‘Big Brother’ Season 18 Finale Recap: Which Houseguest Won the $500,000?

It all ends tonight! Viewers spent their summer (or at least three nights every week), living vicariously through the nail-biting competitions, epic confrontations and insane screaming matches of Big Brother 18s wonderfully absurd houseguests. Only Nicole, Paul and James remain in the fight for $500,000, and at the conclusion of the live finale on Wednesday, September 21, one of them will be crowned the ultimate HOH and walk away with a huge chunk of change.

The three-part HOH competition began with all three competing in a cheeky game of Hang in There, Kitty. Each was tucked into a cat costume and instructed to chase a laser beam. Once the laser beam stopped, they each had 15 seconds to climb into place on either the jumbo-size windowsill, litter box or sofa. The last man standing — or cat hanging, in this case — moved on to the final round of the three-part competition.

For first-time viewers of CBS’s summertime staple, the final HOH decides whom of the other two houseguests will sit join them in the final two. But remember, all the power rests in the hands of the jury.

So who will win Big Brother 18: Nicole, James or Paul? Check out our by-the-minute recap — but be sure to start from the bottom to read it in chronological order!

11:01 p.m. ET: History Is Made

Julie Chen cheerfully announced that this was the first time in 18 seasons that a woman defeated a man in the final two, so consider it a win for ladies everywhere! Plus, Our Goddess Chen also revealed that America’s Favorite Houseguest — with more than 4 million votes — was Victor. After successfully battling his way back into the house twice, the fitness trainer more than deserved $25,000 for his effort.

10:58 p.m. ET: The Winner Is …

Nicole!

In a close and nail-biting vote of 5-4, Nicole won Big Brother 18. Her five votes came from: Corey, Natalie, Paulie, Zakiyah and Da’Vonne.

10:52 p.m. ET: Desperate Pleas

Here's a taste of the finalists’ pleas for the jury’s votes:

Paul: “All I could count on was the loyalty of my partner, Victor, and my social game.… There’s one rule I’ll never break: friendship!”

Nicole: “Crap, that was good! Hey guysss, snake joke.… I said to myself, ‘Nicole, you’re here to play Big Brother, not Big Baby.’”

10:42 p.m. ET: Finalists, Take the Stand

Before the jury cast their votes, they were able to grill the finalists, and wow, it was good. Paul said he’s just crazy, and it was all fun and games when he asked about his vulgar and mean comments to other houseguests. Nicole owned up to being the master puppeteer of the men, and definitely had some jury members nodding their heads. Both seemed prepped for the hard questions, and handled the stand like pros! Can they get a hand-clap?

10:31 p.m. ET: Everything’s Coming Up Paul

So who did Paul choose: Nicole or James? With the quickest eviction of the season, Paul decided to take Nicole to the end. Addressing James, he said, “I’ve worked way too hard to get stabbed in the back again.” Uh-oh, James is dunzo! But in even better and bigger news, James told Chen that he wants a real relationship with Natalie. A real one! Please, make this happen.

10:22 p.m. ET: Nicole vs. Paul

How well do Nicole and Paul actually know the people they ousted? The answer: not well. Like, at all! They stood on opposing sides of a giant-size scale of justice and proved their months in the same house weren’t utilized. In an unsurprising victory of 3-2, Paul scored HOH. Again. Has he been holding out all summer, or has he actually gotten better at comps? Perhaps — we’ll never know. 

10:12 p.m. ET: More Jury Duty, Please!

The jury members looked mighty fine on those white leather couches. They were all dolled up and hoping the evicted houseguest to join their ranks would be Nicole. But surprise, kids, you can’t always get what you want. Here’s Corey!

Now they all know who the final three are, and everyone’s loving on James. Da’Vonne is the exception: “He played a very safe game, like eww!” Everyone thought his strategy was to coast and chase after Natalie. Paul, on the other hand, has made some serious enemies. Michelle made it clear she wasn't a fan of his, and all the rest of the women took offense to him as a person, but respected his game play.

Shifting to Nicole, everyone had an ax to grind. Michelle was still crying about everything and burst into tears because Corey smiled at her. But in a frisky twist, Da’Vonne named Nicole the supreme manipulator for handling all of the men like puppets.

9:58 p.m. ET: Run, Girl, Run!

The second part of the HOH competition involved some memory, some solid timing and a whole hell of a lot of running! BB Adventure Time was the name of the game. Nicole and James had to pick the three houseguests who correctly answered each clue, then place photos of them in a makeshift roller-coaster cart, push it down the track and perfectly time a snapshot of said cart. Oh, and they ran through a psychotically long and treacherous line to get back and forth. ICYMI: James thinks Frank is bourgeoisie.

Nicole seemed to pick it up quickly, as she’d hoped for a competition that involved smarts, but James struggled, as per usual, especially with the running. As the live show approached at rocket speed, Nicole swiftly and easily smoked James. She shall battle Paul!

Big Brother 18
Big Brother 18 CBS

9:45 p.m. ET: Hanging with the Cats

Chen threw us right back into the litter box, as viewers were once again treated to the sight of James in a tight catsuit. Nicole, Paul and James were still chasing their tails as they frantically ran after the laser beam and climbed from one spot to the next. Oh, and the comp is getting harder and harder. What a shocker, Big Brother!

“All of a sudden, this wall tips forward, and I’m flying,” complained Nicole as she dangled from her rope and was the first to drop. James quickly followed suit and, once again, Paul defeated them both. The bearded motormouth is officially headed to the final round of the all-important HOH competition. 

Nicole seemed to pick it up quickly, as she’d hoped for a competition that involved smarts, but James struggled, as per usual, especially with the running. As the live show approached at rocket speed, Nicole swiftly and easily smoked James. She shall battle Paul!

Big Brother: Over the Top premieres on CBS All Access on Wednesday, September 28.

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