'Big Brother 17' Bosses on Twist That Went Away, Why Vanessa Doesn't Own Her Game

'Big Brother' executive producers Allison Grodner and Rich Meehan spoke to THR about this season and what to expect on Wednesday's finale.
Courtesy of CBS

All good things must come to an end. And for the CBS reality series Big Brother, the end of its tear-filled 17th season airs Wednesday. But don't worry — it's already renewed for season 18.

After this season's big personalities took over the small screen all summer long, executive producers Allison Grodner and Rich Meehan tell The Hollywood Reporter about the twists in the show, but also the importance to tell the story. And for anyone applying to be on next season, Meehan says, "Just be yourself. You can't pretend to be anything you're not." Here, the Big Brother bosses tell THR about this season and what to expect on the finale. 

How do you feel this season turned out?

Grodner: It’s always "expect the unexpected" for us, and once again, it was this season. We feel like there was incredibly strong gameplay that, for the first time in many, many seasons, we’re looking at a final three where there aren’t any floaters. Everyone played, and even in the final four, the idea is that they all have really good arguments for why they should win the money, so that’s always good. It was, all in all, a definitely interesting season.

Meehan: They all kind of made it to the end by playing very different games. Vanessa, who was the comp-win strategist; Liz is still in there — she took the showmance route and made it the whole game with a showmance and played side-by-side with her showmance and also her twin. Everyone kind of got there with different methods, which is cool.

Was there any houseguest that got evicted that you definitely thought might have ended up in the final three?

Grodner: It’s always a surprise to us who ends up there. There were definitely some big personalities and big gamers that were taken out early. Da’Vonne, she was a big fan, had a big plan going in, but in the end her big personality was noticed right off the bat, and they took her out.

Do you think if the bigger personalities like Jace, Da’Vonne, Jeff, Audrey and Jason stayed in the game longer, there would have been a lot more drama?

Grodner: (Laughs.) Yeah. I think Vanessa provided a lot of drama in her own right, but certainly those were some big personalities, they were fun to watch, but the game plays out the way the game plays out. Last year, I think they took out some of the people that probably would have been weaker players and floaters, and this year, they took out the really strong personalities and players.

Meehan: You look at the first three or so weeks in the season, a lot of the confrontations did involve those people, but had they stayed in the game, who knows what would happen.

Grodner: Absolutely, who knows ...

The returning-juror twist has been used the past three seasons. Is this a new twist that will forever stay in the game?

Grodner: We like it, and it certainly works well in the show, but we like to change things up. We’re not going to predict whether it will be here or not next year.

Meehan: We don’t know about forever, but Big Brother is such a marathon; they’re in the house for three months. If you’ve lived in the house and played this game for six or seven weeks, giving people a chance to come back — we kind of like that idea. It’s not like the people who are there for 20 or 30 days — it’s for these people who ...

Grodner: Really, really worked.

Will the "Battle of the Block" be sticking around?

Grodner: Honestly, couldn’t tell you. What it did for us is make a very exciting Sunday show — it gave an extra twist in there, a big competition that had weight to it, so in that way it’s been really good for us.

Meehan: The interesting thing about it is it got used very differently. Last season, they put weaker players on the block. This season, they convinced people to throw it.

What was the decision behind ending the "BB Takeover" after week three?

Grodner: We’ve had a lot of interesting personalities in the house, and I think at that point we wanted time to be able to explore the story and the strategy and personalities. The "Takeover" twist took up some of that camera time that we wanted to ultimately devote to the characters and character development.

Meehan: The first three weeks of the show, we probably saw more strategy then we have ever seen on any season. It was nonstop. I remember the first Sunday show, we were building that show, and there were over 300 strategy scenes that had taken place just in that one episode.

Grodner: We were trying to make sense of it all.

Meehan: We love the twists, but we have to be able to tell the story.

Grodner: We need to make sure there’s time to tell that and service that first.

Were there any guests that you wanted to have come on and do the "BB Takeover"?

Grodner: We have a lot of really interesting celebrity fans who were definitely willing to be a part of this, but we need to also be nimble when there’s so much story and strategy going on — it’s a call that needs to be made, and ultimately that’s the most important part of the show.

How important are their finale night speeches, as opposed to past seasons where the jury might have made up their minds beforehand?

Grodner: This is going to be big. We already know that Austin is a bitter juror.

Meehan: He’s anti-Vanessa.

Grodner: The others seem to be quite reasonable and willing to listen to arguments, so this is going to be very interesting. She is going to have a lot of explaining to do to him, I think. What he may be doing in the jury roundtable debate — exposing some of her flaws — it’ll be really interesting if she has to go in there and play on the defense.

Meehan: We have no idea how she’s going to answer questions and deal with that jury, but the one thing we find interesting is she played a really amazing game, but at times she doesn’t own it, so we’re interested to see what she does when that happens. Is she going to own it and say she has controlled the game and controlled a lot of the evictions this summer, or is she going to downplay it saying, "No, I really like everybody!" She has flip-flopped back and forth, and if she owns it, the jury might respect that. If she doesn’t own it, then I don’t know how they’ll react, so it’s really interesting — her going into the finals.

Why don’t you think she owned it like Dan Gheesling, who would tell fans what he was doing in the diary room?

Grodner: It’s just different. I think that part of her is an absolute gamer and a strategist. This is the million-dollar question, "Why didn’t she own it?"… The other part of her wants to be a good person, and that at times can conflict, and that’s what we’ve been seeing. It’ll be interesting how she ultimately decides to play that, if she makes it to the final two.

Meehan: Some of our best players — you know, the Dr. Wills, the Dans, the Derricks — when they come in, they understand they’re playing a game, and this isn’t real life. What they do in the house really has no bearing on who they are in the real world, and they really embrace that role and play the game. They don’t think anything of the moves they make in the game because it’s not representative of who they are in real life. Vanessa has a little bit more of a struggle with that. She’s playing the game, but she feels like if she’s doing things in the game that are not right, then it makes her a bad person.

Grodner: It’s interesting, too, if gender plays a role in that because we just listed three men who have been the greatest players, and I think here she is conflicted with wanting to be good person and good player.

Does she say the word "deal" more, or does Julie Chen say the word "twist" more?

Grodner: (Laughs.) I do think this season at least Vanessa has spit "deal"s way more than we’ve ever dealt with. "Here’s the deal" — I actually find myself saying it. I wake up with those phrases in my head. Crazy.

Steve didn’t have the best social game in the house. If he makes it to part three of the Head of Household competition, he could have trouble winning if it’s quotes from the jury?

Grodner: We’ve seen him do really, really well in the quiz games, just like this last one where he had to remember what people have said. I don’t know, I think he has a pretty good shot at it, quite honestly. He’s also a big fan, and he’s seen this game before, so he has to be thinking that way. 

The houseguests are obviously watched 24/7 on the live feeds. Do you think there have been any moments in particular they might have regretted?

Grodner: This season hasn't really had a lot of that. 

Meehan: I can't think of anything this season where ...

Grodner: Where it could be something where they're going to come out and go, "Oh my God, I did that?" I don't know. They've played hard. This has been a group that has strategized and strategized all the way to the end, so not a lot of other crazy, I guess.

Who has the best shot at winning America's Favorite Houseguest? And who has your vote?

Grodner: We don't pick favorites. People try to say that we do — we don't. Our favorite is a good show — we look for great story, and we root for a great show, series and summer. We don't vote, but the fans are passionate and they crown their favorite, and it ends up being something that they are happy about.

Is there a frontrunner?

Grodner: I think there are a lot of people that the fans connected with.

I'm rooting for James ...

Grodner: I've heard James, I've heard John — obviously, those are the two names we've heard a lot, but right now we can't say if there is a clear frontrunner.

Meehan: Usually you have to make it to the top six or seven — after a long period of time, those are the people that specifically do well, but you never know. 

Grodner: You never know, but I think you're right in that James or John will probably be in the mix for sure.

Out of this season's cast, who has a shot at returning for an "all-stars" season?

Meehan: Even "all-stars" — and when we bring people back, it's always a mix of people — from a game perspective, Vanessa has obviously played a great game. From a likability perspective, James and John are really well-liked and fun characters. 

Anything fans should expect from the big finale night?

Grodner: We're looking forward to a really interesting debate and final two and some tough questions from the jury.

Meehan: I think there are going to be some tough questions from the jury to find out what they need to know before they cast their vote.

Grodner: Remember the original houseguests who were evicted before jury will come back, and they've been pretty vocal out there. They have a lot to say. 

Who will be sitting in the final two chairs? Who do you want to win? Will Steve be able to cut Vanessa out of the game and make one of the biggest moves of the summer? Who is winning America's Favorite Houseguest? Who did you vote for? Sound off in the comments section below and stay tuned to The Live Feed for finale interviews and THR's interviews with the winner, the runner-up and the one who was evicted before the final two.

The Big Brother finale airs Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on CBS. 

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