On a Sunday night in late February, actress Marissa Jaret-Winokur was crowned winner of “Celebrity Big Brother” by a vote of 6 to 3 from the jury over TV personality Ross Matthews. It was a culmination of three weeks of the type of “Big Brother” activity that viewers and longtime fans hadn’t seen from the series in several years: about every houseguest, regardless of level of celebrity, displayed a fervently motivated style of game from the moment they entered the house.
The hope for the show’s milestone 20th season (with civilians, of course) was that it could resemble some of what made “Celebrity Big Brother” more competitive and engaging than expected. The past several seasons have been wrought with disappointing twists, lackluster personalities and for the most part, thanks to the returns of All-Star houseguests that were embedded among newbies, a lackadaisical game play from its participants. Last year’s “Big Brother 19” suffered from all of these aforementioned issues, as it transformed into “The Paul Show” (as in, the “Big Brother 18” houseguest who returned to compete and who almost the entire house wanted to align with).
The 16 houseguests for this summer were announced in June. None of them were returning from a previous season, the first time that occurred since 2015 for “Big Brother 17” and only the fourth non-returnee involved season in eight years. The make-up of the cast appeared no different from years past — a mix of hot babes, muscled hunks, nerds and eccentric folk, almost all of whom aged in their twenties.
But the first two months of “Big Brother 20” were anything but similar. The house immediately split into two factions, which resulted in tight votes, multiple backstabs, stunned faces, and memorable moments like Brett’s speeches as an eviction nominee, Rockstar’s “on my daughter’s birthday” rant towards Brett, Faysal’s weekly query “who flipped?”, JC’s “big dumb puppet” Diary Room line for Faysal, and Kaycee’s oft-used celebratory chant “Let’s Go!”
It was the best-ever start to a “Big Brother” season. The first seven weeks of the season were, as follows:
blindside (Sam stays over Steve);
backdoor (Swaggy C);
blindside on the birthday of Rockstar’s daughter (Brett stays over Winston);
puzzle fail (Kaitlyn’s unsuccessful attempt to stay in the house);
blindside (Brett stays over a stunned Rachel);
…and blindside (Kaycee stays over Rockstar with Rockstar’s ally Haleigh as Head of Household).
The “Big Brother” fanbase then got blindsided when then-Head of Household Faysal nominated fellow ally Scottie in a presumed fit of jealousy (whether Faysal wanted to admit or not) from Scottie liking Faysal’s girl Haleigh. That particular week, along with Rockstar’s epic blunder in helping Tyler achieve the correct answer in the previous week’s veto challenge, were the moments that not only spelled ultimate doom for those not associated with Level 6 but halted the season’s momentum.
For about a month afterward, it was domination for the often ordinary, intelligent-by-default Level 6 crew of Tyler, Kaycee, Angela and Brett. Kaycee tied an all-time single season record of five veto wins by a houseguest within that span. The season would perk up a bit with the blindside of Brett on Double Eviction night and managed to deliver another classic moment with the 4-foot-8-inch JC winning his first competition of the season, the Head of Household competition at the final four, thus disrupting an all-Level 6 Final Three.
“Big Brother 20” harkened back to the series’ early days where strategy was first and foremost and houseguests routinely clashed. Level 6 ruled the house and it’s quite deserved that two of them (Kaycee and Tyler) were this season’s Final Two. But the implosion and self-destruction of the FOUTTE (Five Of Us Til The End)/Hive alliance was, in and of itself, a fascinating watch.
The back-to-basics “Big Brother 20” with its distinct personalities and highly competitive nature will be a season long fondly remembered in the years to come.