A Lesson In Reality Morality

As some of you may know, I’m a massive reality television fan. In fact, my viewing habits over the years have gravitated from CSI and Seinfeld to X-Factor and Property Brothers. I don’t know why, but when it comes to television I simply find reality to be much more entertaining than fiction.

Over the years, the only program I can recall watching faithfully over the past ten years (other than Survivor) has been Big Brother. I had always said that the ONLY reality game show I could ever see myself on would be Big Brother. Heck, they just announced a month or two ago that they were FINALLY going to start casting the Canadian version of Big Brother and I got a bit excited (the fiance said “no”…so I guess I”ll just have to remain a couch fan for now).

So this season of Big Brother started off a little bit bland. Sure, there were twists (four previous Big Brother players were brought in to be “coaches” to a team of players where the winning player would get $500,000 and the winning coach would get $125,000), but overall things didn’t really get interesting until the coaches entered the game as players (you KNEW that was going to happen).

Dan Gheesling is a high school football coach who won Big Brother in 2008. He  was brought back to the house as a coach and jumped at the chance to play the game one more time. As the game continued on, he dodged the occasional bullet but eventually found himself on the block and was pretty much guaranteed a trip to the Big Brother “jury house” (i.e. the final seven players who would vote to decide who wins the money).

While going through a 24-hour isolation penalty of sorts, Dan came up with one of the most incredible plans ever devised inside the house. This plan, though, would also mark the direction Dan’s game would take over the remainder of the summer.

I can’t begin to adequately describe how “Dan’s Funeral” played out if you don’t follow the show. Just trust me when I say it was the single-most incredible game-play I’ve ever seen on pretty much any reality show.


As he was saved from the chopping block, he began to lie more and more to prevent himself from going back up. He swore on his wife…he swore on family heirlooms…he swore on the bible. And each week he would cause the back-stabbing eviction of somebody blindsided and thinking they were safe from eviction for yet another week.

Dan ended up making it to the end (honestly, I think he was brilliant in how he played everybody off each other). He was brought to the final two by an uber-fan named Ian who didn’t have great social gameplay, but had won competitions when it was required. Dan even lied in order to make it to the final two, admitting that he wouldn’t have taken Ian if he had been given the opportunity.

In the end, Dan lost as he only got one vote from the evicted house guests. They were absolutely appalled by Dan’s gameplay and immoral actions with lying and back-stabbing. Even though Dan apologized and said that he did whatever he had to do in order to make it to the end of the game, they didn’t feel his gameplay warranted winning $500,000.

So at the end of the day, can anything be learned from this? Is it as simple as saying “no bad deed goes unpunished”?

No, I think it’s more complex than that. Y’see, the most interesting part of Big Brother is the human element. It’s seeing how people act in a confined space without any contact with the outside world. It’s seeing the things people will say and do in order to win a large sum of money.

Anybody who follows Dan’s website, Twitter, or Facebook page knows that he is a positive, honest, trustworthy individual who is admired by the kids that he coaches and by those who know him as a person. He played an incredibly dirty game full of lies and deceipt because he wanted, ultimately, to benefit himself and his family.

Does that justify how Dan played the game? I guess it’s all in how you look at it.

Before you sit back and judge a person for how they play the game in one of these reality shows, also take a close look at the person behind the gameplay. Dan never sat back and trash-talked his house mates. He never reveled in the sorrow of others. He simply did what he felt he needed to do in order to win the game.

Tackling a wide receiver just after he catches the ball is no big deal when you’re playing football. Tackling someone as they’re crossing the street in front of a convenience store is slightly illegal. What’s the difference? You’re doing one of those things in the context of a game where the other takes place in “real life”.

Does this now justify how Dan played the game? To me, it does. Nobody got hurt. In fact, when all was said and done the worst injury caused by Dan’s play was a bruised ego. So many players on these shows talk about how they don’t want to “sell their soul” for money and want to play with integrity, but does that really mean anything? If the only thing hurt is their feelings, why should they feel superior to somebody else because they didn’t play a “dirty game”?

At the end of the day, reality television isn’t really reality. Any thoughts on morality need to be kept out of reality television and kept into reality.

Congrats, Dan. I was a fan previously, but now I’m on the Team. #TeamDan


10 thoughts on “A Lesson In Reality Morality

  1. *ahem*

    Okay, for the record, I totally did NOT say “No” to you auditioning for Big Brother Canada. I said that you could do it, and that I wouldn’t stand in your way, but that I wouldn’t help, either. I simply said that you were on your own.

    BIG difference between that and saying no. Just sayin’. :-p

  2. I too am a huge fan. I was definiately Team Dan the 1st time he won. This time, I was on the fence. I knew he deserved to win, but I didn’t agree with his dirty plan. (Especially since he won the 1st time by still being an upstanding guy.) And although I like to see the allstars return, I’d rather see someone “new” win. And with Ian being a super fan AND currently goes to school near my home town, a part of me wanted him to win from the beginning. And actually, I thought he had lost the game when he brought Dan with him in the final 2.

    I just wish it was on more than once a year. Like the year of the writer’s strike when they had 2 seasons in 1 year. Loved that!

    I think you would be an awesome player. Just sayin’! (Sorry Sunshine!) I could never play the game.

    1. I don’t have a problem with Ian winning. I, too, thought it was a given that Dan would win when Ian took him to the finals. Ian deserves it, for sure…it’s just that I think Dan deserves it more.

      I think more than once a year would be overkill. I look forward to it every summer and it’s really the best time to put it on the air.

      I think I’d be a great player, too…but I’m a better fan than player, I think.

  3. I think he could have pulled it out with a slightly different tack in his final speech. Instead of leaving it at, “I did what I had to do,” if he’d said, “You all know that I played the first time as an absolutely faithful guy. If I’d played that same game a second time, there’s no way I’d be in the final two, because you already know what that game looks like and could have strategized against it. I had to change my game radically in order to keep myself in it, and the polar opposite of absolutely faithful is dirty rotten liar. It’s what no one would expect from me based on how I played last time. So within the context of the game I lied to every single one of you because that was the only strategy that would get me here. I hope that you’ll respect the game that I played, even if you don’t appreciate every decision that I made.” I think he at least would have garnered some more respect, if not votes. With that said, I’m still glad Ian won, although I think Dan probably deserved the win.

    1. I don’t disagree, but I thought he was still pretty humble and modest at the end. If you take somebody like Russel Hantz from Survivor and that incredible first game that he played, then see just how much of a douchebag he was in the question/answer session…then you can see how Dan’s speech wasn’t too bad at all.

      But yeah, the speech could have been a bit better.

  4. My wife and I were rooting for Dan the whole season. You have to keep in mind that it’s a game! And his gameplay was both brilliant and highly entertaining. It’s also a TV show, and Dan made the season!

    What were the odds that a previous winner would make it all the way to the final two? If Dan had not played the game the way he did, he would have been booted way earlier, along with the other three returning players. Considering that it’s a game, the only real negative to his gameplay is that in the end, there was no way the jury was going to vote for him over the other finalist.

    As far as his morality, I wrote an article in my blog about Dan Gheesling from a spiritual and Biblical perspective that you might find interesting. It’s called “Dan Gheesling: Judas, Jesus, . . . or Jacob?” You’ll find it at this link:



    1. Previous winners can do extremely well or get the boot very early. I’m still shocked that Dan made it as far as he did considering the target that must have been on his back from the day he walked into the house.

      Thanks for the link. I’ll go check it out.

  5. CBG,

    Really enjoyed this article, but I’m not going to lie, I was expecting to read at the end of it, you stating that the ends don’t justify the means. I appreciate you taking the time out to explain things pretty much as I would in this article! Very cool read.


    PS – Epic blog.

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