Big Brother’s house is open once more! Every week, Parade’s Mike Bloom will be bringing you interviews with houseguests as they get evicted from the game.
When the final key pulled from the box by host Julie Chen revealed that Nicole Franzel would be the winner of Big Brother 18, Paul Abrahamian was stunned. After starting the game at the bottom, he had clawed his way into the finals and made the decision to sit next to Nicole rather than James Huling. Seeing the error of his ways, Paul vowed if he should ever play again, to pay extra attention to jury management and find himself a perfect opponent for the finals. Little did he know he would be able to put that thought into practice the very next year, and it would lead to one of the most dominant performances in the show’s history. But history would once again repeat itself (even down to the very same shirt), as Paul’s bad read on the jury led to him losing by one vote once again to the person sitting next to him, Josh Martinez. Though the finale brought 3 percent more viewers than his previous appearance, the same result bore out.
Paul’s first season started with the out of the box (or out of the suitcase, in this case) concept of four veterans entering the house late as bonified houseguests (Big Brother 14 had the same concept, but the veterans were non-playing “coaches” until the fourth week). Paul got to experience the shoe being on the other foot–with no shade to Paul’s broken-footed ally and possible crush Christmas Abbott–when he walked through the door after everyone else on season 19 as a result of Kevin Schlehuber (and about half of the rest of the house) taking a $25,000 temptation. Paul immediately received power in the form of eight “friendship bracelets” of safety to distribute to the other houseguests, and his choice to give them out to a wide swath of people showed that the clothing designer was ready to change his strategy from last summer. We had no idea then that Paul would be doing this Julie Chen-ordained gesture for the remaining 10 weeks of the summer too, as Paul held such power in the game he was able to deem who was safe and who would be targeted, with the competition winners hardly ever a factor.
Even though he was indirectly responsible for Cameron Heard’s surprise eviction on the first night, Paul’s fan-favorite status and cool energy resonated with many of the houseguests. The lone exception was the steely stare of Cody Nickson. Unhappy with the veteran’s presence in the game, he used his tenure as the first Head of Household to take a shot at Paul by putting him up as a replacement nominee. Unfortunately for Cody, his maneuver was thwarted by the Den of Temptation, which had recently granted Paul a month of safety through the Pendant of Protection via popular vote. Thinking quickly, Cody went for Christmas, who had become close with Paul over the past week. When the Marine turned to his troops for active duty come eviction night, nearly all of them deserted, angry at Cody for going after Paul and Christmas when they were all supposedly in an alliance together. Paul was able to convince the other showmances, as well as free agents like Kevin and Josh Martinez, to get back at Cody with their votes. They did just that, sending a stunned Jillian Parker back to selling timeshares, and Cody saw that eliminating the one returning player in this cast was much easier in theory than it was in practice.
Despite his safety being out in the open, Paul put forth a huge amount of effort over the next few weeks. He won the next Head of Household and Veto, showing his competition prowess had stuck around from the previous season. He brought in Alex Ow as a secret ally, and along with her came Jason Dent. He had a hand in every single eviction outcome, dispatching dissenters like Dominique Cooper who were catching onto his duplicitous game, and riling up his allies to make personal attacks on their “enemies.” Though he threw many competitions—in a true masterstroke, he was able to intricately convince five people to disqualify themselves in a footrace to give the win to a woman with only three working appendages—he won a total of three Head of Households and five Vetos. He was even able to convince his allies to volunteer for nomination and resist game-changing temptations, as the Paul pull had them acquiescing. Once the foes and outer ring of the larger alliance from the first few weeks were eliminated, Paul had to navigate the tricky territory of his allegiances to the various pairs in the game. He tried to keep his hands blood-free by throwing out sympathy votes and serving up false narratives in his goodbye messages on a silver tray (or Trejo). In the end, much like he had since the very first eviction, Paul got what he wanted. He went to the final three with Christmas and Josh Martinez, and Josh stunned America when he decided that he would have a better chance sitting against Paul at the end. His gamble turned out to be correct, as Paul’s former allies had become resentful of the way he had lied to them both in the house and on the way out the door. When he decided to not use his jury questioning to admit to his duplicity, that appeared to be the nail in Paul’s coffin, as he only earned the votes of Christmas, Kevin, Matt Clines, and Raven Walton. After a record combined 191 days in the house, Paul talks with us about what he wanted to change about his gameplay between seasons, his takes on why the attacks against his enemies were so personal, and how he was able to navigate alliances with so many different people.
It’s been about 12 hours since everything happened. You were in shock coming out of the house. Has anything changed with your mindset, looking back on things?
Not really, I don’t know what else could have changed at this point. People have been telling me that I should have owned up to my strategy and gameplay to the jurors, but I don’t think that would have made them feel any better.
How are you feeling at this point? Making the final two twice is a big accomplishment in Big Brother. Did you have any inkling that the jury would go in Josh’s direction during the questioning?
The line of questioning kind of threw me off because it was a little bizarre. Tossing words like “bullying,” “backstabbing,” “friendship.” Being the only vet, I had to associate my social game in such a way where I needed to have everyone feel like they were on my side in order to not get evicted. People took it personally in that sense. It’s a little wild to me because I assumed we all came to play a game.
Were there any people who voted for or against you that you were surprised by when it all shook out?
I was surprised at Jason and Alex’s votes. Alex told me that she’d have my vote and she’d fight for me in jury, which…I clearly don’t think that she did that. Cody expressed his lack of…(laughs) like for both me and Josh but based off of the things Josh did out of the house and the way he sent certain people out, I would assume that Cody was such a fan of battling it out with me. He had this infatuation with fighting it out with me. I would have thought that he would have respected that, but I guess not.
I want to go back to the point about feeling that you needed to be on everyone’s side as a veteran. Going in as the lone returning player, how did you feel you had to orient your gameplay around that status?
How else could I convince a group of fifteen people to keep somebody who came in second place last year? They knew I was a good competitor, and they knew I was good at the game. Was I just going to cook chicken all day long and they were going to keep me around the house for fun and giggles? Or were they gonna have some sort of benefit for me, some sort of advantage? Because if I didn’t serve as an advantage to them, that means I was part of their demise. If they weren’t under the impression that I was playing to their advantage, I would have been out week one, two, three, four, five, I don’t know.
Let’s rewind back to before the season. You get the call that you could be back in the house for the summer. What goes through your head? Are you excited or nervous based on last season?
All of the above! I was really blessed that people wanted to see me play again, it was a cool feeling. Nobody really gets a shot at Big Brother once, let alone twice. I had no idea that I was going to be the only vet, I had no idea what I was walking into. I just walked into it, and I thought, “Well, this sucks.” And I figured it out.
Was there anything you wanted to change in your strategy between seasons, even not knowing you were the only returning player?
I definitely wanted to play a different game, and I was kind of forced to play a different game. Last season, I was in survival mode and was getting my way in and out of situations. This season, I tried to be a few steps ahead and control what happened, and made everyone else play my game. And I think I played a lot of that.
One of the tactics you were able to use was to create an “us vs. them” mentality, really riling up your allies. This came to a fever pitch against Jessica and Cody during the time she was going to play the Halting Hex, which culminated in very personal comments. Did you ever think at one point that this was crossing a line?
First thing’s first, all of the allies I was protecting who were jumping to attack Cody all had individual problems with Cody and Jessica that they would express to me privately. But they were never willing to step up and do it themselves, so they would always do it behind closed doors. Since I knew that everybody felt so strongly about this, I said, “Well, why don’t y’all express your feelings? Inside of talking about it behind closed doors, let people know how you really feel.” Whatever I dictated to say or do was their own decision. They’re all adults, they can make comments and decisions, they can choose their words however they want. I didn’t tell them to attack Cody and Jess and hurt their feelings. I said, “Hey, if you want to show you’re upset about Jessica using the Hex, maybe if she sees that, she won’t use it.” I was thinking game strategy, people taking it out of left field, right field. But as far as personal, Cody had made it personal with me from the very beginning of the game by flat-out telling me he didn’t like me. He attacked my character, so (laughs) I don’t know how else to deal with that situation.
Did you ever entertain the notion of keeping Jessica and Cody around as bigger targets, or was the fact that Cody was gunning for you so many times too much to handle?
I mean, it kind of naturally happened in and of itself. They became the enemies because they created enemies with everybody. They were really forward, rude, didn’t really respect a lot of other houseguests. People thought they were very abrasive with their gameplay, so they did that on themselves. If they want to blame me for painting them as the bad guys, then they’re very wrong. (laughs)
The Pendant of Protection got you safety for the first few weeks. But in the second week, you won both Head of Household and Veto and the week after you were blowing up Dominique’s game. Did you feel like you needed to go hard that quickly, considering the literal safety you had?
Even though the safety temporarily helped me, it also put a massive target on my back, just like with the friendship bracelets. Sure it helped me at the moment, but I had more things stacked on top of me that I had to sweep onto the rug. That was my first HoH plan in getting Cody out. Since Cody was a huge target and I just got him out, I needed to create a new target. And that’s when I found out that Dominique was using my name in many conversations, referring to me as a snake. Kept calling me a snake, referring to me a serpentine…I don’t know what. She became my next target because simply her line of questioning in her show made a lot of people uncomfortable and they didn’t want to say it or talk about it. So I used everybody’s discomfort and made it a thing!
Comfort through discomfort.
Right. Since I had a strong social game, I really knew how everybody was feeling. So if I knew how everybody was feeling, I could always create a target based on how everybody was feeling. If I could band the numbers together, and it was a mutual feeling across many numbers, I knew I could pull it off. Dominique was one of many.
Speaking of the social game, I want to segue into talking about all of the pairs you were associated with. To what do your credit your ability to navigate these pairs and have them not go behind your back, compare your notes, and realize you’re telling them the exact same thing?
There were definitely risky waters I was walking in there. But it was a risk, and I knew I had to take some risks in the game, and it worked. I pretty much promised the pairs that I could be their “special three” and we could roll over the whole house. Doing that enough led me to convince them to just take shots at each other. Why worry about Paul when you could use me to take shots at the other pairs? And once you’re at the end, since you’re a pair, you’re going to nominate me anyway. It made sense in their heads, and it worked out perfectly for me. I guess not so perfectly, but perfectly enough.
What did you see in Christmas and Josh specifically, considering you could pick another pair like Matt and Raven or Alex and Jason?
Christmas and Josh were not a couple, so I could somehow wedge my way in there and convince both of them, if I didn’t win the last HoH, to pull me up. But if I was up against a couple like Matt and Raven or Jason and Alex–even though they weren’t a couple, they were a pretty serious ride or die–there’s no way in hell I was going to convince them to take me. So I would have needed to win every single competition on my way to the end. As far as Josh and Christmas go, they were loyal to me the most in the game from the beginning to the end. They didn’t humor conversations of getting me out. They looked out for my best interest. So it was part friendship, part me thinking I could beat them.
For posterity’s sake, had you won the final Head of Household, you would have taken Josh to the end?
Yeah, because I thought I stood a better chance with Josh as opposed to Christmas. Christmas had a badass game, she went through the whole game with a broken foot and persevered. I think she did better jury management than Josh and I. And she had a pretty strong argument. She didn’t quit, she went through, she had competitions tossed to her, she made strong game moves. She wasn’t as “cryish” and apologetic as Josh, which a lot of the jury members seemed to dislike, I guess, to my perception. But I thought she would have had a pretty solid argument.
In the finale, you found out about Josh’s tactic to use the goodbye messages to almost undermine the narrative you were providing to your allies on the way to the jury house. If you had known that Josh was doing this, would you have come cleaner about your game in the goodbye messages?
That’s a really tough one. I still wanted to maintain a decent enough relationship with the jurors, even when they compared notes. I didn’t necessarily promise people to the Promised Land, I told them I’d help as much as I can and take them as far as I could. And I took them as far as I could. But at a certain point, each player can’t expect me to take them to the end of the game. At a certain point, they gotta do some gameplay themselves. And what it came down to was every week, when there was another ally of mine who needed to go, the rest of the house wanted them gone just as bad. There was inevitably nothing I could do to save them. For example, Alex. Sure, we had a strong thing, but at that part of the game, every single person wanted her gone. And my vote was one vote, and I couldn’t convince them otherwise because she was such a strong competitor and she didn’t hide that. She was very adamant about winning the game, always talking about jury control. So that was hard on her end. I can’t fix everybody or play everybody’s game for them, I can only do some much.
In retrospect, do you regret telling certain people to go to the jury house and talk about what you told them in the goodbye messages?
Not really. I mean, it’s not that I regret sending them off a certain way. I just told each individual person that I work with knew how hard I worked, because I controlled a lot of their HoHs or I always included them in plans that I was orchestrating. So individually, they know how hard I worked. And I was assuming that at jury roundtable, they would toss their emotions out the window and just looked at who strategically played the game. I blew it. (laughs)
What do you feel about the idea that you may have been too dodgy in your jury questions, appealing more to the fact instead of feelings?
The way they were asking me the questions, I knew that if I had come clean or just admitted to swindling all of them, I can’t imagine that they would have taken that any better. They are clearly upset that they were clipped off when they were clipped off, and if I came out and was cocky or owned up to manipulating gameplay, I don’t think they would say, “Ok, cool, yeah, totally. Alright Paul, here you go!” They already knew. They compared notes, they knew how I played. So it was a matter of me kind of trying to not poke the beehive, as opposed to owning it, claiming it. I can’t imagine that would have made my scenario better.
You set many records this season, one of them being you spent 191 days in the house. What effect do you think Paul the Big Brother player is going to have on other houseguests to come?
I have no idea. I don’t know if there’s anybody as crazy as me to continue to do this back-to-back and get to the end. 191 days over six months in the Big Brother house is no joke. The competitions were fun and silly, but it’s a super mentally exhausting game. Anybody who wants to talk the talk and thinks they can do better or do something different, then I strongly urge them to go sign up.
Source : https://parade.com/603509/mikebloom/big-brother-19-paul-abrahamian-on-his-second-second-place/