Paul is playing the best game on Big Brother 19. There’s no denying that, largely because he seems to be the only one who is actually playing the game. But I still find this season frustrating because I can’t actually give him credit for the game he’s playing. Instead, the credit should go to production, which helped set him up with various twists and casting decisions, all of which allowed him to do what he’s doing.
I’ve already written extensively about the problem with casting this season, recruiting people who don’t know the game and people who care more about any potential post-show fame and career opportunities than actually winning. Instead, this article will focus on three key aspects of why Paul is so successful, all of which have nothing to do with the way he is playing the game this season.
Casting Fans of Paul
In particular, there are two HGs this season who pose a unique benefit to Paul. On the live feeds, Alex has repeatedly talked about how “Friendship” is Paul’s brand and he can’t possibly go against that because it would hurt his image. This is based entirely on her perception of him from last season. And sure, Paul has helped to reinforce this notion with her many times, but it’s still worth pointing out that the only reason she trusts him is because she saw him play last year.
Then there’s Raven. When her name was first leaked before the season began, fans quickly discovered a photo from her personal Instagram of her attending one of Paul’s concerts. It’s a photo of the two of them together, with saying that she enjoyed their conversation. Raven even talked about this meeting with Matt on the live feeds.
And according to Megan’s Periscope after she left the house, she actually saw this leak before she was sequestered for the show, brought it to the attention of production and she even talked about it with other HGs in the game. That definitely raises some red flags because typically when an HG’s name gets leaked before the entire cast is placed into sequester, that person will be kicked out and an alternate will take their place.
But production chose to allow Raven to enter the game, even though other HGs knew she was going to be there and knew about her connection to Paul. Is it any surprise that, in the game, Raven completely trusts Paul and does whatever he tells her to do?
The Vet Edge
Being a returning player by itself is a massive advantage. Including Canada and Over the Top, there have been six seasons of Big Brother that mixed new players with anywhere from one to eight returning players. In three of those seasons, a returning player won in the Final 2 against a newbie (season 13’s Rachel Reilly, season 18’s Nicole Franzel and Big Brother Canada 5’s Kevin Martin). In two other seasons, a returning player made it to the Final 2, but lost to a newbie (season 14’s Dan Gheesling and OTT’s Jason Roy). The only other example is Jessie Godderz from season 11 who had a tight grasp on the season, but got royally screwed by the Coup d’Etat that America gave to Jeff Schroeder.
A returning player understands how the game works and what it feels like to be in the house far better than a newbie. Returning players also have the advantage of having played many of the competitions before, thus giving them practice that others haven’t had.
Last season, two of Paul’s wins came in an HoH where he had to roll a ball down a snake and get it in a hole, and the BB Storm Watch where he had to memorize storm warnings and fill in the blanks while being sprayed with water. Is it just a coincidence that he also won the same competitions this season? It’s a lot like seasons 12 and 13, when Brendon Villegas won the spelling Power of Veto competition twice using the same word, “Understanding,” both times.
Friendship Bracelets and Immunity
The biggest issues I have with Paul’s game are the two massive advantages that production gave to him in the first week. On the first night he was given eight Friendship Bracelets to hand out and keep people safe. This is a power unlike anything that anyone has ever been given in the history of the game, and he did absolutely nothing to earn it.
Not only was Paul given the power to save people, but Julie Chen even told the HGs that they had to tempt Paul to win a bracelet. So the very first lesson these new HGs learned is that if you want to be safe, you have to suck up to Paul because he is in charge and he gets to decide who stays. Like a baby imprinting on its mom, these newbies were immediately taught to be loyal to Paul.
After that, Paul won the first Den of Temptation and was handed three weeks of immunity, ensuring that he could stick around long enough to make deals. Yes, America voted to give him this, but we all knew Paul would win the first vote. He was the only known quantity, an established character among Big Brother fans competing for votes against 15 random newbies who fans had only just met.
Paul winning that first vote was inevitable, the same way that everyone knew Rachel’s sister Elissa Slater would win the MVP vote every week on season 15 or how we knew that Brendon would beat out newbies Keith, Cassi and Dominic when America voted to give an evicted HG a chance to come back into the game on season 13.
The fans knew Paul would win the first vote and production definitely knew it as well. They knew Paul would get that first offer, so the prize was intentionally great and the curse it unleashed was intentionally cruel. It’s clear that the producers wanted to guarantee that Paul would survive for the first few weeks of the game, just like how the Coaches twist from season 14 was designed to ensure that all four of them stayed in the game for the first three weeks, even though we all knew they would eventually enter the game as players.
Paul was given multiple advantages in the game, whether it was twists designed to help keep him safe and make people trust him, a cast of people predisposed to like Paul or the simple benefit of having done this all before. For all of these reasons, even though I can admit that Paul is playing the best game, I don’t give him credit for doing it.
(Image courtesy of CBS and Instagram)