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'Big Brother' crowns Nicole Franzel winner over Paul Abrahamian by single vote, first female winner in five years


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 09/22/2016 

Big Brother crowned returning houseguest Nicole Franzel its Season 18 champion during Wednesday night's live broadcast of the CBS reality competition's finale.

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"How did I win?! How did I win?!" Nicole was shown yelling to her family members after Big Brother host Julie Chen revealed the big news.

After a record-breaking 99 days in the Big Brother house, Nicole, a 23-year-old ER nurse from Ubly, MI, took home the grand prize of $500,000 through a super close 5-4 jury vote over fellow houseguest Paul Abrahamian, a 23-year-old clothing designer from Tarzana, CA.

For the first time ever, a woman has won the game against a man in the Final 2. Paul received $50,000 for finishing in the runner-up spot.

James Huling, a 32-year-old staff recruiter from Wichita Falls, TX, placed third.

Nicole received jury votes from the following previously-evicted Big Brother houseguests: Corey Brooks, Natalie Negrotti, Paulie Calafiore, Zakiyah Everette and Da.Vonne Rogers. Paul earned votes from James, Victor Arroyo, Michelle Meyer and Bridgette Dunning.

After Nicole's victory was announced near the end of the 90-minute broadcast, Julie also revealed Victor -- who was evicted from the Big Brother house three times this season -- won the title of "America's Favorite Houseguest" and will therefore receive a bonus $25,000. James and Natalie were also in the running for this honor with more than $4 million votes cast.

Wednesday night's Big Brother finale began where Friday night's episode had left off, with Nicole, James and Paul competing in the first part of the final Head of Household competition. They were required to chase around a red laser in the backyard, directing them to one of three destinations -- a scratching post, a window ledge or a couch.

The houseguests had to follow the laser closely, and once it stopped, climb up to an endurance game within 15 seconds and get settled in a designated position before the laser turned off.

Nicole, Paul and James then had to remain in that uncomfortable position until the laser turned back on and moved them to another station. If a player fell before the laser turned back on, he or she would be out of the challenge.

The last person standing would be able to skip Part 2 of the HoH competition. It didn't take long for the houseguests to realize this challenge was not going to be fun or easy.

After one hour and 12 minutes, Nicole dropped out of the challenge, followed by James a second or two later. Paul therefore won Part 1 and got to rest while Nicole and James endured the second part of the final HoH competition. Nicole thought she could beat James in Part 2, so she was fairly happy with the results.

For Part 2, dubbed "Snapshot," Nicole and James had to make their way through a crazy line at an amusement park, choose three evicted houseguests who matched a given clue, place those houseguests in a roller-coaster cart, push them down a ramp, and snap a photo of the cart at the ideal time.

If a photo was incorrect or poorly taken, the person must go through the line and do it all again. The person to take three correct photos in the fastest time wins.

James completed the challenge in 19 minutes and six seconds. Nicole completed the task in seven minutes and 24 seconds, so she won Part 2 of the HoH competition, automatically advancing to Part 3 with Paul.

Paul thought Nicole deserved to go to the end and so he didn't want to reward James for "doing nothing." Nicole felt she could strategically beat James in the Final 2.

Meanwhile, the jury discussed which player out of the Final 3 should win the game. Everyone agreed James had a great social game and avoided blood on his hands. Paul was called a strategist and a manipulative, good liar.

Victor noted Paul was on the chopping block six times this season and won when he needed to. Da'Vonne admitted Paul was a "phenomenal" player but he rubbed people the wrong way and was "obnoxious."

Paulie explained that Nicole had managed to keep herself safe and Corey safe, which was a big deal for a veteran player coming into the game with a target on her back. Michelle argued Nicole had done absolutely nothing in the game. Bridgette said girls in the jury were bitter, but Da'Vonne pointed out Nicole protected herself with men, which is what she needed to do to survive.

The final part of the HoH competition was called "Scales of Just Us." Nicole and Paul had to show how well they knew Season 18's jury members by completing the second half of statements they made while in the jury house. Each correct "A or B" answer was worth one point and there were eight questions total. In the end, Paul won with four points, so the scale tipped in his favor and he became the season's final HoH.

Paul was so happy that he cried tears of joy. At this point, he was confident he could beat both Nicole and James in the Final 2.

At the live eviction ceremony, Paul chose to send James packing, a big move that he believed was best for his game.

"James, towards the end of this game, I worked really hard not only for myself, but for both of us. But unfortunately, when I needed you the most, you still went behind my back and tried to make deals with Nicole. Unfortunately, I've worked way too hard to be stabbed in the back one last time. So, I'm sorry, James. I got to take Nicole up with me," Paul announced.

Paul and James hugged, and James clearly had no hard feelings. James told Paul he deserved to make it into the Final 2.

In his post-eviction interview, James told Julie that he wasn't sure whether Paul had made the smart move in getting rid of him. James also said it was his social game that got him this far on Big Brother even though he wasn't a fierce physical competitor this time around. He also said he's ready for a relationship and hopefully Natalie reciprocates those feelings.

When it became time for the live interrogation to help determine this season's champion, James and the eight other jury members had to agree upon three questions to ask both Paul and Nicole.

Paul was asked why the jury should give him $500,000 when he didn't always treat them with respect. Paul said he has a crazy personality and can't hide that, but he has nothing but love for everyone.

Nicole said her biggest move was scheming to get Paul and Victor on the chopping block with each other. Paul explained he was an excellent strategist because he only received two votes to evict when he was on the block six times.

Nicole argued she was the brains behind a lot of the decisions the men in her alliance seemed to make. Paul said he deserved to win because it was his first time playing the game and he worked his "ass off." He didn't hide behind the scenes and was always involved and gunning it. Paul yelled out that he put his heart into playing Big Brother.

Nicole insisted she deserved to win the $500,000 because she gave "100 percent 1,000 percent of the time." Nicole said she embraced being called a snake and while some might think entering the game as a returnee is an advantage, everyone knew her game from Season 16 on Day 1. Her strengths and weaknesses were clear as day right away.

Lastly, Paul explained to James that his Final 2 decision came down to which person was being more truthful with him at the end of the game, and that person was Nicole, who was relaying all information back to him when James was not. Paul wanted to find out who was genuinely loyal to him at the end of the game.

In their final speeches, Paul noted how he saved himself with the Power of Veto twice when he seriously needed to and made sure there was always a bigger target than himself. Paul said his "Round Trip" ticket from Paris prevented five houseguests from re-entering the game and all he could rely on was his partnership with Victor and his social game.

Paul added that he never received one "America's Care Package" but he did break up Nicole and Corey and then win the Final HoH competition. He had a total of seven competition wins, the most "in-house wins" of any person this season, and showed his cards the entire game. Paul insisted he stayed true to himself and obviously followed the rule of "friendship."

In Nicole's speech, she said she was a Super Fan in the Final 2 and it felt amazing. Within the first three days of her game, she convinced total strangers to throw a Head of Household competition to her and go up on the block as a pawn.

Nicole made an alliance with Corey and made it to Day 52 without a bump in the road. Nicole said she convinced Natalie to put two of her own allies -- Paul and Victor -- up on the block and then won HoH and the PoV when she needed to keep herself safe.

Nicole concluded her speech by saying she and Corey made a Final 4 deal with Paul and Victor but backed out for the sake of her own game. She gave Big Brother all she had, and with that, called it a day.


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