During last night's Big Brother finale, I wanted to give the jury the benefit of the doubt that their decision to go with Ian was based more on thinking Ian deserved to win and not simply a vote against Dan. But the more we hear from the houseguests in the interviews they've done since last night's finale, the more convinced I am that Dan's win was robbed by a bitter jury that either couldn't get over Dan's antics enough to see that he was playing on a whole other level of strategy than they were. Or they simply refused to give a past winner the grand prize.

I should say up front that I'm a firm believer that with a game like Big Brother, the deserving player always wins. Part of the game includes convincing the jury that you're the one they want to win. Dan didn't do that, and he didn't win. So it's nearly impossible for me to argue that Dan "should have" won. Ian got the votes to win, so there's no denying his victory. And he's among the more likable winners from past seasons, so I'm not even complaining about that. But hearing some of the comments made by the jurors since the finale, I can't help but feel disappointed by the outcome and their decision.

Earlier today we shared some video interviews, one of which had Britney mentioning that there was no way the jury was going to vote for Dan to win. When she said that, I figured she meant against Ian. And I wondered if Dan might have had better luck with Danielle, who seemed like the harder contestant to beat from Dan and Ian's perspective, but was actually probably the easier bet as the jury didn't seem particularly fond of her game-play when we saw them deliberating. But from what Britney told The Insider, it sounds like Dan had no chance of winning going into last night's finale:
I was not surprised. The thing about the jury is it always flips on somebody – this jury was never going to vote for Dan, whether he was up against Danielle or up against Ian. This was the most bitter jury in the history of juries. I am not kidding you, this jury hated Dan so bad. They could have Dan up against a bottle of ketchup and the bottle of ketchup would have won this game. The hatred of Dan was on a whole new level I've never seen. Bitter is an understatement.

I love Britney's candidness, especially considering she was one of the people who voted for Ian. And that's ok. She and Ian were very close prior to Britney's eviction, and if she knew the rest of the jury was favoring Dan, there was no reason to be the odd man out. Even if she and Jenn (who also seemed like she might be favoring Dan, and made comments about Ian being a rat) had voted for Dan, added to Danielle's vote, Ian still would have won. But "bitter is an understatement"? Really. Granted, this is just her perspective, but it sounds like Dan never had a chance.

Let's move on to Shane, who still seemed frustrated by his eviction. Sure, it hasn't even been a week since Dan sent him packing, but he struck me as a good-natured kind of guy, so his attitude has been surprising. I kind of figured him to be the shrug and accept it kind of player who saw this experience as a game. But he seemed to take his exit really personally. The Insider quotes him as saying that he wasn't surprised at all that Ian won, "The way Dan played his game, he did me wrong, he did a lot of people wrong and he had to pay for it." Pay for what, exactly?

It's comments like these that make this season's ending harder to swallow. If Dan had shoved Shane out the door, laughing at him while he went and calling him a fool (for agreeing to be put on the block) then sure, some bitterness and a bit of payback would've been justified. Dan's act was a betrayal, but from his perspective, breaking up the Shane/Danielle alliance was his best game move at the time. And he said as much when he sent Shane packing. Based on the tone of Shane's comment, it seems like Dan's paying more for Shane's mistake than his own. That's Shane's choice though, and his right as a juror. But as a fan of the game, it doesn't sit well with me. I guess I'd rather hear him singing Ian's praises than talking about payback.
Dan received one vote, and that came from Danielle. She showed him some support during the finale, which may have been due to the post-eviction madness. She had no time to think about anything or really talk to the jury. Still, she stuck to the plan and voted for Dan to win. But she hasn't been nearly as supportive of Dan's efforts in her interviews. She told Zap2It that she might come back to the Big Brother house, depending on what the twist was and who was coming back but, she "wouldn't play with Dan again, never." She also wasn't sure if she'd be friends with Dan outside the house, saying:
I don't really know how to answer that right now. I'm a little stunned, I keep finding out all this new information about how he screwed me over without me even realizing in the game. So I really don't know. It depends on how much more information I find out.

I want to give Danielle the benefit of the doubt here, mainly because she was the last evicted houseguest and hasn't had any time to really let things settle in and separate her own choices from things that were done to her. Since the reset, Dan was always playing for himself, and sure it's fair to say he was using Danielle as part of his strategy. But has she considered how far she would have gotten if not for her loyalty to Dan and the moves they made together? In some cases, she was an active participant in his deceit, in on a number of his plans and helping him make major game moves (including getting Jenn to use the Veto on Dan, which resulted in Britney's nomination and eviction). If anyone benefited the most from Dan's schemes, it was Danielle. So, while I understand that she's surprised and disappointed to learn that he wasn't actually trying to hand her the game on a silver platter, I have to wonder if she's considered how far she would have gotten without him. Perhaps once she has some time to decompress, she'll see the big picture.

That's the frustrating thing about Big Brother, as a viewer. We see everything that's going on. The houseguests don't have an outside perspective. Even after their eviction, they're still cut off from the outside world and without getting to see the episodes and diary rooms, they don't have a full perspective on the game. I don't think that's a flaw in the system. The sequestering of the jurors contains the game and keeps out outside perspective. It keeps the houseguests from feeling pressured into voting with the popular/fan opinion. I sometimes wonder if Will Kirby would have won Season 2 if the jurors had been sequestered. But that's a debate for another time.



If there's a flaw in the game now, it's keeping the last juror in the house until the very end and saving the jury questioning for the finale. The last juror should have at least a day to decompress from their eviction before having to vote for a winner, and the jurors should have at least a day to sit on what the Final 2 have said to them before they decide who they want to win half a million dollars. The way they're doing it now makes the jury questioning seem like little more than a formality, too little, too late. From what Britney has said, going into last night's finale, Dan had no chance and that's disappointing considering the kind of game he played. Just the fact that he made it to the Final 2 should have been enough to win him the game. As a former winner, the houseguests should've had him out before the jury.

I don't want to think that Dan was robbed. I'm not even all that bitter about the ending. As I said in my recap, I'm glad a fan of the show won this season. And in any other season, Ian's exactly the kind of player I'd want to win. He's likable and smart and he knows the game. But when there's someone in the game making major moves, taking risks, improvising and manipulating every step of the way, it's impossible not to see the merits in that kind of effort. Both Ian and Dan did that to some extent, but point for point, Dan should've come out on top last night.

As a fan of the series, I always look for some measure of satisfaction from any given season. It's probably my way of justifying the amount of time I put into this show each summer. I fell in love with Big Brother when Will Kirby slithered his way to the end of Season 2 and showed us just how suspenseful and interesting this game can be when played right. So when it comes to this series, I will almost always root for the player that worked the hardest on a social and strategic level to get to the end. In the case of Season 14, two likable players made it to the end. And two deserving players made it to the end. But watching all season long, Dan was playing on a whole other level.

Hearing that Dan had no chance at winning, that a bottle of ketchup could have beaten him or that he "had to pay" for playing the game is disappointing, and I think it detracts from Ian's victory as much as it might serve as a warning to future players that Dan's style of game-play is a second-place strategy, no matter how great it is to watch. Hopefully that's not the case. With the series confirmed to return next summer, I'll be sure to tune in again in the hopes that we'll see players inspired by Ian's passion for the game and Dan's cunning approach to making it to the end. Every once in a while, things turn out like we hope they will. I'm not sure Season 14 was one of those seasons, but it was definitely one of the series' bests, and Ian and Dan both deserve credit for that.

After a day to mull it over, where do you stand? Are you glad Ian won? Or was Dan robbed?

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