Kaysar Ridha may be a two-time All-Star, but he couldn't survive two times on the block in Big Brother Season 22. In week one, Ridha found himself aligned with his former ally Janelle Pierzina, which wasn't a secret to anyone in the house. Although he was able to skirt the block the first week due to a Safety Suite win, which protected him and Pierzina, he was never able to build strong enough alliances in the house to avoid eviction.
After fellow block member Kevin Campbell won the Power of Veto and pulled himself off the block earlier this week, Head of Household Enzo Palumbo selected Christmas Abbott as a replacement (pawn) nom. Ridha was evicted from Big Brother All-Stars in a unanimous vote on Thursday.
TV Guide caught up with Ridha after his eviction to talk about that big exit speech, how surprised he was to learn that Memphis Garrett was working with the predominant alliance, and how important this season was to him.
Let's start with the speech. When Ian [Terry] first brought up the idea, you seemed kind of hesitant. What made you decide to go for it?
Kaysar Ridha: I just wanted to have a little fun with the whole thing. From my vantage point, it's been a pretty slow and sleepy season. I don't know how it was portrayed or how the fans at home were receiving what was going on, but I was basically telling the houseguests, "If it's going to stay this way, please, for the love of god vote me out of this house because I can't take another minute of this" [laughs]. So, I decided to have a little fun with it and call everyone out and tell them they suck from a gameplay perspective because they're just not doing anything. And this is All-Stars! There should be a little more showmanship, like show off a little, have a little fun — but keep it in good taste, of course. I just felt like people needed to flex a little bit more during this season and I wasn't seeing a whole lot of that.
It seems like the reaction in the room was kind of icy.
Ridha: Oh, absolutely. I was expecting that — and not everybody took it that way. I did tell them, like, "Come on, guys. Come in for the hug." I forced them to just be OK with it. With certain people, I could tell right away that their arms were crossed and they were not having it. It's all right. It's understandable: I think the people that probably took most offense were the people that were most hurt from a gameplay perspective. I think Nicole [Franzel] and Dani [Donato] were people who probably got the short end of the stick because their gameplay really relies on being able to be covert and not be called out. So, I didn't make it any easier for them.
Did you ever think you should do this earlier in the week, instead of blowing it up as you're going out the door?
Ridha: I considered that. There were times where I was like, you know what, maybe I should say something, but it would have been unnatural. I would have had to create a stir and make people uncomfortable and just be a jerk at them. I found that this particular house with this cast of characters were very passive. Maybe it's sort of a new era of Big Brother to not necessarily play the way that they might have in the first All-Stars. So it felt forced [to do earlier]. I knew I was going to have a platform and the speech leaving on my way out. And on top of that, I was getting sort of a sense that the pulse of the house was that there was no way in hell that I had anywhere near the votes to stay — even if I pulled some crazy move.
Before Christmas [Abbott] was put up as a replacement, did you feel like you could pull off the votes?
Ridha: There was a chance. By my calculations, I think the only way for it to have worked out is if David [Alexander] went up on the block because he seemed to be an outsider. I think had I convinced Enzo to put David up, I could have swayed some folks to focus on him rather than myself. Because he just kind of rubbed some people the wrong way and that was my only out.
Julie Chen told you last night that Memphis was part of the larger alliance — and you were pretty shocked. How are you feeling about that now?
Ridha: The gears are turning. I'm equally as impressed as I am disappointed in myself to have not seen that. I think I'm good at reading people. I was on an island, and I didn't have anyone feeding me a whole lot of information. I had to sort of read it based on what I was seeing. So, I feel good that I was able to find out the four. But I was in such close quarters with Memphis, especially, and then Christmas, that I felt like I should have seen some signals that like they were up to something. For me not to see it was, again, very impressive. Janelle and I would speak about how we thought Memphis was a dud in this game. His lack of caring about anything, [I read as], "This person just sucks at this game!" It couldn't be further from the truth.
You said something in a confessional along the lines of, "Memphis either doesn't care or he's working with them." And I thought you were so close to figuring it out!
Ridha: I was able to actually watch how people operated during their seasons. I studied Tyler [Crispen]. I studied Cody [Calafiore]. People's nature doesn't really change and so, at the core of people, you can kind of understand who they are. Now looking back on it as I'm thinking about it, I never watched Christmas's season. And I never watched Memphis' either.
Looking back at the season, what would you change in your gameplay?
Ridha: I think probably nothing. That was the hand I was dealt. I got the sense that I was being targeted since week one. I don't know what the intensity was necessarily. But as I told Janelle while we're in the house, there's nowhere for us to really run. We can sit here and put on this charade that we don't know each other, but no one's going to buy it. And it was probably just going to make us look worse, not only on television, but to the house because they're going to say, "They're lying to us in plain sight, and it's pretty horrible acting." So, I just figured, let's just own it. And let's try to see if we can maybe figure out a way to skirt any sort of situation that might come up.
The Safety Suite certainly helped with that in the beginning!
Ridha: Yeah, the thought crossed my mind, like, did I get this wrong? I remember Tyler — and I don't know what he knew at the time — but telling me that I just brought more attention to me. And I was like, you know, I don't know if that's the case. In my daily job, I'm in the position I'm in to understand the inner workings of how things work and to be able to foresee what's around the bend. I get paid to do that. So, I've come to a place in my life where I'm like, I trust my judgment when I see little signals and I'm able to piece things together. I felt really confident that what I was seeing was correct.
Except for Memphis!
Ridha: Oh, I couldn't be more wrong. You don't get them all right. I'm not batting a thousand, that's for sure.
How different is the game now from when you played it?
Ridha: A lot more passive. It's a lot more homogenous from the standpoint of this thing where, you know, people don't want to disrupt the house or what the house wants. That's something that I just learned while I was on the show because it doesn't really translate on TV. Everybody wants to keep voting the same way because it's like, that's just the way it is. So, they go and get a pulse on what's happening and say, "Which way are we voting?" Even though you may want somebody to stay, it's usually a unanimous vote. And it's strange to me! Nobody wants to rock the boat. No one wants to make a big move. Even more so this season! I've never seen anything like this before! I think people's feelings get hurt really easily, too. Maybe it's a generational thing. I'm not quite sure what was happening [laughs].
Last week, Janelle told us that this season is "lame" and you've said similar things. What do you think they should do to shake up the house?
Ridha: I really think everybody needs to take a stand. And the thing is, I get why people don't want to make a move, because they don't want to be the ones to single themselves out and blow up their own game. But I feel like it's a house full of floaters. And honestly, it's just no fun to watch. As a fan, I'd probably want to yell at the screen, "Somebody do something! [Laughs] Please! Not everybody is going to win!" That's what I would want to happen. … There's going to be nowhere else to go, and I think it's probably going to happen this week because we're out of runway. There are no for more freebies. There are no more lame speeches that you can give like, "Well, this is what everybody wanted. I just didn't know what else to do. Sorry." No, we're done with that. And somebody's got to play and draw blood.
In your exit interview with Julie, you mentioned that this season was more about taking a stand for something and less about winning for you. Are you happy with what you were able to say and accomplish in the time that you were there?
Ridha: Well, I don't know the details of how this was received. As you can imagine being in this lockbox, not having any information being fed to you, your mind wanders and you get anxiety about how is this received. I feel like we're in such a charged climate these days where you could say the most innocuous thing — like you can say, "Let's feed all homeless people," and then somebody will be mad about it. So, I knew that I was going to go out on a limb. And it's sad to say that what I was saying, even though, I feel wholeheartedly was right, is controversial by some measure — and that's unfortunate. But I felt as though I did what I set out to do, which was, I wanted to go in there with a message. I wanted to say what I needed to say. I'm happy it happened in a very natural way. I don't know how it was received or was broadcasted out to the world. I'm hoping that production and the network was able to do it some justice. And I'm hoping that it came off well. I guess I'll know soon.
So, if CBS called you again, would you play another time?
Ridha: Probably not [laughs]. The thing that brought me out of retirement this time around was not the game itself, but the conditions in which we live in today. And I felt like I used Big Brother as a platform. I'm eternally grateful for that. Janelle and I joked around over the years about if we would play again, and there was part of me that watched the show and I was like, "God, I wish I could get back in that house!" But it was sort of in jest — it was not serious. And there was time I remember telling Janelle, the only way I would go back in the house is if she was in the house with me, and I never thought it would happen. Like, what were the chances? And here we are.
Well, it was really nice watching you this season. I'm sorry we are speaking so early, though!
Ridha: I had such a great time. I honestly, I feel very fortunate. And I'm happy that we could do this all over again so, so many years after Janelle and I were first able to be on the show.
Big Brother airs Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 8/7c on CBS.