You guys know by now I love Tell Alls. I’m sure I sound like a broken record after all these years, but there’s just really nothing like watching how real people react and adjust their behaviour based on watching themselves be, well… themselves on national television. It says so much about a person, how they choose to use this valuable time. On my season, going into our Women Tell All was no less surreal than you’d imagine. I remember caring less about being liked but more about being understood—there were so many things I wanted to say, to clarify, to defend. But there are so many women and only so many minutes—which battles do you pick?
Given this opportunity and its many limitations, it’s very telling which of those battles a person—and a cast as a whole—picks. Do they take ownership of their questionable actions, or do they dig their heels in even harder? Do they allow limited screen time during the season to be their lasting impression, or do they speak up and defy that limited screen time? Most importantly, do they use what could just be a simple last hurrah on television to audition for further time on television?
In keeping up with my Tell All tradition, here are my top three most memorable moments:
3. Missing in Action
It’s rare that I use up one of my Tell All talking points to discuss the absence of something, but in the case of last night, these absences were too conspicuous not to mention.
Within the first five minutes of last night’s episode, Chris Harrison declared, “All your favourite women are back tonight!” Turns out he was bluffing. Where were two of the season’s finest, Kelley and Natasha? I never take issue with women eliminated on Night One—women whose names you can’t even remember—appearing on Women Tell All. However, it didn’t make much sense for the likes of Night-One-ers Katrina and Maurissa to be chiming in on the ins and outs of Peter’s season while two of the season’s more notable—and long-lasting—women were inexplicably MIA. And it’s not that any of us necessarily saw Kelley or Natasha as major players in the race for Peter’s heart, but rather, they both had substantial airtime. An on a personal level, they were BY FAR the two most relatable and reasonable women of the season. Their in-retrospect input on every saga—and particularly on Peter and his actions—would have carried quite a bit of weight. These ladies earned our trust by being reliably no-BS all season.
Read this next: Clare Crawley Is Our New Bachelorette!
Kelley’s case in particular niggles me. Given what a prominent contestant she was this season, there was something very off about her not being there. This woman’s backstory about having met Peter prior to filming was milked for all it was worth, yet there wasn’t even a seat with her name on it? Part of me wonders if this had anything to do with her 11th hour villain edit—did she wrong the wrong people? Or did she refuse to appear after witnessing how production painted her? It’d be one thing if she’d sat there and none of her commentary was aired, and another thing if there had been even a brief mention of a scheduling conflict; but for her not to even be present felt ultra fishy and only left me with more questions than answers.
2. Will You Accept This Responsibility?
On the whole, despite this being arguably the cattiest group we’d ever seen, I was pleasantly surprised by how much ownership was generally taken across the board last night. Kelsey won my heart when, on the subject of Champagne-gate, she said simply, “I went balls to the wall crazy. I overreacted.” As for Alayah, I always felt she did very little wrong throughout her time on the season. (I hardly think sharing things she’d read on Reddit was a crime on the same level as, say, Tammy insinuating on national television that Kelsey had a drinking problem.) However, Alayah was still quick to own her mistakes by declaring, “That’s my biggest regret in this, that I didn’t just shut up. I word vomit. Sometimes I just don’t think before I talk.” Both Kelsey and Alayah were humble and had clearly taken this experience as an opportunity to reflect.
It’s no secret that I took issue with much of Victoria F’s antics this season, but even she played her Tell All cards right, admitting, “I HATE some of the ways I acted.” As for how she handled Peter’s questioning her about her “breaking up relationships,” she rightly said, “I could have handled that better. Obviously I could have handled the whole f-cking season better.” I was really impressed with how she handled herself; it was such a stark and welcome contrast to her maddening behaviour throughout the season.
Even Peter, who has driven us bonkers with many of his decisions over the last two months, went a long way in mending our impression of him. When Chris Harrison asked him what he made of the criticism he’d received for “rewarding women who were crying” and “rewarding the drama,” he responded: “Criticism to a certain extent can be good. You can learn from it and that’s the way I’m looking at it. I made a lot of mistakes and I can own up to that.” You really do get the sense Peter did learn a lot about himself not only throughout the filming process, but especially in watching the season back and enduring millions of critical opinions. Truthfully, it’d be a hell of a lot easier for him to have simply denied everything, and this is something many people in his position might have done. He easily could have gone on the defensive, claimed he didn’t reward any drama, insisted none of us were there (a valid point) and that we therefore don’t know what we’re talking about. Therefore, I appreciate how he didn’t make it about that—he took America’s beef for the lesson that it was, which in and of itself shows a vast improvement in his choices and maturity.
Read this next: Is There Going to Be a Bachelor-Kardashian Crossover??
That’s not to say last night was all unicorns and rainbows in the form of adults taking responsibility and showing respect for one another. I love it when the season’s conflicts are wrapped up with a tidy bow of amicable closure, but unfortunately some key players—and in my opinion, some of the worse offenders—still couldn’t admit they wronged others. The tight trio that is Sydney, Lexi and Victoria P continued to give off chilling Mean Girls vibes. I’ve generally liked Victoria P and seen her as the gentler one in this group, but it perturbed me when Savannah brought up the discrepancy in Victoria P’s words about Alayah versus her actions to Alayah’s face. Victoria P downplayed this with a very weak “I’m weird like that”, a total cop-out for what was far more duplicitous behaviour than Alayah herself ever exhibited. Infuriatingly, Sydney defended her right to defame Alayah on national television for what she herself admitted was nothing more than an “inkling”. Despite Mykenna’s noble efforts to patch things up with Tammy, Tammy only doubled down on Mykenna in return, ruthlessly declaring Mykenna “spread her legs” whenever a camera was around. I’m sorry, but who cares if Mykenna is—in Maurissa’s words—a “meme”? (Never mind that Maurissa knew Mykenna for all of one night.) Did Mykenna really do such harm to anyone? Is someone being “annoying” (Kiarra’s word, not mine) really worthy of such venom? I so wish Tammy had simply accepted the olive branch Mykenna offered (when frankly, it was really Tammy’s to offer in the first place), but in the end, Tammy’s stubbornness was a far worse look than anything Mykenna did all season.
1. Hateful Encounters
It has always amazed me how some viewers of this show—a show with drama, yes, but also a show about love—can harbour so much hate. From behind the safety of their screens and the anonymity that affords, they say things I can’t imagine they’d ever say to the faces of even their worst enemies. I’ve always felt torn between feeling disheartened by this increasingly common behaviour, versus pitying these haters for having what appears to be a great deal of time on their hands. They evidently lead very sad, boring lives if going out of their way to write cruel things online is somehow worth their time and energy.
Rachel Lindsay’s segment last night addressing online harassment and hate was powerful. The last time we saw a segment of this variety was on Kaitlyn’s season, on the subject of the incredible slut shaming she received. I’ll never forget some of the messages that were read that night. These segments are important and do make an impact. I’m glad the franchise decided to carve out the time to focus on this, and while it is timely, frankly, it’s also overdue. Last night Chris Harrison said this hate has been happening over the last few seasons, but it’s been going on for at least 6 years because I too received (and still do occasionally receive) my share of disturbing and offensive messages. And while I wish I could say the criticism I’ve received was limited to my choices or behaviour—things I do have control over—I’d be lying if I said my looks and race never came up.
A few seasons ago, I was appalled to see a distant Facebook friend declare online that “all” the women of that season were “ugly”. How is it that this person—a real human I’d met and known—could write something like this? Even from an objective standpoint, no person on any season of this show could EVER be described as “ugly”. And let’s say they were somehow unattractive by conventional standards—what could inspire someone to share this opinion in a public setting? What is happening to people?
Read this next: Is This the Worst Group of Contestants in Bachelor History?
Rachel is sadly correct: People have simply become far too comfortable being mean. This is obvious across many arenas, but with regards to this show, what has always bothered me is how haters often use excuses along the lines of “well, she signed up for this” as some sort of justification for their brutality. It’s as though someone simply appearing on a television gives viewers free reign to spew their worst. With reality TV, I’ve long felt there’s a disconnect between watching “characters” on television and not truly realizing these are real humans with real feelings. People enjoy the relatability of reality television, yet the bad apples enjoy it a little too much, feeling entitled to far too vivid, far too critical opinions, and voicing them with far too much gusto.
I valued everything Rachel said last night, but my favourite line of hers was: “If we’re ever going to fix this problem, we have to acknowledge the problem.” This is accurate on an even deeper level than it initially seems, and in my opinion, this franchise has to recognize the role it plays in enabling all this. Of course, I realize the show has no control over tweets and comments and DMs. But by dedicating so many minutes and ultimately hours of our attention to encouraging, highlighting and thus rewarding conflict among women, they’re not helping things. Remember, 90% or more of the conflict this season didn’t unfold naturally. Think back to all those times when time with Peter was restricted, stolen, or a Cocktail Party was cancelled. There is no more perfect example than Champagne-gate; we all know Hannah Ann did not just happen across Kelsey’s bottle of champagne. It might seem like innocent drama, but when we’re talking years upon years of this, with it becoming increasingly worse, it’s not so innocent. When this narrative is constantly provoked, egged on, and even staged, it normalizes women treating each other terribly and facilities a community—Bachelor Nation, a community which, if you’re reading this, you’re a part of—where that’s OK.
I respect the franchise for going out of its way to highlight and aspire to put a stop to online hate. That’s a great start. The comments were horrifying and the show didn’t have to pounce on this, so good on them for doing so. However, it’s not enough when you consider this season was the worst season ever in terms of hate and cruelty among its own cast, and production must be held at least partially accountable for enabling and fuelling that. People are not only cast for their potential to treat and talk about each other poorly, but remember, this is a show where it’s a given that bringing drama, talking shit, and being cruel to one another guarantees airtime. Drama begets airtime which begets fame, followers, and opportunities to reappear on spin-offs for more drama, more fame, mor