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September 21, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT

Would season 18 of Big Brother end in friendship or not? That was the big question heading into Wednesday’s live finale as Paul, James, and Nicole battled it out for the title of Big Brother champion.

Stripped of their big alliance partners — Victor, Natalie, and Corey, respectively — the final three were left to their own devices, and when all was said and done, Nicole Franzel was crowned the winner. And to the victor (as opposed to the Victor) go the spoils — in this case a half-million dollars.

The evening began with Paul beating James and Nicole in a challenge that involved the contestants dressing up like cats, chasing a laser through giant litter boxes, and… well, does it really matter? That meant Paul went directly to phase 3 of the challenge while Nicole and James battled it out in phase 2.

Phase 2 was almost as bizarre, as the duo had to navigate through a Big Brother amusement park and take a snapshot featuring cardboard cut-outs of evicted houseguests driving down a makeshift rollercoaster. Unsurprisingly, James got smoked in that one, leading to a Paul vs. Nicole battle in phase 3, where they were treated to the traditional fill-in-the-jury-member-blank contest. Paul defeated Nicole, guaranteeing him a spot in the finals and giving him the power to select whom he would sit next to.

And it turned out, he used the power poorly. Paul evicted James, setting him up for a jury showdown with Nicole. And while he was confident he had the game to beat her, the jury disagreed, awarding Nicole the half-million dollars by a single vote.

Check out our full Big Brother recap later tonight as well as our interviews with the final three tomorrow. Make sure to get all the scoop on next season of Big Brother, and for more of this reality TV nonsense, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Julie Chen hosts as the houseguests battle it out.
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