The Golden Key is one of the twists of Big Brother 13. Due to the houseguests being paired up in duos and nominated as duos, when one member of the duo was evicted, the other member received a "Golden Key" and was safe from nomination and eviction until the final 10. Holders of a Golden Key did not compete in competitions, though they did get to cast votes to evict and have a spot to win the whole game.
Shortly after announcing the first two twists of the season, that houseguests would play in pairs, as well as compete among "Dynamic Duos" from past seasons of Big Brother; Dick Donato and Daniele Donato from Big Brother 8, Jeff Schroeder and Jordan Lloyd from Big Brother 11, and Brendon Villegas and Rachel Reilly from Big Brother 12. Host Julie Chen also explained the concept of the Golden Key. In keeping with the rules of nominating one duo instead of two individuals, the Golden Key insured that a new duo would be nominated each week, granting full immunity to Golden Key holders.
The strategy of the Golden Key made it extremely important for the Head of Household to nominate the right duo. The HOH needed to think about not only who they wanted out of the house, but also who they wanted to give a free ride to for the next four weeks. The decision of who was to have the Golden Key weighed in heavily on Rachel Reilly's first HOH decision to nominate Keith Henderson and Porsche Briggs, with the intent of giving Porsche the Golden Key, while also knocking out a strong competitor. It was also used as leverage against unwilling pawns, such as Adam Poch, when the intended target was Dominic Briones, during Jordan Lloyd's HOH. Adam was convinced that he was up, not as merely a pawn, but as an intended Golden Key recipient, even though the main objective was to eliminate Dominic and get Adam to cooperate with being a pawn.
Golden Key Holders
Daniele Donato – A returning veteran and runner-up from Big Brother 8, Daniele was paired with her father, Dick Donato. However, Dick's time in the house was cut short when he was called into the Diary Room during the first week of the game. Dick had to leave the game due to a "personal matter," which he later explained had to do with a close friend. Daniele was given the Golden Key in return. Initially upset about now being cast out of the competitions, which she had intended to play hard and win in, Daniele soon discovered that the relieved stress could work to her benefit, and began working very hard to play a good social game, leaving possible alliance members, such as Dominic Briones, available once she was able to get back into the game.
Porsche Briggs – Rachel Reilly intended to give Porsche the Golden Key by evicting her partner, Keith Henderson, from the game because he was a strong competitor and she believed that Porsche would work on her side. Rachel was correct in her assumption and things went according to plan as Keith became the first evicted houseguest of the season, giving Porsche the Golden Key.
Shelly Moore – During Jordan Lloyd's reign as Head of Household, she went after Adam Poch and Dominic Briones. However, Dominic won the Power of Veto and removed himself and his partner from the block, leaving Jordan to replace them with the duo of Shelly and Cassi Colvin. Cassi was sent home by a unanimous vote, giving Shelly the Golden Key.
- Daniele Donato is the first houseguest to receive a Golden Key.
- All three recipients of the Golden Key were women.