When Joe Met Jessie: The ‘Big Brother’ Exit Interview
August 12, 2008 10:57 AM
It was the sort of bone-headed, dumb-ass decision you’d expect from a contestant on “Big Brother.” Except, in this case, I was the one acting like an idiot.
Last week, momentarily taking leave of all reason, I called up the publicity executive who handles “BB” for CBS, the hard-working and ever-delightful Susan Marks.
“Hey, Susan, Joe Adalian from Variety here,” I said. (I’m still getting used to the new gig. But I digress.)
“So hey,” I said, “CBS is still putting evicted houseguests on the phone with interested reporters and bloggers, right?”
Indeed, Marks answered.
“Well, do you think I could get on the phone with whoever gets the boot this week?” I asked. “I think Jessie is going home, and it’d be a hoot to talk to him.”
She said sure. We agreed on a time. It was done.
Because this blog is a co-production with my New York colleague Michele Greppi, I asked her if she’d like to be on the call and join in the questioning. Greppi quickly mumbled something about previous commitments and politely took a pass. That should have been the first sign I had screwed up. But, overcome with excitement at the idea of talking to a Real Live Reality Semi-Star, I ignored her silent warning.
As I expected, Jessie got the heave-ho. Friday morning at 11:15 a.m., my phone rang. “Hey, Joe, you ready for Jessie”? Susan asked.
Um, no. No I was not.
See, it’s real easy to be tough on reality contestants when they’re basically just semi-fictional characters on your TV set. I also have no problem getting a little rough with very powerful, very rich network executives. They can handle blunt questions and, if not, well, they probably shouldn’t be in the business.
But—and maybe I’m just too much of a wuss—I couldn’t bear to ask Jessie the really tough, really obvious questions. I wish that I had Jessie’s gall, but, alas, I don’t.
I wanted to ask, “So are you really as self-involved and egotistical as you seem?” Or, perhaps, “Why should anyone have been loyal to you when you showed virtually no interest in anybody but yourself?”
Instead, I melted. Rather than just flat-out call Jessie on his antics, I danced around the issues. And even when I tried to be a bit blunt—like asking Jessie what mistakes he made—he proved to be a master politician. The man has an amazing ability to ramble on for minutes at a time without actually answering a question, or making much sense at all. There could be a spot on the McCain campaign for this young man.
Jessie also played the victim card as adeptly as any politico caught with his pants down. Nothing was his fault; everything was done to Jessie.
Like, for example, when I asked Jessie which of his mistakes led to his ouster.
“I didn’t play the game wrong at all,” he said.
OK. So why are you out of the game?
“I was the most respectful person in the house,” he said. “I called everyone else in the house out (for their actions). That’s why I’m here.”
How do you tell a person who sees himself as the standard bearer for truth, justice and the “Big Brother” way of life that, um, no, he was evicted because he consistently picked needless fights with more than half of his fellow houseguests? Or that he had no base of real support in the house—save for lovestruck Michelle—because most of the time, he chose to eat or sleep rather than attempt to bond with his fellow players?
In the case of Jessie, the answer is: You don’t. In addition to being a bit rude, it would also be fruitless: The man hears only what he wants to hear.
Try to explain to Jessie that it was America’s vote that caused him to leave the house, and you’ll get a rambling response about how the vote was rigged against him because the friends and families of the four houseguests who wanted him off the show all called in and voted against him.
“It was just a perfect breakdown analogy,” he said. And, no, I have no clue what that means.
In fact, much of what Jessie said remains lost on me. He tends to go off on tangents—tangents on which I could not follow him.
He was very clear, however, about his disdain for Dan, the Catholic school teacher/coach who cast the deciding vote to evict him.
“Dan is going to hide behind the fact that he’s America’s Player,” he said, adding that Dan went back “on his faith” and took “the opportunity to make a quick dollar.” Jessie also implied that he wouldn’t have taken the producers’ money had he been given the chance to be America’s stooge.
But in the same breath, Jessie also seemed to admit that it made perfect sense for Dan to accept the America’s Player coin.
“Dan saw he couldn’t get in with anyone, so he took the definite money,” he said.
What about the now-infamous megafight that was prompted by Jessie’s instigating? Any regrets?
“It was the truth,” he said of his comments to April and Ollie. “I was woken up (by Libra) and I told the truth. I was the one stirring the pot. But it was the truth.”
At one point, Jessie also made a case that he was a good strategic player.
“I’ve played chess,” he said. “I can think more than one move ahead.”
We were quickly running out of time. Jessie’s tendency to give three-minute answers to questions hadn’t left me with much time to ask a lot of questions—all the better, since I really wasn’t up for asking the really tough ones.
I did manage to ask Jessie whether he was concerned about how he was portrayed on the show.
“I have no worries. I’ve brought no shame to myself,” he said. “I stuck up for the little people.”
I’ll say this for Jessie: He may have been annoying and self-absorbed, but he gave great TV.
The little people are grateful.