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Apocalyptic surprise

Israeli ‘Big Brother’ cast finally being told about extent of pandemic

In episode to air later this week, contestants made aware of situation outside Jerusalem-area villa and given encouraging messages from their families

A contestant seen on Israeli "Big Brother" (Screen capture/Walla via JTA
A contestant seen on Israeli "Big Brother" (Screen capture/Walla via JTA

JTA — Imagine being trapped inside a luxurious house, blissfully unaware of any news happening in the world outside, during this moment of international crisis.

Well, that’s part of the premise of the long-running reality show “Big Brother,” in which a group of contestants are surveilled with an array of cameras and are only allowed to communicate with each other.

Most of the contestants on the Israeli edition, one of four international versions of the show currently being filmed, have been housed in a villa “somewhere in the mountains of Jerusalem,” according to Ynet, since the start of this season on January 1. Another batch joined the show a month and a half in, still well before the coronavirus pandemic hit its stride and put the entire world in a historic panic.

So in other words, the show’s cast members haven’t been aware of the frenzy taking place outside their doors. Israel has ordered citizens to stay inside, except in cases of emergency or for essential needs, like groceries.

Israelis wearing face mask for fear of the coronavirus are seen in public transport in Jerusalem on March 17, 2020.
(Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

That just changed, though, as the show informed the house members about the situation and gave them encouraging messages from their families earlier Tuesday. The episode showing the reveal will air this week.

One contestant named Paul Chagyan talked with Ynet over the weekend about the experience of leaving the show only to enter a quarantine in his real house.

“When I came down the stairs from the ‘Big Brother’ house, I had the feeling that something bad was happening in the country, but I didn’t realize how much,” Chagyan said. “I was disappointed because I wanted to go out, drink beer, meet friends, relax a bit outside. Now I feel like I left the ‘Big Brother’ seclusion for my house.”

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