'I'm done': Why Michigan's Nicole Franzel says she's finished with 'Big Brother'
The third time was not the charm for Ubly's Franzel, who says it's time to move on to the next phase of her life
It's three and out for Nicole Franzel, the Michigan "Big Brother" contestant who came in third place on this year's "Big Brother: All Stars" and says she won't compete again on the CBS reality show.
"I wouldn't go back. I can't go. I'm done," Franzel said Friday, on the phone from her home in Michigan's thumb in Ubly — population 800 — where she had just returned late Thursday night following Wednesday's whirlwind season finale.
Franzel, 28, was competing for the show's $500,000 grand prize and the title of first dual winner in "Big Brother" history, following her previous win on "Big Brother 18" in 2016.
But during the finale she was cut by Cody Calafiore, with whom she had an alliance the entire game, which left Franzel with a third-place finish and no prize money.
Calafiore took fellow New Jerseyite Enzo Palumbo to the finals and handily won in a unanimous 9-0 jury vote. Palumbo, for his efforts, was awarded a second-place finish and a $50,000 consolation prize.
And Franzel, well, she was left with a lot to sort through.
"I would have made a bad game move and took Cody to the final two," says Franzel, who first competed on "Big Brother" in 2014. "The older I get, the more emotional I feel, and the more my heart is, like, in it. I'm not as cutthroat as I used to be, I guess, so it's time for me to retire."
She retires a legend on "Big Brother," in which 16 houseguests are locked inside of a soundstage rigged with cameras in a three-month power struggle for a half a million dollars. Over her three seasons, Franzel has spent more time on the show — which boasts a cult-like fandom that watches the show three nights a week and follows the action online 24/7 — than any other contestant in "Big Brother" history, logging more than 250 days inside the house.
"That's my house for sure," says the social media influencer, who studied nursing at Saginaw Valley State University. "I know that house inside and out. Playing that game with so many different personalities and people, it feels amazing. And thinking that a little small town girl from Michigan who is just a fan, who never even thought she'd have the ability to go on the show because, you know, you never think you're unique enough, and then that it turned into my life.
"I played three times in my 20s. First time when I was 21, and then 25, and now 28," she says. "And now I'm getting married and ready to have kids, and I think that that was a great 10 years that I basically spent going in and out of that house. It's really cool. But that many days in the house is enough."
Not that she has any regrets about playing.
"I love playing 'Big Brother' and I love the game, and so it's just my love for it that brought me back," she says. "Saying no would have just hurt my heart. I didn't need to prove anything to anyone, honestly. But I was like, I am a winner, and that's not going to stop me from going. A lot of winners were afraid of ruining their legacy or reputation of winning, because you can't do any better. But I was like, I can do it again."
And she nearly did. She missed being in control of her own fate on finale night by missing one trivia question in the final competition, while Calafiore answered all of his questions correctly. That one extra correct answer gave Calafiore the opportunity to bring either Franzel or Palumbo with him to the final two, and Franzel considers Calafiore's choice "the ultimate betrayal."
"I was just so shocked," she says, adding she would have taken him to the final two had she been in his position. "He was someone I knew couldn't beat, but I was still gonna take my chances because I felt like we were Ride or Dies. But I understood immediately, and I kind of took it as a compliment, as in, 'Wow, he's very scared of me.' And I would just like if he would admit that he was like scared of losing, instead of just being like, 'I loved Enzo more.' Because if you're going to finish out by blindsiding me, at least say it was strategic."
Franzel — who believes a jury vote between her and Calafiore would have ended in a 5-4 vote that could lean either way — says she and Calafiore did not have a conversation about the decision after the show, and she doesn't know when she will.
"As soon as one of us reaches out — I'm probably not going to — but he'll reach out, maybe, and I'll be very nice and very understanding," she says.
Franzel says she's never watched her previous seasons and has no plans to watch this just-wrapped season, either.
"You just get frustrated," she says. "And it's hard watching yourself. Like, my voice is obviously annoying, so I don't really wanna hear it. I already hear it all the time when I talk."
Next up, Franzel is tying the knot: She's engaged to former "Big Brother" house guest Victor Arroyo, with whom she competed on the show in 2016, and they're getting married Dec. 9. Arroyo, a former fitness trainer, moved to Ubly to be with Franzel and is now a Michigan state trooper.
"I came home and there's a state trooper vehicle in our driveway. I was like, 'Whoa, he has his own vehicle now!'" she says.
Franzel now has time to decompress and to start her post-"Big Brother" journey. But the end of this season, for now, still stings.
"It was a great summer. It was 'All Stars.' I'm very proud of my journey and how far I got. But," she says, and it's a pretty big but, "I just really wish I could have made it to Final 2."