There was only one certainty as the final three of Big Brother 17 whittled itself down to the final two: Liz was going to the finale. No matter what deal Steve and Vanessa made together, taking each other over Liz would be an act of sheer lunacy that neither, both competent players in their own right, seemed to genuinely consider.
And so it came down to those two players — the superfan who had a lifelong love for the game, who, as far as the cameras could tell, may not have actually been in the house for much of the first 40 days, and the poker player who was on the rinse-and-repeat cycle of manipulating, coming out on top, and then still crying as if she were the victim. Whoever secured his or her spot in the final two looked primed to win, so long as Liz’s secured voting bloc of Julia and Austin didn’t sway the jury.
Both Steve and Vanessa played the three-part final Head of Household competition with $500,000 in their eyes while Liz was just happy to be there. So it was no surprise that she threw the first leg of the competition to Vanessa while Steve, who dropped off his apple first, was in the corner sneaking some popcorn. (Seriously, the angle on the camera looked like the crew forgot he was in the house. Did he sneak an invisibility cloak into his suitcase?)
It takes some convincing of course. “Oh boy, this pain ain’t bringing me down,” Vanessa would shout at the top of her lungs while Steve watched. And then as he’d scamper away to nibble on some popcorn, she would whisper-plead with Liz until the remaining twin decided she would be fine in the second round. What could possibly go wrong? It would take a competition so finely attuned to Steve’s nerdier, bookworm tendencies to take Liz down. And what are the producers going to do, throw together a competition that involves a giant laptop and word puzzles?
Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what they’re going to do. And even if the competition decides his fate, Steve looks more relaxed than he ever has (which, granted, still looks nervous) when he walks out into the backyard to see the competition. The familiar climbing wall competition is formatted as a giant Big Brother-themed crossword puzzle. Steve handles the task with ease, tripped up not by the challenge but by forgetting he had a letter tile in his bag.
Steve spells out his strategy exactly as you’d expect. Fill in the easy clues to make the more challenging ones more obvious. Spread out the tiles to see what remains as he thins the alphabet. But Liz’s commentary on the game amounts to little more than “I have to climb and use my legs.” (Further evidence Steve was pulling out a win: the first clue he seems to get is OTEV’s dairy product of butter, while Liz cycles through everyone’s two other favorite dairy products, yeast and pizza, before landing on butter.)
So… it’s no surprise Steve wins, but it is surprisingly by how small a margin. He completes the puzzle in 28 minutes, 27 seconds, edging out Liz’s time of 31 minutes and 11 seconds.
A win is a win, however, and Steve begins to foreshadow the night to come in his Diary Room session: If he can win the third round, he can evict Vanessa, and he believes that will earn his favor with the jury. (And seeing as how Johnny Mac calls evicting Vanessa “the tiger pelt on the wall” during the jury roundtable, he’s not wrong.)
Knights of the Round Jury Table Before looking at that third round, let’s dive into the jury dynamic, because once the final two is decided, it renders half of their discussion moot. Led by good ol’ Dr. Will Kirby, who still sadly looks nothing like Kirby, the jury discuss their admiration, scorn, and general apathy for the final three. It’s not a particularly memorable or thrilling jury debate. No one boils over with seething anger, Julia unsurprisingly says she’ll vote for Liz over anyone, and everyone admits to Vanessa’s continued control over their fates.
Shelli is the biggest supporter of Vanessa, which is no surprise as she’s mentioned the poker player’s name more in her short jury house appearances this season than she uttered Clay’s name in the Big Brother house itself. Becky is thrown off by her constant need to swear on family, friends, the gay community, her unborn children, and her lord and savior Pokey the talking poker chip.
NEXT: Can Austin get creepier? Yes, yes he can.