The CBS reality mainstay "Big Brother" entered its twelfth season Thursday night. And this year, the customary "twist" is similar to the premise of the fallen reality show, "The Mole."
Of the thirteen house guests, one is a "saboteur," acting as the producer's antagonist to prevent the other contestants from winning challenges, or to generally "wreak havoc," according to host Julie Chen. The contestants weren't informed of this until after they moved into the "Big Brother" house.
Chen says the saboteur may work against an individual or the entire group. He or she is eligible to reign as Head of Household and may also win the Power of Veto. The saboteur's goal is to survive until at least the five week mark, in which case they win $50,000. If they are evicted before five weeks pass, however, they leave with nothing.
This concept -- a double agent working against the rest of the competitors -- was first found in ABC's "The Mole," which was hosted by CNN's Anderson Cooper. The show struggled to find large audiences during its run in the early 2000s, but critics praised it for its high production value and inventive premise.
In keeping with the show's tradition, most of the "Big Brother" house guests are chiseled, buxom and have perfect teeth, and they're not afraid to make fools of themselves on national TV. Each week, one of them is eliminated, until a sole winner is left to claim a $500,000 prize. (For the complete house guest list, check out the official CBS site.)
The premiere episode kicked off with the thirteen strangers introducing themselves to each other in the living room. Ragan, the 34-year-old, gay college professor, claimed he was only a grad student to avoid attracting negative attention to his intelligence or career.
Britney, the 22-year-old hotel sales manager from Arkansas, knew she would click with Ragan "as soon as he opened his mouth." She reckons they "can talk about anything: boys, shopping, 'Sex and the City' -- series and the movies!" As usual, "Big Brother" crusades against stereotypes.
Andrew, a 39-year-old, yarmulke-wearing podiatrist from Miami Beach, joked that he thought the show was for Jewish singles.
VIP waitress Rachel, 26 -- who says she's in grad school for chemistry -- tells us Andrew stuck out to her, "because he's Jewish and wears a Yom Kippur." Rachel is dubbed "Boob City" by 24-year-old model, Monet.
At this point, the house guests are interrupted by a video message from the saboteur, which resembled an amateurish hostage tape. The voice was exaggeratedly warbled, their appearance blacked out and they were covered in static.
"I can -- and will strike at any time," the entity booms. "Any plans you had going into this game have been turned upside down."
"How am I supposed to have a showmance?" Rachel moans. "You can't have a showmance with a saboteur!"
Just as their terror subsided, the house guests were herded outside to compete in their first Head of Household competition. (The Head of Household wins immunity for the week, and nominates two house guests for eviction.)
House guests had to separate themselves into two teams of six. Andrew volunteered to be the game's mascot, and snagged immunity in the process. Dressed as a giant hot dog, and the two teams outfitted in tight, red or yellow gym gear, the house guests discovered the backyard has been transformed into an enormous, prop grill, with two giant hot dogs dangling in the air.
In the competition, team members jump one at a time onto the hot dog, while the others manipulate a system of pulleys to pull the dog-clutching member across the grill to a platform on the other side. The first person from each team to reach the platform wins $10,000; the second, $1000; third, $100; fourth, $10 and fifth $1. The last team member arriving becomes Head of Household.
As team members were pulled across the grill, they were sprayed with ketchup and mustard.
"The last thing I wanted to do was jump on that ginormous wiener," Britney giggles.
Before long, the condiment streams force the teams to strip down to their britches, another "Big Brother" tradition. But soon after, Britney slipped from the hot dog, fell into the grill and hurt her knee. The on-hand medics advised her to sit out the rest of the challenge.
"I lost my dignity on a slippery wiener," Britney tells us, belaboring a double entendre.
The red team's Hayden, a 24-year-old college student, ended up becoming the first HOH. Annie, the 27-year-old bisexual bartender, worried she and other yellow team members are at risk, since she thought "you wouldn't put up someone from your own team."
Later, as the house guests sit in the living room, the entire complex's lights go out, leaving everyone in complete darkness. Some people thought it was a technical difficulty, but Brendon, a 30-year-old high school swim coach, simply thought it was Big Brother's way of telling them to go to bed. Groping his way to his bedroom, he asks himself, "Where are my toothbrush and toothpaste?"
Andrew, meanwhile, decided to "pull a prank," which in his mind means lying on the floor behind a couch in silence.
When light is restored, another video message reveals the saboteur placed a lock on the door leading to the storage room, where the food and supplies are housed. Everyone must now eat "slop," a slate-colored and tasteless gruel. Suspicion shifts to Brendon and Andrew, who were out of their seats when the lights came back on.
And that's where it ends. For now. "Big Brother" airs multiple times a week (which could be a good thing or a bad thing). Tune in Sunday for the nomination ceremony, Wednesday for the Power of Veto competition and Thursday for the first live eviction. All air times are 8 p.m. EST on CBS. Additionally, the saboteur's identity will be revealed next Thursday.
Go to CBS.com to send your sabotage ideas to the producers. They'll pick the best ones for the saboteur to execute.