Not only did CBS crown its 21st winner of the summer reality competition stable, but Julie Chen surprised everyone by tackling the summer's more controversial elements like racism and sexism head-on with affected HouseGuests confronting directly their perceived tormentors.
Before we can effectively get into that, though, we need to narrow it down to the Final 2, which happened over the course of two more competitions. The writing has been on the wall for Nicole since she and Cliff were duped by Michie into evicting Tommy. At this point, she needed to win her way to the end, and she had to take down Holly and then Michie to pull that off.
After winning the first part of the three-part final HOH comp, Michie sat Part 2 out and it came down to Nicole and Holly in a mental and physical comp. Unfortunately for Nicole, she came up three minutes short, which effectively ended her game. Sure, she campaigned as best she can but she had a snowball's chance in hell of really breaking up the showmance.
The story was just too perfect for Michie and Holly, no matter who won that final part. That said, we don't know for sure what could have happened because Holly probably would have stood a better chance of beating Nicole in the end, but she lost to Michie ... by one question. And it was one where she "goofed" and misunderstood one of the statements.
Like evicting Tommy will haunt Cliff for the rest of his days, that question may well haunt Holly, as she would have been able to control her own destiny. Luckily for her, Michie stayed true to their partnership and carried her into those final two seats, sending Nicole out the door as the last member of the jury.
Before revealing the winner of "Big Brother" -- but after the vote to keep things as fair as possible with a sequestered jury -- Julie brought out the evicted HGs who'd already gone home, and who'd had the chance to watch the season play out. They probably also went back and watched some of the content pertinent to their experience.
What followed was a candid conversation about perceived racism and sexism in the house, perpetrated mostly by Jack, Jackson, Christie and Nick. Jack, who was confronted with some of his comments specifically when he was evicted, gave a genuine-sounding apology to Kemi after she called out all four and hoped they would grow as people form this.
The others, though, said they had no idea what she was referring to, and thus offered empty apologies with no real meaning or context behind them.
Also addressed was the moment when Gr8ful barred Nicole from the HOH room while they were trash-talking her and her game (thanks to Isabella's duplicity), which many -- including Ovi and Nicole -- saw as a bullying moment.
"I was very frustrated [in that moment]," Nicole admitted. "I'm a very big advocate for being an upstander, don't be a bystander, and a lot of people in that room were bystanders and they were part of it. And I wasn't even allowed in the room to advocate for myself or defend myself, or shut it down. They just locked me out and continued to have their little funfest."
Finally, on a more personal level, Isabella had to watch her showmance, Nick, jump into a jurymance with Kathryn after maing a commitment to her in the house. "I said, just please don't make me look stupid. And you made me look stupid," she told him. "So I was really, really hurt by that and you know what? No one deserves to feel that way."
It was a difficult segment to watch, but one that's important for "Big Brother" to acknowledge and address. And while we'd prefer they do so as these moments are happening, so television viewers can get a more complete picture of what's going on in the house and who these people are, this still felt like a positive step in the right direction.
Before facing the Final 2 live, Dr. Will sat down with the jury (pre-Nicole) to discuss the merits of the finalists. Everyone seemed impressed with Nicole's social game and had she been able to plead a strong case, she might have stood a chance of winning (stronger against Holly than Michie). Alas, Nicole didn't get that opportunity.
Below are some of their thoughts about the actual Final 2 heading into the final interrogation:
"Right now what Jackson's done is amazing. It's nine wins." --Nick
"I don't think competition wins matter, as far as the big picture of winning 'Big Brother.' It's a social game." --Kathryn
"I would like to vote for a person with a more honest game, like who had a loyal game?" --Jessica
"Cliff, was it impressive that Michie convinced you guys to keep a showmance" --Will
"I think it was damned impressive and I'm going to regret that for the rest of my days. I thought he was different in terms of keeping words." --Cliff
"Him concocting that lie about Tommy, it would have been Michie sitting here today instead of Cliff." --Analyse
"I think [that] was his best game move." --Cliff
"Everybody did lie in the game. Everybody has to do what's best for their game, and I can't fault him." --Jack
"Lies happen, I get it I just don't necessarily want him to keep saying that he is honorable and has integrity. Just come right out and say I played a game that got me to where I needed to go." --Cliff
He really was a Jekyll and Hyde type. I saw a guy who could be very friendly, but at other times was very condescending and arrogant." --Cliff
"Michie uses, like, fear and his strength to just think that he is better than everyone." --Christie
"I have heard him aggressively and inappropriately to Christie and Kat. I told him I don't want him to win this money. But this is a game. I have a battle inside me. Do I go with my morals or do I go with the love of the game I have. You have to separate game from personal." --Tommy
"Holly and Michie are in an alliance. Which is the brawn and which is the brains?" --Will
"I think Michie's both." --Christie and Jessica
"Personally, I don't really think Holly should win the game. I just don't really think she's done anything spectacular." --Analyse
"Was her plan to stand behind the biggest target or did she just fall for the guy and get lucky? I don't really respect that." --Christie
"She showed up when she needed to. She won when she needed to. He couldn't play in an HOH the week after he won, so she would win them. That's amazing." --Tommy
"Holly went after the bigger targets. Michie went after, kind of the bottom-feeders." --Kathryn
"She was clearly in the Six and was never put up as a threat." --Jack
When it came down to the final confrontation, such as it was, they called out Michie for his more aggressive and potentially damaging social game, and they laid into Holly for her under-the-radar strategy. Remarkably, Holly justified her moves with the exact same arguments the jury had already made for her, including Tommy saying she stepped up when needed.
Every jury is different, so it was really a matter of whether this one was going to reward the flashiest game -- which was Michie by far -- or the equally effective game that Holly played, which was much more subdued, social and harder to see behind the glare of all of those competition wins.
Well, apparently Michie managed his jury better than some previous HouseGuests who'd had equally dominant summers, as he was rewarded with six of the nine votes. So why did he look so dour when he came out of the house?
Seriously, this was the least happy winner of "Big Brother" we've ever seen.
When asked about it, Michie told Julie, "I did it for my family. I did it for my mom and I did it for my dad. And at the end of the day, what matters more to me than the half a million is that they're proud of me. I just hope that everything's alright."
All season long, Michie has been obsessively worried about how he's been perceived on television, and live feed viewers know there's even more to his story than that -- things he swore to never talk about in the house, and never did.
He did genuinely look shocked when he was called out as potentially racist and ageist for picking David, Kemi, Jessica and Nicole for banishment as Camp Director, even as Julie pointed out three of them had volunteered for the position as well and Michie said Kemi was the only HG who never campaigned to him. Michie says his decision was strategic, and it certainly seems that may be genuine.
Regardless, his fragile obsession with coming across as a decent guy in the house, and fear of disappointing his family, is definitely indicative of something greater going on in his life. Even if he never opens up publicly about it, hopefully he takes the steps needed to address it and find peace in his life and with himself.
Maybe then he can actually enjoy what he managed to pull off this summer.
You know, the way Nicole was genuinely euphoric (and stunned) over winning America's Favorite HouseGuest. While Michie struggled to manage his public image, Nicole allowed herself to experience "Big Brother" fully, and grew so much as a person throughout the season that it was wonderful to see her confidence and strength on display in this live finale.
While there is no word yet on a third season of "Celebrity Big Brother" over the winter, ratings were solid for the first two installments, so fans remain hopeful. What is certain, though, is that "Big Brother" will be back to take over next summer's airwaves on CBS with its 22nd season.