Ian’s Corner — Sequester Quest

by Ian Terry

HotelSequeseterIt’s that time of year when the newest crop of Big Brother Houseguests have all been kidnapped and are waiting to start their game for a half-million dollars! Before they even get a foot into the house though, they’ll be sequestered from the outside world for about a week. In this article, I’ll describe the sequestration process and break down the best ways to pass the time during that yawn-inducing period.

Houseguests are surprised with their keys to the house, and then flown or driven to Los Angeles. From there, production shuttles each player separately to a hotel and escorts them to their room. This is the point where all of a future Houseguest’s personal belongings, aside from their clothes, are taken from them by the producers and placed into a plastic storage box for safe-keeping over the summer. If you’ve ever seen the movie Austin Powers, it’s a bit like the scene where Austin wakes up from his cryogenic freezing and gets his 1960s’ gear back. I imagine it’s a lot like what he went through before being frozen for all those years!

From then on… well, that’s basically the extent of it. That hotel room is your entire world for the week! The television is disconnected. The only outgoing calls the phone can make are to the production office. Want to listen to music? Forget it! Fortunately, Big Brother does leave you with a few things to keep you busy during your stay…

First is what they aptly call the “Sequestionnaire”. This whopping packet is 800 questions-long and is there to let the producers know a little more about your personality, and also find out what goodies you’d want in your potential HoH basket. Questions asked ranged from “What are your ten favorite CDs?” to “What do you believe is the sexiest word in the English language?”. After you’ve finished that, you’re given coloring books, Play-Doh, and other children’s diversions for your amusement. Of course, the most important item of all in sequester is the portable DVD-player that production will give you, with which you get to watch previous seasons of Big Brother, and whatever movies production happens to have on hand.

If this sounds miserable, it is. It definitely helps to have a good imagination so you can come up with ways to keep yourself busy. I would often find myself taking 3-4 baths daily, all at varying temperatures, just to pass the time. I set aside an hour or two each day to twiddle my thumbs, and hearing the Jeopardy! theme song faintly through the room’s false door each night at 7:25 pm helped me maintain the little bit of sanity I had. Also, we were each allowed to keep a book in our room for the week, so I read each sentence in it over twice, but unfortunately the book I brought was kind of a dud.

Making the most out of meal time also made things slightly more tolerable. Each day, we’d have to call production to let them know what we wanted to eat from the hotel’s restaurant. They’d put the order in for us and deliver it to our rooms. I liked to prolong my meals as much as I possibly could so that they took more time out of my day.

Now, one may ask: “Why would production put people through this torture?!” I honestly feel that aside from its primary purpose of preventing the new Houseguests from learning about the twists they’ll have to face, it has a secondary function as well. The sequestering process has “broken” a few potential Houseguests over the years, leading them to leave before the game even starts. The producers may see it as a litmus test for how well a contestant can handle isolation. If a potential Houseguest realizes they can’t cope, it gives them one last chance to back out before it’s too late.


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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex June 16, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Wow 800 questions?! I know it sounds absolutely horrible but I’d be too happy just knowing I’m going to be on Big Brother!


Adough June 16, 2014 at 10:20 pm

How often can you order food?


Thor June 16, 2014 at 10:44 pm

Good read, Ian. Sounds like it’s both super exciting knowing you’re about to play Big Brother but extremely boring at the same time. I wonder if sequester for BB Canada is similar to this.


Who? June 16, 2014 at 11:53 pm

This would be a cakewalk!


Laurie myers June 17, 2014 at 1:32 am

Do you think giving the chance you would have spent more time watching and re/watching the Bb tapes, and would That have helped in the game?


Alyssa June 17, 2014 at 1:36 am

You can sleep whenever you want right? Like if I wanted to sleep 14 hours straight they wouldn’t care? Haha


Randy Mitchell June 17, 2014 at 1:42 am

I can understand why they do this, but yes, it would be a long week. However, I’d gladly do it knowing what awaited me at the end. Can imagine some leaving before the game started though. Getting selected to play would be the chance of a lifetime!


Colleen June 17, 2014 at 10:18 am

Very insightful! Thanks for sharing!


James June 18, 2014 at 10:02 am

On our version of Big Brother in the Philippines, production would let loved ones to accompany a potential housemate during sequestration, perhaps just to prevent players from going crazy being by themselves the whole time.

If I could recall correctly, I read in Jun Song’s blog entry about her experience under sequester that they’re allowed to go outside their room for a limited period and spend some time swimming in the hotel room or workout in gym under the watchful eyes of production. If ever they see a fellow potential HG, they’re not allowed to communicate with each other.


Em June 20, 2014 at 3:04 am

I thought on the feeds I had heard this time referred to as “knitting”? I also got the impression that at some point you saw some of the potential houseguests? I thought I heard someone talk about someone they saw but didn’t end up making the show? Good read!


Ian Terry June 21, 2014 at 3:52 am

Hi guys,

There are two “hotel stages” of the process. One is for casting, one is for sequestration. Sequester is a lot more strict — you can’t leave the room at all.

You can sleep as much as you want, but it’s hard to sleep 15 hours a day, every day (and that’s not factoring in how much pent-up energy you have).

Food is to be ordered for meals mainly. They will not buy alcohol from the restaurant, but several cast members alluded to packing their own for sequester. They do give us as many snacks as we want (I took advantage of this and drank PLENTY of Diet Coke).

As far as old seasons go, they only had two seasons on hand — BB11 and BB13. I’d already seen them enough, and they’re ironically my least favorite seasons. If you’re a contestant not familiar with the show, watching these would certainly help. As a superfan though, I’m not sure there was much great strategic insight to glean from either of those seasons.


Bob Flynne June 21, 2014 at 6:44 am

Thanks for the insights Ian! What kind of things were running through your mind for a whole week sequestered in that room? Surely you must have been going crazy hahaha


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