Big Brother 14 concluded last night with a winner America was cheering for: 21 year old engineering student Ian Terry of Tulane University. I've been watching BB hard core for the last four years, and it's become a great mental summer vacation. Yes, while others are heading to the beach, I coop up in my my very air-conditioned house and tune in to the Live Feeds. It's my World Series, I guess. BB airs 3 times a week from July thru September and chronicles anywhere from 12-16 people stuck in a house and battling it out physically, mentally, and socially for a half million dollars while someone is evicted every week. Although there are twists every season that tweak the game, the basic structure of Head of Household, Nominations for Eviction, Power of Veto Competitions and the dreaded Have Nots (food restriction) doesn't really change, so if you don't have a good group of people who love to compete, fight, scheme, and even fall in love once awhile it can get predictable.
Not anymore. I think this season will change everything.
Ian Terry entered the BB house struggling to find people to relate to and to find any physical comfort. He seemed to have several 'ticks' including needing to rock or stay in motion all the time, making random facial expressions and sounds and talking to himself. People found him to be a nice guy, but very hard to relate to and very hard to read which, initially, made him hard to trust, but as the summer went on, Ian did something brave. Either because he made a choice or because he couldn't help himself, he let his peculiar behaviors come through. He didn't try to stifle them and pleasantly explained them when asked why he needed to rock vigorously on the hammock for hours each day. (He says he has ADHD and a bit of OCD and is unmedicated.) As someone who shares the rocking tick and spent her childhood being told to stop because I was embarrassing my family and wrecking furniture, I find real inspiration in Ian's success. I know what it feels like to have that weird energy inside yourself and to be in desperate need of space and privacy to get it out. In past seasons, I don't think house guests would've gone two minutes without mocking someone like Ian, making his life even more difficult, or just evicting him for being strange.
But this season, no one did, and I don't mean to suggest that Ian got special treatment. Not at all. I think our society has changed in the last five years or so. People who battle autism, ADHD, OCD and other related conditions, have found a voice through activist parents, social media, and television programs like Obsessed on A&E. Anti-bullying sentiment is at an all time high as LGBT teens struggle with suicidal thoughts, and being a geek has finally become officially cool. And into this new world, Ian Terry who proudly wears a t-shirt stating 'THERMODYNAMICS GET ME HOT' was able to play Big Brother just like everyone else. And he won. Half a million dollars. And it was well deserved.
Ian went in with a strategy based on, "Statistics, probability, and a little heart." Once inside, he figured out where he fell in the initial pecking order (not a great spot) and found/formed (oh, the arguments over this will go on forever) a new alliance that worked in his favor. He called it the 'Quack Pack.' He made it to the end to beat one of Big Brother's best players of all time, Dan Gheesling, in a 6-1 jury vote.
But why does this change Big Brother forever? Well, Ian started reading at age 2 and has been watching Big Brother since he was 10 years old. He applied to play as soon as he was 21. Because of Ian, a whole new type of person will be applying to play Big Brother and the seasons where we have the obvious 1 or 2 'odd' house guests alongside the requisite jocks, hot girls, middle-age and token LGBT players will morph into a new mix of truly interesting people who have a real passion for the game. Ian now has a legion of young fans whom he inspires, older fans who appreciate his strategy and sportsmanship, and fans that fall all over the autistic/OCD spectrum who see a bit of themselves in him. They love him for his honesty, his compassion, his sense of humor, his brains and his humility. And whether or not he won the game never mattered.
But, holy crap. He DID. Congratulations, Ian! Well played. Quack!