BIG BROTHER: Celebrity Edition
Credit: Monty Brinton /CBS

Like the television equivalent of a zephyr through the fields, Celebrity Big Brother now passes through our consciousness as quickly as it hit us. By the end of the night, either Ricky Williams, Dina Lohan, Tamar Braxton, Kandi Burruss, or Lolo Jones will walk out the Big Brother house $250,000 richer if not 29 days wiser. Will the best player win out in the end or will frayed egos in the jury sway the result a different way like last season? Let’s jump in and find out…

We rejoin the final five as we left them Monday night, in the midst of the HoH competition “Bats: The Musical.” Finally getting over her worst fears, Tamar takes a flying leap to her platform as the rest of her houseguests are already further ahead on their puzzles. Dina, a gymnast in her youth, thinks she’s finally found a competition she can win; unfortunately, the clock thinks differently as she’s eliminated after forgetting to buzz in to refresh her timer. As Tamar and Ricky seem to be neck-in-neck, Kandi, who’s further behind, hopes her BFF can win out and keep her off the block, which she feels is a certainty under any other HoH. Ultimately, it’s Ricky who pieces the puzzle together the fastest, becoming our first HoH of finale night. The nomination ceremony comes next and Ricky nominates Kandi and Dina for eviction; “basically because they don’t sleep with me,” he tells the diary room. Ewww. Dina, thinking she’s nominated because she’s one of the best players, takes her nomination as a compliment, while a resigned but dedicated Kandi says she’s ready to fight for the veto.

Ricky and Tamar chat game in the bedroom and seem to be in agreement about both a final two deal and backdooring Lolo if the veto is won by one of the nominees. Tamar tells the diary room she’s taking every opportunity in front of her to make it to the end, even if it means getting one of her allies out. “Bye Lolo!” she says matter-of-factly. The final veto competition of the season, “Celebrity BB Museum,” sees the houseguests act like thieves as they’re given instructions that correspond to four “priceless items” from throughout the season’s competitions. The catch: the museum is equipped with a laser security system protecting the items. If they trip one of the lasers, they’ll have to go back and buzz in to reset the system. The person who steals the items in the fastest time wins the veto, and in the meantime, we bear witness to what a direct-to-video Entrapment sequel would look like (lots of alarms, apparently). Despite a valiant effort from Ricky, it’s Lolo’s athleticism that wins out in a swift five minutes. “I’ve broken into my exes’ houses a lot of times so…,” Lolo brags/incriminates in the diary room.

Ahead of the veto meeting, Lolo meets with Ricky in the HoH room to figure out how the veto will be used, if at all. Lolo presents the scenario of using the veto on Dina to secure Kandi’s exit, which would by default put Tamar on the block. Believing Ricky would choose to keep Tamar if the vote went to a tie-breaker, Lolo sees this as her best shot of getting Kandi out. “Leaving Kandi in this game, it kinda makes me nervous,” she tells Ricky. Tamar then enters the room and Lolo shares the plan with her. Tamar is obviously not amused. Wanting to keep herself off the block and her friend safe at the same time, Tamar tries to pivot by putting the heat back on Dina and sets her up as a stronger competitor than Kandi. When the veto meeting takes place, Lolo takes Tamar’s words to heart and chooses not to use the veto. “I’m gonna be pissed if I did all this for nothing,” she tells the diary room afterward, lamenting that her status as Olympic also-ran could rub off here as well. Realizing he could be the tie-breaker during the eviction, Ricky says that he’s not afraid of ruffling feathers even if it could harm his chances at the grand prize. But before we discover the first evictee tonight, Julie chats with human twist Anthony Scaramucci about having to play the game without actually playing the game and how tough it was to keep his twist secret within his 6 days in the house. The Mooch gives his props to the final five, but then Julie goes all Face the Nation on us and asks if he thinks President Trump will survive his first term. He gives a term paper-long answer for why he thinks so because blah blah blah, is the finale back on?

Once we rejoin our regularly scheduled program, it’s time for the night’s first live eviction. Kandi gives a passionate speech asking her houseguests for the chance to stick around, singling out Ricky by telling him he could be the reason she stays or goes. Dina’s speech follows some of the same notes in a different order, personalizing things emotionally by telling all the houseguests what they mean to her before Julie cuts things off. When the vote takes place, it’s a 1-1 tie and Ricky, as expected, will have to be the deciding vote. He quickly votes to evict Kandi to gasps from the studio audience and we’re down to our final four. In her exit interview, Kandi says she’s not surprised to be out (despite her best efforts to sway Ricky) but that she holds no grudges. When the subject turns to her renewed friendship with Tamar, she gets choked up and says she’s thankful for the experience as their bond is the strongest now that it’s been in 20 years.

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The final HoH competition, “Celebrity Lookalike Junior,” is for all the marbles and also proves that the producers have lost theirs. The final four are greeted with seven videos of child lookalikes of the houseguests (trust me, this is even weirder to watch) making statements about the season’s events. The final four then have to guess which of the statements are false. The houseguest with the most correct answers not only becomes the final HoH but essentially decides his or her own fate, eliminating two houseguests by picking a competitor for the final vote. After a nail-biting tiebreaker with Tamar, Ricky is crowned the last HoH. Soon after, it’s time for Ricky to make the most important decision of the season. He goes bold by evicting Dina and Lolo. Lolo’s eviction, in particular, gets one of the loudest audience reactions I’ve ever heard in any Big Brother season. Lolo, frustrated by Ricky’s decision given her loyalty to him throughout, tells Julie it may be the right move for him but that he’s probably lost a friend in her…not to mention the grand prize. “$50,000 after he gets [second place], after taxes and his agent’s fees, it’s really not much,” she says, exiting with a dollop of shade.

It’s then time to assemble the celebrity jury for the all-important question round before they vote for the winner. When Tom asks Ricky what his biggest game move was, he gives a weak answer, stating that it was playing it cool when he was on the block. Tamar points to actual gameplay in her answer, citing her decision to go after Tom and “Mr. Kato” early before they took control of the house. “It was very hard getting you two out of this house,” she says, adding that she felt she used her time as HoH wisely. As the questions go on, a pattern seems to follow; Ricky giving elusive and often awkward answers followed by Tamar explaining her decisions and mindset in frank and specific fashion. Once question round is over, it’s time for the final two to make their final speeches. Tamar is forceful and genuine in hers, referencing the end of her marriage and her firing from The Real as the things that have made her stronger not only in life but in the Big Brother game. “I’m asking you all to be kind to this girl who’s still trying to get on her feet,” she tells the jury. Ricky’s speech makes a stronger impression than his answers did, saying that he wanted to show the world his genuine self, his “broody, quirky, moody, nerdy self.” Telling the jury that the words he lives his life by are “keep it real, keep it moving, and enjoy the ride”, Ricky says he hopes that above all else, he’s come off as real in the house. Dunno if Lolo will agree with that, but he ends the segment on stronger footing than he started it.

Once the speeches wrap, it’s time for the jury to vote for the winner. One by one, the jurors make their usual pithy comments before inserting their keys; judging by their faces as they make the votes, it’s clear to us that this will be a hard one. But before we can find out the winner, Julie picks the cast’s brains (now joined by The Mooch) about all the things they’ve realized about themselves and the game. Jonathan, the first evictee, was surprised by being seen as a such a heavy threat early on, while a noticeably relaxed Tom shouts out the fan community online for “making me feel like a winner” in spite of his dramatic stay in the house (and he’ll soon be something of a winner as he’s later named America’s Favorite Houseguest). After being revealed to the jury as the “Power of the Publicist” winner, Tamar apologizes for having to lie about it and shares that she tried to tell Tom about her power but was stonewalled, which led her to keep it to herself more. “I didn’t have to use it and I wasn’t going to use it because I thought it would build a wedge between me and my real friendships,” she explains further.

After all the reminiscing, it’s FINALLY time for us to find out the winner of Celebrity Big Brother. And by a unanimous vote of 9-0 (the first unanimous vote to win since Big Brother 10 all the way back in 2008), Tamar Braxton is the winner of the $250,000 cash prize. “Now I get to buy my baby a house!” she says as she holds her son in her arms. Watching this, I’m struck by the wild ride Tamar’s had throughout these 29 days. While she sometimes let her exuberance and ability to speak her mind get in the way, Tamar never attempted to be anyone but herself and that’s really saying something in the scheming world of Big Brother. Thanks for reading throughout this season and for sending such wonderful feedback; it’s been a blast reading everything you’ve sent my way. Let’s keep the connection going as we wait and wait until the start of regular-schmegular Big Brother come June. Until then, goodnight dot com!

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