Big Brother for Dummies

It is not just a reality show, nor is it strictly a game show.  Rather, it is a combination of the two with a psychological element mixed in.  It is a social experiment based upon a “survival of the fittest” mentality.  And it has captivated American audiences for the past fifteen summers.

I’m talking about Big Brother, CBS’ genius summertime series that plops sixteen strangers under one roof, allowing them the opportunity to compete for half a million dollars.  They are not allowed to leave the house at any time, except when evicted.  Houseguests have virtually no connection to the outside world—no access to television, radio, cell phones, or the Internet.  The Big Brother house itself runs on “Big Brother time,” meaning the clocks are not synonymous with the actual time in the outside world.  The combination of this deprivation of outside sources with the pressure to live and compete with virtual strangers makes for an interesting arrangement, to say the least.

For those who are new to Big Brother, the first few episodes may be a bit confusing at first.  Here’s how the game works:

  • At the beginning of each week, the houseguests compete in the Head of Household competition.
  • The single houseguest who wins the HOH competition gets his/her own suite in the house, complete with pictures and letters from his/her family and some of his/her favorite things from home.
  • The HOH also has to nominate two other houseguests for eviction.
  • This season, Big Brother added a new twist.  Instead of having only two nominees for eviction, there are three.
  • Each week, America votes for whom they believe has played the best game so far.  The houseguest who gets the most votes becomes Big Brother’s MVP for the week.
  • The MVP is notified of his/her title secretly, so the other houseguests don’t know who the MVP is unless he/she decides to reveal that information.
  • The MVP nominates a third person to go up for eviction that week.
  • Once the house knows who the three nominees are, the Veto competition is held.
  • The houseguest who wins the golden Power of Veto has the power to remove a nominee from the block, thus saving them from the possibility of eviction.
  • The houseguest who wins the PoV can use it on him/herself, on someone else, or not at all.
  • In the event that the PoV is used, the Head of Household names a replacement nominee.  This person will then be on the block for eviction.
  • The final three nominees have just a day or two to talk strategically with the other houseguests before eviction night.
  • During the eviction, each of the houseguests (except for the Head of Household and the three nominees) votes in secret for the nominee that they would like evicted from the Big Brother house.
  • The nominee with the greatest number of votes is evicted from the Big Brother house.

That, in a nutshell, is how the game of Big Brother is played.  It’s not too late to get addicted to Big Brother 15!  You can watch full episodes online at, then catch the live shows on CBS three times a week—Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  It’s the perfect amount of intense competition and strategic social gameplay to get you through the summer.

This post was originally published on Tumblr on July 23, 2013.


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