It’s time for your Tuesday dose of Big Brother, one of the nights where the contests mean something! Previously on Big Brother: Eric stalls with Jessica (still); Dick and Daniele bicker (more); Jameka and Zach try to sink Dick and Daniele (as usual); America’s Player manages to swing the vote (again), and persuades his way into getting Amber nominated for eviction alongside Zach.

We start off the episode with the black & white replay of the key ceremony, with Jessica explaining to her victims that she based her decision on length of relationships — with Zach and Amber coming up the shortest. Zach’s confessional reaction comes first, as he disgustedly pledges revenge for being hornswoggled; next comes Amber, explaining that she feels safe, that God’s looking out for her, that worry only shows God you doubt him, which would upset him, and she isn’t about to do that.

Oh man, this is going to be a prayer-heavy episode, isn’t it? I really have to transcribe less of what Amber says out loud. The madness is creeping up into me through my keyboard.

Dick and Daniele offer their own commentary on the strength of their alliance — Dick supremely confident and Daniele cheerfully paranoid — before we hear the sound of sniffling and cut off into the Great Big Bed room. There’s a shot of Amber tearily promising not to get herself worked up, before we cut to the confessional room where she’s doing exactly that. Though we cut in without God’s name being invoked (at first), we get a series of pleas for strength, patience and then a little bit of defensive apologizing for her grief. "You have to understand where I’m coming from," Amber tells God, and wraps things up with her thanks and a God bless you. To God.

From one shade of weird to another, we jump over into the bathroom. There, we find Daniele is washing her hands, while Zach takes a shower. As he wipes the water out of her eyes, she walks over and attempts to console him for being nominated; Zach is less optimistic, though, and expresses his certainty that unless he wins the POV, he’s out of the house. "If you won it," he tells Daniele, "you wouldn’t use it on me." Daniele can’t say more than that Zach isn’t doomed entirely, and in confessional he admits that he’s playing on shaky ground. It seems as though at least someone’s been paying attention to how the last three weeks have been going, after all.

Upstairs, Jameka and Eric creep into the Head of Household suite to visit Jessica. Jameka thanks Jessica for her mercy, before the conversation quickly turns to Amber. Jessica seems authentic when she says how hard it was to see the reactions on Amber’s face, and when Daniele appears to join the party, she goes on to say the same about Zach. She seems careful to play to both Daniele and Jameka’s optimism, and in confessional Jameka still hopes that the true target isn’t Amber.

Speaking of optimism, we cut now to Amber in the Great Big Bed room, with Jameka returning from her intelligence mission to report on her lack of findings. Amber outlines her theory: Jessica wants Amber to stay, but couldn’t nominate Dick or Daniele because they "help each other"; therefore, the only logical conclusion is that if the nominations stay the same, Zach goes home and Amber continues to be used as a pawn. She takes comfort in this, and pins her hopes for staying in the house on being the pawn that nobody feels too awkward to use. "You’re staying," Jameka responds.

Oh good, romance time. Eric and Jessica are out in the lounge chair, buried under a blanket and flirting with each other. He asks Jessica if she ever thought she’d meet anyone in the house (namely a "five-foot-seven Jewish boy") who’d touch her like this, and she can’t disagree. "We’re in big trouble," he blunders, before recovering tidily with, "Outside of here we’d probably be married by now." Jessica responds to all this flirting in her confessional with the statement, "I definitely see wedding bells in our future," and we cut a shot of the two of them cuddling up together.

Cue some monastic chanting as we head into another stretch of religious devotion. Up in the Head of Household suite, Jameka is on her knees and praying fervently. She’s crying as she proceeds, as her confessional pops up to explain how she felt compelled to thank God. All of this is a bit confusing until we see Jessica returning to her bedroom, only to find Jameka in tears on her floor. "You okay?" she asks, and when Jameka answers that she’s just praying, Jessica isn’t quite sure what to do. She puts down her wine glass and orbits nervously, asking if everything’s okay, if she can leave Jameka alone, if Jameka needs a hug. She finds a taker in the last offer, and the two of them embrace about as uncomfortably as you could imagine: Jameka still heavily emotional, Jessica standing ramrod straight and patting Jameka’s shoulder.

Jessica decides to loosen things up by explaining that she’s "really into church", though she never discusses it with her housemates. There’s a minor cultural exchange about being Catholic before the really juicy tension of the scene is gone, and then we’re off to another part of the house.

Rather, it’s the same part of the house, but just later on. Zach takes Jessica aside in the Head of Household suite, and offers his theory of life: Dick and Daniele are too dangerous to nominate right away, but too powerful to leave intact for the following week. In confessional he admits to hinting towards a backdoor plan, and we’re promptly shown the subtle hint he mentions: "This would be a great chance to backdoor one of them," he tells Jessica, and continues theatrically, "Oh, you have a really great chance to ruin things … tomorrow’s going to be big." Facial reaction shots boom across the screen with foreboding, and we head into the first break.

When we come back, all the housemates are gathered in the viewing room, as Jessica emerges with a card. "I’m nervous!" Daniele grins; "You should be!" Jessica answers, and reads off the lead-in. She reveals that it’s time to show everyone where Daniele and Jessica went on their mystery trip, and we cut over to a replay of the two of them winning a trip to be on The Power of 10. We all get to see Nick say how excited he’d be to reunite with Daniele, Drew Carey’s awkward schilling of his show, and Amber’s early victory. She spanks Daniele pretty handily and moves on to the money stage of the game, where she gets a chance to win $100 thousand — but misses her guess, and ends up with only a grand.

The housemates offer their consolations, even Dick, and go on to tell Amber how great she looked on TV. Daniele grapples the spotlight away with a few carefully-wiped tears in expression of her own grief: "I’d have really liked to see Nick," she mourns. "Oh, I hate this house!"

Cut to a shot of Eric carefully sloshing his mouthwash, before heading up to hang out with Jessica in the Head of Household suite. After a little tentative dialogue, he slides off his shirt and slides under the covers, before hopping back out again to turn off the lights. Through the magic of Highly Blurry Night Vision, we see take their first smooch together. "It’s about time!" Jessica chirps, and they settle into a deeper snuggle. Then it’s on to confessing their attractions and more lip-locking, before we head into the second break.

When we come back, Jessica pops out to announce that it’s time to pick players for the Veto competition. Amber and Zach stand to join her, and Jessica begins drawing names. She pulls Daniele, and Zach pulls a Houseguest’s Choice, which he hurls at Eric. Finally, Amber pulls Jameka, prompting much optimism about God’s plan, and leaving Dick to host the event.

In the intervening time, Zach takes Eric aside in the gym, and tries his best to advance his own plan. While Eric thoughtfully chews on a banana, Zach plies the same pitch he worked on Jessica. As Zach talks and talks, Eric chews and chews, keeping silent as long as he can. He doesn’t actually agree to help Zach at all, but in confessional Eric notes that Dick and Daniele have escaped twice from eviction, and admits their threat.

Then it’s over to Dick to kick off the Veto Competition, and takes the gang out to a swampy-themed backyard. A huge cat is positioned centrally, and giant rats are strewn throughout the area. Each rat has a riddle written on it, the single-word answers to which the cat will give the competitors. The houseguests have to romp off, find the matching rat, and bring it back to the cat. The slowest one to bring an answer back to their tree stump will be eliminated in successive rounds, until the last one standing wins the Power of Veto. Amidst confused applause, Cat-Scratch Veto begins with its first answer: Dustin.

Off they all run, and in the first round, Jessica is slowest to come back with the correct riddle (only one of which is truly catty, referencing Dustin’s "parading in his cape and crown"). The second answer is "Slop", and as they all hurry back to the musical tree stumps, Jameka pulls up short to let Amber in, taking the second elimination. On the third round (answer: Nick; favorite clue: "His heart rang like a bell for houseguest Daniele"), it comes down to Eric and Daniele racing for the last spot. Both pop up in confessional to express how they understood the stakes, but Eric makes it back first.

Round four (answer: Jen; favorite clue: "Big Brother thought it would be hard, but she loved to wear her unitard") kicks off With Amber, Eric and Zach left. Amber is back in a flash, apparently having found the answer previously; Eric and Zach footrace for the second spot, but Zach comes up just a step shy — though not without taking a shot at shoving Eric off the tree stump, just for the heck of it. Down to Eric and Amber, and they race off hard to find the riddle matching the answer "Veto." Camerawork makes this one look like it might be a close call, but Eric ends up having an easy time getting back to home base first. Amber jogs in disconsolately behind, and Eric is confirmed the winner.

Much celebration ensues, turning to paranoia: Amber sighs and hugs Jameka; Eric whoops and hugs Jessica; Zach whoops and hugs Eric; Daniele squints and stares distrustfully at Eric, musing at the possibility of side deals and backdoors. How quickly the sun can pass behind a cloud, eh Daniele?

To expand on that further, we hop to the backyard, where Daniele and Dick scheme together. Daniele theorizes that Amber or Zach might try to cut a deal with Eric, and Dick counters that Eric would never put Jessica in a risky position. Dick offers a theory with Jameka in a side deal, and then identifies their primary target: "We have to get Jessica out," he says. "I know," Daniele agrees, and we out to commercial once more.

As we come back, to lighten the tone, we check in with America’s Player and his endless litany of labors. In a fit of apology, America has decided that Eric must complete the arduous task of kissing Jessica — a deed Eric joyfully declares accomplished on his own terms, though he’s "happy to do it again." Off we go to the Head of Household suite, where we find him sitting on the bed while Jessica putters around in her bikini. Eric makes an effort of swabbing with mouthwash (again, which makes me wonder if he subsists on polish sausages or something), and then comes out to casually say, "It’s 10AM, I’m sneaking a morning kiss!" Mission: accomplished!

Much less sexily, Amber then appears in the Head of Household room to negotiate with Eric for his Power of Veto. "Oh, I hate this," she whispers to herself, before launching into her rambling, incoherent speech. The editors are kind enough to leave this un-cut, so I’m able to time it: from the start of her monologue, Amber takes to the count of 17 to start completely melting down. Eric sits miserably in his chair through her pitch, finally telling Amber — when she runs out of breath — that his decision will rest on Jessica’s wishes.

As if on cue, Jessica appears at the door, and Amber quickly retreats from the room. Without missing a beat, Jessica says, "It’s my turn," and shares her misgivings about leaving Dick and Daniele intact as a block in the house. She presses hard to break up the duo, while Eric clings surprisingly hard to his alliances, and everything hangs in the air as we head out into commercial.

On the home stretch, Eric emerges to review the wall of memories and treat us to a montage of all the concerned parties. Amber bets that Eric will "do what’s convenient for Eric"; Daniele feels mounting dread that she or her Dad will get put on the block, and Zach pops up to agree that the smart thing to do is backdoor Daniele. Finally, Eric asks the respective nominees to make their cases.

Both Amber and Zach keep their speeches short and sweet, with Zach dwelling a bit heavily on the concept of power — does it come with responsibility, Zach? Great responsibility? — but both saying that they would live with Eric’s choice. Eric takes the stage to explain that, while he was warned of specific people who were serious threats to him, he views all the competitors as equally dangerous. "They say to expect the unexpected," Eric says, "which is why I’m choosing not to use the power of veto this week." Eric slaps the medal back into the box, Daniele grins happily, and Zach wonders if he shouldn’t be saying prayers of his own.

As we go into slow-mo reaction mode, Amber offers her considered, balanced opinions: "It’s a cowardly move," she concludes. "Eric is a power-hungry person. He’s evil. He’s got no soul." Zach goes on to express his shock that the power wasn’t used at all, Jessica pledges not to let her disagreement with Eric build a wall between them, and Eric explains to America that leaving Amber on the block is just what they wanted him to do.

Who will be evicted? How much longer will America’s Puppet be able to dance before someone cuts his strings? Will this truly be the last week that I watch Amber’s face change color right before my very eyes? We’re getting down to the short strokes …

Posted by:Mike Smyth