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Pilot Peter’s ‘Bachelor’ Season Is, Thankfully, Off Course

The premiere episode proved that nothing is as riveting as when the show breaks format and defies expectations

ABC/Ringer illustration

Typically, The Bachelor premieres are formulaic. We are reintroduced to the new Bachelor and hear about his heartbreak on The Bachelorette. Thirty women show up, many equipped with bad jokes and adorned in unflattering costumes. Some fight, some go for kisses, all drink. A handful of unmemorable randos get sent home; a promo montage for the rest of the season rolls; Chris Harrison tells us it’s the most dramatic season in Bachelor history. Monday night’s episode fast-forwards through a lot of that early drama to get to Peter’s first week of dates, content normally reserved for the second episode. As the episode unfolded, I wondered why ABC had made the choice to gloss over the opening-night drama—until it became clear that they had a moment they were trying to get to. At the end of Peter’s third date of the season, he reconnects with a weeping, flustered Hannah, grappling with the choices she made when she was in charge. And thus, the first episode of Pilot Pete’s season of The Bachelor became a bonus episode of Hannah’s season of The Bachelorette.

Hannah’s first invasion of Peter’s season was relatively benign—after the first 30 women emerge from limos to greet Peter, Hannah steps out of her own limo, a moment that has been teased in ABC promos for the past few months. Hannah wishes Peter the best of luck on his turn as Bachelor, and returns the pilot’s wings that Peter had given her at the beginning of her season. “Go find your copilot,” she smiles. It would have been routine, if not for the fact that Hannah is prominently single as a result of her historically poor decision-making when she was the Bachelorette.

But Hannah returns for a second time, as the host of a group date. (Damn, Fred Willard was unavailable?) The premise of the group date is that every woman has to get up on stage and tell a story about sex, so of course, Hannah leads off by discussing her famous four-peat with Peter (four-Pete) in that windmill in Crete. Everybody in the room already knew about the time Hannah and Peter had sex four times in a windmill (if you’re going to get dumped, it seems like the best way to get dumped is by having the woman dumping you rave about your sexual prowess on national television), but it was still odd to hear Hannah brag about her prodigious sexual adventures with Peter in front of a room of women who would very much like to have sex with him. Honestly, I’d respect the flex if it wasn’t a sign that Hannah still very much wasn’t over Peter.

But alas: Hannah still is very much not over Peter, and vice versa. While the women prepared to tell their stories, Peter went backstage to find a crying Hannah, her mascara streaked all the way down her cheeks.

As we all know, this is a crisis of her own making. On her season, Hannah homed in three potential husbands: Peter (handsome and charming), Tyler (a hunky, caring feminist icon), and Jed (a lying dog-food jingle composer with spotty facial hair). She dumped Peter, but only after having a lot of sex with him and talking about how good the sex was. Then she picked Jed over Tyler, only to break up with Jed over his dishonesty. She learned that Jed had ghosted his previous girlfriend days before appearing on The Bachelorette when he realized a stint on reality TV would be great for his music career. Tyler appeared with Hannah on the season finale, during which they seemingly reconciled and agreed to go on a date—a happy ending!—but it was just for show. The world had seen that Tyler was the perfect boyfriend, equal parts woke and ripped, and within days of the finale, he had graduated from Bachelor-world to dating models. Not girls who say they’re “models” on The Bachelor—actual models. While it’s somewhat common for men on The Bachelor to end their seasons as single guys, Hannah was the first woman since Jen Schefft in 2005 to end a season of The Bachelorette without a partner.

And so, it becomes clear that Hannah’s return to The Bachelor is not simply an attempt at connecting Peter’s season to the past seasons of the show we all enjoyed. Hannah’s here because she’s going through some stuff. She explains that she knows her choices were bad, and that she was crushed that Peter signed on to be The Bachelor because he knows it meant her shot at him was over. Peter, who was relatively professional and put-together for the first two hours and 55 minutes of the show (holy hell, did I really just watch two hours and 55 minutes of The Bachelor?) starts to crack, too. He asks Hannah whether she wants to join the cast of his season. The episode ends on this cliff-hanger, two ex-lovers wondering whether they can rekindle the fire that almost burned down that Cretan windmill.

It’s a one-of-a-kind moment in the show’s history. While we all know that Bachelor relationships often break as soon as the show stops filming, the show still sells the notion of “happily ever after.” Even when a couple does break up, we can generally count on the members of the couple smiling in sponsored Instagram posts and future appearances on Bachelor-affiliated television shows. Hannah seems genuinely distraught that everything fell apart in front of a national audience, and is still clinging to one of the suitable guys she cast aside. I don’t know why she allowed The Bachelor to film her being distraught about this, but it’s a compelling watch—and the fact that Peter clearly still has feelings for her makes for a spectacular plot twist.

Hannah almost certainly will not take Peter up on his offer to join the cast. Remember, The Bachelor was filmed in the past—this episode in particular was filmed in late September—and Hannah was on the cast of Dancing With the Stars last year from September to November. (She won, taking down Ray Lewis, Lamar Odom, Meredith from The Office, Sean Spicer, and Kel from Kenan and Kel. Surprisingly, that’s the actual order in which they were eliminated, although I would have bet hundreds that Lamar was better at dancing than Spicer.) If Hannah was in L.A. to film DWTS for most of the production time of The Bachelor, she probably wasn’t on The Bachelor.

Besides, it would be a bad look for Hannah to go from being a lead to being a contestant. And it would arguably be a worse look for Peter, now in charge of his own season, to spend his time reliving what happened back when he was a contestant. He has the opportunity of a lifetime ahead of him—it’s not his fault that Hannah screwed up her opportunity of a lifetime when she had it.

Best Anti-Hannah: Madison

Even before Hannah poked her head back into Peter’s life—and then did it again, with tears—there were plenty of references to Peter’s time with Hannah. There was an entire montage of women hollering about Peter’s back-to-back-to-back-to-back sexscapades.

And the show is rife with people who are kiiiiinda like Hannah. There are four beauty queens (Kelsey, Victoria P., and Alayah participated in Miss USA pageants, just like Hannah did, while Maurissa was in Miss Teen USA), two contestants from Alabama, and one contestant named Hannah Ann.

However, there is one contestant who serves as a polar opposite to Hannah, the Roll Tide–cheering Tuscaloosa native. I’m talking, of course, about Madison.

That’s right: Madison is War Eagle. Madison won back-to-back-to-back-to-back state championships as a high school basketball player—a much more wholesome “four times!” than Peter’s windmill experience, although it’s up to you to decide which you find more impressive—before going to Auburn, where her dad, Chad Prewett, is an assistant basketball coach. (No, he’s not one of the Auburn basketball coaches who got arrested.) Chad shows up in Madison’s promo, revealing that he has the exact same hair as Kenneth from 30 Rock, but that’s neither here nor there.

Madison seems to be an early front-runner, as she gets the first one-on-one date of the season. Together, they go to watch Peter’s parents renew their vows—a totally unscripted event that was absolutely going to happen even if Peter wasn’t on The Bachelor—and Madison shows off her basketball skills by boxing out the competition to grab a bouquet thrown by Peter’s mom. Another interpretation would be that nobody else was trying to catch the bouquet.

Perhaps you think that Madison and Hannah are similar. After all, they’re from the same state, they’re both passionate about college sports, they both competed in Miss Alabama Teen USA pageants, they both like yelling their college catchphrase. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! How dare you imply that just because Alabama and Auburn fans are from the same state and have common interests, they might be extremely similar. They’re like fire and ice! Madison is from nearly three hours away from where Hannah is from. She’s Hannah’s polar opposite.

I could totally see Peter picking Madison—it wouldn’t be the first time that Alabama had everything in the world going for it, only for Auburn to swoop in at the last moment and leave Alabama in tears.

Worst Performance: Katrina

It’s a true bummer for the unfortunate few who get sent home on the first night of The Bachelor. You audition for this show, though getting on may be a long shot. You get accepted. You tell all your friends and family you’re going to be on TV. You tell your bosses you’re going have to take off from work. “For how long?” I don’t know, a few weeks at the least. Your boss gets mad—you can’t just take a month off to be on reality TV. You quit. After all, once you’re on this show, your social media following is going to blow up and you’re going to become an influencer. You buy about $2,500 in cute outfits and beauty products—considering how much money you’re going make off your appearance on the show, it’s basically an investment. You fly to L.A. And then, after maybe 45 seconds of screen time you’re flying back. You barely even got to talk to the guy.

Most of the time, it’s just a tough break. The lead of the show doesn’t actually have time to get to know all 30 women over the course of a few hours. If a contestant is quiet or shy, they might get the ax. Maybe the lead just doesn’t like brunettes. (Four of the last five winners were blondes, so yeah, it’s probable the lead doesn’t like brunettes.) Maybe the contestant is actually a great person, but just kind of unmemorable and blends in during the chaotic evening.

However, Monday night brought a plain example of a woman who absolutely deserved to get sent home: Katrina, who appears to be a dancer for the Chicago Bulls. We get to see one interaction between Katrina and Peter—when she steps out of the limo. She walks up to Peter and, without much introduction, tells him “You’re going to love my haiirrrlessssss … pussssssyyyyyyyy”—trust me, she said it with at least 27 letters. It was a truly upsetting intro, but I figured she would save herself with a punch line. It’s par for the course for contestants to introduce themselves with sex jokes to break the ice.

Alas, the punch line did not save her. Katrina pulled out a picture of her hairless cat, Jasmine, and showed it to Peter. At first, I thought that anything Katrina could say or do after “you’re going to love my hairless pussy” was going to be an improvement. I was wrong! Revealing that you actually own a hairless cat is worse than leading with a discussion of your own pubic hair. DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAIRLESS CATS LOOK LIKE?

If you see a potential partner playing with their pet, that’s a positive. It shows a person has the capacity for love in their heart; it shows the person is capable of committing and caring for something other than themselves. If it’s a cute pet, it shows they have decent aesthetic taste.

If you see that a potential partner has a hairless cat, it’s basically the biggest negative I can imagine. It means that person is willing to bequeath at least some part of their life to an uncaring, hideous hell-demon that lives atop of their shelves and cabinets and would not care if they died. This is a person who allows their home to host a mummified Egyptian pharaoh attempting to suck the life force from the living in an attempt to reclaim his throne. This person uses their hard-earned money to support this beast from another world.

I do not want to be loved by a person who owns a hairless cat. Their definition of love is so twisted and upsetting that I want no part of it. If you love that, and you love me, what does it say about me?

Somehow, Katrina cried when she was eliminated. I guess it’s a good thing she led with the pubic-hair pun about her horrifying pet. It was a rare example of a contestant who quickly proved within a matter of seconds that they should get the ax.

I will not be reading any emails or tweets from hairless cat enthusiasts about this article.

Biggest Question: The Kelley Conundrum

I suppose it’s time to talk about the other 30 women on the show who are not Hannah. Of these, nobody has a more prominent first episode than Kelley, a lawyer from Chicago who, according to her introduction package, works in the same office as her dad, but at a much smaller desk.

Much like Hannah, Kelley’s story line revolves around something that happened before Peter’s season started. (The Bachelor Extended Cinematic Universe is exhausting.) Kelley met Peter by chance in a Southern California hotel lobby a month before filming and after she learned she was going to be on The Bachelor. Kelley says she was having second thoughts about appearing on the show, but considered her run-in with Peter to be a sign she needed to follow through. I have to agree: It was fate. There is no way to explain Kelley running into Peter, a Westlake Village, California, native, at a hotel in Westlake Village (population: around 8,000) just a month before the show besides fate.

This meeting must have been particularly meaningful, because Peter is fully smitten with Kelley. When she emerges from the limo, he smiles, instantly remembers her name, and tells her he’d been hoping she would show up. Every time he sees her, his eyes light up. His praise of her is glowing—he says she’s stunning, that he couldn’t stop thinking about her, and that he wonders how she could possibly be single. It’s strange, because there are 29 other extremely attractive women in the building, and Peter seems locked in on Kelley just because they previously met.

What type of casual meeting causes someone to think about the person they met nonstop for weeks? I think you know the answer: a sex meeting. So, did Peter and Kelley bang? Let’s go over the evidence:

  • Peter says he met Kelley after an after-party for a 10-year high school reunion. After an after-party. It’s not like they ran into each other in a lobby at 2 p.m. This is a late-night meeting.
  • Peter is way more physically active with Kelley than he is with the other contestants. He gets kissed a few times, but he actively kisses Kelley and touches her legs and butt.
  • The first date of the season concludes at the same hotel where Peter met Kelley. (Nice work, Bachelor producers!) As soon as Peter sees Kelley in the hotel and realizes they’re in the same place where they met, he takes her by the hand and they rush through a series of rooms until they get to an unoccupied bar in the back. Peter excitedly mumbles some stuff before swinging her up onto the bar counter, where they start making out. It’s a rush of sudden inspiration and horniness that simply would not have happened if their past meetup was just a regular hello.

On the other hand, Peter and Kelley don’t say they hooked up. In the past, The Bachelor has been happy to let viewers know about previous one-night stands between leads and contestants—who can forget the tales of Nick and Liz’s night of passion at Jade and Tanner’s wedding! Peter and Kelley both seem pretty forthright about the encounter.

My personal belief is that they hooked up, because there’s no hello that could possibly have vaulted Kelley so much higher above the other 29 women he barely knows.

Best Drama: CourseGate

Kelley immediately has a target on her back, as the other contestants are envious that she already has a history with Peter. (Wait until they find out about his fraught crying session with Hannah!) Kelley exacerbates this acrimony during the first group date, when she breaks the rules of an obstacle course to earn some alone time with Peter.

Surely you know about the early-season Bachelor obstacle course—The Running of the Biddies. Early in the season, group dates have as many as a dozen contestants, and the show forces them to compete in meaningless, themed challenges resulting in one winner who gets a special prize, normally a little bit of alone time with the lead. It should be noted that it never, ever, ever matters who wins. If you try hard, you might win and get the lead’s attention, but if you try too hard, you might end up looking like an over-competitive weirdo or pissing off everybody else on the show.

I wouldn’t say that Kelley tries too hard—really, the problem is that she doesn’t try to actually complete the course. As a graphic helpfully points out, Kelley wins the race by simply running the final leg of the race in a straight line where the contestants had been specifically instructed to follow a specific, loopy path.

The powers that be don’t care about Kelley’s blatant violation of the sacred rules of the Running of the Biddies. Kelley is crowned winner and gets to fly with Peter in his little tiny plane for roughly 20 minutes. However, when she returns to be among the other contestants, they confront her about her cheating. Kelley hears their complaints, but refuses to apologize.

I enjoy when these meaningless contests have an actual effect on the season. And considering Kelley is Peter’s early favorite, and every single woman now hates her because she ran in a straight line and not in a loopy path, this is a classic of the genre.

Biggest Loser: Sigmund Freud

On Hannah’s season, Peter happily told the story of how his mom, a flight attendant, saw the butt of his dad, a pilot, and decided she was going to marry that butt-haver. Of course, Peter went on to be a pilot, just like his dad—a worrying move from the Arie Luyendyk Jr. school of adopting your dad’s cool job—and The Bachelor stocked him up with a cast featuring three flight attendants.

There was Eunice, who wore angel’s wings to greet Peter (“Let’s wing it!” she said), Megan, who introduced herself to Peter by talking over a PA system like a flight attendant telling passengers how to buckle their seat belts and so on, and Jade, who was apparently the least memorable of the three flight attendants.

Peter must have disliked the pandering, because he sent all three flight attendants home. It’s the first time Peter has shied away from talking about being a pilot, and the first time Peter did something that isn’t exactly like what his parents did! Congrats!

Most Confusing Stint: Victoria F.

Katrina may not have been the only contestant to reference her vagina with a poorly executed joke—but I’m not sure. There was also Victoria F., who stepped out of the limo, walked up to Peter, and said, “I have a dry sense of humor, but… ” and then kinda trailed off, panicked, and made random unintelligible noises until she decided she felt comfortable walking away.

I suspect, although we have no confirmation, that her joke was going to be something about Peter making her wet. Right? That has to be where the joke was leading—and also, why somebody would back off from finishing that joke. Telling a joke with a punch line about your vaginal fluids is kinda the opposite of having a dry sense of humor, but alas.

Obviously upset by her awkward encounter, Victoria approaches Peter later in the evening to debrief. She asks Peter if her one-liner from earlier was OK, to which Peter says “Of course!” because he’s nice and charming, and then says “Wait, what was your one-liner again?”—perhaps because he didn’t remember her, or perhaps because he did remember that Victoria told the setup for a joke and then awkwardly walked away.

Victoria was in an awful situation. She was nervous about telling her joke the first time, and now she was asked to tell it again. There’s nothing worse than telling a B-minus joke twice. Victoria starts the setup again—”I have a dry sense of humor… ” but once again, trails off before the finish. This time, she’s interrupted by another contestant looking to chat with Peter.

She leaves and begins crying, because she’s had two conversations with Peter, and one was a failed attempt to tell a joke, and the other was a rehashing of how she failed to tell the earlier joke, followed by an aborted attempt to tell it again. Victoria is the worst finisher The Bachelor has seen since Raven’s ex-boyfriend.

Greatest Point: Tammy

The first group date—and this is really going to shock you—is related to the fact that Peter is a pilot. Peter’s career might be the only thing discussed more than his sex skills.

Seriously, if you haven’t watched Top Gun, I feel like you’re going to miss 97 percent of the jokes this season.

The women are brought to an airport where they are briefly quizzed about dirty-sounding pilot terminology by a pair of female military pilots who briefly grouse about how the contestants get cuter flight suits than their military issue gear. Next, the women are forced to strap into a gyroscope and spin around, which is a big problem for Victoria P.

Victoria P. explains that she has motion sickness, and that the one time she went on a teacup ride at a theme park when she was a little girl, she threw up violently. She’s a trooper and hops into the gyroscope, but after a few spins, it’s puke time. She sprints off to the bathroom, where Peter compliments her for giving it her best shot. Tammy—the contestant who went 7-1 on her high school’s boy’s wrestling team—makes an astute point from the sidelines: “My husband shouldn’t want me to puke for him!”

Somehow, this is an incident with Bachelor precedent. Two seasons ago, Nick Viall took Vanessa on a one-on-one date in a plane that simulated a zero-gravity experience, causing her to vomit. Sure, they kissed afterward, and it was a sweet moment at the time—look, they can still kiss even when vomit is involved. And Vanessa went on to win! And then Nick and Vanessa broke up almost immediately after the show ended.

Tammy’s right—what’s up with Bachelor guys trying to make their women vomit? I’m generally getting good vibes from Peter. Maybe I’ll feel differently after a full season of pilot- and vomit-related challenges.