Viewers of Big Brother 17 saw a snippet from the jury house on Wednesday night’s episode, as newly-evicted Austin Matelson had a disagreement with jury house long-term resident Shelli Poole about Vanessa Rousso’s game. As the Hollywood Reporter recalled, Shelli called Vanessa’s game “amazing,” while Austin called it “flawed.”
Viewers might anticipate that Austin and Shelli would get into screaming matches over breakfast, arguing over the merits of the game’s final three, while whiling away the hours and days in the mansion. Austin certainly seemed prepped to campaign against his once-ally Vanessa winning the game, as Entertainment Weekly‘s Darren Franich said in his episode recap.
“Austin flat-out promised that he would run the anti-Vanessa campaign, even though his stunning backdoor is proof of her savvy gamesmanship.”
But it turns out members of the jury aren’t as free to debate the issue as viewers might think or hope. The Hollywood Reporter spoke with four former jury members: Elissa Slater (Season 15), Zach Rance (Season 16), Frank Eudy (Season 14), and Britney Haynes (Seasons 12 and 14). All except Eudy said Big Brother producers forbid game talk in the jury house. And the show’s handlers bunk with them to make sure there are no unauthorized debates going on.
According to Rance, the rules are strict.
“No game talk at all. You’re not allowed to talk to anyone else. Your vote is strictly your vote. If you talk game at all you get in trouble.”
Haynes said jury members, nonetheless, circumvent the rules.
“They really try to keep you from being alone without supervision to prohibit that. Two people can’t just run off in the middle of nowhere together because they know that’s what you’re going to do. They do a pretty good job of keeping it to a minimum, but people still find ways. They really want you to figure it out for yourself and not be persuaded and if you are going to be persuaded they want the cameras there to see why you were persuaded.”
Slater echoed that the jury was watched at every moment.
“You have handlers with you and they do monitor our conversations because we’re not supposed to talk about votes until they’re filming it. They followed us around everywhere we went. Sometimes we would pretend like we’re doing puzzles, but we would be really talking game.”
But Eudy implied he was able to campaign for the player he wanted to win.
“We’re able to talk freely amongst ourselves. The handlers are there to make sure we’re not getting out of the house and getting on the phone from my understanding. Obviously I used my time in that jury house to make sure Dan didn’t win, that was my goal.”
Although three of the interviewees said they would vote for Vanessa to win — Eudy said he would vote for Liz Nolan — they seemed split on who would actually take home the prize. Both Rance and Slater said the fact that Liz has two jury votes secured — Austin and her twin sister, Julia — was significant. But Slater, who called it a toss-up, said Vanessa would never take Liz to the final two because of that vote advantage.
“If the jury’s bitter, whoever is sitting beside Vanessa is going to win.”
Britney predicted Vanessa would win, Rance said Liz would win, and Eudy’s money was on Steve Moses.
Big Brother 17 airs Sunday night on CBS. The season finale airs Wednesday, September 23.