Big Brother 22: the most disappointing and controversial season yet

Photo from @CBSBigBrother on Twitter.

Despite the production delay due to the pandemic, season 22 of “Big Brother,” a reality TV show where 16 strangers move into a house and have no outside contact with the rest of the world for around 100 days to compete for half a million dollars, aired on CBS this summer. With an absent live audience, racially charged motives and insensitive comments from cast members, BB22 was one of the most dull seasons yet.

Initially, fans were ecstatic to welcome back previous houseguests for this second All-Stars season. Fan favorites Janelle Pierzina, Kaysar Ridha and Keesha Smith were among the returnees from previous seasons, but unfortunately, their time in the house was cut shorter than fans hoped for.

Cody Calafiore –– who placed second in BB16 –– won one of the first competitions of the summer, setting the tone for the rest of the season. Immediately, Calafiore’s alliance ran the house, evicting players out the door. Week after week, it became increasingly evident that BB22 would be one of the most controversial and predictable seasons ever.

At least one person of color was predictably nominated for eviction every week, similar to previous seasons where houseguests of color were often targeted first. David Alexander was the last contestant of color left until his eventual eviction placed him eighth. White players, including Calafiore and Tyler Crispen, had stronger competitive streaks as seen by both their respective seasons, but they did not touch the chopping block until after all the houseguests of color were evicted. Viewers questioned if this pattern was motivated by strategy or another factor.

Though CBS did not broadcast many of this season’s controversies, they were revealed through the 24-hour live feeds. Live feeds showed Christmas Abbott saying “I’m going to get shot” after nominating Bayleigh Dayton and Da’Vonne Rogers  –– two Black women –– for eviction. Some viewers speculate Abbott did not make her comment with malicious intent, but her use of microaggressions understandably raised concerns.

That same week, Abbott sparked a heated argument with her nominees. Dayton and Rogers voiced how if they, as Black women, had approached their conversation with Abbott, a white woman, in the same manner as Abbott had, they would be branded as “ghetto ass Black.” After CBS aired this altercation, fans were appalled by Abbott. Still, Dayton was evicted that week and Abbott placed fourth.

Numerous houseguests have also been condemned for mocking Ian Terry, who has publicly discussed his autism. The BB14 champion explained that rocking on the backyard hammock helps soothe his anxiety. Live feeds caught a conversation between Dani Briones, Nicole Franzel and Memphis Garrett when the latter described Terry as the house’s “redrum,” referring to the horror movie “The Shining.” 

Despite the disappointment that was this season, BB22 made history. Not only was it the first season made during a pandemic, but Alexander was the first Black man to make it to the jury –– the last nine evicted players who decide the winner –– since BB11. This season executed the American show’s first Triple Eviction, commonly seen in the Canadian franchise, where three people were evicted in one night.

BB22 also facilitated many important conversations. Rogers and Alexander communicated their reasons for coming back to the show: to raise awareness through the platform for the Black Lives Matter movement. Rogers’ emotional eviction speech demanding justice for Breonna Taylor and Black lives was heartbreaking and necessary on a show that has historically avoided exposing racial tensions in the house. Ridha conversed with Dayton about the murder of George Floyd, and Kevin Campbell also discussed his desire to positively represent the LGBTQ+ and bi-racial communities.

Nonetheless, BB22 was extremely underwhelming. BB is known for its unconventional twists that change up the course of the game each season, but the show’s motto, “Expect the unexpected,” rang false this season. Many decisions were based on group consensus, in contrast to the cutthroat, individualistic component of the game seen in older seasons. As Campbell said in his post-eviction interview, houseguests were “afraid of sticking out and making moves.”

The season finally started ramping up at the end with the final, three-part “Head of Household” competition. Franzel won the first part Oct. 23; Calafiore won the second Oct. 25. They went head to head in the third part on finale night Oct. 28.

Calafiore beat the BB18 winner and claimed the final HOH, leaving Franzel and Enzo Palumbo vulnerable for eviction. This season saw its first and only blindside as Calafiore evicted Franzel, bringing Palumbo to the Final Two. Franzel and viewers were shocked because Calafiore and Franzel had a Final Two deal since the beginning of the season and had remained close friends since their time together in season 16.

Ultimately, Calafiore took home the prize in a unanimous 9-0 vote, becoming one of two contestants to win and place second in two separate seasons. Both feats have only ever been accomplished by Dan Gheesling.

Palumbo was far from winning but earned $50,000 as runner-up. Rogers deservedly won the last prize of the night, America’s Favorite Player, making history as the first Black houseguest to win the $25,000 prize.

BB22, while shortened to 85 days, felt dragged out. From fan favorites being evicted first to houseguests’ distasteful actions, this second All-Stars season did not meet the level of excitement and gameplay displayed in the first. Regardless, Calafiore proved himself worthy of the win this summer. He balanced a decent social game with an extensive streak of eight competition wins and was never nominated for eviction. Though he will never be on the same level as Gheesling, Calafiore is a well-rounded player and will remain valued in BB history.

Rating: 2/5