It's been an unforgettable summer in the "Big Brother" house — for all the wrong reasons. After a season of racist, sexist and homophobic controversies, it all came to an end when one contestant was named the winner of the voyeur-valued reality TV competition Wednesday night.
But who won? The final face-off came down to three contestants: GinaMarie Zimmerman, the 32-year-old now-former pageant coordinator who was fired from her job during her stay in the "Big Brother" house due to racist comments she made; Spencer Clawson, the 31-year-old train conductor whose employer, Union Pacific, issued more than one statement distancing itself from his behavior following remarks many considered to be anti-Semitic, homophobic and misogynistic, and a child pornography joke that prompted a police investigation; and then there was Andy Herren, an openly gay contestant who found himself on the receiving end inappropriate slurs from his fellow houseguests, but managed to make enough verbal waves to spark a Facebook statement from his former employer explaining that he "does not represent the opinions or values of College of DuPage."
After a final live Head of Household challenge, it was Spencer who was sent packing early, and after a 7-2 jury vote, it was Andy who took top honors.
Well, maybe "honors" isn't the right word. Andy won the grand prize of $500,000 (and GinaMarie took $50,000 for second place), but there was little honor to be seen this season, and some viewers are bound to simply consider the end result the lesser of three evils.
The jury, however, didn't see it that way. Then again, neither the sequestered jurors nor members of the final three had any idea about the controversy that brewed outside the game. In fact, back at the sequester house, Candice Stewart and her in-game rival (and the player best known for uttering the season's worst sentiments), Aaryn Gries, had become close friends.
But the houseguests who were eliminated pre-jury knew exactly what had gone on during what host Julie Chen called the "epic 90-day social experiment."
During the finale, Howard Overby, who watched all of the episodes after his elimination, said he prayed for the ones who made "racial, personal" comments.
"My sincere prayer to anyone who has said anything like that ... is that you grow from this, you mature from this, you own this," he explained. "Hopefully there's a change from the inside out."
The host turned to the curious cast and simply told them that those in-house controversies had made national headlines while they were away.
"It's unfortunate if there's a bunch of people out there who are upset with the language that was said in this house, that ugly comments were made, (and) that kind of thing," Spencer, seeming sincerely surprised, said. "Terrible. I hate it. I hate it brought bad publicity on the show."
He then asked, "Did I say anything, Julie?"
"We don't have enough time right now," was the answer.
True enough. The only thing that was left to do was allow the former players to go home and see it all for themselves.
Well, there was time for one other thing: naming America's Favorite. After the public vote was tallied, Elissa Slater won the $25,000 prize and was named the houseguest America loved most (or maybe just found least offensive).