Tonight’s ‘Big Brother’ Finale Felt Like Re-Watching the 2016 Election
Let’s get one thing straight right outta the gate: I’m being facetious. No, tonight’s Big Brother finale wasn’t really like experiencing Nov. 8, 2016, all over again. Had that been the case, I’d already be six feet under from the stress of re-living one of the worst days in American history.
With that little disclaimer out of the way, the parallels between tonight’s finale episode of the hit reality show and the most recent presidential election were frankly pretty astounding.
For those who have never seen the series, which has aired every summer on CBS for what seems like an eternity, you might as well stop reading. None of what I have to say will likely make sense to you, nor will you understand why anyone would subject himself to a show that requires such a commitment on an annual basis. (I ask that question of myself every year.)
But for those who have seen Big Brother in seasons past but maybe didn’t watch this season — or, like a fair-weather fan, maybe stopped watching half-way through (can’t blame ya, as I definitely fast-forwarded through a few eps) — let me break down this final episode for you.
(Does this story need a *spoiler alert*? Obviously there are about to be spoilers.)
Let’s get everyone up to snuff
In tonight’s Big Brother finale, we started out with three contestants: (1) Paul, a veteran of last season who surprised the current season’s houseguests by popping into the BB house midway through the first episode; (2) Christmas, a Sheryl Crow hair-lookalike and fitness model who unfortunately broke her foot early in the season and so has spent week after week in a foot brace and on crutches; and (3) Josh, a crybaby of a player (seriously, every episode) with a penchant for banging pots and pans in the faces of his fellow competitors. Maybe you can tell which one I couldn’t stand.
Parallels between tonight’s Big Brother finale and the 2016 presidential election didn’t really become apparent until the houseguests were narrowed down to the final two. In the end, Josh was the ultimate Head of Household (HOH), and he chose to go head-to-head with veteran Paul, an act that sent Christmas, his best friend in the house, packing her bags. Some (including myself) were shocked at the decision initially — being the barrier that kept his best friend in the house from the grand prize — before it dawned on them (me) that had Josh chosen a tête-à-tête with Christmas, he would have surely sealed his fate. Josh’s only chance at the show’s half-a-million-dollar prize was choosing Paul as his fellow final-two houseguest, with the prayer that people in the show’s jury (the last nine contestants who had been sent home each week) despised Paul more than himself.
Those who watched the finale — or had it ruined for them by those bastards living on the East Coast — know how tonight’s episode ended: Josh won the game and the $500K prize, leaving the second-place $50K prize for Paul.
But it was the choice between those two contestant houseguests, Paul and Josh, that most recalled that fateful day in November.
Breaking down the final two
On one side, we had Paul Abrahamian. This bearded, L.A.-based, 24-year-old clothing designer and musician was a veteran of the game, having just played in the last season of Big Brother. In some ungodly ironic twist, last season saw him get to runner-up position as well.
Paul’s game this season was nearly perfect. (We can’t call it perfect as he didn’t take home the top prize, of course.) It was no exaggeration when Paul told the jury before their voting commenced that he’d had a hand in just about every decision made this season. Without ever having been on the block himself, he controlled the goings-on inside the house each week, forming an alliance with nearly each individual houseguest and showmance; oftentimes he decided who would go on the block, whether he officially held that power or not; and he made sure his hands were never dirty when the dust settled. “Puppetmaster” has never been a more deserved title.
As much as many people — which oftentimes included myself — cringed at the ease with which he controlled the house, and wanted to see him get sent packing, looking back I can only admire the fact that he played such a skillful game.
On the other side of the ring, we had Josh Martinez. This 23-year-old from Miami works in the “business industry” (his words), meaning he owns his own haircare sales business. Among Josh’s calling cards were his referring to fellow houseguests as “meatballs” (a term that he meant to be a less-offensive version of “loser”), berating and literally banging pots and pans to upset houseguests in competing alliances (though not nearly as skillfully as Tanisha from The Bad Girls Club) and consistently treating us to lengthy bawling fits on a per-episode basis.
Game-wise, Josh held the title of HOH three times this season (including his finale win), and while he considers sending home tough competitor Alex his biggest move in the game, the jury’s still out (pun intended) on whether he really gets to take credit for that “big game move.” While I wouldn’t really consider Josh a “floater” (a term used for contestants who have no physical game and attempt to ‘float by’ on their social game), he’d probably be more accurately categorized as simply a mediocre player of the game.
Now for the election analogy
It doesn’t take a lot of parsing to analogize tonight’s Big Brother finale with the 2016 election, does it? In one corner sits a veteran of the game, and more specifically one who had already suffered a heavy defeat. This player, Paul, lost the game despite being ‘overly qualified’ and playing said game quite masterfully. In the end, personal relationships between the jury (they’d be the American people in this analogy) and Paul prevented him from taking the win. He was seen as too masterful and too conniving for his own good, despite those being the skills that are typically required of a winner. The things Paul considered to be his strengths — namely his experience living in the Big Brother house and the skill set by which he artfully controlled situations — were in effect his downfall.
Despite his claim that he’s been a “superfan” of Big Brother since the age of 14, Josh proved to the world that he was somewhat clueless of how the game (and sometimes the world) works. During this season Josh consistently suggested bone-headed moves for himself, usually when he held the power of HOH. Every time, though, he was talked off the ledge by his alliance members. His berating (some would say bullying) of fellow houseguests, and the joy he took in name-calling those he disliked (even if the slur was something as non-threatening as “meatball”) recall for me the other of the two main presidential candidates, at least for the sake of this comparison.
In the end, Paul lost the Big Brother finale because the emotions of a few controlled their votes. Alex and Jason in particular, former alliance members of Paul’s (though in reality, who wasn’t?) were still nursing the fresh wounds of being stabbed in the back by a so-called friend. The votes of Alex and Jason were more a vote against Paul than they were votes for Josh. And that’s a shame.
The winner of Big Brother should be the houseguest who played the best game, consistently. But that’s not at all what happened in tonight’s Big Brother finale.
Thank god that’s over
There seems to be a large consensus of Big Brother fans who believe this latest season, the show’s 19th, was its worst thus far. I tend to agree with that, and not just because the finale episode proved to be unbearable in its uncovering of tragic, tragic memories. (Again, I’m being a little facetious here.)
That being said, though, will I cease tuning in to CBS on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday nights next summer? Probably not. I’m sure the network will snag me once again. This time, though, Big Brother fans don’t even have to wait a year. Winter 2017 will see (finally) a season of Celebrity Big Brother in America, in which fans (and the clueless) will no doubt tune in three times each week to see Dancing With the Stars-caliber “celebrities” compete, eat slop, form friendships and — most importantly — bitch, moan and argue.
Whatever Celebrity Big Brother brings, it’ll no doubt be god-awful and cringe-inducing. And I’ll watch every second of it from my couch.