‘Big Brother’: Is Kevin Going to Win?

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment

The current season of Big Brother reduces humanity to brains versus brawn: the shrewdness of players such as Jessica, Paul, and Alex as contrasted with the musclebound brute force of Cody, Mark, and Jason. (It’s too bad “fitness superstar” Christmas has been sidelined in some competitions by her busted foot: She’s the unique houseguest this season who combines both smarts and strength.)

The brains/brawn concept finds unity in the cuddling couple of Jessica/Cody, which is the main reason the duo has been such a semi-impressive threat thus far. (I add that “semi” modifier because Cody is such a sullen boor — and bore — it’s clear his initial power surge was ignited solely on his good looks: He seemed, to people arriving in the house and getting their bearings, like a dashing leader of men and women. It took a while for his moodiness to start weighing everything down.) Paul — all febrile nerve endings and anxious yelling — is the game veteran, the one who perceived Jessica and Cody’s weaknesses most quickly.

Thus far, you’re likely to be evicted if you’re brainy without social skills (Cameron; Dominique), or brainy without game-playing shrewdness (Ramses), or brawny without the smarts. Josh, solidly in that latter category, has settled into being the man with a permanent target on his back, and why not? Wouldn’t you want to jettison the guy who slams frying pans together for the sole purpose of being annoying? Which leaves the viewer at home wondering: Is there anyone here playing the long game, insinuating him- or herself firmly into the household without drawing attention or suspicion? Yes, there is one person who is doing that: Kevin.

Early on, Kevin looked like that game-show staple: the Old Person No One Can Relate to So He’s Shunned. At 56, Kevin qualifies for Reality-TV Medicare and a drool cup. None of the others — millennials all — looks upon Kevin as a co-equal or a potential friend. He’s the oldster, the dad (he is, indeed, always ID’d onscreen as “Stay-at-Home Dad”). When he first arrived, he played up his Boston accent and his working-class worldview, thereby establishing himself as an odd duck who was best ignored. Some hours of Big Brother passed without anyone directing a single remark to Kevin.

Then Kevin found his groove, as a variation on a stereotype: He’s become the cool dad, a nonthreatening paternal figure who attracts lost souls (Ramses became a surrogate son, briefly) and who doesn’t mind being the butt of jokes as long as they’re affectionate jokes, not hostile or contemptuous ones? Kevin benefits from a core of tough realism: He seems street-savvy, and his occasional direct addresses to the camera reveal a guy who is quietly ruthless, who knows damn well he could be thrown under the bus at any moment. So he does what aging tough guys do: He keeps his nose clean, assiduously avoids being a dirty old man in the context of a house that throbs with institutionalized hormonal craziness, and aligns himself with power discreetly.

Thus far, Kevin has managed to cast votes that cut across party lines in a way that has yet to attract suspicion. And except for wrapping his abdomen with plastic-wrap at night to keep up his physical appearance (remember his mantra: “Cling-wrap at night/Will keep you tight”), he hasn’t done anything so ostentatiously showy that the houseguests might say, “Hey, what’s up with the old dude?” He is, in the lingo of the game, a pawn, but a pawn with ambition: to go all the way. In this, Kevin is more like a character in a different Sunday-night show: Game of Thrones. He’s the guy you don’t see slipping a shiv between your ribs until it’s too late. Watch out, Paul: Some night while you sleep, you may have some plastic wrap placed over your face, smothering your chances of Big Brother domination.

Big Brother airs Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays on CBS.

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