7:00pm PT by Jackie Strause
'Bachelor' Colton Underwood Breaks Show Rules, Defends Risky Finale
[This story contains spoilers from the March 11 episode of The Bachelor.]
Colton Underwood has been redefining The Bachelor protocol all season long, and on Monday, during the first night of a two-part finale for the ABC reality show, the star finally threw out the rulebook — and then he hopped over a fence in Portugal and temporarily quit the show.
On Monday's Chris Harrison-hosted two-hour show, The Bachelor jumped back and forth between that pre-taped footage of Underwood's journey (which wrapped filming months ago) and a live stage in Los Angeles. Underwood's season marks only the second time in a combined 37 seasons that ABC has extended the finale time slot across two nights. By Tuesday's end, Underwood will explain why he returned to The Bachelor and talk through the unpredictable steps he took from that night on to bring viewers up to date on where things stand today.
The penultimate week of the 23rd season of The Bachelor had brought a heavily teased moment to life when the star hopped an eight-foot fence and disappeared into the night after his frontrunner, Cassie Randolph, broke up with him. Despite Underwood throwing out every "unwritten rule" to get her to stay, Randolph exited the show.
Monday's episode picked up where last week's cliffhanger left off to show how the production crew scrambled and hunted through the Algarve region of Portugal for their missing lead. Harrison took off on foot, and the rest of the crew split up in vans to canvass the dark roads and woods nearby. "We're in the middle of nowhere in Portugal," said Harrison as the clock approached midnight.
Just as Harrison informed someone on the other end of a phone call that he was prepared to call the police if they didn't find Underwood in the next 30 minutes, one of the cars finally tracked Underwood down. The 27-year-old former NFL player — and now-famous virgin — was angry and near inconsolable. "Don't touch me. No, I'm not okay," he told Harrison and another producer. "I'm done with this shit. I'm fucking done."
Underwood, who only had time to grab his wallet, eventually got in a van to head back to home base. But he didn't agree to let the cameras come along. "Every time I put myself out there, I get fucking rejected," he told Harrison of the feeling that he is not enough. "I literally said 'I love you' and she said, 'I love you, too. Goodbye.'"
He then reiterated, "I can't do this. I'm fucking done."
When Underwood appeared during the live show on Monday, he didn't revisit the night he got his heart broken and nearly derailed the season. That conversation will be saved for Tuesday. Instead, he came face to face with his runners-up.
"I stand by all the decisions that I made up until this point," said Underwood, now speaking with much more clarity.
Ultimately, after off-camera conversations with the producers and an on-camera chat with Harrison, Underwood convinced himself that the only way to win Randolph back was to break it off with his remaining two finalists and fight for the woman he loves. "I love her enough to risk everything," Underwood said about Randolph back in Portugal after the fence jump. "I want to not only tell her but show her."
Before he could do that, however, he had to break it off with Tayshia Adams and Hannah Godwin, the latter of whom has seen significantly less screen time than a typical finalist because of how Underwood's up-and-down relationship with Randolph played out. Underwood admitted that while he was falling for both remaining women, he was already in love with Randolph. Both women were blindsided.
Adams, 28, the only one of the three who enjoyed an overnight date with Underwood (though the star made it clear he did not lose his virginity at the time), responded to his confession by asking if they could talk without the cameras, and — in another rare production moment — the camerapeople listened. Underwood and Adams were still mic'd, however, and their conversation played out on audio. They were both heard crying as Adams told him about the breakup, "I don't want to go through this." She exited the show without talking to the cameras.
Taking the live stage on Monday, Adams, a divorcee, put words to her exit. "I was shocked. It wasn't good," she told Harrison. "We had a lot of amazing memories and we had a lot of firsts together, and I truly saw a better version of myself and I grew tremendously because of Colton, and because of what we had. There are a lot of feelings there." Hearing that he was in love with Randolph hurt, she said, "especially when I feel like I've really laid it all out there."
When she and Underwood reunited on stage, Underwood told her he had too much "respect" for Adams to be "half-in," and she accepted his explanation. He added about Randolph, "My heart was closed off because it was completely hers."
Next, it was Godwin's turn. After watching her breakup with Underwood play back, the finalist said she had been dreading rewatching the footage from the live stage. Godwin, who was preparing to tell Underwood that she loved him, never got a chance to have her overnight date. Instead, Underwood confessed that he initially thought she would be his pick in the end and, even when he was breaking up with her, it seemed that his feelings for Godwin confused him about taking a risk with Randolph. "I'm giving up a for-sure thing for something that's impossible," he said in tears to a producer.
"To see that his reaction was like that is really hard for me, because it shows that he was struggling, too," a hurt Godwin, 24, told Harrison on Monday. "I thought he left and it was just easy for him. But it doesn't really help with flipping the page."
When she and Underwood came face to face, she threw him tough questions. "In that moment, when I was having that conversation with Cassie, I didn't want to lose her," he explained. "And I knew I didn't want my life to go on without her in it. So I couldn't do that to you, where you were a backup plan. You don't deserve that, and you know you don't deserve that."
Relating to how she felt about the constrictions of the show and not having her overnight date, Underwood told her, "You watched this show before, and I've watched it and seen the format. And I even got caught up in that, too, and playing by the rules, or the unwritten rules, of The Bachelor and what it was supposed to be. But this is our lives. After this and after this all goes away, you go on about your lives and your relationships. And how I was feeling in another relationship at that time was stronger. And that sounds brutal, but you deserve the honesty."
He added of his decision to fight for Randolph: "In that moment, the show was over. I was 100 percent hers and I couldn't do anything about it."
Still, Godwin said, "What Cassie did to you is exactly what you did to me. I was left with nothing. I thought you were going to chase me, as crazy as that sounds. And you didn't. I just trusted you so much."
In her exit interview, Randolph said very matter-of-factly to the camera, "I can't make a commitment." Hinting at his virginity, she added, "I can't handle the pressure of being the girl that takes something that could possibly be something really special of him away."
But Underwood made the decision to run after her as Monday's episode ended. "Love is scary. Love is not simple. Love is messy," he said to the camera of his decision to knock on Randolph's door one more time to ask for a second chance (the moment when the camera fades on night one). "I don't know what the future holds for me. I've said it a thousand times, I just want to be loved back the way that I love somebody. I don't know if that's possible. You can only be told how great you are and how much you have to offer, 'but you're not for me' so many times before you want to stand up and fight for it even more."
The live show ended with a tease from Harrison to tune in on Tuesday to see if Randolph agrees to give Underwood another try. The first half of the finale marks a franchise first, in that the Bachelor is left with no remaining women in the competition before the final episode.
When speaking about how his season ends going into the finale, Underwood — who has been hinting all along that a finale engagement might not be in the cards — was prepared for viewers to have opinions about the choices he made in the end.
"While you guys get to see this as a TV show, this is my life," he told The Hollywood Reporter at the recent Women Tell All reunion taping. "This is the rest of my life, so I’m not going to make a rash decision, and I’m not going to do something that is going to have an impact on the rest of my life unless I’m sure about it."
He continued of the fandom around the show, "That’s what’s so great about Bachelor Nation. They’re opinionated, and they have their thoughts and views, which is amazing. But unless you live it and go through it, they don’t know really what all goes into it. Those days are long, the schedule is brutal and, at times, it can get hard and frustrating. But I’m proud of what I put out there and how I handled and made the decisions that I did."
Underwood has recently said he is the happiest he has ever been and, when speaking to THR, he also said the swirling question around his virginity (did he lose it?) will be discussed during the two-part ending. Viewers can deduce from that what they may heading into Tuesday night, when The Bachelor wraps Underwood's season and reveals the next star of The Bachelorette, starting at 8 p.m. on ABC.