In the era of social media, it has become nearly impossible for The Bachelor to air a season without people uncovering all of the least palatable details about its contestants. Two seasons ago on The Bachelorette, fans noticed that Garrett had liked a handful of insensitive Instagram posts about transgender people and survivors of school shootings, putting a massive damper on a season built around Becca’s burgeoning love for Garrett. Last year, Hannah picked Jed, only to learn afterward what savvy viewers had discovered months prior—that Jed had dumped his girlfriend to appear on the show. The show’s producers have been frequently caught off guard, only learning about the ugly political opinions and ugly relationship histories of its contestants after the fact, leaving them helpless to do anything but air the episodes filmed months in advance.
This year, the show somehow found Victoria F., a contestant with ugly political opinions and ugly relationship history. Not only did she appear in a photoshoot for “White Lives Matter” clothing, but she has also been accused of basically every unsavory relationship move by what seems like the entire population of Virginia Beach. (“I have never had so many negative stories … about one person as I have this season with Victoria Fuller,” Reality Steve wrote about the avalanche of emails he received from people about Victoria’s awful reputation.)
However, this time around, the show wasn’t going to let itself get blindsided. Clearly, Bachelor producers knew that the world was learning or was going to learn about Victoria’s past, and they attempted to head off the potential for embarrassment by blatantly warning Peter about Victoria throughout the course of filming the show. First, the show let Peter know about her past relationship with country star Chase Rice by setting their one-on-one date at a Chase Rice concert, perhaps hoping to plant a seed in Peter’s head about how his television girlfriend enjoys brief relationships with famous people. Despite a brief day of awkwardness, however, Peter was apparently unfazed. He was mostly just excited about getting Chase Rice’s phone number.
Monday night, the show dug even deeper. In Victoria’s hometown of Virginia Beach, she and Peter attended yet another country concert—this time, it was a Hunter Hayes performance. (I like to imagine that Victoria gave Peter a quick “don’t worry, I haven’t hooked up with this one” speech before they began dancing and singing along.) Hayes sang “I Want Crazy,” a song that somehow wasn’t inspired by Peter’s choices. After the concert, though, the two ran into one of Peter’s ex-girlfriends—a woman who dated Peter in Los Angeles but had since moved back to her hometown of Virginia Beach.
Peter’s conversation with his ex was … strange. While it was clear that Peter knew this woman (he recognized her as his ex Merissa, and mentioned that she worked in a Guess store in Los Angeles that he once brought his mom to) and also relatively clear that Merissa hadn’t run into Peter by accident, Merissa’s face remained blurred out for the entire length of her appearance on the show. Assuming the show had convinced her to stage this intervention—a fair assumption—it’s odd that she agreed to do it but refused to show her face, lending an extra layer of confusion on an already confusing situation. Why not also alter her voice, like a mobster ratting out his former don on 60 Minutes?
Behind the blur, Merissa explained that she personally knows Victoria—small world!—and that Peter shouldn’t date her because she has “broken up many relationships” in Virginia Beach, a statement that jibes with the online accusations that Victoria has slept with several of her friends’ husbands. However, Merissa doesn’t explain that in plain English—she just tells Peter to “watch out.”
Oddly, Merissa recently gave an interview with Us Weekly that goes into greater detail about her past relationship with Peter and her problems with Victoria, but in that interview she neglects to mention Victoria’s homewrecking past. Yes, Merissa says that Victoria supposedly threatened to slash her tires, and that Victoria is “crazy” and “self-centered” and “has literally no respect for anybody around her,” but she didn’t hint at her supposed habit of marriage destruction. (And if you’re curious, you can see Merissa’s face in Us Weekly.)
Peter is troubled by Merissa’s accusations and confronts Victoria about them just before the two are supposed to meet Victoria’s family. Victoria does an incredibly unconvincing job of denying everything before quickly—and somehow successfully—flipping the conversation on Peter. (My favorite exchange: Peter: “I’m just asking for the truth.” Victoria: “Well, IT DOESN’T MATTER anymore, because you LITERALLY just came in here to act like that. Are you kidding me?”) Soon, Victoria is crying for the 300th time over the course of her eight episodes. She rips into Peter for bringing this up before meeting her family and for taking Merissa’s side over hers, as if it’s completely unthinkable that he’d trust a woman he dated for five months in real life over a woman he has gone on three dates with on television.
For a brief moment in time, it looked like The Bachelor’s gambit had worked. For the first time all season, Peter stuck up for himself. He pointed out that he keeps sticking his neck out for Victoria, but she never seems to reciprocate. He’s right: Peter is always willing to listen to Victoria’s side of things, but Victoria generally chooses to pick baseless fights with Peter and walk away when things get difficult. (While also being completely incapable of answering simple questions like “Have you ever broken up a relationship?”) In addition to Victoria’s race-baiting photoshoot and her apparently massive collection of broken marriages, it’s worth noting that she also absolutely sucks.
For once, Peter walks away, ditching Victoria’s hometown without meeting her family. (The biggest surprise of the episode: a post-credits scene that shows Victoria’s family and reveals them to be loving, kind, and completely normal, and therefore unlike Victoria in every way.) But he fails to follow through. Victoria visits Peter’s hotel room the next day and the two smooth things over. At the end of the episode, Peter gives Victoria a rose. Despite the fact that every part of their relationship is awful and fraught with a billion complications, Peter now has Victoria in his final three.
After repeatedly getting burned by the unsavory off-show behavior of its contestants, The Bachelor is trying to do everything it can to avoid having their leads pick absolute duds. But as much as the show’s producers tried to warn Peter about Victoria, they simply can’t stop him from thinking that she’s really, really, super hot. It’s like the old saying: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t teach a horse to not try to have sex with the water.
Biggest Red Flag: Victoria’s Dog
Victoria first appears in this episode on the beach. Because, you know—Virginia Beach! It looks absolutely miserable there, because this episode was filmed in late October. I’m guessing the high was 65 degrees; I’m honestly stunned Victoria had the fortitude to wear skimpy shorts on the date.
Anyway, she’s there with her dog, a beautiful black lab apparently named Buxton. When Victoria sees Peter, she excitedly jumps into his arms for an extended makeout session—and completely forgets about Buxton, who sprints into the ocean in an attempt to befriend the one guy brave enough to actually enter the frigid, late-October waters of the mid-Atlantic. By the time Victoria notices, Buxton is excitedly swimming toward Portugal.
Later, the two go for ice cream (again: It was probably 58 degrees outside) and Victoria lets Buxton lick from her chocolate-covered ice cream cone! Victoria! Chocolate is dog poison! Look at this photo Peter posted on Instagram before the episode aired; Buxton is either eating more of the cone or just straight up yakking!
I’m fine with Victoria destroying every relationship in the greater Hampton Roads metropolitan area. But letting your puppy run into the ocean and feeding him chocolate? Protect Buxton!
Biggest Surprise: The Relative Lack of Virginity Talk
If you’re a hot virgin, male or female, chances are you’ve been on The Bachelor. There was Colton, the football virgin! Ashley I., the crying virgin! Becca, the secret virgin! Luke P., the former sex-haver! Year after year, The Bachelor finds people who have never had sex and treats them as some sort of ridiculous sideshow, hammering us over the head from the premiere to the finale about how ludicrous and unusual it is that these people have made a careful, mature decision to abstain from sex until they feel ready.
But apparently this season is different. Monday night’s episode reveals that Madison, too, is one of these bizarre no-sex-havers. This was sort of hinted at in last week’s episode, but otherwise it has not been a plot line at any point in the season. And honestly, that’s really refreshing. Someone’s choice to have sex or not is … just that. A choice to have sex or not.
It is, of course, right and necessary that Madison and Peter discuss their sexual choices! Peter, as you may have heard, has had sex before. Many times. He’s actually had sex in a windmill several more times than Madison has had sex anywhere. If this couple does try to move forward, their wildly differing views on sex will clearly be an obstacle they need to work through! But in the past, The Bachelor has treated this like an all-encompassing dealbreaker that defines a person’s entire being. This season they’ve approached it like just another personal preference that an adult couple might need to address were they to begin a long-term relationship. The second way is much better than the first.
The BRING! HERRRR! HOOOOOOOOOME!!!!! Power Rankings
At this point, I am basically only watching this show for one reason. In every promo this season, producers have included a clip of Peter’s mom, who has apparently been brought to tears by Peter’s situation. “Don’t let her go, don’t let her goooooo,” she weeps. “Bring her home. BRING HERRRR HOOOOOOME to us!” It’s a stunningly compelling clip. This is a show that perpetually seems fake, a show whose die-hard fans admit they watch primarily because of how silly and overwrought the supposed drama can be, and yet Peter’s mom seems genuinely shaken to her core by the idea that her son might miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for love.
And so, the main question of the season has become: Who is the HERRRRR that Barbara Inocente de Jesus Figarola Infante Rodriguez Weber wants Peter to BRING HOOOOOOOME? Let’s quickly go through the remaining candidates, ranking them on a scale of bring her home to BRING HERRRRRRR HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOME.
- Hannah Ann: I’m convinced Hannah Ann is going to win, but thus far nothing compelling has happened in her relationship with Peter besides the fact that they are both very conventionally attractive. No amount of letter-writing can convince me this love is legit. Rating: BRING HER HOOOME.
- Madison: Madison and Peter seem to genuinely like one another, and obviously Peter’s mom already likes Madison after the two met during the first one-on-one date of the year. I could see “Bring her home!” being a response to the troubles caused by Peter and Madison having extremely different views on premarital sex, as Peter’s mom urges her son to push through the short-term problems and accept a woman who loves him. Rating: BRING HERRR HOOOOOOOME.
- Victoria F: I’m OK with Peter falling for the worst contestant in Bachelor history because he wants to hook up with her really badly—but I’m not sure I can handle Peter’s mom earnestly believing in his romance with Victoria. Rating: Bring her home, or preferably don’t bring her anywhere at all.
- Hannah Brown: I have no reason to believe that Peter’s flame from The Bachelorette will actually return this season. But let’s be honest: Peter had a legitimate connection with Hannah—or more accurately, four legitimate connections in a windmill—and every woman on this season is underwhelming. The Bachelor teased us by making Peter’s relationship with Hannah a primary focus of the first two episodes of the season. If she returns in the final episodes to remind Peter that he already had a good thing before going off on his adventure with these 30 duds, it will be an all-time great Bachelor twist. I could also see Peter’s mom being extremely compelled by the return of the woman who broke Peter’s heart last season. Rating: BRING HERRRR HOOOOOOOOOOME!
The Worst Night: Kelsey
Kelsey’s hometown date in Iowa was relatively uneventful. The two sampled the two things Des Moines is most famous for—Iowa wine and crab rangoon—and Kelsey told Peter that she loved him. In response, Peter told Kelsey that “my heart has fallen,” a horrific and ominous turn of phrase which nobody in love has ever actually used before.
Somehow, Kelsey heard that and went to sleep convinced she was in Peter’s good graces. And so she flew to Los Angeles for the most logistically unfortunate event of the season: the post-hometown rose ceremony. See, because the four hometown dates take place in four separate parts of the country, the women have to reconvene in a central location for a rose ceremony where one of the women is eliminated. Except in this case, they didn’t use a central location—with the next series of dates taking place in Australia, the group met in Los Angeles, even though all four women were from the eastern half of the country. Des Moines was actually the closest hometown date to L.A., but still, it was certainly a hassle for Kelsey to get there, since there are definitely no direct flights from Des Moines to L.A.
The rose ceremony was held in an airplane hangar (this week’s Did You Know Peter Is a Pilot moment). Kelsey walks in wearing an outfit she knows will stun Peter and ensure that he picks her: a turquoise dress that covers her shoulders and arms but leaves a glimpse of her chest exposed. You know—the old “business on the shoulders, party on the boobs” look. It’s the perfect look for giving a really sexy presentation. And then, 30 seconds after Kelsey walks in, Victoria walks in wearing basically the exact same thing.
This is not the first time multiple women have worn the same thing to a rose ceremony, but normally that sort of thing will happen early in the season, when there are 30 women and they can be spaced out. How did two of the four remaining women end up wearing the same thing, and which sadistic producer made them stand next to each other?
With her style jacked and Peter’s heart having merely “fallen,” Kelsey is done for. Peter breaks up with her and offers to walk her out so they can discuss what happened. Except just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, he doesn’t actually walk her out—he just walks her to a slightly different part of the hangar, where all the other women can probably see her crying.
So, just to summarize: Kelsey had to take a connecting flight to Los Angeles so that another woman could steal her look and a guy could dump her and make her cry in front of a bunch of other women. I can’t imagine a worse day.
Worst Date Idea: Ax Throwing
Somehow, Knoxville, Tennessee, has become the center of Bachelor Nation. Hannah Ann was one of two contestants this season from Rocky Top—the other, Sarah, was eliminated in Week 3—and just last season, Jed brought Hannah Brown on a hometown date to Knoxville. That’s back-to-back seasons where this town of 200,000 had contestants in the final four! Of course, Monday night’s episode makes no mention of this incredible fact, because last season’s Knoxvillian turned out to be a Knox-villain. Hannah Ann and Peter make out in the shadow of the Sunsphere, never thinking once about how The Dreaded Jed must be lurking nearby.
Hannah Ann explains to Peter that her dad works in forestry, and that it would go a long way if Peter seems manly. So the two go ax-throwing. A crowd of bystanders cheers on Peter and Hannah Ann as they perform the most basic of ax-throwing tasks. Sure, The Bachelor has brought in fans to cheer at faux-impromptu concerts and staged athletic events, but seeing actual people pretend to be excited by Peter’s occasional ax hits was a new low. Afterward, Peter reads Hannah Ann a letter explaining all the things he loves about her. At one point, he reveals that they have a couples nickname—“the clumsy two,” because Peter ripped open his forehead by walking into a stationary golf cart and slamming a glass into his head, and, uh, I guess Hannah Ann has also had some equivalent unfortunate accident?
Regardless, Hannah Ann’s dad was not impressed that his potential son-in-law threw some axes. Of course he isn’t—he actually works in forestry! Forestry isn’t “being a lumberjack” and even if it was, I doubt he would be impressed by Peter partaking in the faux-manly hipster trend of the moment.
I don’t think it was a good idea to let the clumsy two go ax throwing. There was a zero percent chance of impressing Hannah Ann’s dad and at least a 10 percent chance of Mr. Golf Cart Accident killing someone with a melee weapon.
Episode MVP: Bruce Pearl
Madison’s date with Peter revolves around the fact that her dad, Chad Prewett, is the director of operations for the Auburn men’s basketball team. The two walk around Auburn’s campus and play one-on-one on Auburn’s basketball court. Madison, a four-time state basketball champion in high school, demolishes Peter, who already poorly shot basketballs this season on a date with Victoria. At one point, Charles Barkley appears on the video board to give the two a personalized pep talk, and it is unclear whether Peter knows who Charles Barkley is.
Halfway through the date, the two are joined by Bruce Pearl, the head basketball coach at Auburn. Pearl is either a college basketball folk hero or a villain. At Iowa, he secretly recorded a conversation with a top prospect and used the tape to get a rival coach fired, earning himself a reputation as a snitch. At Tennessee, he lied to the NCAA about breaking recruiting regulations to host a slew of top prospects at his home for a barbecue. The barbecue itself wasn’t so bad, but lying about it was, and Pearl was essentially banned from coaching by the NCAA for three years. Auburn then took a shot on him when the three-year ban ended; soon after, one of Pearl’s assistant coaches was convicted of bribery for recruiting payments that apparently broke the actual law in addition to NCAA law. (Don’t worry, it wasn’t Madison’s dad.) Through it all, Pearl has remained the sweatiest mensch you’ve ever laid eyes on, a passionate coach willing to make a fool of himself so long as it gets results—and he gets results. This past season, Auburn made the Final Four, a stunning run filled with surprises and upsets that served as somewhat of a crowning achievement for Pearl, after all his ups and downs.
On The Bachelor, Pearl does not appear on screen for more than 15 seconds before mentioning the fact that he made the Final Four in 2019 and making a joke about how Madison getting a hometown date means she has made it to multiple Final Fours in the same year. Within minutes of meeting Pearl, Madison and Peter are straddling each other on an uncomfortable hardwood floor:
Weirdly enough, this is all extremely fitting. Like Pearl, Peter had drama in Iowa, and had an unfortunate home visit for a meal in Knoxville. If he picks Madison, though, Peter too will find what he’s been looking for all along in Auburn. Just don’t look up who beat Auburn in the Final Four last year.