On July 11, bachelorette host Jesse Palmer kicked off Season 19 with a familiar declaration: “It’s the most shocking season of The Bachelorette yet.” Fans are fed the same messaging year after year, but two episodes in, Palmer’s statement already rings true. Unlike past years, however, what makes this season so shocking is how low the franchise has stooped to manufacture drama.
in the bachelorette first, the show is featuring not one, but two leads for an entire season. Ahead of the premiere, the teaser showed close friends and former Bachelor contestants Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia gearing up to find love again after getting their hearts broken by recent Bachelor lead Clayton Echard. Surely the creative team felt switching up the show’s formatting would breathe new life into a somewhat stale setup; and it did, but at a disappointing cost.
The teaser show Gabby and Rachel will encounter all the usual tears that come from simultaneously dating multiple people on reality TV. But it also hinted at a ridiculous, agonizing set of hurdles unique to a season with two leads. We see contestants get a little too excited by the thought of dating two women. We watch Rachel get rejected by men she’s interested in, because their hearts lie with Gabby. And we hear voiceovers saying, “No one’s really ready to pick a lane and stay in it” and “What if I like both of the girls? What if both like me? Which I hope…”
Right out of the gate, the concept of having two besties date the same 32 guys seems like a surefire recipe for disaster. But as long as that disaster delivers good ratings, does the franchise care how it affects Gabby or Rachel’s emotional wellbeing?
As the premiere kicks off, Palmer explains this season is “going to be a wild ride till the very end,” before disclosing he has no idea how the show will adapt to accommodate two leads. “So two women dating one group of men. How’s that going to work? Which woman gets to date which guy? Who chooses? And what happens if both women fall in love with the same man? honestly? I’m not really sure, but I am confident that Gabby and Rachel can figure it out,” he shares. The fact that Rachel and Gabby get to call all the shots initially sounds empowering, but as their journeys progress, the season’s complete lack of structure starts feeling like an intentional tool to push them to their breaking points and ensure the season remains spicy.
Before Gabby and Rachel head to the mansion, they meet up to make a game plan, discuss their “types,” and hype each other up. They predict they’ll encounter some challenges along the way — such as liking the same guys or both being led on by the same man — but even anticipating those worst case scenarios couldn’t have prepared the women for experiencing them firsthand.
while The Bachelorette premiere was fairly tame, a few subtle signs — such as Gabby and Rachel saying “he’s my type” limo entrances to gently stake claims on contestants — indicated trouble lay ahead. Things got messier in Episode 2, when the women hosted their first small group after spending the day with everyone in the house. Rachel got upset after a guy she likes told her he’s Team Gabby, and when she finally forms a connection with and kisses Logan, she learns he and Gabby hit it off, too.
“My heart kind of dropped a little bit,” Gabby says in a confessional after learning Logan kissed Rachel. “I think that Logan is exploring both sides, which is what we’re asking of the men, but I already felt like I had a really strong connection with him and I was excited to see where things go, so it feels weird.” Rachel asks where Gabby’s head is at with Logan, offering to back down if she’s serious about him. But Gabby can tell Rachel really likes him, so she encourages her to give him a rose. It’s nice to see the friends support each other on their journeys, but they shouldn’t be on them together.
Whether the women were being rejected, compared, or forced to tip around their feelings to spare each other, more than a few moments in the season’s first two episodes felt gross and uncomfortable to watch. There is always a certain level of cringe and chaos that comes with reality television, and people usually know what they’re signing up for before they partake in these shows. But something about watching this shared season makes me feel especially guilty. After everything Rachel and Gabby went through on Clayton’s season, they each deserved individual opportunities to find love. Katie and Michelle got their own chances at love after both appearing on Matt James’ season, so why not repeat that two lead lineup instead of creating one toxic environment that pits women against each other and gives contestants the opportunity to mistreat them?
In trying to give The Bachelorette a fresh, entertaining spin, the franchise has fundamentally changed the show people fell in love with. Fans come to watch one person find love in a group of contestants who are mutually invested in the journey. This season, we’re seeing two people compete with each other to find love in a shared group of contestants who still have no idea which woman they’re interested in. The unconventional process of having two leads is overshadowing the show’s romantic connections, and is downright disrespectful to Rachel and Gabby. The producers continue to grasp at new ways to dial up drama from the love stories each season, it’s starting to feel like The Bachelor franchise is no longer here for the right reasons.