I sit here today with a heaviness in my heart. A darkness, of which I have never felt before, clings to the very fabric of my soul… and I fear that, no matter how many years I have left on this god forsaken earth, it shall never leave me. It is a cruel, insidious darkness. A darkness that slowly crept upon me as BB days turned into BB weeks and BB weeks turned into BB months thereafter…
I can no longer ignore it, as its presence lingers all around me… Winding its cold, cruel tendrils through every nerve in my body (which is how you get Raven’s Disease, by the way) a chilling emptiness has settled upon my glistening, mahogany skin. Every time I take to the mean, gritty streets of BB Twitter, every time I linger my finger over my mouse button, daring myself to double click the BBViewer icon on my desktop, every time my phone notifies me that Ika Wong or Karen Singbeil have gone live on the Gram (glowing beacons of what Big Brother can be), a heavy soul crushing bleakness all but snuffs out BB Life’s Essence… It is there, taunting me, reminding me that even the most tragic of injustices cannot eclipse the fact that…
… I will no longer be able to say that Derrick Levastadalickakahhaha played with the dumbest cast of lint for brains houseguests in Big Brother history…
Is this what the future of Big Brother looks like?
We have known for a long time that the Big Brother of yesteryear was snuffed out and quietly replaced by a copycat, doppelganger that LOOKS
like Big Brother, but isn’t really Big Brother… BB is much like Avril Lavigne in that way. But even by that standard, this season felt off from the second I saw the swimsuit photos, where many of the HGs looked like parodies of themselves, as if they were told to take a goofy shot just to warm up and then that picture was used. It was like the opening to Bachelor in Paradise. Campy. I knew then that someone would not make it out of the house alive… and that was before I learned about all of Raven’s terminal illnesses!!! While there were no actual, real life deaths in the house, many will leave the house, see how they are regarded by the fandom for their behavior and horrible gameplay, and wish they would have died.
(To Josh’s credit, he did try to make my, “Someone is gonna die in the Big Brother house this summer,” death prediction come true no fewer than three times by way of Mark, Cody, and Kevin… Good looking out, meatball!!)
Jokes aside… You probably can tell from the title of this blog post that this is not going to be a pro Paul blog, therefore, if you are a Paul stan or fan, but ESPECIALLY a stan, you are not going to like what I have to say. However, I want to say from the start that I am not saying that Paul is not the best player this season. I am not saying that, if he ends up in the F2, that he should not win the whole thing. I am also not saying that Paul is a bad Big Brother player. He showed us last year that he is quick on his feet, that he knows when to “pivot” when things are not going his way, and that he is fearless when it comes to enacting any plans that he comes up with.
I am not even saying that if Paul played with smarter people, who were more motivated to win the whole thing, that he would not have made it to the end. He would not have made it to the end playing the same game he played this summer, of course, but I do think that it is possible that he is smart enough to figure it out. To be clear, I do not think that Paul had the brightest competition last season, either. Nicole did not outplay him, production did… Which is kind of ironic given that this blog is about how Paul was set up to win before the game even really got started. Haha!
Like it or not, it is hard to fully credit someone for their BB accomplishments when much of it was handed to them on a silver platter. Much like with Derrick’s BB16 game, I will have to place an asterisk next to Paul’s win. (If he wins.) Did both men win with great strategies? (If Paul wins.) Yes. But, they also both played Big Brother with the setting on ‘Easy.’ And when you win any game with the setting on ‘Easy’ it is hard to brag about it and you certainly do not expect to be praised for it.
The “New” Big Brother
Today’s Big Brother edit is almost 100% a fairy tale. The only parts that are typically accurate are who won which competition and who is put up for nomination. The motives for the nominations are oftentimes completely fabricated, as well. This makes the edited show pointless in terms of showcasing what is actually happening in the house. Even DRs are pointless because people will just say what production want them to say or think they want them to say, which is not at all what may be true in the house. We used to be able to glean a player’s actual motives and gameplay in the Diary Room… But some players try to play the audience right along with the people in the house. (Hi Derrick!) Yes, this is a “reality show” and all reality shows take liberties with the edit to make it “more interesting…” The thing about Big Brother is that they typically do not actually need to take these liberties, there is usually enough drama to sustain the entertainment value. So, why do they insist on editing the shows completely out of context?
There is something about the edit and the caliber of today’s Big Brother players that tends to go hand in hand. It is quite obvious that there are always people who are cast who do not have a chance in hell of winning. Either they are not intelligent enough, strategic enough, do not have the temperament or personality to launch a successful social game, do not have the drive/motivation to win, are far too immature or petty, and/or do not fit in due to race, age, body type, etc. There are a lot of BB archetypes that are not meant to win, but are simply meant to fulfill a certain stereotype/role for entertainment purposes. Ratings show that this is suitable for the casual audience, but it diminishes the quality of the gameplay greatly, which has a negative impact on the live feeds. (By the way, production does not care about live feeders! ::said in Kanye’s post-Katrina voice::)
As the years have gone on, fewer and fewer people are cast to be winners, and typically you can tell who they are by just listening to them talk. Having people clueless about how to play Big Brother is often very fun, but you cannot have a cast of people who are virtually clueless about how to play the game, with only ONE or TWO people who actually know how to play AND want to win… Not if you want to have a competitive season. That is like setting up a basketball tournament with a bunch of high school FOOTBALL players and putting them in the tournament against professional BASKETBALL players. (You know, because they are all athletes, so what’s the difference?) Will there be moments of amusement as the pros run circles around their amateur opponents? Sure. Will this lead to a competitive tournament? Absolutely not. This tells us that the goal isn’t to produce a competitive game.
Then you have the element of casting people who think that they will become famous. These people are playing for instagram followers. This season, there seemed to be many more people in the house who wanted to use Big Brother as a platform, springing board to other opportunities, than to actually win the game. Dominique, Whistlefuck, Kevin, Elena, Raven, plus more openly spoke about the opportunities (and money from strangers, in the case of Raven) that they hoped to get from being on Big Brother. While people have always said they “just want to make jury,” in hopes of making themselves look like less of a threat, these HG’s actual goals were “making jury.” Making jury gave them more money and more TV time. That is where their in-game ambitions ended. And you can tell that they were not much more ambitious than this because the only people we saw campaigning, while OTB, were Cody (his second time in the house) and Mark. And, when was the last time there was an, “OMG!! I MADE JURY!!” segment on the show? Has that ever happened? (Prediction: This “we made jury” segment is going to be production’s new favorite thing to show new recruits in pre-game sequester.)
The question is why create a game where the competition is stacked in the favor of one or two people? Because it is easier to manipulate the outcome that production wants.
I have always felt like shows like America’s Top Model and Project Runway all but know who they are going to select for AT LEAST the top 3, if not who they are likely going to crown the winner, long before the actual competition starts. I do not see Big Brother as operating much differently. As recently as last year, we heard Victor talking about how production did not want him to nominate Paulie the week that Paulie was evicted. If Victor was less ambitious, it is possible that production would have been able to sway his decision. If you cast the right people and create an environment where those players can tangibly see how being in production’s favor benefits them, you can better dictate the direction of the game. Too many independent thinkers are harder to control.
ENTER, BIG BROTHER 19’s CAST!!
We are in an era of BB where there will be that one obviously anointed winner against a bunch of people who couldn’t strategize their way out of a wet paper bag. (I still think that was Paulie last season before he ruined it by being himself.) These dunces tend to be petty, focused on the wrong things and are incapable of letting go of stupid, minute grudges to further their own games… Yes, I am talking about Alex and her cat ears, coke, cereal and pillows. Cody couldn’t let go of his issues with Mark, upon returning to the house. Jessica thought she was the only one who should be allowed to wear bandannas… Jason hated Dominique because her bible was too new for how religious she claimed to be. (side eye) Kevin wished he could grab Dominique out of the bedroom she was sleeping in by the neck and throw her out, for some reason. (side eye) And, also, Raven.
Anytime this cast of gummy worms for brains idiots decided they needed to look like they were actually “playing Big Brother,” they found a petty reason to attack someone. Yes, that gave us drama on the feeds, but not the kind of drama that you typically “feel good” about because, typically, it was one or two people being ganged up on by a group of people. Even in the Bad Girls Club house “jumping people” is frowned up on and the audience will drag for filth. People were verbally jumped for weeks this summer, often over nonsense.
I know every year we proclaim, “THIS WAS THE WORST SEASON EVER,” and people think that means we will never be satisfied. Big Brother Canada 5 is a perfect example of how that is not true. BBCan4 was the pits and BBCan3 was only marginally better (for me.) That did not automatically mean that BBCan5 was going to be deemed a horrible season just because the previous ones were not as good. That is not how it works. Even when Canada’s version of Matt won the whole thing (Sorry Kevin fans, I gotta get in a dig lulz), BBCan5 was a great season.
In the case of BBCan5, they cast enough headstrong people to make the game itself interesting/entertaining. Neda’s eviction was one of the best Big Brother episodes I have ever seen. Big Brother Canada managed to cast a season with vets without losing its entertainment value and there were people in the house smart enough to get rid of the person who was gifted safety until Jury, as soon as they were eligible. Big Brother 19 actually made me feel a lot better about how Big Brother Canada 5 turned out. While the winner was not my choice, I at least enjoyed the season. With Big Brother 19, I have not enjoyed most of this mess. I am the type of person that likes balance. Give me drama, but also please give me good gameplay. If one or the other is lacking, the entertainment value suffers.
The truth is that Big Brother USA GAMEPLAY has been in a decline over the last several seasons, so the seasons are actually progressively getting worse. As horrible as the houseguests were, on a human level, season 15 was the last season where we had some pretty decent gameplay. (Vanessa and Steve allow BB17 to get somewhat of an honorable mention, but their opposition was James and Meg. MEG who was never right about anything, ever. Not even her lipstick color… I know what you are thinking, at least it was not as bad as Raven’s. Touche!)
I do not believe that production is made up of a group idiots. It is not that they cannot make the gameplay more competitive and interesting by casting people who want to win and are actually intelligent enough to do so. It is that they do not want to. Their concern is not gameplay. Their concern is whatever story they want to feed America for the summer. This summer’s storyline was, “Robbed Friendship-King Paul: Back for Redemption.”
Obviously, production wanted to take advantage of Paul’s popularity within the BB fanbase, both casual fans and live feeders alike. He has a dynamic love him or hate him persona. (I both loved and hated Paul equally last year.) As a result of Paul’s return to the BB house, we got to watch as production artificially crafted him into “Big Brother’s Next Great Mastermind” by way of giving him this particular cast and twists that almost all ultimately benefited him in the long run. Even the way they implemented the Tree of Temptation benefited Paul, as there was no risk of the tree impacting his game since it had to be used prior to nominations. This set up stripped away everything fans loved about Paul’s game the first time around. Watching him scramble and talk people into giving him his way, and actually having to WORK for it, is what made fans appreciate his game. For me, his personality was always incredibly obnoxious, but I respected his overall gameplay.
Paul walked into the Big Brother 19 house with every advantage a returning veteran can possibly hope for.
First, he walked in as himself; a very popular houseguest from the LAST summer season of Big Brother with a very large fanbase.
He walked in as an authority figure; someone who had gone through the process before and could “teach” the newbies the ropes.
He walked in as almost an extension of production; where people almost did not even regard him as someone that could be nominated. (Oh, and just in case they DID want to nominate him? Let’s give his very large fanbase the opportunity to protect him for three weeks!)
Add in Friendship Bracelets, which allowed Paul the opportunity to build rapport with everyone in the house, what kind of psychological effect does that have on everyone else in the game?
Production gave Paul Friendship Bracelets.
America gave Paul three weeks of safety.
What is the best way to ingratiate yourself with production? With America? By ingratiating yourself with Paul.
It is not as if production did not know that the popular guy, with the established fan base, was going to win a vote against 14 other people who would split any votes that did not go to him. Telling the HGs that AMERICA wanted PAUL to be safe was akin to telling the HGs that AMERICA WILL BE MAD AT YOU if you evict Paul. This is not a position an attention seeking, fame whore wants to be in. They NEED people to like them. They wanted America to give them a power, too, and when Christmas won the next temptation, being Team Paul seemed to be the way to go.
Is it possible that Paul would have still dominated the house without all of the advantages that production gave him, including casting him with fans and at least one fan who had met him prior to the season? Sure! Anything is possible… but that is not the game that we are left to judge, is it?
Paul’s only real opposition of the season was from the showmantic duo, Jody. Hardly a formidable pairing. One half of Jody has no real ability to connect with people on a human level and only lights up when talking about killing, rioting, and dead puppies, which is just scary. Horrible social game. The other half of Jody is mean spirited, petty, entitled and used to getting her way based on the power of simply existing on the planet – aka, not actually working for it. What kind of opposition were they going to mount? Especially given that neither of them had the basic BB intellect to use any of their power wisely – and they had plenty of power.
With that foundation for Paul to build his game upon, BB19 has 100% been his game to lose. His gameplay has a multitude of flaws that would typically tank his chances of winning the whole thing, but in this new era of Big Brother, where one’s road to Mastermind Mountain is production-paved in gold, it probably will not matter. Just like Nicole’s nonexistent jury management did not matter last season.
Let’s face it. Technically, Paul has had a horrible social game on both of his seasons. This season, his time in the house was one massive power trip where he treated people like they were beneath him, ordered them around, talked to them like he was their semi-emotionally abusive father – regardless of how much older they are than him – and commanded that they followed all of his plans. He dictated who was allowed to speak to one another. He orchestrated group attacks, right down to running lines so that people said just the right thing. Yes, this was a great tactic to get people to hate one another, and they all were fools for letting it happen, but let’s not act like just anyone, even with the same, general overall personality, could ever do that. A newbie, with an all newbie cast, would not even make it to jury treating people the way Paul did. He knew that people did not want to be on his bad side… because if so, “Homie’s America” (as he referred to BB fans) would punish them. (Yes, Jessica won one of the temptations, but at that point the perception in the house had already been cemented in people’s minds. And perception is reality.)
If Paul had been the one to blindside his entire alliance, the way that Cody did, I am confident that he would have survived the fallout. Paul could have said, “I blindsided you fools for your own best interest,” and they would have eaten it up. Would that have been because of his gameplay? Or would that be the power of being a BB-Celebrity with production and America on your side? It is hard, if not impossible, to separate the two.
Paul had the advantage of having a previous season’s reputation to fall back on, that is something no one else in the house had. This element made several people in the house feel as if they “knew” Paul. For instance, Alex’s trust in Paul was rooted in her belief that Paul would not want to ruin his brand of “friendship” that he created the previous season, therefore he would not double cross her. She felt so strongly in this that anytime Whistlefuck would express any concerns, she shot them down. That does not have anything to do with what Paul was currently doing in the house. As stupid as Alex was for believing this, it still does not change the fact that something, that happened outside of the current game, had an impact on her decision making and created a blind spot that ultimately led to her downfall. (Luckily for Alex, this cements part one of her two part plan to win Big Brother… Now, she just needs to be invited back to complete part two. That way she can win and become the next Nicole!)
Again, all of this is not to say that I see Paul is a bad player. He is a smart player. He is a smart player who got to play with a bunch of advantages and a bunch of idiotic, petty fame whores this time around, though. And as smart as he is, his game still has a lot of flaws. Flaws that may have been remedied if he had watched a few older seasons of BB to figure out how to set up his endgame for the win. But, Paul isn’t really a Big Brother fan. He is a fan of the attention he gets from a game that he naturally excels at because there are few lines he is unwilling the cross.
Flaw 1 – Social Game Just because people were too scared to speak out against how he spoke to them, it does not mean that they did not notice it. Paul is basically that cult leader who woos people by promising them peace, tranquility and, of course, friendship, but flogs them out back for any perceived slights. Does anyone think that Kevin did not have an issue with the way that Paul talked to him? Even Josh got tired of it. But, with his “status” in the house, Paul was able to get away with it.
Flaw 2 – Jury Management This is perhaps the most baffling area of his game. He literally was in some kind of alliance with everyone in the jury up until it was time for them to be evicted (except Cody, of course). The jury is full of his former allies. Does he think that they will not compare notes about how they were played against each other? Ratt and Jalex were sent out back to back by Paul telling each duo to target the other. Only Ratt is still delusional enough to think that Paul was really true to their Final 3 alliance. (Raven’s Disease – aka Delusions of Grandeur – strikes again!! Thankfully, it is only contagious if she gives you head.)
Flaw 3 – Not Taking Responsibility This flaw goes hand in hand with Flaw 2. Paul’s plan has been to admit to absolutely nothing and to send each of his faux allies into jury claiming that he has no earthly idea how they were evicted. “If you were evicted, both of us were boned and I have no clue what is going on!!” This looks really bad next to Josh stating that he, Christmas and Paul are in a F3 alliance… It will look even worse when Kevin is the next to join them and the F3 is actually the F3 that Josh told them about.
You cannot deny your game when virtually every decision in the house was ran through you, and it has been that way all game! Unless one has Raven’s Disease, it is clear to see who the puppet master has been all season – the person telling everyone what to do. A truthful Paul at least has the chance to gain respect, but if he continues to lie, even in the Final 2, the message will be that he does not respect them enough to come clean AND that he really thinks that the jury is THAT dumb that they do not see what he did. Paul has created a very, very bitter jury. This is not a group of people that you want to continue to blatantly lie and condescend to when the truth is plain to see.
Flaw 4 – Final 2 Speech Paul’s planned speech, as of now, is flat out comical. Instead of taking the time to own his game decisions, he plans to outline how the odds have been stacked against him since he walked through the doors. Yes, the man who walked in as a Fan Favorite, who was given Friendship Bracelets, who America chose to protect for three weeks, who never had to fight to stay off the block or stay in the house, who did not have to work hard to get people to go along with his plans, no matter how ludicrous they were or how much it would hurt their own games, plans to tell the jurors that the road to the finale was practically insurmountable, but still, he overcame!! That is a better speech for last year’s game when it was much more true. Was Paul smart to take advantage of all of these things to the best of his ability? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean it was hard. Because it wasn’t. Was Paul in game mode from the second he walked into the house? Absolutely. But, he needs to imagine doing what he did while actually being a target in danger of eviction, while actually needing to win competitions to stay safe, while actually having to talk the HOH out of putting him on the block etc. That would be a hard game! But, if you can go into the HOH competition at Final 7 and tell everyone to throw HOH – AND THEY DO IT – you are playing Big Brother with the setting on Easy, my friend. That is not just social game.
The struggle with giving Paul kudos for this year’s gameplay is that most people would do well with these particular advantages. Would they do as well? Maybe, maybe not. Paul is very effective at abusing power. Not all people are comfortable or cut out for that. At the same time, it is also hard to say that, as one of the only people who actually played the game from Day 1, that he shouldn’t win. Still, it is a real possibility that jury ends up being his blind spot, yet again. It was leaked that the only people in jury, so far, who plan to vote for Paul in the F2 is Ratt. I expect production to have straightened that out by finale night, just like a part of me expects them to “pivot” Paul in a different direction with his planned speech. It would be interesting to see how Paul counters Josh’s truthfulness with his lies, however. Josh’s speech will be about what happened while Paul’s speech will be… bullshit. Which Final 2 speech will the jury respect more? Will it matter?
Ultimately, if the unexpected happens (for the first time all season), and Paul actually loses, it would be his own fault. There is no one else to blame because he had the reigns all season long. If Josh wins part 3 of the HOH and cuts Paul, it will be his fault for treating Josh like shit but still expecting him to give him that BB16-Cody treatment. If he makes the F2, and goes ahead with his planned speech, and turns an already bitter jury even more sour, it will be his fault for not owning his game and creating that bitterness within the jury in the first place.
As an aside, to praise Paul’s gameplay also feels like you are condoning the rabid pack/groupthink mentality that existed throughout the season. The “Malign and Isolate the Target” strategy is hardly new, but to have an entire group of people rage out on someone because of the most minuscule things created a toxic atmosphere that stripped the fun away from the game for me and many others. Elena was probably the last person to be on the receiving end of this “tactic,” (because Paul’s other faux Final 3s could not be treated the same way), and we literally sat there and watched people take turns verbally berating her. I have been resistant to calling it bullying, because I think that word is thrown around far too much, but this cast certainly flirted with earning that title and Paul was the ringleader.
From the standpoint of production, Big Brother 19 ran quite smoothly. They got what they needed out of the psychopath Cody, as Paul’s only true opposition all season. They got their showmance edits, dedicating a ridiculous amount of time to that Jody telenovela. They had Josh, who has been on to Paul for a while, to further create the illusion for the casual audience that Paul has had some opposition, when he really has had next to none… (Josh, as a single person, could not do away with Paul and Christmas is in love with him. ::insert eyeroll here::)
Regardless of if Paul wins or not, it is impossible for Big Brother 19 to be regarded as anything other than the summer when Big Brother artificially crafted its next mastermind… just like they planned from the start (allegedly).