Big Brother season finale recap: Winner, Loser, and a Hundred Stabbed Backs
Let’s not talk for a second about everything that was wrong with this season of Big Brother. The theoretically interesting MVP twist was completely destroyed by the boneheaded decision to bring in a player (Elissa) with a pre-existing fanbase. The producers dug up a few contestants who were evil and dumb, and they weren’t even evil and dumb in a fun way. After initial warfare, everyone in the house seemed to lie down and wait passively for Amanda to rip out their metaphorical throats with her unmetaphorical teeth. My personal Big Brother guru Skilby threw out the possibility that this was the worst Final Three ever. Certainly, we can all agree that Spencer’s 90 days inside of the Big Brother house constitute one of the single most depressing slow-motion trainwrecks in reality TV history.
But let’s not talk about any of that. Let’s talk about Andy. At times this summer, I’ve been a vocal Andy skeptic. He was a toadie, riding the coattails of powerful alliances; he was the leading representative of this season’s no-blood-on-my-hands gameplay. But fellow viewers, last night made me a believer. Not just because he won, and not because he played the game better than anyone. Everyone plays Big Brother their own way. Some people have a good social game; some people make strong alliances; some people can deliver in competitions; some people are wild cards who win precisely because they’re impossible to read. (See also: How professional poker players often say that it’s difficult to play against amateurs.)
Andy figured out what kind of game he was playing, and he played that game better than anyone. He wanted to be Mr. Invisible. He wanted to be the power behind the throne — and he always had his eye on the next throne. He was like those crafty old Soviets who survived decades of regime change; he was like Littlefinger or the Spider on Game of Thrones. Everyone else was playing checkers, and he was playing 3D chess.
The Jury had every reason to despise Andy. Directly or indirectly, he filled up the Jury house this summer. But when they asked him their final cross-examination questions, Andy was poised and confident. You imagine that he was rehearsing this speech before this season even started. In his own words, his power play began when he aligned himself closely with Amanda and McCrae. Everyone still thought he was a free-floating entity: “Every week someone would try to get me to flip the house, and every week I would report back to Amanda and that person would go home.” In a very casual and giggly way, Andy was making a pretty dramatic argument: That he was the central reason for McCramda’s rise to power. The showmance was the blunt instrument, expelling unruly contestants and taking all the blame. In a sense, Andy was saying that he used McCramda as the Ultimate Meatshield.
I can understand if some people don’t like this style of game. You could argue that Andy never made a quote-unquote “Power Move.” GinaMarie spent half the season staring at a picture of Nick and swallowing glitter, but she evicted Amanda while she was HoH — that counts for something. The first time Andy was Head of Household, he made the opposite of a power move. Instead, he crowdsourced the house’s passive-aggressive rage and evicted Jessie, the equivalent of tossing Old Yeller into an active volcano.
But Andy never wanted to hold actual power. He didn’t like to operate in the spotlight. He preferred the shadows. As he reminded everyone last night, he always knew exactly who was going home — “except for week 4, when Judd lied about Kaitlin.” He was never the target, not ever, not even close. In his closing statement, Andy said, “I played this game with my heart and I played this with my mind. I made moves that adapted to every situation I was in.”
He was talking to a crowd that included the long-gone members of the Moving Company: Dudes like David and Jeremy, who swaggered into the house like they owned the place. I can’t imagine them playing a game half as interesting as Andy. Andy vibes like a guy who woke up every morning imagining every conceivable variable and preparing five possible responses for each; David vibes like a guy who wakes up every other morning, maybe.
I can’t imagine that Andy will ever come back as an All-Star. Partially, that’s because I get the vibe CBS would prefer to leave this season in the dust. (ASIDE: If Aaryn plays her cards right and goes on an apology tour, I can see them wedging her into a future season as some kind of “Redemption” story arc. END OF ASIDE.) But Andy’s whole style of gameplay depended on nobody knowing just how deceitful he was; that kind of gameplay wouldn’t work again.
And yet, I imagine Andy could adapt. A few weeks ago, he was staring down the barrel of a Final Three with McCramda. So he formed a coalition of Misfit Toys: The biggest pawn in Big Brother history, a lovable duncecap who wasted two Big Brother lives, and a human being who can barely string two sentences together. It was like watching someone build a militia out of hobo zombies and one-armed teddy bears and GinaMarie, and then lead that militia against a Super Star Destroyer. Somehow it worked.
What sealed the deal, for me, was Andy’s actions during the live portion of last night’s episode. He won the final Head of Household challenge by a nose. By all rights, he should have sent GinaMarie out the door. She was a toxic personality in the early days, but she made the season’s Power Move, and she had at least one devotee. By comparison, nobody could have ever considered giving Spencer the prize money. Even Spencer, bless his beard, knew that he had no chance. (The cruel Big Brother editors presented his performance during the final HoH competition as a triumph of the human spirit…only to reveal that completing the competition took him almost twice as long as Andy.)
But Andy kept GinaMarie in the house. Maybe he still knew he would win, but the symbolism was powerful. “I promised this woman on night one of this game I would never backstab her,” he said. “That is the thread of loyalty that you thought was missing in my game.” He held up his knife, which had the backblood of the entire Jury dripping off its blade, and pointed out that he never backstabbed GinaMarie. It was the exception to the rule, the proof that Andy was an honorable player playing a dishonorable game. That moment assured his victory. Seven of the Jury members voted for Andy — seven people, remember, who he stabbed in the back. (The two dissenters were Judd, who in all fairness had two Andy-Knives in his back, and Aaryn, a GinaMarie loyalist.)
Andy won the $500 thousand, and as far as we could tell, he managed to lie to everyone and yet anger no one. He spied for every side in the Cold War, and as a gracious thank-you, they gave him his own private island. If you fool one person, you make an enemy; if you fool everybody, they call you a genius.
NEXT: Everything else that happened was silly and ridiculous.After a season of quiet gameplay, Andy owned the final night of Big Brother season 15. But there were other things that happened last night, and it was all ridiculous.
Dr. Will Comes to Jury
Beloved Big Brother winner and alleged vampire Dr. Will dropped by the Jury House to play Andy Cohen to the Jury’s Housewives Reunion. When he asked who they wanted to see joining them, Jessie once again revealed herself as this season’s Cassandra, saying that he hoped it was Andy: “It’s about time he get a taste of his own medicine.” Elissa, for her part, said she thought it would be McCrae, and she bemoaned how he went from being an enthusiastic player to a wreck of a human being. “Something happened to him in the middle of the game,” she said, “And I don’t know what.” Across the table, Amanda stared daggers at her, pondering a million different household uses for Elissa’s skull.
Amanda and Elissa were still fighting in the afterlife. Amanda said she forgave Elissa for being passive-aggressive. Elissa responded passive-aggressively. Candice didn’t get along with Amanda, either: “Everything’s happy in Candyland, and you’re not there with me.” STOP TRYING TO MAKE CANDYLAND HAPPEN, CANDICE. But bust this, people: Candice said that she and Aaryn “have become really good friends.” Oh, to be a fly on the wall of the Jury House this past month! There’s hope for us, America!
The debate about the Jury’s vote was interesting, mostly because people struggled to come up with a reason to vote for anyone besides Andy. Aaryn pointed out that GinaMarie was the one person Amanda couldn’t manipulate. Helen pointed out that Spencer “survived the demise of his own game.” More interesting were throwaway bits of information — like how McCrae’s whole plan was originally (or always?) to take Amanda to the Final Three and then cut her out.
About Amanda for a moment. She was the clear villain of this season, and anecdotally, it seems like the hostility towards her goes deeper than with past “villains” like Mike Boogie. People really don’t like her. To her credit, Amanda seems to realize this, and last night saw her begin her subtle rehabilitation campaign. In one of the questions asked during HoH, she said: “The moment in the house that I’m afraid to have my friends and family see…is every single one.” Later, when Julie Chen asked her who she thought the MVP was, Amanda correctly guessed America. “I didn’t think I was disliked as much as I was,” she said. “Then I walked out of the house and heard fifty percent boos.” She concluded, “I’m definitely not dull, Julie!”
The End of Spencer
Spencer lasted about two minutes in Part One of the HoH competition and could barely muster the energy to complete Part Two. During his exit interview with Julie Chen, there was an audio kerfluffle, and we could still hear GinaMarie and Andy talking. This meant that Spencer’s closing statements — his last will and testament after 90 days of struggle — were occasionally overshadowed by casual conversation between the two people who defeated him.
Things couldn’t possibly get worse. They got worse. Julie Chen had only a moment to talk to the returning early-evicted houseguests. Tragically, she did not ask Nick about GinaMarie. Instead, she made a vague statement about what it was like being “at home watching Big Brother” and asked Howard for his thoughts. Howard looked very nervous, and made an oblique but emotional statement about “the severity with which some of the comments were taken.” Howard ended on a hopeful note: “Hopefully there’s change from the inside out.”
While he talked, the camera cut to the three main racism offenders who still don’t know that there was a few weeks this summer when they were Internet Enemy Number One: Aaryn, GinaMarie, and Spencer. Because Aaryn got Frost/Nixoned by Julie Chen, she had the good sense to look apologetic. Inside the house, awaiting news about her impending prize, GinaMarie nodded happily. So Julie Chen asked Spencer: “What’s your reaction to that, Spencer?” Spencer, who clearly had no idea why he got the question, said he was sorry “if there’s a bunch of people that are upset with the language” and made some weird statement about “bringing bad publicity on the show.”
There was a long pause. Then:
“Did I say anything, Julie?”
Good night, sweet Spencer. Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. They should make you a trophy to commemorate your nominations record. Ideally, the trophy should be a bust of your face; underneath it, engraved in the stone, sits your catchphrase: “So, I’m up on the block. And it sucks.”
Excerpt from “Me, Myself, Am GinaMarie,” a new one-act play coming soon to Off-Broadway
GinaMarie sits onstage, trapped in the glare of an unforgiving spotlight. Another spotlight falls onto a podium with a microphone. Amanda ascends.
Amanda: “What was your biggest game move, other than getting me out?”
GinaMarie: “I would say probably my biggest game move was…y’see, it was my choice to put you and McCrae up, so I’d say that my biggest game move, if we’re talking about moves in this game that are big, and therefore are not small, whereas therefore it’s a “move” and not like a not-moving kind of deal thing, then I’d say my biggest game move was getting you out.”
Amanda: [Long Pause] “So… other than getting me out?”
GinaMarie: “Other than getting you out, y’know, getting you out wasn’t like getting you in, because “in” and “out” aren’t the same thing, amiright? So I was on the Exterminators and we got you out, but I was planning to get you out before there was an Exterminators, so my biggest move other than getting you out, I’d say, was getting you out.”
[Amanda exits. Candice ascends the podium.]
Candice: “Since you personally offended many members of the jury, why should we vote for you?
GinaMarie: [Laughs] “When Nick left, it was totally shocking for me. I acted the way I acted because I was totally shocked, is how shocking it was, totally. But to give me the money would change my life, would change my family’s life, would change my friends’ lives. Life: It’s all we got, ‘yknow? It’s like that song goes: “It’s My Life.” Bon Jovi! What kinda name’s Bon, knowwhatimean? Anyhow, I can only be the best GinaMarie I can possible be. And I can only be GinaMarie if I’m me. ‘Cause that’s who I am. Me. GinaMarie.”
[Candice exits. The Fifteenth Clone of Julie Chen suddenly emerges from a hole in the floor, while spooky music plays in the background.]
Fifteenth Clone of Julie Chen: “GinaMarie, can you please give a final statement to the Jury, explaining why they should vote for you?”
GinaMarie: “When I walked into this house, I said it was a good-looking house. You guys really do look awesome. You guys know me. I’m GinaMarie. Everything in this game, I played loyal. It’s only me. GinaMarie. That’s me. Who I am is who I was, and who I was is who I’m gonna be, while I’m being me. GinaMarie is how I play, and how I am. It’s the only way I know how to do what I do, which is be me. You’re all unique and special in your own certain way, and that goes double for me, in a certain way. If there is anyway I defended anyone, I want to apologize to you personably. My density has popped me to you. I mean, I am your density. Because I’m GinaMarie, and that’s who I am, because I’m me and you’re you and I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. GinaMarie.”
A walrus crawls onstage. Dies. GinaMarie stands up and walks away. The spotlight remains.
This was a weird season of Big Brother. The house was dominated in the opening weeks by an apparently powerful alliance that was immediately destroyed — thanks partially to the season’s MVP twist and partially to key alliance member’s incredibly toxic first-fortnight personalities. The most toxic personality, Aaryn, managed to survive the Hot-Person Exodus, only to become the pawn of one of the most successful showmances in Big Brother history.
In the weird middle month of the season, Amanda transformed from an crusading voice for the underclass into a full-evil Empress. McCramda ruled the house unopposed, taking down one almost-powerful player after another…until suddenly their reign came to an end when a team of misfits united against them.
It wasn’t always thrilling, but it was never boring. It has been a pleasure recapping the madness for you during these past five hundred years. Definitely post your thoughts about the finale and the season in the comments. And now, this is the moment when I have to mention something important. When this season started all those eons ago, here is what I said about Andy:
He teaches public speaking and cheerfully told the camera that he can lie to someone’s face with a big smile on his face. He also very clearly understands that there’s more to winning Big Brother than winning competitions. For all these reasons Andy is my Ridiculously Early Confident Pick to Win it All.
Thank God I bet all my money on that prediction. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this recap from my new beach house. In Rio. (de Janeiro.)
Epilogue: Elissa’s Self-Esteem is Just Fine, Thanks for Asking
She won America’s Choice. Let’s sum up that decision with a visit from our friend, McCrae In A Moment Of Epiphany.
Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich
Julie Chen hosts as the houseguests battle it out.