Celebrity Big Brother finale recap: And the Winner Is...
Someone just got robbed
Welcome to finale night! It was a season full of drama, showmances like Jessica and Cody, excessive cereal eating, and a chorus of pots and pans. It’s time to crown the winner of Big Brother 19!
Whoops, this isn’t the finale of Big Brother 19 — it’s Celebrity Big Brother!
Our winner is…Marissa? Yes, Marissa J. Winokur. Yup, you heard that correctly. MARISSA. The talkative Hairspray star defeated Ross Matthews by a vote of 6 to 3 in the Celebrity Big Brother finale.
And I’ve got to tell you right off the bat — I’m not happy about it. Look, I was truly happy Josh won BB19. I believe he deserved it. Paul made moves and played a more proactive game, but in the process, he cultivated a culture in the House that was unnecessarily cruel. Not only was his jury management a dumpster fire, but the entire vibe he gave off under the guise of “Friendship” was a complete and utter sham.
Ross wheeled and dealed and was sneaky, but as he told us just after Marissa’s win — “Hello, it’s Big Brother. If you come into this house, you’ve got to play this game.”
I couldn’t agree more. Let’s see how we got to this trainwreck of an end.
There Were Five in the Bed…
We start the episode right where we left off — at the Final 5 HOH competition. In the ski-themed challenge, Ari, Mark, Ross and Marissa fight to be king or queen of the hill, balancing for as long as possible on unstable skis. As the others compete, Omarosa, outgoing HOH, serves as reigning ice queen over the alpine activities.
At this stage in the game, Omarosa and Ari are a tight pair since neither has any other allies in the game. Marissa is essentially wed to Ross, and Ross makes it clear he wants to go to the end with Mark. Mark tells us that although he trusts Ross, he’s been lying low, and it’s time for him to “assert [his] dominance and win some of these competitions all by [himself].”
Marissa falls first, and Ari — who tells us she “looks very funny like a little baby horse,” isn’t far behind, shattering her hopes of safety and Omarosa’s too. Then, Ross cuts a one-on-one deal with Mark, appealing to the softie ’90s rocker, saying he wants a letter from home. All the while, Omarosa sits on the sideline stirring the pot as usual, asking the guys to speak up so she can hear the deal and “protect” herself from it. Mark lets Ross win, and you’d think we were watching Shark Tank and not BB with all the deal talk.
Ross predictably (and smartly, I may add) puts up Omarosa, who’s been his biggest target the entire game, along with Ari, who is a huge social threat. While putting up the two women, Ross also thinks ahead to the special Final 4 HOH competition, in which the winner will take one person to the Final 2 and evict two houseguests. In an effort to maximize the likelihood he gets to the Final 2, Ross does his legwork with Ari, telling her he’s putting her up because his hands are “sort of tied with these nominations” with so few people left. He also works to ensure Ari takes him to the Final 2 if she wins, and she agrees. “I just need to trust Ross that I’m not the target,” she tells us. “I have been loyal in this game. I don’t know. I’m just that kind of person.”
Ross puts up Ari and Omarosa and then manages to win the Power of Veto Competition, “Get Your Story Straight,” in which the houseguests must associate days with major events in the house while suspended from a harness. Ross handily wins the competition, and Omarosa is evicted per his plan.
On the way out, Omarosa talks a lot about God and the White House and says she was thankful for the opportunity to play because “she got to let hair down and be authentic without television cameras.” Newsflash, “Lady O,” you’re on a television show. But that’s neither here nor there. I’m grumpy and filled with as much righteous indignation about the result of this season as Omarosa is with White House stories, so let’s move along…
There Were Four in the Bed…
For the Final 4 HOH competition, the houseguests head out to the backyard to play #HashItOut. In the competition, the houseguests view Twitter battles between previously evicted houseguests. They must identify incorrect statements made in back-and-forth social media jabs.
After leading the HOH competition for the entire time, Marissa falters on the last question, resulting in a three-way tie-breaker among her, Mark, and Ross. With that, the Final HOH competition comes down to a guessing game of how many seconds the previous HOH competition, Rocky Mountain Fly, lasted. The houseguest closest to the number of seconds without going over wins. Marissa manages to eke it out to win HOH and the power to choose who will sit beside her in the Final 2.
Just before the live evictions, Julie gives the three houseguests in peril — Mark, Ari, and Ross — the opportunity to make a case as to why Marissa should take them to the end. Instead of fighting like hell to convince Marissa to take them, Mark and Ari simply say they are thankful for the experience and share their love for their fellow houseguests. In retrospect, this is a clue to the kind of jury the Final 2 will face. It’s a jury that’s all about good vibrations and a fun BB vacation. Ross, on the other hand, while not overly strategic or pushy, says to Marissa: “We talked about this. You did it. I have a friend for life in you. No matter what, I love you.” While Ross maintains the season’s culture of nice, no-pressure, social over strategy in his statement to Marissa, it’s still clear he has a strategy and agency. He may be appealing to Marissa socially, but that social decision is a strategic one.
Marissa votes to keep Ross, and they go to the Final 2. I’ve got to say, at this point, I was utterly convinced Marissa had sealed her BB tomb. After all, the jury consisting of alleged BB “super-fans” like Shannon, Omarosa, and James would surely reward someone who made proactive moves, right?
Boy, was I ever wrong. (Recap continues on page 2)
There Were Two in the Bed…And Is Gameplay As We Know It Dead?
When Marissa and Ross face the jury, questions come from several (but not all) of the houseguests, including Brandi, James, Shannon, and Omarosa.
From where I was sitting, and from everything I value in the name of quitting your real life to go PLAY a game, Ross nailed every question. His strategy was cohesive. His justifications clear. He impressed upon the jury the importance of “pivoting” in the game when necessary and “winning when your butt is on the line.” He tells fellow “super-fan” Shannon: “You have to stay true to your character in this game…You have to be able to pivot to an opening or away from a closed door. As the power shifts in the house, you have to be flexible as well. You also have to choose a ride or die.”
Marissa, on the other hand, was at least consistent. She did what she did for the entire game — talked. She told the jury she was genuine and impressed upon them her efforts to make friends in the house. If you think of that age-old Bachelor line “I’m not here to make friends,” well, Marissa’s BB jury speech was basically the opposite of that. What was most infuriating for me was Marissa’s answer to Shannon’s question about why she should win over Ross. She said, and I quote: “The truth is many of the things I did with Ross. He came to me with the great ideas…I tried to listen to what Ross said and incorporated what Ross was bringing me and tried not to freak out.”
[Insert stunned emoji of your choice here].
Those were the jury speeches in a nutshell. When it comes down to it, Metta (who may or may not have made an arbitrary vote), Brandi, and Mark were the three votes for Ross, with everyone else going for Marissa.
Ross, at the very least, wins Americas Favorite Player, besting Shannon and James. He seemed stunned, stating that at the commercial break he asked Marissa: “Was I the villain?”
As someone who went to the end of Survivor, only to come up short, I’ve got to be candid — my heart broke when Ross asked if he was the bad guy. I waited over a year to hear the result I knew was coming at the end of my season. I dreamed about Survivor every single night. I convinced myself I was a terrible person to my fellow tribemates. I’ve come to terms with it, and that’s a whole other thesis, but man, I felt for Ross.
Ross played, and he didn’t do it in an overly vindictive manner like Paul. He didn’t just go on his favorite show in the world to inflate his ego. He went to play the game he loves. Was he a bit messy in the process? Sure, but sometimes that’s life, and that’s certainly the fun of competition reality. When his back was up against the wall, he found a way to save himself, and he built a resume of wins in the process. Most upsetting to me is the fact that many players said they saw Ross as a huge threat and sang his praises when they were evicted. I underestimated just how fragile these celebrity egos could be — bring Ross back in a season of average Joes. I’m pretty sure he’d slay.
Maybe I’m a little too serious about this, but it disappoints me as someone who’s given up weeks of my life to play a game I love. By awarding Marissa the win, it sends the message that when you give up your life to entertain American television viewers for free, the best strategy is to be a follower. That sucks.
Ross, you are a robbed goddess. You will always be my Celebrity Big Brother winner.
Oh, and P.S., from one reality competition loser to another — Ross, ring me up, boo. We have a lot to talk about.
Feel free to go wild in the comments; I can’t wait to hear what you think.