"Big Brother" host Julie Chen never misses a chance to tell viewers (and contestants) to "expect the unexpected" when it comes to the CBS reality show.
This season, she really meant it.
The past two weeks of "Big Bro" have been among the most tense, action-packed and unpredictable in the history of the decade-old format. Critics who still think the show is about as exciting as watching paint dry (that would be season one, though even that year had its charms) don't know what they're missing.
We've seen power in the house shift dramatically -- from being overwhelmingly in the hands of an alliance of contestants most viewers would likely label "the meanies," to being fully in the grasp of a rival coalition (let's call 'em "the naive but nice").
A returning contestant named Jessie went from being within weeks of pulling off a stunning victory, to being the first to go. One of the strongest female players in the game's history, a feisty pa named Chima, self-destructed and became one of the few players ever to be ejected from the game (though she still somehow insists she chose to quit).
In the middle of all the drama, as always, are executive producers Allison Grodner, Rich Meehan and Scott Einziger. We've been talking to Grodner every Thursday after the eviction show, and she kept her promise to talk to us tonight-- despite all the recent hubbub.
Here's an edited version of what she had to say this week.
Two caveats: Grodner wouldn't talk about who won tonight's head of household competition (though any "Big Bro" fan worth his or her salt has already checked the Net to find out who won). And, after writing up this interview, we realized we forgot to ask Grodner a very key question: Will America end up the seventh member of the jury?
Knowing Grodner, she probably wouldn't have spilled.
So... Chima. What happened?
What we said on the show is what happened. You come on the show, you agree to play by the rules. And putting on the microphone is a crucial part of the show. We need to hear (players) in order to do the show. And a big rule is 'do not destroy equipment.'
Chima, of course, claims she quit-- even though she certainly didn't look like she was quitting when she went into the diary room.
When people are escorted out of the Big Brother house, they're out of the game. Once you've been exposed (to the behind the scenes operation), the game is over.
(Grodner notes the only exception to this came in season nine when medical emergencies forced evacuation of two players).
How tough was the decision to end Chima's game?
It was not an easy call to make. We want everyone to go out the front door, not the side door. It was serious. It was made with a heavy heart. I wish her well. She's an intelligent, lovely person. I know (some fans) beg to differ, but....
You had a cameo in Tuesday's show.
(Laughs) I don't particularly like to be a part of the sho. I like to keep the producers away from the show as much as possible... but there was no choice. In a way, it was incredible to break the fourth wall.
Chima has been vocal on Twitter. Is this really Chima tweeting.
Yeah. They sign contracts with us where they need to discuss press with CBS. (CBS Media Relations) is aware of what she's releasing. She seems to be playing by the rules...outside of the house.
Natalie and Chima and others really seemed to have a problem with the Coup d'Etat.
It's the sore loser thing. The test of character on the show is how you deal with things when you're down and out.... If they had had the power, they would have used it.
They couldn't have been surprised. Plus, you warned them something big was happening....
There were many people (in the house) who had seen 'Big Brother' and had a sense the mystery power was the Coup d'Etat. It would have been easy for anyone to plan strategically for its use. (The complaining) is bewildering to all of us given the amount of warning they had.
So Lydia was voted out this week. Jeff and Jordan came close to backdooring Russell or Michelle due to Kevin's little lie. And Natalie survived!
Kevin has been in the shadows but he really stepped up tonight, along with Natalie. The lie they told tonight is partially true.... Russell considers himself even with Jeff.
(As for Natalie), she was so convincing with her lying. On Sunday's show you'll see where she strikes a deal with Jeff and Jordan. Natalie is playing the game. She was in Jessie's shadow. But she's a thinker. And she's certainly a liar.
What about her big lie -- namely, claiming she's just 18, when she's really much older? The HGs seem clueless. Don't they wonder why the producers don't object when she drinks alcohol?
And she's also talked about going to casinos! We've told Natalie we can't be a part of her lie. So if any contestants asked us about it in the DR, we would just say, "If there was illegal activity going on, we wouldn't allow it."
But nobody's asked?
Nope. (TVMoJoe bangs head).
If Russell wins HOH this week (spoiler alert: he didn't), would he put Jeff up?
Let's talk Jeff and Jordan. First, they really are one of the best couples in the show's history.
Every time I see them in a room together, I smile. They have such genuine affection for each other.
Do you think it's a real romance?
They're realistic. They're in different stages of life and they live in different states. So it's not deep. I mean, they're not the sharpest tools in the shed, and they're a little naive. But they're very real.
They're in a good position to win, but are you worried they're getting caught up in the lies?
These people have not been in power for most of the game. Funny things happen when people get in the HOH room. You get the power. But you also get the paranoia. It happened to Russell, and Ronnie and certainly Chima.
You'd think Jeff and Jordan would realize that getting Natalie and Kevin out is key.
Well, I think Kevin and Natalie have the most friends in the jury house right now.