Colton jumped over the fence. Finally. The Bachelor had spent so much time this season promoting the fence jump that every week in which Colton didn’t jump over a fence felt like a betrayal of trust.
Bachelor fans are used to this. Every year, the show will highlight a seemingly dramatic moment and spend all season beating it into our heads, only to reveal that the moment wasn’t that dramatic at all. They’ll show promos of an ambulance pulling up to The Bachelor mansion over audio of people screaming, then in the episode with the ambulance it turns out that a guy just fell out of his bunk bed.
I was ready for the fence jump to be a disappointment. I was ready to be duped. Which is why I was surprised when The Jump turned out to be the climax of one of the best, most stunning episodes in Bachelor history. (This episode of The Bachelor was so good that it has me talking like Chris Harrison.)
Monday night’s episode was the second-to-last of the season, which, according to Bachelor formula, is the fantasy suites episode. The gist here is that the Bachelor and three women go to a foreign country, go on one date apiece, and then have the choice to spend the night in the “fantasy suite”—where the cameras leave them alone for a night to do whatever they want. (What they want is sex.) It seemed like the primary drama of Monday night’s episode would be about Colton potentially losing his much-discussed virginity—another plot point that has been the central focus of Bachelor marketing this season. And the episode started off as planned: The squad went to Portugal, Colton talked at length about whether he might lose his virginity, and then he went on a nondescript date with Tayshia before retiring to the fantasy suite, where they spent the night together and decided not to have sex.
But the script was flipped during Colton’s date with Cassie. Things started well—really well, actually, as Colton seemed way more smitten with Cassie than anybody else. Amid makeout sessions on side streets and impromptu dance parties with old Portuguese people, Colton spoke at length about how Cassie made him feel “complete,” about how he wanted the rest of his life with Cassie, about how he was in love with her. The guy who’s the Bachelor really isn’t supposed to say this stuff yet—this was the second-to-last episode, buddy, you’re spoiling the finale!
BUT THEN. After the date, Cassie returned to her hotel room, where she got a surprise visit from her dad—who, in the last episode, had advised Cassie that things with Colton were moving too fast and refused to give Colton permission to marry her. In the hotel room, Cassie got caught up on the way her dad described his relationship with her mom. He said that he never felt any doubt that Cassie’s mom was the right woman for him and that he knew instantly that he wanted to be with her forever. It was a conversation that watered the seeds of doubt Cassie already felt with regard to Colton. Cassie explained that while she cared about Colton, she lacked the clarity her dad described and that she didn’t feel the same overwhelming love she had hoped to feel. She knew she wouldn’t be sure enough about her relationship with Colton to accept his proposal in two weeks’ time and made up her mind to leave the show.
Colton, meanwhile, walked into the dinner portion of his date with Cassie excited about the woman he was in love with—an illusion Cassie quickly shattered. Within a few minutes, Colton was desperately trying to save his relationship with Cassie using whatever lines he could think of: He told Cassie he loved her, and wanted to be with her, and not with the two other women on the show. He told Cassie that if she was feeling rushed by the timeline of the show, he didn’t need to propose to her in the season finale. He told Cassie that even if she left the show, he’d continue trying to fight to win her over. Colton wept and literally began uncontrollably shaking because he was so distraught in his attempts to win her back. But it was all useless. She mostly stared into the distance while the man she was allegedly falling in love with professed his undying devotion to her. Sticking to her (dad’s) guns, she decided to leave.
And then it was fence-jumping time. Colton stripped off his microphones, grabbed his wallet, and jumped—and then he was gone. The episode closed with the Bachelor crew trying to figure out where he went—as it turns out, the fence was the world’s slowest automatic gate, and none of the cameramen were as good at jumping as former football player Colton, and by the time they got past the fence, Colton was nowhere to be found.
What comes next? I genuinely can’t fathom what will happen in the season finale. Is Colton going to spend the episode trying to win back Cassie? Is he going to put on a happy face and settle for Tayshia or Hannah, the two remaining women whom he’s made clear are less important to him than Cassie? The only thing I know is that Colton will eventually come back, because, like, he’s been on Ellen since they filmed this episode.
I often criticize The Bachelor for its rigid adherence to formula: When there are four people left, they visit hometowns! When there are three people left, time for sex! Every Bachelor fan knows that there’s such a thing as a two-on-one date, and what it means. No real relationship works like this.
But in the past two seasons, there have been critical moments that haven’t gone according to the typical formula. Last year, the finale ended not with its typical proposal, but with Arie’s decision to renege on Becca, ambushing her on camera to let her know that he was ending their engagement and restarting his relationship with runner-up Lauren. I’d argue Monday night’s episode was even more shocking than last year’s finale; Arie wasn’t the first Bachelor to change his mind at the end of the season, just the only one to film his breakup. But we’ve never really seen anything like Colton’s unusually pronounced professions of love, Cassie’s decision to ditch this late, or Colton’s attempted escape from the show.
After Monday night’s episode, I’m almost thankful for the troves of rote, predictable Bachelor seasons. After years of conditioning, The Bachelor got me to let my guard down; to believe that every seemingly exciting moment in a promo is repurposed to look more meaningful than it is; that tonight’s episode would feature three near-identical dates ending with three near-identical nights in fantasy suites, and that it would be nearly identical to every fantasy suites episode from past seasons. The Bachelor’s dedication to crafting roughly the same show every year serves as setup for the rare occasions when everything goes off-script—and those moments are some of the best reality TV has ever produced.
Best Feud: Colton vs. the Show’s Producers
There’s a moment in Colton’s talk with Cassie when she reveals she just spoke to her dad in her hotel room, and you can see the wheels start turning inside his head. The Bachelor is a highly controlled environment, which Colton knows, having been both a contestant and the lead. You can’t just call up your parents and have them meet you at the hotel where you’re staying. The show’s producers have final say over who comes and goes. So even if Cassie’s dad made his own spur-of-the-moment decision to book a flight from Los Angeles to Portugal, he would’ve needed The Bachelor’s permission to actually meet her.
Colton realized what happened: The show’s producers knew that Cassie’s dad had been the biggest roadblock in their relationship thus far, and booked him a flight to rile up some drama in an otherwise pristine relationship. In an instant Colton connected the dots and understood that if that’s the way things went down, the people behind the cameras were plotting against him, actively trying to impede his relationship with Cassie.
Once that clicked, all bets were off. Over the course of 10 or 15 minutes, Colton said three things that the Bachelor is absolutely not allowed to say, things that imperil the very premise of the show.
- Colton told Cassie he cares only about her, he loves only her, and that he wants to continue his relationship with her after the show ends. She was taken aback by this—“how can you say that with two other women here?”—but Colton continually made it clear that he was done with the game and with pretending to care about the other two contestants.
- Colton let Cassie know that if the show’s time frame wasn’t working out for her, he didn’t have to propose to her at the end of the season. The Bachelor hasn’t always ended with an engagement—in fact, seven of the first 11 seasons ended without one—but at this point, it’s practically a requirement. Dating back to 2007, 21 of the past 22 seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have ended with a proposal, with the one outlier being Juan Pablo’s season, also known as the season every single person who watched absolutely hated. And now, Colton is saying he basically doesn’t care about a proposal, so long as he gets a shot with Cassie.
- And now, the biggest sin—bigger than downgrading Tayshia and Hannah, bigger than downplaying the importance of a proposal. Colton told Cassie that even if she left the show, he wanted to pursue her. Sure, these are all things that Colton would say if he was really in love with Cassie, and hypothetically, this show is about finding love. But we all know that’s not the real purpose of this show—it’s about making 10 fun television episodes. Sure, Colton, if you’re in love with Cassie, the right thing to do is to end the show, move to L.A., and fight for her. But Colton, we can’t make money off you going on dates in real life! Colton’s promise to keep going after Cassie no matter what not only pushes his relationship with her outside the realm of marketable TV, it also invalidates basically whatever happens in the final episode. Even if he does settle for Tayshia or Hannah, we’ll know it’s not real.
When Cassie still decided it was time for her to go, Colton tried to escape the show. He grabbed something from his room (a wallet? A passport?) and tried to go where he can’t be seen or heard, stripping off his microphones and outracing the cameras over a wall. In that moment, he decided that whatever his next move was, it wouldn’t be a part of this show. He wasn’t going to let them capture the hurt they just created.
I found myself rooting for Colton in his battle against the show. But we already know he lost. We know he took part in a publicity tour for the show and that he tweets about every episode. He’ll be featured Tuesday night on the Women Tell All special! And there will be a finale, presumably with Colton in it. I don’t know whether Colton will get Cassie back, but I do know that even if Colton won the battle and got away from those cameras for a few minutes or hours or days, he eventually lost the war.
Also, as hard as I pulled for Colton, I did watch this show on television. Just by tuning in, we have already sided with the people monetizing Colton’s heartbreak over the poor dweeb trying to outrun cameramen and disappear into the Portuguese night—and you already know what you’re going to be doing next Monday night.
Best Performance: Chris Harrison
In the past, we’ve talked about how Chris Harrison basically does nothing on The Bachelor. Despite a cushy salary, he sometimes takes entire episodes off, and even when he does show up, it’s often just to say, “This is the final rose!” at the rose ceremony, as if viewers can’t identify what one rose looks like.
But Monday night, the guy actually did something. For some reason, Chris instantly assumed lead detective duties when Colton disappeared. I thought this would be a bad idea, but somehow, Chris filled his impromptu sleuthing role pretty well. He’s the one who eventually figured out how to get past the gate, and smartly guessed that the cameramen should follow the noise of barking dogs in the night. I probably wouldn’t have thought of this in the panicked moment, but of course those dogs are hollering because a heartbroken tight end just sprinted past them.
Furthermore, it’s clear that even when off-camera, Chris is making dramatic steps to improve himself. In the fantasy suites episode, Chris always writes a letter to the couple letting them know they’re allowed to spend the night together. (It’s unclear why, and slightly unnerving that this has to come from Chris, but just roll with it.) And for some reason, the show always films this letter, just to make sure we know that it’s real. Here’s a note Chris wrote last season to Becca and Blake:
And here’s the note Chris wrote to Colton and Tayshia on Monday night’s episode:
As you can see, Chris’s handwriting has dramatically improved over the past year. Also, he learned how to write an ampersand instead of just making a random squiggle and how to spell “forgo.” He’d struggled with that spelling for years, but it’s fixed!
Is it possible that Chris Harrison has no role in writing these notes, has never had any role in writing these notes, and that the shift in handwriting stems from different producers pretending to be Chris Harrison? No. Harrison is flush with free time and Bachelor cash, and has put in diligent work on his penmanship over the past year. With willpower like this, I have no doubt that Detective Chris will eventually track down Colton.
Biggest Letdown: Colton’s Virginity
Hey, uh, wasn’t this supposed to be The Sex Episode? Every year I watch the fantasy suites episode by sitting in front of my TV waving a big pennant that says SEX while chanting “SEX! SEX! SEX!” whenever the Bachelor smirks while closing a hotel room door on a camera crew. I was even more excited this year, because of Colton’s affirmed history of Not Boning.
And yet, no sex. Colton’s date with Tayshia had all the typical elements of a sex date—a smirk, a closed door, and a post-commercial bumper where ABC showed footage of a bird and a bee—but Colton and Tayshia confirmed that it was a sexless evening. And of course, no sex happened with Cassie, and I can’t imagine Colton has any sex in the season finale.
But more worrisome was Colton’s pre–fantasy suite admission that he feels that when the time comes, he’ll be pretty good at sex—because he’s already done lots of sex-adjacent stuff. “How hard can it be?” he says. “I’ve been very close. … I’m experienced in other ways. … I’ve pretty much done everything.” To be clear, this was Colton affirming that he has done Hand and Mouth Stuff before.
Either way, Monday night was supposed to be the episode where Colton the Virgin lost his virginity. Instead it was the episode where Colton the Guy Who Has Pretty Much Done Everything slept in a bed next to a woman. A true bummer.
Biggest Loser: Poor, Sweet Colton
Twice already this season, I’ve written about Colton’s unfortunate streak of getting dumped on this show—a show where theoretically, he should be dumping women. It was noteworthy when Elyse and Sydney left in back-to-back weeks, and Heather’s decision to leave made Colton the first Bachelor to be left by three separate contestants in the same season.
With Cassie’s departure, he’s up to four, meaning he has now been ditched by twice as many contestants as any previous Bachelor. Cassie is also just the second contestant to make the final three and then leave—before her, there was just Andi, who ditched Juan Pablo in the penultimate episode of his season. (There are a lot of statistical similarities between Colton’s and Juan Pablo’s seasons, although not many stylistic similarities, since Juan Pablo was an asshole who had definitely had sex before, while Colton is a nice virgin.) Historically, 3 percent of Bachelor contestants quit, most in the early weeks. Colton has been ditched by 13 percent of the women on the show, and 30 percent of his final 13.
But there’s a big difference between the way Elyse, Sydney, and Heather left and the way Cassie did. With the first three, it was clear Colton didn’t really care about them; honestly, that was probably why they left, with Elyse basically saying, “Hey, I hate that you take other women on dates!” to a shrugging Colton. Colton didn’t put up a fight as they walked off.
On the other hand, Colton seems to legitimately love Cassie. A lot of times, love on this show is fake, and it shows. But man, that guy loves that girl. He wasn’t doing this for TV, as you could tell from the way he volunteered to throw The Bachelor in the trash for a shot at being with Cassie. His love wasn’t for show, and neither was his heartbreak.
Most Bachelor leads are good at feigning interest in women they’re not into and hiding their feelings for the people they care about. It’s what keeps the show compelling. Colton sucks at both. He never displayed any sort of chemistry with anybody on the show except Cassie. Watching Monday night’s date with Tayshia side-by-side with his date with Cassie, there wasn’t any contest. This cost him with the first three women who left—and perhaps cost him with Cassie too. More than anything she seemed freaked out by how real Colton’s love for her was, by the depth and clarity with which he spoke about loving her. Maybe she could’ve stuck around for another week if this were just a TV show. But it was clear that Colton had somehow developed real, passionate love for her over just a few weeks of filming, and she knew she wasn’t on that level.
I don’t know what to say except that I feel awful for Colton. He’s the first Bachelor I’ve ever been sure was in love, and by default, the only one ever to get his heart broken by the person he was in love with.