Somewhere, in a hidden dark room, staring down a wall of monitors, an ABC editor wipes a bead of sweat from her brow. “No. No. There has to be a way,” she mutters under her breath as her eyes scan the screens in front of her. Her face glows blue as she watches the feed from the studio on the other side of the wall. “This has to be the most dramatic finale. The most controversial finale. No one knows how this is going to end. That fucking Chris Harrison kept repeating it and now I’ve got to be the one to make this happen.”
She rewinds and watches the same footage again. Nothing. She won’t give up until she finds something that will make this the most dramatic season finale ever. Suddenly, she feels a calm but firm hand on her shoulder. Then a voice behind her: “Go home. We’ve got it from here.” The editor turns quickly to see the determined face of an ABC executive.
“What are you talking about? We’ve got maybe 45 minutes’ worth of footage and these two walking-talking Allbirds sneakers have been watching each other’s Instagram stories but not sending heart-eyes emojis. We don’t have anything.”
“Oh, we’ve got something. We’ve got BARB.”
Let’s get to this.
Before we start, let me ask the question: Does anyone else talk about The Bachelor in therapy? My standing session is on Tuesday afternoon and almost every week, my therapist and I share our theories and revelations about the season. And this week I dropped a conspiracy that would explain everything about Peter: Peter has brought every single one of his girlfriends home to meet his parents and every single relationship has ended in unmitigated disaster. His family has been there for the first time he’s said “I love you” to no fewer than four girlfriends, and his younger brother, Jack, has driven every girlfriend home after she broke up with Peter over ropa vieja. His family was attempting to shield him from his own naivety. Peter gets swept up in his own emotion and his family has been there to pick up the pieces more than once.
The reason I’m wildly speculating about this is because it wasn’t just Barb on this train. Peter’s younger brother and his dad were also trying their best to gently guide Peter toward making a decision that probably wouldn’t have ended in them having to deal with Peter’s complete and total emotional breakdown. Everyone in his family kept saying there was stuff that we didn’t get to see, and while it’s very easy to take what they say at face value, neither Peter nor Madison was denying their version of events. Peter’s line was “we have love in our hearts and that’s all we need” and Madison’s line was “This is also about me.”
Also, without Barb and the gang, this episode is really a testament to how completely terrible Peter is as a communicator and a partner. It also shows how little Peter has learned to advocate for himself in his relationships and believes that a successful relationship is about delivering affirmation to the other person. Hannah Ann affirms him so that relationship is sustainable, albeit briefly, and his relationship with Madison is sustainable because he’s going to deliver affirmation to her. The conversation on Twitter (and my therapist’s office) is about if this family were more co-dependent, Barb would have a neck tattoo that says “ENMESHED,” instead of how Peter completely fucks this up. And so much of Peter’s fuck-ups seem to happen off-screen.
So where do we start this episode? We’re still in Alice Springs, Australia, and Peter is jogging through the Outback. You can almost see him starting from a standstill just out of frame to get some compelling B-roll. He sits on a rock. He stares at some tall grass. He wears Bonobos button-ups. Madison has left and she’s not coming back. He keeps repeating how great Hannah Ann is and how in love with her he is as some sort of mantra to convince himself those two things are true. He’s proposing to Hannah Ann because he wants to, not because he can’t bear to listen to his own thoughts for one more night. He picks out a pear-shaped diamond, and watching at home, we know this union is cursed. He Facetimes Hannah’s dad and gets his blessing.
Unfortunately for Peter, on the morning of this engagement, Hannah Ann is standing alone in her room, gently caressing her gown. She finally puts it on and lies motionless on her bed. The giddy, girlish excitement of a woman on the brink of holy matrimony! She’s frustrated because she doesn’t know where Peter stands and he told her last night that his heart is being pulled in two different directions. She can feel that there’s a breaking point in the distance and doesn’t know what to do.
Peter heads to the top of a cliff to propose to Hannah Ann when Chris Harrison shows up to tell him some news. Hannah Ann doesn’t know if she’s going to show up. God, I wish she had just gotten on plane and headed to a country music festival straight from the airport. There are other fuckboys hung up on their ex-girlfriends out there. But then Peter gets word that Hannah Ann is on her way! When Hannan Ann gets out of the SUV, Chris Harrison gives her directions and says “It’s straight down.” Oh, if only we knew, Chris.
Hannah Ann almost falls several times because the Fates are trying to keep these two dummies apart, but Peter will not be deterred. He starts talking about how he gave Hannah Ann the first impression rose and he’s never doubted their connection—and also Madisonleftwodaysago… and… nowyouremyonlyoption… I LOVE YOU, HANNAH ANN! He went on a full-ass kangaroo date with Hannah Ann and didn’t open up about Madison leaving. Peter knew that the only thing that would have crushed him more than Madison leaving was him being alone. All he wanted was for someone to want him as much as he wanted them. Who that person is, their values, even their cup size doesn’t really matter. They’re just an affection delivery system, and as long as the machine is up and running, love can conquer all! Hannah Ann and Peter leave Australia engaged! Peter tells his family and his mother breaks down in full body sobs and screams for “OUR DAUGHTER” when Peter Facetimes with Hannah Ann. Barb says “And they lived happily ever after!”
The fuck you thought! We’re only a half hour into the two-hour finale.
Ever since the Arie/Becca fiasco, The Bachelor has loved unedited, or even seemingly unedited footage, of two Yankee Candle Fan Club members quietly breaking up. Chris Harrison tells us that the drama to unpack came next, so roll the footage.
With all the information that Hannah Ann reveals during her sit-down interview, this break-up is pretty fucking bleak. Because Peter was pining for not only Madison but searching for answers with Hannah Brown (where is that footage!), and because Hannah Ann continued to blindly support Peter in the hopes that he would get his shit together and be able to love her the way she wants. She says that she would have stayed by his side if it killed her, and I want better for women everywhere. Peter can only acknowledge that he never intended for anything bad to happen, so please don’t be mad at him?
Hannah Ann then launches into a completely savage break-up offensive. Where was this Hannah Ann all season? The one who doesn’t take any shit and lays out exactly what Peter did wrong and gives him an itemized list of his fuckups and makes him read them out loud? She tells him that he took away the magic of “a first engagement” and tells him that he selfishly didn’t want her to leave so he said what he needed to so she’d stick around. She tells him that she doesn’t need any more from him and he’s done enough damage.
Barb, who has been watching the entire thing in picture-in-picture, starts applauding.
Peter wants to keep talking to Hannah Ann and she tells him “You can’t be true to your words so why would I want to hear you out anymore?” She says that he betrayed her and he knows that. Any time your voice drops an octave and you tell someone, “You know what I’m referring to,” it’s fucking scorched earth. She’s going to get her life back on track and she’s had to be her own rock throughout this whole process so he doesn’t have to worry about her.
But Peter wants her to make him feel okay so badly. He’s in the middle of breaking up with her because he’s still in love with another woman (possibly two) and he’s still holding her hand to walk her out to the car, trying to give her a hug, and poking his head into the car before she drives away. Hannah Ann just tells him “Leave.” Men of America, if you’re breaking up with someone, that person doesn’t want to make out with you.
Back in the studio, Hannah Ann continues twisting Peter’s nuts by laying out in front of everyone that he knew just enough to keep Hannah Ann on the hook while thinking about someone else, and that he knew to go to her family to tell them just what they needed to hear. He claims that he didn’t intend for any of this to happen and he didn’t really know what he was doing because he was grieving. Hannah Ann concludes that he either had no idea the weight of the words he was throwing around, or he was able to do and say the bare minimum to keep Hannah Ann around. He had two days to find a way to tell Hannah Ann about his break-up with Madison so she wouldn’t feel blindsided with the news at their engagement. He didn’t have to turn to Hannah B. to “find” “closure” (read: please hook up with me again). She ends her evisceration of Peter by saying “If you want to be with a woman, you wanna become a real man.”
So, what now? Can’t we just let his man walk himself out into the sea to be swept away by the briny deep? Nope, Chris Harrison has taken it upon himself to “fix” the issue of Peter’s stunted emotional state by inflicting his bullshit on another woman who had rejected him! He travels to Auburn to tell Madison that Peter got engaged, broke off his engagement, is single, and dreams about her. What’s sexier than an ex-boyfriend who can’t respect your religious views? An ex-boyfriend who has already crashed and burned one engagement due to his inability to process emotions in a healthy way because of his severe fear of being alone! Madison, pack a bag! Peter still wants you!
Here’s how I know that Peter has no sense of self. When Madison met up with him in California after he broke up with Hannah Ann, he never said to her “you walked away from me.” He has no protestations or concerns about Madison. Even if Peter thinks Madison is completely justified in walking away, there’s still room for him to say, “You can’t just leave like that” but, no. He looks at a woman he has nothing in common with, a woman his family doesn’t like, who broke his heart about four months ago and says, “This is the start of our love story.”
Barb has rolled her eyes so hard they’ve popped out of their sockets and Peter Sr. is chasing them down in the studio. So it’s time for Madison to join Peter and Chris Harrison. We’re live now in our timeline.
And we’ve got nothing. Peter and Madison have texted a little bit and they both have love in their hearts for each other, but are they going to date? Are they going to get engaged? No one knows how this season is going to end because there’s no narrative conclusion. Yes, it’s now just two people’s real lives, but production was present at a whole bunch of moments they aren’t usually present for. When was the last time we saw a Bachelor telling his family who he got engaged to? Production has been working overtime to craft a story out of this fucking mess and they couldn’t even give us Peter getting down on one knee in front of God and Neil Lane himself?
So who gives us some fucking drama? BARB. It’s Barb’s time to shine. Barb makes some good points. She points out that the way the relationship was and is set up, Peter is the only one willing to compromise. Madison left them waiting for three hours and said “no” when asked if she loved Peter. Then Barb decides to take the gloves off.
“He’s gonna have to fail to succeed. That’s it” BAAAAAAAAAAARB.
Peter can only manage “Please. Please. Please. I love her and that should be enough.” But it’s not enough, Peter. Anyone in any sort of successful romantic relationship can tell you that love is probably the third most important factor in a relationship after shared values and choosing to hate the same people at each other’s jobs.
Peter subscribes to the Nicholas Sparks school of relationships, where the only requirement in a relationship is the desire to be in that relationship, and the presence of obstacles are proof that the relationship is worthwhile. The fact that they have literally nothing in common but still want to make out is PROOF that this relationship is going to work. Peter’s dad points out that maybe the fact that the start of their relationship was marred with Peter ending another engagement isn’t a good omen.
And there’s no room for Hannah Ann in all of this. Madison was living in Peter’s heart and not paying rent and when she heard that his engagement with Hannah Ann was over, her reaction was happiness. We just see a tiny picture-in-picture of a stoic Hannah Ann watching from backstage. She’s treated as another one of those obstacles that needed to be overcome in order for Peter and Madison to be together… in what exactly? We don’t know and we’ll have to be satisfied with that because screw you, that’s why! We’re The Bachelor and we don’t have to answer to anyone!
See you in May for the last Millennial Bachelorette!