INTO THE NEXT STAGE: Fan Favorite James Huling Back in the ‘Big Brother’ House

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AOKI-GUY-color1By GUY AOKI

Last September at the end of the 17th edition of CBS’s reality competition show “Big Brother,” James Huling came in seventh but was later still voted by online fans as their favorite of the 17 house guests and awarded $25,000. Last week Wednesday, “the Asian hillbilly” (he was raised in South Carolina and now lives in Texas) was one of the surprise veterans returning to the house in the latest edition, joining a new Filipino American player.

Twelve new contestants entered the Studio City house on the CBS lot, then were surprised as one-by-one four who’d played the game before popped out of luggage chests, including Huling, who’s Korean American. While the newbies excitedly welcomed them as familiar celebrities, behind closed doors, some of them (mostly men) were pledging to evict them the first chance they got, understandably feeling the four had had their chance and blown it, and now, the fresh players should get a crack at that $500,000 prize.

The four “all-stars,” feeling they were automatic targets, agreed to stick together. That plan was soon torn asunder when host Julie Chen announced one of the three twists of the season: For the first time, the 16 house guests would be playing in teams of four and each of the returning contestants would head different teams.

“Big Brother’s” James Huling

“Big Brother’s” James Huling

Bridgette Dunning, a 24-year-old “traveling nurse” (aha, another Filipino nurse — well, half Filipino — on television, not in a scripted show, but on a reality show!), is a likable, smiley-faced player on veteran Frank’s team, which was one of the winning groups. James’ group came in first, meaning they were safe for two consecutive nomination weeks (none of the four could be put up for eviction).

The team that lost was headed by the adorable Nicole Franzel. One of her teammates was eliminated in a challenge, but the remaining three members agreed to make her Head of Household (HOH), who puts up two contestants for eviction.

Many of the new male players have way too much testosterone and ego, making me side with the vets. Jozea Flores actually told vet Da’Vonne Rogers that he was “the messiah of the newbies” and “I’m very strong in my brain” (apparently, intelligent people talk that way; hell, I wouldn’t know!). The make-up artist stupidly revealed to her his alliance’s plan to vote out the vets one by one, insinuating that she would be the last to go. Da’Vonne told her alliance of the plan and Jozea became one of the players Nicole nominated for eviction.

“Big Brother’s” Bridgette Dunning

“Big Brother’s” Bridgette Dunning

Jozea even believed Frank when he told him he was in his alliance. To further underscore his cluelessness, in a diary room interview, Jozea told us, “I read faces, and I’m always right.”

In the meantime, Bridgette formed an all-girl alliance with two others.

Another wrinkle: the new “Hit the Road” competition where a secret winner is able to nominate a third person anonymously. Luckily, Frank won that contest, which allowed him to put up another newbie, Paul — an Armenian with a beard so large it could hide a beehive — who had been one of the strongest advocates of booting the all-stars.

Next, we’ll see who wins the “Power of Veto,” which can either save one of those on the chopping block (and force the HOH to put up someone else instead) or keep the nominations the same. Then the full house will vote on whom they want out.

So far, Huling has kind of blended into the furniture, not as strong a presence as he sometimes was in last year’s edition. But the show after he was evicted, the ratings among the 18-49-year-old crowd fell 27% — the biggest of the season — down to the lowest audience of the year. So his presence was cherished by many people.

“Big Brother” airs Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday nights on CBS.

“Keiro Save The Rafu!” Department: That could be the headline. The company, which sold for $41 million, is supposedly keeping the proceeds in “a safe place.” In that frustratingly vague September 2015 interview then-CEO Shawn Miyake gave The Rafu, he said, “Our hope is that money is available for our community — however it evolves — forever.” On the other hand, he also said, “We’re going to make sure we never spend it. We’re only going to spend the interest.”

Unfortunately, the reporters didn’t push him to explain what exactly they were going to spend all that money on, which is more than enough to start several businesses. Well, how about donating some of it to keeping an existing business afloat — The Rafu? Sure, editor Gwen Muranaka called for Miyake to step down as an ineffectual and absent CEO, as did others in the community, including columnist Wimpy Hiroto. And the pressure seems to have worked, as Keiro announced last Friday that Miyake was retiring.

So no hard feelings, right? Keiro wants what’s best for the community, right? Many of the Japanese-speaking residents of the former Keiro read The Rafu, which gives them comfort in their twilight years, right? Then consider spending some of it on the paper. Or at least define what you’ll be spending the interest on, fer cryin’ out loud!

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” Fake Alison (Ashley Liao).

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” Fake Alison (Ashley Liao).

Two Girlfriends for Our Young Romeos? Department: In the season finale of “Fresh Off the Boat,” Eddie Huang (Hudson Yang) was worried about introducing his white girlfriend Alison (Isabella Alexander) to his mother, since before he was even born, Mama Jessica had even used subliminal messages to get him to want a Chinese girl. So when it came time for Alison to come to the Huangs’ for dinner, Alison sent Aubrey (Ashley Liao) instead. A shocked Eddie was forced to play along.

Eventually, Jessica took an interest in the real Alison after seeing her do a piccolo solo at Emery’s 5th-grade graduation. While at first swooning over the fake “Alison,” Jessica eventually came to admire the real Alison’s accomplishments, rationalizing, “as long as she’s Chinese inside.” Uh, whatever that means.

The real Alison (Isabella Alexander) with Eddie (Hudson Yang).

The real Alison (Isabella Alexander) with Eddie (Hudson Yang).

In the meantime, some of us noticed nice chemistry between Emery (Forrest Wheeler) and Aubrey and wondered if the producers were setting them up to be a couple as well in the third season next fall. Well, at the comic convention I wrote about in a previous column (where I spent some time with Jason Scott Lee and Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon), I ran into Forrest’s mother, who recognized me from last year’s East West Players dinner, and we talked about the episode. She explained that Liao was signed as a regular for the second season of “Fuller House,” so it’ll probably be difficult to get her back.

When I asked Forrest about the possibility of him having a girlfriend on the show, he made a funny face. Mrs. Wheeler explained that Liao was 14 and Emery 12, so to him, she was too old. Hey, Forrest, keep an open mind about “older women.” Take it from me, you never know when you’ll come to appreciate them…

Emery (Forrest Wheeler) and Aubrey (Ashley Liao).

Emery (Forrest Wheeler) and Aubrey (Ashley Liao).

Anyway, in this episode, Ken Jeong made a guest appearance playing Louis’ (Randall Park) estranged brother whom he hadn’t seen in 10 years. When the Huang boys see their uncle, one of them asks, “What happened to your accent?” Jeong explains that he lost it while working for the airlines. It was, to me, a funny in-joke because though Park started playing Louis with a Chinese accent, he eventually got rid of it (anyone know why?). So they could just as well have asked him, “Hey, Dad! What happened to your accent?!”

’Til next time keep your eyes and ears open.

Guy Aoki, co-founder of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, writes from Glendale. He can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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