A so-so season ends on a high note as a new champion is crowned. More importantly, Adam magically becomes less useless. It's a Christmas miracle!

By Darren Franich
Updated September 15, 2011 at 06:00 AM EDT

If you wanted to point to the defining image of the thirteenth season of Big Brother, you would have to look back to the opening moments of last night’s season finale. The three remaining housemates were participating in Part One of the final HoH competition: A typically surreal megasized butter-churning competition that for some reason also involved spraying the housemates with gak, Double Dare-style. Unsurprisingly, Adam started falling early on, because challenges aren’t his strong suit. (Adam’s strong suit, as we all know, is the one with shoe-gloves.) Porsche started moaning about how her tum-tum felt ick-ick. “I don’t want to barf, but I also don’t want to swim in my barf,” she explained. “It’s a Catch-22!” So, to recap: Two players who lasted the entire summer in the Big Brother house were brought low in the final competition by ouchie muscles and icky joints.

What peasants. You only had to look at their competitor to know that their chances of winning were slim to none. Rachel was the picture of royal poise; she looked as if she had been training her entire life to hold tight to a spinning butter-churner while being dipped in neon sewage. She was not fazed when the machine started picking up speed. When Adam fell in, she offered very pleasant condolences. When Porsche gave up, Rachel congratulated her on a game well-fought. Then, viewers, she positively hopped out of the butter-bowl. Porsche was left behind, gasping for air, waiting for Adam to pull her out.

This season of Big Brother has been undoubtedly disappointing. The first few weeks were marred by a twist overload. The Daniele-Jeff double-eviction bloodbath was a great night of TV that removed two of the most interesting players in BB history from the playing field; After Daniele and Jeff left, the BB house felt a little bit like a chessboard populated entirely by pawns. Fortunately, one of those pawns was Rachel. Rachel, the unconquerable. Rachel, the indomitable. Rachel, with her hair so crimson red, you have to figure she killed a dragon just so she could dye her hair in a pool of dragon blood.

Last night’s season finale was immensely satisfying because Rachel’s journey through this season proved so immensely satisfying. She came into the house as a memorably annoying Big Brother villain. She leaves, now, a comeback kid. A Cinderella story. She is the Juggernaut, bitch! Or, perhaps more accurately, she is: The Juggernaut Bitch. (Aside: I know there’s a perception that the producers laid the groundwork for Rachel’s surge with competitions that played to her strengths. I have three responses to that conspiracy theory: 1. Were there any competitions that would have played to Adam’s or Porsche’s strengths? 2. Would you have preferred a final three with Kalia, Porsche, and Adam? 3. Who cares? There’s cheating in every sport. At least the producers were smart enough to back the right person; imagine if someone in the CBS front office thought Adam was testing well with the youth demographic.)

Rachel sat out of the second part of the HoH competition, which sent Porsche and Adam into a tank of water, guiding the faces of every Head of Household through an underwater maze. “I’ve never worked so hard in my life to win a competition,” Porsche moaned. (There are some people, like my wise co-recapper Kate Ward, who have warmed to Porsche in these last few weeks. Not me. It’s telling that Jordan — sweet, adorable, inoffensive Jordan — decided to wage a Sarcasm Campaign against Porsche in these last few episodes.) Adam threw away his goggles after a minute, and was then surprised to discover that it’s hard to see underwater without goggles. Viewers, this man is a muppet.

NEXT: Twelve Angry Men, and the women who hate them.At this point, our focus shifted to the Jury, who were sequestered in a lovely corner of the Jury Penitentiary that kind of looked like a poolside cabana without a pool or a cabana. Immediately, it was clear that the voters were split in two directions: Pro-Rachel, or Anti-Rachel. Brendon and Jordan both made a strong appeal for Rachel’s gameplay, but the stronger argument probably came from Jeff: “As annoying as she was, she made it to the end.” Kalia, who was fresh from being frontstabbed by Rachel at last week’s eviction, admitted that Rachel had “the hardest road to run to the end.”

But then came Daniele, who had apparently elected herself the Captain of the Sour Grapes Battalion. Daniele was taking no prisoners. She said, in no uncertain terms, “Rachel’s the biggest floater in the house.” Daniele: You’re an incredible player, but what? Rachel, a floater? Dani’s main justification for this argument seemed to be that Rachel would cozy up to everyone Head of Household, which is kind of like being upset that politicians are cozying up to rich people: Duh. Shelly had a slightly more intriguing argument, claiming that Rachel’s toxic personality should not be rewarded. (Shelly justified her own double-talk as “all gameplay.”)

Kalia tried to argue that Porsche’s non-gameplay was a virtue: That, until she absolutely had to, she chose to just “chill.” This argument did not resonate. I may be forgetting, but I don’t think Daniele even tried to argue for Porsche. Dani did get one incisive zinger in against Adam, though, claiming that the Mr. 90210 invented an entirely new kind of Big Brother gameplayer: The Piggybacker. “He never thought for himself,” was how Dani summed up Adam’s game.

Viewers, who do you think came off best in the Big Brother jury? My personal vote would be Brendon, who seemed just so ridiculously stoked about everything; I half-expected him to say, “Hey guys, isn’t this great? We all hate each other! Wow!” I know who came off worst: Kalia, who spent most of her time onscreen trying to argue that she played her own game in the BB house. She wasn’t just a parrot for Daniele. She had plans, beautiful plans! It was a weird way to go out: It put her in the position of insulting her closest ally (“I never listened to Dani! I’m my own person!”) while also making her look like kind of a sap. Kalia might have been a good player in a non-Veteran season, but she was floating into Adam territory before she joined up with the Daniele brigade.

If literally anyone else had been in the top three, then the anti-Rachel contingent might have seemed less desperate. But Rachel was up against a lump of man-clay and a luxury vehicle in a bikini. Still, it looked like the votes were split dead-even. The mere possibility of a Porsche victory made my tum-tum feel icky.

NEXT: Adam makes a surprisingly awesome, perhaps accidental last-minute argument for his All-Star status.Now, we’ve all had fun making fun of Adam’s complete inability to play Big Brother, but I gotta say: The Adam we saw on last night’s finale almost seemed like a completely different person. Gone was the scraggly five-o-clock scruff that made Adam resemble a real-life Homer Simpson (or a pink bowling ball dipped in peach fuzz). Instead, Adam had shaved his facial hair into a perfect replica of Bryan Cranston’s angry-everyman goatee on Breaking Bad. Throw in the fact that Adam was wearing a Larry David collared-shirt and had a look of utter disdain on his face, and you had a guy who looked like a freaking competitor.

Rachel won the third part of the HoH competition. The final contest focused on how well the competitors knew the Jury members: In a neat twist, Rachel won because she apparently knows Daniele and Kalia better than Porsche, the girl who was in their freaking alliance. Rachel had made a deal to bring Porsche to the final two. I thought it seemed like she was wavering in that a little bit. I also figured that Rachel would have better chances against Adam. But she seemed dead-set on kicking him out.

This led to Adam’s most majestic moment of the season. Porsche had just finished giving her “save-me” speech that focused on her invisible adorableness: “Tee-hee, you sure crushed me in that HoH, Rachel! Beep beep, toot toot, vroom!” Then Adam stood up and went off. It wasn’t just that he called out Porsche’s gameplay. It was that, good god, the guy actually had a speech. “Rachel,” he said, his tobacco-stained voice sounding like an Eastwood growl, “Last season, you said Floaters grab a life vest. This season: Floaters grab a paycheck?”

Boom! It was such a good line that you could overlook, for a second, that the words were coming from Mega-Floater #1. And boy, you could tell that it cut Rachel to the bone. For all her hypocrisy about floaters, you could tell that she really didn’t want to carry Porsche along to the final two. So Rachel gave a little piece of oratory that sums up why she turned out to be the hero of this season:

“I had to win HoHs, POVs. My fiancé was evicted twice. I’ve had to play this game 100% by myself. I feel like I deserved and earned my spot here. In the last few weeks, I have fought side by side with one person, and this person [Porsche] has helped me with the game. I’ve earned it. I’m so sorry. I have to evict you.”

Adam was okay with it. He ran outside, and by god, the crowd loved him. Where was this crowdpleasing, energetic dude all summer? He was hugging Julie Chen. He was cackling like a scary-but-awesome hobo-Santa. The big moment came when Julie asked him if Rachel made the right decision kicking him out. Adam, without missing a beat: “Yep. If I was in the final 2, I would have won!”

Insane? Oh god, yes. The studio audience burst out laughing. But hell, Adam knew this was his moment, and he was eating it up. After Julie was done interviewing him, he stood back up and raced around like a chipmunk. At one point, he got in between Julie and the camera, and he actually managed to make the Chenbot look spontaneous. Here was Adam’s self-epitaph for his time on Big Brother: “Next year, when I come back for All-Stars, I’m winning this game.” Adam: If you’re like this all the time, and you never mention 9021-freaking-0 again, then we might just maybe almost consider it. (No, we won’t.)

NEXT: Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.

It was time for the Jury to ask their questions. And here, in the closing moments of her season, Rachel delivered her masterstroke: She pointedly did not make an emotional appeal. She just rattled off statistics and let the game speak for itself: “I have fought. I was a target since I walked through these doors. 4 HoHs, 2 POVs, the final HoH… ” Without ever once attacking Porsche, she simply noted that she had been playing the game right from the start… unlike a certain Blonde Luxury Cocktail Vehicle. By comparison, Porsche couldn’t help but sound tepid. It didn’t help that her final argument was: “I competed in as many competitions as I could be in.” (Imagine a senator trying to pump up his record in a presidential debate: “Listen, I can certainly confirm that I voted as often as they would let me vote. Also, I shook the Vice President’s hand once!”)

And good lord, Rachel even had a soft touch: When she apologetically noted that evicting Kalia was an essential move, she told her, “I think you would have won the game if you were in the final two.” All that was missing was a baby to kiss.

She didn’t sway everyone. When Daniele voted, she snidely mumbled to Rachel, “You’re lucky this isn’t a personality contest.” (Rachel slightly, but very visibly, flinched when Dani said that. It was the only peek we saw all night of the old, angry Rachel. Jordan coached this girl real good.) Pity Daniele. She ran on the Big Brother house for three glorious weeks, and she managed to indirectly assassinate America’s beloved Big Jeff, but her time in BB13 can only be remembered as a beautiful Icarus-style failure.

And so, Daniele left the Big Brother mythos the same way she came in: Being lectured to by her father. (Daniele is unquestionably the Theon Greyjoy of Big Brother, and if you understand that reference, then get a life and also marry me.) She didn’t even get the last word on her defining rivalry with Jeff. Nope, Julie let Jeff sum it up in his inimitable style. “We gave each other back our friendships bracelets. [Thinks for a second] I guess I do dislike her. I don’t like her.”

But Jeff ended things with a hilariously Zen statement that I’ve already printed out and stuck to my wall: “There’s a lot of room… in everywhere.” I don’t love Jeff as much as some people, but it’s easy to understand how he wound up winning the “America’s Favorite” prize: He somehow makes the backroom deal-making and Gossip Girl-worthy bitchery at the center of Big Brother seem incredibly macho.

NEXT: And, in the end…The three non-Daniele veterans on the Jury all voted for Rachel. Kalia and Dani both voted for Porsche: No surprise there. Adam also voted for Porsche, possibly just out of spite. But Julie never even got around to counting Adam’s vote. Because this season ended the only way it could have ended: With Shelly as the Swing Vote. The player who rode the middle of the house all season long wound up making the ultimate decision, Sandra Day O’Connor-style. And she made the right call. Despite her reservations about Rachel’s personality, Shelly handed the Redheaded Wonder half a million dollars.

Confetti poured from the ceiling. Brendon raced up to the catwalk and lifted his fiancée high up in the air. You could tell that Rachel couldn’t quite believe it. People were clapping! For her! The really, really liked her! She came into this house with a target on her back; she made enemies with essentially everyone, and annoyed the living daylights out of her closes friends; she spent two weeks in a black hole of depression; and somehow, now, she is the winner of Big Brother.

Viewers, what did you think of the season finale? Did Rachel win you over? Were you surprised that the voting was so close? Don’t you prefer badass-goatee Adam to lame-bald Adam and annoying-bearded Adam? Does anyone else wish that we lived in a dystopian alternate-reality America where people were cynical and awesome enough to give Daniele the “America’s Favorite” trophy? Hit up the comment boards, and if you have any wonderful/terrible thoughts to share, tweet at me!

And that’s it for Big Brother season 13. Hope you’ve enjoyed my and Kate Ward’s coverage this summer. Prepare yourself now for the cold months: The bleak Big Brother-free seasons of the year. Let’s huddle together for warmth, my friends, and say a silent prayer that Big Brother 14 will be twist-free. (Unless the twist is “The new host is Zingbot.” That is extremely acceptable.) See you next summer!

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