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Celebrity Big Brother Winner Marissa Jaret Winokur Explains Why She Took Ross to the Final 2

And why she never expected to win

Megan Vick

Ross Mathews may have played the Big Brother game of his life during the Celebrity Edition season, but it was Marissa Jaret Winokur who went home with the grand prize.

The two as a pair controlled the pace of the game for most of the season, so it was no surprise to see them in the Final 2 -- but it was surprising that Marissa was the one to bring Ross and not the other way around. Her incredible memory gave her the most crucial victory of the game and the final HoH, which allowed her to pick who she got to sit next to as the jury of former housemates decided who would win the grand prize.

Ross was potentially the only person who could beat Marissa from a strategy perspective, so it was a risky move for her to send Mark and Ari packing to take her BFF to the final jury. However, it turned out the jury still held a lot of resentment towards Ross, who had orchestrated most of their removals. Since Marissa's hands were less bloody, they gave her the prize.

TV Guide talked to Marissa about those final decisions, why loyalty matters over winning and what she promised to buy her son now that she won the show.

Julie Chen and Marissa Jaret Winkour, Big Brother: Celebrity Edition​

Julie Chen and Marissa Jaret Winkour, Big Brother: Celebrity Edition

Bill Inoshita, CBS

At what point did you start to think that you could pull this off and really win?
Marissa Jaret Winokur: When Julie read the fifth name. I didn't come to win. I know that sounds crazy but I came for the experience and for fun. I never thought I was going to win because I knew I was going to suck at all the challenges. I know the game so well that I know you have to actually win challenges to win the game at the end. I didn't think I was going to win until she read that fifth name.

It seemed like you were strategic, though. You didn't win physical competitions but you were really prepared for the memory and mental challenges.
Jaret Winokur: It wasn't strategy to lose the physical. I tried with all my might to win the physical. I never gave up. At one point James even, in the ball arena, was like, "Do you want me to throw it to you?" I was like, "If I'm going to win, I have to win on my own." That was so lame, I should have just taken it. I sat around the house all day long and just memorized. I knew the days. Every morning I would just lay in bed and count, "On Day 1, on Day 13," so I knew all the days. I knew what was happening -- Head of Households, anything, I knew it all by heart. That was what I could offer an alliance because I could memorize all that stuff. Of course those are the ones I did well in.

A lot of people, including Julie, thought you made a mistake in taking Ross to the Final 2. Why did that feel like something you had to do?
Jaret Winokur: I wouldn't have gotten to the Final 4 without Ross. I wouldn't have gotten to the Final 2. I took Ross to the Final 2. I knew he wasn't going to take me. I wasn't blindsided by that idea. Everyone is like, "You know he wasn't going to take you!" I knew. I knew he wanted to win against Mark. I knew that's what it was going to be but at the moment, winning against Mark -- I would have rather lost to Ross. Ross and I played together. I felt like that was the right thing and I didn't mind losing next to Ross. Winning against someone else wouldn't have been as good as losing to Ross. With my son in the audience, I was conscious of what I was representing to the world. I know in the game of Big Brother it might not have been the best choice, but in the game of life I definitely think I made the right choice.

Who Won Big Brother: Celebrity Edition?

Multiple people came into the jury intending to vote for Ross and then changed their vote based on the speeches. They voted for you based on the integrity of your game. What did that mean to you?
Jaret Winokur: So much. Here's the deal: I didn't even plan on a speech because I thought if I got to the Final 2 it was because Ross brought me to the Final 2. Then my speech was going to be, "Ross had the best game. Vote for Ross!" Then all of a sudden when I brought him to the Final 2...I understand that the first time I talked it was really bad. My husband said it was really rambling and didn't really make sense. I just spoke from my heart. I don't even know what I said, but it was all the truth.

Even though you won, is there anything in this game that you wish you could have done differently?
Jaret Winokur: Chuck getting out of the house on that first one is the one I felt really bad about. He wasn't ready to go and he was really blindsided. The house did this crazy flip and I don't know yet because I haven't seen the show, but if what we were being told was true or not true has really been weighing on my heart.

Are you going to go back and watch the entire season now?
Jaret Winokur: Absolutely. I'm going to watch with my son. We're just going to sit and watch all day. Maybe Wednesday because I'm busy until then.

What is Zev getting as a gift now that you've won?
Jaret Winokur: On the day I told him I was going in he said, "If you win, can I have a warped wall?" All he wanted was a warped wall from American Ninja Warrior. So I said, "Yeah sure, I have to win though. Second place doesn't count." He's been asking for a warped wall for years now. Now I have to get him a warped wall and I am devastated that I'm going to have one in my backyard.

(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS)