Somewhere around the middle of each season of The Bachelorette, most of the men on the show go from being “candidates to marry the lead” to being “candidates to become the next lead.” Such is the order of events dictated by the natural cycle of Bachelor Nation: Each season must beget another. As a Bachelorette begins to narrow down her choices, it no longer makes sense for the series to continue promoting soon-to-be castoffs as potential suitors; that energy is instead funneled toward setting them up for future seasons, and ensuring the everlasting life of the franchise.
There are different ways the Bachelor/ette brain trust pulls this off, but almost always they will edit and frame an ending more like a beginning, either depicting a candidate’s total heartbreak and failed quest for love as unresolved or positioning him or her as a strong-willed victim of bad decision-making—a person who still believes in love and that “this process can work” despite having just been brutally dumped. If you can picture a contestant’s final moments also being part of a lead’s first moments—that montage that they run every premiere recapping the new Bachelor/ette’s “journey” to this point—then it’s likely that contestant has gotten a Future Bachelor/ette Edit. When Clare tore into Juan Pablo after he broke up with her (“I would never want my children having a father like you”), that was her getting The Edit, even if it took six years for the franchise to cash in on it. When Pilot Pete tearfully and graciously accepted Hannah B’s rejection, and then went on live TV to do it even more (as well as talk about how much windmill sex he had), that was him getting The Edit.
This season, there are two men who seem to be getting the benefit of a good goodbye, which for one of them will surely turn out to be the beginning of their own journey. Neither of them is currently set to appear on the upcoming season of Bachelor in Paradise, which also seems notable—for the most part, BiP is where micro-influencer careers are born and dreams of being the lead go to die. The first candidate is Andrew S., a semiprofessional football player with a smile that could power the sun, who was sent home just before hometown dates. The second is Michael, a widower and single parent who might genuinely be the best person to ever appear on this show and who is definitely the first Bachelorette contestant to make grown men cry. Both have Future Bachelor bona fides, but what the audience wants is only part of the equation. What do the producers want? Which of them are they setting up to be the next Bachelor?
Let’s take a closer look at both of their departures. Last week, Andrew was simply the odd man out—he told Katie that he was falling in love with her, but in the end she didn’t feel the same. From the backseat of his post-breakup car ride—a central location for recently dumped people to pitch themselves as a future lead—he said a bunch of Future Bachelor Shit: “It’s heartbreaking. … I poured myself into every little bit of this and she had stronger connections with everyone else. It hurts, because I put everything into it.” But that wasn’t all: The next day, Andrew returned, stopping at Katie’s hotel room because, as he put it, “it would be a terrible shame if I’d left this place with us not having a smile on our faces.”
Andrew and Katie proceeded to have a conversation that mostly repeated previously established points—she had stronger connections, he was sad about that because his connection was “real”—but that also allowed Andrew to lavish praise on Katie and thus look like the most upstanding gentleman to ever upstand. But that wasn’t all: Exiting the hotel room, Andrew left Katie with a note that said, “If you change your mind … I’ll be waiting.” That sent Katie reeling. Running through the hotel, extremely shoeless, she finally tracked down Andrew and leapt into his arms while music swelled. “If there’s a way to stay a little longer, would you want to?” she asked, clearly having changed her mind. But despite having just written a note about being there if this exact scenario were to ever play out, Andrew turned down the offer, opting instead to officially close the book on the relationship and go out like a respectable lad, still on a quest for love.
Michael’s departure on Monday wasn’t nearly as cinematic. Wracked by guilt when his son over FaceTime said, “Maybe daddy left because he don’t want to see me,” Michael made the (definitely correct) decision to cut his time on the show short and head back home to be with his kid. It was an emotional goodbye—Katie professed that she saw a future with Michael, and she once again walked into a hotel hallway without shoes or socks on. For his part, Michael said pretty amazing things like, “I’m not leaving because of us, I’m leaving because my son needs his dad” and, “You taught me how to love again.” It all culminated with Katie’s eyeliner running like in that famous GIF of Lauren Conrad crying.
By the end of Monday’s “Men Tell All,” which put a bow on Andrew’s and Michael’s Bachelor Edits by highlighting yet again how unbelievably lovable the former is and that things are definitely over between Katie and the latter, you’re left with two impressions. One is of a man who is charming, funny, and easy to like; a man with a penchant for rom-com operatics and speaking in a bad British accent; a man whom you probably wouldn’t mind watching have conversations with 30 different women. The other is of an incredibly sweet and kind man who persevered through the death of his wife, who put his own needs aside to raise a child as a suddenly widowed father; a man who was brave enough to tell his story, which brought an entire house of dudes to tears; a man who, after suffering through so much tragedy, had the grace to say something like, “What a gift to be able to fall in love twice.”
There’s a difference between the impressions of Andrew and Michael. The things we know and think and feel about Andrew have been messaged to us by a TV show, by The Edit. The overly dramatic sequence after he was dumped is the most obvious evidence, but all season long the show has made deliberate choices to portray Andrew a certain way. (This despite the resurfacing of Andrew’s old, offensive tweets, which the show has also made a choice to not address.) The things we know about Michael, on the other hand, are simply incontrovertible facts. His tragedy, and his amazing response to it, would be undeniable no matter how The Bachelorette depicted it.
So as to the question of who’s getting a better Bachelor Edit, the answer is more so that only Andrew is actually getting one. Michael is set up as an ideal candidate, but the work has mostly been done by him being who he is. The show’s efforts, meanwhile, seem to have been disproportionately dedicated to the guy in the other corner. And all that trying can’t be for nothing—next January, we’ll probably be hearing a lot of that bad British accent.