‘Big Brother’: Why Are Houseguests So Emotional? Is Paul Too Powerful? EP Allison Grodner Answers Our Burning Questions

Big Brother - Jessica Graf
Johnny Vy/CBS
Jessica Graf is the latest evictee on Big Brother, hosted by Julie Chen on August 10, 2017.

It’s Big Brother on steroids! The 19th season of the CBS reality juggernaut has been so insane that we’re bursting with questions. And exec producer Allison Grodner has the answers.

Why are the houseguests so damn emotional? It usually takes weeks for things to get ugly and volcanic. Not this summer.

It’s been crazy from Day 1! We have a mix of personalities that are far more manipulative and impulsive than usual. People divided up very quickly, seeking revenge, feeling really hurt by the [eviction] nominations. Our three showmances also got started right away, which is unusual. The houseguests can’t seem to help themselves. Before the game started, some of these very same people swore they would never get into a showmance—that it must be avoided at all costs because it’s such a threat to the other players—and yet it happened. Immediately. [Laughs] The showmances started even before we started the live feed!

This season even brought us the first supervillain showmance, with Cody and Jessica.

And it seems to be the real thing and more important to them than the game itself. Big Brother has a great success rate when it comes to long-lasting relationships, marriages and babies—much better than The Bachelor.

You’ve added so many twists and wrenches and temptations this season that the game seems less about the survival of the fittest and more like the survival of the luckiest. Any concerns about that?

To be fair, the Den of Temptation was driven by the viewers, not the producers. But this game has always involved luck, along with skill, endurance and a good social game. I’m not buying that it’s more about luck now. There are still lots of tools to play with. You can still go from the outhouse to the penthouse, if you work it right.

BB18 was won by Nicole, a returning fan favorite. This year Paul, who placed second last season, has been the most powerful player. Isn’t this discouraging to the newbies?

They can either be discouraged or learn from the past and evict the veterans as soon as possible. The first-time players rallied around Paul because Cody and Jessica were a bigger threat. It’s all about the common enemy. And that, for me, has been one of the biggest shocks this season—that a tough veteran like Paul could come into the game and be so dominant and pretty much everyone fell in line behind him. He’s been a truly influential leader.

Your show is often criticized for being too white, yet this season two people of color were voted out very early. Doesn’t that drive you batty?

We want a cast as diverse as possible, but we can’t control the votes. That said, I don’t think Ramses and Dominique were evicted because of their ethnicity. It was their game play.

Older players are often among the first to be sent packing. What explains Kevin’s survival?

It’s probably due to him having seven kids of his own. He knows how to relate to that age group. Plus, I think the houseguests genuinely like having him around. He’s got great social game. He’s not on anyone’s radar. He could go surprisingly far.

Which houseguest were you most sorry to see go?

Cameron, the first out the door. I’d have loved to see him stick around. He’s such a huge fan of the show and so likable. This would be a very different game if he’d been allowed to play it.

Who’s the biggest annoyance in BB history? Zingbot, Mr. Pec-Tacular or Josh clanging his damn pots and pans while bellowing that circus song? And, please, don’t be kind.

Well, it certainly does seem that Josh is out to annoy some of his fellow housemates, and he’s succeeded completely. [Laughs] It can be maddening.

Christmas gets to avoid certain physical competitions because of her bad leg. Is that fair?

This is a first. We’ve never had someone break a bone in the house, but there’s nothing in the rules that says Christmas had to leave the show. An injury is not grounds for disqualification. And she still has her social game. Look at some of the past winners like Dr. Will [BB2] and Derrick [BB16]. In fact, go back through all of Big Brother history—you won’t find a lot of competition beasts sitting in those final two chairs.

Big Brother, Thursdays, 9/8c, CBS