top of page
  • Writer's pictureReality Lately Staff

How 'Big Brother' Works: A Beginner’s Guide to CBS’ Hit Summer Reality Show

Big Brother 25 logo
Big Brother 25 logo

So you want to watch Big Brother, but where do you begin?

Don't worry. It can be a daunting task, especially considering how complex the game can seem from the outside.

But believe it or not, the game is simpler than you may think — and we are here to break down everything you need to know about how the game works.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy. We hope you join the fandom!

Basic Rules

The Big Brother house is monitored by 94 cameras and 113 microphones for 24 hours a day while houseguests reside in the compound.

Houseguests are locked inside the Big Brother house and forbidden from communicating with the outside world until they are either evicted or removed from the game.

Producers approve every item that enters the Big Brother house and provide players with basic food supplies during the game.

How Big Brother is Played

Each week, a Head of Household (HOH) is selected via competition and tasked with nominating at least two houseguests for eviction.

Later in the week, the HOH and nominees compete alongside at least three other people for a chance to win the Power of Veto (POV). The winner has the opportunity to take one nominee off the block, or leave nominations the same.

On Eviction Night, all of the eligible houseguests enter the Diary Room and cast their vote to evict one of the two nominees. The nominee with the most votes is evicted from the house.

HOH competitions typically air on Sundays, POV competitions typically air on Wednesdays (but will move to Tuesdays midway through Big Brother 25), and Evictions typically air on Thursdays.

Head of Household

Houseguests compete to be HOH once a week. The last HOH is not eligible to compete for HOH the week after their reign, unless intervening circumstances apply.

Only one person serves as HOH each week (unless otherwise specified). The HOH is tasked with nominating two people for eviction (unless otherwise specified) and is guaranteed a spot in the Power of Veto (POV) competition.

If the POV is used on a nominated houseguest, the HOH must nominate a new houseguest in their place. The HOH will only vote during the eviction in the event of a tie.

HOHs also receive their own special room in the house, which includes a private bathroom, a personalized basket filled with various goodies, photos from home, and a CD of their choice.


Nominations are selected by the HOH and announced each week at the Nomination Ceremony. The nominees are the only houseguests eligible for elimination on Eviction Night.

Nominees are guaranteed a spot in the weekly POV competition, and have the power to remove themselves from the block if they win.

Power of Veto

The Power of Veto is awarded to one player each week following a competition that typically involves just six players. The HOH and the two nominees are automatically eligible to compete, and the three remaining players are selected by random draw.

There is also an opportunity for houseguests to select a token that says “Houseguest’s Choice,” which allows the lucky player to pick any person they would like to see compete in the competition.

The player who wins the POV competition is awarded the Golden Power of Veto, which allows said houseguest to remove someone — including themselves — from the block.

However, the POV holder does not get to select who is nominated in place of the person who is removed from the chopping block. That job is left to the HOH.


Each Thursday, houseguests enter the Diary Room one at a time on Eviction Night to cast their votes to evict. Votes are final and cannot be changed.

The nominated houseguest with the most votes is evicted from the house. If there is a tie, the HOH is tasked with selecting who to eliminate.

Diary Room

Houseguests will periodically be called into what’s known as the “Diary Room,” where they interact with production and other crew members, including doctors and psychologists.

Typically, houseguests are called into the Diary Room to deliver commentary on the game.

Have Nots

Houseguests selected as Have Nots must endure a week-long punishment featuring a restricted diet, cold showers, and sleeping in an unpleasant bedroom. Have Nots are only allowed to eat a special concoction called “slop,” unless America gifts them with some special treats. (Think pudding and pork rinds, mung beans and mackerel, etc.)

There are penalties for not following the Have Not rules. If the houseguest is on the block, production will typically add an automatic vote against them (see Jen from BB8).

Live Feeds

Live feeds run 24/7 throughout each season of Big Brother. However, production reserves the right to cut the feeds at their discretion.

Feeds are typically cut when houseguests participate in competitions, hold a ceremony, or receive special instructions from production. Live feeds go down about a few hours before each eviction, and resume a short time after the Thursday eviction episodes.

Some HOH competitions play out LIVE on the feeds, and Julie Chen Moonves will specify when that is the case.

Want to know why the feeds went down? You can tell based on the screen you're shown when the feeds are cut. If they are showing some super cute rescue animals, they're filming something for the show! (RIP *fish*)

Live feed disruptions can occur for various other reasons — such as houseguests singing (sorry, not allowed thanks to copyright issues), wall-yellers, medical emergencies, appliance repairs, and more rarely, expulsions — and can last for any amount of time.

You can access the live feeds for free (with ads) on PlutoTV, or by subscribing to Paramount+.

Rule Violations

There are various punishments for violating the rules of Big Brother. Usually, houseguests receive a warning from production if a rule is broken.

Typically, houseguests are expelled from the game for egregious behavior (the knife incident with Josh on BB2, Scott’s threatening actions/remarks on BB4, Chima’s repeated defiance/equipment destruction on BB11, Willie’s physical violence on BB14).

Other rule violations are addressed by assessing a penalty vote against a player if they are on the block. If a houseguest is not nominated for eviction, they will face another form of punishment, such as having their vote taken away or being stripped of their ability to compete in the next HOH competition.


bottom of page