By Andy Dehnart
"I don't think they like either of us," said Maggie, one of the two "Big Brother 6" finalists, shortly after both finalists were grilled by a jury of seven evicted houseguests.
Fortunately for Maggie, the jury was forced to decide between her and Ivette, and by a 4 to 3 decision, they gave Maggie the $500,000 prize. Thus ended "Big Brother 6" and its "Summer of Secrets."
For many viewers and fans of "Big Brother," however, the show really ended last Friday, when audience favorite Janelle was evicted from the house. Janelle was the last-standing member of a beloved alliance that formed simply because the rest of the house banded together let the others become outcasts. Six of those outcasts, originally led by Kaysar Ridha, the most popular player in the show's six-year history, banded together to try to break apart the larger "Friendship" alliance. Ultimately, the outcasts failed, but their efforts helped make the "Big Brother" game and the social interaction in the house more dynamic, confrontational and explosive than it's ever been.
Rivalry trumps gimmicks
The "Summer of Secrets," as this season was known, largely fell flat. Kaysar and a few other houseguests quickly realized that everyone in the house was playing as a part of a secret pair.
Once the two hidden bedrooms were revealed, the house had no more secrets to offer. And the contents of the three locked safes were perhaps even less interesting than the peanut butter and jelly the houseguests are sometimes forced to eat for an entire week.
But the house's inhabitants kept the series afloat. Isolated from the outside
world — most of them still don't know about Hurricane Katrina or William
Rehnquist or Martha Stewart's attempt to rap with Diddy on her new daytime talk
show — they faced off against each other in battles of wit and will. The results
were brutal, ugly and completely fascinating.
Faced with an enemy, The Friendship alliance grew stronger and, in many ways, more hateful. Devoted to each other and to their fallen leader with cult-like fervor, they set out to destroy their opposition. Many of those watching online 24/7 found The Friendship's behavior to be deplorable, as they verbally eviscerated their opponents and went so far as to lie about aggressive, sexually harassing behavior from one of the outcasts.
The other alliance had its low moments, too, notably during the days following Kaysar's second eviction, when a betrayed Howie and Janelle verbally dug into their opponents, specifically April.
But perhaps most horrifying was that The Friendship alliance behaved like they did while maintaining that they were the underdogs. April, Beau, Ivette, Jennifer and Maggie continually deluded themselves into believing they weren't ridiculous hypocrites.
Finale, schimale ...
All together, it became, as executive producer Arnold Shapiro has said, the most divisive "Big Brother" cast ever. And that made for 12 incredible weeks of television -- and one inconsequential finale.
When given a choice between two equally unattractive options, how does one decide? By her own admission, Maggie Ausburn spent most of her 80 days in the "Big Brother" house keeping her mouth shut, letting others win competitions, and stepping aside as people were evicted. Maggie essentially defines the "flying under the radar strategy," and admitted that to the jury: "I feel like a lot of my strategic moves were to not come out and be the aggressor, not be the person who shines so much, but try to blend in and maintain my competitive edge that I had."
Ivette Corredero, on the other hand, admitted only to being outspoken and loud. And that she was, sometimes, making angry, even racist comments that producers refused to air. She played the game by engaging it only once she was forced to; otherwise, she was content wandering around the "Big Brother" compound screaming for her beloved "Cappy," the nickname given to Eric, the evicted leader of the pre-Friendship clique.
The dream finale
The finale would have been much more interesting had, hypothetically, Kaysar been up against the season's biggest villain, Jennifer Vasquez. Both were dynamic, game-changing players, but each approached "Big Brother" in dramatically different ways. Kaysar played the game cerebrally, thinking through all possibilities before making the best move possible. For the most part, he made careful promises and precise statements that allowed him flexibility to adjust his strategies as alliances and elements of the game shifted around him.
Jennifer, on the other hand, just lied, and quickly became one of the most unrepentant, unapologetic liars reality television has ever seen. Days after making a deal with Kaysar, who let her win the Head of Household competition, she broke her promise without flinching. Because of her duplicity, Kaysar was evicted from the house for the second time. Even during the live finale, she showed no remorse, smiling throughout and refusing to be apologetic. (Her partner, April Lewis, wasn't much better, although she repented by, among other things, blaming Ivette for all of April's bad decisions.)
But both Kaysar's and Jennifer's actions ultimately caused them to leave the house. The same is true of James, who repeatedly played the two sides against each other in order to save himself.
That strategy worked brilliantly until it finally caught up with him.
In the end, it was Maggie and Ivette, who obviously played the game well enough to become members of the final two. In Maggie's case, she did well enough to earn a majority of votes from her peers. But that doesn't mean they were the best players. Their individual game play hardly ever caused more than ripples in the game, and their "friendship" carried both of them most of the way to the shore. It's just too bad that the ship's real captains fell off along the way.
Andy Dehnart is a writer and teacher who publishes reality blurred, a daily summary of reality TV news.
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