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Big Brother: 15 Drama-Filled Details About The Hit CBS Reality Show

Since making its debut back in 2000, "Big Brother" has been one of the biggest reality shows on CBS. Every year, anywhere from 12 to 18 contestants enter a house built on a soundstage and must outwit each other for three months in order to be crowned the winner. The last person standing takes home a cash prize — this was initially $500,000, though it's been $750,000 since Season 23. It's a voyeuristic adventure for viewers, who get to know the houseguests intimately as they take part in competitions and form alliances with one another. However, for every hero, there's a villain, and the show has seen its fair share of controversy over the decades.

From shocking expulsions to accusations of bigotry and even criminal activity, here are 15 instances of controversy that happened with "Big Brother" contestants.

The following article includes mentions of abuse, homophobia, racism, and sexual assault.

Justin Sebik holds a knife to Krista Stegall's throat (Season 2)

The first season of "Big Brother" received negative reviews, so producers completely changed the competition up for Season 2, making houseguests evict each other and introducing the Head of Household competition. Will Kirby, the eventual winner of the second season, is still regarded as one of the show's greatest victors, but Season 2 is mainly remembered for a shocking incident involving a knife.

Houseguest Justin Sebik was expelled from the game for holding a knife against the neck of fellow player Krista Stegall as they made out in the kitchen. In an apparent attempt at humor, he said: "Wait, hang on, I'm going to slash your throat. Would you get mad if I killed you now?" Stegall, who didn't appear to be alarmed, replied: "No. But I want some water." The two carried on kissing, but producers were alarmed enough to yank him from the house. Speaking to host Julie Chen (via Entertainment Weekly), Sebik defended his actions. "If there is anyone who can perceive that as an act of violence or a threat, then you're an idiot," he said.

It soon came to light that Sebik had been arrested on assault charges prior to his time in the house. This prompted Stegall to launch a lawsuit against CBS, claiming that the network shouldn't have allowed him on the show. "I don't think there's any doubt [CBS] made a huge mistake letting him in and keeping him in," Stegall's lawyer said (via The Guardian). Sebik was arrested on assault charges again in 2002, this time for a reported attack on his then-girlfriend. "[Sebik] choked her and threw her on the ground, causing her to fracture her ankle," the police report stated (via the Huron Daily Tribune).

Shannon Dragoo scrubs the toilet with Hardy Ames-Hill's toothbrush (Season 2)

Showmances have long been a normal occurrence in the "Big Brother" house. One of the first major onscreen relationships was between Will Kirby and Shannon Dragoo in Season 2. While Kirby would eventually be crowned the winner, Dragoo was evicted on Day 26, finishing in ninth place overall. Her time in the house was marred by controversy, playing a number of pranks on fellow houseguests that did not go down well.

In a cruel moment of body shaming, Dragoo left a packet of potato chips on the bed of Autumn Daly, "implying she was fat," said Reality TV World. She took things to another level when she used the toothbrush of a fellow houseguest to clean one of the toilets. On Day 22, after Hardy Ames-Hill won Head of Household and nominated Dragoo and Kirby for eviction, she hit back with her immature toilet prank. She was not expelled for the incident because production was able to step in and make certain that the toothbrush was disposed of before being used again.

Kirby came back to play again in Season 7, but Dragoo has not been asked back since. According to Us Weekly, the former contestant "works as a paramedic in Florida and is married with two children."

Adam Jasinski loses his job because of ableism (Season 9)

Season 9 of "Big Brother" remains an anomaly within the show's history. Because of a Writers Guild of America strike, CBS needed to fill a gap, and "Big Brother 9" was hastily thrown together. It became the first season to air in the winter, beginning in February 2008. The producers tried spicing things up by pairing the houseguests and forcing them to compete with their "soulmate," as the teaser trailers put it.

"Big Brother 9" is widely regarded as one of the worst seasons in the history of the show. The winner of the season, Adam Jasinski, was fired from his position with the United Autism Foundation after using an ableist slur to describe the autistic children he worked with while on the show. "Mr. Jasinski will no longer work for or represent the United Autism Foundation since he caused tremendous damage to UNIAF," the foundation said in a statement (via the New York Post).

Following his victory, Jasinski struggled with legal troubles. In 2009, he was arrested for possession of 2,000 oxycodone pills. After being charged with possession with intent to distribute, Jasinski admitted to using his "Big Brother" winnings to fund a drug ring. He later retracted the statement. "I'm sick. I won $500,000 and I blew it all," Jasinski said at his trial (via The Hollywood Reporter). "I apologize. I'm a mess... Give me a chance to get out and find out who I really am." He was sentenced to four years in federal prison.

Chima Simone throws her mic into the pool (Season 11)

"Big Brother 11" had a lot to live up to. The previous season, won unanimously by Dan Gheesling, is a fan favorite — according to Entertainment Weekly, it's the greatest season of the show to date. Season 11 didn't live up to the hype, mostly thanks to the Coup D'Etat twist falling flatter than any other twist had up until that point. Though "Big Brother 11" featured some of the show's best ever contestants (including Russell Kairouz, Jessie Godderz, and winner Jordan Lloyd), the real star of the season was Chima Simone, who was famously expelled from the game for refusing to wear a microphone around the house.

Simone's antics started after Jeff Schroeder played his Coup D'Etat, which nullified her nominations. Simone threw her microphone into the pool and refused to do diary room confessionals. For her failure to follow "Big Brother" rules, the producers expelled her from the house, which prevented her from serving on the final jury, though Simone claims she quit the show instead. "I lost faith in the show and my ability to remain committed to this game," she told Examiner (via Entertainment Weekly). "All of the remaining housemates know I wanted to leave and that is why any conversation concerning me is cut in the live feed because they don't want America to hear the truth about my voluntary departure."

Jeff Schroeder's homophobic Dumbledore rant (Season 13)

For his tenure on "Big Brother 11," houseguest Jeff Schroeder was awarded America's Favorite Houseguest. Schroeder has long been a fan favorite, especially because of his showmance and future marriage with "Big Brother 11" winner Jordan Lloyd. During that season, Schroeder came under fire for using homophobic slurs, most notably against Russell Kairouz. "Why do you hate on gay people?" Kairouz said. "If you want to call me a b****, call me a b****, but that's just kind of stupid." Schroeder came back with: "That is pretty much calling you a b****, man."

Two seasons later, Schroeder and Lloyd were brought back for "Big Brother 13." Schroeder was named America's Favorite Houseguest for the second time, despite the fact that he made yet more homophobic remarks. This time, as he, Kalia Booker, and other houseguests discussed "Harry Potter," Schroeder insisted that Dumbledore potentially being gay was somehow harmful to children, per The Hollywood Reporter. "I don't think it's the right thing to have a little kid's book and have the headmaster that you're locked away with in a magical land be gay," he said.

After the "Big Brother 13" incident, CBS released a statement explaining that the network does not condone Schroeder's comments. In both instances, Schroeder's homophobic remarks were not aired in any of the show's episodes, but were heard on the unedited live streams. In the time since his last stint on the show, Schroeder has worked with "Big Brother" in multiple capacities, including on the online recap show "Big Brother Live Chat."

Willie Hantz loses his temper (Season 14)

CBS has a long history with the Hantz family. In 2019, "Survivor" fans were introduced to Russell Hantz — one of the show's most notorious villains — on "Survivor: Samoa." He would return to compete on "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains" and "Survivor: Redemption Island." The network would continue its love affair with the Hantz family when Russell's nephew, Brandon, competed in "Survivor: South Pacific" and then again in "Survivor: Caramoan." Sandwiched between Brandon's two Survivor stints, Russell's brother Willie Hantz was cast in "Big Brother 14."

Though Russell Hantz was often a calm, composed villain, Willie Hantz saw his campaign derailed by having a short temper. Willie became the fourth and (at the time of this writing) last player to be expelled from "Big Brother" when he was kicked out for attempting to headbutt Joe Arvin in the bathroom. "Hit me," he yelled at Arvin after charging at him aggressively. Addressing the houseguests via the house speakers, executive producer Allison Grodner said: "Violence is not tolerated in the 'Big Brother' house so Willie has been removed from the game."

A few days later, Willie was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, TMZ revealed. Police were responding to reports of an altercation outside a bar. When they arrived, Willie jumped out of a car and tried to flee. He's since revealed that he regrets the way he behaved during his time in the "Big Brother" house. "If I could go back, I would change a lot of things," he's quoted as saying by HuffPost. "I didn't go on that show to be a violent person, I went on that show to play the game."

Racist houseguests land themselves in hot water (Season 15)

"Big Brother 15" was nothing short of a trainwreck. It will be forever known as the season fueled by bigotry and racism, particularly from houseguests Aaryn Gries and GinaMarie Zimmerman. Gries said hurtful things about Helen Kim, using her Asian-American identity as a punchline for bullying. She also made homophobic remarks about Andy Herren and Candice Stewart. Her agency, Zephyr Talent, dropped her in the wake of the comments. "Any views or opinions expressed in personal commentary by Aaryn, either on any live feed from the ['Big Brother'] house or during the broadcast, are hers alone and do not represent the views or opinions of Zephyr Talent," a statement read (via The Hollywood Reporter). "Upon much consideration, we have decided to release Aaryn from her contract with Zephyr Talent."

Zimmerman, meanwhile, made comments about Stewart being a Black woman and even used the N-word on camera. Her racial slur was caught on the live feed, leaving viewers shocked and appalled. She was fired from her job at East Coast USA Pageant, Inc. as a result. "We have never known this side of GinaMarie or have ever witnessed such acts of racism in the past," a representative told TMZ. "We are actually thankful that this show let us see GinaMarie for who she truly is. We would never want her to be a role model to our future contestants. In a business where we are surrounded by beauty every day we are saddened to see something so ugly come from someone we put on a very high pedestal."

Christine Varner gets booed by the live audience (Season 16)

Most of the contestants from "Big Brother 16" were squeaky clean do-gooders, with CBS attempting to purge the bad vibes left behind by the cast of "Big Brother 15." Christine Varner was easily the most controversial of all of the houseguests that year, thanks to her relationship with a fellow houseguest.

Varner was married when she entered the house. As the days passed, she became close with eventual runner-up Cody Calafiore. Varner has always maintained that she and Cody were simply good friends, though many viewers interpreted her behavior as flirting — her family included. "I do not like Christine flirting with Cody at all, I'm not happy," her mother said in a segment for the show. "I think she's getting too close, and she's married, and it's not right." Her husband, Tim, admitted that he felt uncomfortable watching his wife with Cody. "Personally I do think a couple of boundaries have been crossed," he said.

She left the house to a chorus of boos from the live audience, finishing in 6th place. Her marriage would come to an end after that, but Varner looks back at it all as a life lesson. "It gave me the strength to leave my husband," she said of her "Big Brother" experience. "I'm actually grateful I was hated too, if I didn't have such a rough time I think I wouldn't have gone down the path of becoming a therapist, and potentially helping so many others."

Audrey Middleton accuses CBS of exploiting her (Season 17)

"Big Brother 17" had an uninteresting winner, according to fans. However, one important thing that came out of the season was the inclusion of Audrey Middleton in the cast, who became the first transgender houseguest. On the surface, it looked like CBS was keeping with a growing representation of LGBTQ+ people on primetime television. However, behind the scenes, Middleton tells a different story about how her identity was perceived by production. According to the former houseguest, CBS only wanted her there to score points, and they were keen to orchestrate her time on the show.

"I have never said this publicly, mostly out of fear, however, 'Big Brother' doesn't give a s*** about representation," she tweeted. "A week before I was cast I was flown out to LA and *told* I should come out on national television because they were worried about perception." Middleton noted how Caitlyn Jenner's coming out had happened around the same time, and CBS didn't want to be the only network "airing negativity." She added: "They said if I didn't come out it would look bad and then told me I should come out when the Champaign was popped."

Jason Dent makes vile rape joke (Season 19)

There is a reason why Entertainment Weekly ranked "Big Brother 19" as the show's worst season ever: It was full of bullying and jokes about rape, race, and queer people. Audiences despised most of the cast so much that they even awarded America's Favorite Houseguest to Cody Nickson, who was seen making anti-trans comments on the live feeds, which he doubled down on after the show wrapped.

In one of the most disturbing moments in the history of the show, houseguest Jason Dent made a so-called joke about raping fellow houseguest Kevin Schlehuber's wife on the live feeds. Unsurprisingly, viewers were appalled by the incident. "Just to be clear there is nothing funny about rape ever," one Twitter user said (via the New York Daily News), tagging Dent. "Shame on you." Dent's account was apparently being run by his family during his time in the house, and they quickly tried to put out the fire. "Although the conversation that has surfaced on Twitter was taken slightly out of context (per the full conversation on the live feed), those remarks are not acceptable under any circumstance," they said (via TV Guide). 

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Paul Abrahamian plans blackface outfit (Season 19)

It's not uncommon for "Big Brother" to bring former houseguests back to compete in later seasons. In seasons 13, 14, and 18, returning players were big components in twists. In "Big Brother 19," CBS elected to bring back Paul Abrahamian (who finished in second place in "Big Brother 18") and probably regretted it. Why? Abrahamian made headlines when they encouraged members of their alliance to play psychological warfare on others using bullying tactics. Abrahamian's lowest moment during the season came when they planned to don blackface in an effort to taunt fellow houseguest Dominique Cooper.

On the live feeds, Abrahamian was seen plotting the act, which would include them wearing a black mask (which they referred to as a "black face") with snake drawings on it. Earlier in the season, Cooper had called Abrahamian a snake, which prompted them to add the snakes to their blackface stunt in an attempt to mock her. Some fans claimed there was no racist intent, but many said the former runner-up ought to have known better. "[Abrahamian] should have more morals to know that's not a good idea," one angry Twitter user said, while another added: "I was a Paul fan but seriously this is just disgusting!"

Kaitlyn Herman writes awkward messages on Tyler Crispen's arm (Season 20)

Much like Christine Varner, "Big Brother 20" contestant Kaitlyn Herman made waves when she appeared to flirt in the house despite being in a relationship back home. On the live feeds, she was seen cuddling with Tyler Crispen and Brett Robinson. Per Us Weekly, she wrote "I want to kiss you" on Tyler's arm as they lay in bed together. Fellow houseguest Angela Rummans told Crispen that the whole thing was making her "uncomfortable," and she wasn't the only one.

Outside the house, the drama was building. It reached fever pitch when someone claiming to be the sister of Kaitlyn's boyfriend (a DJ named Joe Pincus) took to Twitter and asked people to back off. Describing herself as "Kaitlyn's former friend," she wrote: "We are all aware of her psycho and out of character antics. Trust me, he can and WILL do much better than her."

After Herman wrote messages on Crispen's arm (she also scribbled the words "I would drop everything for you" on him), her boyfriend of five years decided to break his silence. "I've been trying to separate myself from the show and the situation as much as possible," Pincus tweeted, adding that he had asked for his "show release" (an agreement that allowed his name to be mentioned on air) to be canceled. "Won't be saying anything else on this – I'll be focusing on my family and friends, wellbeing and my music."

JC Mounduix repeatedly crosses the line (Season 20)

One of the more frustrating houseguests on "Big Brother 20" was JC Mounduix, a dancer from Florida who crossed numerous boundaries during his stint on the show. Though Mounduix would place third by the season's end, he left the house with a bundle of controversies in tow. Mounduix's behavior got so bad that production had to step in and speak to him at one stage.

Mounduix committed two acts of inappropriate behavior in a single night. Early in the evening, while Haleigh Broucher was using the bathroom, Mounduix opened the door on her and refused to close it. He went as far as tying the door open, which led to Broucher requesting that production step in.

Later that night, while Tyler Crispen was sleeping, Mounduix was seen kissing his armpit and touching multiple parts of his body. The next morning, Crispen expressed his discomfort. "I'm sleeping alone tonight," he told another houseguest (via The Hollywood Reporter). "JC is not sleeping with me." He wasn't expelled from the house despite the fact that this was not his first offense of this kind — earlier in the season, he was accused of inappropriately touching the genitals of other houseguests with an ice cream scooper.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Jack Matthews gets called out for bullying minority houseguests (Season 21)

"Big Brother 21" was plagued by racism and bullying. Houseguest Jack Matthews was an early fan favorite because of his appearance, which resembles Hollywood star Jason Momoa. However, that favor quickly turned sour once Matthews began making belligerent comments about the minority players in the house. Repeatedly, Matthews (who is now known as one of the most controversial "Big Brother" houseguests ever) made offensive remarks about Kemi Fakunle, one of two Black people in the "Big Brother 21" cast. The lowest point came when Matthews was caught on camera saying that Kemi makes him "want to stomp a mudhole through her chest."

Upon his eviction later in the season, host Julie Chen interrogated Matthews about his comments and actions. Matthews apologized on air, but not without claiming that they were taken out of context. "Okay, well, I will say that the 'stomp the mudhole' comment was based on something that Sam [Bledsoe] said last season when she was frustrated, and I don't think there was any personal vendetta behind saying that," Matthews said (via Entertainment Weekly ). "I think my statements were playful in a group of people. I do apologize for what I said, and that's very sincere. I think Kemi was, and is, a great person."

Jackson Michie's awkward winners interview (Season 21)

During the "Big Brother 21" finale, Jackson Michie was sitting pretty. He was about to win the $500,000 grand prize and write himself into the show's history. However, just before he was declared the winner, the first four people who were evicted — all of whom were minorities — grilled Michie about what they saw as bullying and racism.

Michie called houseguest David Alexander, who is Black, the "cancer of the house" and claimed that he wanted to "mule kick him in the teeth." Michie and showmance partner Holly Allen portrayed Alexander as a threatening person who would make the women in the house uncomfortable, all without any proof or reasoning. In a conversation with Jack Matthews, Michie also said he believed that Alexander had been in prison before, which was untrue.

As OprahDaily pointed out, these comments aren't explicit examples of racism. Instead, they feed into the racial biases that non-Black people have against Black men. When members of the cast called Michie out on his actions, just moments before he was crowned the victor, the questioning turned Michie into one of the unhappiest winners ever. He was shown saying "I'm not racist" to his mother as the credits rolled.