We're in the high-anticipation period of Big Brother season right now. Rumors are flying about returning houseguests, twists, the theme of the house and everything else we won't know until CBS starts cluing us in. They typically don't start doing that until the houseguests are sequestered, which may or may not have happened by now. We're operating under the loose theory that those prospective houseguests have yet to be cut off from the outside world. We're also operating under the theory that not all, if any, houseguests this season are returning players from past seasons. We'll know one way or the other very soon -- Big Brother casting director Robyn Kass Tweeted yesterday that the rumors about casting would be put to rest in a few days. In the meantime, we have some advice for Big Brother newbie-contestants, assuming there are any.
Big Brother isn't just about physical prowess or mental superiority. It's not entirely about popularity or even personality. It's a combination of a lot of things, including strategy and endurance, and the best possible approach to winning will vary from one season to the next, because the cast of houseguests varies each season. I admit, this list is quite a bit of armchair quarterbacking on my part, as I've never actually played this game. But I've been a series-long fan of this show, who appreciates the value of good game-play and strategy, so I'm drawing from past houseguests' successes and mistakes for this list of hopefully-helpful advice.
Play your own game and play it all day, every day.Every single winner of Big Brother has one thing in common: They all played the best game they could play. For some, that was winning competitions, for others, it was a sharp social game, and for some it was incredible strategy and manipulation. You need to play the game that suits your skill sets and personality. If you want to play the sneaky liar game, that's fine -- if you're good at being sneaky and a liar. And this is a game, so in this case, no judgment on anyone for taking that approach if they can own it.
But not everyone can handle and maintain the sneaky approach 24/7, and that can backfire hard and fast. Just ask Big Brother 11's Ronnie, who tried to be the evil mastermind and only ended up making enemies out of most the house before he was eventually evicted pre-jury. If you're going to lie and sneak your way through each week, you have to actually be able to sell the lies and be on top of your sneakiness at all times. Or you will be found out. You're living with these people 24/7. So pick a strategy that suits your personality. Sure, we'd all like to think we could play like Dr. Will, Dan, Janelle or some of the other greats in this game, but their own (varying levels of) success came from their ability to play the best hands they were dealt, whether that be strategizing, manipulation, competitions or good social skills.
A good player will find the right balance of strategy, social skills and competitions, but not everyone is good at all three things. It's not a bad idea to play to your own strengths and find other players to compensate for your weaknesses. So if you're good at competition but your social game sucks, you need to find people who need a champion at comps and are good at the social side. If you have a great mind for strategy but can't win competitions, find someone who can win for you when you need it and is willing to work with you on the strategy side. What's better than being Head of Household? Being in an alliance with the person who is. That brings us to...
Alliances can be crucial.No one wins Big Brother alone. Mike Boogie had Dr. Will (and Dr. Will had the whole house). Jordan had Jeff. Rachel had Brendon. Hayden had the Brigade. Andy had a lot of people. You need support to get to the end, even if winning competitions is your main strategy. Winning competitions is not enough by itself to get to the end. It just isn't. Because the more you win, the bigger the target on your back gets, so it's important to give people a reason to want you around. Trust plays a big factor there, and that's where alliances come in.
Note though, that making deals is not the same as having an alliance. An alliance is loyal. An alliance will have your back. An alliance can keep you off the block or provide the numbers you need to stay when you're on the block. A "deal" is maybe good for a week or two at most, if that. People are a lot less loyal when it comes to deals. And if your strategy is to win competitions, you're far more likely to get further with an alliance of trusted friends than you are with people who are using you for a win and eager to get you out of the house before you become a problem for them.
Pace yourself!Played right, Big Brother is a marathon, not a sprint. Be careful about going in guns blazing, and be careful who you make promises to in the first couple of weeks. Oftentimes, the first few evictions are the result of people latching their horse to the wrong wagon too fast, too soon. A smaller alliance of aggressive players can find themselves picked off one by one by the rest of the majority. Big Brother is a numbers game, and those who get evicted first are usually the ones who gave the rest of the house a reason to be worried about them, either because they got caught in a lie, came on too strong, or they're openly offering support to big-threat players. Of all the advice I'm giving as a fan, I feel the least confident about how easy it is to avoid those pitfalls because people seem to stumble into them every season. Then again, someone has to go first.
Still, laying low early on isn't a bad strategy if it's an option. But again, this goes back to playing your own game. Some people can't lay low, either because they won the first Head of Household, or because they present too obvious a physical threat to slip under the radar, in which case, get that alliance locked in. Just remember that no matter what, you're going to have to play this game every day, every week. There's no break from it, which seems like it can and is exhausting for some houseguests, while others have what it takes to go the distance.
Take Season 15's contestants as an example. Andy played the game every week. He stayed under the radar in the early weeks and then became more active in scheming with each passing week. He played an active-floater game, which was to form and abandon loyalties that were convenient for him. It's a legit strategy to win the game, and it was effective for Andy because he never rested. He was on his game constantly and that's how he won.
If we're looking at last season, Amanda is an example of a player who sprinted and burned out. She came into the house with a strong personality and used that as her strategy, working with players and trying to stay on people's good sides in an effort to get them to do what suited her game best. It didn't always work, but she kept at it... until she didn't. Eventually, Amanda seemed to get too settled in with McCrae. She went into game auto-pilot, inserting plenty of opinions but not really doing much to direct her own game. She developed an attitude and laid around in bed all day, neither of which helped her much. Eventually, she was evicted. Amanda certainly isn't the only contestant to burn out on the game or get caught up in a showmance that derails their strategy. But it's worth noting that no one naps, tans or complains their way to a win.
Big moves win Big BrotherThe floater strategy will only get you so far, and if it gets you to the end, it's probably a $50,000 game, not a half-million dollar game. Take Spencer from last season. He allowed himself to get nominated week after week and didn't hold a grudge about it. Doing that made him incredibly valuable as a pawn to each Head of Household that had their own agenda. Put Spencer up, let him ride the block while they try to get someone stronger out. It's a team player approach that can work really well for someone who can't win competitions. The problem is, if people think they carried you to the end, they won't want to vote for you to win. You need to make a couple of moves in the house that you can take credit for in the final two, even if they're cold moves, like evicting your showmance. Drew choosing Cowboy over Diane showed he was in it to win it. Was it cold? Yes, but it was a demonstration of loyalty, and let's face it, he had a much better shot at winning against Cowboy than he did against Diane. Keep in mind that you're going to have to defend your game, and preferably do it in a way that doesn't leave the jury sore. You want them to want to give you credit for getting to the end, even if it cost them their own game.
Remember the jury!Drama in the Big Brother house is inevitable. People with strong, clashing personalities who are forced to be around one another all day, every day, are going to butt heads sooner or later. But a better player avoids major personal conflict. It's very rare that someone comes out of a screaming match looking good on reality TV, so for your own personal image, it's best to avoid that kind of confrontation. For game related reasons, drama can make or break a person's progression in the game, and it can certainly make a difference between half a million dollars and the second-place $50k. In the end, the jury votes for who they want to win, and if it comes down to the lesser of two evils, they just might vote for the person that didn't scream at them, mess with their stuff, throw a tantrum or otherwise memorably sully their own reputation in the house.
Jordan is a great example of a Big Brother player whose likability strongly helped her win the game, particularly as she was up against a houseguest who lost major points with the jury (Natalie). And then there's Dan Gheesling, who may have won a second time if he'd had more time to work on the jury. Alas, with two strategic players at the end, Ian proved to be the more popular pick, likely at least in part because no one was blaming him for their own eviction. Having fewer burned bridges at the end is a good thing.
You also want to be careful with how much you say to people, even if they're your closest allies. The game is mostly over for jurors and a lot of them will be willing to open up about what was going on in the house during the sequester period. It's possible to be on good terms with all of the houseguests in the house, but end up on everyone's bad-list once they get to jury and start comparing notes. If you can manage to get at least one strong player on the jury to have your back, that's a plus. Consider that most jurors will probably have their minds made up by finale night, assuming the series sticks to the current format, which doesn't allow the final two contestants to address the jury until finale night.
Be yourself! (Unless you're a racist or otherwise aggressively intolerant.)You're going to be on camera 24/7 for weeks, if not months. The episodes may only air some of that, but the live feed viewers are watching. They're logging everything you do on the internet. They're sharing videos. Your privacy was checked at the door, for better or worse. So of course, you want to be the best version of you for the viewing public. With that in mind, don't try to be someone you're not. The feed watchers will see through it eventually and if the houseguests think you're putting on an act, they won't trust you. You got picked to be on this show because the producers like you and probably think the viewers will react to you.
So being yourself is a good strategy. Unless you're ignorant and/or harboring hateful views toward people who are different from you. No one is perfect and anyone who's being filmed 24/7 is probably going to say or do something sooner or later that's going to be viewed negatively by the public. But nothing strikes people's disapproval more on Big Brother than blatant and unapologetic intolerance. Last season isn't the only season that featured one or more houseguests who made ignorant and hateful remarks about people of other races, religions or sexual orientations. Big Brother has a history of houseguests who did not represent themselves well in that regard and paid the price for it when live feed videos or episode segments presented them in a negative light. Unfortunately, this advice is probably wasted on those who, by the very definition of genuine ignorance, have no idea that their views do not reflect the mainstream. But some know better. You're on TV. You're on the internet 24/7. Watch what you say. You will have to answer for it.
Bonus advice from a fan.If the deal someone makes with you seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Head of Household is as much about securing your own safety in the weeks to come as it is eliminating a threat. If you get HoH, make the most of it. Us it to forge alliances or smooth out conflicts/issues with other houseguests.
Trust your instincts.
If you're on the block and you win the Veto, use it.
Never volunteer to go on the block. NEVER.
Keep track of your competitions, the order of evictions, the decor of the house and every other detail you can memorize. If you make it far enough into the game, you'll need to know that stuff for later competitions.
Be funny, interesting and honest in the diary room! It's the best way to let viewers know exactly where your head is at so we can understand why you're doing the things you're doing and who you're really loyal to.
Check the HoH bathroom before you start whispering. Someone might be in there listening.
Please don't obstruct your microphone, we need to be able to hear every word you say.
Clean up after yourself. That's just decent roommate etiquette, but it also makes for nice live feeds. No one wants to stare at piles of your dirty laundry all over the place.
Keep talking game. We like the updates.
Expect the unexpected. They say that constantly, but seriously, if you think you're running this game, you're probably in for a surprise.
Don't self-evict or do something to intentionally get yourself evicted. We know this game is hard. We might not appreciate the full extent of how hard it is because we haven't been in your shoes, but you're still in a position that thousands or more would love to be in. A lot of people try and fail to get on Big Brother year after year. Please respect the opportunity you've been given and play to win. (Obviously, this doesn't apply to people with legitimate personal matters that result in their abrupt exit.)
Big Brother returns for Season 16 on June 25 on CBS. Get the details on the two-night premiere plans here.