The Bachelor ended with an engagement, but this season wasn’t quite the fairy tale the ABC reality series’ viewers are used to. Winner Courtney Robertson told host Chris Harrison during the post-finale special that “this is supposed to be a story about love and finding love, and it’s spoiled.” Of course, she and her fiancé, Ben Flajnik, were the ones responsible for spoiling it, with several assists by the always heavy-handed producers. Together, they created the worst season in the history of a show that is usually entertaining because it’s bad, and these are just a few of the reasons why this season was awful.
After the Final Rose
Following two hours of the longest, most dragged-out finale in the history of The Bachelor, Ben proposed to Courtney, not Lindzi Cox, which wasn’t a surprise to anyone who followed show spoilers and gossip magazines’ coverage of the series.
Both of them actually seemed committed to each other, and both seemed sorry and upset about the drama that unfolded this season and after production ended. But the tears didn’t make any sense, because their relationship doesn’t make sense. Ben insisted, “I wasn’t being tricked, I wasn’t being fooled” by a “temptress.” But he also said that he and Courtney broke off their engagement since the show’s finale was filmed because of her behavior, which he learned about for the first time watching it on television, even though he was told repeatedly during production that she was behaving awfully.
Despite all of this uncertainty and emotion, Ben insisted the couple is in a “good place,” and gave ABC’s engagement ring back to Courtney. Up until the very end, this season was confounding and boring at the same time. And the reason why begins with its star.
Ben was the worst Bachelor star ever—and if you go back through the show’s history, that is really saying something. ABC’s bio describes the 28-year-old winemaker as “a rare, modern Renaissance man,” and lists things he likes to do, but mostly he seemed awkward, whether he was attempting to ride a horse or fishing. It was comical to watch women he’s rejected cry their way off the show, because it seemed like they’re the real winners.
He made for awful television because he doesn’t seem like the kind of person anyone would want to date. While he’s possibly a very nice person, he’s not telegenic and was barely able to articulate his feelings. He came across as both earnest and condescending, a remarkable feat, and the only real feelings we saw from him this season were when he got annoyed with women for trying to warn him about Courtney.
Courtney was this season’s villain because she decided to play The Bachelor strategically. That’s actually pretty smart, but considering the show and many of its viewers imagine it as romantic, it was not an easy road for Courtney, as she interrupted the show’s illusion by treating it as an elimination-style reality show, one in which the only thing that matters is “winning!,” as she often said. (Even her catchphrases came across as empty and unoriginal.)
Instead of bonding with the women she spent the majority of her time with, she found calculating ways to get Ben’s attention, such as convincing him to skinny-dip in the ocean. It didn’t always work—an invitation to her room went unanswered—but she led with her sexuality, and while that seems shallow, it worked.
Ben Kept Choosing Courtney
It was difficult to understand why Ben kept Courtney around, at least beyond her physical appearance, because that’s all she’s really emphasized. He talked in empty platitudes about wanting the women to open up to him, and said she did that, but all we saw was her shameless and successful attempts to capture his eye. Ben’s other possible choices were actually pretty strong, at least if he wanted a woman with depth, personality, intelligence, or the other things that he seems not to really care about.
Ben’s Treatment of Emily O’Brien
The other women tried to warn Ben about Courtney’s behavior, particularly how she seemed like a different person around them than around him. Those warnings did little except lead Ben to double down on Courtney as he dismissed their warnings. But he wasn’t just dismissive when Emily talked to him about Courtney, he essentially threatened her: he told her to “tread lightly” (echoing a phrase other women used about Courtney) or else he’d dump her. His basic message: you’ll do as I tell you. Emily later said in an interview that his words initially caused her to feel as if her honesty was a mistake, but she thankfully realized later that that obnoxious conversation should have prompted her to “walk out the door.” Ben deserved more than that, perhaps a slammed door, or a door slammed on his fingers.
The Producers’ Abuse of Casey Shteamer
It’s no secret that the producers of The Bachelor orchestrate most aspects of the show, giving the bachelor and bachelorettes visually stunning contexts in which to interact while making sure there’s plenty of drama. It’s one thing to pick who goes on a group date based on how dramatic that will make things, and another to emotionally abuse a cast member just to get some material.
But that’s exactly what they did. First, keep in mind that this is the production team that sat by and let a cast member on last season of The Bachelorette, Bentley, lie to its star, Ashley, about his feelings for her and so much more. Bentley was secretly unapologetic about being uninterested in Ashley, who was falling in love with him, and he’d tell the cameras (and thus the production crew) things such as, “I’m going to make Ashley cry. I hope my hair looks OK.” The producers did nothing to warn her because their show is about making television, not making sure their star is happy or in love. And when he dumped her, both the producers and Bentley had a great television moment and an excellent on-screen villain.
This season, without such a duplicitous person, they invented one. They seem to have manufactured a controversy by exploiting their knowledge of Casey’s complicated relationship with an ex-boyfriend, whom she wasn’t secretly dating or pining over, pretending that meant she was already in love and thus didn’t care about Ben.
But who cares about that when you can humiliate and destroy a woman on television? Host Chris Harrison confronted her as if she were a terrible person and a liar, and insisted she was in love with someone else and that she must tell Ben right away to give the producers a few moments to fill their show and use in previews to tease the drama. Even worse, the segment ended with Harrison telling her, “You didn’t come on here to deceive anybody”—even though that was precisely the reason why he had confronted her in the first place!
Courtney’s Baby Voice
It can’t be separated from Courtney, and is part of what makes her a fascinating character, but really it’s a character all its own. It makes her seem like she’s acting, playing up the innocent girl to grab more of Ben’s penis’s attention. While her voice can be frustratingly annoying, it’s entertaining, especially when it and her cliché catchphrases are Auto-Tuned and set to music.
Ben’s hair has more than one Twitter feed because it seems to have a life of its own—and no list about what was awful about this season would be complete without citing it. His wavy brown locks cascade in greasy, damp waterfalls down the sides of his head from a part in the middle, as if they are trying to escape from his head. His hair is so comically bad that Ben even makes fun of it himself, promising the “worst hair ever” would appear in the finale. That’s one promise he fulfilled.