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‘The Bachelor’ Recap: It Ain’t Over Until Air Supply Sings

Colton breaks the formula, maybe finds love (and intercourse?), and also forces ABC to get very creative in filling airtime

Colton and Cassie hugging in ‘The Bachelor’ ABC

They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and Colton’s 36-inch vertical has apparently proved that. Somehow, his decision to vault over an 8-foot-high fence in Portugal and the entire format of The Bachelor paid off.

Last week, Cassie broke up with Colton, who desperately confessed his love for her and sprinted off into the Portuguese night when he couldn’t win her back. It was one of the best episodes The Bachelor has ever aired. Tuesday night’s conclusion was slightly less compelling, but it was unique, as for the first time in the show’s history, the finale consisted of the Bachelor trying to convince a woman to stay with him, rather than multiple women trying to convince the Bachelor to pick them.

Colton had a clear-headed conversation with Cassie, explained to her that he truly loved her, that he’d dumped the show’s other finalists, and wanted to take their relationship at her pace. They went to Mallorca—the hotel rooms were already booked, why not—and decided to give their relationship a shot. The show ended with the happy couple emerging from a cocoon to reveal they’re still together, and Cassie saying she loves Colton. (We can cross Cassie off the list, but Colton is still the most dumped Bachelor in the show’s history.)

In the history of this beautiful and stupid show, this was the most sensible ending to a season ever. Typically, this episode would’ve featured the show’s Bachelor introducing two women to his family, going on dates with both, looking forlorn and tortured while standing on a cliff, then luring both to a romantic spot where he would explain to one that their relationship was over and propose to the other.

This is not normal. Most people do not fall in love by telling two people they might get proposed to, flipping a coin, and choosing the hotter one. Colton made a smart decision to buck the format, get rid of the two women he didn’t care about, and make it clear to Cassie that he was more interested in pursuing a successful relationship than sticking to the show’s rigid and rushed timeline. This is Season 23 of The Bachelor, and the first 22 seasons have resulted in just one lasting couple between a Bachelor and the winner of the season. That’s a 4.5 percent success rate. The Colton method has a much higher chance of working out in the long run and hopefully shows anybody looking to The Bachelor for romantic advice that there are ways to find love besides forcing 30 people to live in a mansion and having someone systematically eliminate them over the course of 12 dramatic weeks. (Note: There are also two existing couples between former Bachelors who changed their mind and decided to pursue the woman who finished second on their season, which further proves that ditching the format to follow love is a good sign for a lasting relationship.)

I just have this one nagging suspicion: What if, uh … what if Cassie is, just, like, uh, how do I say this … not actually that into this? Just last week, Cassie told Colton that she loved him but wasn’t in love with him. She didn’t like breaking up with him, because Colton’s a great guy and it was clear she was breaking his heart, but she did it anyway, because she felt she needed to. A few days later, that guy came back to let her know he threw a multimillion-dollar TV franchise under a bus to pursue her love. What was she gonna do, say no?

I do think that Colton and Cassie have a better shot at success than the average Bachelor couple. But when I say they have a better shot at success than the average Bachelor couple, I’m saying their chance at success is higher than 4.5 percent. I just wouldn’t be surprised if Cassie also realized there’s green grass over that fence too.

Most Awkward Moment: Colton’s Family Reunion

It’s hard to pick the most awkward moment in this episode, because Colton really tested the limits of awkwardness here. Let’s see: There was the time Colton had to kick out Bachelor crew members who had, for some reason, infiltrated their fantasy suite; the time Colton made a joke about how he was worried his singing would make Cassie “leave again” roughly three days after she decided to take him back; the 1,700 times Chris Harrison brought up Colton’s virginity when nobody was thinking about it.

But somehow, Colton surpassed all of those in roughly 15 seconds of interaction with people he hypothetically should be familiar with: his own family. Let’s break down the least-natural 50 seconds in people-greeting-relatives history.

  1. Colton walks onto a porch area where his parents and siblings are gathered. Upon seeing them, he exclaims, “my family!” I have run 10,000 simulations of what I would say if, after three months, I was allowed to interact with my parents and siblings for the first time, and in approximately zero of them did I say, “my family!” If someone sees their family and says, “my family!,” it’s a pretty good sign they have been killed by an alien who is now using their corpse to infiltrate human society, but isn’t quite sure how humans interact with each other.
  2. Colton decides to start his conversation with his family by dropping some big news: He has lost his virginity. This is pretty weird, because most people don’t call family gatherings to let them know about having sex. In fact, nobody has ever done this, because nobody feels obligated to keep their parents directly updated on their sex-haver status. I could have 11 kids and if my mom asked me, “Hey, Rodger, have you ever had sex?” I would reflexively shout “NO!,” sprint out of the room, open the Uber app, type in “the fucking moon,” and hop into the first car that drove up. However, Colton seems to think his parents actively want to know his sex-haver status, as evidenced by last season, when he pulled his mother aside to have a conversation and she described it as “not a mother-son conversation.” This time doesn’t go that much better: His dad immediately blurts out that he’d prefer it if Colton kept some things private.
  3. Colton then reveals that he hasn’t lost his virginity—the announcement was a joke. Now they’re not only weirded out, thinking about their close family member boning, but they’re also disappointed. Awkward chuckles abound, and one of Colton’s brothers seems to have lost a bet.

Colton makes it clear throughout the episode that his family is his rock, and that he values and trusts their advice and kinship. However, I’m not sure he’s actually ever spoken to any of them.

Least Satisfying Climax: Colton’s Virginity

I don’t really care whether Colton has had sex. I did enjoy Colton’s perpetual lack of clarity on when and where to discuss his virginity—I will never forget the mom conversation, or the time he pulled Chris Harrison aside to ask whether he was legally obligated to have sex during the fantasy suites episode. I also enjoyed Colton’s apparent confusion on how to take the next step with women—by my count, he had four clothed in-bed makeout sessions with women this season, with his dress shoes scuffing up the blankets and everything. And I definitely enjoyed Colton’s occasional attempts to prove he’s not a weirdo because he hasn’t had sex. We all remember the time he turned to the camera and shouted, “I HAVE DONE BOTH HAND STUFF AND MOUTH STUFF, AND ENJOYED BOTH.” But it’s really not a big deal. As much as I enjoyed laughing at Colton’s occasional discomfort with his well-reasoned personal choice, people aren’t defined by whether they’ve had sex.

However, I just watched 11 episodes of The Colton Sex Journey. From the jump, The Bachelor hyped up Colton’s virginity, through promos, through ads, through in-episode gags, with both Colton and the women chasing him frequently making puns and taking jabs at his virginity. They might as well have subtitled the season The Bachelor: Highway to the Bone Zone? Even in Tuesday night’s finale, Chris Harrison repeatedly asked the audience whether Colton would lose his virginity, even when we were much more interested in whether Cassie would take Colton back.

At one point in Tuesday night’s finale, Harrison asked whether Colton would “find the love of his life, or remain a virgin forever,” which, honestly, do not seem like the only two choices:

And … technically, we never found out. It was heavily implied that Cassie and Colton did something physical during their night in a fantasy suite; ABC hit us with the age-old “shot of a bee, then a shot of a bird” coming back from a commercial break after we left them alone in their hotel room, which for some reason symbolizes sex even though birds and bees notably do not have sex with each other. But Colton refused to tell, claiming his prior openness about his lack of sex stemmed from the fact that it was a personal choice, and that now sex (or lack thereof) is a shared choice with Cassie.

And you know what: He’s right, and his reasoning is sound. If Colton and Cassie are happy together without, you know [does that thing kids do where they make a circle with one hand and stick their other pointer finger through it], that’s fine. It’s possible to have a loving, physically intimate relationship without literal intercourse, although I recommend doing more than Heather did in that eight-month relationship where she didn’t kiss her supposed boyfriend.

But come on! Did The Bachelor really know we weren’t going to get a defining answer on the sex question and still spend an entire season talking about it? If so, I want my money back. (Wait, this was free? Why do I feel like I’ve paid so much?)

Episode MVP: An Anonymous Audience Hero

When Chris asked the live audience for the 400,000th time “Is our Bachelor still a virgin?” one meek but very real voice piped up and exclaimed, “Yes!”

My guess: She’s right.

Biggest Surprise: Hannah B.

I was modestly surprised by the announcement that Hannah B., this season’s seventh-place finisher, was named the star of the next season of The Bachelorette. Not because I don’t like Hannah—if anything, she was my second-favorite contestant behind Demi—but because, well, Hannah finished in seventh. In the first 14 seasons of The Bachelorette, every single Bachelorette finished fourth or better on the previous season of The Bachelor, including three women who were proposed to but later dumped, and three women who placed second. I never considered Hannah to be in the running because she didn’t make it far enough. I didn’t even think she was the most likely blond Hannah from Alabama to be picked, considering Hannah G.’s evident heartbreak after finishing second.

Plus, there were other reasons it didn’t seem like she would be picked. Hannah notably feuded with Caelynn during her time on the show, and the entire feud was strangely edited. It was explained that Hannah and Caelynn were friends during their past time as pageant queens, but that they had a falling-out, although nobody was willing to say why. All we knew is that Hannah was the apparent aggressor, bringing Caelynn to tears through her scrutiny and shunning. The spat ended when Caelynn reached out to Hannah and proposed a truce. I was nearly certain that the show manipulated whatever actually happened to portray Hannah as the bad one in the feud and Caelynn as an innocent beauty being scapegoated by a jealous rival who finished below her in a Miss USA pageant. Combined with Caelynn’s other feud on the show—again, strangely edited so it looked like she was the victim of baseless attacks—I was convinced that she would be the next Bachelorette. Plus, she finished in fourth, crossing the threshold of importance necessary to make the big show instead of getting relegated to Bachelor in Paradise.

But somehow, Hannah B. beasted her way into the winner’s circle, yet another victory for the Crimson Tide. It’s the first time she’s ever beaten Caelynn for anything.

Biggest Loser: Fans of Words

Another reason I didn’t think Hannah would be chosen: She is notably bad at talking. This is a thing the world noticed on her first one-on-one date with Colton, in which she forgot how to say “words that are real,” “words that sound good,” and, worst of all, “real words.” It carried on all season long, as Hannah repeatedly resorted to roaring instead of engaging in actual English sentences.

I assume the show’s producers vetted Hannah thoroughly to ensure these were just rare screwups rather than consistent problems. More than anything, the stars of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have to be comfortable and nimble talkers, for both the media circuit and the show itself. In spite of his occasional awkward jokes, Colton was always skilled at coaxing his season’s contestants through any conversation that came up—even if, like Hannah, they just straight-up stopped talking.

However, judging from her performance on Tuesday night’s live show, Hannah still sometimes cannot find words that are real or words that sound good:

I’m not sure how we’re going to get through an entire season of The Bachelorette with somebody who does not know how to do conversations. But I feel for the editing staff—they have monumental work ahead of them.

Biggest Solid: Air Supply

The Bachelor producers had to be thrilled with the surprising, dramatic twist this season took at the end, but it did leave them with one problem: Typically, there are three women remaining in the second-to-last episode, and two women remaining in the final episode, meaning there are plenty of dates, several rose ceremonies, several family introductions. There’s plenty of footage to go around. At some point, Neil Lane shows up to give the Bachelor a ring.

This season, there was just one woman for the final two episodes, which left the producers short of material. Reality Steve, which chronicles the goings-on of Bachelor seasons in real time months before they air, wondered how The Bachelor would fill airtime considering producers simply had less footage to work with. (From February 6: “they are reeeeeeeallllly going to have to stretch out that fantasy suites episode.”)

This week, we found out how they were going to make just as many sandwiches with less meat. Monday night’s episode basically just consisted of Colton walking down a road at night, breaking up with Tayshia, then breaking up with Hannah, and was interspersed with roughly 45 minutes of recap footage and panel discussions of what would come next. Tuesday night’s episode was basically the same—a panel of former contestants discussed what Cassie might do in real time, we got a full half-hour of introduction to Hannah B. and five men from her season, and at one point, Chris Harrison had a conversation with Blair Waldorf. (Yes, I know she has a real name. No, I do not acknowledge it.)

And at the height of the show, after Colton and Cassie came out to discuss their relationship, we got a live, completely unnecessary performance from 1980s soft rock love balladeers Air Supply:

Thank you, Air Supply. The Bachelor has long counted on random musical acts to show up to serenade couples to conclude dates, but this time they needed somebody to show up to conclude the season, and you were … well, not perfect, because, come on, you’re Air Supply, but you got the job done.

Biggest Winners: Katie and Tayshia

Another season of The Bachelor has come and gone; 22 hours of petty drama that thrilled us in the moment and once again proved to be pointless as the Bachelor just chose the person he thought was the hottest regardless of the circumstances. So many feuds that enthralled us have vanished from our memories. Remember when Sydney and Onyeka banged pots and blew air horns in each other’s ears? They didn’t, apparently, when they served on a live panel with Chris Harrison on Tuesday night’s episode. Or when Demi got so upset with a contestant that she yelled, “DING-DONG, THE BITCH IS DEAD” when that rival got kicked off the show? Hell, I don’t even remember which contestant she was mad at. (Upon researching: “Courtney?” There was a Courtney on this show? Jesus.)

But as the show ends, I must recall one fading conflict that seems oddly prescient. When the final seven contenders went to Denver to visit Colton’s hometown, a battle royal took place, with Tayshia claiming that her friend Katie (since eliminated) had overheard Cassie and Caelynn discussing how neither was ready for marriage, and that the two may have talked about being the next Bachelorette.

At the time, it seemed like unfounded criticism. Bachelor contestants are filmed at all times, and yet there was no footage of Cassie and Caelynn’s supposed conversation. Were they brazenly lying to Colton’s face? Or had Tayshia completely fabricated a damning line of discussion that would, if true, make Colton extremely unlikely to pick either?

The world forgot about this, because Colton jumped over a fence. But in retrospect, I have to wonder whether Tayshia, who seemed like a lying liar who lied to sabotage two of her strongest rivals, was actually right about the whole thing. The final three episodes of this show ended up being about Cassie’s “readiness,” with Cassie dumping Colton because she was worried about the premise of accepting an engagement two weeks later, and eventually cautiously taking him back, under the explicit promise that they would just take things “day-by-day” rather than use formal titles or rush into an engagement for the timeline of the show. As the show ends, Cassie and Colton are the first couple in five seasons and just the second in the past 12 seasons to leave the show without an engagement.

Cassie fought the notion that she was unready for marriage, then swerved the course of the show because she was not ready for marriage, creating a compelling and unique conclusion to an excellent season of The Bachelor. However, let us not forget that two people were right about her all along. Justice for Katie and Tayshia.