‘Bachelor’ recap: Colton gets serious about sexual assault during chat with Caelynn
Here’s something I never thought I’d say: Colton Underwood had a powerful conversation on “The Bachelor.”
The guy has a tendency to repeat the same adjective twice in one breath. (“You guys look amazing; Singapore’s been amazing.”). And, like many Bachelors before, his chats with the ladies tend to be about assessing how comfortable he is with them, and how great the date activity is. But this week, Colton also had something real: A meaningful conversation with Caelynn (a Miss USA runner-up, clearly a frontrunner here) about sexual assault.
After the two go on a shopping date – they’re all in Singapore, “A ‘Bachelor’ first,” says host Chris Harrison – where Colton (ABC?) buys her dresses with feathers and fringe, Caelynn opens up about her assault story.
Things get real
“This is a conversation that I have to have,” Caelynn says. “Four years ago, I was a sophomore in college (and I was) sexually assaulted.” She gives details about what men did to her while she was incapacitated, how she had to go to two hospitals for a rape kit, how she waited to tell her mother and how, for a long time, a gentle touch on the shoulder would trigger her. It’s a moving moment, even for a reality-TV cynic.
He goes on to imply that intimacy issues with his “first love” have something to do with his decision to remain a virgin. “Everyone asks me why (I’m a virgin). They want a reason. And my reason is complicated.”
She doesn’t press him for explanation, but the two kiss. ABC then shows a RAINN PSA and a number to call if you or someone else has experienced sexual assault.
Then the episode is catty again
Once the 10 minutes of authenticity are done, it’s back to your previously scheduled dating show. Which is to say there’s a predictable spat between someone upset she doesn’t have enough alone time with Colton (Courtney, who thinks she’s wiser than her 23 years) versus someone else who goes back for seconds with him (Demi, who later calls Courtney the “cancer of the house”).
There’s also the cliched clash between two former friends (Caelynn and Hannah B., who both competed in Miss USA) who don’t like each other. Though here’s a twist: They kind of resolve things. OK? Also: Harrison flubs Hannah’s name. Oops.
A look at the crazy dates
And, of course, there are unbelievable dates. Tayshia and Colton go bungee jumping. They are scared, they are happy to have each other, there is plenty of ominous music, they look down a lot, they do the jump, they congratulate each other and have a makeout session in the ocean. Tayshia reveals that she was married. More dramatic music. Colton says his parents are divorced. He doesn’t judge. They share a kiss on the Singapore Flyer. She gets a rose.
Colton goes on a group date on the streets of Singapore, where he and the gals see a fortune teller, get treatment from a leech lady and eat a bunch of food. The women show Colton how adventurous they are by eating fish eyes, bullfrogs and pig feet. Of note, Demi jumps on Colton whenever possible. Later she reveals that her mom spent time in federal prison. “She might be really messed up, but that woman loves me so much (and) I love her unconditionally,” she says wiping a place that could have a tear. Colton says it “takes a special person” to be so supportive of family. They kiss and she gets a rose.
I already mentioned the Caelynn shopping date. They went to Singaporean boutiques and then had a romantic dinner. She gets a rose.
Who was sent home?
It’s time to bid adieu to “calm and concise” Courtney (that’s how she describes herself) and 31-year-old Tracy, whose age is only notable because almost everyone left is 23. Her stanky-face reaction shots will be missed.
“The Bachelor” was more serious than usual Monday night. Caelynn Miller-Keyes, a 23-year-old from North Carolina, told Colton on a one-on-one date that she was drugged and raped during her sophomore year in college.
Traditionally, one-on-one dates require a contestant to open up about the biggest obstacle or trauma she’s faced. That might be a sibling’s or parent’s death or divorce, a difficult breakup or a past abusive relationship. But Monday’s episode was the first time a contestant has opened up about being a sexual assault survivor.
“It’s not a conversation that I enjoy having with anyone,” Caelynn said. “But it’s something that’s really important, especially in relationships, because it’s something that … has come in between intimacy and just a lot of different things in my life.”
The next day, she recalled, she went to the police and tried to get a rape kit but was turned away by a hospital, so she went to another one, but the results were inconclusive “because so much time had passed.” One of the men got expelled but the others “got away with it,” Caelynn said.
Caelynn went on to describe how that incident has affected her since: “It’s something that will always be a part of me and will always come up in relationships, and that’s why I wanted to bring it up to you,” she said, adding that for months afterward she felt triggered whenever a man would touch her. She also said felt a lot of shame and guilt over what she’s experienced.
On Twitter, Colton posted a message about how “there are moments that are bigger than the show itself,” Monday night’s episode being one of them.
“Bachelor” viewers often snark on the show’s portrayal of the petty drama that can erupt between contestants, but tonight there was a lot of praise for how it handled a difficult and important subject.
Former contestant Ashley Spivey, who’s routinely critiqued “The Bachelor,” said on Twitter that she had a “very similar situation” happen to her during her freshman year of college.
Another former contestant, Jacqueline Trumbull, responded to Caelynn’s comment that the men she’s told about her experience often haven’t known how to handle it.
During the 2018 Miss USA pageant, Caelynn’s platform was sexual assault prevention — particularly in regard to Title IX rules for sexual assault survivors on college campuses — and was open about her own experience.
Colton handled Caelynn’s disclosure with compassion and empathy, telling her how strong she is and thanking her for opening up. After their conversation, a phone number and website for RAINN (the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) flashed across the screen, in case viewers had their own incident to report.
Shortly after, production company Warner Bros. announced its investigators found no misconduct had taken place; Olympios also confirmed her team’s own investigation was completed to her satisfaction. “Paradise” resumed production, and when it returned, everyone discussed the controversy at length. This included a lecture from host Chris Harrison on sexual consent, as well as in-depth interviews with Olympios, who said the “unfortunate, annoying situation” was no one’s fault, and Jackson, who said the accusations nearly ruined his life.
Contestants also reported that producers tightened the rules on the show, which had suddenly come under increased scrutiny. For example, you were only allowed two alcoholic drinks per hour, and if you wanted to spend the night with someone, you had to give verbal consent on camera.
When a Washington Post reporter asked former Bachelorette Andi Dorfman in 2017 how “The Bachelor” might adapt in the #MeToo era, she noted that though viewers watch the show for entertainment, not public service announcements about sexual assault, the contestants have an opportunity to spark change. “I do think there are women who can come out on the show who can talk about it,” Dorfman said, “just like there’s women right now coming from Hollywood talking about it.”
However, viewers at home should also know that no one is required to disclose their deepest trauma, sexual or otherwise. Because sexual assault takes away someone’s agency and ability to make decisions, Jess Davidson, interim director of End Rape on Campus, has told The Post that it’s important for survivors to have control over how and when they decide to talk about what they’ve been through. “Survivors should never feel guilty about centering their own needs, whether that means sharing with your partner or not sharing with your partner,” Davidson said.