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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Top Five Big Brother Players of All Time

(Note: This article has not been updated since Big Brother 16 - I have no new names to add with the exception of maybe an 'honorable mention' or 'nowhere near the top' name or two.  Look for an update soon. -Mike 7/27/2017)

There are a lot of Big Brother lists out there and every season I am asked to rank the top players of all time.  For the last few years my answer has been that I had several players that I call my top players – but I do not rank any one above the other.  Here are my top five players of all time, some others who didn't quite make it and a few more that never will.  In the top five all should be considered ‘equal’ there is NO #1, #2, etc and they are listed by chronological order of when they first played Big Brother.

Will Kirby (Seasons 2, 7)

First Season Notes: 12 HGs in BB2, Jury NOT sequestered, no Head of Households (HoH), no Power of Vetos (POV didn’t exist), Nominated 4 times, won 5-2 vs Nicole Nilson (each was allowed to nullify a vote).

Since it was the first season of the format where the House Guests (HGs) voted each other out, no one had a ‘style’ to model his/her game after.  Will’s style ended up being the best by far with as he did a bit of a Survivor Richard Hatch move and implied no one would vote for him in the end and when he ended up reaching the end, turned the tables and said that was the reason everyone should vote for him (also commenting “I hate you all”).  His arrogance and charm and "perfectly symmetrical face" won over the jury and America. Will never won a competition, was generally disliked by the live feed viewers until his showmance, Shannon Dragoo, was evicted and he had distanced himself (mostly by eviction) from the “Chill Town” alliance – the group of House Guests including Justin Sebik, Shannon and Mike “Boogie” that had the negative image the first few weeks.

Second Season Notes: Nominated twice, claimed his mission was to help Mike win the season. A ‘flirtmance’ with Janelle Pierzina and rumored pre-show side deal/alliance with Mike, Erika Landin and others may have helped him get farther than he would have otherwise.

Danielle Reyes (Seasons 3,7)

First Season Notes: 12 HGs in BB3, jury NOT sequestered, POV introduced, only nominated once (technical nomination at final 3), HoH once, POV winner once, lost 9-1 to Lisa Donahue.

Danielle’s biggest move on the season was her secret alliance with Jason Guy, so well hidden that even the live feed viewers didn’t know about it until Julie Chen revealed it on the TV show.  The two kept their conversations limited to an area not normally seen on the live feeds where they would play cards as a cover.  She also had entertaining Diary Room (DR) sessions where she would often mock her fellow house guests.  Danielle is the only person in my top five list not to have won Big Brother.  I (and many others) believe she lost because the evicted HGs were not sequestered while they were waiting for the season to end and thus saw everything the viewers would see including the Diary Room sessions noted above.  After Big Brother 3 the Jury has always been sequestered and not allowed to watch Diary Room sessions or other private conversations.

Second Season Notes: Danielle never really had much of a chance in the All Star season as her previous tactic of deception and sneakiness couldn’t really be used again.  She placed 6th that year while winning one Hoh, one POV and being nominated three times.

With my personal rule that to be in the top you need to have won BB, this is the one exception, and I maintain that if Danielle’s Diary Room sessions had not been exposed to the Jury, she would have easily won this season.

“Evel” Dick Donato (Seasons 8,13)

First Season Notes: 14 HGs in BB8, HoH 3 times, nominated 3 times, POV winner 1 time, beat daughter Danielle Donato 5-2.  Week six used POV on Danielle instead of himself when he was also nominated.

Dick was rude, crude, obnoxious and loud.  Many will argue that he would not have made it past week six were it not for the “twist” where “America” made Eric Stein vote for Dustin Erikstrup to be evicted instead of Dick (Dustin was evicted 4-2).  Dick had blow-ups with many house guests including Jen Johnson who destroyed Dick’s cigarettes (Dick meanwhile had earlier dumped iced tea over Jen’s head).  Somehow through all of that and many other moments, Dick still managed to get to the final three which many will remember started with an endurance HoH competition that Dick lost to Zach Swerdzewski after seven and a half hours standing on to a pedestal while being sprayed with water and holding on to a key (he later won Parts 2 and 3 and evicted Zach).  His strained relationship with daughter Danielle and time spent late at night talking to those watching on the live feeds endeared him to many.  Much like Will Kirby in BB2, there was a bit of an attitude in the house that Dick could be voted out easily, however it proved to be harder than expected. 

Second Season Notes: Dicks second stint on Big Brother was short lived, he left for personal reasons before the live feeds had even begun.  Dick also recently tweeted that he would never be on Big Brother again. Update: Dick has revealed that he left this season after conflicting blood tests he took before the season showed he might have HIV - he has since been formally diagnosed with HIV and is on medication.

Dan Gheesling (Seasons 10,14)

First Season Notes: 13 HGs in BB10, HoH 3 times, nominated 2 times, POV winner 2 times, won against Memphis Garrett 7-0.

Dan’s winning season honestly was not that spectacular in my opinion.  He did manage to manipulate some folks, but I think with his personality and ‘charm’ he managed to manipulate and win over America.  He was “America’s player” and competed a few tasks to win extra money.  One such task involved getting hugs from the other HGs and he often gave a nod & wink at the camera when getting the hugs.  His alliance with Memphis Garrett ultimately got him to then end when Memphis saved him from the nomination block on week 8.  Dan’s 7-0 Jury vote win is the only unanimous victory in the show’s history.

Second Season Notes: HoH once, nominated 3 times, POV won once, lost to Ian Terry 6-1.  Actually unlike all the other members of this list, Dan broke in to my ‘top’ list with his performance on Big Brother 14. While having an advantage of being an alumnus and thus the subject of some “hero worship,” Dan still was able to manipulate the other HGs, especially Danielle Murphree.  His now infamous “Funeral” will remain one of the best known moments in Big Brother, yet he still lost 6-1 to Ian showing that the “manipulation” style of game seems to only works once for any given HG in Big Brother.

Derrick Levasseur (Season 16)

Season Notes: 16 HGs in BB16, only nominated once (technical nomination at final 3), HoH 2 twice (3 if pre-Battle of Block aka BoB HoH’s included), no POV wins, won 7-2 vs Cody Calafiore.

The newest addition to my list, Derrick used manipulation as well as or better than any other previous house guest to keep himself safe and get others in his various alliances to do what he wanted while they would end up thinking it was their own idea.  His game was one of many many small moves, not big bold ones.  Even when something went wrong with what seemed to be his plan, he was able to adjust and move forward.  He worked very hard to keep the drama low in the house which led to a somewhat ‘dull’ season.  It also helped him that Donny Thompson, his biggest adversary early on, was in “Team America” with him along with another strong social player, Frankie Grande.  While we will never know how his game might have been changed without Team America, it’s likely he still would have done very well.  It says a lot for his game that even though he lost Part 3 of the final HoH competition and his fate rested with fellow “Hitman” Cody, he still made it to the final two when Cody picked him over Victoria Rafaeli.

Honorable Mention – these folks are the ‘almost but not quite’ in my list.  If any came back and managed to win either for the first time or again – I might have to move them up.

Janelle Pierzina – With three Big Brother season appearances (6,7, and 14), its hard to not put her in the list, but she never even made the final two (final three twice).  She was a great competitor and a fan favorite.  She was the victim of an unlucky break in Big Brother 7 when she was eliminated from the final HoH endurance competition on a technicality that I still think was a mistake by Julie Chen.  However, she had the opportunity to win Part 2 and lost that to eventual BB7 winner Mike Boogie.

Mike “Boogie” Malin – Another house guest with three seasons (2,7, and 14), I personally wasn’t extremely impressed with Mike’s ‘game’ but others feel he deserves to be considered a top player.  Mike had Will Kirby on both season’s 2 and 7 to help him out and on season 14 he was a ‘coach’ for the first few weeks which gave him the advantage of  the “hero worship” effect seen when alum return by some of the rookie house guests.

Ian Terry – A very good player that won the game in Season 14.  In my opinion Ian was carried along by others in the early part of his season, especially by Mike Boogie.  Ian would have to come back and have a stellar second season like Dan did in order to make my top player list.

Rachel Reilly – (BB12 & 13) I have to admit my bias here.  I was never a fan of Rachel in the house.  I didn’t like her personality while playing so she would really have to do something special to turn me around.  I have always felt that production had a very heavy hand with Season 13 and that this helped Rachel tremendously.  The “Hero Worship” factor again played a role in Season 13 as six of the 14 house guests were very well known alumni.

Nowhere near the top - even though some want them to be, these former house guests didn’t show me enough in their season(s) to warrant being in my list.  Many are just fan favorites, not top tier players.

Jeff & Jordan – They didn’t do anything that spectacular, “America” just loves them.  I do think production wanted Jeff Schroeder to win Season 11 (saved via the Coup d'etat) but when he went out 6th Jordan Lloyd, whom Jeff had been carrying along in the game, became the new favorite to win.  When both returned in BB13, Jeff went out 7th after the infamous "clown shoes" incident, and Jordan followed in 4th.  Nice folks, but not great BB players. Getting engaged in the back yard doesn't move them up my list either ;)

Kaysar Ridha – Another fan favorite that was so well like I think production changed the game in Big Brother 6 to get him back in the house after he was evicted.  He promptly was voted right back out after letting Jennifer Vasquez win HoH following a 14 hour endurance HoH competition (longest in BB history). Came back for BB7 and still did nothing (but seems like a nice guy!).

Hayden Moss – Winner of Big Brother 12.  Simply put, his alliance (The Brigade) got him to the end, it was a total team effort and I thought Lane Elenburg should have won that season.

I could go on and on….. but I won’t.  Sorry if I missed your favorite!

Other thoughts when compiling lists: Lists are always interesting, I know there will be many that will disagree with me and that’s OK.  One thing to keep in mind is that it’s VERY hard to compare HGs across seasons.  Every season has its own dynamics and advantages, disadvantages.  As we discussed on our last Big Brother Gossip Show for BB16, Derrick would have had a much tougher go of it in the BB15 house with the likes of Amanda Zuckerman, Andy Herren and Helen Kim whom all might have seen through his game a bit more than those in the BB16 house.  What was a great game in one season might not be even a good one in another.  Its for that very reason I don’t think any of my top five will ever be able to win another season of Big Brother.


  1. Good list. I can't argue with any of the top 5 choices, and listing Ian in your Honorable Mention makes sense. Also can't argue with the spots for Kaysar (one incredibly smooth backyard conversation made his entire fandom) or Janelle (enjoyed watching her play, but horrific social game). Good calls, Mike.

  2. I agree. Jeff and Jordan are a cute couple but that's it. I also didn't care for the backyard engagement that was just pure (boring) filler. I would rather see more time with Izzy the dog. What are your thoughts on Nakomis?

  3. Nakomis was a smart player.... claim to fame being the 6 finger plan. Other than that she came in 4th & 13th her seasons - not top player worthy (and no chance of her returning I'd imagine).

  4. Yes. I thought she came up with the whole "backdoor" thing, but I could be wrong. Anyway, thanks for a great season of posts.

  5. I don't know -- for a guy who is on CBS's payroll and may well have furthered himself financially more than any other player in Big Brother history, I wouldn't exactly put Big Jeff in the didn't do so well category. :)

    But seriously -- would you have preferred Jesse, Natalie, Russ, Lydia or Chima to have won that season?

    I'm also surprised James Rhine doesn't appear on your runners up list.

    Sorry for my abruptness -- bed time...

  6. BBFan - you are corect, she came up with that.

    Benferro - two 7th place finishes for James make it very hard to put him in even the 'honorable mention' list. There are tons of very intelligent, well spoken former HGs - but they aren't going to make it on my list if they go out that early. As for Jeff, again its not how well they did after BB - its how they did ON the actual show and Jeff wasn't that great a player, just a big fan favorite (and thus the reason for his success post-BB).

  7. Re Jeff and Jordan, I don't understand CBS's strange fixation with them, they couldn't have been more boring and on top of that Jeff is very homophobic having repeatedly made comments about how he would never let his kids be taught by gay teachers and that it's a perverted lifestyle . In this day of political correctness CBS , try as they might CBS did everything they could to guarantee him the win, even coming up with the " Diamond power of Veto" yet in spite of his obvious bigotry they gave him a plum job with the network,.....wanna bet that their wedding will be paid for and televised ?

  8. Me again, it's been about two weeks since Cody gave Derrick the half million dollars, does any body know if it's sunk in yet that he (Cody) made less money than Donny? He should be happy tho, Donny got to stay in a nice luxurious house , good food , watching movies ...but Cody kept his honor

  9. i totally agree with your list mike i asked you this same question during the season and how you answered my questions directly in your car casts which i thank you again for i would like to give my input .every season has one or two houseguests who deserve some kind of mention while others can make a greatest of all time list..with that being said i think Big Brother is a game where you can see a great player be eliminated very early and not get to see the end result. if you ask some former houseguests they would say there is a little luck in this game and sometimes that luck can work the other way and hurt a potentially great player so to name a few of these players like Eric Stein, Brian Hart, Matt Hoffman,Frank Eudy and Amanda Zuckerman these were some good player maybe even great and they had the bad luck of suffering from unlucky circumstances and and Bad Twists we may never know what could have happened had things played out differently for these players but it is what it is. Thank you mike for your input i love your views on this great game

  10. I agree with your lists. I don't foresee anyone in this season making honorable mention.