Big Brother 12: Why Matt Lost

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Matt HoffmanMatt was one of the few contestants who had been playing the game since the very beginning. Did he overplay? Did he count on the Brigade for too long? Or did he just follow in the footsteps of fellow “super-genius” Wile E. Coyote and blow himself up? Why did Matt lose?

There has been no shortage of opinions on where Matt went wrong – including even Matt’s own ideas! He thought he was a super-genius but ended up out the door alongside “big dummy” Brendon. So, what was the problem – or should I say problems? Why did Matt lose?

Many people have shared their thoughts on what happened to Matt’s game, including many who did so even before he was out the door. I have done likewise, but in brief snippets here and there. Now it’s time to finally sit down and go through What Big Brother 12 Houseguests Should Have Learned to arrive at our final answer. Do I expect everybody to agree with me? Experience says no. But I’ll do my best to address all of the issues.
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There probably isn’t much debate about how Matt did in terms of the first rule, which emphasizes the importance of scheming and plotting. Matt knew from before he even stepped in the door of the Big Brother house that he would need to say anything necessary to stick around, and even had prepared his big lie about his wife’s (nonexistent) illness.

Matt made an early alliance as part of the Brigade, which helped carry him through much of the game. He also made a strong side alliance with Ragan, which would have allowed him to switch to an alternate plan if necessary (see the rule about flexibility, below). All in all, he really did quite well – I would definitely call him the best schemer of the bunch this season.

But what about the second rule, which says not to scheme and plot too much and not to make it obvious who your allies are? Here Matt encountered a bit of a problem – not all of which was his own fault.

We’ll start with the first part. Did Matt scheme and plot too much? Honestly, I don’t think so. I think there is that perception because he made a few head-scratching moves early, but I don’t think he really overdid it.
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However, that perception took over in terms of the second part, where his connection to Ragan became far too apparent. This is the portion that was somewhat out of his control. In the prior week, when Matt had the Diamond Power of Veto but had to keep it hidden, he tried to tell Ragan not to campaign, but Ragan went out and did his damnedest to convince everybody not to vote out his buddy Matt. This told the other three Brigade members that Matt had a super-strong bond to somebody outside their alliance, which made him a potential liability. They had already united against him in favor of Enzo, so it was a simple matter in their minds to extend that to uniting against him period.

And let’s face it, if you had to play “one of these things is not like the others” with the Brigade members, you would definitely point to Matt. He was the brains of the operation. He was definitely not the jock-type (even though he was the one who won more competitions!) or the dumb brawny type or the guy who would just hang out in a bar. The other three fell more into one or more of those categories and, it seemed, could more easily relate to one another.

My point here is that Matt was already the likeliest Brigade member to be booted early, such that it wasn’t Matt doing any one particular thing, like scheming and plotting too much, to stand out. Indeed, despite the excuses made that Matt was turned on because he stabbed Ragan in the back, that was a no-win situation for Matt. He was already being targeted for being too close to Ragan! Then, when he made a desperate, last-chance move to show that he wasn’t too close to Ragan, that was used against him! He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.

We’ll discuss more about his situation within the Brigade in a bit, but for now let’s just stay in order and move on to the third rule, which discusses pretending to be nice. Matt had no issue here whatsoever, as the only people he really pissed off were Rachel and Brendon, and neither of them played any role in his eviction. If anything, his continuing stance against Brendon could have helped him gain favor with Britney – though it turned out not to do so.

The fourth rule was also not a problem for Matt as he definitely did not allow his emotions to overrun his strategic game play. Indeed, his last-chance maneuver of trying to get Ragan evicted instead of himself was a perfect example of Matt knowing the game had to take precedence over any personal friendships. Further, he knew he was playing on the emotions of his fellow houseguests when it came to the lie about his wife and acknowledged to me when I interviewed him that his “fellow houseguests will be very upset.” Yet that didn’t stop him from continuing to push the point. He knew there was the game and then there was reality – he was there to play the game.

Matt, however, did have a bit of a problem when it came to the fifth rule, which says not to be too much of a threat. As I mentioned earlier, Matt was the key competition winner in the Brigade – and two of them were endurance challenges. Everybody who has watched the show should know that endurance competitions are almost always (or maybe even always – I must admit I’m not going to go back and check each season) a part of the final HOH competition. None of the other contestants would want to face Matt in such an event.

But to the Brigade members, there was an even bigger threat than that – the fact that Matt might not have been solely loyal to them. They saw how connected he was with Ragan, to the point that they essentially formed a duo. That was not a situation they wanted. And the fact is that they read it well. Matt himself told me that he had not yet decided which way to go – last week was the choosing week if he had made it past.
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Now we arrive at the sixth rule, the one I’ve been pointing to earlier – it talks about the need for flexibility. Quite frankly, I believe Matt was about as flexible as he could be. He had multiple alliances, allowing himself to go in multiple possible directions. Indeed, I just mentioned above that what turned out to be his final week in the house was his “choosing week.”

But there are some who will say (or have said) he didn’t do enough in this area. For example, I noted earlier that Matt was the most likely member of the Brigade to get booted early. So why did he stick with them?

Well, I asked Matt that exact question. He responded, “The Brigade told me that I was the odd man out only in the situation that two Brigade members were on the block.” This was what I had suspected – he knew he was on the lowest rung within the Brigade, but still figured being there was better than being a complete outsider (especially given that he had to know Britney’s allegiance was to Lane).

But let’s surmise for a moment that Matt figured out he was doomed if he were to be put on the block. Could he have done anything to change Britney’s mind? Some have suggested if he had just told her about the Brigade, she would have flipped to his side. I doubted that and so I asked Matt about that as well. He replied, “If I told Britney about the Brigade, then the other three Brigade members would have been so angry that they would have denied it. It would have been three to one and no one would have believed me. It wouldn’t have worked.”

I have to agree with him. Remember, Matt was viewed as something of a schemer already. If Britney heard from Enzo, Hayden, and her trusted ally Lane that Matt was making it up, there is no way she would have believed Matt.

So I followed up and asked Matt if there was any way he could have escaped other than winning HOH or POV. He said, “Absolutely not. I had to win the competitions. Brendon not winning veto would have also worked. He was the target but he won POV.”

Going back in time, Matt could have done something differently to change his circumstances – he could have gotten Britney evicted instead of Kathy when he used his Diamond POV. However, Kathy was such a non-entity when it came to strategy and, well, the game itself, that I can easily see why he would have wanted her gone. He thought he had a brewing alliance with Britney. Furthermore, he knew he would upset both ally Lane and ally Ragan if he got rid of Britney. So I think it was asking a bit much that he could have foreseen this circumstance and gotten Britney tossed at that time.

One thing he could have – and should have – done differently, though, was not to trust anybody. By following the seventh rule, he would have known better than to throw the HOH competition that Britney ended up winning. But as he told Julie Chen after being evicted, he got too confident in his position. Indeed, he thought he was aligned with pretty much everybody in the house except Brendon. With that idea in his head, he had reason to believe he was safe. But that’s exactly where this rule comes in. If he had realized that he shouldn’t be trusting people in the house – that instead he should treat them as if he were in their shoes – he would not have thrown the HOH competition and would have been safe.

For almost all of his time in the Big Brother house, Matt put himself in a good strategic place within the game. But then he failed to heed his own vow to himself. As Han Solo famously said, “Don’t get cocky!” Matt did get cocky. He thought he was perfectly-positioned to take advantage of either of two possible alliances. But Ragan’s actions exposed just how tight that particular alliance was, and it made his other allies rightfully nervous.

Still, he can’t blame his situation on Ragan. Yes, Ragan’s behavior contributed to it, but Matt had already become a potential threat to his own alliance. As the numbers became smaller and smaller, a four-person alliance had to break at some point. Rare is the case where a promise to go “to the final four” actually carries people that far, because anyone with an ounce of game sense knows that you need to move before the others do. Matt was making his moves, but so were the others – and they outnumbered him.

Matt followed many of these rules quite well. He definitely knew how to play the game. But just as so many of us worried about every time we heard him refer to himself as a “super-genius,” he got cocky. Matt forgot that other people can play the game too. He allowed himself to become a target and he and Ragan together handed the remaining Brigade members all the ammunition they needed. That is why Matt lost.


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