Well, that’s two hours of our lives we won’t get back. I have “bored”s and “boring”s littered over my notes from last night’s episode, and if Madison does return tonight—as the overly revealing previews suggest—it feels like we just watched all that for nothing. Don’t get me wrong: My irritation is unrelated to Peter’s quest. Of course, I wish him and his ladies the best, and the last thing we’d want is for any young woman to get manipulated into (or manipulated out of) an engagement. But last night felt like a sleight of hand, like we tuned into to see some sort of development, yet two hours later we only ended up right back where we started.
Despite my searing boredom, there were a couple of things to happen last night that stood out as worthy of discussion. The first was Madison meeting Peter’s parents, namely his mother. What was interesting about this encounter is that it began cordially enough with Barbara, Peter’s mom, asking very reasonable questions: Could Madison be with someone who’s not at her same level of faith? Would someone need to change for the other in this relationship, and is that really OK? These were questions we’ve all been wondering about for weeks now with regards to this relationship, so it was welcome (and even felt overdue) for someone to be voicing them. Things took a turn, however, with Barbara pointedly declaring that, while she respects Madison’s values, it wasn’t Madison’s place to tell Peter what he should and shouldn’t do in exploring his other relationships.
Throughout it all, Madison calmly and articulately held her ground and it was damn impressive. She responded, “My expectations and feelings are valid just as much as his… I get that it’s his journey, but it’s also mine”, which basically sums up what my entire recap two weeks ago was about. Why shouldn’t Madison have demands for her supposed future fiancé, and why shouldn’t those demands include him being sure enough about her to not need to sexually explore other relationships? My favourite aspect of Madison’s language is that she uses words like “expectations,” “feelings,” and “values,” never “morals”—another huge difference between Madison and Luke P. In other words, Madison wasn’t secretly judging Peter or throwing shade for his actions, but rather, as she told Barbara, she was telling Peter how his actions would affect her. Yes, she came on a show where the lead famously has (or can have) sex with multiple contestants, but Peter too came on a show with famously religious undertones.
Madison is hardly the first—nor will she be the last—contestant to lead a faith-focused lifestyle and be saving herself for marriage because of it. I’ve heard many viewers (and Peter’s own parents) suggest Madison should have brought up her faith and its implications sooner. But, if I’m honest, just based on their interactions over the last two months and what should have been multiple conversations about their lives, shouldn’t Peter have at least picked up on hints to suggest Madison’s religion is focal point? I mean, she’s a 23-year old who doesn’t drink—doesn’t that alone beg a basic level conversation as to why?
There are so many degrees of faith, as Barbara herself proved by describing herself and Peter as “spiritual” in contrast to Madison’s “religious.” Interestingly, Barbara would spend the remainder of the day talking about her prayers to God and describing Hannah Ann as a “gift from God” for Peter. (Being a non-religious person myself, this language sounds more religious than ambiguously spiritual to me, but what do I know?) Hannah Brown felt like the poster child for the conversation on faith and the grey areas in how it is implemented in real life, openly discussing her beliefs on the regular yet viewing sex very differently than someone as diehard as Luke P. In short, on a dating show where at least half its contestants mention faith, God or church at some point, and are perpetually wearing crosses around their necks, it was only a matter of time before one peripherally religious person and one super religious person would encounter a version of this problem.
It was clear Barbara was being protective and defensive of her son, regardless of the scenario—certainly, in her view, no way would the needs or demands of some young woman she’d just met ever going to match in importance to her boy’s. In fact, you could argue the main reason she loved Hannah Ann so much was simply because of Hannah Ann’s plain, uncomplicated adoration for her son. (It’s not as though it was some inspiring conversation with Hannah Ann that won Barbara over.) There’s a clear way to earn the stamp of approval from a mother like Peter’s, and throwing difficulty his way, no matter how valid, is a sure fire way not to earn that approval.
What struck me about this day of Madison meeting Peter’s parents was how unabashedly vocal his family was. Traditionally, leads’ families have resisted sharing a strong opinion, shrugging and saying they trust their child to make the right choice for themselves. If I’m honest, though, I’ve always found it harder to relate to families like that. I have very loving and very trusting parents but, let me tell you, in this situation they’d have more resembled Peter’s parents (minus the tears) than any of the hands-off families of seasons past. I cannot imagine a world in which, with the hand Peter’s parents were given regarding each Hannah Ann and Madison, that my own parents would not have vocalized and even stressed their preference. Yes, Peter’s mom went way overboard, calling Hannah Ann—a woman she’d known for all of one afternoon—“a goddess placed on earth for Peter,” “a dream come true,” and “an angel on earth.” (Needless to say, Peter was right to put his mother in her place, exasperatedly telling her, “Don’t do this to me.”) But as for the gist of his family’s concerns, well, it was easy to see why they felt and expressed what they did. No way would my own family not have openly preferred the candidate who seemed effortless, free of complication, and who would require less sacrifice and change on my part.
At this point it’s just painfully obvious Peter favours Madison, just as he has for the entire season. Last night, it became even more clear when Peter continued to defend Madison in the face of his family’s concerns, come hell or high water. (The high water provided by his mother’s tears.) Anyone who’s ever seen this show knows that any lead who vehemently defends a contestant against his family’s concerns is most likely picking her. Other leads with vocal parents were Arie and Jojo; Arie went out of his way to defend Lauren Burnham just as Jojo did with Jordan…and, well, those relationships have stood the test of time! There’s nothing more to say about this relationship in the meantime. These two can’t figure out if their lifestyles can align until they get back into the real world, so let’s get this show on the road.