Riding Coattails: The Summer Of Secrets

Big Brother always makes me think of London. Unfortunately, due to the tragedies that took place in that city a few days ago, I have London on the brain again. I don’t have much to say about it other than that the recent events make me sad. However, I also have very positive associations with the city. While vacationing in England a few years ago with my husband, I watched Big Brother for the first time. It was the British version, of course, and the American series had not yet debuted. I was basically a reality TV virgin at that point, not having dipped my toes into Survivor and the obsession that followed. We were only in London for a week, but I planned my sightseeing, curry eating, and pub hopping around the broadcast of that show. My husband scratched his head but obliged and watched with me. I don’t think he wanted to admit that he was hooked, too.

I spent much of last summer in Japan and orchestrating a move between California and New York (such is the nature of my glamorous, jet setting life), so I was unable to watch the complete fifth season of Big Brother. Pity about that, since after the first couple of episodes I was completely drawn into the story of Nakomis and Michael, the long lost half siblings who met each other for the first time in the Big Brother house. I also found myself consuming more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches than usual, contemplating with each bite my own willingness to consume the childhood classic for a whole week for a shot at the giant cash prize. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d do it, but I wouldn’t have to like it. PB&J just isn’t the same without potato chips and a big ol’ glass of milk.

I broke out the Skippy and Smuckers again this week in celebration of the new season. And given the new twist entitled the Summer of Secrets, there seem to be plenty of reasons to celebrate. The producers brilliantly took the Nakomis/Michael scandal to the next level and gave everyone in the house a partner from the outside world, someone whom they know in their real lives. To add to the intrigue, each duo thinks that they are the only ones with this secret. CBS has given them an incentive to keep this secret by promising the contestants that if they and their partner make it to the final two, the winner will receive the biggest prize in the show’s history: a cool million.

This is reality TV at its finest, folks. The players are put in the curious position of acting as though everyone in the house is a complete stranger and the viewers are left to guess who is paired with whom. Of course, it was wise of CBS to hold off on revealing the secret pairs to hook in viewers and keep them wondering. I, of course, fell prey to this scheme immediately and spent a great deal of time researching the house guests’ profiles on the Internet (although the fact that many of the guests love coconut-flavored rum doesn’t tell me much except that they probably spent too much at Senor Frog’s during spring break) and analyzing their interactions with each other. This may seem a bit premature, but here are my highly scientific calculations. They’re probably all wrong, but anybody who has read my past predictions about various shows is well aware of the fact that I don’t concern myself with accurate prophesying. It’s the journey, not the destination, man.

The Secret Pairs

Kaysar and Michael – friends
These two obviously already have a rapport. When they were standing by the shower stalls and Michael made a comment about bathing together with one of the ladies, Kaysar told him to knock it off in that familiar, “I got your number, pal” sort of way. Later, after they lost the first challenge, their conversation was very strategic and had an “us against them” tone to it.

Ivette and Janelle – coworkers
They’re both waitresses from Miami Beach, Florida. A brief conversation between them revealed a level of comfort and familiarity not present among everyone else in the house. This one was obvious. As was the fact that Janelle was from Minnesota. I’m a Minnesota native and have never met a Janelle outside of her natural midwestern habitat. Kind of like how I never knew anyone named Joey Junior in Minnesota, but now that I’m in New York, I come across one practically every day.

Sarah and Howie – cousins
I’d be surprised if these Chicagoans weren’t a twosome. At first I thought that they might be siblings or even a couple, but because of their age difference (she’s 22 and he’s 34), both possibilities seem unlikely, although I’m 14 years old than my own brother, so it’s not out of the question. Plus, Sarah was sweet and down-to-earth while Howie was a cocky little bastard (stating that it didn’t matter what clothes he packed because he looks good in everything). Still, they slightly resemble one another and were giving each other knowing looks during the first champagne swilling session.

Ashlea and Beau – coworkers/former classmates
Both live in nearby Florida towns and are in the fashion industry. Ashlea, 22, is currently a fashion design student, while Beau is three years older and works as a personal shopper. I imagine that they met in school or working at the same store. If Beau is indeed Ashlea’s right hand man, it will be interesting to see if he can keep his cool when she gets eliminated (which I believe she will).

April and Eric – siblings
Well, April certainly hit the genetic jackpot, but she managed to snag her big brother’s dimpled chin, too. Then again, he lives in Boston and has the accent to prove it, while April’s twang gives away her Texas home base. So maybe I’m wrong.

Maggie and Jennifer – college roommates
Based on their ages (26 and 27) and the fact that they’re not living in the same city as any of the other guys, I paired them together. At first glance, they appear to be very different (Maggie’s a nurse, Jen’s a dancer), but it’s hard to tell after just one episode.

James and Rachel – boyfriend and girlfriend
They were the only two left and seem to possess even levels of physical attractiveness. He’s from Atlanta and she’s living in Colorado, but they won’t have to endure long distance love all summer if they’re smart. Then again, if they have to keep their love a secret, living together could be far more difficult than maintaining residences thousands of miles apart.

Of course, I could be way off. Maybe it’s the case that Eric got a girl pregnant when he was in eighth grade, resulting in the birth of Sarah or Ashlea. Or perhaps Beau and James are part time lovers. And it’s certainly possible that Howie is a regular customer of Janelle’s when he goes down to Miami on business. I bet anything that Jennifer was a stripper at April’s bachelorette party and, after an intense make-out session, begged her not to get married.

I suppose one could also examine the division of the teams for the first challenge, but I could see equal motivation for a pair to break off and join different teams or stay on the same team. By sticking together, they could both be protected or vulnerable, but separating themselves would also provide good cover for their secret alliance. And let’s face it, every pair has good reason for a secret alliance given the cash at stake. The only question is how well they will be able to keep their secrets. And when some of the pairings are exposed, as they most certainly will be, how will that affect life in the house?

I’m anticipating a huge, hair-pulling, nail-scratching fight that leaves everyone naked and covered with peanut butter and jelly. And since that will be the only food in the house, the guests will be forced to lick it off each other in order to prevent starvation. I would totally love to see that.