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‘The Bachelor’ Recap: Madison Takes the Fantasy Out of Fantasy Suites

Peter is a man who rose to prominence after a strong showing (technically, four strong showings) during last season’s Fantasy Suites date on ‘The Bachelorette.’ Which is why Madison’s request that he refrain from the main portion of the Fantasy Suites dates caused so many problems.

ABC/Ringer illustration

The infamous Fantasy Suites episode of The Bachelor is really important to Peter, and honestly, I get it. Not so long ago, Peter was a forgettable, handsome guy cruising along in the background of a reality TV show before an overnight date allowed him to make a better impression—four times.

On the last season of The Bachelorette, Peter was clearly the fourth-most-notable contestant of the remaining four—fans, and the season’s story lines, were much more focused on Tyler, the hunky feminist; Luke, the Bible thumper who also seemed interested in thumping his fellow contestants; and Jed, the Southern songster who stole (and lost) Alabama Hannah’s heart. Peter hadn’t been a part of any major story lines or spent any particularly memorable time with Hannah. He was just kind of hanging on—and was probably lucky that Hannah made the unprecedented move of bringing four men to Fantasy Suites week instead of three.

Because that’s where he finally made his mark. After a fairly normal Bachelor date during the day, Peter and Hannah were guided to a room inside a Greek windmill, in which there was a bed and a seemingly unnecessary amount of condoms. The next morning, Hannah emerged with a massive smile and compared Peter’s lovemaking to that of Zeus. (Zeus never struck me as a particularly caring sexual partner, but I digress.) Her night of passion with Peter took on even more importance when Luke demanded that Hannah refrain from sex with any other contestants, allowing her to reveal that she had already had sex with Peter—four times! Luke went down in flames, while the reports of Peter’s sexual prowess propelled him from unmemorable character to leading contender for the next Bachelor. The Sex Episode was Peter’s star-maker.

Now the lead on The Bachelor, Peter is clearly revved up for Fantasy Suites. He spent all season weeding out women who made him laugh, women with interesting lives, and women who like spending time with him in favor of the three women he apparently most wanted to have sex with. But just as he’s about to embark on this sexual excursion (sexcursion), there’s a twist: Madison, a devout Christian, is not going to have sex before marriage. Even worse, she pulls Peter aside to request that he refrain from having sex with the other contestants, as well. From the moment Peter understands what Madison is asking—to not use the Fantasy Suites to fulfill all of his fantasies—his face drops.

After nodding along and allowing Madison to specifically explain what she’s asking of him, Peter completely ignores her request. He never mentions Madison’s qualms to either of the remaining women, and doesn’t think twice about having sex with them. Instead, he reenacts that scene from Titanic with Hannah Ann:

ABC

We don’t get a shot of Peter and Victoria getting it on, but the morning after, they are seen in bed smiling together—possibly for the first time after months of pouting, crying, and yelling. Sex: It makes people smile!

Then comes the reckoning: Madison and Peter have their date last, and after he’s reminded about her no-sex request. Peter admits that yes, he did have sex with someone else, and apologizes to her. She walks away from their dinner, and the episode ends.

Knowing what we know about Peter, it makes sense that he ignored Madison’s request. Peter thought it was well within his rights to have sex with everybody who wanted to, and probably thought of himself as benevolent for doing so—remember when he had sex with Hannah and she actually started to acknowledge him? He probably figured that not having sex would be a miscarriage of his duties and go against the Bachelor Process he’s so sure works. If the sex is good, he could even make one of these women into the star of the next season of The Bachelorette! He probably also remembers how Luke’s attempt to get Hannah to refrain from sex with other contestants went: Luke got axed and the world cheered; Hannah became an icon for her passionate defense of her right to have sex with whoever she wanted.

Of course, while both were essentially asking the same things, the tenor of Luke’s ultimatum and Madison’s plea were totally different. Luke came off like a regressive troglodyte demanding control over a woman’s body. Madison acknowledged that Peter had all the power in the situation, but begged him to make the right choice. Luke was an angry boyfriend, and angry boyfriends suck. Madison was a girlfriend plaintively pleading for some respect, and it’s hard not to feel for her.

That said, I still think Madison was probably out of line to apply real-world logic to the world of The Bachelor. When you sign up to appear on The Dating 30 People Show with the Four-Time Windmill Sex Guy, you have to know what you’re getting into. And while Madison obviously has the right to control what happens to her own body, it gets murky when she tells Peter how to handle his other relationships. But Peter still comes across looking like he misplayed the situation. He thought he’d be hailed for treating Madison’s demand the same way Hannah treated Luke’s; instead he looks like a jerk for ignoring the girl he seemingly likes the most. He thought he was on TV to be the Sex Guy—in the coming weeks, we’ll see whether that misconception has consequences.

Cruelest Producer Move: The Three-Room Villa

The drama of the early weeks of The Bachelor stems from the fact that the show’s contestants are lumped together in a massive house. Put 30 hot, fame-seeking people in the same house and let the cameras roll and before long, smoothie ingredients will be flying. For as long as reality TV has existed, this formula has worked.

Toward the end of a Bachelor season, though, the romance is supposed to be the driving plot line of the show. Typically, when it gets down to four contestants, no one has to be roommates anymore. The hometown dates take place in different cities; the Fantasy Suites dates take place in different locations; even the final rose ceremony takes place without the remaining contestants having to interact, so one doesn’t have to watch the other get proposed to.

On Monday night’s episode, though, the show decided to ditch tradition. Each of the three remaining women arrives in Australia to find they’re actually still staying in the same house together. And naturally, the episode is filled with prolonged silences and awkward conversations, especially when it becomes clear that Madison is exasperated by the thought of other people having sex with Peter. I’m pretty confident the show just wanted to capitalize on the awkwardness of Madison’s situation, although I can’t rule out the premise that separate hotel rooms in Australia were prohibitively expensive.

Either way, I’m not sure the gambit actually worked. Reality TV drama is more enjoyable when it’s petty. It’s hilarious to watch wannabe Instagram celebrities accuse each other of varying levels of fakeness, but we don’t want to see people whose hearts are actually on the line go at each other. It was mostly just upsetting to see Madison cry because she realized the guy she’s in love with doesn’t care about her enough to put his dick away.

This Week’s “Did You Know Peter Is a Pilot” Moment (DYKPIAPM)

Peter shares a helicopter ride with Victoria, which could have been a massive failure by the show’s producers. After a season featuring two dates in which Peter piloted planes, one airport-themed date, one romantic dinner in an airplane hangar, and one rose ceremony in an airplane hangar, the chopper date seemingly allowed no opportunity for the show to point out that Peter is a pilot. Helicopters are an entirely different form of aerial transportation!

Don’t worry, though—Peter manages to sneak it in there. After landing, Peter and Victoria talk about how cool the helicopter ride was, and Victoria reveals it was her first-ever helicopter ride. Peter then asks whether she liked flying in a helicopter more than flying in a plane, and she answers that she still prefers planes.

“Good answer!” Peter says with a smile. The viewing audience could have temporarily forgotten that Peter’s job is flying planes, but luckily, Victoria did not.

Least Camera Time: Hannah Ann

One thing we’ve learned about Peter is that he apparently believes “struggle = love.” Normally, people like to spend time with those who make them laugh or smile or feel happy. Not Peter, who once heard that love is about conquering obstacles and then decided to seek out all the women who present the most obstacles.

This presents a big problem for Hannah Ann, the contestant who earned the very first rose Peter gave out on the season’s first episode and has cruised through a relatively uneventful season. She did cry in front of Peter once—“This is what I want to see,” Peter told her as she wept. And she did break down and begin ugly crying in private after receiving a rose from Peter—normally something that happens to people who have just been eliminated. But for the most part, she has sped through the process with ease, becoming the first person to tell Peter that she loved him and the first person whom Peter told he loved.

So what happens on Hannah Ann’s dates with Peter? Not a whole lot. I honestly can’t tell you much about Hannah Ann’s personality, or what Hannah Ann and Peter talk about. They both wrote each other page-length lists of things they love about one another; I could write just one sentence about them together: “They are both very pretty and nonconfrontational.”

On Monday night’s episode, Hannah Ann gets the first date with Peter—not a good sign, as the first date is always the least dramatic because the episode needs to end with a climax. The date lasts for 15 minutes and 30 seconds of air time (including an extended scene featuring Victoria and Madison talking back at the hotel). Hannah Ann doesn’t even get the traditional “morning after” scene where a happy couple eats breakfast and jokes with one another about the night before. (Another tradition broken: Instead of the typical shot of a bird and a bee following a fantasy suite, The Bachelor showed a bird and a koala, because the episode was filmed in Australia. It’s not as catchy, but I think “the birds and the koalas” is a good sex metaphor too.) By comparison, Victoria’s date lasts for 21 minutes, and Madison’s lasts for 27 minutes. Roughly the same thing happened in last week’s hometowns episode: Hannah Ann’s date was first and lasted about 14 minutes, compared with 18 minutes for Madison and 24 minutes for Victoria.

Maybe there is something more happening on Hannah Ann’s dates, but if there is, The Bachelor isn’t showing it to us. The more likely explanation—especially this late in the game—is that the dates are duds, neither Peter nor Hannah Ann has much to talk about, and nothing of consequence is happening. For most of the season, I’ve assumed Hannah Ann would coast to victory—but if she’s going to win, wouldn’t The Bachelor be showing us more of her?