Survivor, Big Brother 19 and the bitter jury exaggeration

Poisoning your own drinking well is different from having it tainted by others. Rarely is a Survivor jury outright bitter without a good reason why.

Spoilers: This post will focus on jury management in Survivor and Big Brother, and will discuss the results of Big Brother 19 in the process.

Last night, Josh Martinez won Big Brother 19 over two-time player Paul Abrahamian in a 5-4 vote. Josh won the final Head of Household, effectively picking to sit beside the game’s puppet master instead of his ride-or-die partner, Christmas Joy (someone who eventually voted for his opponent). On top of everything, America voted the puppet master’s biggest opponent in the season, Cody Nickson, to win America’s Favorite Houseguest.

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It was the perfect cherry on top of what many regard as one of the worst seasons in Big Brother history. Outcries of a bitter jury were so fervent that the term even showed up in a tweet on the finale broadcast before the votes were even shown! Comparisons between Paul and Josh to Russell Hantz and Natalie White were so prevalent that even Russell himself got in on the action!

Even though Josh may share a similar situation with Natalie in not being the greatest of their shows’ winners, the accusation that Paul lost $500,000 because of a bitter jury severely undercuts the impact of how he personally made them bitter towards him. If there’s anything this season taught this Big Brother newbie, it’s that a bitter jury and a soured jury (one scorned by the missteps of the player responsible for their exit) are two things entirely, even on Survivor.

Allow me to explain. While Russell out there in Survivor Samoa making finding Hidden Immunity Idols without a clue, dictating the votes for his tribes and playing as strategically as possible, he was doing so as brazenly as possible, calling others idiots and other names to their face and in confessionals. He couldn’t make it to the end on his own, relying heavily on Natalie and Jaison as his core group he could trust heading into a merge with severely depleted Foa Foa numbers.

Then, through sheer will and strategic social play by Natalie, the core Foa Foa alliance knocked out members of the former Galu tribe while Russell acted as if he was a Survivor god. He dictated to others what to do in a condescending manner, cut Jaison in an underhanded way and used Natalie’s abilities to make great relationships to trick Galu into voting against their interests.

There’s a difference between a bitter jury and what we should refer to as a sour jury…

Russell, by doing this, was outwardly presenting himself in a negative light while making Natalie as likable as possible to the would-be jury members. Russell didn’t lose to a jury bitter by an outside volition; he poisoned the jury by his actions, destroying his game by souring the jury on his own. Funny 115 has an excellent explainer on the entire season.

There’s a difference between a bitter jury and what we should refer to as a soured jury, and too often do fans that think the “wrong” winner was chosen in a season like Survivor and Big Brother in a way that omits the lack of jury management that the “robbed” player showcased in their game.

Paul Abrahamian Big Brother 19


Paul easily played the best game in Big Brother 19 on all facets save one; owning his gameplay. Making alliances with everyone except two players, being the only veteran, convincing others to throw a running competition to a girl with a broken leg, dictating who went out each week; almost everyone laid down in his path.

However, his game-losing move was being so extra. Even after he backstabbed players and voted them out, in his goodbye messages to jury members, he pretending that players in his alliance (kept a secret to the evicted houseguests) went “rogue” or something to that effect. He made fun of practically everyone behind their back, but when it came time for the jury to ask him why he acted the way he did and why he orchestrated bullying tactics, he didn’t answer their question and pretended he wasn’t lying to the people who knew firsthand what he had done.

Most importantly, Paul didn’t once appeal to anybody’s vote on the Big Brother 19 jury. Even as people left the game and sitting in the Final 2, Paul acted as if he was better than the people deciding if he was going to win $500,000 or $50,000. He acted as if the person who everyone named the puppet master wasn’t pulling strings, further pretending as if he acted 100% honorably.

LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 18: Television contestant Benjamin ‘Coach’ Wade poses at the CBS’ ‘Survivor: South Pacific’ Finale

It’s not too dissimilar to the gameplay of Coach Wade in South Pacific. A returnee on a season filled with obnoxious, manic and dumb players, Coach did as best a job as he could to win. He created the mafia-esque Family Alliance on Night 1, dictated who went out in succession, convinced John Cochran to flip in a game-altering social play and acted as an (eccentric) leader.

However, he still had a fatal flaw; he was perceived to go against his personal honor code. If there’s anything Coach did well, it’s talk about himself, his honor and pride in how he carries himself as a good Christian man. When asked by Ozzy if Coach held his game up to his own standards by going against his promise to keep Ozzy until the end, Coach flubbed it.

…In both Big Brother and Survivor, a bitter jury and a sour jury are two different things.

Rick, who was a loyal pawn of Coach’s, laid it out there that he felt betrayed and noted that Coach told him that the two were men of honor. Brandon Hantz brought up Coach’s promise “as a man of God” to never vote him out, yet Coach evaded the point of his statement to absolve himself of his misdeed. When Keith asked Coach about whether or not he planned to use his Hidden Immunity Idol as a team idol, he didn’t come clean to the fact that he staged a fake discovery, having members of his alliance searching for non-existent idols.

At each opportunity to own up to his game and secure winning votes on a jury scorned against everyone in the Final 3, Coach repeatedly deflected, pretended he did nothing wrong or act as if his ignoble actions were admirable. Despite being responsible for making sure he had these players lined up in jury to make him a winner, he still lost to the underrated Sophie Clarke.

Does that sound familiar? That’s right; it sounds exactly how Paul lost Big Brother 19 to Josh; by trying to mislead a jury that was completely aware of his actions in a blatant manipulation of the season to produce an ending he thought would give him the win.

As I mentioned previously, in both Big Brother and Survivor, a bitter jury and a sour jury are two different things. I’m not going to argue that there aren’t any cases of bitter juries in any season of either show. I really hate to beat a dead horse (I hope this will be the last time I talk about this), but Michele’s Kaoh Rong win over Aubry may be the strongest argument for a bitter jury in Survivor, and it comes down to two bitter players convincing their third friend.

Scot, Jason and Julia were so undeniably bitter against Aubry and anyone who was his enemy in the game to the point where they acted like petulant children at Ponderosa to the likes of Cydney, acting like she didn’t exist. Even though it was Tai who killed their collective game by not using the Super Idol, the fact that Michele played nice in the act of not being one modicum against their team was enough to gun for a Michele vote.

Even Scot and Julia admitted that Aubry’s vote was lost from the moment Aubry crossed out Julia’s name to vote Pete out on Day 16, a full week before Michele even visited Tribal Council once. The fact that those two could hold a grudge against a player for thinking about going back on her word yet still giving them exactly what they wanted with her vote shows how extremely bitter they were as jurors to an unforeseen degree. With Jason tight in that duo and two of the three at that season’s FTC voting him out, a core contingent of bitter players ruined an excellent game in a way that was outside Aubry’s knowledge or realistic control.

If there’s a case to be made for a truly bitter Big Brother jury, it would have to be season 14. Almost every single member of the jury knew that Dan Gheesling played a better game, but he was docked imaginary points for being a veteran (in a completely different season format) and for playing a cutthroat game.

Dan’s perceived problem was that he played too hard. He made one of the game’s biggest moves ever by staging his own funeral, but the severity of his lies and the kinds of deceit he used to get to the end (including an elaborate lie to use his playing partner’s veto against her showmance) were perceived as too much, even though he owned up to his moves. Ian was just as deceitful, yet he wasn’t as colorful in his moves like lying on the bible. Ian, as a non-veteran with similar gameplay but more subdued and less controlled, won over the Funeral Director, even as he owned up to his gameplay.

The way the term “bitter jury” is thrown around by Survivor and Big Brother fans is quite dismissive to the actions of the player seen as robbed of a victory. It fails to mention the negative actions they took in their game, refusing to cater to the wills of the people they helped choose to vote for who wins it all. In that case, a soured jury is a more accurate term people should use to describe these situations.

America doesn’t get a percentage of the vote for a damned good reason. It was Paul who blew the 3-1 lead, and he’ll need to own it if he ever hopes to get passed this massive upset.

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