I know Big Brother tends to get lumped into that classification of terrible reality TV, but it really is a complex and dynamic game that has gotten lost over the years… until now.
Let’s face it, unlike Survivor, which has turned re-inventing itself into an art form, Big Brother has struggled over the years. From terrible twists (the all too powerful Coup d’Etat, the no-longer-entertaining Have-nots, etc) to awful casts and back again, Big Brother seemed to have lost its grip on the entertaining game the show is at its core.
Yes, trapping 16 strangers in a house and watching them try not to lose their minds is entertaining, but there’s a reason that MTV’s Real World is not the phenomena it once was. That sort of drama can only entertain for so long. Giving the houseguests a long term goal is why Big Brother is still on the air. In addition to watching friendships and rivalries bloom amongst diverse personalities, there is ultimately a game going on beneath it all, and $500,000 on the line.
There are so many reasons why certain seasons of this show have succeeded or failed to entertain, but here are just a few of the reasons that Big Brother 20 is so much better than what we’ve seen the last few seasons.
Big Brother is always at its best when there is more than one strategist in a season, and it helps when they don’t end up on the same side. Big Brother 20 has a handful of people who could own this title. Tyler has proven his plotting and scheming works, so much so that we watched him convince Kaitlyn to put up her own alliance member VERY early on in the game. This guy works hard to ensure that each eviction works for him as well as possible, even when he doesn’t control who goes on the block.
JC is also a pretty skilled strategist this season, and while he’s been working with Tyler’s side of the house for a while, he also hasn’t declared himself a member of their alliance. He’s positioned himself well, as he’s voted with one side of the house while maintaining a close friendship with Faysal and his side at the same time. JC’s name is almost never brought up in nomination discussions because everyone thinks he’s at least partially on their side.
We also can’t forget Scottie. While he hasn’t been a successful strategist, he is one of the smarter houseguests this season. If he had been able to solidify his position like either Tyler or JC, he could have definitely given those two a run for their money. Sadly, he was always the scapegoat for whatever hijinks Level 6 had cooked up, leaving him more of a floater than a powerhouse.
As the backbone of this game, alliances make or break a season. If you have one alliance running the game, things tend to get stale. If you have one or two super weak alliances, things tend to fall apart quickly, but when you’ve got a couple of solid alliances that go at each other, dividing the house and shifting power back and forth, that’s when the game is at its best.
This year, we sort of got our wish. This house has been divided since the outset, with the Level 6 alliance (Tyler, Winston, Brett, Kaycee, Angela, and Rachel) squaring off against Foutte/The Hive (Faysal, Hayleigh, Bayleigh, Rockstar, Swaggy, Kaitlyn).
While the Foutte alliance was one of the weakest in Big Brother history, especially thanks to Tyler and his ingenious manipulation of Kaitlyn during her HOH, it did solidify the sides of the house. Watching as these two groups, while both secret, took shots at each other made the first few weeks of Big Brother 20 some of the most exciting in a long time.
I know what loyal viewers are going to say. Go ahead, in unison now: “We HATE showmances.” But do we really? I’ve watched this show in some way, whether casual or diehard, since its inception. Showmances have been a vital part of the fabric of Big Brother since the beginning. They’re the byproduct of putting a bunch of strangers in a house together and not giving them much to do but talk. When you get to know someone as thoroughly and quickly as the houseguests on Big Brother do, it’s easy to see why they develop close bonds and relationships in such a short amount of time.
This season has had a bevy of showmances pop up, and they prove my point. First we had Bayleigh/Swaggy. Their early showmance put a huge target on their backs and ultimately caused Swaggy to be ousted before his time. If he and Bayleigh had been more successful at hiding their bond, I doubt Swaggy would have been seen as such a huge threat so early. The insta-showmance usually informs the first few weeks in the house because it gives everyone an obvious target/ally. You either find yourself on their side, i.e. Foutte, or you push to break up the power their bond represents, i.e. Level 6.
Then, there’s Faysal/Hayleigh and their maybe?showmance. Hayleigh has used her flirting throughout this season as a method of bonding and making friends in the house. While Faysal likes to think of them as a showmance, Hayleigh has done everything in her power to resist Fessie’s advances. She may or may not have actual feelings for the guy (which always becomes clear once the houseguests step outside the house), but she knew that getting into a showmance in the house would put a huge target on her back.
And lastly, the Tyler/Angela showmance is my FAVORITE kind. The secret one. The one that nobody really sees as it develops, but which controls much of how the latter half of the game goes. Tyler and Angela do an excellent job of hiding how close they’ve gotten over the last few weeks. Once Tyler shifted his game from double agent to Level-6-lifer, he has had more time to spend with his actual alliance, and his relationships with Kaycee and Angela have deepened tremendously. While Kaycee and him have just become closer allies and friends, Angela and Tyler’s nighttime cuddle sessions and secret affections are definitely a sign of a secret showmance.
The fact that this season has three very different showmances shows just how vital/inevitable they are to the nature of this game. Hell, even Winston and Brett’s bromance qualifies. Half the reason Winston went home early was because their friendship was so deep that people knew they would take each other as far as they could in the game. Big Brother wouldn’t be Big Brother without a showmance or two.
Twists and their uses
Last, but most certainly never least, we must talk about the twists. Every year, CBS and the producers of the show want to keep the game fresh by adding in twists and turns that change the game. This season, those twists have come in the form of power apps and the Hacker competition.
The power apps added a wrinkle into early game play, and while they instigated a lot of talk and turmoil, they did very little to affect the game itself. Sam’s power app came and went without event as Kaitlin couldn’t complete her puzzle to return to the house, and Bayleigh was voted out before she could use her game-changing power app.
Tyler’s is the only one remaining, and while it could affect the game, it would only keep him safe, so it ultimately wouldn’t change much. I think the power apps are one of the most successful twists this show has come up with in 20 seasons. They caused a lot of problems for people who didn’t have them, but ultimately weren’t used in ways that altered the fabric of what makes Big Brother so much fun.
The Hacker comp may have been a bit much, and it definitely affected the game for its two weeks in effect, but at least it was a competition and not just a gifted power. If you’re going to hand out that kind of power, it needs to be an equal opportunity game like the Hacker comp was. In the future, I hope they limit giving one houseguest that much power again, but ultimately, the Hackers won their powers fair and square.
No matter who wins this season of Big Brother, it will definitely go down as one of the best seasons the show has ever produced. The game play has been heightened after last year’s dismal slog, and I hope the producers take note of what has made this season so much better.