7:00pm PT by Jackie Strause
'The Bachelorette' and the Off-Screen Drama Looming Over Frontrunners
The Bachelor and The Bachelorette often pose a central question: "Are you here for the right reasons?"
That phrase has become a famous one throughout the long-running ABC reality franchise, as the lead often pow-wows with host Chris Harrison, producers or familiar faces from the franchise who are called in to help the star determine if a questionable contestant is truly on the show for love — or to further his or her career, or gain fame or social media followers, etc.
On Hannah Brown's current season of The Bachelorette, however, that question is being posed by viewers offscreen after reports and an on-the-record interview called out finalist Jed Wyatt, a singer-songwriter from Nashville, for having a girlfriend back home. Speaking to People, Nashville-based musician Haley Stevens claimed she and Wyatt had been in a relationship for four months when he left to film The Bachelorette. "He told me [the show] was just an obstacle and we’d be stronger on the other side because of it," she said, adding that he ghosted her when he returned from filming. "He said, ‘It’s probably not going to happen, but it’s a huge opportunity. I’m only doing this for my music.’ He only did it for his career."
On the show, the often-crooning Wyatt has already settled one issue about his intentions — after admitting to Brown that he initially eyed the show to boost his career, he has since told the star that he is falling for her — and now, on Monday's episode, Brown headed to his hometown where she was able to press his family on his intentions.
Watching the tense encounter between Brown and Wyatt's family proved awkward for viewers on social media who, at this point in filming, might know more about Wyatt's off-show behavior than Brown herself. When speaking to Wyatt's mother after an intimate family picnic in Knoxville, Tennessee, Brown said, "I know he dated a girl for a long time" — the moment begs the question, how much has Wyatt told Brown?
Both Wyatt's parents and his sister had warnings for Brown when sharing concerns about the singer being able to focus on a relationship, and potential engagement, while also following his music career dreams. His family was also skeptical that the TV relationship could be the real thing, and his mother bluntly told Brown she didn't think her son was ready to be engaged before going on the show. She also said this in her toast: "Here's to everyone trusting their intuition and their gut every day. When you stick to your truth, it's beneficial to everybody." (Brown called out the toast while live-tweeting the episode, writing, "good toast. good message. cheers!")
Brown left the Wyatt family, the last hometown featured on the episode, with more questions than going in. "Tonight did not go like I expected it would go," she confessed to the camera. "I did not get the validation I thought I would get. The fact that they were not sure he could focus on his music and also on me and our relationship the way he would need to was hard to hear, because the concerns were valid. Where I'm at with Jed is I'm falling in love with him, but my fear is either his music or our relationship will suffer."
All four of Brown's finalists are falling in love with her, though only two spoke the words aloud to the star: Wyatt and controversial frontrunner Luke Parker. But, as Brown told Wyatt's mother, the singer-songwriter is the only finalist who heard from Brown that she, too, is falling in love.
Further complicating the episode for viewers is another swirling claim that finalist Peter Weber, whose hometown aired first on Monday, has also been accused of having a girlfriend while auditioning for the show. A Twitter user posted a picture of the Delta pilot kissing a woman and wrote, "Pete: auditioned for this show while simultaneously dating one of my best friends. And begging her to move in with him." Franchise spoiler blogger Steve Carbone of Reality Steve said he spoke to the alleged woman in question, but she did not want to publish an interview. (The woman, model Calee Lutes, later came forward to share her side of the story with Entertainment Tonight.)
Coming off a controversial casting season for last year's Bachelorette, ABC and producers Warner Bros. Television experimented with Brown's season by releasing the names of the contestants early, in hopes that the vigilant audience, known as Bachelor Nation, would take to social media and help weed out any bad seeds. (ABC and Warner Bros. Television have not commented on either Wyatt or Weber.)
The finalists are not able to officially speak out until their time on the show is over, which means the Bachelorette audience will likely have to wait until the upcoming live shows — the Men Tell All reunion and After the Final Rose finale special — to hear the full response from contestants. The only finalist who remains free of controversy (Parker's drama has played out onscreen since the beginning of the season) is Floridian Tyler Cameron.
Ahead of Monday's episode, Wyatt did take to Instagram to ask viewers to be patient until he is able to speak openly. He also said that he and his family are being attacked. "Several of you have reached out with messages and questions. Please know I’m not able to answer right now, but as soon as I’m able to, I will," he wrote. "Until then, I ask that you please understand how much the actions being taken towards myself, my family, the men on the show, and above all, Hannah, are affecting all of our mental and physical health. It goes beyond what is said online. Threatening letters and phone calls have been sent to our homes. My parents and sister are being verbally attacked in public. I beg you to remember what seems like a harmless action is damaging to real people. I want to thank all of you who have reached out or reserved judgement until I am able to speak openly and I can only ask for your patience and kindness until then."
After visiting the final four's hometowns, Brown could not make up her mind about who to eliminate and decided to bring Wyatt, Weber, Cameron and Parker along for next week's overnight dates, which include the option to enter the Fantasy Suite. (Wyatt and Parker were the bottom two after Weber and Cameron, respectively, received roses.) The upcoming Fantasy Suites portion of the show is when the showdown between Brown and Parker over premarital sex and their faith will take place.
The dramatic and empowering moment has been teased since the beginning of the season, and the footage that viewers have seen in the trailer shows Brown doubling down on her promise to viewers. "I felt so empowered to deal with all the drama that I had to deal with — because yes, there’s drama — and do it in my way and be able to stand on my own two feet," she had told The Hollywood Reporter earlier in the season. Perhaps she will be able to weed out any bad seeds for herself.
The Bachelorette airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.