Sunday nights aren’t traditionally the most exciting for Big Brother, I’ll grant you. But here at the start of the series, it’s our chance to really get to know the players, understand their motivations, and set the stage for the inevitable, delicious, three-month bloodbath to follow. Tonight, more tears are shed than clothes at a stripper academy, Kail attempts to build her new empire in the house, and I learn to type the name of a sexual disease much, much faster than I ever wanted to.

We start with a recap, reminding us who thinks who is hot, and that Kail doesn’t like them gay fellers in her house. We’re reminded about the three amigos and the basis for their rivalries (father/daughter, gay ex-boyfriends, five dollar debts from high school — the usual). Kail wins the head of household, we see the reveals of the "enemies," and we’re implored for suggestions for America’s Player, Eric.

Big Brother 8, everyone! It’s on now!

Back with another recap of the enemies’ introduction, and the testimonials about the water underneath their respective bridges. We focus most specifically on Daniele and a quick crying jag in the bathroom, as a small clan of the younger women gather around for support. As Dick arrives on scene and the ladies flee to give them privacy, Daniele’s only concern that he keeps her secret about her age. It’s apparent very quickly that she only has time for Dick in the context of the game, and will discuss nothing else with him. Dick urges her to keep tensions at a minimum; Daniele simply responds that this is "harder than [she] thought it would be."

Meanwhile, in the oversized giants’ bedroom, the exes get re-acquainted. Joe swears his oath to get Dustin out of the house as soon as possible, because he didn’t want to live out his bitter bullshi*t in front of everyone. Dustin counters by asking whether Joe had filled the gang in on any of the relationship fallout, like Joe sleeping with Dustin’s friend to get back at him.

"Um, no," Joe responds, "I didn’t do it to get back at you." Which doesn’t answer the question Dustin’s asking, though the answer is actually yes. Part of Joe’s full, pre-emptive "I bet one of the secret enemies is my ex who gave me the clap" speech last week did include a quick disclosure of his campaign of vengeance. Judging by Joe’s itchiness to get Dustin out of sight, one has to wonder just how nasty that revenge ended up being.

Joe promptly hustles out to the main room, and reiterates the gonorrhea story to the housemates, while Dustin and Daniele bond in mini-bedroom. Room with mini-beds, that is, not a tiny bedroom. And just right the size for the tiny, tiny violin playing sympathy music for Daniele, who forgets exactly why she and her dad aren’t talking any more.

For the sake of completeness, we are treated to a highly-compressed sequence between Carol and Jessica: We get a few quick shots of the high school rivals smiling in each other’s faces, then slagging each other off in testimonials, and then finally scheming in the fitness room to form an alliance neither intends to honor.

We cut to Kail and her key, as she gets first access to the special Head of Household bedroom. Meet Tyler and Trey, her kids! And there’s a picture of her husband! And her daughter Thea, who’s thirteen! Yeah, it’s about that thrilling, and the housemates appear to agree. Will drama come of this later? Did this really give us valuable insight into Daniele or Amber’s thoughts about love and family? Is it a bad thing when even the housemates are staring off into space and looking bored with the show?

Well, thank goodness for Jen, then!

Cut to everyone in their bathing suits, scurrying in to see their pictures up on the video wall. Laughter and cheering abound, until we see Jen in testimonial, red-faced and sobbing. About her picture, yes. She’s crying about her picture.

Back out with her roommates, they’re asking the same questions the audience is: "Are you crying? Seriously? You’re crying? No. Really?" She stands with her hand covering the photo, tears streaking down her face, testimonying with vivid detail the flaws that are disturbing her on so fundamental a level that she can’t stop sniffling heartily. After the thousand-yard-stare-inducing non-event that was Kail’s Head of Household suite, the Big Brother production teams must have been absolutely high-fiving each other and praising the television gods for Jen.

Eric (America’s Player, remember) sums it up: "I have never seen anyone melt down faster over a more trivial detail." We cut away to commercial with Jen smushing a make-up bag over her picture, and taping it there.

We come back to an extended sequence with Evil Dick (his choice of name, not mine) boring his roommates to death with stories about celebrities, while Daniele rips on his name-dropping in testimonial. Dustin continues his bonding agenda with the ladies, out on the hammock, giving us the opportunity to hear the story of Amber and her family.

…there’s some crying. Amber is not a good crier, so I hope her team ends up winning the food challenge. She could use some frozen peas or steaks for those puffy eyes. Seems there’s lots of crying this week, I wonder if– oh wait, what? Some plot? Something’s happening? Excellent!

Kail wanders up casually into her room, and we see Mike sitting in one of the chairs there. An honest-to-goodness alliance is afoot, and between them they work out that Kail, Mike, Zach and Nick will be the cohorts. Kail likes the big protective types, but isn’t too picky about intellectuals — she doesn’t so much as blink when Mike uses (no kidding) the word "conversate." Zach and Nick are quickly recruited, and suddenly it’s not at all unbelievable to me that Kail’s got half of her hometown working for her: She hasn’t been in the house a week, and she’s already got three employees.

On to the first food competition, the teams for which are determined more or less by random seating order. On the blue team: Jessica, Jameka, Daniele, Eric, Joe, Nick and Zach; on the red: Amber, Carol, Dick, Dustin, Jen, and Mike. The game? It’s a movie theme! One player stands over a giant pump, while the rest of the teammates have butter poured over them. Then, they move over to an oversized bucket of popcorn, where they scrape the butter off of each other and into the container.

Immediately Jen finds a way to make it about her, telling Dick that she doesn’t want him touching her. I really wouldn’t want him touching me either, and he grumps about it a bit in testimonial. Take a picture of her, Dick, it’ll last longer. Maybe she’ll let you put it up on the wall for her.

It goes just about how you might expect, though red team quickly figures out that the long-haired female players can carry more in their hair. Yeah, it’s just that sexy. Amber turns out to be the secret weapon, with her "gigantic mane" of curly hair. Blue team ends up completely destroyed, gathering only 37 pounds of butter to the red team’s 77. It’s Big Brother Slop for the blues, though Jameka seeks the silver lining by hoping it’ll be like oatmeal, one of her favorites. Awww. I can’t help it, that’s actually really cute.

As the blue team returns to have their first taste of Slop, Daniele comments that it looks like something you’d put in a trough for a bunch of pigs. She shouldn’t be so hard on her teammates like that, Zach isn’t that ugly! Yeah, yeah — that was too easy, but you have to take the easy ones in this line of work.

Later on, we’re back in the hammock with Dustin and Joe, chatting about the clap and going over all the lowlights in their relationship. I can recap this one fast: "You gave me gonorrhea!" "No I didn’t!" "Yes you did!" "No I didn’t!" "You’re a jerk!" "No, you are!" In testimonial, Dustin frets that he and Joe will be targets for the drama they’ve brought to the house. I think we could boil that down more specifically: I doubt any of the housemates have heard the word "gonorrhea" as much in the sum of their lives as they have since they met Joe and Dustin.

As we head into the home stretch, we see a little more scheming from the father-daughter team of Dick and Daniele. Dick seems fairly desperate for Daniele’s attention, and pathetically she continues to talk to him only when strategy’s on the line. Up in her head-of-household suite, Mike helps Kail to rationalize reasons to put up housemates for eviction, all of which seem handy for helping Kail to rid herself of Joe.

"He’s a competitor," Kail, really? That’s the best you can do? At least think of the gonorrhea!

Oh hey, and just in case you still don’t think Sunday nights were worth watching, you’ve obviously forgotten about America’s Player! You know, Eric. Remember him? The reverse-Joe Schmoe who’ll be doing scripted stuff apparently cooked up by the audience? His first assignment will be to make up a traumatic story about his past, and we all get to pay $.99 to text our choice of housemate to whom he’ll pour out his heart. So forget that song you’ve been itching to download from iTunes, America! Tell Eric what to do! Get involved in Sundays! For pity’s sake!

As we head into the first nominations, we get a montage of everyone talking about how nervous they are, and why. Kail doesn’t like having to make the hard decision, because she’s not happy with the idea of crushing dreams, particularly when nobody’s had a chance to really screw with anyone else yet.

The key ritual begins with a reminder that Dustin, Dick and Jessica are excused from the first nomination process. Eric, Joe, Zach, Daniele, Jen, Mike, Jameka, and Nick are all declared safe. Amber and Carol are left swinging in the breeze, and Kail quickly explains that she based her choices on who were the strongest performers, and who was knocked out of the Head of Household competition first. I guess Amber knocking it out of the park on the food competition didn’t really count for much, huh Kail?

Slow-motion reaction shots and quick testimonials follow, but the questions remain: Who’s going to win the veto on Tuesday, and whose butt will it save? Will Eric complete his challenge as America’s Player? Will we be subjected to further, extensive discussion of sexually-transmitted diseases?

All this and more, as we settle in for the summer with Big Brother!

Posted by:Mike Smyth