Dans funeral: An oral history of the greatest Big Brother moment ever

https://ew.com/tv/2019/08/29/big-brother-14-oral-history-dan-funeral/

PROLOGUE

“If my plan works, think of this: I’m gonna be off the block from a guy who put on a carrot suit, took an avocado bath, took a chum bath, and sat out of an HOH competition — all to get me out. I may have a future in sales selling ice to Eskimos if I can pull this off.” —Dan Gheesling

Expect the unexpected. That is the longstanding motto for CBS’ reality show Big Brother, currently in its 21st season (along with an additional season for CBS All Access and two celebrity installments). But nobody in or out of the house could have expected the events that took place in the episode that aired on Aug. 29, 2012.

That summer, Big Brother 14 broke format with previous iterations by welcoming not just 12 new contestants, but four returning players as coaches. Past winners Dan Gheesling and Mike “Boogie” Malin along with fan favorites Britney Haynes and Janelle Pierzina were originally in the house to pick teams and then claim a $100,000 prize if one of their players ended up winning the season. But then, on day 27, both viewers and the coaches voted to toss aside their coaching status and enter the game as regular contestants.

A dominant (and terribly named) alliance titled the Quack Pack — consisting of Dan, Britney, Danielle Murphree, Shane Meaney, and Ian Terry — took control of the house, with Ian playing the role of double-agent to secretly undermine his coach Mike Boogie and teammate Frank Eudy. However, all alliances eventually lose members, and the Quack Pack was poised to lose Dan after the season 10 champ was nominated for eviction on day 49 and later failed to win the Power of Veto. Dan’s ouster was so assured that he even staged his own funeral. But while the other houseguests assumed this was Dan’s way of making amends and saying goodbye, the corpse-to-be had something far more ruthless in mind, delivering a speech that brought tears, anger, confusion, and all-around chaos.

In a show based on voyeurism, Dan provided the ultimate spectacle. But unlike so many of the other personal bombshells that have detonated in the house over the years, this time there was a strategic method behind the madness, and when the smoke cleared, Dan had pulled off what many believe to be the greatest move the game has ever seen. How did it happen? What do all the parties involved have to say about it? And while the funeral saved Dan’s life in the game, did it ultimately cost him the win at the end?

We spoke to every single person at the funeral plus the producers and host Julie Chen to get a complete 360-degree view of the epic event and the aftermath that followed. We ended up being surprised at what we learned. And so were the players and producers. (Think Dan’s attack on Danielle was really all a ruse to gain her sympathy and make it appear as if the two were not working together? Think again.) What follows is the riveting and raucous story of the greatest Big Brother moment ever, and all the damage it left in its wake. Expect the unexpected.

PART I: THE NOMINATIONS

After a surprise double eviction night sent Frank’s two best buddies — Mike Boogie and Ashley Iocco — out the door, Frank rebounded by winning Head of Household. While HOH, Frank opened Pandora’s Box, which gave him $3,000, but also unleashed a new Golden Ball of Veto into the game, which Ian won, giving him a second Veto and making him safe for the week. Frank then nominated his biggest adversary, Dan, for eviction along with Dan’s biggest ally, Danielle, setting the stage for the remarkable chain of events to come.

FRANK EUDY: It was a rough night for me when I won HOH. I remember going in the Diary Room, and it was one of my rougher Diary Room sessions because it kind of hit me at that point I wasn’t going to win. All my allies were gone. I had to win every competition, and I knew the odds were not in my favor. You can only freaking win so many competitions. There’s a percentage of every damn competition that is chance or luck, so I just knew it wasn’t going to happen. I was frustrated.

DAN GHEESLING: Danielle and I get nominated by Frank, but we have a couple of outs to save us. We’re up on the block. It’s not a shock to me at that time, but I know it’s a severe blow to my game individually.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I was devastated. You know that it’s coming, but I was so upset, because how can I campaign against Dan? I remember feeling really upset, sad and heartbroken, and then I remember feeling, “Okay, well at least I know I have more friends here than him. I know that he’s the target. I know that I’m better at competitions than him. I can win Veto.”

IAN TERRY: I wasn’t happy about it, to be honest, and the reason is that I already had the Veto in hand, and we didn’t really know how the Veto ceremony was going to work. But one thing I knew for sure was, if he nominates Britney right off the bat, then I could use my Veto to protect her. I wasn’t thrilled about these nominations because it meant that there was no way that I could protect both myself and Britney in this round of play, because she’s not nominated. I would have liked it if she was nominated, so I could just pull her down right away no matter what.

FRANK EUDY: Dan was kind of a personal nomination for me. Obviously, there’s strategy to it, too, because Dan was a good player, and had a lot of people that he was working with in the house. But at the same time, I’d wanted to take shots against Dan from the beginning, but Mike didn’t want to, and then Mike was gone, and I couldn’t go after Ian. Dan was absolutely the target.

While two Quack Pack members were up on the block, a plan formulated among the alliance to save the entire group, thanks to Ian already holding one Veto and another one being up for grabs in the next competition.

IAN TERRY: Basically, the way that this would work is Dan and Danielle are nominated, but I already have one Veto, so if Britney or Shane wins the second Veto, we can pull both of them off, which means that two people would have to be nominated other than those two. While Frank can put up whomever out of Shane or Britney doesn’t win the Veto, he also has to pick someone else. The only two choices left are [Joe Arvin] and [Jenn City Arroryo], and we’d have the votes to just vote them out regardless. It wouldn’t even matter who the other person was.

BRITNEY HAYNES: One person was going to have to go up, but we would have had the votes to save whoever.

SHANE MEANEY: We would pull both of them off the block and we would still have enough votes to keep everyone. But obviously one of us had to win veto.

For the plan to work, both Britney and Shane had to be picked at the Veto player picking ceremony in which the Head of Household and two nominees each put their hand in a bag and pulle out a chip with a player’s name in it. Frank picked first and selected Shane, and then Danielle picked next and selected…Britney.

SHANE MEANEY: I’m thinking my odds are pretty good. I have a fairly good record with POV wins so I’m thinking it’s a great chance obviously now that she and I are both picked. It’s two out of six people to possibly win the veto. That’s pretty good odds at this point in the game. So I’m happy that I was picked. I’m happy that Britney was picked. I know moving forward with the Quack Pack we’re good.

BRITNEY HAYNES: This is when we decide we can carry out the plan. It’ll be perfect. We’re going to be safe for sure — all of us.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I’m just excited. All the people that I’m in alliance with — I don’t even like saying Quack Pack, I still hate saying that name — I’m just excited we’re all in it. I couldn’t have been happier with the player selections to that point.

IAN TERRY: It’s the best chance that getting all five to stay in is going to happen. Yeah, I was happy to see those two names for sure.

Or course, for the entire Quack Pack to be safe, Dan and Danielle had to throw the competition. But with their Big Brother lives on the line, would they do it and trust Shane or Britney to win and pull them off the block?

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I was going to throw it.

BRITNEY HAYNES: Dan was supposed to throw the competition. That was the plan. Dan was going to throw it so that we could carry out this plan.

IAN TERRY: I remember Dan saying something like, “You have to promise me something. If I throw it and I’m still up there, you have to vote for me to stay.” At that point, I can say, “Yeah, sure,” but he knows there’s no way I could convince them that that was going to be the case. There’s no chance. I mean, there’s a point in the game where you can lie, but it’s just like trying to pee on someone’s leg and tell them it’s raining. There’s no way I can ever expect him to believe that. That was one where I thought there was not even a point of telling that one. So I’m like, “I can’t. You just have to throw it. I can’t promise that, I’m sorry.”

DAN GHEESLING: I’m sure I told them I would throw it, but I can tell you for a fact this is one I tried to win because you never really know. I did feel confident that if every piece fell into place that they would take me down. However, I know if that doesn’t happen, I’ve got to save myself. So this is a situation where I’ve told them one thing and then I’m going out to play and win this thing.

PART II: THE VETO COMPETITION

The Veto competition was a Draw Something challenge hosted by Ian in which players (including Jenn, who was picked by Dan with the Houseguest Choice chip) would have to buzz in and guess the object being drawn. If they were correct, they had to do a punishment if they wanted to collect points towards winning. Frank got the first question right with “Avocado,” and had to dye himself green to receive the two points. But the Quack Pack was shocked when Dan — who was supposed to be throwing it for Britney and Shane — buzzed in and got question number two correct with “Hunger.”

DANIELLE MURPHREE: That mother—er! That’s exactly what I thought. Is he serious right now? But then I was like, “Okay, Danielle, control it. Maybe he just answered quickly. Maybe this is Dan’s way of throwing it in some way.”

BRITNEY HAYNES: He’s clearly not throwing it. I immediately realized he’s not being a team player. I was highly annoyed.

DAN GHEESLING: I remember feeling like I saw Britney look at me like, “What are you doing? Why are you trying to win this?” At that moment I got a really uneasy feeling like, “Now I really feel like I’ve got to win this thing.”

BRITNEY HAYNES: I was frustrated by it, because we had organized this plan. But then at the same time, I couldn’t blame him because there’s no world where you could expect that Dan would actually throw a competition, especially when he’s on the block. It’s too important to him. That’s putting a ton of faith into people. Even though I wanted him to, and I was hoping that he would, you can’t actually expect someone to do that.

SHANE MEANEY: This was probably my worst competition of the season. I did try. I just couldn’t get the shapes and I couldn’t guess. And it’s not that I didn’t wanted the punishment. I wouldn’t care. But I really struggled, and I felt terrible because I’m a team player and my whole thing was keeping the Quack Pack in tact at that point. So it was really frustrating for me. And I look over and Dan wasn’t throwing it. He was actually trying to win it, which was kind of discouraging. A lot of things didn’t line up to what we discussed prior to the Power of Veto competition.

BRITNEY HAYNES: He definitely could have just said, “Look, it’s my life on the line. I can’t throw the comp.” I feel like everyone would have understood because that is just putting a ton of faith in people that you didn’t even know what they’re going to do. We would have understood if he could have just told us that he wasn’t going to do it. But he made it pretty obvious.

SHANE MEANEY: To put yourself in his shoes, of course you want to win. So I understood what he was doing. I wasn’t angry. But at the same time, that completely goes against everything that we established and everything that we went over prior to the competition.

IAN TERRY: I was just like, “Hey, what the hell is this, man?” But I mean, I can’t be surprised by that. Frustrated is the word I would use.

DAN GHEESLING: I haven’t thought about this really ever since it happened, but I can remember distinctly getting a weird social read off of everyone in the alliance. Britney gave me a clue that she wasn’t happy and this wasn’t the plan. It gave me a weird enough feeling to say, “All right Dan, you’re not throwing this thing, so go try and win it.” For me, that’s the worst-case scenario in Big Brother. I never wanted to be in a position ever where you win or you go home. At this point, I feel that, and I don’t like that feeling at all.

After Jenn got “Clock” (and had to burn her clothes in 90 seconds), Britney got “Shackle” (and had to choose someone — Danielle — to be shackled to for 24 hours) and Frank got three in a row with “Shower,” “Carrot,” and “Bench” (agreeing to take a chum shower every time an alarm sounded over 24 hours, to wear a giant carrot costume for a week, and to not participate in his next eligible Head of Household competition), Danielle finally buzzed in with “Spots.” In a storyline that never made it onto the show and completely changes the context of what would happen later at the funeral, Dan was furious at Danielle for buzzing in and trying to win, even though he was doing the exact same thing. And that fury manifested itself once Danielle had to allow her fellow contestants to throw paint at her two minutes as her punishment:

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I got “Spots” right, and Dan was so pissed off at me. He’s throwing paint, and even after they stopped, Dan is throwing full things of paint in my mouth. People had stopped throwing paint, and when I took my hands down, he took a bucket of paint and threw it straight into the center of my face and was just glaring anger.

SHANE MEANEY: We threw paint on her, and when the timer was over, he threw it right in her face. I didn’t initially realize how ticked off Dan was.

BRITNEY HAYNES: I do remember her being upset about that.

IAN TERRY: Yeah, I noticed that. I always just thought it’s him being a troublemaker. He likes those pranks, and he likes to be annoying as a joke sometimes. It’s like the little pranks that he would pull in Big Brother 10, and we would see it a lot on Frank and Jenn City. I thought it was something like that.

DAN GHEESLING: Yeah, I remember that. When you do something like that, the producers set it up so you can kind of have fun with it or take it easy on her. I was trying to send a message. I don’t show my emotions. That’s one of the few times when I was just so angry with her. I wanted to make sure she got every piece of that punishment.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I had to get on medicine. They had to bring in a medic, because I got a rash, broken out and stuff. I have asthma and it caused a rash, and I swallowed a lot of it, so I had to go see a doctor in the diary room and they gave me cream. Dan’s such a dick. This whole Veto caused problems.

DAN GHEESLING: I think that’s one of the two angriest moments I’ve ever been in the game, and I pride myself on controlling my emotions. I can remember I was seeing red because it made no sense to me. I’m like, “You know I need these points, so why are you doing this?” It’s not like Britney doing that, because I get it: She wants to win. But Danielle didn’t really need to win, because I’m going home over her, and she’s taking points away from me, and she doesn’t have a shot to win this. So I was furious and I didn’t understand, but I took that feeling and really just pushed it more to “Now you’ve really got to run the table here. You’ve got to get every question from here on out if you want to stay in this game.”

Dan did get the next question right by answering “Trip,” but the punishment that accompanied it — and would later prove crucial — was that he would have to endure a 24-hour solitary confinement dance party after the Veto competition was over.

DAN GHEESLING: I’ve been a huge fan of Big Brother. I’d seen Hayden Moss and Danielle Reyes, the only two people I can remember to get locked up in solitary confinement. I fear nothing in Big Brother at all, but that was one thing I truly feared. I didn’t want to be isolated from the house for 24 hours. If you could say “Hey, shave your head, burn your clothes, do whatever you want, give up competitions,” I would do it, but my fear in the game was to be locked into a room. So here we are. Serendipity lines up to give me the one thing I don’t want at this point. I’m upset, I’m angry, but I still have a competition to win.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: When I see him buzz in again, I know that he lied. He is being selfish and doesn’t really give a s— about me. I’m really upset at this point because I’m now pissed off because you’re putting my relationship in danger. If Shane or Britney had won — no problems. But to be honest, I did not want the Veto, because me sitting on the block means that I don’t have to cast a vote — which means I have more friends in jury.

IAN TERRY: Dan gets it right. So it’s actually a really bad spot at this point because Britney is pretty far out of it at this point so it’s going to be very difficult for her to catch up, and Shane has zero, so it’s pretty much down to Frank and Dan, and either outcome is bad.

With only one question left, Frank had the lead with 22 points with Dan in second at 13. The final question was worth 11 points, so if Dan answered it correctly, he would win the Power of Veto. If anyone else answered, the win would go to Frank. And then, the bizarre happened. As the final Draw Something image came to life, Britney buzzed in to answer — and couldn’t. As she paused to consider the correct response, Frank whispered the word “Summer” to her.

BRITNEY HAYNES: I didn’t just blindly buzz in. I was like, “Oh, oh, oh,” and it was still coming to me. I’m coming up with it, in that moment. I remember staring at the picture and, it was on the tip of my tongue. Then as soon as he said it to me, it made complete sense. I’m like, “Yes! That’s what I was looking for.”

FRANK EUDY: It was desperation. It’s not like I’m trying to tell her the answer. It’s just that I want so bad for this to be over and Dan not to get it. You’re trying to will the win, and it’s a reaction. It’s not like much thought went into that, because there wasn’t really much time. There’s also a possibility that I was frustrated that she buzzed in and it was easy and she couldn’t figure it out. I was just like, “Summer!”

BRITNEY HAYNES: I 100 percent think I would have gotten it had Frank not whispered it. It was on the tip of my tongue. I didn’t look to him for help. I wasn’t like, “Help me.” I was trying to figure it out and he whispered it to me. To be honest, I don’t know for sure that he was trying to cheat. You know when you’re playing Charades and you know what the answer is and it’s really hard for you to keep your mouth shut? I almost think it was that type of a situation. It was just word vomit. I don’t think he was intentionally trying to cheat. I really don’t.

DAN GHEESLING: The whole thing for me, it was like a car crash, like you’re seeing this movie car crash. I’m like, “Okay, Britney gets this answer from Frank. Are her and Frank working together? Holy cow, I’m in a lot more trouble than I think I’m in.”

JENN ARROYO: That was f—ed up. Because that was just blatant cheating. And I will say this. That wasn’t a first-time occurrence of something along those lines happening. Some other questionable things happened. He might as well just shouted it out to her because we all saw it and we all heard it. It was like, we can see you! And not only can we all see you, there’s tons of cameras everywhere and you’re wearing a microphone. Come on!

SHANE MEANEY: I heard Frank say something, but I couldn’t make it out.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I didn’t hear him say “Summer,” but I heard something. I look over, and then she said it and then there’s a long pause.

BRITNEY HAYNES: He whispered it, I said it, and then they paused the game.

IAN TERRY: I had the ear pod in my ear for producer instructions and as soon as that’s answered, I’m just told, “Hold everything. Stop, do not say anything. Nothing.” Then it’s like, “We need to review some footage.”

RICH MEEHAN (Executive Producer): I was watching the game go down from our office. Obviously, we’re watching it in real time as it’s happening. And my phone rang in my office and it was [co-executive producer] Heath Luman, who calls me and says, “Hey, this just happened. Frank whispered the answer to Britney. A clear rule violation.” I said, “Okay,” and I ran up to the Big Brother booth where we talk to the houseguests from. They just hear our voice, but it’s where we talk to them from, and we have a machine in there we can roll back tape. So we roll back tape on it and re-watched it multiple times, just so that we’re 1,000 percent sure. It didn’t take that much to see it, but it was very clear. Then I called Allison.

ALLISON GRODNER (Executive Producer): I had just gone home, and I remember Rich calling me and running the decision and the situation and the decision by me. If there’s gonna be some really important and tough fairness calls to make here, we do make sure that everyone that needs to be consulted is consulted, and that we ultimately agree that we’re making the right decision. And in this one, there was no doubt about it. We heard it, we saw it, and we made the ruling.

RICH MEEHAN: Any kind of disciplinable thing we call the network and say, “Hey, this just happened, here’s the call and it’s crystal clear.” And then we just make the decision. So that’s why there’s a bit of a stop down because we want to make sure everything is 100 percent correct. So when something like that happens, we probably stop the game for about 15 minutes.

FRANK EUDY: We all had to sit down while they go back and run through the tape, and probably have to get approval from someone that’s not there. I remember it felt like forever, especially because I knew what was going on. It was like, “Okay, I said it,” so what are they deciding on right now? Because there was a close call like that earlier in the season, too, where we were doing the counting competition where they had all the candy and whatever, and we had to count. It was “Fold” or “Stay,” and I was looking at Mike in the stands, and he was telling me what to do. I remember Joe got upset, and they had to go back and look at some tape. He complained, but nothing happened with that.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: The producers come through the speakers and they’re pretty upset. They’re like, “Frank, you’ve been disqualified.” There’s an argument back and forth, he’s like, “What?” And they’re like, “You cheated.” He says, “No, I didn’t.” They’re like, “Yes, you did.”

BRITNEY HAYNES: They finally came back said that they reviewed the tape, and that he whispered it to me and he was disqualified, and that we had to replay the round.

DAN GHEESLING: The producers come over the speaker and it’s like an act of God or something. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, is this really happening? I get another chance to save myself because Frank essentially acted outside of the rules!”

RICH MEEHAN: The funny thing is, it shows how much Frank wanted Dan to lose and wanted him out of the game. Even though he’s winning the game, he was willing to risk breaking the rules, hoping that he didn’t get caught to try and further ensure Dan leaving, which makes what happened later even more incredible.

With Frank eliminated from the competition, a new final 11-point question was added with Dan (13 points), Britney (6 points), and Jenn City (4 points) all eligible to win. Once again, Britney buzzed in first, and once again, she did not know the answer, enabling Jenn to then buzz in with the correct answer of “Ticket.” But it if she wanted to win the Veto — which would also be her first competition win of the summer — she had to agree to the punishment of eating slop for the rest of the summer. If she didn’t, then Dan would win the Veto and be able to take himself off the block.

JENN ARROYO: This didn’t make it to TV, but I remember vividly asking, “Can I ask a question?” And they’re like, “Yeah.” I go, “How long is this damn show, because I feel like I’ve been here for far too long?” I knew we were getting to the end. It felt like around three more weeks, but I needed a full answer. And it was something along the three-week line. And I stood there, and I thought about that. I had tried Chef Joe’s slop cookies. They weren’t the worst things in the world. And I was thinking, “How could I cook slop?”

So many different things were going through my brain. And they also allow you to have protein shakes. So I was like, “Can I really, for three weeks, on a daily basis, just drink a ton of water, and have protein shakes?” And there are certain condiments you would be able to have to mix with the slop, which is just a very bland, tasteless oatmeal. I was like, “I can do this. If I’ve been in this house for this damn long dealing with these damn people on this damn show, then I can be on slop for three weeks.” But I thought long and hard about it. I wanted that win more than anything. I really did. And I’ve never eaten oatmeal ever again, just FYI. I see oatmeal, I’m ready to burn it like my clothes.

BRITNEY HAYNES: To be honest, I thought that Jenn winning was not a bad scenario for me. I didn’t think she would use it. She had not been a real aggressive gamer or game player. She wasn’t really tight with Dan or Danielle. I didn’t see a scenario where she used it, unless Frank told her to, and Frank hated Dan and wanted him out. I was like, “Okay, this’ll work out. This will be fine.”

IAN TERRY: I just saw it as the same as if Frank had won. It’s not as good as the ideal outcome, but it’s better than if Dan or Danielle had won, right? It’s not great, but it’s still okay.

FRANK EUDY: I’m as confident almost as if I had won because I knew that she didn’t have anybody else in the house either, and she had already come to me and was like, “I guess I’m with you.” It was just us two, and so I wasn’t really worried about it.

SHANE MEANEY: I think I made a comment like, “Where the f— did Jenn come from?” She just kind of came out of the blue. It was the first competition she won. I was fine with Jenn winning. I mean, obviously it wasn’t what we wanted. It didn’t go to Britney or myself. But at this point, I was actually feeling pretty confident. I was feeling like Jenn would just not use the Veto. She and I were fine at this point so I didn’t think that she would convince Frank to put me up. But they say to expect the unexpected, and I didn’t expect what was to come, for sure.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I love Jenn, so I was excited. But then I was also kind of scared. Because Jenn and I were pretty good friends, so I was like, “Oh no, what if she tries to take me off. Should I let her?” Because I did not want to have to choose between my alliance members. I would rather be sitting on the block in my little safe hole, because I knew that I probably wasn’t going to get evicted by the people in the house and that I was not going to be the one to walk out.

DAN GHEESLING: It’s 100 percent bad and it’s the most upset, sad, disappointed, angry I’ve ever been in playing two seasons in the history of my Big Brother competition-wise. I see the writing on the wall and I’m like, “Man, this is how it ends. This is how I go out.” Frank messes up and I get another chance to go head-to-head against Jenn, and I lose to Jenn who hasn’t won anything. I’m just mad and I feel like I blew an opportunity and I’m going home.

Dan’s frustration spilled over in another scene that did not make it to air — and again changes the context of what would follow at the funeral — as he lit into Danielle as the players waited to enter the house at the conclusion of the veto competition.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: It was a massive fight. He was pissed at me and kept asking, “What the hell are you doing? Why did you guess that? Why did you guess Spots?” I was like, “Because you’re not smart enough. You’re not guessing it fast enough. And why are you answering questions?” He was blame shifting and he was so angry at me.

BRITNEY HAYNES: Yeah, he was mad at her. He was totally mad at her, which makes no sense, because he was trying to win. That confused me and I didn’t understand if they were play fighting, fake fighting, or if they had their own deal on the side that we weren’t privy to, because none of that really made sense.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: He’s pacing in the backyard. He’s acting all in some mood and being all dramatic and everything else and keeps asking “Why did you guess that?” I was like, “You’re not even supposed to be playing!” Then he kind of blew it off, of course didn’t acknowledge it. Dan is fantastic at questioning other people and getting other people to talk about themselves without having to say anything about himself.

DAN GHEESLING: I’m angry at Danielle for buzzing in. I’m angry at Britney because I’m questioning her because why is she getting answers from Frank. I don’t remember how much time elapsed. Inside, I was very sad because I love the show, I love competing, and to have so many opportunities to stay in the game slip away, it just starts to hit me that it’s over.

PART III: SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

Once the players reentered the house, Dan had just a few minutes before having to head into his 24-hour solitary confinement dance party.

DAN GHEESLING: I walk in the house and I’m upset. I’m borderline tears and so I go right to the Diary Room. I’m on the verge of tears and there’s a random producer in the DR. I’m pissed, I’m sad, and I tell the producer, “Hey, look, no offense, but get Chris Roach in here because I’m not talking to anyone else.” Chris was a Diary Room producer from my first season and now he’s one of the executive producers. So he comes in there and I’m in tears and I tell him, “I feel like I let everyone down. I let you guys down, the producers. I let myself down, my family down, and now I’ve got to go into solitary confinement and that’s my worst fear.”

RICH MEEHAN: We did do an interview with him beforehand and I remember he was very devastated as someone who loved the game, had won the game, being very worried that this was his final week. And he definitely did not have a plan at that moment.

ALLISON GRODNER: He went into the Diary Room just and he was devastated. He was like, “My game’s over. This is it.”

DAN GHEESLING: So I’m sitting in there crying. And Chris tries to get the bits out of me that he needs to, but also this is someone that I have a relationship with from season 10, and he says, “Hey, look, man, nothing’s ever over. Do whatever you can.” So then from there I walked out of the Diary Room and right in solitary, and I’m like, “Here we go.”

Dan was not the only one who assumed his game was finished as he entered the solitary confinement room. Outside of those techno walls, the other houseguests — and producers — considered his eviction a fait accompli.

SHANE MEANEY: Frank wants him out. It was his HOH. He put him on the block, so we were like, “It sucks to lose part of the Quack Pack but at this point in the game we could lose one it’s no big deal. We still got four. We’re still good to go.”

IAN TERRY: I’m like, “It’s done. It’s over. It’s good. He didn’t win the Veto and there’s no way he can get it to change because he’s locked in the room.” So I was fine with it because this just clears the path for me a little bit to get to the end, and if I asked for one of us five to be out, yeah, it would be him for sure.

BRITNEY HAYNES: To be honest with you, I felt really bad for him because this game means so much to Dan. It really does. He has so much pride in this game and the fact that he came back. Not only now is he for sure going home, but he also has to go to this solitary thing, so he can’t even control his fate. He wouldn’t even have time to try to save his own Big Brother life. I felt really bad for him.

FRANK EUDY: Nobody was telling me anything at that point, but I knew that there was no way they were going to vote Danielle out.

RICH MEEHAN: We knew he was in major, major trouble.

JULIE CHEN (Host): We knew he was done and he knew he was done.

ALLISON GRODNER: Everyone in that house believed that he was on his way out. There was no question.

JENN ARROYO: We’re all thinking “This is signed, sealed and delivered, baby!” And as far as the solitary confinement goes, I kept wondering: Is he s—ting in a bucket in there? And does he have one bucket or two? Do you give him bucket one for one, give him bucket two for two, or is it a mix? I don’t know.

DAN GHEESLING: They put up a string with a pullable curtain and like a plastic adult baby toilet — so like a camping toilet. So I had that, water, and cake to eat. I think I might have been on slop too.

While the other players were already making plans for life in the house without Dan, inside the solitary confinement room, a diabolical scheme was beginning to take shape.

DAN GHEESLING: The first couple of hours in there I remember thinking something ridiculous like, “Oh, maybe there’s a hidden Veto in the cake, so let me tear through this entire cake.” I’m just looking around for a hidden Veto, and that’s the first couple of hours. Then when I realized, “Hey this is it. What are you going to do?” It’s the worst-case scenario, but I’m not willing to give up. At that point, I have no power. The only thing I can do is try to come up with some spectacle.

Dan considered — and discarded — a few different tactics before setting on a strategy. And the genesis of that strategy would harken back to both season 10 and the seething rage Dan was feeling at Danielle over the just-completed Veto competition.

DAN GHEESLING: I thought about trying to cause a fight between two people, but then quickly dismissed that because it seemed so desperate and obvious of a play. People were going to be expecting that. So I tried to run the same playbook I did in my first season. I’m like, “Okay I had a house meeting, it went over well in the first season. Let me try and do something like that again.” I started with just calling a house meeting and calling out Danielle, but to me that didn’t work out.

I start to piece it together more, and the best way to wrap up a lie in the Big Brother house is to surround it with truth. I really started with me wanting to take a shot at Danielle because I was angry. I was very angry that she went after those points, so that’s where I started the thought process. It’s like, “Okay, I have a reason to be mad at Danielle and whether people or not realize that, let me take that and build from there. But I can’t just have a house meeting and then denounce Danielle. Let me gas up everyone else.”

So I start to formulate what I’m going to say to each individual person, because people are inherently selfish and they want to hear something good about themselves, which is fine, and I get it. I like to hear something good about myself too, but I thought that would disarm people, and it gives people the illusion that this is it for me and I want to enjoy these last couple of days because I know they’re my last couple of days. Then drop the bomb on Danielle and then see what happens from there.

I knew the most important thing in there was to cause confusion and chaos so people are focused on that instead of what I may be saying to Frank upstairs, because that’s the whole thing. I could have just taken Frank upstairs and talked to him, but I would have come down to a lot of questions about “Hey, what did you and Frank talk about?” People would have been concerned. By causing that chaotic scene, when I came down it was like, “Oh, everyone feels bad for Danielle. Dan, what the heck is wrong with you?” Not, “Dan, what were you doing up there with Frank?” That’s what I thought. 100 percent honesty, I was like, it’s a hail Mary. Do I think this is going to work? No. I really don’t. I don’t think it’s going to work, but it’s the only thing I can do to try and stay in this game.

JULIE CHEN: That “punishment” of solitary confinement was a blessing in disguise. If he didn’t get that punishment, there is no way you would have been alone with his thoughts to really strategize and come up with that genius move. He didn’t have to be a phony and have little conversations with people. It worked to his favor because he was able to really hammer out by himself every scenario. What’s my best strategy at this point? He simply would not have had the time alone without raising eyebrows if he had to be amongst the others in the house.

ALLISON GRODNER: It wasn’t really a great thinking space, but he surprised us all by doing some amazing thinking during that time.

RICH MEEHAN: He went into that solitary room and figured it all out.  Maybe he was not distracted by having to campaign and do all this stuff because his plan was very elaborate. Everything Dan did was super, super calculated, so I believe that time in was probably good for him figuring all this out.

Leaving nothing to chance — and with nothing else to do — Dan then ran through the plan over and over again.

DAN GHEESLING: I had to run through it 100 times in my head at least, and that’s how I operate in the game. Someone once said that “In Big Brother, Dan’s a great dropback quarterback, but when he scrambles, he’s not very good,” and that’s how I feel. I’m very good when I can plan everything out, but if something doesn’t go to plan and I break down, I’m not very good improvising. So I really rehearsed everything I was going to say in my head in particular. Some family members said they saw me talking to myself and walking around talking under my breath looking like I was giving a speech, so I’m sure I practiced it a little bit, but I know in my head I ran through it hundreds of times. I’m just not good at improvising in a situation like that.

As the time expired on Dan’s solitary confinement, the other houseguests gathered outside the door to count down the final seconds. They then burst into the room‚ and were both confused and troubled by what they found.

BRITNEY HAYNES: He was acting so weird. He was acting like a man who was sick. He was giving us the idea that the room had sickened him somehow, like a motion sickness type thing. He was acting all “I’m not right. My brain’s not right. I don’t know what happened to me in there. I can’t see.”

SHANE MEANEY: I think he played it off like he was kind of insane or he was worse off than what he actually was so we would feel bad for him. I think he really had that whole thing planned out as far as his body language and how he was when he came out of that room in order to get us into a room to sit down to talk to us all. My initial reaction was I felt bad for him, but it was all part of his plan.

IAN TERRY: He looked pale and he looked sick. I want to know how to do that if that’s something you can control, but he actually looked pale. But I knew he was staging it because he made signs to the camera like he was okay or something, but he didn’t look good. I mean, not even in just the way he’s acting, he looked physically ill.

JOE ARVIN: When Dan walks out of solitary confinement, you would have thought he was a prisoner of war for about seven years. I mean, he was dead. You would’ve thought he looked like he had been in there a month. He said he puked all over himself, but I wouldn’t doubt if he had a wet rag and put it all over his face so that he looked like he had the sweats.

JENN ARROYO: He looked like he had been through it. He looked paler than usual. And he storms out of the room, right? And this is real f—ing truth here. I was like, “Oh, man. This guy’s up to something.” We all knew that Dan was the mastermind, and one of the best players of the game, so when he stormed out like that, it was like, “Oh, s—, it’s on.”

FRANK EUDY: He came out just acting like he had had some “come to Jesus” moment in the room.

BRITNEY HAYNES: I began to get very worried about him. I remember him doing this thing with his eyes, like “I can’t focus my eyes because they had strobe lights in there.” They had strobe lights and disco ball type things, and all these dancing lights. He was insinuating that these lights messed with his eyes, and that he was in pain, or he was messed up. I just remember being like, “Oh, my God, Dan is not well!”

DAN GHEESLING: I didn’t feel well, but I definitely played it up. I moved the toilet closer to the door to try to make it smell bad in there, and I remember everyone’s cheering and celebrating that I survived, and they’re happy to see me — or at least giving the illusion they’re happy to see me. And I looked at Britney and I remember hearing her say, “Oh, it doesn’t smell very good in there, and you don’t look very good.” I internally smirked. I’m like, “All right, I’ve got a shot at this thing.”

BRITNEY HAYNES: This is how stupid I am: I voluntarily go to the Diary Room to ask production to check on Dan, because “Dan is not well, you guys! He’s not okay, and I’m very worried about him.” I literally went to the Diary Room and asked them to check on him! I’m not kidding. I was like, “Guys, he’s not okay. Look what you did to him!”

DAN GHEESLING: I wanted people to be at least remotely concerned with my health because I didn’t want to talk to anyone until the speech because I felt like anything prior to that would diminish it and maybe I would tip my hand. So I walked into the spa room and closed the door, because at least I could get in a situation where I could limit my exposure. I just wanted to keep a low profile, try this speech, and then see what happens.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: Now he’s acting like a mute, like he went through something so traumatic. I remember it was like 10 minutes. He came out, he’s pacing, he goes to the bathroom, does something else, and he’s like, “Hey, I want to talk to everybody. Go to the living room.” So we all go to the living room, and that’s when the funeral happened.

PART IV: SHOWTIME

Once all the players had assembled in the living room, Dan emerged wearing almost all black with his Bible. Presented below is Dan’s entire funeral speech on day 51, broken up with explanations and reactions.

“When I walked out of there and I saw you guys sitting there, it meant the world to me. So I just want you guys to know I appreciate that. I’m dressed in all black for a reason. I want to welcome you all to my Big Brother funeral. Stop crying, Britney.”

BRITNEY HAYNES: I really thought this is Dan’s way of saying some parting words because he knows he’s going home. There wasn’t any part of my being or soul that believed that he was planning some big thing. I bought it hook, line and sinker. I’m over there crying on the couch. I’m like, “Poor Dan, what a guy. What a fricking guy. Plus, he’s been poisoned by the Big Brother room in solitary confinement! And now his Big Brother life has just blown up in front of him.” I bought into it 100 percent.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I am so naïve.” I was like, “Aww, Dan’s saying goodbye to everybody.” I was originally thinking that he was doing something sweet. I was like, “Maybe he went into solitary confinement and feels bad that he was screwing us all over.”

DAN GHEESLING: I wanted to disarm everyone and let them think I’m done playing the game, so that’s the only thing I could think of to make sense. I could have just had a normal meeting, but I like to try to make a show the best I can. It must have hit me late, but I just wanted to have something to symbolize the death of me as a player to everyone to say, “Hey, look, he’s really done playing the game and he just wants to enjoy his time here.”

JENN ARROYO: I was like, what? This is antic city. I mean, I wish I had gone to the kitchen and just popped some popcorn, because I was like, “I’m going to sit here and enjoy the show.” A funeral? Give me a break. You’re not dying. This is so ridiculous. “Here’s my funeral. I’m leaving. I’m dying.” You’re like, “Get the hell out of here, man.”

FRANK EUDY: I didn’t really want to go sit down in the living room. I’m like, “Can we get this thing over with?”

IAN TERRY: I’m thinking that here’s some sort of last-ditch attempt to get something going.

I just want to say a couple of things. Joe, being around you, you taught me a lot about how to be a good husband.”

DAN GHEESLING: Joe and I talked a lot about being married and things we were as husbands. So with him, I just tried to find a common ground, something that we both could agree on and enjoyed talking about with each other. It was something that made me relatable to Joe and made Joe feel I was being genuine.

JOE ARVIN: You want to believe him, and I think that’s the biggest thing. Even when you know Dan and you know what he’s capable of and how he works and how he maneuvers, you still want to believe him. But I still think that there’s something rotten going on because this guy, he’s too good to go out this way. He’s doing something.

“You know, Shane is walking, living proof that there actually is a Captain America. You’re such a good dude. I appreciate our friendship, man.”

DAN GHEESLING: Shane fulfilled a certain role in the house. He won competitions. He was super ripped and I’m just trying to flatter him at this point. We were friends and we talked a lot in the house. I just wanted to reiterate to him, “Hey, we’re friends,” and boost the ego a little bit. He was in tears, by the way. The more tears I see, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this is working.”

SHANE MEANEY: I started to tear up. Because he said the right things when he had to say them in order for him to advance in the game. I went into that whole house as real life, and in real life, I’m compassionate. I really care about other people. I care about their feelings. And that was probably my downfall because I respected what he said about me, and I took it to heart, and I did feel bad for him. So initially, I was pretty moved by what he said, and I think that was his whole point. He was trying to get to our heartstrings and just try to manipulate and say the things that we wanted to hear so we would feel bad for him.

JENN ARROYO: He’s going around, and it seems like he’s being genuine. I couldn’t take the guy seriously, but I was enjoying it. He was saying some decent stuff. Shane was very Captain America. I don’t know if any of it was really sincere, but sure.

The one and only Jenn City. You’re the first lesbian I ever met, and I just want to make sure you know how much you touched me.”

DAN GHEESLING: Jenn and I got along very well. I learned a lot about her life, and I’d say the most important thing we talked about — and had nothing to do with her sexual preferences — was that she was in this rock band, but I couldn’t put that on blast. That’s what I really wanted to say, but she tried to hide that from people. So I don’t really know what else I can say about Jenn, but it was true that I had never really gotten to know a lesbian before. In hindsight, I don’t know if it worked. I think she saw through it.

JENN ARROYO: I don’t know how a man in his 30s hadn’t met a lesbian somewhere in Michigan, but I guess it’s possible.

BRITNEY HAYNES: That better not be true, by the way, but moving on.

IAN TERRY: That didn’t go over great, if I remember right.

JENN ARROYO: I’m sure he did meet a lesbian, but she probably just didn’t want to get all into it. I don’t know what kind of s— he may have thought about the gay lesbian transgender community, but I’m imagining he may have had some beliefs that may have been different at that time, only because of his religious background and where he came from.

Next up is Britney. I know that we’re always going to have this bond that maybe only you and I understand as new people being married in this house and being separated from the people we love.”

DAN GHEESLING: Britney and I talked a lot about being newlyweds. I really enjoyed spending time with her, so it was the same thing with Shane and Joe, but really more genuine. I feel like we connected and related around that point, so it was just the same thing of bringing up something nonthreatening that we both enjoyed talking about. I also wanted to hit her emotional button to maybe make her cry more. It looks like she’s crying and misses her husband and we connected on this, so I’m really just trying to push emotional buttons at this point.

BRITNEY HAYNES: He knows me, and he knows how emotional I am. He knows my buttons. He knows the buttons to push. This is what is pure Dan Gheesling brilliant and why nobody else can compare to is his social game. This is such a teachable moment for the social game, in general, because he would spend hours, days, and weeks in the backyard talking to each one of us individually, one on one. And he was able to then take that information, tailor it to each of us at the funeral to put us on our most emotional peak. He was only able to do that because of the time investment that he has put in. I’ve literally never seen anything like it. He put in the time. He worked in that house 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

He never was one of the house guests who was lazy and sleeps until noon and doesn’t talk to anybody, and goes back to bed at eight. That was not his strategy. He was the houseguest who would talk to you in the backyard for hours about what you got for Christmas and what was on your second birthday cake, and what’s the best present you’ve ever been given. He would always make the conversation about you and he would always make you feel so important. He would just make you feel like he cared and that was what was so brilliant about his game. This moment in this funeral is where all of that paid off for him and came into play, because he knows each person’s individual weakness or what strings to pull.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I remember sitting there feeling so sad, because I don’t ever want somebody to be sad or to be heartbroken, and I cared for Dan so much. I looked at Dan as family. So at this point, I’m getting really upset that he’s that upset. I’m right in the middle of his little trap at this point.

JENN ARROYO: Britney definitely sticks out to me the most, because I feel like she may have even had a box of tissues with her or something. And I’m just looking at everybody, like, “You can’t be serious. The guy’s not dying! It’s not like he’s going to walk out the door and there are people with machetes just waiting to cut him up, put him on a grill, and serve him. He’s going to be alive. He’s going to be okay. He’s just possibly going out of the house.”

JOE ARVIN: Everybody’s freakin’ crying. I’m literally looking around the room going, “You people have lost your minds over one night this guy spent in a room.” It just made no sense to me. I couldn’t believe how gullible the house was.

JULIE CHEN: I was like, “These people are in tears. It’s working!” But I was also thinking, “Oh my gosh, they’ve been in this bubble so long they can’t see through his phoniness.” I felt like I could always see it, starting with the way he always addressed me as Mrs. Chen. It just never felt genuine. It felt more like, this guy is a politician. He’s an apple polisher. Some people fall for it; I never fell for it. It always felt like he had a motive and he had an agenda, and I thought the agenda was so obvious as a viewer. But watching it work on everyone, and seeing all the tears, I’m like, “This guy is brilliant!”

“And the last three are going to be a bit tougher. Ian, the more and more I was around you, the more you remind me of myself, because you love this place for everything it’s worth. And you singlehandedly made this experience for me.”

DAN GHEESLING: I talk about wrapping a lie in truth. There was a lot of truth to that. We spent so much time together. We were kind of the kids in the house and just really enjoyed Big Brother for Big Brother. Some of those tears are real at the end welling up. I really enjoyed being around him and wanted to make him feel like me. He loved the experience, so I wanted to make him feel the experience even more, if that makes sense.

BRITNEY HAYNES: Ian was fan of the game, having seen Dan’s season. Knowing that Dan’s one of the best of the best, that’s a huge ego boost.

IAN TERRY: I was a big fan of him on Big Brother 10. He was my favorite on that season for sure, and really, probably in my top five favorite players ever. And now he’s saying something very similar to what Mike Boogie said the round before. I was also a huge Mike Boogie fan going in the season and was very starstruck throughout the entire process. Honestly, one of the things that makes my game in that season weaker is the starstruckedness with the returning players. I don’t like having to vote out those that I feel like I already have a connection with because I’ve seen them on TV. And Dan was very good at using the lore of the show against me to influence my decisions.

FRANK EUDY: I’m like, “Save it. Have these conversations with these people one-on-one if you want.” I’ve never been one for pageantry, so he’s just up there, kind of patting himself on the back for saying good things, and s—ing everyone else’s deal along the way.

Alright, the guy in the carrot suit, Frank. There’s a couple things I’ve said about you I’m not proud of. You know, there’s something that I want to read to you upstairs and apologize face to face to you in private. Now’s not the time or place but after I’d like to talk to you by yourself and just get that off the table.”

DAN GHEESLING: If I said something nice about Frank, I think it’d blow the whole operation, because everyone at this point knows me and Frank are oil and water. We’re going head to head the whole game as competitors. That was a direct invitation because I know what’s about to happen. I’m not going to have time to tell him. It’s not about compliments with Frank. The game decision depends on him, so get him upstairs, mask it in apologizing privately, just get me and him in a room alone so no one’s thinking that we’re talking game.

FRANK EUDY: I knew the whole funeral was BS. At first, I thought it was just this last-ditch hail Mary, just trying to get some votes, and to also look like a nice guy. But the whole time I read it as BS because I knew that Dan was a competitor, and I knew that he wasn’t just rolling over, and everybody’s over there eating it up. The girls are crying. S—, Shane’s crying! And I’m just like, “You know that he doesn’t really mean this.” Dan’s won the game. The guy, he doesn’t quit, so it always read false to me the whole time. He’s just doing this because this is his way of trying to stay in the house. He obviously doesn’t mean this. He’s trying to get sympathy votes if he can. Of course, when he said, “I’ve got to talk to you, Frank,” I was curious to hear what he had to say.

JOE ARVIN: I was, “What the hell? Okay wait, wait, wait. What just happened?” Why it went from that, to “Hey, Frank, let’s meet in private.” I think everybody was stunned by that.

IAN TERRY: I was like, “Oh, this is going to be the last-ditch effort.” He’s not just up there to read him a Bible passage. I figured that he was going to make some sort of last-ditch plea, because why would you not just say it right there? But I was also like, “Well, it doesn’t matter, it’s not going to work.”

BRITNEY HAYNES: To be honest with you, I’m so dumb, and naïve, and emotional that I didn’t really suspect anything nefarious in that. I was just like, “All right, Dan has said some things about Frank. They worked on opposite sides of the house, they’ve been really against each other for the majority of the time. I think he probably just wants to clear the air and not go out on a bad note.” I really didn’t suspect that he was going to go up there and try to get off the block, I really didn’t.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I’m starting to melt. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this is so sweet. I didn’t know Dan had this in him.” So I’m kind of anticipating what he’s going to say to me, you know? Sprinkles, flowers, rainbows, unicorns, you name it. I think that it’s about to come my way.

So finally, you know, there’s Danielle. The last time I played this game, I learned a lot of tough lessons early on and I learned that you got to find one person and put 100 percent of your trust in them. I thought when I picked you that you would have similar qualities to Memphis Garrett, and through my own fault, I was wrong. We don’t need to get into it now, but in this game you’ll never earn my trust back. You know what you did, and in this game, you are dead to me. So don’t come to me and ask about it because it’s over. Moving forward, we can be friends outside this. I’ll be friends with all of you. But the game talk from me ends now. So I hope you guys understand that, that this was the death of Dan the player. I want the rest of the experience to be fun for everyone and not awkward. I really appreciate it.”

DAN GHEESLING: Well, it’s the crescendo, right? It’s like everybody turned over their cup. “Oh, there’s water in the cup, water in the cup, water in the cup. Oh, Danielle, no water in the cup.” I knew she was building up and waiting for the compliment like, “Hey, you’re my ride or die. I could trust you through thick or thin.” So part of that is trying to devastate her for a couple of reasons. One, the thing is when I talk about wrapping all these lies in truth, I was really upset with her. I’m not a great actor, so I was able to take that, because I really was angry, and then deliver that blow to her.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: Literally, my heart broke in half. Think about your best friend saying something horrific to you, not wanting to hear your side of it, and knowing that you had done nothing besides protect him the entire time. Before we got nominated, Frank came up to me and was like, “Would you ever turn against Dan? I was like, “Frank, I cannot lie to you. I will never vote against Dan. I cannot go against Dan.” So I was put on the block partially because of that. Dan was my one person. My word was my bond. So, to go through that and then go on the block against Dan, and then fight through the whole game like I had with him, for him to say that to me and just throw me away like a piece of trash? And then to tell me that I’m worthless, and that I don’t even compare to Memphis? I felt like I had done so much more than Memphis up until that point.

DAN GHEESLING: I didn’t know what was going to happen. I knew she’d be upset, but I didn’t know the ripple effect it would have on everyone else in the house. I knew it was going to cause confusion. What transpired around that I knew I had really little control over, but I knew Danielle would be upset by what I would say, and to me at least that could cause some diversion to the chaos.

SHANE MEANEY: My mouth dropped. I thought he was going to say the exact opposite, especially with all the nice things that he was saying to everyone else. He was her coach! I was shocked. And then I started questioning everything: “Okay, that doesn’t make sense. What did she do?” Is the Quack Pack safe?” And it made me question Britney at that point. And then it’s just like, “Okay, Is Ian still onboard?” People are playing both sides and it makes your mind go nuts.

JENN ARROYO: Holy s—, it was great! I freakin’ loved it. Especially the “You’re dead to me” part. But because they were super tight in the house, I thought she knew damn well that he was going to do something like this just to throw us all off. I was thinking that she’s got to be in on it, especially when he said, “You’re dead to me.” That’s a pretty intense thing, joking or not joking, to say to somebody. I was like, “I don’t know, man. This has got to be a setup.”

BRITNEY HAYNES: This is a hard turn and it was a total shock to me, complete and utter shock. I could not believe the words coming out of his mouth. For someone who loves to be on the sidelines of drama, for me, this can’t get better. This is incredible. This is the best night of my life. I’m just scooping up my handfuls of popcorn on the couch watching this girl melt into a pool of tears. It was so good/bad.

DAN GHEESLING: It was almost like a little payback for her getting those points in the paint situation. I’m not proud to say that, but that’s how I was able to deliver that to her. I was just going to say, “You’re dead to me,” but I truly don’t want to make someone upset, so even though it doesn’t make for as good TV I said, “In this game you’re dead to me” instead.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I was just like, “Are you serious? You have no respect or love for me as a person or anything, after everything we’ve been through to say such horrific things to me?” I didn’t take it as gameplay, I took it as an attack and kind of bullying. It hurt, because I wasn’t in the game at that moment, I was like, “This is one of my best friends saying this to me. How could he think that I would ever do that to him? And I’m so loyal.” It felt like a character attack, because that is something I would’ve never done to him. I’m like, “What in the hell did he think that I did? Because I got Spots?! This is really all me getting Spots?”

IAN TERRY: I went from feeling bad to feeling disgust. Not even so much in what he said. I thought what he said was harsh, but not even that harsh. It’s sort of a mild statement. But then with her reaction, something struck a nerve, and I just was just disgusted by it.

SHANE MEANEY: Danielle’s mouth was open, and she started crying. I was just a shoulder to cry on and ear to listen to at this point. She was in a bad place and I just kind of wanted to be there as a friend for her. Because at that point I don’t think she did have really anyone to go to. It was just a nasty side of Dan. I think in the long run he was just playing off of her emotions to get a reaction. And he got the reaction that he wanted.

FRANK EUDY: She was crushed when Dan said that, but Danielle would be crushed because she had a big zit on her forehead all damn summer and it was going to be on camera. I was like, “I’ve been sitting here battling you guys and on the block every other week, and this guy gets on the block, and he gives you guys a big speech, and you all are all crying? Where are the tears for Frank?” I didn’t have any sympathy for any of them at that point.

DAN GHEESLING: I tried to gloss it a little bit and say, “Hey, I’ll be friends with everyone.” I’m not a jerk. My thing about Big Brother is I’ll play hard, but I don’t want to make people feel bad, and I feel like that’s one time where I made her genuinely feel bad. It was like a double-edged sword. I never want to make someone cry in the game. However, I did what I had to do.

PART V: THE IMPOSSIBLE BECOMES POSSIBLE

After detonating a bomb in the living room with his takedown of Danielle, Dan escaped with Frank up to the HOH room, where he unleashed phase two of his plan: revealing Ian as the mole and selling out the rest of the Quack Pack. “I brought this Bible up here, not to read to you, but to swear on,” Dan began. “I have no power in this game. What I do have is information.”

FRANK EUDY: I could feel like he wanted to get away because he just dropped that bomb on Danielle and I was expecting him to maybe throw somebody under the bus. I just knew he was still fighting to stay in the house, and so I was like, “Is he going to try to be buddy-buddy with me now after all this?” He just acted like he dumped Danielle in front of everybody, so he wants to come up here and be like, “Look, Frank, you’re in the house by yourself. Your only option is to team up with me. I’m by myself now, too.”

DAN GHEESLING: The last card I have to play is to let Frank know that he got swindled, not by me, because earlier in the season him and Boogie got mad because something happened where they got played and it was me covering for Ian. There was a moment in time they both sat in the HOH room grilling me and grilling me and grilling me. And I just stood there and took the heat. At this point, it’s like, “I took all this heat. Let me see what he thinks about this. Did he know?” When I find out he doesn’t know, then I’m like, “Well, maybe we’ve got a shot.” This whole thing is a complete hail Mary. I don’t know what’s going to work and what’s not. When I see Frank’s wheels start to turn and him being almost more upset or mad that Ian duped him, I’m like, “Maybe this thing has got a shot to happen.”

With an upset Frank now telling Dan he wanted the duplicitous Ian out — but Ian being safe because of the Pandora’s Box Veto — Dan swooped in with an alternative: “This is my pitch to you. Britney’s a more dangerous player. She’s covered everywhere. As tight as I am with Ian, there is no doubt in my mind he’s tighter with Britney”

FRANK EUDY: I had kind of went around everybody after that double eviction acting like they’d manipulated Ian. And now things are starting to make a little bit of sense. Obviously, I had seen the relationship between Britney and Ian get closer over the last few weeks and I was a little uncomfortable with it. All that started to make sense.

DAN GHEESLING: My reaction is, number one, I can’t believe this is working. Number two, I can’t believe this is working. And number three, how is this happening? Here’s this guy, he’s wearing a carrot suit, taking a bath, gave up two HOHs — and regardless of that he’s still considering working with me? Not only that, but there was still some residual feelings for me for taking all this heat from Frank for Ian. It’s like, this indirect shot at Ian actually feels pretty good.

FRANK EUDY: Of the five over there, Ian and Britney were the tightest little duo. I also knew that at that point, Dan wasn’t actually the favorite to win. Britney was. If anything, us sending Britney home kept Britney from winning the game because she was in a really good spot to win because everybody liked her. Nobody really wanted to send her home except for Dan. So I was like, “Okay, really the smarter game move for me despite wanting to send Dan home is to send Britney home.”

ALLISON GRODNER: The way he turned Frank like that was unbelievable. I was skeptical that that would happen. That was crazy moment.

With Frank now on board, the two came up with a plan for Jenn to use her Veto on Dan, with Britney then going up on the block in his place, and then Frank, Jenn, Dan, and Danielle would form a new four-person alliance to get to the end. Dan sealed the pact by swearing on his Bible, his wedding ring, and his dead grandfather’s cross necklace.

DAN GHEESLING: When I was swearing on the Bible, everything I was telling him was the truth. At this point I wasn’t lying to him about any of the information in the past. However, some other stuff was not subject to that swearing. Everything I was telling him about what already happened was 100 percent true, but anything that wasn’t in the past isn’t, but I’m not going to tell him that.

FRANK EUDY: That was like an over-sell to me at that point. If anything, it makes me almost want to second guess him. If it crosses a line, it’s just because it’s unnecessary. And it kind of proves that you obviously have been dishonest in the past, because you’re trying to do all this stuff to prove a point. It kind of makes me feel bad for Dan. He’s sitting there with someone who he’s been up against this whole time, and he’s making all these promises to try to prove a point. It obviously seemed a little desperate.

DAN GHEESLING: I mean, I’m desperate. It’s like, you’ve got to drag me out of the house. I’m doing whatever it takes within the confines of the rules of the game to let this guy know I’m serious that this is all true. To me, I would never go out of that game without swinging for the fences. That was my way of swinging for the fences.

FRANK EUDY: The truth is, once he brought that thing up about Ian being with them for a while and I connected him and Britney’s relationship, I didn’t really need all that stuff.

DAN GHEESLING: I remember walking out of there feeling like, “Dan, you did everything you could. Jenn using the Veto is not going to come down to anything I say. It’s going to come down to if Frank can convince her or not. I remember her coming to me asking me about it, but I don’t believe I ever went to her and asked her to use it on me because I just wanted to put that in Frank’s court. Number one, I think she’s mad at me. Number two, Frank’s her alliance and he’s going to have way more sway with her than I do anyway.

Now that Frank and Dan had made a new final four deal, Dad had to get Danielle back on board by convincing her that his takedown of her at the funeral was all an act. To this day, viewers, players, and even the executive producers and the host all believed Dan’s anger at the funeral was all a ruse. It was not. They also believed it was — as he told Danielle — meant to gain her sympathy with the jury. It was not. Yet now he had to convince Danielle of that at their meeting in the arcade room.

DAN GHEESLING: If you had interviewed me the week after coming out of the Big Brother show, I’d be like, “Oh yeah, I orchestrated the whole thing.” But that’s revisionist history. I wanted to upset Danielle to cause chaos, but being able to sell that to her as a jury sympathy play was an after-the-moment fact. It’s like, “Okay here are all these big things that happened. How can I weave this story to make you feel the best about it, and to make this feel like this was in the best interest of your game?”

DANIELLE MURPHREE: Go re-watch the scene where he goes up to talk to Frank. Dan never once volunteered my name or said, “I want to save me and Danielle.” It was Frank’s idea. And then Dan was like, “Oh, okay. Yeah, then I’ll just tell Danielle that this was fake.” I don’t know if Dan ever had intentions of working with me again. His funeral was not fake. It just worked out in a situation to where he could manipulate it to look like it was fake.

ALLISON GRODNER: That’s news to me as well. The idea that there was truth behind his lashing out at her is not something I remember. I honestly didn’t know that.

DAN GHEESLING: The whole plan was to cause chaos and to get myself in a position to survive. So to be able to sell her on the fact that there was sympathy was something that I was like, “Hey, this is something that happened that I didn’t expect. Let me try and float this to her and see if she buys it.”

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I was devastated. So upset and hurt. And then, “Oh, you want to talk now?” I was so angry. I was thinking, “He’s trying to make me look bad, so he stays.”

DAN GHEESLING: I knew the number one thing I had to do was let her know that I was still looking out for her. Because this was actually the second time I had done something like this to her. I did something early on. In one of the first weeks, I told her she was on her own. She got really upset, and then I had to reel her back in. I didn’t know how she would react, but I started to tell her what happened.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I’m not believing it. I think that he’s totally full of s—. I really wanted to hit him with a pillow. I was already to that hysterical point that I didn’t even want to listen to him.

DAN GHEESLING: I was 100 percent worried that she wasn’t going to buy it. You never know how someone’s going to react. Danielle was a very smart player. She understood relationships in the house logically and strategically. Emotionally, she wore her heart on the sleeve, but I knew logically it would make sense to her. That gave me some confidence that there was a shot, but I didn’t know. She also could be mad because I embarrassed her in front of the whole house.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I just remember looking at him and crying and being like, “You broke my heart.” Just devastated. And then for him to be laughing and he was smiling and acting so jovial and that it was so hysterical to him also really pissed me off. Because this is real emotion. in that moment, it wasn’t gameplay. You hurt me badly. And it’s all hysterical to you. Dan does do cruel things, because he really does have a sick, distorted sense of humor. Or maybe he got a power trip off of it, or it made him feel like the bigger guy or something to see how much I cared for him.

DAN GHEESLING: There’s a moment when I see her smirk and the light goes off that we’re going to be safe, and that’s when I knew everything was fine. That’s the one thing with Danielle that I knew is that I could read her pretty well, and that’s why I trusted her. When she hits me with a pillow, I’m like, “Okay I’ve got her. Everything’s going to be fine and she trusts me.”

With Frank and Danielle now reeled in, it was up to the Head of Household to see if Jenn would use the Veto on Dan.

FRANK EUDY: She was in a little disbelief.

JENN ARROYO: I was like, “What?!” It was a lot to wrap my head around. But I thought about it and I wasn’t against the idea of Britney going home, only because I was very much into making Ian weak. I just saw him as the winner. I was like, this guy is going to win this whole damn thing, and I felt like no one else was really paying attention. I do remember it just took a few minutes to process, like, “I’m gonna save Dan? What?” Because that’s another dude who could totally win it, and let’s get his ass out. And that’s someone who’s been in the game before, so why not get his ass out? But I had a better relationship with Dan than I did with Britney.

FRANK EUDY: In the end, she just trusted my judgment on it. We were both looking at each other during the funeral, like, “This is kind of stupid and lame,” so she was like, “Hold on, I thought this didn’t affect us.” And I told her I still thought it was her best chance, even though it wasn’t going to improve her chances at all. Kind of a s—head move on my part, but at least it’s trying to throw some discourse on the other side of the house, because it did get Ian mad at Dan.

JENN ARROYO: “Do I make a deal with the devil? I’m not scared of making a deal with the devil.” That was my thought process, because I needed another ride along in this. There was no way I could somehow make it to a final two without someone. So it was like, ‘Let’s see if this works. If I’m in a spot of trouble, maybe he’ll save my ass.” That’s absolutely what it was. One thing I was a touch hesitant on was I didn’t want to send another female out, but I was also like, “F— Britney. She’s been in this game before, she can go out.” And I was all about hurting Ian, because that was the guy who could really win it.

All that was left was the Veto ceremony to see if Jenn City and Frank would actually go through it — and how the blissfully unaware other houseguests would react.

JENN ARROYO: They would wake us up in the morning with music. And sometimes they would ask, “Hey, what do you want to hear?” And that morning, they woke me up with “P-I-M-P” from 50 Cent, and I hopped up. I was already outside, I was ready to go, I was feeling the feeling, baby. Because I knew people had underestimated me. And I knew that people just really didn’t see me as any sort of threat. They saw me as whatever. They just didn’t know. I was like, “Well, a f—ing nuclear bomb is about to hit this place and I can’t wait to f—ing pull the pin.”

DAN GHEESLING: It’s almost like you’re playing a game of Clue and you know the murderer and you know who’s about to get murdered, and you know you’re going to win. When I see Jenn stand up at the Veto ceremony and do that, I’m pinballing with my eyes looking at everyone’s reaction.

BRITNEY HAYNES: I was completely shocked. Jen had been such a non-gamer, she had been such a non-force in the house, not even someone who’s “game” I ever even really noticed. I was in shock.

DAN GHEESLING: I see Britney realize what’s going on. Maybe not realize what’s going on, but she’s shocked. Then I see Ian start to figure it out.

IAN TERRY: I’m absolutely pissed, and I’m shocked that Dan actually managed to slide out of it. I knew that Frank wisened up, and he actually was making the right play. Now Frank’s actually making the correct move, which is frustrating to me.

SHANE MEANEY: At this point, I’m like, “Okay, that’s weird. Oh, boy, maybe this isn’t good for me.”

BRITNEY HAYNES: I thought Frank was then going to put Shane up because I had seen him talking to Shane in the backyard, so I thought that he probably was just giving him some warning. It also would have made sense for Danielle and Shane to be on the block next to each other, because they were a showmance.

JENN ARROYO: No one could believe I did that. No one even thought that something like that would happen. They were already thinking about next week and just going through the motions thinking, “Dan’s going home, he’s finally leaving the house.” And to do a move like that? Yeah, it felt great to pull that pin and f—ing drop that bomb. It was awesome. I loved it.

After Jenn used the Veto on Dan, it was Frank’s turn to address the house and name his replacement nominee.

DAN GHEESLING: I get the necklace around my neck, I sit down, and Frank starts to talk. Frank has not dropped Britney’s name, but I see Ian breathing heavily, shaking, looking back and forth. He sees the puzzle put together before anyone else. And Frank’s just jabbing him and basically saying, “Hey, it’s payback time. I can’t get you, so I’m going to get Britney.” I see Britney’s mouth drop and Ian’s like “No! No!”

SHANE MEANEY: I don’t think Ian saw it. Ian took it a lot worse than I did.

IAN TERRY: I’m not someone who takes losing kindly. I’m not a good loser at any game for a lot of reasons. One, I don’t lose games much, and two, just bad history with anytime I would lose. Even in Boy Scouts, I would lose that stupid game where you have to blow a little wooden boat through water with a straw. I remember I came in third place, and I threw this massive tantrum in front of everybody. I don’t take losing well.

BRITNEY HAYNES: As his speech starts to roll out, that’s when I start to realize, “Oh my God, this is happening.” Frank and I had screamed at each other earlier in the week about him yelling at Ian, so we were not on great terms by any means, but I just was not expecting it. I was just so oblivious to it.

JENN ARROYO: It was almost like the air got sucked out of the room. There were just tears, and Britney was crying, because she knew what that meant. I loved it. I was pumped. I have no regrets about it. I don’t give a s— what people say about it. It was awesome.

DAN GHEESLING: For me, at that moment it’s not time to celebrate. It’s time to look somber. When someone’s going down, you don’t rub it in their face. That was my moment to just internally go nuts, but don’t show a sliver of it externally.

FRANK EUDY: I could see in Britney’s face that she saw the win. She saw Dan going home and her winning in the end. She could’ve taken Ian to the end, and she was going to get the votes. It didn’t matter who she took. I think she was almost tasting it. I saw that look, and I’m not reveling in it by any means, but it made me feel like I made the right decision.

IAN TERRY: Even though I was that mad at Frank, I knew he made the right play, and I actually was more impressed that Frank had the balls to do it than I was that Dan was able to get himself pulled down.

FRANK EUDY: Ian was so mad at me for sending Britney home because he thought the same thing, that when Britney went home, that he couldn’t win. Because that was his closest ally, and he was upset because then he felt exposed. And he was.

BRITNEY HAYNES: As much as I knew that Dan was dangerous, I did not know that he could pull it off. I didn’t think anything would ever distract Frank from his number one target, which was Dan, and I didn’t even see it as being a possibility. I didn’t realize that Frank was going to take what happened with Ian out on me. I didn’t see that as a possibility. These were things I wasn’t even worried about. I essentially thought I was safe.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: That was probably my biggest regret was not being able to tell Britney. It ate me alive, and that moment still breaks my heart. Oh my God, I’m sick just thinking about it. I love Britney. I knew that I was going to have to lie to her. I was like, “Please Frank, pick somebody else.” But we don’t have that many people left yet, and I knew he was going to go after Britney. I was thankful it wasn’t Shane, but I was very, very upset.

BRITNEY HAYNES: I knew that she knew about it, 100 percent. But I also knew that Dan was driving Danielle’s game. He was the puppet-master, she was the puppet. He was driving every single thing that she did.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I could start crying right now. It still hurts me. That is the one lie throughout the entire game, even to do this day, if I take myself back to that moment, that hurts me. It was absolutely traumatic. But I was playing a game too, and I still needed to win that money.

DAN GHEESLING: I liked to see Ian squirm, but I do have a heart in the game and I really truly enjoyed playing with Britney. I felt game-wise good about Britney going home, but I didn’t feel personally good because I really like Britney.

BRITNEY HAYNES: Dan did this thing that caused me to get evicted and I was super mad about it and it was brutal. But at the end of the day, I knew that he was just a genius. Even as mad as I was, I was like, “He’s just that good. He got me. He can get whatever he wants.”

PART VI: THE AFTERMATH

Britney was eventually voted out by the house (receiving only Ian’s vote to stay), followed in order by Frank, Joe, and Jenn. On day 68. Danielle won HOH and nominated Dan and Ian for eviction. Danielle then also won the Power of Veto and agreed to Dan’s request to use the Veto on him, as long as he promised to evict Ian instead of Shane. Dan agreed, yet then voted Shane out anyway. After convincing both Ian and Danielle to throw the first part of the final HOH competition, Dan advanced straight to part three, where he lost to Ian. As the final Head of Household, Ian then evicted Danielle, leaving him and Dan as the final two members from whom the jury had to choose a winner. The jury overwhelmingly chose Ian as the champion of Big Brother 14 by a margin of 6-1, with a distraught Danielle awarding Dan his only vote.

IAN TERRY: Before the jury voted, I figured I had 90 percent chance of winning. You’ve got Joe, who says he wouldn’t piss on Dan if he were on fire. By the way, that was really the selling point for me to bring Dan to the final two. When Joe said, “I wouldn’t piss on him if he’s on fire,” that was the moment where I said, “This is the person I need to go to the end with.” So Joe’s locked. Britney is going to probably be voting for me. That’s two votes. Shane got burned horribly. You’re just accepting that that’s a vote Dan never gets now. I only need one more, with Frank and Ashley being the swing, I figured they’d vote together, and that Frank was going to be more pissed at Dan because Dan and Danielle did not give him that vote in the round where he went out.

DAN GHEESLING: I still felt like I was going to win, to be honest. I thought Jenn was a lock for me and I was counting on maybe an Ashley, a Jenn, and a Joe. I thought Britney was a toss-up and I was banking on Danielle, which would have been enough to win.

JENN ARROYO: I voted for Ian because I thought, “Damn, this kid is beating out a legend in the game.” And I felt like Dan had had his chance before, and Ian hadn’t had a chance before. And I respected that. So I threw the kid my vote.

DAN GHEESLING: I remember seeing Jenn’s vote and being like, “All right, I got no shot now.” Ian and Jenn had next to no relationship outside of being on the same team with Boogie. I put in time with Jenn. I could tell you so much about Jenn. I felt like we were friends. There’s a moment when you’re sitting in that seat and you have votes counted. When one or two don’t go your way that you’re depending on, you know you can’t win.

BRITNEY HAYNES: Frankly, at the end of the day, I knew Dan Gheesling was not going to win Big Brother 14. No matter who was up there, Dan was not going to win. They could have had a surprise twist and brought in Jodi, and put Jodi up there, and Jodi would have won the game. Dan was not going to win.

SHANE MEANEY: At that point, I was still very bitter. All the emotions were still very new. I was still struggling at that point in time. But Ian did play a good game. He had a lot of HOHs, he had some POVs, he played both sides. He and I didn’t have any arguments during the whole time. So his game play was spot on. Dan’s was good, but Ian did it in a better way — not a cutthroat way.

DAN GHEESLING: Internally, I felt if I could get to the end, as cocky as it sounds, how could you not vote for me to win? I had a huge oversight on the damage that I did in managing the jury. I had no idea that it would burn that many people. I thought people would maybe be able to take a step back and say, “Hey, look you played really hard,” but at the same time I sent people out in a brutal fashion and I definitely didn’t realize how mad they would be. I feel like I did everything I could to stay in the game and it cost me in the end, but I can’t fathom a nice way to stay in the game other than what I did.

BRITNEY HAYNES: I was around this jury and I knew for a fact Dan was not going to win. We talked about it at the roundtable. It was blatant. I’m sure they had to make it less blatant for the purpose of television, but it was blatant. He was not going to win. Me giving Ian my vote is a nod to, number one, our relationship and the fact that he was my final two. But also, Dan wasn’t going to win. He was not going to get those votes, period.

JENN ARROYO: People were mega-pissed at him. That was a bitter jury. The biggest mistake Dan made in his game was the jury management portion.

BRITNEY HAYNES: There is not a Big Brother handbook that you have to have any sort of moral compass. I don’t think that there is a fair or right way to play Big Brother. Everybody plays it different ways and it works out for people differently, but there isn’t a rule book. I think that the majority of the jury was very caught up in this rule book that they had in their mind of how people can or can’t do certain things. I know some people took the use of religion very personally and didn’t like that and that made them very anti-Dan because they thought that he manipulated religion as part of his strategy.

SHANE MEANEY: When you start swearing on the Bible, I understand it’s a reality show and you got to do what you got to get by. But that doesn’t do well with me. Do I agree with everything he did? I don’t, ethically. But I wish I went into that season knowing it was not real life and that you do everything you can to win the stinking game. You don’t care what you do, who you hurt. You give it your all. And you know what? He did. I just wish I had that same perspective.

DAN GHEESLING: 100 percent, I take responsibility for swearing on the Bible, my wedding ring and my grandfather’s cross. After everything that I’ve ever done, that’s the most backlash I got. Could I have done it without it? 100 percent. Did I need that? Nope. Did it hurt me in the end? Yes. In terms of votes, did it give a bad taste to a lot of people? Yeah. Would it have mattered? I don’t know.

JENN ARROYO: When it came to the religious stuff, I didn’t really care. I know people really took that very seriously, but I just saw it as just for the game — not like this dude does this on a daily basis at home or some s—. Give the guy a break.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: My vote for Dan was more of a bitch move of, “I see you and I see how much of a s—ty person you are, and I’m not going to stoop to your level. I’m going to stay true to who I am. No matter how much I can’t stand it. I gave you my word. I’m going to follow it through.” I didn’t want to vote for him, but I didn’t want to vote for Ian either. Every time I saw Ian, I saw Shane. I was so mad at Ian that last week. I was like, “You’re in Shane’s spot right now.” I was disgusted that Ian knew Dan was going to do that and didn’t tell me. It was bitterness. I was bitter.

JOE ARVIN: One of the biggest reasons that I heard amongst the Jury to not give it to Dan in the room wasn’t bitterness — it was that he had already won the game. That sucks. I would rather you lose to bitterness then to, “Hey, we don’t want him to win twice.” They were just hell bent on him not getting it twice. And Ian being so likable and so cute, and all that. That’s where they put him in. That’s the words that were used in that deliberation room. “We can’t give it to Dan twice, look how cute Ian is.” Ultimately, in the end, I believe the reason why Dan did not win is because no one wanted him to win twice.

IAN TERRY: That’s another reason I wanted to bring Dan to the end. In any season with returning players, there’s always at least a little bit of a bias against the returning players if the jury is mostly newbies.

BRITNEY HAYNES: Frank felt so personally burned by Dan, so bad. He was able to persuade aj lot of people in the jury that Dan had played unfairly. That made them think that he didn’t really deserve to win because he had used all of these unfair tools like his Bible and his ring, and grandfather’s cross to gain trust with people, and that shouldn’t be allowed. Frank was able to really sell that argument in the jury house. Joe was really upset in respect to the religion stuff. Pretty much the only two people who would be willing to vote for Dan were myself and Jenn City. She was the only other person who would say, “Well, that just makes him a really good gamer.” But no one else thought that way.

FRANK EUDY: I didn’t ever look at my vote as bitter. I voted for Ian because he had the biggest impact on my game and me not winning. He won the competitions when he needed to in the end. He persevered through what seemed like a level of social anxiety, bless his heart, that I think a lot of people have not had to deal with. In the end, he’s the main reason that I didn’t win. Without Ian there, we don’t probably get blindsided like that, and I don’t have the Quack Pack to deal with, the stupidest name in history. It’s embarrassing getting sent home and knowing that it was all because of a 21-year-old kid and the Quack Pack —  that they let him name so he’d feel a part of the team.

ALLISON GRODNER: They were a bitter jury. Frank was duped a couple of times by Dan and had wanted him out, and then got got by him basically. And I remember that jury roundtable, and he was not happy. So there was a bitter jury component.  But I have to say, Ian really had an amazing final speech. He won it hands down in that finale.

RICH MEEHAN: I remember myself watching Dan saying, “Wow, this is like the best game playing I’ve ever seen.” It was incredible. But Ian definitely got the better of Dan in those speeches and that Q&A with the jury.

JULIE CHEN: At the time, I thought the jury didn’t make the right call because I remember at the time I thought, “Wow, they probably voted emotionally, and it was their egos because they didn’t like getting played.” I remember thinking that at the time, and I thought “Ian, you’re so lucky.” But I re-watched the finale for the first time yesterday, and when Ian was stating his case and saying why he deserved to win, Dan interrupted him. He shook his head in kind of like a “that’s not true,” putting him down way. Re-watch Ian’s speech. He really did well, and there was something so likable and pure about him. And in that moment when Dan shook his head, there was something very unlikeable about Dan. And if I were voting, that would hurt my opinion of you giving you my vote. Like, let the man speak. You’re going to get your chance. Be a gentlemen.

The drama and aftershocks for some of Dan’s victims continued well after they left the Big Brother house.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: After the show, I was just done with him. My family was so upset and my dad didn’t even come to finale night because of Dan. My dad respected Dan and thought Dan was going to protect me, and my dad’s name is also Dan. So my dad was afraid to come because he would’ve confronted and gotten into a verbal altercation, and knew that he couldn’t be in that situation. He would’ve gotten very protective. I remember Dan saw my brother after and ducked inside a room, the coward.

DAN GHEESLING: I understood. I got it. We were supposed to ride to the end. If that would have happened to me, I can’t sit here and tell you I wouldn’t have been salty for a while. I get it because we were close in the house. We had a really close friendship. I trusted her implicitly.

SHANE MEANEY: You know what? I still haven’t watched the season in full, to be honest. I really struggled with it. It was how everything happened at the end with me. It was very hard to deal with.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I didn’t speak to Dan for a really long time after the show. I didn’t speak for several reasons, including my respect for Shane. Shane was going through a lot of trouble at the time.

SHANE MEANEY: There’s a lot of things that weren’t disclosed to me about Dan and Danielle’s relationship in that show, and sometimes it hurts knowing that a lot of things weren’t said to me that Dan and Danielle had conversations about. And obviously she had her trust more so in him than me it seemed.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: Shane and I dated for a while outside the house, but Shane had a lot of stuff he needed to work through personally that he couldn’t do in a relationship.

SHANE MEANEY: She didn’t disclose a lot of stuff to me. And there was a lot of bitterness built up in my heart. I just don’t believe that I was told everything that Dan and Danielle had discussed. So I just felt like I was misled and it really broke my trust a lot. So that’s what I have struggled with the past seven years. It’s hard to get that around my brain. But God had a different plan. It wasn’t meant to be. It’s just something I got to live with.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: Shane never understood me voting for Dan over Ian. He was like, “How could you vote for somebody that did that to me?”

SHANE MEANEY: I really struggle with the fact that Danielle was the only one to vote for him. That really put a lot of bitterness in my heart, like “You’re going to vote for someone that voted me out? That doesn’t make sense. When you had my best interests at heart, you’re going to vote for him?” And she was like, “Well, I wanted to be a woman of my word.” That hurts when you see that happen at the end.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: Do you know how many times Shane wanted to get rid of Dan? And I didn’t let him. He didn’t do it because of how much he loved me, right? Then, at the very end, Dan lies to me, gets rid of Shane, and ruins my game.

DAN GHEESLING: Danielle was the only person in the house I trusted 100 percent, and I think it was vice-versa, but I was always a little bit skittish because she also had that with Shane. I’d like to believe she would have taken me over Shane, but I didn’t, so I didn’t want to leave that to chance.

SHANE MEANEY: It was bad, but God has a plan and maybe I had to go through something to learn something. But I’m still trying to dictate why I went through what I did and how hard it was for me. It is what it is. It’s all part of life. I guess what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s taken a long time for me to get strong though, to be honest.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I waited until a few months after Shane and I had broken up. Dan had reached out to me again and he really wanted to talk to me. I hated him for a while after the show and I had really been searching my soul on it. To hate somebody takes a lot of energy, and it was taking a lot of unnecessary energy that I didn’t want to have.

DAN GHEESLING: I understand why she was mad, and I get it, and I’m just glad that she’s not mad anymore.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: Dan and I have still not seen each other since we were on the CBS lot at finale night seven years ago. I honestly don’t know what I would do if I saw him. I don’t know if I’d cry, scream, or yell. I don’t know.

Seven years later — and after watching the season play back — how do the jury members feel about their votes now?

FRANK EUDY: I’m happy with my vote. I always felt like I was close with Ian in the beginning, and even though he went against me and was part of the reason that Mike and I eventually went home, it got him to the end. I can’t blame somebody for making a move to get the win.

JOE ARVIN: No disrespect to Ian because I absolutely love him, but if I had to do it over again, it would be Dan by far. Being in the house and the way that it happened, you didn’t see the magnitude of Dan’s moves. Once you get out of that house and we start watching it for ourselves, it was crazy just how good Dan was.

SHANE MEANEY: I’d stick to Ian, 100 percent. I absolutely would. Dan broke his word with me. It was just lie after lie. I did have some bitterness. It’s gone now. I’ve forgiven Dan. And I’ve forgiven Danielle for some of things she didn’t disclose to me. But, yes, it’s very hard to vote for someone that was the reason you left the game that you potentially could have won.

BRITNEY HAYNES: I think they were both deserving to win, and I think that a vote towards either of them is a good vote. I realize the public obviously thought that Dan should have won, and I can totally see why they wanted Dan to win, but I still think a vote for Ian is fair. He was in some really bad situations, he betrayed his main original alliance, he made some big moves in the game, and he took some heat for it. I did feel and still do feel comfortable voting for either of them.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: I still would’ve done the same thing. I’m that loyal of a person. Plus, if I can take my emotions out of it, Dan, as sneaky of a snake as he is, he played the best game. I feel like Dan played a way better game than Ian, and that’s never going to change. No matter if Dan and I never talk again, I’m still going to feel that way.

JENN ARROYO: Seven years later, I sometimes think I should have thrown in my vote to Dan. And then, in other ways, I’m cool with Ian. But in most ways, I could really f—ing care less.

Considering the mixture of strategy and spectacle, is Dan’s funeral the greatest moment ever over 24 seasons of Big Brother to air in the United States?

RICH MEEHAN: There are a lot of incredible moments that have happened, but this is always the one that comes up first in our minds. This is definitely top of the list.

ALLISON GRODNER: In terms of encapsulating everything that is really fun to watch about Big Brother, it has the spectacle, it has the emotion, it has the drama, it has the immense strategy, the psychological component, the human chess game that we talk about so much when we talk about how this game is played — it had it all.

DANIELLE MURPHREE: Oh, yeah. And, you know, even still to this day, beyond the Dan stuff, Britney and I have not spoken ever since the game. I think she was so hurt and betrayed by the fact that I knew that she was going to go on the block. She’s never said an ill word about me, nor would I. But the fact that we’ve never spoken breaks my heart.

BRITNEY HAYNES: It was amazing. It was flawless. It was a culmination of all of Dan’s hard work and the power of his mist. We coined this phrase very early on in the game: the mist that he would put you under when he talked to you. You were under his mist. The funeral was the mist at the most powerful point. For me, if I’m going to have to go out and lose my second time playing Big Brother, I’m glad that I went out on something so iconic and memorable, versus just being any other old boot. It’s so sad how dumb I was though. I’m sadly not any smarter still.

JULIE CHEN: I think it probably is the single greatest moment in Big Brother history. It’s definitely the top three. To really answer that, I’d have to lock myself in the Big Brother house for a year, and then re-watch every season.

FRANK EUDY: From my perspective, any time anyone’s ever brought the funeral up, I’ve kind of scoffed at it because I never felt like the funeral did anything to change the game. It was him ratting his squad out up in the HOH room and unnecessarily making promises on his cross and Bible. None of that promising on any of that made any difference. It was just him filling me in on what I didn’t know before.

IAN TERRY: I know Dan likes to make a big spectacle of everything, right? One of the things he talked about was that he wanted to be considered the best. Fair enough, that’s an interesting thing to aspire to. But for him, the silliness and the spectacle sort of adds to that.

JENN ARROYO: It was one of the coolest, awesomest moments in Big Brother history. That segment should live in the Big Brother Hall of Fame. The storytelling, the dramatics, the everything, and just the endless spin and aftermath of it all.

JOE ARVIN: When it comes to Big Brother history and iconic moments, nothing else comes close. It’s the most epic moment in the history of Big Brother. The main question I get asked still today is, “What do you think of his funeral?” I’ll see someone in a grocery store, “How about Dan’s funeral? Did you know? How did you feel?” I’m like, “Dude, ask about me, not Dan!”

DAN GHEESLING: Is it the greatest Big Brother moment ever? That’s not up for me to say. I feel like I can walk away from Big Brother knowing that I did everything I could. My thing is I always want to play as hard as I can. When there’s an opportunity to make a big move, I want to do it and I want to do it in a memorable way because that’s what makes the show fun.  I always wanted to leave my mark on the show, and whether it’s the greatest move of all time, I think you can debate that because ultimately it didn’t lead to a victory, but I’d like to believe it’s one of the most memorable. To be honest, when I got off the show, I had no idea how big that moment had become. I remember in interviews people would ask me, “Hey what about the funeral in the house?” I was like, “Oh, it was just another meeting.”

EPILOGUE: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

DAN GHEESLING and his wife Chelsea have two sons Desmond (3) and Miles (1). Dan resides in the Detroit suburbs of Michigan and also has You Tube and Twitch channels where he is “creating clean, positive entertainment in the gaming space.”

DANILLE MURPHREE is a surgical ICU nurse in Dallas, having moved to Texas in 2017 after living in Alabama and Seattle.

IAN TERRY is working as a Business Transformation Consultant (“It’s like a management consulting type thing with a software company”) in Houston, Texas.

BRITNEY HAYNES is a married stay-at-home mom in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with her three daughters, ages six, four, and two. She also appeared earlier this year on season 31 of The Amazing Race, competing with partner — and fellow Big Brother 14 contestant — Janelle Pierzina, where the duo finished in eighth place.

SHANE MEANEY is still flipping houses in Bennington, Vermont and developed his own business, Quality Homes Inc. He is currently seeing a woman named Britney he dated previously before going on Big Brother, and is very dedicated to his local Mission City Church.

FRANK EUDY is working in Naples, Florida, where he lives with his girlfriend.

JENN CITY ARROYO is still rockin’ like Dokken. She recently played on the Warped tour and her band Kittie released a live reunion DVD earlier this year. Jenn City lives in Brooklyn and just started recording her second solo album while also working in metal 3D printing.

JOE ARVIN lives in Northwest Indiana and is a global corporate executive chef for a company called Antunes. He develops recipes and does demonstration food cooking across the United States. If you run into him on the street, ask him about himself, not Dan Gheesling.

JULIE CHEN, ALLISON GRODNER, and RICH MEEHAN continue to bring us the madness and mayhem that is Big Brother three times a week. The Big Brother 21 finale will air Sept. 25 on CBS.

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Episode Recaps

How Elizabeth Ames wrote The Others Gold, your new favorite campus novel

https://ew.com/author-interviews/2019/08/27/elizabeth-ames-the-others-gold/

It’s hard for a debut author — or even the most seasoned author, really — to cut through the literary noise. We would never attempt to classify any current period as Peak Book the way our small screen brethren can more easily do (book eras are best viewed through a more historical lens), but today’s literary landscape is certainly saturated in a way it never has been. Thank a far more democratic publishing industry, thank #bookstagram, thank the fact that you no longer have to be an established white man to have the audacity to believe you may be able to publish a novel, but either way there are far more tomes on shelves than any casual or professional reader could hope to read.

Even the most well-meaning book editor — laden as our desks are with piles of potential — can miss something every now and again. In this case, it takes something to catch our eye, like a dazzling cover (Ling Ma’s Severance comes to mind, or anything by Eve Babitz) or an impressive set of blurbs. This is exactly the case with Elizabeth Ames’ The Other’s Gold (out now).

It comes recommended by Celeste Ng, Jesmyn Ward, and Kristen Roupenian (who wrote 2017’s Cat Person, which became The New Yorker’s most-read short story of the year), in blurbs that boasted the book “feels like having open-heart surgery performed on you” and that urged “Read her, and you will be richer for it.” At the risk of revealing our highly-sophisticated selection process, we knew we must pick up this novel.

For Ames, a debut author who attended the same MFA program at the University of Michigan that both Ward and Ng did before her, the phenomenon of releasing her first book with the praises of literary superstars is as surreal as it seems.

“How often in your life are you inside a moment that is a dream come true?” she muses from her home in Cambridge, Mass. “When you start to have people feel connected to the characters, it’s very rewarding. It’s why I want to be a writer — to do for others what I have gotten from books.”

The Other’s Gold can best be described as a friendship novel, a campus novel, and a reflection on motherhood all in one. It introduces four girls as they move into their freshman dorm at the (fictional) elite Quincy-Hawthorn College in New Hampshire. Lainey is a free spirit soon-to-be gender studies major from an intellectual family, with a new hair color to match every season and mood; Margaret is from a small Midwestern town and instantly captures the attention of everyone on campus; Ji Sun is obscenely rich, born in Seoul, schooled in Switzerland and summered in the Philippines; Alice is, in typecasting terms, a WASP.

The novel follows the friends as they develop a deep bond, simultaneously surprising each other, themselves, and the readers as they shed and defy the stereotypes that a literary foursome can so often fall into. They survive boyfriends and oppressively pretentious Dead Poets Society-aspiring professors in college, career struggles, and relationship drama during their early post-grad years in New York City, and the debilitating adjustments required of new motherhood — all described in beautiful, occasionally achingly familiar form by Ames.

The author came to this story by way of many inspirations, but perhaps first and foremost by her experience living in the Harvard dorms as an adult (a new mother, in fact). After completing stints at the Elliot Bay Book Company, an arts nonprofit, an artists colony in France, and getting an MFA, Ames and her husband moved to Cambridge for her husband’s post-grad work, where the idea for a novel started to come together.

“I definitely was one of those kids who wanted to be a writer as soon as I learned it was possible you could be,” she tells EW. “I was scribbling little books to sell at a lemonade stand and my best friend and I would tell each other stories that were novelistic in scope — she’s the one to whom the novel is dedicated.”

At Harvard, with a six-month-old daughter in tow, Ames walked around campus observing not only everything that contributes to the cyclical back-to-school energy so many of us continue to feel years after our own formal educations are over but the friend groups beginning to form among the students.

“It wasn’t so much nostalgia or envy [that I felt] but I was so far removed from that time that it felt like another planet,” she says of the campus ecosystem. “I think writing this book was a way to imagine myself back into that time and to invent the quartet of friends that I myself didn’t have.”

Ames also found herself drawn to the elusiveness of elite institutions. The enduring appeal of the boarding school novel is a testament to readers’ collective obsession with a place where you are encouraged to spend all your time thinking about your own identity and intellectual growth. Even though readers tend to idealize these settings, Ames made sure to incorporate the highs and the lows into The Other’s Gold.

The novel is split into four parts, each structured around one of the friends’ worst mistakes: Alice’s accident, Ji Sun’s accusation, Margaret’s kiss, and Lainey’s bite (feel free to extrapolate, but we’ll refrain from further explanations of the individual mistakes for fear of spoilers). Ames began writing the final portion, about the bite, first based on a desire to dramatize the overwhelming emotions she was experiencing during her transition to motherhood.

“I was really interested in the porousness of that time,” she explains. “It’s a time of new creation but you feel like you’re teetering on the brink of destruction in a way that is very powerful and frightening.”

She had written a short story about the kiss, so she began to form those two sections into the novel that is on shelves today. As so many author experience, the final story isn’t so much one that she sketched out from the beginning but one that began to take shape and transform as she developed the characters.

“It sounds so bizarre but the characters start to walk in the room and demand your attention,” she says. “You start to see these people and believe in them as if they’re in your life.”

Reading The Other’s Gold tends to evoke a flood of feeling, from educational nostalgia to the reminder of how fleeting that period of time in which you are truly entrenched in the details of your friends’ lives really is. And, for those of us who have made life-altering mistakes (read: Everyone, ever), you’re liable to while away many late nights pondering their magnitude and consequences. The dichotomy in how we relate to our own mistakes is evident in the novel — Alice arrives at college completely burdened by hers and unable to forgive herself, while Ji Sun fails to recognize hers as a mistake at all.

“I’m really interested in what happens when you have the distance to see your own worst mistakes,” says Ames. “Do I know what my biggest mistake is? And who gets to say? I feel like my own are the times when I didn’t act kindly enough, but it’s more for the person I hurt to say.”

At the brink of publication, and with literary heavyweights on her side, Elizabeth Ames is likely staring down a writing career that will be anything but a mistake. She confesses the usual stresses as something that was once so personal gets born out into the world, but she’s following the advice of her mentors Ng and Ward that the most important thing is to cherish the readers who spend time with your book (and the more sober counsel that no matter how accomplished an author, they will always fear that this book is their last).

“I’m a worrier,” she admits. “But I’m also trying to lean into the joy.”

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The people and performers of Afropunk 2019

https://ew.com/music-festivals/2019/08/26/afropunk-2019-photos/

Many American music festivals today struggle to stand apart. Afropunk is not one of them. Based on a 2003 documentary by James Spooner, the annual event was originally meant to shine a light on a burgeoning community of black musicians in the overwhelmingly white punk and hardcore movement. It has since expanded its palate into an exploration of the black diaspora, leaning more heavily into soul, R&B, and hip-hop while also launching festivals in Atlanta, London, Johannesburg, and Paris.

The theme of this year’s event, which took place Aug. 24 and 25, was We See You, and featured headlining performances by Jill Scott, FKA Twigs, and Kamasi Washington, as well as a surprise set by Alicia Keys. EW sent photographer Flo Ngala to Commodore Barry Park to document it all.

Kasami Washington

Kasami Washington

Flo Ngala

Santigold

Alicia Keys

Danny Brown

Brittany Howard

Brittany Howard

Flo Ngala

Jidenna

Leon Bridges

Tierra Whack

Gary Clark Jr.

Leikeli47

 

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Fall Books Preview: The 40 biggest titles of the season

https://ew.com/books/2019/08/26/fall-books-preview-40-biggest-titles/

The New Year gets all the credit in the self-improvement space, with its resolutions and dry Januaries and general air of rebirth, but for the true bookworm, the fall is the ideal time to turn over a new, perfectly crisp, reading leaf. Not only does the season inspire a callback to school supply shopping, planners, and the excitement of a syllabus, but it’s also the strongest time of year for great literature. As the awards shortlists beckon, publishers send their long-awaited prestige titles to the shelves.

This year proves to be no exception. Below, EW’s book editors select the 40 titles for which we’re most excited. This year’s fall must-list reflects the best of everything on offer, from the literary A-listers still going strong to the debut darlings poised to be the next big thing.

THE HEAVYWEIGHTS

The books everyone is (already) talking about — for very good reason

The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood
Thirty-four years after the publication of her startlingly prescient novel The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood delivers its potent sequel. The Testaments enters the world stage amidst a political environment that could be described as Atwoodian during its better days, so it feels like no accident that the novel outlines the early stages of Gilead’s juicy, cathartic, and long-awaited downfall — all orchestrated from within its iron-clad inner sanctum. It arrives as a fourth season of the Hulu adaptation is in the works, which could tee up some narrative confusion — but instead, the sequel will provide the framework for what is likely the final bow of the series. (Sept. 10) —Seija Rankin

The Institute, by Stephen King
Think of this novel as Stephen King’s take on X-Men‘s Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, but the kids get there because the school murdered their parents. (Sept. 10) —SR

The World That We Knew, by Alice Hoffman
Most casual Hoffman fans came to her via 1995’s Practical Magic (the source material for the hit film of the same name) and the recent prequel, The Rules of Magic, but her next title is a major departure in subject and tone. In short, it’s a holocaust survival tale that weaves in elements of magical realism: Three young girls on the run from the Nazi regime rely on unconventional means to stay alive. (Sept. 24) —SR

The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The National Book Award winner has published a memoir, two books of essays, and the latest Black Panther graphic novels, and now he turns his sights onto literary fiction for the first time. The Water Dancer‘s hero, Hiram Walker, is born a slave but possesses a strange power that saves his life during an early drowning accident; the tome follows him through the fight against slavery. That’s about all that can be said without giving away too much of this powerful plot, but trust that it’s worth the wait to find out. (Sept. 24) —SR

The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
The prolific author returns to a familiar — and familial — motif in her 19th novel. Like much of Patchett’s work, the story of The Dutch House covers decades, beginning after World War II (when the Conroy family patriarch purchases the home in question) and traversing all the way to the present day, with the grown Conroy children still reeling from the aftermath of being expelled from the home by an (evil) stepmother. (Sept. 24) —SR

Year of the Monkey, by Patti Smith
Does anything conjure an era more than Just Kids does the early 2010s? You could hardly move a muscle in New York City without knocking into a hipster gripping their well-worn copy of Patti Smith’s memoir, which recounts her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. This time the musician-turned-author takes readers through her year of solo travel and self-discovery, starting on the coast in Santa Cruz, Calif., and viewed through the lens of the lunar New Year (of the monkey, of course). (Sept. 24) —SR

Grand Union: Stories, by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith fans have been chomping at the proverbial bit for a narrative follow-up to 2016’s Swing Time (EW editors included) and her upcoming short-story collection is as close as we’re going to get — for now. But novel purists need not worry, as the author’s uncanny ability to craft deliciously realized characters is on full display here (as is her dark sense of humor and biting take on modern politics). There’s a description of a lazy river with an all-inclusive resort that can only be described as a masterpiece and a tale about an acclaimed author visiting the West Village in the midst of the Brett Kavanaugh SCOTUS hearings, to name a few. (Oct. 8) —SR

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, by Ronan Farrow
While the title is pretty self-explanatory, we’ll offer more context and say that this is Ronan Farrow’s large exposé bookending his Harvey Weinstein reporting. It’s highly top-secret but is being touted as part spy novel, part investigative journalism, and will uncover all the systems — and people — who worked together to keep Hollywood’s sex crimes under wraps as long as possible. (Oct. 15) —SR

Find Me, by André Aciman
For everyone who saw 2017’s Call Me By Your Name and wished for nothing more than to spend more time with Elio, Oliver, and the rest of the captivating characters, André Aciman has heeded the call. The sequel opens as Elio’s father travels to Rome and meets an enthralling young woman on the train. Elio is now a professional pianist and Oliver a college professor in New England, but Find Me brings them back together again in predictably complicated and beautiful ways. (Oct. 29) —SR

THE PRIZE-FIGHTERS

The literary darlings of the season — get these on your radar 

Cantoras, by Carolina De Robertis
The perspectives of five women living through a Uruguayan dictatorship propel this searing novel by The Invisible Mountain author De Robertis. The author sensitively and singularly touches on themes of queerness, community, and perseverance. (Sept. 3) —David Canfield

Red at the Bone, by Jacqueline Woodson
Woodson moves seamlessly between children’s and adult literature; indeed, she’s received the most prestigious of prizes for both. She returns to the latter field with this slim but potent book, which explores experiences of sexuality, race, and gender across decades, as members of a Brooklyn-dwelling family are forced into choices and lives that forever shape the next generation. (Sept. 17) —DC

Make It Scream, Make It Burn, by Leslie Jamison
Two books, two hit (and EW-endorsed) New York Times best-sellers — Jamison has emerged as a giant in the world of creative nonfiction. She returns with a beautifully compiled collection of previously published essays (including one for which she was named a National Magazine Award finalist) reflecting on obsession and longing. (Sept. 24) —DC

The Topeka School, by Ben Lerner
Autofiction master Lerner (10:04) returns with his most expansive novel to date, tracking the lives of a high school debate champion and his two “lefty” psychologist parents in Kansas’ capital city, circa 1996. Narration from the present-day and interludes hinting at a terrible tragedy add intrigue to this study of polarization and toxic masculinity. (Oct. 1) —DC

Frankissstein, by Jeanette Winterson
Don’t just take our word for it: Months before this radical retelling was scheduled to hit shelves stateside, it nabbed a spot on the Man Booker Prize longlist. And for good reason: Frankissstein ingeniously reimagines the Mary Shelley legend as a wild meditation on identity and the body. (Oct. 1) —DC

Olive, Again, by Elizabeth Strout
Olive Kitteridge returns! Strout begins this lyrical follow-up where the original (Pulitzer Prize-winning) novel left off — tracing the protagonist’s life through her second marriage and continued relationship with her son, and delving back into her small Coastal Maine town. (Oct. 15) —SR

All This Could Be Yours, by Jami Attenberg
It wouldn’t be a Jami Attenberg novel without a difficult family at its center. The New Orleans-set All This Could Be Yours spins secrets and resentments in its portrait of a strong-willed lawyer who returns home to contend with the legacy of her abusive, dying father. (Oct. 22) —DC

Nothing to See Here, by Kevin Wilson
The reliably idiosyncratic author, best known for The Family Fang, dreams up his most outlandish — and curiously affecting — premise yet in this, erm, fiery family portrait, about a single woman who becomes the caretaker for young twins with a bizarre ability: Whenever they get upset, they spontaneously combust. (Oct. 29) —DC

In the Dream House, by Carmen Maria Machado
Machado’s fantastical first book, the genre-bending collection Her Body and Other Parties, scored major plaudits and is being developed into a high-profile series for FX; in her next book, equally galvanizing in form and execution, the author turns inward, recounting and reclaiming a harrowing episode from her past. (Nov. 5) —DC

The Revisioners, by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
Few capture the literary world’s attention with their debut like this author did; her first novel, A Kind of Freedom, was nominated for the National Book Award and earned several other top accolades. Her anticipated follow-up offers a bracing window into Southern life and tensions, alternating between two women’s stories — set nearly 100 years apart. (Nov. 5) —DC

THE CELEB PORTRAITS

The season sees A-list tomes of all varieties, from exhaustive biography to posthumous memoirs

The Contender, by William J. Mann
Marlon Brando reigned over Hollywood in an era before it was possible to know every little thing about an actor’s life — but this biography is going to change that. Mann went through Brando’s personal archives to craft a story that covers not only his behind-the-scenes persona but the way in which he led the charge for a merging of Hollywood and protest culture. (Oct. 15) —SR

Touched by the Sun: My Friendship with Jackie, by Carly Simon
Did you know that Carly Simon had a friendship with the late Jackie Kennedy Onassis? Neither did we. Turns out they met at a party on Martha’s Vineyard (of course they did) and the rest was history — and, yes, the plot of this memoir. (Oct. 22) —SR

The Beautiful Ones, by Prince
The memoir that the musician began writing before his untimely death in April 2016 is finally hitting shelves, packaged and framed by editor Dan Piepenbring (who also co-wrote this summer’s Manson murders exposé Chaos). It will also include photos, sheet music, and scrapbooks from his personal collection. (Oct. 29) —SR

Little Weirds, by Jenny Slate
In Jenny Slate‘s own words, this memoir contains the following: heartbreak, a French-kissing rabbit, a haunted house, and divorce — plus a multitude of other topics. Expect this collection to be as charmingly disarming as any of the actress’ onscreen work. (Nov. 5) —SR

Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge, by Sheila Weller
The biography of Hollywood darling Carrie Fisher traces her biggest career moments (including, of course, Star Wars) as well as her life off-camera, from the family she built with talent agent Bryan Lourd to the more tumultuous and tragic moments around it. (Nov. 12) —SR

THE BIG-DEAL DEBUTS

These astonishing first-time authors write from deeply personal places

Dominicana, by Angie Cruz
Swayed by the promises of an older man, a 15-year-old girl living in mid-’60s Dominican Republic gets married and immigrates to New York City on the hope that her entire family can eventually join her. In Cruz’s rendering, the inevitability of hardship and the excitement of new possibilities makes for an affectingly complex journey into adulthood. (Sept. 3) —DC

The Secrets We Kept, by Lara Prescott
This propulsive slice of historical fiction imagines the publication of Boris Pasternak’s subversive Doctor Zhivago as a covert Cold War drama, with Americans vying to see it through and Soviets working to prevent it from going public. On both sides of the conflict, women drive the narrative. Prescott combines Mad Men-esque period style with a spy story worthy of John Le Carré. (Sept. 3) —DC

How We Fight for Our Lives, by Saeed Jones
Jones’ explosive and poetic memoir traces his coming-of-age as a black, queer, and Southern man in vignettes that heartbreakingly and rigorously explore the beauty of love, the weight of trauma, and the power of resilience. (Oct. 8) —DC

Wild Game, by Adrienne Brodeur
Brodeur’s memoir has set both Hollywood and publishing ablaze, selling in the millions and already scoring a movie deal (with the script completed). The author, a longtime book editor, recounts a secret she shared with her mother throughout her adolescence that created an intense, fraught, and damaging dynamic. (Oct. 15) —DC

Camgirl, by Isa Mazzei
Building off of the 2018 film Cam, for which she wrote the script, Mazzei revisits her experiences working as (and building a business out of being) a live-streaming camgirl, in brutally funny and candid fashion. (Nov. 12) —DC

THE PAGE-TURNERS

Spy thrillers, murder mysteries, and epic fantasies are here to liven up fall books

Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke
The sequel in Locke’s award-winning Highway 59 mystery series finds Texas Ranger Darren Matthews tracking down a missing boy from a white supremacist family, forcing the officer to confront Texas’ history of racial turmoil. The series has been optioned by FX and it’s worth noting that Locke has Hollywood cred: She wrote for Ava DuVernay’s Emmy-nominated When They See Us and will co-executive-produce Hulu’s Little Fires Everywhere adaptation. (Sept. 17) —SR

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
A high school dropout is tasked, by a mysterious group of benefactors, with attending Yale University and spying on its secret societies. A campus novel with a side of the occult? Nothing has ever screamed “October” more. (Oct. 1) —SR

Imaginary Friend, by Stephen Chbosky
The author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower does something totally different, with a horror-thriller about, well, an imaginary friend. Seven-year-old Christopher and his mother flee an abusive domestic life, and soon after, he begins to hear a very ominous voice in his head telling him to— well, you’ll have to read the book to find out. (Oct. 1) —SR

Agent Running in the Field, by John Le Carré
The foremost spy novelist of our time takes on Brexit and the Trump Administration. Nat is a British agent runner, specializing in the Russian…let’s just call it situation…who becomes embroiled with a man who can best be described as an Extreme Remainer. (Oct. 22) —SR

The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern
The best-selling Night Circus author amassed a huge, passionate fanbase with her mystical first novel. It’s unlikely they’ll be disappointed by this sweeping follow-up, which unfolds an epic romance within a secret underground world of lost cities, handsome pirates, and endless puzzles to be solved. (Nov. 5) —DC

THE TEEN TALES

Best-selling favorites return to beloved worlds, while debut authors introduce irresistible new heroes

There Will Come a Darkness, by Katy Rose Pool
Could this be YA’s next big fantasy? All indications point to yes. Author Katy Rose Pool was just 24 years old when her epic novel, set to kick off a trilogy, sold in the seven figures last year. Expect everything from ancient mythologies to juicy sibling tensions to plenty of sword fights. (Sept. 3) —DC

Frankly in Love, by David Yoon
Yoon sparked one of 2018’s biggest bidding wars for this personal rom-com, which uniquely employs the genre’s “fake dating” trope: a Korean-American teenager, forced to hide his love life from his strict parents, meets a willing co-conspirator. Think John Green by way of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before — with perhaps a dash of The Sun Is Also a Star, written by Yoon’s wife, Nicola. (Sept. 10) —DC

Slay, by Brittney Morris
Morris immerses readers in the world of gaming with her charged, timely, and witty debut, about a brilliant high-schooler forced to battle the backlash against a secret, popular virtual world for black gamers. (Sept. 24) —DC

Who Put This Song On?, by Morgan Parker
Lauded poet Parker makes a triumphant first impression in the YA space with this lyrical semi-autobiographical story of a 17-year-old black girl struggling with depression while living in small-town suburbia. (Sept. 24) —DC

Wayward Son, by Rainbow Rowell
Rowell’s long-awaited sequel to Carry On — her No. 1 best-seller, centered on Chosen One Simon Snow and his roommate/enemy/love interest, Baz — rages through the American West in a vintage convertible, with the guys getting lost in a deserty landscape of vampires, dragons, and skunk-headed things with shotguns. Simon’s best friend, Penny, is also along for the trip. And so are we. (Sept. 24) —DC

Queen of Nothing, by Holly Black
We’re being promised a “jaw-dropping” finale to Black’s newest best-selling fantasy series, the Folk in the Air trilogy. Based on the ride she’s taken readers on so far, we’d expect nothing less. (Nov. 19) —DC

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The tragic, unsolved murder of Hogans Heroes star Bob Crane

https://ew.com/tv/2019/08/26/bob-crane-hogans-heroes-unsolved-murder/

The wealthy suburb of Phoenix drowses in the heat of the Sonoran Desert, sprinkled with luxury resorts catering to snowbirds in what Arizonans call the Valley of the Sun. June 29, 1978, likely began as nearly all Scottsdale summer days do — temperatures soared above 100 degrees by high noon, and well-heeled residents took refuge in their heavily air-conditioned villas, leaving the wide streets as empty as any Southwest ghost town. It didn’t end that way.

Responding to a call from one of the city’s apartment complexes, local cops happened on a very un-Scottsdale tableau: In a dimly lit first-floor apartment, they found the battered body of a shirtless 49-year-old man, sprawled in bed with two huge gashes above his left ear and an electrical cord knotted around his neck. It was clear he had been in good shape and had salt-and-pepper hair, but gore obliterated most other details. Blood was splattered over the wall and ceiling; there was so much of it, the victim’s pillow was drenched crimson.

After learning the at was leased to the nearby Windmill Dinner Theatre, police asked the theater’s manager, Ed Beck, to identify the corpse. “There was no way I could identify him from one side,” Beck told the press. “The other side, yes.”

The bludgeoned form had once been Bob Crane, a TV star known to millions as the wise-cracking title character on the 1960s sitcom Hogan’s Heroes. Crane’s grisly murder revealed he had been doing a very different sort of on-camera work behind closed doors. Four decades later, the still-unsolved slaying of the enigmatic actor — with its links to a netherworld of sex addiction and pornography — has spawned a 2002 movie, at least five books, three investigations, and a vast spider’s web of speculation.

The seamy side of Crane’s life is no mystery. His obsession with sex hurt his career and possibly got him killed. The actor’s son Robert recalls that his father’s dressing room was “porn central,” where the star stored Polaroids, negatives, and X-rated films. Long before he met his end on the edge of Phoenix, Bob Crane had plunged from the heights of Hollywood into a particularly unfortunate showbiz hell. But for those who loved him, it’s the unanswered questions that are haunting. “There’s still fog,” says Robert, the 68-year-old author of Sex, Celebrity, and My Father’s Unsolved Murder. “And when I say ‘fog,’ it’s that word closure, which I hate. But there is no closure. You live with death for the rest of your life.”

IN THE 1960S, SITCOMS WITH LAME jokes punctuated by a bad laugh track were the norm, but only one dared to mix that cheesiness with bumbling Nazis. Yet when it debuted on CBS in the fall of 1965, Hogan’s Heroes was an overnight hit. Very loosely inspired by World War II movies like The Great Escape (1963), Heroes featured a motley crew of inmates in a German prisoner-of-war camp outfoxing a remarkably inept Third Reich for six seasons. Along the way, it made Crane, who played the womanizing Col. Robert Hogan, a household name. Before going in front of the camera, the Connecticut-born Crane made his name as a radio host, interviewing Marilyn Monroe, Bob Hope, and Charlton Heston on CBS’ L.A. flagship station, KNX. After legendary TV writer Carl Reiner appeared on Crane’s radio show, he gave the broadcaster a guest gig as a philandering husband on The Dick Van Dyke Show. That led to a regular spot as a happy-go-lucky dentist on The Donna Reed Show. When his agent sent Crane the script for Heroes, the actor mistook it for a drama. “Bob, what are you talking about?” the agent said, according to Robert’s 2015 book about his dad. “This is a comedy. These are the funny Nazis.”

Crane wasn’t the only one who was confused. WWII had ended a mere 20 years before the sitcom’s premiere, a genocidal trauma within the living memory of millions. Making matters even more bizarre, three of Heroes’ funny fascists — Werner Klemperer (Colonel Klink), John Banner (Sergeant Schultz), and Leon Askin (General Burkhalter) — were Jews who survived the Holocaust, while Robert Clary (Corporal LeBeau) had been interned at Buchenwald and lost his parents at Auschwitz. Still, Clary, the only living member of the cast, makes no apologies. “It was well-written, well-directed, and well-acted,” says the 93-year-old, whose concentration-camp tattoo, A5714, is still visible on his left forearm. “It was a great group to work with. Bob never said, ‘Hey, I’m Hogan and I’m the star.’”

But Crane was a star, and fame allowed him to indulge his appetite. Married to high school sweetheart Anne Terzian and with three children (Robert and his sisters, Deborah and Karen) the actor used his celebrity to meet women, and then collected nude photos of them. “There were no drugs, no coercion, none of that,” explains Robert. “Women just liked him, or found him handsome, or whatever it was. They would hook up.” Aiding Crane in his sexual and cinematic conquests was John Henry Carpenter, a video-equipment salesperson from Sony who was pals with Hogan’s Heroes cast member (and future Family Feud host) Richard Dawson and helped Crane acquire gadgetry to watch and make erotica long before the birth of internet porn. When asked about his costar’s addiction, Clary responds, “Who cares? That’s his problem. Why waste my time saying, ‘How dare you like ladies?’ That is dumb, would not think about it. All we thought was, your life is your life — as long as you’re doing your job properly.”

Crane’s sexual behavior did affect other castmates. After having an affair with costar Cynthia Lynn, who played Klink’s buxom secretary Helga in the first season, he moved on to her replacement, Patricia Olson, who stepped in to play the identical role of Hilda the next year. Olson, who went by the stage name Sigrid Valdis, became Crane’s second wife in 1970 (shortly after he divorced Terzian); the couple had two children, Scott and AnaMarie. But Olson resented the influence Carpenter wielded over her husband — a dynamic captured in the 2002 film Auto Focus starring Greg Kinnear as Crane, Willem Dafoe as Carpenter, and Maria Bello as Patricia. Carol Ford, who coauthored Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography and serves as an unofficial spokesperson for Crane’s second family, says the movie overemphasized the star’s fetish. “As far as the amateur pornography, that was a small part of a bigger pie, you might say. Bob was chronicling and writing down and filming every single thing in his life. So when you look at it in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a small slice.”

It was a slice that mainstream Hollywood couldn’t tolerate. “He made some bad moves,” Robert says of his dad. “He collected photographs of women and put together these books — ‘Oh, here’s Sally from Jacksonville, Florida’ — and then he started showing them to people. He was doing a very bad Disney movie called Superdad, playing an all-American character who cares about his daughter running off with some unsavory type, but at Disney studios in Burbank he’s on the set showing photographs of women that he’s been with to people on the crew. That hurt him because the executives found out. People talk, and it started getting in publications like the National Enquirer.”

The son maintains his father’s sexual proclivities never veered into dangerous territory. “To find out that the all-American Hogan has this…some people call it a dark side, but I don’t think of it as a dark side,” says Robert. “My dad loved women. I think he might have been overcompensating for the lack of a solid career in the final years, and maybe that fed his ego to meet a woman in a nightclub and they’d go off and sleep together. But I never looked at it as dark because it was consensual. There weren’t hidden cameras or anything.”

Robert isn’t embarrassed by his father’s sordid enthusiasms. He still chuckles remembering the time Crane took him, as a 21-year-old, to the 1972 premiere of Deep Throat. “He just loved it because he was meeting all these porn stars.” But by then Crane’s star was fading fast — the culture had changed, and Heroes had ended its run the previous year. Work dried up for the middle-aged actor, who was soon getting by with gigs on the dinner-theater circuit.

BY THE TIME CRANE GOT TO PHOENIX, HIS second marriage was on the rocks and he was only scoring guest spots on shows like The Love Boat. The actor bought the rights to a play called Beginner’s Luck, a slight romantic comedy he had performed at venues like the Windmill. Two days before his death, he called his eldest son. “He was two weeks shy of 50,” says Robert. “He says, ‘I am making changes. I’m divorcing Patti.’ He wanted to lose people like John Carpenter, who had become a pain in the butt. He wanted a clean slate.”

That never happened. Robert believes that when his dad tried to pull away, Carpenter, who had followed the star to Arizona, became enraged. “They had a breakup, of sorts,” claims Robert. “Carpenter lost it. He was being rejected, he was being spurned like a lover. There are eyewitnesses that night at a club in Scottsdale that said they had an argument, John and my dad.”

A few hours later, Crane was dead. Scottsdale detective Barry Vassall was in Phoenix with a colleague on June 29, 1978, when he was called to unit 132A of the Winfield Apartments. Several cops were already present, along with a dinner-theater actress named Victoria Berry, who had arranged to meet Crane that day. Vassall then went to the airport to pick up Robert, Crane’s business manager Lloyd Vaughn, and attorney Bill Goldstein and brought them to the scene. The son believes what happened next compromised the hunt for the killer. “Vaughn, Goldstein, and I walked through the apartment, examining, touching, handling items in plain view of Vassall,” Robert wrote in his book. “We added our fingerprints, footprints, and hair samples to an already contaminated, lackadaisically investigated, casually considered…murder scene.”

Vassall, now retired from the force and a private investigator in Scottsdale, sees it differently: “In a perfect world, you have a crime scene, nobody’s allowed in, and nobody’s allowed out. You only have one or two people in there. But that doesn’t always happen. I don’t think there was any contamination of the crime scene, which is what you really worry about.”

DNA testing wasn’t available in 1978, but all roads led to Carpenter — Crane’s partner in porn. Not only did cops know that the pair had been fighting, there was no sign of forced entry into Crane’s apartment, which suggested that the victim knew his assailant. But there was even more damning evidence than that. “At the scene, there was blood everywhere,” Vassall recalls. “There were some traces of blood on the back of the exit door, the front door, the doorknob. There was a red stain on the curtain. We found blood in [Carpenter’s] rental car and on the passenger door. It was Crane’s blood type. Nobody else who handled that car had the same blood type as Crane. It was type B blood, all of it.”

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

But what cops found in Carpenter’s Chrysler Cordoba wasn’t enough. Absent a murder weapon, detectives couldn’t persuade the county attorney to issue an arrest warrant. However, 12 years later, Scottsdale detective Jim Raines uncovered a previously unseen crime-scene photo that showed a speck of brain tissue in Carpenter’s car. The actual tissue sample was long gone, but the image was ruled admissible by a judge, and Carpenter was eventually charged with Crane’s murder in 1992. Prosecutors had an uphill battle: DNA testing of the blood proved inconclusive, and witnesses came forward to say Crane and Carpenter had a friendly dinner the night before the killing. Carpenter’s attorney shot down speculation that a missing tripod could have been the murder weapon and reminded the jury that there was no proof of its existence. Meanwhile, Crane’s pre-dilections gave the defense plenty to play with — they suggested an enraged husband or boyfriend could have attacked the actor. Vassall doubts vengeance for an infidelity was a motive. “Bob was a non-confrontational guy, and these women liked him,” he says. “I don’t think I ever interviewed one that disliked him or was mad at him.”

In the end, there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Carpenter, who was acquitted in 1994 and died four years later. “We did the best we could,” Vassall says. “We went through all the evidence. We talked to all the witnesses that we could possibly talk to, and we came up with what we came up with. A lot of times when you have an old case like that, it’s very difficult to get a conviction. It would have been a slam dunk with the DNA testing.”

In 2016, Phoenix TV reporter John Hook convinced the county DA to allow him access to the old blood samples so he could send them to Bode Cellmark Forensics — a firm that (under a previous name and owner) helped with the JonBenét Ramsey and O.J. Simpson cases. “It’s absolutely unheard of that a county attorney’s office would allow a reporter to reopen a cold case and do DNA testing,” Hook says. It made for a compelling TV special, but the testing only revealed the presence of a previously unidentified male; the rest of the results were inconclusive.

Hook, like Vassall, believes Carpenter was Crane’s killer. Robert is willing to go along with the theory but has also pointed the finger at his stepmother, who died of lung cancer at 72 in 2007. “She was in the middle of a divorce with my dad. If there’s no divorce, she keeps what she gets, and if there’s no husband, she gets the whole thing.” Vassall and the other cops have never taken those accusations seriously.

In death, Crane got the Hollywood treatment. About 150 mourners attended the funeral at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Westwood, Calif., including Patty Duke, John Astin, Carroll O’Connor, and Crane’s Heroes castmates. A man who’d sought love in dangerous places suddenly had it, in abundance.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

In the years since, the star’s family members have battled grief — and one another. Before her death, Patricia Olson moved her husband’s body from its original resting place to another cemetery without telling Crane’s first family, then set up a memorial website with her son Scott that peddled some of Crane’s amateur pornos. Scott Crane declined to comment for this article, but Ford says he regrets his actions and has shuttered the site. He’s now focused on getting his dad inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame, and has destroyed his father’s massive collection of Polaroids and porn films. With them goes an intriguing part of a curious Hollywood career.

Robert Crane does not speak to his step-siblings, and his mother and sisters refuse to talk about what happened so many years ago in blistering Scottsdale. “It’s bizarre to me,” he says. “I’m not expecting a let’s-hold-hands-at-the-table, but we’ve just never talked about it.” And yet, like all the strangers fascinated by the sunny public life and mysterious death of Bob Crane, he cannot seem to let it go. “I don’t know what else to do,” he says. “Carpenter’s dead. Patti’s dead. Time is just taking people away.”

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The Awardist: Why movies about movies could shape this years Oscar race

https://ew.com/oscars/2019/08/26/movies-about-movies-contenders-essay/

It might be the most well-worn of the awards-season narratives: that Hollywood — the most narcissistic of beasts — loves movies about itself. That they’ll pat themselves on the back (via the Oscar ballot) whenever they get the chance. And given that films are of inherent interest to, well, filmmakers, the subgenre always yields a healthy number of options. Yet neither Singin’ in the Rain, nor A Star Is Born, nor Sunset Blvd., nor more recent examples like The Aviator and L.A. Confidential won the industry’s biggest prize. None in this particular field had, in fact, until Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist: a black-and-white silent movie released in 2011.

The Artist so thoroughly steeped audiences in movie-magic nostalgia that it cruised to victory, despite its less-than-commercial elements. It set off a sort of movement: After an 84-year-drought, three Best Picture winners in a four-year stretch (from 2012-2015) were movies about movies. The champs to follow The Artist were similarly tough sells: Argo, which won despite (or perhaps because of) Ben Affleck’s Best Director nomination snub, and Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s experimental and polarizing black comedy. The conventional wisdom at last had the data to back it up. It’s why La La Land was 2017’s shoo-in — until, of course, it wasn’t, after it’d already (mistakenly, bizarrely, infamously) been declared the winner.

This story’s got a messy past, in other words. But that doesn’t change the fact that the upcoming awards season features a big chunk of prestige movie-centric movies. Earlier this summer, Quentin Tarantino got the ball rolling with Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, a sure-fired contender. OUATIH is a rich, lush period piece immersed in Los Angeles circa 1969; everyone from Steve McQueen to Roman Polanski to (controversially) Bruce Lee appears, as does Sharon Tate (played by Margot Robbie) in a larger role. But this fictionalized story principally follows Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a fading TV actor, and his stunt-double and hangout buddy, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). With critical raves and strong box office headed into the fall, the film is an early top Oscar player across the board. Then there’s the intrigue of Tarantino announcing he’s (almost) done directing, and of Pitt delivering a career-best performance in a role that’s, if not quite as meta as Michael Keaton’s in Birdman, still plenty galvanizing. (He appears likely to run in supporting.) Plus, despite Tarantino’s well-documented and intense passion for film history, OUATIH marks his first movie to centrally focus on Hollywood; it’s made with a special, palpable degree of affection. This all adds up to not just a worthy entrant in the subgenre, but one riding the sort of juicy inside-baseball narratives that make for major prizefighters.

DiCaprio is a strong contender in Best Actor, too, and he might go up against a few other actors playing showbusiness guys. On the (meta) fictional front, there’s Antonio Banderas, still awaiting his first Oscar nomination; he stars in Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory (out Oct. 4) as a version of the director, meditating on his love for film, his coming into his queerness, and his relationship to his mother as he struggles through aging and depression. The whole piece is an ode to cinema, but particularly Banderas’ performance, which captures the obsessions, nuances, and singular talents of a born filmmaker. Sure, it’s a Spanish movie, but those who know and appreciate the craft of moviemaking — see: the entire Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — should find themselves deeply moved by this tribute to the art.

Manolo Pavón/Sony Pictures Classics

As for biographical work, Eddie Murphy stars as Rudy Ray Moore, the comic-musician-Blaxploitation star, in Dolemite Is My Name (out later this year). Moore is more cult icon than historical giant — than, say, Freddie Mercury or Winston Churchill, men portrayed to Oscar-winning effect by Rami Malek and Gary Oldman, respectively, the last two cycles — but his is a distinctive, uniquely Hollywood persona to take on. It doesn’t hurt that he’s poised to facilitate a big movie comeback for Murphy, who all but disappeared from dramatic film after losing his Oscar bid for Dreamgirls in 2007. He’s got writers experienced in this arena, too: Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the scribes behind Ed Wood, for which Martin Landau won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1995 (he starred as horror movie actor Bela Lugosi).

But at least Murphy’s been nominated more recently than Renée Zellweger — last recognized when she won Best Supporting Actress in 2004 for Cold Mountain — who’s poised for a similarly grand return to royalty with Judy (out Sept. 27). The trailer for the Judy Garland biopic alone made waves, catapulting Zellweger to the front of the (very premature) Best Actress conversation. The film is set in the late ’60s (just like OUATIH), near the end of Garland’s life. Portrayals of late, great actresses don’t tend to translate to taking home the gold — Barbra Streisand’s Fanny Brice and Cate Blanchett’s Katharine Hepburn being two notable exceptions — even as voters love a career renaissance. But remember: Garland’s only Oscar nomination for Best Actress came via the 1954 A Star Is Born, wherein she played a fictional Oscar winner. Zellweger seeing that narrative through feels like justice — in the most Hollywood sense of the word.

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They almost wrote Jennifer Aniston off the show?! An exclusive look at the making of Friends

https://ew.com/books/2019/08/21/friends-untold-stories-casting-book-excerpt/

It’s time to wish our Friends a happy birthday. On Sept. 22, NBC’s era-defining sitcom will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its premiere. The story of six lovably neurotic friends — played by Jennifer Aniston, now 50; Courteney Cox, 55; Lisa Kudrow, 56; Matt LeBlanc, 52; Matthew Perry, 50; and David Schwimmer, 52 — navigating the caffeine-fueled excitement and terrors of New York City, developed into a cultural phenomenon over the course of its 10-season run, winning Emmys and amassing 52.5 million viewers (live!) for its series finale in 2004.

And Friends — or Friends Like Us, as it was once going to be called — has lived on in enduring Saturday Night Live impersonations, Central Perk coffee-shop pop-ups, old DVD sets, cable reruns, and endless Netflix binges. (Get those in while you can. In the U.S., the show will depart the streaming service for HBO Max in 2020.) It feels like the series is still at the height of its popularity, a success that owes everything to its magical combination of six practically unknown actors.

And yet! As author Saul Austerlitz reveals in his new book, Generation Friends (publishing Sept. 17), the show’s casting was hardly so simple. In fact, the sitcom was dangerously close to going in several different directions. Here, EW presents exclusive excerpts from the book, detailing the fascinating behind-the-scenes machinations that went into creating the definitive TV gang.

The One With a Melting Pot

The show only had eight weeks to find its cast—and preferably one as diverse as its New York City setting.

The producers expressed a desire to be open about race and ethnicity as well. They knew that the Ross and Monica characters were to be siblings, and had decided that they would be played by white performers, but were open to anyone for the other four roles. [Ellie] Kanner’s initial lists included numerous African-American and Asian-American performers. The flexibility was a step forward, to be sure, but some of Friends‘ later struggles regarding diversity were etched in stone here. Without an explicit desire to cast actors who looked more like New York, the producers were likely going to end up, as if by default, with an all-white cast. As later critics would note, comedy was a less integrated genre than drama. Dramatic series had room for a greater variety of characters, and their settings— hospitals, precinct houses, courtrooms—allowed for characters from different walks of life to interact. Comedy expected its audiences to embrace its characters and was far more tentative about asking them to identify with characters who were not white and middle-class. Television executives were more fearful of asking audiences to laugh along with characters of color, concerned that such shows would be ignored by the majority-white audience.

The One With a Different Monica

Reality Bites star Janeane Garofalo was offered the role of a much harder-edged Monica.

Monica was to be “tough, defended, cynical, sarcastic.” In an ultra- nineties reference, they described her as having “the attitude of Sandra Bernhard or Rosie O’Donnell and the looks of Duff,” referring to the MTV VJ and model Karen Duffy. Monica, in this original conception, was to be a blue-collar New Yorker with aspirations of starting her own restaurant. She would work at a Le Cirque-like establishment: “We just think it would be fun to see this tough, downtown woman in this uptown, French bulls— arena.” Monica would also have a “real maternal side,” looking after Rachel and adopting a pregnant woman who would end up giving birth in her apartment. Monica dreamed of becoming a mother but first found herself in search of a man to have children with.

The One With the Character Who Never Was

The six friends almost had a seventh comrade.

NBC was mostly hands-off after ordering [Marta] Kauffman and [David] Crane’s pilot, with their notes running to such minor matters as the beige-toned color of the couch in the coffeehouse. (They preferred a less repellent shade.) The one major suggestion the network had for Crane and Kauffman was the addition of an older secondary character. NBC was concerned that if all the main characters were in their twenties, it would distinctly limit the series’ breakout appeal. An older character—even one that made only occasional appearances—could convince hesitant older viewers to check in with Friends Like Us. Perhaps, the network thought, there might be an older acquaintance they ran into at the coffeehouse who could give them advice about their lives?

It was a poor idea, and while it would not sink the show, it would undoubtedly weaken its spell. Kauffman and Crane reluctantly agreed, and began trying to wedge the character, whom they referred to as “Pat the Cop,” after an older police officer who used to hang out in the movie theater where Dream On writers Jeff Greenstein and Jeff Strauss used to work in Somerville, Massachusetts, during college, into their next script. The writers made a good-faith attempt, even casting the role, but hated the resulting script so much that they pleaded with NBC to drop the idea. If only NBC would kill Pat the Cop, they promised, they would give their six protagonists parents in notable supporting roles, and find older guest stars to attract a more mature audience. NBC gave its permission, and Pat the Cop was no longer.

Alice S. Hall/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

The One Where Joey Was From Chicago

Matt LeBlanc’s character was originally written as a “smug” lothario from Illinois.

Crane and Kauffman initially pictured Joey and Monica as the central romantic couple for the show. Joey, the perpetual horndog, would be lured, and possibly tamed, by the warm, affectionate Monica. In this initial version, Joey was less dim-witted than he would eventually become, with an emphasis on his ladies’-man style and his city-boy attitude. Initially, the casting search was for more of a leading-man type. Crane was taken aback to find that this approach led Joey to feel more boring than they had expected him to be. None of the actors they brought in to audition conveyed the charm they had in mind. As it stood, Joey felt as if he did not belong in this particular circle of friends.

The One With the Casting Conflict

The team wanted Jennifer Aniston for the role of Rachel but she had already shot several episodes of an unaired CBS comedy, Muddling Through. If the CBS series was picked up, Friends would lose Aniston midway through its first season.

Muddling Through had already shot a half-dozen episodes, none of which had aired, and CBS, after some dithering, ultimately chose to put the show on its summer schedule, in the relative dead zone of Saturday nights. Hearing the news, [Warren] Littlefield turned to [Preston] Beckman, NBC’s scheduling guru, with a two-word order: “Kill it.”

Beckman returned with a crafty suggestion for eliminating Muddling Through‘s prospects. Beckman was sitting on a trove of unreleased original TV films adapted from Danielle Steel novels. They were practically guaranteed to attract a substantial, and substantially female, audience. If they were to be scheduled opposite Muddling Through? Well, no show about an ex-con motel manager and her daffy family was likely to provide stiff competition for Steel’s glamorous romances.

Beckman would schedule the Steel movies for the first few Saturday nights Muddling Through was on the air, with repeats scheduled for the weeks that followed. It was a necessary sacrifice, giving up some of the ratings the movies might have garnered on another, more attractive, night in exchange for eliminating a rival to potential future Thursday-night success.

**

FROM GENERATION FRIENDS BY SAUL AUSTERLITZ, TO BE PUBLISHED ON SEPTEMBER 17, 2019 BY DUTTON, AN IMPRINT OF PENGUIN PUBLISHING GROUP, A DIVISION OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE LL. COPYRIGHT © 2019 BY SAUL AUSTERLITZ.

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Sweet Valley High creator Francine Pascal tells all, 35 years later

https://ew.com/author-interviews/2019/08/16/sweet-valley-high-creator-francine-pascal-interview/

Are you a Jessica or an Elizabeth? Long before women donned “I’m a Carrie” T-shirts, girls around the world categorized themselves as one of the Wakefield twins — the aspirationally perfect stars of Sweet Valley High. Francine Pascal’s blockbuster young-adult book series followed the charmed yet dramatic lives of impetuous, boy-crazy Jessica Wakefield and her studious, sensible sister, Elizabeth, two 16-year-olds with nothing in common but their “perfect size-six figures,” “sun-streaked blond hair,” and “sparkling blue-green eyes.”

Kicking off in earnest 35 years ago with a packaged trio of soapy installments — Double Love, Secrets, and Playing With Fire — SVH and its multiple spin-offs spawned dozens of imitators (lookin’ at you, The Baby- Sitters Club!), ran for 20 years, were translated into 27 languages, and reportedly sold 150 million copies worldwide. For many women between the ages of 30 and 50, these books and the characters within them are their Star Wars, their Avengers, their Lord of the Rings. Even a glimpse at one of SVH’s 181 covers — with their varsity-style lettering and gorgeous, soft-focus illustrations by James L. Mathewuse — prompts a rush of nostalgia endorphins. That’s probably why the series remains a hot property to this day: In 2011, a sequel titled Sweet Valley Confidential hit the New York Times best-seller list; Dynamite Entertainment released an SVH graphic novel in August; and the movie adaptation, long stalled, is newly in the works at Paramount.

Sitting in the living room of her elegant midtown Manhattan apartment, Pascal, 81, attributes SVH’s longevity to the universal agony of the adolescent experience. “The saying ‘The more things change, the more things stay the same’ really applies to those years. There’s such similarity, no matter how different today’s teenager thinks she is,” says the author. “She’s the same in here [points to her heart] and in here [points to her head] as I was — but the clothes are different.”

Hangin’ Out With Cici (1977)

Pascal started her writing career alongside her husband, journalist John Pascal, crafting scripts for the ABC soap opera The Young Marrieds. “It was something neither of us cared about,” she says. “We needed the money.” Around the same time, John, Francine, and her brother, Tony-winning librettist Michael Stewart (Hello, Dolly!, Bye Bye Birdie) wrote the book for the Broadway musical George M!, about the life of musical-theater icon George M. Cohan, which ran for a year. Then one night, an idea came to her — fully formed, as she says most of her ideas do — for a book about a teenage girl who can’t stop fighting with her mother. Pascal went on to write three books in the Victoria Martin series; the first, Hangin’ Out With Cici, was adapted into the 1981 ABC Afterschool Special My Mother Was Never a Kid, starring Holland Taylor as the mom.

FRANCINE PASCAL: I was lying in bed, and it just hit me. I jumped up and I said to my husband, “This is it!” The whole thing was in three lines: A 13-year-old girl today who can’t get along with her mother goes back in time to her mother’s childhood and becomes her mother’s best friend. When I started to write about Cici and Victoria, I realized I had a lot to say about those years. I knew how to do it.

Sweet Valley High (1983)

Like so many great ideas, Sweet Valley High was born out of two key circumstances in a writer’s life: rejection and deadline pressure. After the success of Hangin’ Out With Cici and her 1980 novel, The Hand-Me-Down Kid, Pascal pitched networks a soap opera centered on teens in high school. “They were not interested,” she recalls. “They said it was too girly.” Then a casual comment from a friend — plus a looming obligation to her publisher — combined to spark magic.

PASCAL: A friend of mine had lunch with a [book] editor, a man, who said, “Why isn’t there a Dallas for young people?” I thought about it, and I actually had a book [proposal] due. There are a lot of twins in my life. [My agent] Amy [Berkower] is a twin. My sister-in-law was a twin. People are always fascinated by twins. You’ll never be alone. [Laughs] I thought about it, and this other soap opera thing was in my head, the one that I couldn’t sell. I sat down and I wrote a [character] bible and the first 12 [SVH] stories. It went quickly because it was such a fertile idea. Bantam Books loved it. They ordered all 12.

Pascal had a “heavy hand” in the creation of the first SVH book, Double Love, but she never had any interest in writing the books herself. “My [previous] writing for young adults was humorous, and I didn’t think there was going to be humor in [these books],” she explains. Instead, Pascal oversaw a team of ghostwriters who worked on her character bible and the detailed outlines she created for each story. When asked what her “do’s and don’ts” were for SVH’s ghostwriters, Pascal is blunt.

PASCAL: “Don’t do anything of yours — only do what I say.” It’s true! Because I trusted myself, and [the publisher] trusted me, and we just kept doing it. It was mostly very young, new writers. The story outlines weren’t chapter by chapter, more like acts: You get from here to here in the first quarter, then you have to get from here to here. Don’t forget, they already had the bible, where I had written deeply into the lives of the twins and their backgrounds. With the characters, you knew what they liked, you knew what the walls in their room [looked like], every single thing about them. The writers had to use those [guidelines] and follow them strictly.

SVH became an instant phenomenon, and publisher Bantam Books began cranking out spin-offs (including Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley Kids, Sweet Valley High Senior Year, and Sweet Valley University). They also launched bonus installments like the murder-mystery Super Thriller series and the Sweet Valley Saga books, which chronicled the ancestral history of the Wakefield clan and other prominent SVH families. As the number of books multiplied, the storytelling boundaries expanded beyond boy troubles and intra-clique rivalries: Later SVH installments featured supernatural flourishes, like vampires and werewolves, and delicious melodrama, including a trilogy about a pair of murderous Jessica and Elizabeth doppelgängers named Margo and Nora (see: The Evil Twin, Return of the Evil Twin). Pascal conceived the stories for every book and says she took care to incorporate her “ethics and morals” into the narratives.

PASCAL: I had total freedom to do anything I wanted. If I wanted to make them fly, that was okay. If I had to do 10 more, I could do 10 more, but my God, I did every single thing.

The very important thing was, I was a liberal Jewish woman, and a New Yorker. So [my perspective] is going to be quite different from a lot of the people who are reading the books. I realized the power that I could have. I [think I] made Mr. Wakefield’s parents Jewish, in Europe, escaping from the Nazis or something. Why not? It’s mine, I’ll do what I please.

St. Martin’s Paperbacks (3)

By today’s standards, SVH’s characters are woefully homogenous — but Pascal intentionally made some inroads with diversity later in the series.

PASCAL: Don’t forget, it was the ’80s. Things were very different then. I never saw so many white people in my life as in Sweet Valley, it’s true. It finally had a Latino [character, in book No. 81, Rosa’s Lie]. I liked that one because Rosa was ashamed and pretended that she didn’t speak [Spanish], and then she had to save the little girl in the well who only spoke Spanish. [Laughs] There were really very few [diverse characters]. And it’s amazing because all over the world, particularly in the Philippines, they loved Sweet Valley, and I thought, “But there’s nobody like you there. Why do you love it?” But they did. I guess because of this common denominator [of teenage life] that I was talking about — it didn’t make any difference what color [the readers were], everybody was really essentially the same.

Right around the time Jessica Wakefield was dating secret vampire Jonathan Cain (book No. 127, Dance of Death) — a precursor to the YA vampire boom — the twins were given new life on the small screen. Sweet Valley High the TV series, starring former Doublemint twins Brittany and Cynthia Daniel, ran from 1994 to 1997 in syndication and briefly on UPN. Pascal worked with her daughter, casting director and producer Jamie Stewart, to find the perfect set of identical actresses through nationwide casting calls. (Stewart died in 2008 after battling liver disease.)

PASCAL: [Jamie] did the traveling to find them, yeah. All kinds of twins showed up to the auditions. And [Jamie] found a set of twins, Brittany and Cynthia, they were California twins. They looked like they just walked out of the books.

Hollywood has been trying to adapt SVH into a movie for a full decade. Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno) was the first to take a crack at it, in 2009, for Universal, but the script stalled. The project has since moved to Paramount; Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith and Harper Dill were hired to write the screenplay in 2017 but were replaced by Emmy-winning Rick and Morty writer (and hardcore SVH fan) Jessica Gao earlier this year. Pascal, who does not have script approval but is consulting on the film, is still hopeful a movie can happen — but the years of delay have taken a slight toll on her enthusiasm. “I hope I live long enough for this [to happen],” she says frankly.

PASCAL: I had such high hopes for Universal because Diablo is a wonderful writer and she loves Sweet Valley, but I don’t think it was her fault. I think it was the story; it wasn’t good. Now they have a different writer, and they will consult with me on the story.

I think they want something new [rather than basing it on an existing book], and they have some good ideas, it’s just a matter of getting it right. I do want it to be done right. I would like it to be done. It’s so many years now that this has been going on, and it’s really a shame. They seem very serious, and the people in charge [at Paramount] are Sweet Valley fans, so I’m trusting them.

If Wishes Were Horses (1994)

Though she was generally “drowning” in SVH duties, Pascal did find time to write two adult novels: a psychological thriller called Save Johanna! in 1981, and If Wishes Were Horses, a fictionalized memoir about her love affair with her husband, John, who died from cancer in 1981. Horses follows Anna, who copes with her husband’s death by relocating to France, where she looks back on their turbulent courtship and loving marriage while struggling to acclimate to an often unforgiving French culture.

PASCAL: I was thinking about [writing] it all through the ’80s. I probably would not have done it while he was alive. First of all, it was a little close. And I thought, “Am I going to remember all those things that happened?” But when I sat down to write it, I remembered — I could see it all. And the fact was, my husband wasn’t there to say, “Don’t do that!” It gave me a lot of freedom.

[Writing] it was funny and sad. It was going back to a lot of things that I really hadn’t thought about and probably would never have thought about if I wasn’t using them [for the book]. Also, I could look with humor at a lot of these tragic things. It was cathartic.

Pascal says “the core of everything” in Horses is based in truth, including some of the most dramatic elements: Like Anna, Pascal was romantically involved with someone else when she met her future husband, was molested by a stranger at a nude beach, and was propositioned by an elderly French duke after lunch at his country estate.

PASCAL: That’s absolutely true. I can see him now, standing on the bed with his robe open: “Let’s f—!” I can’t tell you how stunned I was.

Pascal in her Manhattan home, filled with SVH memorabilia, in 1988

Pascal in her Manhattan home, filled with SVH memorabilia, in 1988

Evelyn Floret/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

Fearless (1999)

Pascal’s second-most-successful YA series tells the story of Gaia Moore, a 17-year-old girl who does not feel fear.

PASCAL: I thought to myself, “What if a girl was born without the fear gene? Wouldn’t that be fantastic?” Courage is a very important thing to me; I never think I have enough of it. And fear is something I have too much of. I remember there was a skier called Hermann Maier, and he took incredible risks — I thought, “There’s a person who if he’s not born without fear completely, it must be so tiny.” I just fell in love with that idea, and that’s when I wrote Fearless.

Fearless ran for five years and 36 installments — like SVH, Pascal created the stories while ghostwriters wrote the books — and Simon & Schuster debuted a spin-off series, Fearless FBI, in 2005. Gaia even got her own TV show…almost. In 2003, The WB announced a series based on Gaia’s FBI adventures, but the drama (starring Rachael Leigh Cook and exec-produced by Jerry Bruckheimer) failed to jell creatively and never made it to air. For that, Pascal is grateful. The author is now working on a new adaptation of Fearless — but it’s not for the page or the screen.

PASCAL: [The TV show] had it all wrong. They had a Gaia who was almost silent. I talked to them about it — I sent endless emails, which they probably put in the garbage. It was really just so wrong, and Gaia was so terrible. I don’t know what they were thinking! At the end it was so bad, [Bruckheimer] put it in the can, which is where it has stayed. I wrote him a letter and said, “Thank you.”

Playwright Jon Marans and I have written a musical called The Fearless Girl. Right this minute! We’re just a couple of weeks from recording the music. Jon and I wrote the book and the lyrics, and Graham Lyle, who wrote several Tina Turner songs, he’s written the music. It’s really exciting. It’s about Gaia — she’s outspoken and tough. She’s outrageous, she’s incorrigible. She is the nightmare teenager with no fear — and because of that, because she doesn’t have the fight-or-flight [response], she only knows fight. She’s not quite Superwoman, but she’s very close. She can’t fly.

Simon Pulse (2); Crown; Viking Books for Young Readers

The Ruling Class (2004)

As one of Pascal’s only YA books that wasn’t part of a series, The Ruling Class — about a teenager named Twyla who clashes with a nasty clique of girls at her new high school — was overshadowed by a similarly themed pop culture phenomenon.

PASCAL I saw something on TV about “mean girls” [a phrase popularized by Rosalind Wiseman’s 2002 book, Queen Bees & Wannabees], and I thought, “That’s great!” I sat down and started to write Mean Girls. I was halfway finished [with the book] and then [my agent] Amy said, “Bad news — Tina Fey is shooting a movie called Mean Girls.” So I had to rename it The Ruling Class.

[Being] first is crucial, and I wasn’t. I still think that message, that the strongest way to defeat a bully is in unity, isn’t emphasized enough. I think it should be taught in schools, because not only would it be effective, it’s exciting. It’s like the army of the good.

The Legacy of Sweet Valley

At 81, Pascal remains busy. In addition to the Fearless musical, the author has an adult novel coming out next year, and she also recently revised the book for Mack & Mabel, the 1974 musical written by her late brother, Michael. (New York’s Encores! theater series will stage the production in February.) Though she has no plans to revisit SVH, over the years Pascal has grown to appreciate the series in a deeper way.

PASCAL: I never really had the respect for Sweet Valley that I had for my other YA books. I felt it was a kind of soap opera, and that was kind of a lesser thing. I was wrong, because it had [an] enormous effect on people. Essentially it was very important and deserved [respect] — now I see it. At least a quarter of the fan mail that I got started off with “I used to hate to read…” It was sometimes from the kid, and sometimes from the par- ent, who would say, “She used to hate to read…” That’s the best thing that happened [with Sweet Valley]. That and money.

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A close read of Inland, the rare novel with a perfect ending

https://ew.com/book-reviews/2019/08/15/inland-tea-obreht-close-read/

Warning: This review contains spoilers for the plot and ending of Inland.

**

“She saw it all.” The four words that end Inland read like the debris from a breathtaking literary explosion. Over its 350-plus pages, the new novel by Téa Obreht alternates with mythmaking flair between the entire life of Lurie, a wanted outlaw who adventures around the American West, and a day in the life of Nora, a frontierswoman residing in the Arizona territory circa 1893. Their journeys converge in Inland’s grand finale, an abstract masterpiece that distills everything these two characters carry into montage — blurring past and future, dead and living, pain and joy. The impetus for it? A horde of ghosts, a blind camel, and a sip of water.

So, spoilers. Rarely, a literary ending comes along that feels too perfect to limit to safe, vague praise. I’m not talking about the wild twists or clever reframings that’ve distinguished some of the year’s buzzier titles. Inland derives every dollop of its narrative tension from its climax-oriented structure, paralleling two character studies that must, by the laws of good storytelling, intersect. Obreht brilliantly approaches this inevitability by weaving it into the fabric of her haunted setting, where fate can’t help but grab the steering wheel.

This is Obreht’s first novel since her 2011 debut, The Tiger’s Wife, an immersive magical-realist family tale set in an unnamed Balkan country during the mid-20th century. (It was nominated for the National Book Award.) That she’d follow it up with a western? You could call the move bold. But the shift feels seamless. Obreht is a robust writer: There’s meat on her characters, places, plots, themes, dialogue — all vividly rendered, deep and fresh and exciting, offering plenty to chew on.

Frontierswoman Nora makes up Inland’s heart. Her husband, Emmett, is a failing newspaperman who hasn’t been seen in days; he left, supposedly, to collect water, but their struggling town of Amargo is enduring a horrid drought. She can’t say where her older sons, Rob and Dolan, have gone, either — the night before, she fought with them over the family’s dwindling prospects in Amargo, and they left in a huff. Rumors eventually swirl that Emmett has been killed and Rob and Dolan are on the lam for avenging his death. Nora is left, parched and lonely, to care for her youngest, Toby; Emmett’s potentially psychic teenaged relative, Josie; and her paralyzed mother-in-law.

Over the course of the day, Nora encounters various townspeople: Desma, an old friend and Amargo’s cofounder, grappling with its seeming demise; Doc Almenara, a wily old man yearning for the days of greater promise; and Sheriff Harlan Bell, the man Nora fell hard for, years ago, as her marriage fizzled. “She thought of Harlan sometimes as a fellow combatant with whom she had resolved never to speak of how close to disaster the battle had brought them,” Obreht writes of their current dynamic. “That they could be sentimental of the unspoken truth of their friendship was enough.” Nora emerges as a fascinating, gritty character: We learn about her upbringing of “unboundedness” and how she married Emmett “for love,” see how she lashes out at her sons and friends as she “hardens” — a process Obreht details in a particularly arresting paragraph of character work:

Nora had gone to considerable lengths to steel herself for the life into which she’d followed [Emmett]. This had required hardening…. Even if she had wanted to remain soft, the work would not allow it. Two people at full strength could barely manage all the chores of a homestead: plowing, sowing, raising fence. And if Desma, if her own mother…were hard women, then Nora must be, too. It must never be said of her that she had succumbed to the trials of her life and had to be gentled back to some easier state of existence.

Where Obreht conjures a bleak (read: dry) picture of the West in Nora’s anchoring story, she finds its wonder in Lurie’s saga. In the book’s opening chapter, which traces the man’s childhood (including his emigration from Southeast Europe) and adolescence, his father dies, he falls in with an outlaw gang, and he’s later wanted for the murder of a “New York man” — a killing which puts him on the run. His sections are written in the first person, addressed to what at first reads like an unknown entity. Only later do we realize he’s talking to a camel.

This camel, called Burke, is Obreht’s brightest creation. He is Lurie’s companion across endless redrocked landscapes. “My first day in the saddle, sickened by your rolling, I looked down at our many-legged shadow running out over the grass, lengthening in the dying sun, and found my throat gone tight,” Lurie narrates. “It struck me, without doubt, that I had somehow wanted my way into a marvel that had never before befallen this world.” They bond as Lurie rides and hides among the United States Camel Corps — a real historical thing! — but, all told, they travel thousands of miles, from Texas to Montana to Wyoming and sometimes back again, often in isolation. Obreht indulges the pleasures of great travelogues here, and employs these sections — slimmer than Nora’s, and slightly harder to track — for philosophical purposes, too, compelling her reader to ruminate on time’s passage, how people and stories and worlds live on after they pass. “Who would speak of these things when we were gone?” Lurie asks. “I began to wish that I could pour our memories into the water we carried, so that anyone drinking might see how it had been.”

All this and I haven’t mentioned that both Nora and Lurie talk to the dead. Nora watches her daughter, Evelyn, grow up alongside her — even though Evelyn died as a baby girl, of heatstroke; they talk, Evelyn guiding her mother through guilt and sadness. And Lurie sees ghosts everywhere he goes; they occupy, and soon overwhelm, his very being. He asks: “Must I now forever fill up with the wants of any dead who touched me, all who’d come before me?”

One spirit that guides him is Donovan, formerly of Lurie’s teen outlaw family and, later, hanged in a town Lurie and the Camel Corps pass through. Donovan’s ghost gives Lurie his water canteen, which Lurie never empties — only fills, “even if it was nearly brimming, so the water within mixed and tasted of everything: earth and iron and soil and the rain that spent half the day threatening and the other half flooding everybody out of the bunkhouse.” The canteen contains, in other words, lifetimes — the tattered hopes that brought loners and families and communities alike out West, dreaming of gold but faced with dirt.

Which brings us to the ending. Over the years, Lurie and Burke endure hardship amid adventure; they wind up in the Arizona territory, the former on his last legs, his dying wish that his companion finally “rest.” They’re drawn to Amargo, for Lurie hears Evelyn’s spirit beckoning; they sleep in Nora’s abandoned springhouse, only for Burke — who’s gone blind — to helplessly trash it. They encounter Josie, who sees in Burke a “beast”; days later, Burke, terrified, tramples her accidentally (an event teased in the novel’s opening paragraph).

By the time Nora finds them in the dark of the night, Lurie is dead, Burke close. Fate — drought, Evelyn, grief — has brought these souls together. Nora looks at the pair, man and beast, and takes on Lurie’s dying wish with cosmic empathy. “In the path of what should have been her terror was another, broader, more urgent one: that the camel, if she failed to hit it, might find itself ongoing,” Obreht writes. “The sorrow of its suffering journey — what the hell did she know of its suffering journey? — rushed into her, like a dream of the abyss. There was nothing at the bottom.”

So Nora shoots Burke — lays him to rest. The scene is powerful in a muted, pained sort of way. Nora calls Toby over to look at the dead animal; he runs back to the house, frightened, leaving her alone once more. She eases Lurie’s body off the saddle, and grabs the tin canteen — “marked with the crossbraces of some nameless legion.” She pulls it loose and hears “the strangest thing — the singing tumble of water,” at long last. She listens a little more. Then she drinks.

What Obreht pulls off here is pure poetry. It doesn’t feel written so much as extracted from the mind in its purest, clearest, truest form. When Nora sips the water, she really does see it “all.” Time and memory collapse into each another. She tastes the journeys of Lurie and Burke and so many others who’ve come and gone. She senses her family leaving Amargo, finally with nothing left, but Evelyn and Emmett still follow her — present, but not. She mourns her old Amargo house, “where they had lived once, and yes, been happy.” There’s something deeply devastating about this conclusion, embedded as it is with the tragic reality of its dusty milieu — the death, the heartbreak, the broken promises — and yet there is Nora, a hard woman as ever, loving and losing. She will fight another day. A

**

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God Save the Queen: The new stars of The Crown open up about the royal gamble of season 3

https://ew.com/tv/2019/08/14/the-crown-season-3-september-issue/

An impressive number of the royal family have assembled at England’s ancient Belvoir Castle to re-create the 1972 funeral of Edward VIII. We do not, of course, mean the royal family, but the members of Britain’s acting royalty who are portraying the clan in season 3 of Netflix’s The Crown, which launches Nov. 17 and continues to track the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Those present include Outlander alum Tobias Menzies as Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip; Game of Thrones actor Charles Dance as Philip’s uncle Lord Mountbatten; and Cinderella’s fairy godmother Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret.

During a break from shooting last December, Bonham Carter reflects on a time she met the free spirit she embodies on the streaming phenomenon. “My uncle was actually very close to her,” the actress reveals. “She was pretty scary. At one point, she met me at Windsor Castle and she said, ‘You are getting better, aren’t you?’” The princess was referring to Bonham Carter’s acting abilities. Well, “I presume that’s what she meant.”

Queen Elizabeth herself is portrayed by Olivia Colman. At the time of EW’s set visit, the actress is already a national treasure thanks to television roles on Broadchurch, Fleabag, and Peep Show. But just two months later, she’ll confirm her position as acting nobility, winning the Oscar for starring as another British monarch, Queen Anne, in The Favourite. Despite her in-demand status, Colman didn’t play hard to get when she was offered the part of the Queen for seasons 3 and 4 of the show, which are being shot back-to-back.

“I was incredibly uncool about it,” she says. “The producers went, ‘So…’ [I said,] ‘Yes! Yes! I’m really excited! Thank you very much!’ I loved the first two seasons.”

Colman is not alone. Season 1 of The Crown, which covered the years 1947–55, premiered in November 2016. Part history lesson, part classiest soap ever, the show breathed vivid life into events most people knew only from textbooks, if at all. While Netflix has not released viewing figures, there is no doubt that the first two seasons — the second of which dramatized the years 1956–64 — amassed a large audience obsessed with following the marital difficulties of Elizabeth and Philip (Claire Foy and Matt Smith) and the romantic tribulations of Margaret (Vanessa Kirby). Both seasons were nominated for a hatful of Emmys, with Foy winning for her work on the second run of shows.

But those expecting to see Foy, Smith, and Kirby in season 3 will be out of luck. Almost the entire cast is new, which represents a huge gamble on the part of Netflix. How will fans of the first two seasons feel about the characters being embodied by these different, and older, actors? What is it like for Colman to play a part so recently portrayed with such award-winning brilliance?

“It’s horrendous,” says the actress. “Everyone loves Claire Foy, so I have got the worst job in the world at the moment. You’re saying all the worst things, thanks!”

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Uh-oh. Well, at least Colman doesn’t have the power to imprison pesky journalists in the Tower of London — right?

The true ruler of The Crown is showrunner, and two-time Oscar-nominated screenwriter, Peter Morgan. Just as the young Elizabeth didn’t imagine she would wind up becoming queen — that is, until Edward’s abdication put her next in line to the throne when she was 10 years old — Morgan never dreamed of becoming the monarch’s most successful chronicler. As a kid, Morgan wasn’t even interested in the royal family. “No, no, no,” he says. “It was a horrible mistake. I don’t know how we’ve ended up here.”

Let us help. Morgan’s road to the Windsors began with 2003’s Michael Sheen-starring TV movie The Deal, about the rise to power of British prime minister Tony Blair. Fascinated by Blair, Morgan then wrote 2006’s The Queen, which concerned Elizabeth’s subdued reaction to the death of Princess Diana and the PM’s attempts to prod Elizabeth into a show of mourning. Starring Sheen as Blair and Helen Mirren as the Queen, the film was a box office hit that won Mirren the Oscar and whetted Morgan’s appetite for another palace-themed project.

“I so enjoyed writing those scenes between the Queen and Blair that I thought, ‘Well, I’ll do a play about those audiences, because she’s had 13 prime ministers.” (Actually, that figure is now 14, thanks to the recent ascent of Boris Johnson.) The result, The Audience, opened in London in 2013 and later transferred to Broadway, resulting in Mirren’s Tony award. The Audience directly inspired The Crown, which Morgan initially envisioned as a film exploring the relationship between Elizabeth and Winston Churchill before it evolved into its current form.

“I thought, ‘It’s quite interesting to do a young queen, a middle-aged queen, and an old queen,’” he says. “Originally, when I went to Netflix, I was pitching it as three seasons. It just kept growing.” Morgan says he had enough material to have “easily” written three seasons starring Foy’s young queen, but he’s glad he kept it to two before changing casts. “By the time we got to the end with Claire and Matt, I think they were ready to go somewhere else,” he explains.

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Of course, this wouldn’t be a royal-family story without some scandal. In March of last year, Variety reported that two Crown executive producers let slip at a conference in Jerusalem that Smith was paid more than Foy. Although one of the EPs, Suzanne Mackie, insisted that “Going forward, no one gets paid more than the Queen,” the news became a huge story. At the time, Foy told EW, “I’m surprised, because I’m at the center of it, and anything that I’m at the center of like that is very, very odd. But I’m not [surprised about the interest in the story] in the sense that it was a female-led drama. I’m not surprised that people saw [the story] and went, ‘Oh, that’s a bit odd.’”

By then, Netflix had announced the casting of Colman, whom Morgan regarded as essential to the show’s future. “Olivia Colman was a list of one,” he says. “I think I wanted to know [she would play the part] even before negotiations were done for seasons 3 and 4.” The only problem with casting Colman? Her performance as Queen Anne in The Favourite would hit big screens before her turn as Queen Elizabeth arrived on small ones. “Obviously I’d have preferred her not to be playing another queen before,” says Morgan. “But it’s so different — such a different tone.”

The notable historical subjects covered in season 3 of The Crown include the 1964 discovery that the Queen’s art adviser Anthony Blunt was a Soviet spy, and Labour leader Harold Wilson’s rise to prime minister that same year. The show will also detail the 1966 Aberfan disaster, when an avalanche of coal waste buried a school in Wales. “I had never heard of it, which breaks my heart slightly,” Colman says of the event, which claimed the lives of 144 people, mostly children.

As for the intra-family issues explored, Morgan says the show will deal less than previous seasons have with the marriage of Elizabeth and Philip — which he believes became more settled in the ’60s after the early years of turmoil. Instead, the upcoming episodes will detail the breakdown of the union between Margaret and her photographer husband, Lord “Tony” Snowdon (Ben Daniels).

“They’re such extraordinary people,” says Daniels, “Completely addicted to each other. Even right up until the minute they were getting divorced, they still had a really strong physical relationship. People often said that it was like foreplay for them, having a big row. They would have these huge rows and then amazing sex.” Hearing this, Bonham Carter can’t resist encouraging EW readers to “try it at home!”

Season 3 also introduces adult versions of the Queen’s two eldest children, Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Anne (Erin Doherty). The relatively unknown O’Connor admits that one of the toughest challenges on set has been keeping his cool while acting with some of Britain’s most famous faces.

“I’m acting, acting, acting, and then I’m like, ‘I’m acting with Olivia Colman!’” he says. “It’s really weird.”

The season examines Charles’ youthful relationship with his future second wife, Camilla (Emerald Fennell), which began in the early ’70s, years before he met and married Diana.

“People always assume Charles cheated on Diana with Camilla,” says Morgan. “It’s absolutely the wrong way round. He was deeply in love with Camilla and forced to marry Diana.”

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The Crown’s Diana is being played by Emma Corrin, but the actress will not appear on the show until season 4. By the time that season premieres, likely in 2020, Morgan will know if viewers have accepted the series’ new cast — although he doesn’t seem too worried on that score. “It’s a bit like changing contact lenses,” he says. “I think it takes you about five minutes to get used to it.”

Assuming the show does continue to reign over viewers, Morgan claims he hasn’t even begun to think of who might replace the current cast to portray the characters in seasons 5 and 6. The obvious candidate to play the Queen is, of course, Mirren, who already almost has an EGOT for her performances as Elizabeth alone. While the showrunner has not discussed the subject with the actress, he knows that Mirren is a fan. “She loves the show,” he says. “She thought there was nothing left to say, and I think she’s really surprised.”

Back at Belvoir Castle, the woman currently playing Queen Elizabeth II is, all joking aside, surprisingly calm about stepping into Foy’s shoes.

“It’s the same as any classical play you do — everyone will have already played that part before,” she says. But? “The first week, I did feel myself trying to do Claire impressions. ‘What would she have done?’”

Well, surely it makes sense for Colman’s performance in early scenes to mimic that of Foy, given season 3 basically picks up where season 2 left off. “Yes, actually. Maybe it was a stroke of genius that I was doing that,” she says, letting out a laugh Oscars viewers may fondly recall. “That’s what it was! Yes, that was preplanned!”

Anything you say, Your Majesty.

To read more from the September issue of Entertainment Weekly, pick up a copy at Barnes & Noble this Thursday, or buy it here now. (The issue will be available on all newsstands starting Aug. 22.) Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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