Audrey Middleton became the first transgender contestant on Big Brother and Julie Chen introduced a clever new twist in Big Brother’s season 17 premiere.

Big Brother Season 17 Premiere

If Big Brother is known for anything, it’s the twists the reality competition adds in each season to mix it up. This summer, the twists are pretty unpredictable, but before Chen can announce any twists, she introduces eight contestants and gives them the keys to the Big Brother house.

There’s James Huling, a southern boy who surprises houseguests with his heavy South Carolina accent because…he’s Asian. James flaunts his country pride with his camouflage pants and visor, and shows surprising physical strength in the first Head of Household challenge.

Meg Maley is an energetic and very smiley waitress from New York City, who just seems excited to be there. She immediately makes nice with everyone in the house. Meg doesn’t seem to have a hidden agenda, at least not one that she chooses to share with the audience. Meg’s sunny demeanor is matched only by Jace Agolli’s laid back attitude. Jace is a skateboard and surfing lover from Venice Beach who rocks some nice long hair and works as a personal trainer.

Meanwhile, there’s Austin Matelson, a WWE wrestler who has a master’s degree in medieval romance literature and is trying to downplay his physical prowess by claiming to have suffered career-ending injuries. (Surprise! He’s fully healed.) “If David Copperfield and Andre the Giant had a baby – that’s what this guy looks like,” says Clay Honeycutt, another houseguest, when describing Austin.

Clay is one of the youngest in the house, at 23, and is the cardboard cutout of Big Brother contestants. He’s tall, hot, and sweet. He’s currently a grad student at Texas A&M, and hides the fact that he played undergraduate football for the same school because he doesn’t want to be targeted by houseguests who might feel threatened by him. Also, he’s definitely going to hook up with one of the ladies in the house, specifically Shelli Poole, who cannot stop gushing over Clay. “Clay is going to get me in trouble this summer,” she says. Shelli is from Georgia and her interesting fact is that she has a twin brother.

Da’Vonne Rogers is a poker dealer and single mother who lies to the houseguests and tells them she’s a schoolteacher – just because she can. She is confident that hiding her real profession, and thus demonstrating her ability to “bluff” for the audience, will give her an edge, though I’m not quite sure what that edge is other than proving she can’t be trusted.

Finally, there’s Audrey, the first transgender houseguest ever to compete on Big Brother. Audrey is coming out publicly as transgender to complete strangers for the very first time, and everyone in the house is more than happy to have her. Audrey isn’t at the BB house to promote herself as transgender, she’s here to win, and she’s ready to play.

The girls and guys immediately split off to settle into the house, and Shelli, Da’Vonne and Audrey form an alliance quickly, agreeing that it’s time for a girl to win the game. So far, they’re the only alliance in the game. When they all come together again in the kitchen, Audrey tells her new housemates about struggles she had with her family before her transition – she tells them she “fully transitioned” a few years ago, and most take her word for it.

Twists: Battle of the Block, BB Takeover, Twin Twist

The contestants are relaxing and getting to know each other when Julie Chen swoops in to announce the first twist: the Battle of the Block. The Battle of the Block twist is a return from last season, in which two contestants will become Heads of Household and nominate two houseguests for eviction. The four up on the block will then compete and whichever team wins dethrones the HoH who nominated them, meaning the Heads of Household could be up for elimination.

Because of the uncertainty of the Battle of the Block twist, most contestants are skeptical of how to proceed, but they don’t have any time to process because it’s time for the first HoH competition. To make matters worse: one contestant must sit out the competition. Da’Vonne announces that she will sit out if everybody else promises they will not put her up for eviction. Everybody agrees and Da’Vonne watches from the sidelines as the other houseguests get dressed up for the “Flying Tomatoes” challenge.

The first Head of Household competition is a test of physical strength and agility in which each contestant has to stand on a movable plank and catch softballs that look like tomatoes. The first person to catch 10 and place them in a container without falling from their plank wins. Clay goes in feeling incredibly confident, so of course he barely lasts 30 seconds. After the first round of tomatoes are shot at the contestants, Clay, Austin and Meg each lose their balance and are disqualified, leaving Audrey, Jace, James and Shelli standing. James surprises everyone by taking the lead with 9 tomatoes, as Jace expertly navigates the moving plank (he does love to skateboard after all). Unfortunately, before any of them can reach 10 tomatoes, they all fall. Chen looks at the replay to see who hit the ground last, and declares James (the last to fall) the winner!

With James officially crowned as the first Head of Household, the contestants go back inside to hear the second big twist: the BB Takeover. The BB Takeover twist means that every week, there will be a brand new twist, though she doesn’t really explain the parameters of this surprising development. Is it a new twist every week, or only occasionally? Will the new twist be in effect for the entire game or just the week it’s introduced?

Most houseguests agree they can’t be the only eight competing this season, and they’re right. Not only will more contestants be introduced on Thursday’s episode, Chen reveals to the audience that there’s one twist the contestants don’t know about. One of the houseguests is an identical twin, and, bringing back the Twin Twist from season 5, the twins will alternate weeks playing the game as the same contestant. If they manage to trick everyone and survive the first five eliminations, they will both be allowed to join the game as individuals. We already know that Shelli is a twin, could she have lied about having a twin brother? Or is it someone else entirely?

Big Brother season 17 continues Thursday at 8 p.m. on CBS.

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