Expect the unexpected. CBS’s highly publicized reality competition show, Celebrity Big Brother, came to a surprising end on Sunday when Marissa Jaret Winokur was crowned the winner of the $250,000 grand prize by a jury of former houseguests. Marissa won the final Head of Household (HOH) competition and brought her ride-or-die, Ross Mathews, to the Final Two with her. This loyal move left many thinking she just handed Ross the grand prize but as host Julie Chen always says, “Expect the Unexpected!”
Ross not only brought home the $50,000 runner-up prize, but he was also awarded the America’s Favorite Houseguest $25,000 prize, for a total of $75,000 in winnings. Since Ross and Marissa were my dream final-two, this was great news (especially because my favorite houseguests rarely make it to the final). However, this is pretty bad news for CBS’s Big Brother franchise and potentially future seasons of Celebrity Big Brother.
I love Marissa and have been a fan of hers since I saw her perform as Hairspray’s Tracy Turnblad on Broadway. But there’s two reasons why she may have won and neither of them are because of her gameplay. Early on in the season, both on the live feeds and broadcast episodes, Marissa stood out as a force to be reckoned with. Quickly, though, she faded to the sidelines and kind of floated her way to the Final Five. It wasn’t until the Final HOH that she really made a move – and it still wasn’t a great move because while her loyalty to Ross was admirable, everyone assumed she’d easily lose to him.
Compared to Marissa, Ross made a ton of big moves (most of which were ultimately ruined by CBS’s pitiful casting decisions)! Ross had alliances with practically everyone but was really good at keeping them balanced. If the house was leaning towards evicting a particular houseguest, he’d analyze if it was a good move primarily for his game and then for his alliance. If it seemed like a bad move, he’d attempt to sway the house and was pretty successful in doing so. Had the casting not been so poor, Ross would have been behind the backdoor of Shannon Elizabeth and later in the season he would have had the opportunity to backdoor another houseguest after removing himself from the threat of eviction.
A Bitter Jury
This isn’t the first time that a clear winner has lost the grand prize because of a bitter jury, and unless CBS does something to tweak it’s format to either regular Big Brother or it’s celebrity editions, it won’t be the last. For instance, Paul Abrahamian lost both of the past two seasons of Big Brother and a lot of BB fans would say he was robbed. While I certainly take pleasure in knowing that Paul came in second place twice, as I was never a fan of him or his gameplay, I can admit that it’s pretty clear that a bitter jury or poor jury management led to his demise.
But in terms of Celebrity Big Brother, I don’t believe that Ross had poor jury management. Generally, his reasoning was explained when an evicted houseguest his pre-recorded “goodbye message” was shown to them. Ross actually did remain pretty true to his alliances: until it was clear which way the house was leaning and how an eviction might go, he worked with his alliance. It wasn’t until the last few rounds where he really solidified end-game deals and alliances to ensure his ticket to the finale.
Still, one of the biggest flaws in Celebrity Big Brother is that the jury was given the luxury of returning home to watch the season from the beginning, watch the live feeds, and be swayed by external sources. As far as juries go, that’s pretty much never good – in the real world or the world of reality television. And as if on cue, the jury crowned the wrong houseguest and it’s probably because they were bitter. Sure, it was a shorter season at about 1/3 of a regular Big Brother season, but letting the jury go home and digest everything didn’t really allow for a fair result.
I mentioned earlier that Marissa won for either of two reasons. I’ve discussed the jury’s bitterness leading them to want to vote for virtually anyone but Ross, but the second reason is less obvious: 2018 is being hailed as the Year of the Woman. In fact, Channel 5‘s 21st season of Celebrity Big Brother in the UK made it a huge part of the show with the women entering the house days ahead of the male houseguests. Omarosa Manigualt stated quite a few times on CBS’s Celebrity Big Brother that she felt that since it is the Year of the Woman, a woman should win. She also caused a stir on stage finale night, attempting to confer with the other houseguests about how they should all vote, with Julie interrupting multiple times to put an end to it.
Changing the Format
In the UK, Celebrity Big Brother is much different: the celebrities each nominate two of their fellow houseguests for eviction, and the viewing public votes on who stays or goes. Therefore, there isn’t much strategy involved, and power isn’t given or taken away with HOHs or vetos. It’s an entirely different game. CBS’s Big Brother could easily benefit from adopting this method of gameplay while leaving it’s successful Big Brother franchise untouched.
A more simple (and logical) approach would be to keep the evicted houseguests in sequester until finale night to prevent jury tampering. Perez Hilton, who came in sixth place on the 15th season of Channel 5’s Celebrity Big Brother, was reportedly urging evicted houseguests to vote against Ross. For instance, here he admits to possibly influencing James Maslow’s vote, here he tells James to listen to him and James’ dad who had previously told James that Ross is conniving and backstabbing.
On last week’s episode of Ross’ podcast, Straight Talk with Ross Mathews, which his cohosts have been running in his absence, Trisha Garrigus had mentioned that a good twist would be for America to vote for the winner (either fully or in addition to the house vote). You can listen to that here.
Again, I mean no offense to Marissa but as Ross had said on finale night, and even Julie Chen explained in an interview to Entertainment Tonight, it’s Big Brother… Lies, deception, it’s all par for the course. In the same interview, Julie even said she wouldn’t be surprised if the jury members end up coming to regret the way they voted. What did you think of the finale and how the jury voted?