A cold wind blew through CBS studios last week as Celebrity Big Brother returned for the first time in three years. With a cast of eleven celebrities who (mostly) seem very excited to play the game, this three-week sprint of a season has already shown a lot of promise. And a big part of it is that these celebs are messy. Not necessarily on a personal level — there haven't been any meltdowns or fights or drunken rampages (yet) — but rather when it comes to playing the game. While the Big Brother flagship has increasingly featured house guests who are so well-studied in the mechanics of the game that there's often little room for surprise as airtight alliances take hold and run roughshod over entire summers, the celebrities of BB's own winter Olympics have been playing fast and loose right out of the gate, and it's made things interesting in the early going.
So after four episodes, one elimination (Real Housewives of Beverly Hills alum Teddi Mellencamp, we hardly knew ye), one deeply silly "Mon Won" birkin bag and a whole lotta boy-band sound effects, who's looking like a contender to follow in the footsteps of Marissa Jaret Winokur and Tamar Braxton to take the CBB crown?
Carson Kressley: The lion's share of last week's Celebrity Big Brother premiere was spent with Carson greeting each celebrity who entered the house and then explaining to the home audience how he knew them. Unsurprisingly, Carson ended up in a Night 1 "girls and gays" alliance (which was eventually named "Formation") along with Cynthia, Shanna, and Todrick. For a moment there, Carson looked like he was sitting pretty with a clear path to the finale. But Todrick soon turned on Carson behind his back and began campaigning against him. Carson's many relationships still means he's got an advantage over most of his competitors, bit it's clear that he's going to have to watch his back.
Miesha Tate: The MMA fighter took the first Head of Household competition of the season, which used to be a Big Brother kiss of death, although that's not always the case anymore. Miesha played her reign well, amassing allies in Lamar, Todrick, and Chris Kirkpatrick, and ultimately getting rid of her original target in Teddi. While there are now many wary eyes on her for being serious competition, she's made more friends than enemies so far, and her alliance with Todrick gives her a bit of a shield, since he's looking far more threatening than she is.
Shanna Maokler: Shanna started off safely tucked in near the bottom of the Formation alliance, but she might be playing a more savvy game. When it came time to vote in the first elimination, Shanna saw the writing on the wall and voted her purported ally Teddi out, breaking from Carson and Cynthia in the process. Her willingness to take the temperature of the house and get on the winning side should serve her well, and signs of an alliance with Chris Kirkpatrick could also spell a long run.
Chris Kirkpatrick: If the former N Sync member doesn't get driven to madness by the CBB producers haunting him with generic boy-band music for the entirety of his stay, Chris could end up doing well. He's more of a gamer than we initially gave him credit for, and he's been forming strong bonds across the house in the early going, especially with Miesha, Todrick, and Shanna. Winning HOH for this week certainly helps his cause, if he can use his power to strengthen his position among the warring Carson/Cynthia vs. Miesha/Todrick groups. Our only hesitation is that Chris doesn't come across as very cunning, and he could end up as more of a follower than a leader.
Cynthia Bailey: The Real Housewives of Atlanta star had a strong first week, securing herself a strong alliance in the Formation and being the recipient of the great Handbag of Power "Mon Won" advantage, which kept her safe for the week but which more importantly showed that she's not anybody's target. The danger there is that she may be tempted to coast, and the Formation alliance isn't what it once was.
Lamar Odom: Former NBA star (and Khloe Kardashian ex) Lamar is playing the strong silent archetype to perfection thus far, as seemingly everybody either wants to be allied with him or just for him to think they're cool. He's a huge looming threat to win competitions, but he's also almost entirely unaware of how the game is played, which bumps his threat level down far enough that he could slide to the end. Nobody's come close to wanting to target him yet, and at this point the only question is does he want to stay in the house long enough to win?
Todrick Hall: Two episodes in, the Big Brother house was starting to look like Todrick Hall's House (which, incidentally, served as a kind of Big Brother Annex back after the most recent season when he invited a bunch of the season's players to come stay with him while they looked for work in L.A.). But sometimes there's such a thing as being too popular, and that's what happened to Todrick, who was approached for an alliance by Carson/Cynthia/Shanna, Miesha, Chris Kirkpatrick, and Mirai. It seems like he's thrown his chips in with Miesha, but that means he's spurned a whole bunch of other people and made himself a big ol' target as a result.
Mirai Nagasu: The Olympic ice skater impressed Miesha as a physical threat early on, enough for Miesha to offer her an alliance in the first week. That was the good news for Mirai. The bad news is that Mirai was a live wire in the first week, bulldozing her and Teddi into the Formation alliance, ratting out Miesha's plans to target Teddi, and nearly earning herself a week 1 elimination for her trouble. Ultimately Mirai was spared by the Dumb Handbag Twist, but Chris Kirkpatrick winning HOH was bad news for her, since she's his #1 target, and indeed she was nominated for eviction.
Todd Bridges: The former Diff'rent Strokes star at times has seemed like he's well positioned to ride the middle all the way to the top. But it appears he was sleeping (and loudly snoring) through the part where everybody else was making alliances, because he's not in one, and when Friday night's Big Dumb Handbag was passed around, Todd was the last one to be picked, which meant he was up for elimination. He stayed, because more people wanted Teddi to go away, but the fact that Todd received three votes for elimination (from Carson, Cynthia, and Chris Kattan) in what should have been a house vote to boot Teddi means that no one feels any real loyalty to him. This is a problem!
Chris Kattan: The once and forever Mango from Saturday Night Live, the other Chris K in the house also got the "too busy sleeping to make alliances" edit, which is never good. Chris seems to fit the template of the houseguest who everybody likes but doesn't seem all that interested in playing the game, the Metta World Peace template if you will. He's gonna end up being the "safe" nominee for each new HOH, and that player never wins.
Celebrity Big Brother airs Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on CBS through February 23rd. Episodes and live feeds are also available for streaming on Paramount+.
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Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.
TOPICS: Celebrity Big Brother, Carson Kressley, Chris Kattan, Chris Kirkpatrick, Cynthia Bailey, Julie Chen, Lamar Odom, Miesha Tate, Mirai Nagasu, Shanna Moakler, Teddi Mellencamp, Todd Bridges, Todrick Hall