Oprah gives $1 million to her show’s winner but forces him to give away half

Oprah’s Big Give concluded last night, and Steven won the $1 million surprise prize, but surprise, he didn’t actually win $1 million. Instead, Oprah forced him to give half of it away, but only revealed that twist after dangling the $1 million prize first, because it’s not fun to give unless you can also take away. “That is right. $1 million. $500,000 for you, and $500,000 to give big,” Oprah read off the teleprompter. Runners-up Cameron and Brandi are apparently allowed to keep their $100,000 consolation prizes.

Judge Jamie Oliver explained how Steven won by not explaining why he won, saying only that “we couldn’t just base it on this task alone.” Thanks for that helpful explanation. That anticlimactic announcement was just another odd moment in an awkward finale. Oprah was in full-on show mode, but although the set seemed like a studio audience should have been sitting in front of it, there was only a teleprompter there for Oprah to befriend.

Earlier, the show over-emphasized conflict to a ridiculous degree, which is odd because the series has tried to minimize conflict to the degree that they even compressed the elimination ceremonies so much that they always seemed like an afterthought. The last challenge didn’t give the final three any money or any direction, and thus they were disorganized and bickered nearly the entire time. And their gives seemed flat compared to previous ones, although Cameron did manage to get Blue Man Group to donate $100,000 to a school.

As for the show’s namesake, Oprah was slightly less ignorant about her own show than she was last week, although she announced the winner by announcing that she didn’t know who the winner was, and just screamed instead (“The biggest giver is–I don’t even know–wooooooooo!”).

Jennifer Aniston showed up to say that “we’re going to give each of [the 10 contestants] $10,000.” Then she said she’d double it–no, triple it–as if pretending to increase the consolation prize paid by the producers was the equivalent of giving. For a show that professed that it wanted to inspire others to give of themselves, they sure did spend a lot of time giving away other people’s money.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.