Finally, Chris Harrison’s token “most dramatic season ever” slogan rang true for this year’s run of the Bachelor. In its 23rd season, bachelor Colton Underwood inadvertently turned the show on its head, upsetting the usual formula and keeping viewers on their toes.
Spoilers ahead, duh.
Any true fan of the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise can tell you that there is a formula which producers usually follow each season. It includes pitting contestants against one another, identifying a house “enemy” and throwing around slander about who is and isn’t ready for an engagement at the ripe old age of 24.
This season, it is unclear if producers altered the formula by choice or by chance.
Underwood, referred to by some as “white toast” for his tendency to come across as boring and lacking in personality, was initially an unexpected pick for the Bachelor. As a former pro football player from the Midwest and a virgin (as was revealed in the later episodes of the preceding Bachelorette season), many doubted his ability to date 30 women on reality TV.
However, he came across as genuine (albeit genuinely out of his depth and confused 90 percent of the time, but nevertheless genuine), which was endearing and allowed you to cheer for his happiness above all else.
And there was a lot of “else” to cheer above, amidst pageantry drama, fence jumping, mind games and international travels. In the final episodes, Colton did a few things which were out of the ordinary.
First, he met the families of all four remaining girls during Hometowns, and in keeping with his All-American persona, asked not one, not two, but four fathers for their “permission” to ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage. While I respect the overarching tradition, I think there’s a difference between asking for a father’s permission versus asking for the parents’ blessing, and this difference is indicative of how autonomous you think your girlfriend is.
Second, Colton had a moment straight out of The Truman Show in which he decided he didn’t want to be on the show anymore. Following a monologue in which Colton admitted to producers that he thought contestant Cassie Randolph was “the one,” Cassie obviously didn’t feel the same way and decided to break up with him and leave the show. Later that night, Colton stormed out of his room, pushed a camera away and straight up jumped an eight-foot fence to roam coastal Portugal in the dark, free of producers, cameras and Big Brother. That is, before a producer got Big Brother host, Chris Harrison, out of bed to go out looking for him.
They eventually bribed him back with what I can only assume was unlimited Doritos, dino chicken nuggets and perhaps an empty promise that the girl he’s infatuated with could be forced into loving him back. My heart went out to the poor guy, and viewers everywhere were on the edge of their couches to find out if he’d get the girl. This was a refreshing change in pace, since the show usually assumes that the bachelor can end up with any of the girls he chooses.
Third, after having been bribed back from the streets of Portugal, Colton decided not to take Cassie’s “no” for an answer and broke off two sure engagements with Tayshia and Hannah G to instead pursue Cassie. This meant that he didn’t end the season in an engagement at all, his largest break from the normal formula.
The finale showed Colton knocking at Cassie’s door to tell her that he’d ended things with the other contestants to be with her. This is despite the fact that she’d broken up with him the day before. I guess there’s something to be said for fighting for love, though.
Nevertheless, my cynic self believes that a surprised Cassie probably realized that she had two choices when she found Colton at her door. One, refuse to give Colton a second chance and become public enemy number one among the Bachelor fanbase, or two, agree to date him for a little while longer and end things further down the road.
She really did try to leave the show. She dropped all of the classic breakup lines. She couldn’t say she loved Colton back, her father’s disapproval was a total deal breaker, she couldn’t see herself “getting there” with Colton, she thought they were moving too fast and she needed “space” to figure out what she wanted. Meanwhile, he suggested that they get matching PJs.
When Chris Harrison asked the two if they were in love on the “After the Final Rose” episode, they answered that they were taking things at their own pace and not rushing into anything. Maybe Cassie truly does have a problem with commitment, or maybe she’s just not that into him. Watching their saga play out was like watching a game of cat and mouse where the cat thinks the mouse is just playing hard to get (albeit very effectively), whereas the mouse is disinterested and just wants to leave.
Even outside of the Colton-Cassie storyline, though, the season was well done. The contestants were portrayed with more respect than they usually get. Drama between Hannah B. and Caelynn was dealt with through a civil conversation rather than a catfight, and quite a few contestants decided to leave the show outside of rose ceremonies and preserve their dignity (dumping Colton before he had a chance to dump them).
However, the show is certainly aging, and so I have a few ideas that might mix things up. If you know a producer send them my way!
1. Have the contestants take a live IQ test right when they step out of the limo
2. Bring back the two-on-one dates! Nothing spells Bachelor like a dating duel to the death
3. Make Chris Harrison the Bachelor