On the surface, Big Brother is a competition show where people wear silly costumes, hook up, and try to be the last person standing. Some people make sure to outlast their opponents by winning competitions and making sure they can’t be voted out. Others stay safe by befriending anyone and everyone in the house. And then there are the people who make things happen. These are the people who see Big Brother for what it is at heart: A game. Big Brother is a 99 day chess game and your fellow houseguests are your chess pieces. Some attempt this strategy and fail horrifically. Others, like these 10 Masterminds, control the game and steer it in their favor any chance they get.
This is part two in our three part series breaking down the types of Big Brother players. Remember, just because a player is on one list doesn’t mean they can’t be on another. However, in order to be on each list, that player must utilize the given strategy more so than most do and to a successful degree.
To see part one in the series – Top 10 Big Brother Competition Beasts – Click here!
10. Amanda Zuckerman (Big Brother 15)
Big Brother 15 is a dark spot in the show’s history. It is a nasty season with disgusting behavior exhibited throughout, which makes it a hard watch. In between their offensive and hateful comments, you will find a cast that is playing hard. It is one of only a few seasons in the last ten years that I feel comfortable saying most of the cast was there to win. Perhaps the person who wanted to win the most was Amanda Zuckerman. She burst on the scene, billed as “the female Evel Dick.” Amanda has an abrasive demeanor that definitely rubbed fellow houseguests and fans of the show the wrong way.
She also had a unique way of looking at the game. Amanda was always looking to gain an advantage on the competition. She made amends with former enemies if it benefitted her game. She intimidated people. Sometimes she called people out on their behavior as part of the game. But the one thing Amanda did that sets her apart from the rest of the cast is utilizing the season’s twist to her benefit. Knowing that Elissa would be given power each week, Amanda decided to stop targeting her and instead befriend and use her to benefit whatever Amanda wanted.
9. Nakomis Dedmon (Big Brother 5/Big Brother 7)
How could someone make up one of the most essential strategies in Big Brother history and not be considered a mastermind? Nowadays, Power of Veto players are picked at random draw. But back in the early days of the show, they were picked much differently. The HOH and the two nominees each got to pick one person of their choosing to compete, resulting in six total players. This made sense until Nakomis came along and found a loophole.
What if the HOH nominated two allies? Then the HOH and those two allies picked three more allies to play in the POV? Effectively leaving out the actual target of the week, making it impossible for them to save themselves. It was and still is one of the most brilliant plans anyone has come up with. Sure, it seems obvious now. But it wasn’t back then. It broke the system and caused a change in the rules which led to the random draw that we now see each week.
8. Tyler Crispen (Big Brother 20/Big Brother 22)
Tyler is an extremely well rounded player. He’s great in competitions, he’s almost too good socially, and he has the strategic chops of a mastermind. During his first season, there were two large alliances – FOUTTE and Level Six. Tyler’s loyalty resided with Level Six but he was like an honorary member of FOUTTE. They didn’t realize it until it was too late but allowing Tyler in – through several of the members, as individuals – is what doomed the alliance. He was getting information from one person that he could use against this person, while using it to gain trust with this person, in order to target that person.
Few people utilize their information better than Tyler did in Big Brother 20. For the first half of the game, there was a blindside almost every week due to Tyler flipping the vote or Tyler convincing someone to nominate their own alliance member. Regardless of who it involved, you could be sure that mastermind Tyler was behind it.
7. Maggie Ausburn (Big Brother 6)
Big Brother 6 featured the most intense house split in the show’s history. Two alliances, the Sovereign Six and The Friendship, went head to head each week vying for power and picking off each other one by one. What made this split particularly entertaining is they were evenly matched. Each side had strong competitors, which ensured that neither side was ever dominating. The Friendship ultimately prevailed and that is due, in large part, to Maggie Ausburn. Maggie was, for all intents and purposes, the head of the alliance. She was incredibly persuasive, which is what made her so dangerous as a player and earns her the #7 spot on this list.
When one of the members of the opposing alliance, Howie, won HOH, Maggie did not give up. She put her persuasion skills to work and convinced Howie to nominate James. Despite being in an alliance with James, Howie followed suit and effectively gave up the advantage his alliance had. This is the pivotal moment in the season and set the course for the rest of the season. Without it, who knows what would have happened? It paid off for Maggie in the end, as she was crowned the season’s winner in a 4-3 vote and the #7 Big Brother Mastermind.
6. Paul Abrahamian (Big Brother 18/Big Brother 19)
The first person to make an appearance on more than one of these lists! Paul, for all of their flaws, is truly one of the best the show has ever seen. Paul’s Big Brother 18 game is extremely impressive but largely attributed to their physical and social game. Yes, despite losing 5-4, Paul had a really good social game early on. Their Big Brother 19 game is a whole different beast.
Paul came into that season with something to prove. They quickly found themself leading a cult – Oops! I meant majority alliance – to victory. Jokes aside, the alliance that Paul built this season is one of the most impressive ever. Their undying loyalty to and trust in Paul is quite dumbfounding but nonetheless a masterclass in strategy. Though I understand why it ended the way it did, in terms of hard work paying off, it is unfortunate that Paul was never rewarded for the many layers that they possess as a mastermind. If it wasn’t for the advantage of being a returning player with a cast of newbies, Paul would rank even higher.
5. Vanessa Rousso (Big Brother 17)
Another extremely well rounded player comes in at #5 on this list. Vanessa Rousso is one of the most exhausting players the game has ever seen. That may sound like a dig but it’s actually meant as a compliment. Vanessa’s brain is going a mile a minute from the moment she steps into the Big Brother house and it never stops until she walks out that door on finale night. Although she was great in competitions, Vanessa’s biggest strength is in her ability to talk through scenarios with others. She is so good at convincing people that what she wants them to do is in their best interest, even when it is anywhere but.
Perhaps Vanessa’s most impressive move can be seen in week 7 when Vanessa is nominated post-POV and is the intended target of the HOH. What does Vanessa do? She goes to work. It is near impossible to survive a backdoor nomination and yet, Vanessa, despite being the most obvious threat in the game, pulled it off.
4. Derrick Levasseur (Big Brother 16)
Derrick’s game is unlike any that had been seen before. He was a part of a huge alliance and a sub alliance within that, a sub alliance within that sub alliance, and a final two within that sub alliance. Derrick worked tirelessly to ensure his safety week in and week out. The work that Derrick puts in in the first few weeks of the game, especially, lay the groundwork for the protection that he experiences throughout the season. The only reason Derrick isn’t higher is because some people were on to him and if it hadn’t been for a reliance on competition wins by himself or his alliance, he could have been evicted before having the chance to plead his case in front of the jury. Make no mistake, Derrick is one of the best masterminds the game has ever seen but his game is so much more than that.
3. Danielle Reyes (Big Brother 3/Big Brother 7)
5 down, 5 to go. Coming in at #3 on the countdown is Danielle Reyes. With her partner, Jason, Danielle heavily pioneered the secret alliance strategy. Jason and Danielle had their own games with their own confidants but the two had full trust in each other. They came together to compare notes, warn each other, and to bounce strategy off of one another. An alliance like this is invaluable in the Big Brother house. With Jason, Danielle wrote the blueprint on how to successfully play such a game. She went so far as to reach the final two of the game without ever being nominated. An impressive feat that, sadly, was not rewarded by the jury, who voted for her opponent by a vote of 9-1 – A vote so controversial that it literally changed the game.
2. Dr. Will Kirby (Big Brother 2/Big Brother 7)
Everyone knew who #2 and #1 would be. It’s not a shock. But it’s also impossible to actually believe anyone else could possibly take these two spots. Dr. Will could potentially be the best overall player but when it comes to being a mastermind, he will have to settle for #2. Dr. Will is the pioneer of the game of Big Brother. Dr. Will saw the game for what it was and acted accordingly. When his alliance was eliminated early on, Dr. Will took each week one day at a time and convinced his housemates that it was better to take out someone else before him. And they listened to him. Each week. One by one, everyone else fell until it was Dr. Will sitting in the final two chair being crowned the winner.
Somehow more impressive than winning, Dr. Will returned for Big Brother: All Stars and dominated the game strategically. Despite having his #1 ally return with him, being the only winner, and never winning a challenge, Dr. Will infiltrated and dismantled the intimidating Season 6 Alliance, while also fending off other masterminds on this list, Nakomis and Danielle, among many others. Unfortunately, he just barely came up short in the end, getting evicted in 4th place.
1. Dan Gheesling (Big Brother 10/Big Brother 14)
Dan is an evil genius. It is astonishing how Dan believes he can get out of any situation, no matter how grim it looks, but it is downright unbelievable to watch him actually do it. More than any other player, Dan is amazing at developing and executing plans. He’s on the block, doomed to go home? Easy! He’ll stage a fake funeral, convince everyone he is done playing, only to then have one of his enemies use the POV on him so that his biggest enemy can backdoor a former ally of his instead. Oh, now he’s at the final four with a couple and one half of that couple is both HOH and the POV holder? Duh! He will just convince her to save him, making him the sole vote to evict, which he will then use to evict her boyfriend.
How does he come up with this stuff? How does he believe it will actually work? AND HOW DOES IT ALWAYS GO ACCORDING TO PLAN?! These are the questions I regularly ask myself when thinking about Dan Gheesling. The man is an enigma. A true god amongst mere mortals. No one – not even Dr. Will – can come close to being the mastermind that is Dan Gheesling.
Which one of these Masterminds would you be most scared to see inside the house or inside your head? Comment below and let us know! And don’t forget to read part one of this series: Top 10 Big Brother Competition Beasts!
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