"Big Brother 10" has featured some compelling storylines, from the romance between two candidates to the success of 75-year-old Jerry in reaching the final three. But the Sept. 16 finale has come down to the duo known as "The Renegades."
Catholic-school teacher Dan, 24, and mixologist Memphis, 25, formed an alliance early in the competition and kept it all the way to the show's final week. Despite the fact that Dan was always in danger, and Memphis constantly worried the other players due to his ability to skate under the radar, both played the game expertly.
Now, it all comes down to the vote of the jury on Tuesday, where the last seven evicted houseguests decide on the winner. Seven angry men and women, isolated in the jury house, now have to decide which finalist will get half a million dollars.
Each one can make a compelling case.
Dan's case: I made it this far
Dan's argument will be that he's survived despite always being a target.
The Michigan teacher was isolated from the opening week, when he was the only houseguest voting to save his friend Brian from eviction. As a result Dan was nominated for eviction the following week, and ever since he's had to fight to avoid the block.
Dan has never been trusted, and hasn't done much to prove himself trustworthy. He's stayed in the game by winning three key Head of Household competitions, which is three more than Memphis. Dan augmented that success by talking himself out of trouble when he could, and stabbing others in the back when he couldn't.
As a result, he has much to worry about in the jury house. In particular, Dan made a lopsided deal to protect Ollie and Michelle in exchange for Ollie dropping out of a HOH competition. Instead, Dan engineered Michelle's ouster, and Ollie was sent out immediately afterwards on a double-eviction week.
Ollie won't forget that. Nor will Ollie's girlfriend, April, likely vote for Dan. Jerry had a deal with Memphis, so he's unlikely to change sides.
Dan might wind up with Michelle as an unexpected ally, and he'll definitely have Keesha. If he does wind up winning both votes, they'll be the direct result of smart game-playing down the stretch.
When Dan won a luxury challenge, he elected to bring Michelle with him to a private island. Though Michelle realized it was an attempt to win her over, it was a strategic choice that may result in changing her vote. She seems to respect the strategy that led to her ouster, so she might not hold a grudge.
Similarly, when Dan was HOH in the final four, he threw the veto competition to ensure that Memphis would finally have to do the dirty work and backstab Keesha. Dan kept wooing Keesha and claimed to be lobbying to keep her until the moment she walked out the door. If she's mad and bitter at Memphis, that's a powerful ally to have.
Memphis' case: You hate me less
Memphis has played a deceptively strong game. He's never been the HOH, and has generally allowed others to do the backstabbing for him. Like Dan, he's won the competitions he's really needed, but they've been Power of Veto contests.
The L.A. mixologist has been nominated for eviction four times, but only once has he been in danger of elimination. Since the houseguests voted to spare him in favor of Jessie in week four, he's taken himself off the block twice by winning POV. His alliance with Dan left him secure last week even after losing the HOH position.
That's given Memphis a lot of power without responsibility. He's never directly controlled who to nominate for eviction, which means he's managed to avoid getting blamed by exiting houseguests. He's convinced everyone that he's on their side, and, until the final weeks, he hasn't had to break his word.
Because he's avoided being the frontman in getting people voted off, he's flown under the radar. He made alliances with each of the final four contestants, assuring them he'd take them to the final two. Had Dan not thrown the veto and forced him to betray Keesha, he'd have made that mathematical impossibility work in his favor.
Renny didn't trust him, but when she was HOH she thought other players were more of a threat. That's how it's been for Memphis all season. Everyone agreed he needed to go, but not quite as much as someone else did.
Memphis can almost certainly count on Jerry's vote, since Jerry has taken people at their word throughout the game. Ollie and April are probably inclined to side with him as well. Libra is the wild card, since she was first to arrive in the jury house and wasn't ever allied with either finalist.
The jury will be asking whether Memphis' style of play makes him more deserving than Dan. He'll need to convince the jury members that he earned the victory, and to stress that Dan is responsible for their oustings, while he is not.
Of course, this isn't a jury in the classic sense. The ousted contestants are encouraged to talk amongst themselves in the sequester house, and there's likely strong politicking going on. Taking Michelle to the beach and walking Keesha to the door might be just enough to give Dan the four votes he needs to walk away with the money.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.