Appendix A: The Jury Phase
If you play your cards right, you might eventually get to the jury phase, specifically being in the final two. If you do make it, you need to be ready, and many previous final two contestants have not been. If you only start thinking about your jury arguments after you make the final two, you’re way too late. You should be planning that for weeks ahead of time because you need to plant your seeds with the future jurors. You will have very limited time to talk to the jury while Julie Chen rushes you as if your speech is less important than whatever BS drama the producers want to shoehorn in, like a showmance or a fight.
Most of the jurors will have made their minds up before ever getting back to the CBS studio. So you need to make sure they’re made up in your favor. You can do this in two ways. First, as I just mentioned, you should be planting your seeds while they’re still in the house. If you follow the rules above, you will have shown them that you’re a nice person who is worthy of the prize. And you will have demonstrated that you had some control of the game. Then you can put people on the jury who will shill for you. When those jurors talk, and especially if there is a Dr. Will roundtable, you want people arguing for your side.
Next, use your goodbye messages to convey what you want them to know. If you have been hiding a big alliance from them, let them know now. They’ll find out anyway in the jury so it’s better to come from your own mouth. As noted in the second rule, if everybody who thought they had an alliance with you talks to each other and they realize they all had alliances with you, things might not turn out well even if you make it to the final two. One way to address that is to explain that you did what you had to do in order to make it further in the game. You love them and will always treasure their friendship outside the house, but this was a game move and you hope they respect that.
Similarly, if somebody thinks you’ve just been coasting by, you need to correct that in your goodbye message. You need to explain all the secret things you’ve been doing to be the secret puppet master. If you tell them now, they might compare notes and decide it’s true. If you hold on to that until the final jury speeches, it’s too late and you’re dead meat.
Another important thing to consider is that people in the jury will talk to each other and compare notes. Don’t vote one person out and then trash that person to somebody else you plan to vote out later. They’re out of the game, there is no reason to be talking smack about them anymore. You are much better off complimenting somebody and then sticking the knife in their back when they aren’t expecting it. In short, play the game, don’t gossip about others’ shortcomings.
Once you’re actually ready to make those jury arguments, be prepared. Practice. Recognize that Julie Chen is going to screw you over by giving you that limited time. Be ready to tell the jury why they should vote for you and not for the other person. As mentioned already, most of the jurors will have made up their mind and what you say has no bearing to them. But sometimes a win is decided by just one or two votes, so even if only one or two people are willing to change their minds, you have to give it your best shot because swaying just one person could be a $450,000 difference.
You have to be able to read each person and see what they want from you. While you’re at it, flatter ‘em – it never hurts. Point out that it was nothing personal, but you only acted that way for the game. Etc. Of course, this only works if you adhered to the rest of this rule about not slamming people after they were gone. If you went around talking about people behind their backs for no good reason, apologizing at this point will only make you look like a hypocrite. You have to get a feel for your jurors and whether they are likely to vote emotionally or strategically, because juries have gone back and forth over the years between those two.
A good player simply has to take that into account, not just bull his or her way through the competition, ignoring the social game completely, and then complaining about it later. This kind of thing reminds me of my kids when they were younger and would bowl in tournaments on lanes they were not used to. They would roll the ball and it wouldn’t curve like it did in our home lanes. Did they adjust in order to get better shots? No. They complained about it and kept throwing the ball the exact same way. I told them that no matter how many times they did it, the lane was not going to change for them, so they needed to adjust to the lane. Similarly, a good player needs to adjust to the game and their particular jury.
One thing to avoid in your jury statements: If you’ve been scheming and plotting and lying (aka playing Big Brother), don’t stand there and insist you were a straight shooter and played an honest game. You will just look foolish and piss people off. Take ownership of your game! Be proud that you made it as far as you did!
When you’re making your arguments, you also can’t be afraid to throw your opponent under the bus. Heck, one fairly common jury question is why you should win and the other person shouldn’t. So be ready for it. Explain your own game and strategy and tell the jurors why your opponent did nothing and is a terrible person.
One person who did a great job talking to the jury was Dan. As he told me after his win, “I wanted to try to prove that everything I did in the game, whether true or false, was strategy. The majority was strategy, but if I lost my head a bit, I tried to put a positive strategy spin on that.” In other words, he was prepared for the jury and also was able to read what they wanted from him. He convinced them to set aside whatever emotions they might have and vote for whomever the better player was and further convinced them that he was the better player. By the time they were done, what could have been a fairly close vote ended up unanimous in favor of Dan!
Going back a few seasons prior, Mike on All-Stars also did a great job in front of the jury, answering questions like a pro after having obviously spent significant time thinking about what the jurors were likely to ask and how he might respond. He also clearly put serious thought into his closing words – it was one of the best final speeches we’d ever seen on reality TV. He singled out each and every juror and said something good about them. And between his answers and speech, Mike emphasized that he played the game the way it was meant to be played.