TV

This Week’s “Bachelor”: Pilot Pete Has a Country Star Man Crush

Plus: Lady football!

I was in middle school reading Shakespeare for the first time when I learned about dramatic irony. Basically, it describes situations in which the audience knows something a character doesn’t, like in Romeo and Juliet when Romeo doesn’t realize that Juliet is only sleeping and then just straight-up guzzles some cyanide. At the time, I filed dramatic irony away as an interesting piece of vocabulary but didn’t yet understand its powerful storytelling function. Dramatic irony can tug you to the edge of your seat and make you shout at your screen. But in the year 1998, I think my question about dramatic irony was the perennial one that students ask their teachers: “When am I ever going to use this?”

The answer, apparently, is while dissecting The Bachelor for an LGBTQ+ website 20 years later.

During Monday night’s downright Shakespearean episode of The Bachelor, our hero Pilot Pete unwittingly and eagerly takes his love interest Victoria F. to a private concert performed by Chase Rice, a country singer who—unbeknownst to Peter—is also Victoria F.’s ex-boyfriend. In the absence of that crucial piece of information, Peter rhapsodizes about Chase Rice. He fantasizes, on camera, about having Chase Rice perform at his wedding. He even approaches Chase Rice after the concert and says, “This is Victoria,” gesturing at her, as though Chase Rice doesn’t already know her in a biblical way. Still in the dark, Peter gives Chase Rice his contact information and hugs him goodbye. Fuck Shakespeare. This—this—is what the term dramatic irony was meant for.

Chase Rice
Leah Puttkammer/Getty Images for BBR Music Group
Chase Rice.

The setting for this incredible scene is the Cedar Point amusement park in the city of Sandusky, Ohio, about an hour away from Cleveland. At the start of the episode, when Bachelor host Chris Harrison informs the clout-chasing contestants that they’re headed to “a city full of art, culture, and rock and roll,” and then specifies that they’re flying to Cleveland, the women wait for a full three seconds as though they’re being pranked before half-heartedly cheering. That disappoints me! Cleveland is amazing. The Midwest is great. The idea that a state like Ohio couldn’t be full of cool, hip, and interesting things is a pernicious one—and one that I may have written a whole book about to help debunk. So when a mystified Savannah asks if there are “hidden gems in Cleveland” or something, I want to scream a little, because she’s from Houston, another amazing but often underrated city. Let’s stop with this idea that there are only, like, three cool places in a country that has 100 million times that many people.

Anyway, skipping back to the whole Chase Rice “finasco,” Peter is stunned when he learns the truth about his country music idol’s romantic past.

“What? No!” he exclaims, stunned. “The guy that was singing?” he asks, as though there was some other Chase Rice at the private concert. But he is ultimately able to look past the fact that Victoria F. lived, existed, and had flings with people before getting cast on The Bachelor —the nerve!—and he chooses to continue his relationship with her. After a tense dinner, the pair move on by slow-dancing to the romantic stylings of a cello soloist whom Victoria F., thankfully, did not date—although it’d be fine if she had! You are allowed to date before coming on this show. You do not have to save yourself for The Bachelor!

Victoria F.
ABC/Maarten de Boer
Victoria F.

The next day, in what is almost certainly a Super Bowl tie-in, Peter takes 13 of the remaining women to play football on the Cleveland Browns’ home field with the winning team earning a trip to the after-party. Remember when I said that this show treats the Bachelor like a god-king? This is what I was talking about. Peter gets to force a baker’s dozen of the most conventionally attractive women in the country to play a sport many of them hate all for the privilege of, maybe, talking to him later on. It’s the sort of hurdle that might make you wonder: Is Peter really that great? Aren’t there half a million or so other pilots in the country? But the women all give it their best, especially fashion blogger Mykenna, who is adorably clumsy in a ’90s rom-com kinda way. (Mykenna, who has previously annoying for using makeup to accomplish things that only Photoshop was meant to do when she’s already stunningly beautiful barefaced, is finally starting to grow on me.)

ABC/Jason A LaVeris
Bachelor contestants hit the field.

But unfortunately, Mykenna doesn’t get her moment at the after-party because not only do all 13 women end up coming, but controversial contestant Alayah returns after having been eliminated last week. (In the words of the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opening crawl, “The dead speak!”) Alayah is back to clear her name, win Peter over, and, of course, stir the pot. She and Victoria P. pick up their feud right where it left off and then, Peter, in a classic school principal maneuver, summons both of them to hash out the situation together. The point of contention seems to be whether or not Victoria P. and Alayah considered each other friends before filming, or whether they were just casual acquaintances in the pageant world. As they try to clarify, the two women end up holding hands and Victoria P. even wipes a tear off Alayah’s face, prompting a confused and frankly annoyed Peter to ask, “Is there a relationship here or not?”

If there’s one thing that’s clear about Peter by now it’s that he has no interest in the very thing that propels many of us to watch The Bachelor in the first place: grown women fighting with each other over nothing. Whenever it happens, Peter looks like an exhausted first-time dad who’s been told that it’s his turn to put the baby back to sleep. And I’m not sure if this is dramatic irony or just our protagonist being stupid sometimes, but Peter has a real knack for doing exactly the kind of thing that will further fuel the drama. Case in point: Not only does he invite Alayah back on the show, he gives her the coveted after-party rose, too. (Poor Mykenna. Love you, Mykenna. Sorry for ever poking fun at you, Mykenna.)

Peter Weber and Alayah.
ABC/John Fleenor
Peter Weber and Alayah.

Alayah, seeming to realize that the producers brought her back so that things didn’t get too boring, decides to spill to the rest of the girls every bit of tea she read on Reddit during her time away from filming, namely that Victoria F. used to date Chase Rice. But Peter has to deal with the fallout of that disclosure later because, first, he has to take Kelsey of #ChampagneGate fame on a romantic date. That night, Kelsey tells the Bachelor about her parents’ divorce, and Peter—whose parents have been together since before the flush toilet was invented—once again doesn’t know the right way to respond. But a rose can make up for many faults! Kelsey gets one—and then it’s right back to babysitting for Peter. He finds out that Alayah told the girls about #ChaseGate, prompting him to throw his head back in frustration and ask, “Why can’t this just… ?”

The word that he’s looking for is “end.” There’s only one way this ends. You know, one of the most common uses of dramatic irony is in horror movies when the audience knows that a blithely unaware character is actually in danger. It’s hard not to feel like this is the moment Peter should have just flown away.

Samantha Allen is the author of "Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States" and a GLAAD Award-winning LGBTQ journalist.
@SLAWrites