The end of Big Brother season 19 has arrived.
On Wednesday, Christmas Abbott, Josh Martinez or Paul Abrahamian will walk away with the $500,000 grand prize. So, who will it be and what can fans expect on finale night?
“All three of them have interesting storylines,” executive producer Rich Meehan tells The Hollywood Reporter, adding, “One of them is Paul, who has manipulated a lot of the game and suddenly [he could be] taken out.”
Paul, who came in second place in season 18, returned to the house this summer and dominated the game. It will be a shock to most if he doesn’t pull out the win.
So, as executive producers of the CBS summer staple, is that something Meehan and Allison Grodner want to see in terms of delivering the most entertaining way to end the season? “We’re happy however it plays out,” says Grodner.
Speaking to THR on the phone, the brains behind Big Brother open up more about Paul’s unstoppable gameplay, respond to criticisms this season faced and tease what fans can expect for the upcoming celebrity edition that will air in early winter 2018.
Were there other plans for this season’s temptation twist that viewers didn’t get to see?
Meehan: The only thing that didn’t happen is they didn’t choose the temptation tree, so who knows how that would have impacted the game? Like much of the season, Paul was controlling people’s opinions and the last couple of [temptations] didn’t get selected.
Grodner: We knew that with the temptation twist, there was a possibility that you could be tempted or not tempted. The tree was a great example of seeing they chose not to be tempted. The tree temptations were also public, and if they had been private, they might have been taken.
In terms of content for the show, you must have been in favor of them being chosen. What was your initial reaction when they weren’t?
Grodner: Would it have been nice to see all of those temptations on the tree play out? Sure. It would have been dramatic, but it was also part of the game that people chose not to take them as well.
What were the details for “Bounty on Your Head”?
Meehan: It’s an idea we’ve had for a while and were always looking for a place to play it. In this instance, if you took it, you got a bounty on [your] head, so if the HoH chose to evict them that week, then the HoH would get $5,000. We’ve had the idea for a while; maybe it will come back.
What can viewers expect from this year’s jury roundtable?
Grodner: (Laughs.) It was lively. There are a lot of strong opinions and some very hurt people and some people where it’s surprising how much they have set their emotions aside. There’s a nice combination of strong emotions and feelings about this season.
Does Raven still believe she’s this summer’s puppet master?
Grodner: (Laughs.) Interestingly enough, she thinks she played a lot more than she actually did. She was the person who surprised me the most on the roundtable — I know that’s a strange thing to say, but in terms of how her emotions were set aside and how logical she was about the game.
Is it looking like a bitter jury?
Grodner: There’s some of that as we’ve seen in the past. Let’s just say it’s an emotional jury, for sure.
Meehan: A lot of them were sent to the jury in the same way, so they can all relate to that.
Grodner: People feel that they were played. The question is do they separate their emotions and vote as game players or do they vote emotionally? We’ve seen all of the above.
Paul has been a frontrunner all season. If Josh gets the chance, do you think he’ll make the move to take him out?
Grodner: It’s something he’s weighing.
Meehan: Who knows what he’s going to do. It may be a last-second decision. Part three is always a challenge. You never know who is going to win that one.
Viewers have pointed out that season 17 was one of the more entertaining finales in recent years when winner Steve Moses made the move to evict frontrunner Vanessa Rousso. As executive producers, in terms of having that storyline and a dramatic finale, are you in favor of Josh making that move?
Grodner: We’re happy however it plays out. It’s been an entertaining and surprising summer and, at this point, any combination of things that could happen in this finale we would be happy with.
Meehan: All three of them have interesting storylines. One of them is Paul, who has been manipulated a lot of the game and suddenly [he could be] taken out.
Grodner: People may disagree with me, but it’s not like any floaters made it to the end. All three of these people got there by having to get some blood on their hands and do some dirty work. Christmas did it differently with an injury, Paul did it his way, but it was different from the last time he played, and Josh had an amazing arc going from being one foot out of the door in the first week to making it to the end.
Meehan: And as a trio, they came together in the last third of the season and sent every single person to jury.
When reflecting on the season as a whole, what were the pros and cons that came out of Paul’s return?
Meehan: He was a huge catalyst for story. He played an incredible game. We’ll see what happens in the finale. And people enjoyed the rivalry between Paul and Cody.
Grodner: There were two dominating, alpha personalities, and that dominated two-thirds of the summer for us. And it led to some really dramatic episodes. Would we have had that same intensity without Paul? I don’t know. This is the season we had. It had one vet and it played out in a way that’s unexpected and surprising.
What were the downsides to bringing him back?
Grodner: You can look at it as a pro or a con — I’m not sure myself how I feel about it. It was amazing to watch the way he dominated the game and manipulate every one of these people. It was very surprising and entertaining at times, and at times frustrating. The dynamic and group mentality in this house was something we haven’t seen in a while or maybe have never seen.
If Paul didn’t return, which new players this season do you think would have emerged as potential winners?
Meehan: It would have been a completely different game.
Grodner: There’s a lot of what-ifs and we can do that on every season. Yes, this could be the season of Paul, but it’s also the season of how showmances destroy gameplay.
Many have criticized the mob mentality and bullying this season. What’s your take on the behavior of some of the houseguests?
Grodner: We don’t condone bullying, but they played within the rules that we have. It became a tactic and was part of a strategy at times, but I think we’ve seen other seasons, like season eight, where that was just a constant. I don’t think it was that. At times it can be strategic. I can’t say we were always thrilled by it, though. We were not.
Looking back on this season, it will be remembered for …
Grodner: The dominating gameplay by Paul and the showmances that tanked gameplay.
In future seasons, do you plan on hiding the pots and pans?
Grodner: (Laughs.) I’m not sure why that’s become the weapon of choice. People will hopefully see that as something unique to this season and Evel Dick in season eight. It doesn’t need to be repeated again.
Every season, when the houseguests exit the house, they face a lot of scrutiny. How do you prepare them for that as they make their transition back into the real world?
Grodner: We don’t like to reveal that behind-the-scenes process, but no one is sent out into the world without knowledge. When you spend that time in the jury house, it’s an air lock between the game and the world and it does help give people perspective.
Meehan: When people go back into [the real world], their interactions with actual people are usually positive. When we’ve talked to former houseguests, they usually have a positive experience with that. It’s the social media stuff where people get a little more mean and aggressive.
Grodner: It’s easy to hide behind a screen.
Who are the frontrunners for “America’s Favorite Houseguest” this year?
Grodner: This was an incredibly polarizing season in terms of who you were rooting for. There were definite favorites and people who were not favorites. Every year is a little bit of a surprise. I could tell you two opposite players that could get it.
Who is that?
Grodner: No, I’m not going to tell you. (Laughs.)
Grodner: It could happen.
Since the announcement of the celebrity edition of Big Brother, has there been any talent that has reached out to be on the show?
Grodner: We’ve had an overwhelming response from people who want to be on the show. It’s nice to know that there are people out there who are really excited at the possibility of playing.
What else can you tease about the new edition?
Meehan: It’s coming this winter. (Laughs.) We’re still diving in.
Grodner: Thursday morning it begins.
Will the contestants be competing for charity?
Grodner: These are all things to be determined.
What are you looking forward to most about next summer’s milestone 20th season?
Grodner: It’s always fun when you start on that path again with the creative and the casting to come up with something that hasn’t been seen yet on Big Brother. What we’ve appreciated about each season is there are things that have happened that are different. There have been things we have never dealt with before behind-the-scenes and things that have played out in the house and in the show.