In case you forgot the stupid twist from last season, here's the short version: Each week two houseguests become Head of Household and both nominate a pair of houseguests for eviction. However, after a Battle of the Block competition, the winning team will remove themselves from threat of eviction and de-throne the HOH who nominated them. Yawn.
The second new twist is called BB Takeover, and although we learned that the houseguests should expect the takeovers to drop a new twist into the game every week, we didn't get any specifics on who or what those twists would be. It sounds to me like an opportunity for the producers to shake up the game however they see fit at any point in time, which will obviously lead to some crying foul or favoritism this summer. But I'll reserve judgment for now.
The final twist is also a rehash from a previous season, but one I am more intrigued by. One of the houseguests has an identical twin, and periodically throughout the game, the siblings will swap places while pretending to be the same person. If he or she can fool the houseguests for five weeks, both twins then get to enter the game.
But, of course, none of these twists mean anything without the people playing the game. So, what do we think of the new houseguests? Behold, our snap judgments:
James: He's a self-proclaimed hillbilly Asian. After being adopted and raised in South Carolina, he talks and dresses in camouflage like any other good ol' boy. He likes huntin' and fishin' and "gettin' stuck in mudholes." Naturally, his accent and country lifestyle shocks the houseguests, which, as he notes, might play to his advantage. He suspects people won't see him coming, and he's right: He was the surprise winner of the first Head of Household competition after beating out some of the more traditionally athletic players. But by doing so, has he already blown his goofy-guy cover? We'll see, but for now, he's this season's quote machine. He described his confusion after first walking into the house as being like a "cow on Astroturf," and when he expressed his potential romantic interest in the Taylor Swift-like Meg (at least in his mind), he said she could "take a bite out of my cake."
Jace: This skateboard-loving personal trainer probably made the weakest impression of the first batch. I remember him saying he was inspired by Indiana Jones and that he liked adrenaline-pumping extreme sports, but he hasn't shown me anything to make me think he might be a real player. He did have some nice moves in the HOH competition, which kept him in the game longer than he probably should have, but for now, he just seems kinda goofy.
Meg: This New York city waitress who lives with her "gusband" -- aka her gay best friend -- won the award for most annoying houseguest in about 5 seconds flat. She claims to be manipulative, but says she covers it up with her bubbly personality. If she doesn't pop some of those bubbles, I am not sure anyone will keep her around long enough to be manipulated. In fairness, we didn't get a real chance to see how she might approach the game, but all that giggling doesn't give me much hope.
Audrey: It's hard to get a real first impression of Audrey since so much was written about her being the first transgender contestant on Big Brother before the game even began. But she handled the reveal to the house with grace and, so far, the rest of the houseguests seem open-minded and supportive. She also gave a good effort in the HOH competition and seems smart enough to know that the supporters she has now could totally stab her in the back. One negative: She is already trying to form an alliance, and Day 1 -- or in this case, Hour 1 -- alliances are almost always a good idea. Then again, she described her strategy as being like Dexter Morgan, so maybe the other players should watch out!
Austin: In Austin, we met two people: himself and his darker alter ego Judas, otherwise known as his professional wrestling persona. That's right, this 6'5" bearded behemoth (whom Jace said looked like a giant magician) is used to playing a character, which could serve him well as he lies and manipulates his competitors. However, his early lies are pretty weak: He told the houseguests he injured his hip, but he's really already healed. Oh, snap! More interestingly, he has a master's degree in medieval romance literature. His athleticism could be a benefit (though he went out really early in the HOH competition), but it could also make him a target.
Da'Vonne: She's a single mother to a 7-month-old daughter and is playing to win the money for her baby's future. She claims to be a great liar because she is a poker dealer. Usually the bluffers are the ones playing the hands, but maybe she's picked up some tricks by being at the table. Her first lie: telling the others she is a second-grade teacher. She's confident in her skills, but also volunteered to sit out of the first competition. That move is suspect, as is her involvement in Audrey's Day 1 alliance.
Shelli: This Atlanta home decorator wants you to know that even though she's a girly-girl, she is can rip out cabinets with her own hands. She's divorced and newly single, so she's not afraid of a showmance, and she's got her sights set on cowboy Clay hardcore. At 33, she is this season's oldest contestant(!), but she claims she's not a cougar, but rather just a puma. She also randomly mentioned having a twin brother before we learned about the twin twist. Not sure if she's lying and her twin is actually her sister or if it's an unrelated coincidence. She hung in the competition a long while, but between being the third person of the ill-conceived Day 1 alliance and going gaga over Clay already, I'm not sure her head is in the game.
Clay: But it's hard to blame Shelli for her affections because the show is clearly in love with Clay as well. His intro package showed him bottle-feeding baby farm animals and throwing a football shirtless. He's clearly the heartthrob, but he doesn't want his fellow players to know he played college football, so he lies and says he's a grad student. He went out of the competition very early, so his athleticism has yet to be proven in the house. And we'll have to see if he gets sucked into a showmance with Shelli. But for now, he seems like an OK guy.
So, who from this batch are you rooting for/against? What do you think of this season's twists? Hit the comments and be sure to check back tomorrow to get our take on the remaining houseguests.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)