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Spoilers from the Big Brother 17 finale ahead!
For those keeping up with the Big Brother live feeds, going into tonight's finale, it seemed pretty clear that we would see either Vanessa or Steve in the finale two, and one of those two would probably win the game. It was highly unlikely that we'd see both of them in the Final 2, as neither really intended to take the other, though they both pretended otherwise. The ideal finale would've seen these two side-by-side in the Final 2... but it was never going to happen.
It came down to the final Head of Household competition, which had Vanessa and Steve trying to guess how the jurors answered questions. It's always more of a crapshoot than anything, as neither of the Final 2 have spent any time with the jurors since their evictions. Trying to guess their feelings about the game and the houseguests after they've had time to decompress has to be difficult. Tonight's competition was a real nail-biter. It came to a tie in the end, which was broken by Steve, who correctly guessed Johnny Mac's answer about not missing his dentist duties, and Steve won the final Head of Household.
Steve talks to himself a lot on the feeds. Or he's just talking to the feeders. It's hard to say. Among his solitary mutterings, he's spoken about his plan to send Vanessa out. It seemed like a combination of knowing that it would be the "big move" he needs to make to secure a win, and also likely knowing that she'd be hard to beat in the end. He understands how the game works, and he knows how unpredictable a jury can be.
I'll say this much, watching Steve evict Vanessa, it's hard to argue that he didn't make a game-winning move. Points to him for that. But if this was anyone's Big Brother season, in terms of strategy and game maneuvers, it was Vanessa's. Every choice she made brought her closer to the end with people who would've been less likely to target her and more likely to bring her to the Final 2. Of course, there's only so much strategy a player can do. Chance and competitions play a factor. And maybe if Steve had been a recruit instead of a superman, he would've assumed the jury would be too bitter to give her the win. A newbie to the show might have thought Liz was too likable.
Steve knew better. And he didn't want to be the Cody to Vanessa's Derrick. His speech made it clear what he was doing, but Vanessa still seemed a bit stunned by the swift exit. More points to Steve for that. Vanessa left the house graciously, giving Steve a hug and a good game, before leaving to speak with Julie. She didn't cry, nor did she come off as angry or bitter. But she did give Liz her vote in the end, not that it made a difference. Despite the obviously-edited mixed-reactions from the Jury, and what Will Kirby said in TV Insider's interview about them being bitter, the jury gave the win to Steve. In fact, Austin, Julia and Vanessa were the only votes for Liz.
We're left to wonder if Vanessa would've won against Liz as well. Probably? The jury had much more reason to be bitter toward Vanessa than they did with Steve, so who knows? Liz's jury answers and speech weren't a total disaster, but they felt a bit thin. Yes, you came into the house as a twin. Yes, you won some comps and allied with big competitors. And against a player who's relying on comp wins and a smile, that might've been enough, but Steve was well armed to convince the jury.
"I got Vanessa out" would've probably been enough to secure the votes to win, however Steve offered more than that, using specific examples of moves he made, and also pointing out that Liz's twin twist was more a benefit to her than a challenge. There's probably a bigger discussion to be had about that, just as their would've been if Johnny Mac had made the final two, after having been evicted.
Vanessa not voting for Steve was a bit surprising, as I wouldn't have pegged her to be bitter. Then again, she had almost no time to process her loss, so I can't say I blame her for not wanting to reward the guy who sent her out so soon after it happened. If they ever do another coach's season, Vanessa needs to be included.
A couple complaints about the finale.
Disappointing that the 90-minute episode spent so much time building up to the winner and almost no time on the post-votes reveal. Couldn't they have revealed Part 1 of HoH during Sunday's episode? That would've left time for the pre-jury evictees to talk about things in the house. I wanted them to show the various hinky votes from earlier in the season and maybe a twin-switcheroo segment to show the houseguests what that was like for Liz and Julia. And a Johnny Mac diary room supercut would've been fun too. We want to see houseguests reactions to things!
Also, can we please please go back to the set-up where the Final 2 happens before the finale and the jurors get more time to talk to them? It's possible I've complained about this every year since Season 11, but the live jury questioning seems pretty pointless. You can tell by the jurors reactions that they're responding much more favorably to one houseguest than the other. I can't imagine they're coming into the finale without their minds at least mostly made up, depending on which Final 2 combo they get. With the pre-taped jury, they get time to really hash things out and then deliberate afterword.
Also, unrelated to the finale, but since we're lodging complaints, please get rid of Battle of the Block.
Other random thoughts
Audrey's hair looks fantastic. So does Shelli's. And Vanessa's. Good hair night for the finale overall.
How many times did Austin refer to Steve as "boy" tonight. Honestly.
Was it me, or did Julia seem kind of gloomy during parts of the finale? Maybe she knew there was a good chance Liz wasn't going to win?
James deservedly won the America's Favorite prize. Between his entertaining antics and his willingness to play the game fearlessly, James fully deserved recognition for his efforts
As a fan of Big Brother, I'm happy a superman won. But as a fan of Big Brother, I usually root for the most strategic game player, and Vanessa impressed all season. Not only did she play it like a game, but she adjusted at pretty much every turn. Tonight, she ran out of moves. But Jason was right that she needed to own her game better in the diary room, but that aside, she's still going to be remembered as one of the best Big Brother players.