Big Brother 17: Why Battle of the Block is Broken [Op-Ed]

I’d like to take a break from the normal updating of what’s going on in the Big Brother 17 house to take a step back and talk about something we’ve been experiencing for the last two summers — a major evolution in the Big Brother game, and the apparent “fan favorite” Battle of the Block twist.

Big Brother Battle of the Block (CBS)
Big Brother Battle of the Block (CBS)

I think America and the Big Brother 17 cast collectively groaned when Julie Chen informed us it was back on premiere night and pretended that fans of the show enjoyed it last year. There are so many issues I have with the Battle of the Block. As much as I’m enjoying this season so far, I still think the Big Brother 2015 cast is what is delivering, while the Battle of the Block continuously diminishes potential that I think this and last season had.

I understand why production likes it, it’s a somewhat innovative twist that allows for another competition that viewers are more invested in than the Have Not competitions. The major failure for me is that the houseguests have broken this twist. They realize that you can still control how things play out by having someone throw the competition.

These elaborate sets are created for these competitions week after week, and so far only one Battle of the Block was a legitimate battle this year. Last year, half of the Battle of the Blocks were thrown. Sure, there were instances where the throwing team ended up winning, by sheer luck, skill, or it actually being advantageous to compete solo. But it seems ridiculous that the highlight of the Sunday night episodes are all a farce. Is it not becoming redundant to see Johnny Mac get bullied into throwing a competition? I am over it.

Beyond just that, there are so many wrongs with the Battle of the Block for me. The same individuals are nominated week after week. Last year it was Brittany, Victoria, Jocasta, and Donny. This year it’s Steve, Johnny Mac, and Jason. The “weaker” competitors are targeted with the obvious intention of backdooring people. Is it even exciting to see the weakest competitors compete at their best? Probably not, and most of the time someone is throwing it anyways. It makes the backdoor even more likely, because people aren’t going to put up their targets.

Nominating people has become a game of pawns instead of legitimately nominating people you want out of the house. Not that it doesn’t say you are okay with someone leaving that you put up as a pawn, but it shifts the game structure significantly.

Battle of the Block Meme

Another problem, the people that win the Battle of the Block are safe for the week. Having anyone safe for the entire week is bad, the game thrives on paranoia and chaos. When people know they are in a comfortable position for an entire week, they get complacent, and don’t really have to do much to stick around. On top of that, it is easy for the right combination of Head of Households to manufacture a plan, as has happened so many times this and last season, which makes for boring, predictable gameplay where the Power of Veto is the only potential disruption.

I also feel as though the Battle of the Block promotes big alliances, which are always bad for gameplay. In order to control what you want to see happen, you need to build large alliances and have allies be willing to jump into the pool of nominees in order to throw the Battle of the Block and control the desired outcome for the Head of Households. Only rarely have Head of Households differed widely in terms of their agendas, which if it occurred frequently might be interesting. I assume the intention of this twist was to have a week where the dethroned HoH is backdoored, it happened once with Nicole last year and generally pissed off everyone because the fans liked her.

Big Brother Battle of the Block

Additionally, because of the amount of control the houseguests can exert over this, it would be almost impossible for a wildcard to remain HoH if they win with someone the house is more comfortable with. During the Battle of the Block twist this year, I’d be pretty shocked if an outsider like Audrey or Steve were to be sole HoH unless the person they win with really trusts them and wants them to do their dirty work. The allure of winning HoH kind of diminishes when you are dethroned because the house doesn’t want you to push your agenda.

Overall, Big Brother has for a long time been called a “power struggle” and I feel as though the Battle of the Block removes the “struggle” part of that term. Majority alliances and individuals that are playing both several sides can easily manipulate the system to get what they want. It’s a big part of the reason Derrick struggled so little last year, and the gameplay was a combination of the Battle of the Block hindering it and the cast having been pretty uninteresting and cowardly. This year, we’ve been blessed with a better cast, but the Battle of the Block still lingers and threatens to promote lazy gameplay and majority-manufactured outcomes. I pray it gets axed very soon and does not become a permanent fixture. This “fan favorite” needs to go.

Get the freshest scoop from the Live Feeds with our Twitter feed updates!

***Sign up for your CBS All Access Pass for your insider access to the Big Brother Live Feeds!***

Join us all summer long on Facebook and Twitter for Big Brother spoilers, results, recaps, and news! Subscribe to our email updates to get the latest updates delivered right to your inbox!