Somewhere, from within the pouch of a kangaroo, a heartless ABC executive pulls out her iPhone.
“What do you mean she’s walking away? Goddamn it. Did anyone try to stop her? … Well, did anyone place Peter near a fence? What am I paying you boneheads for? Fine. I’LL HANDLE IT MYSELF.”
She hangs up the phone and pops her head outside the kangaroo’s pouch.
“Listen up, I’m not sure if you’re a tiny deer or a big-ass bunny, but I need you to get me across town. I paid for the whole hour but I’m not going to fucking use it because these two aspiring country music video stars are completely incapable of having an adult conversation about their needs. So, hop hop!”
Is there anything to say really? This all feels like the last act of Oedipus. We came in with all the information that we could have possibly needed and we all felt the tragedy coming a mile away. This is the denouement, and frankly, it’s boring and frustrating. For all of Madison’s posturing about how she won’t be judged for saving herself for marriage, she’s managed to do all of this in the most unreasonable way, leading me to believe that she hoped for a sympathetic edit and a rise to the top of the list of Bachelorette contenders, but she’s coming off a little inconsistent.
Let’s get to it.
The episode starts with Madison pulling Peter aside in the airplane hangar because we’re still in L.A., goddamn it. She says this is really the time to tell him how she’s struggling and to get things off her chest. You’d think this would be the perfect time to tell him or at least hint at the fact that she’s a virgin and saving herself for marriage. What she does do is say, “Umm … I just … Umm … I don’t even know,” when Peter asks her to clearly tell him how she’d feel if he slept with other women. She keeps repeating that it’d be really hard for her and that she doesn’t want to give him an ultimatum but in her mind, she is giving him an ultimatum. She’s telling the camera that she’d be ready and willing to walk away from her relationship with Peter.
BUT HERE’S THE THING THOUGH: She can be saving herself for marriage without requiring him to save himself for her. These things aren’t exactly related, and she’s hoping that asking for Peter’s chastity throughout the next week will explain that she’s saving herself for marriage. She’s telling him the what without telling him the how or the why.
The other thing is, Peter desperately wants to bang and he also cannot lose Madison, the woman he loves the most. This is his tragic flaw. If he were a Greek hero, a deus ex machina dressed as a giant windmill would come down from the ceiling to explain to us the tale of Peter. All of this would probably be much easier for everyone involved if Peter and Madison JUST TALKED ABOUT what the issue is. Madison wants to leave it at “actions speak louder than words,” as if that means literally anything, and Peter hopes that he’ll be able to have three nights of sex because … I don’t know … straight man?
Before we go any further, we also have to do this: You can choose to abstain from sex before marriage, before your 21st birthday, before going to Freaknik 2020, whatever. You can also choose to have as much sex as you want and livestream the whole thing and give the proceeds to Australian charities. Both of those things are fine and you should do whatever you want. Unfortunately, so much of the Evangelical Christian (and other conservative religious movements) belief about abstaining from sex is ultimately patriarchal and leads more often to the shaming and persecution of girls and women. It’s not a stretch to think that Madison is participating in what we would think of as “purity culture.” Remember when her dad referred to her as “pure” and prayed about his infant daughter’s future husband?
That kind of purity culture teaches that women shouldn’t have sexual desires, that a woman’s worth is tied to her virginity, and that, in many cases, sexual abuse is often a failure of the survivor to avoid tempting or resisting their abuser. So so so so much about “saving yourself for marriage” within a traditional religious mind-set is linked to misogyny and the patriarchy, so it’s difficult for me to listen to Madison talk about this decision as just “a set of standards she’s choosing to live by,” when that set of standards does harm to many people.
But again — so much of what Madison is obliquely demanding of Peter isn’t “Don’t ask me to have sex with you because I’m saving myself for marriage,” but “You can’t have sex in your other relationships because of choices that I’ve made.” Madison says over and over that she’s fine that they have different views and have lived their lives in different ways, but when it comes down to accepting that Peter is an adult person that has sex with other adult persons, she’s unable to do it.
If that’s the case, Madison, then yeah, you need to go home. Peter and Madison are two people with completely incompatible sets of foundational beliefs.
The other tell is that when the time comes for Madison to finally explain to Peter that she’s saving herself for marriage, she begins to list grievances and sacrifices that she’s made, as a contestant on a game show, for him. If you have a problem with someone you’re interested in kissing other people, DON’T GO ON THE BACHELOR and certainly don’t wait until you’re in the top three to bring it up! I’m getting carried away here.
Okay. Okay. Victoria F. and Hannah Ann are also in Australia. Peter’s date with Hannah Ann is completely unremarkable. He’s totally smitten by her because she’s completely uncomplicated and has devoted her every waking moment to reassuring him that all his decisions are correct and he has no reason to doubt himself or her.
The truly remarkable and diabolical thing about this episode is that the producers have decided that the women are going to share a hotel suite for the Fantasy Suite dates. Whoever made this decision should be given a raise and then promptly shot into the moon because, holy shit, this is amazing and terrible. We’ve all dated someone who was actively texting someone else while we were lying naked next to them. Imagine if you had to stay in an Airbnb with those people? This allows ample opportunity for the ladytestants to chat about how difficult it is to watch someone else go on a date with Peter and try to pinpoint exactly where in the date the other ladytestant is, and then have to pivot when someone walks in.
“Y’know, honestly, if Peter is in bed with Victoria F. right now, I don’t even know why I’m he — Heyyyyyyy love! You look sooooooo skinny.” I would scream and let a great white shark eat me if I had to compliment another woman when she came back from sleeping with the guy I was sleeping with.
Before the episode fully dives into Madison’s tendency to jump out of her chair, pace, and stare out a window, we’ve got Victoria F.’s date to contend with.
Y’know when you talk to your friend because you don’t like her new girlfriend but she keeps telling you, “But when it’s good, it’s really good”? And you’re just sitting there waiting for the entire thing to implode because your friend has taken all the red flags and sewed them into a snappy jacket? Yeah. This is like that. Peter keeps saying that this one day with Victoria is the best day they’ve had together and the only thing they need to work on is communication. Umm … that’s the whole thing, then.
Then Peter tells on himself when he finally says that Victoria has “that fire. Some people might say it’s too much, but it will never be a boring relationship.” Oh noooooo. He’s confused instability and an unreliable personality with excitement! He’s confused being manipulated as passion! He’s confused the peace and calm that comes with a consistent level of affection as boring! This is all season three Carrie Bradshaw! He decides that the best way to deal with being told Victoria has broken up multiple relationships is to not ask her about this again or ask her any follow-up questions about anything and just say he wants a fresh start! Peter, no!
Victoria F. explains her behavior by saying she was with a partner who never let her express her emotions, so when Peter does, she doesn’t trust his motives and thinks it’s a trap. Like Peter, she doesn’t have the insight to realize that she learned how to manipulate a partner in a relationship and her distrust manifests in extreme paranoia and hostility when questioned. She probably views herself as some tragic figure who is a shrinking violet in the face of conflict but instead … she’s the conflict. She jokes to Peter at one point, “We haven’t fought yet!” Peter, no! Run!
Peter heads to bed with both Hannah Ann and Victoria F. because of course this dummy did, and when Madison tells him that she couldn’t handle him having sex with someone else then getting engaged to her six days later — but that’s not an ultimatum though — he tells her that he had sex with someone else. What needs to happen is Madison needs to say, “These are my expectations” (even if those expectations seem to conflict with some of her other words and actions), and Peter needs to say, “These are my expectations and what I’m expected to do as the Bachelor on this television program.” Then these two fools would realize that their expectations can’t be met in the other person. Then they would have a calm and reasonable breakup.
Instead, Madison gets up from the table and heads outside to cry. Peter eventually follows her and holds her head in his hands. The kangaroos are watching. Madison says that she’s hurt and disappointed. Her feelings are her feelings but, and I cannot stress this enough, she’s on a game show where Peter is expected to do this, had expressed he wanted to have the fantasy suites, and offered no promise that he would do what she wanted. He never said he would. He never said he wouldn’t. You could say that he has dodged the question with her in other moments, but she decided that Peter was going to do this without really consulting with him to see if it was possible or realistic.
Then Peter gives the whole game away when he tells Madison that he can’t lose her. He can see their forever and she can’t walk away. He likes her the most and her leaving would be the manifestation of him loving someone more than she loves him and abandoning him. Oedipus has married his mother. Antigone is in the cave. Madison is walking away.