What it takes to win Big Brother, and what Shelly did wrong (hint: it’s not lying)

I’ve been watching Big Brother with a bit more of a distance this week. Perhaps that’s because last week’s crazy live show was followed by insane behavior online, and nothing quite compares.

Or perhaps it’s because my cat Chloe, reality blurred‘s de facto co-editor for the past 11+ years who made a few cameo appearances in posts here, died Wednesday morning, and it’s hard to adjust to watching TV or writing without her sitting next to me, completely uninterested but always present.

Producer meddling by way of Pandora’s box, which Porsche opened, reinstated the duo twist and also dampened the week’s drama a bit. Because we’re late in the game, there are already few options as to what might happen, and this effectively cut that down even more. So when Rachel and Jordan were nominated as a duo, and then Rachel won POV, Porsche had nothing to do, as Shelly and Adam were automatically nominated. That only left the question of whether Shelly could convince Rachel and/or Jordan to keep her instead of Adam. Unsurprisingly, she couldn’t.

“I don’t care if Jeff and Jordan are God’s gift to America. They’re not getting between me and my family, ever,” Shelly said, undoubtedly unleashing a new round of hatred. But they did get in the way of her prize, because Jordan, Rachel, and Kalia (hilariously ignored by Shelly during her plea for votes, obviously because she knew Kalia was going to vote with her).

Shelly’s focus on the prize over friendships was actually a good thing; it’s way too easy to be caught up in new friendships and forget why you came on a competition show in the first place, although that, of course, provides a lot of drama for us. And her rationale makes sense about turning on Jeff and Jordan when she had a chance, and she absolutely made the right move in evicting Jeff; Julie Chen’s post-eviction questions relentlessly focused on why Shelly would get rid of Jeff now, but it made perfect sense. You don’t keep threats around until the point at which you can no longer do anything about them, no matter how much the producers want those people to stay.

Yes, Shelly lies. Yes, sometimes she doesn’t seem to know that she’s lying. But lying isn’t a problem. Look at Will Kirby or other players who’ve lied their way to wins. And other players do the same thing, or at least act with similar hypocrisy or arrogance (Jeff, ahem).

Shelly’s problem is that she plays a desperate game. Offering her ring, ear, and finger to Rachel after previously swearing on her husband and daughter was just too much, and rings false. (And don’t get me started on that it was a fake ring: Shelly thinks that’s clever when it’s actually just ridiculous to begin with.)

The key to winning Big Brother is being able to ride the constant shifts in power. You can do that on the top of the wave, playing a big, bold game (Will, Dick); by going whatever direction it’s going (that was tragically nicknamed being a “floater,” as if it’s not a time-honored strategy); or by lying so low everything happens way above you. Shelly ping-ponged between strategies and, when she felt cornered, over-reacted, acting emotionally. That was her downfall.

That’s something many people this season have in common: Shelly, Jeff, Rachel–they all react emotionally. Rachel can cover that with challenge wins, especially when she’s playing against people who can’t manage to hold on to a ridiculous dummy for more than a few minutes to save themselves. (So lame! And so sad/true when Jordan said, “This isn’t, like, Survivor or whatever.”) The returnees twist also didn’t help from a game play perspective because it heightened emotions as those duos were split up.

But most successful players will lie or backstab, and then make up with the person later. We’ve seen it time and time again. Shelly could have done that had she worked up to voting Jeff out and then managed the fallout more gracefully. But Shelly didn’t, and that’s why she’s gone.

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