Listen, we could all sit here and clown on Luke. We could talk about how he looks like Bradley Cooper’s character in Wedding Crashers if that character had shrunk in the dryer. We could talk about how he’s the human equivalent of Trump T-shirts you find on the boardwalk on the Jersey Shore. We could all talk about how he looks like Joaquin Phoenix’s Emperor Commodus was the emperor of Hollister instead of ancient Rome. It’s easy as hell to clown on a dude whose Lie Generator is operating on dial-up, but really this episode is showing us two major flaws in the Bachelor franchise as it exists now. So let’s get to it.
The first issue is that THEY HAVE NO FOOTAGE. There is no footage this season. Someone name another story line. It’s the “Men Tell All” special and we only heard one man tell all. The fact that the “Men Tell All” special had to absorb, like, 12 minutes of the last episode and not even give us the rose ceremony means they must need to stretch this damn thing out. When Chris Harrison said, “Let’s hit the pause button,” he had the same energy as a teacher who just didn’t want to start the next unit in the textbook. Sure, kids, we could learn the next two phases of mitosis, but your teacher is just a little hungover today, so you’re gonna get what you’re gonna get. Why don’t we all just … color in some cell diagrams and finish this all on Monday.
Just give us one rose ceremony per episode. That’s all we’re asking for.
And when it comes to the “Men Tell All” special, just give us something — anything. They couldn’t scrape together another package on literally any of the other men besides John Paul Jones. John Paul Jones? Name one thing about John Paul Jones. Don’t say “nuggets.” None of us knew he liked nuggets before this moment. Those nuggets were for Hannah and we all know it. It was sweet that Mike got a full video package since he is the rightful heir to the Bachelor throne. He was the only one they were able to carve out an emotional arc for that didn’t involve him gaslighting and manipulating the lead.
So, what are we left with? The realization that The Bachelorette put all its narrative eggs in the Luke basket. They thought that their best bet to get drama was to throw an Evangelical grenade into the middle of the mansion and just let Luke do what Luke’s gonna do. But that realization leads to the next big issue with the season: The Bachelorette chose to expose Hannah to someone who is misogynistic, cruel, judgmental, and has the capacity for angry outbursts, all in the name of “entertainment.” Luke wouldn’t be able to know where they were filming the rose ceremony on his own. Luke wouldn’t be able to rent a van in Crete. Luke wouldn’t be able to find whatever sad, non–Neil Lane engagement ring he could get all the way in Crete without the help of production. I’m 30 years old and pretty smart and hiring a van service is completely exhausting. You expect me to believe that Luke, who takes 13 full seconds to answer a yes or no question, was able to arrange all of that on his own?
And what do we get out of it? “The most dramatic season ever?” If you call a woman having to confront her own tendency to accept and even embrace toxic behavior “dramatic.” There is a universe where the show is able to deftly and expertly interrogate how it perpetuates harmful tropes about a man’s refusal to take no for an answer. It is not the show where John Paul Jones throws fistfuls of nuggets into the crowd of people wearing windmill T-shirts. It is certainly not the show that ends with Hannah looking into the camera and apologizing for Luke.
Girl. There is no need to apologize for keeping Luke around. We’ve all been 24 and thought a guy would change. I thought if I just worked hard enough that Steve would stop flirting with the waitress at the vegan restaurant even though he knew I wasn’t vegan and as if being forced to drink a nondairy milkshake wasn’t insult enough. But the show clearly thought that just letting Hannah send Luke home at the rose ceremony wasn’t enough. She had to apologize for her poor judgment instead. If every woman had to sit and apologize directly to camera for dating an idiot for an extended period of time, we would not get a single thing done and there would be no time to air Great British Baking Show.
So let’s highlight where Hannah and the contesticles got things right. The biggest moment was Hannah picking up the rose ceremony table and just moving it away from Luke. Hannah hit him with the “Fuck You Thought.” Jed, Peter, and Tyler move in to surround Luke and they are all ready to catch a charge just for the chance to throw Luke into the Aegean Sea. (What sea is Crete in?) When Luke said, “Put your hands on me again,” and Tyler said, “Or what,” Luke looked up at him and realized for the first time in his pathetic life that he is a li’l smol boy and Tyler is a thicc giant. The fear in his eyes glittered like the moon on the sea. It inspired me. I want to bottle that look that Luke gave Tyler and spritz it on my pillow to drift off to sleep. Peter and Jed just kept asking Luke how many more noes he wants to get.
Because he simply cannot help himself, Jed makes his moment all about himself and says that he knows that Hannah has finally listened to him and how he’s been waiting for this. Peter says he’s proud of Hannah for sticking up for herself and … seeing what all the guys have been seeing. Oh hell. These guys continue to view this whole Luke thing as a reflection of themselves and their judgment because this is all about them, apparently. Just cut to Tyler in that suit again and let me drift gently into sleep.
When it comes time for the other guys to confront Luke during the “Men Tell All” special, they use pithy, rhyming slogans about consent to get applause from the audience. They’re like consent’s hype men. “When I say ‘NO!’ You say ‘MEANS NO!’” Devin comes out before all the other men appear to tell Luke that he’s not a man because he would prefer a woman he could control, and Mike tells Luke that his future wife would be a prisoner in his home. Mike also says because none of Luke’s behavior has changed, no one can accept his apology.
As someone who is dealing with a family member who simply does not understand that an apology without any change in behavior is meaningless, this really hit me where I live. The problem with Luke isn’t just that he believes in using his religion to control women, but also that he is completely incapable of seeing the difference between identifying your flaws and actually doing something about them. He’s one of those guys who doesn’t text you for nine days and then texts you, “OMG. I’m the wooooooooorst! U up?” That’s not the same thing as acknowledging the impact of your actions and committing to change and then changing.
For some unknown reason, Matteo decides to sort of … defend Luke … for being … stressed? And socially isolated? As the result of being an asshole?
When Hannah finally joins the conversation, Chris tries to get her to have a nuanced conversation about how her religion influenced her feelings about Luke and she basically says she was insecure enough starting her journey that she latched onto the first guy that showed her any positive attention. Oh, honey.
Hannah can tell Luke that any man she would be in a relationship with wouldn’t use her religion against her and wouldn’t put conditions and limits on his love for her. That message would have been helpful and would have counteracted some of the harmful tropes this season. I understand that it takes time for someone to find those words and that security in yourself. Maybe one day when The Bachelorette is old enough to rent a car, she’ll be able to find those words a little easier.