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Last night’s episode will go down in history as one of my Top 5 favourite episodes of all time. It served up everything you could possibly want when tuning in to reality TV. It delved into the psychoanalysis so many of us seek in watching this show, cracking open the patterns of a textbook narcissist and watching our own lead (our heroine!) reason with him. We got a taste for what an impact living with other men or women (as well as the scathing feedback millions of viewers so readily offer) can have on your relationship with yourself. We got a healthy dose of serious romance between Hannah and her frontrunners. And to top it all off, we also got humour, refreshingly in a drama-free environment and not at the expense of a contestant whose worst transgression is not being self-aware.
Had you told me two months ago that Hannah Brown—a pageant queen whose ability to string together sentences seemed debatable—would be in the running for my favourite Bachelorette (lead?!) of all time, I would have laughed at you. But I, like millions of viewers, stand duly corrected. And you know what? I wholeheartedly embrace being put in my place if it means I get to watch television of this calibre.
There’s the obvious what-you-see-is-what-you-get simplicity to Hannah as a lead—something that I’ve noted repeatedly and applauded in my recaps. But beyond that—and possibly my favourite aspect of Hannah—is that she demands honesty, but will respond in kind, and tenfold. She doesn’t lord her position of power over any of her men, even accidentally, though she easily could. Some people say they want realness and honesty but, when push comes to shove, or under circumstances they hadn’t anticipated, can’t handle it. Hannah can not only handle it, she reserves judgement and responds with empathy and patience.
We first saw this with Jed last week, when he confessed that gaining exposure for his musical career was in the back of his mind when decided to come on the show. Hannah valued (and rewarded) his candour instead of punishing him for the crime, as many might have. Luke P., in response to Hannah’s umpteenth plea for him to share his basic feelings, somehow pointed blame squarely at her. Yet, Hannah welcomed that blame, because she saw it as Luke P. finally opening up—which was exactly what she was asking him for. I would also go so far as to say that had Scott owned up to having a kinda-sorta girlfriend on night one, Hannah may have shown him some mercy. With Cam, too—had he been less calculated and more honest each step of the way, who knows? It’s very possible he’d still be here. Hannah has proven time and time again that she puts her money where her mouth is.
Luke P. is trying. He really is. His inability to accept responsibility—or as Hannah aptly put it, take ownership—is not entirely his fault. He developed these defence mechanisms long before the show; they’ll take far longer than a handful of weeks, even with an astute and understanding woman on his side, to mend. But the fact that Hannah even attempted to reason with a narcissist (an endeavour regarded by many as fruitless and a guaranteed waste of time), as well as the intricacy with which she attempted it, speaks to her compassion.
Some might see her as a woman blinded by chemistry and attraction, but I think Hannah gave up on Luke P. as a romantic partner awhile go. When was the last time they even kissed? (Trust me, we would have been shown it, and to the soundtrack of creepy villain music.) She spent this date fighting for him, holding up a mirror for him, showing him truths about himself. While he may leave this whole experience with a predictable, self-preservational “I never even cared for her,” Hannah was a gift for him. Not as a romantic prospect, but as a friend. Many leads in her position would have sent him packing by now, to the tune of the other men raising a glass and cheering as his suitcase was taken away. But Hannah held out for Luke P. in what I now see as gesture of genuine humanity. Not only did she give him the chance to redeem himself on national television, she fought for him to improve his life beyond the show. Luke P. recently wrote on Instagram that it’s been hard to watch this season, but also that, “This journey has giving me a great opportunity to grow and mature as a man, for that I am grateful.” Hannah was instrumental to making that happen.
In watching Hannah hold out for Luke P., whether or not he deserved it, I felt something change. Through her compassion, Hannah made me, the viewer, more compassionate. (How many reality TV personalities can say that?) I see Luke P. through a gentler lens than I did a week ago, because at this point I trust Hannah and her instincts so implicitly that, if she believes there’s a good guy under Luke P.’s many layers of contrived bullsh-t, it must be true. And through her patient peeling of those layers last night, even if she only got one layer deep, it was still a layer deeper than we had. We saw glimpses of Luke P.’s true, sensitive, undefended core; although those glimpses were only fleeting, they were enough for me to go from not being able to stand the guy to almost—almost!—rooting for him. Rather, rooting for the guy Hannah tells us exists. Because I trust her.
Even if Hannah does send Luke P. home from this date (something about which I’m unsure, given the strangely abrupt ending), his lasting impression on this season is one with a few more facets, a few more layers. And he has Hannah’s efforts—fruitless or not—to thank for that.
As for the frontrunners, here are my Final 4 based on the episode five…
1. Jed, 25
It’s rare for any contestant, on the tails of his 1-on-1 date, to get Jed’s level of frontrunner airtime last night. So, it is officially time to bump Jed up to my top spot. He not only shone on the Group Date, but he also got a killer makeout sesh and he received the Group Date rose, over both Peter and Tyler (who also had killer makeout seshes). As I said last week on The Morning After, Jed is looking more and more like the season’s guy to beat.
2. Tyler C., 25
My perspective on Tyler C. and Hannah together has changed since I was told (by a reader—thank you!) that Hannah and Tyler C. did not actually speak on Night One. (Hannah revealed this during a Build Series interview—at 18:39) This completely changes the way I view these two together, as it means no 1-on-1 time between them has gone completely un-shown. (I had assumed Tyler C. couldn’t win because his Night One time didn’t air.) Jed still beats out Tyler C. because he got the Group Date rose, and Peter is certainly the obvious frontrunner, but I can see Tyler C. being the season’s (somewhat) dark horse. Plus, I just love him and Hannah together.
3. Peter, 27
Not a week goes by without at least a little Peter time. Though we didn’t get much real conversation between him and Hannah, his Group Date makeout (on the pool table) was both comical and sexy, a tricky combo to pull off. The chemistry here is excellent. That 1-on-1 has to be coming for Peter any day now, which I’m sure will bump him back up the list. No way the Final 3 aren’t Jed, Tyler, and Peter. How the cookie crumbles from there, I don’t know.
4. Mike, 31
I was holding out for Connor S., but his lack of airtime since his 1-on-1 left him easy to bump in favour of Mike. I really like Mike and I am relieved his appearance this episode had more to do with Hannah than with righting wrongs in the house. He has the self-assuredness that comes with time (and wisdom) and it makes him very attractive. His 1-on-1 with Hannah was full of both goofy moments and intimate moments, and in a world without the other three guys on this list, I can see Mike making it to the end. However, I’m not mourning the fact that there’s no way these two will end up together, as I’m officially aboard the #MikeForBachelor train.