7:01pm PT by Jackie Strause
'Bachelorette' Star on "Toxic Masculinity" From Axed Contestant: "I'm Over Being Slut-Shamed"
The Bachelorette's reunion show played out differently when it welcomed controversial contestant Luke Parker back to the screen on Monday night.
Each cycle of The Bachelorette and The Bachelor features a reunion show before the finale. Unlike the cycles before it, the Men Tell All show for Hannah Brown's current season devoted nearly all its time to the drama surrounding Parker. The Hollywood Reporter was on set when host Chris Harrison brought Parker on stage for a lengthy one-on-one conversation in which he said he had no regrets about sex-shaming Brown for being intimate with other contestants. The taping lasted around five hours and was edited down for Monday's two-hour show.
"I could have sat out there with Luke for three more hours, believe it or not, because I found it fascinating to talk about his views on religion," Harrison told THR after the taping, which took place on July 12 in Los Angeles (and before news broke about accusations against creator Mike Fleiss). "It’s incredible that it’s a little bit of a taboo subject, it’s a little bit like sex — 'Oh, don’t talk about Jesus Christ, don’t talk about your faith.' Why not? I like how we’re discussing how you wear your faith, how you apply it to your relationships, how it skews your views on life. What should’ve brought them together was their faith, their shared faith, and it broke them apart. Why? I find that fascinating, and I love that we’re going to discuss that."
Parker was eliminated during a tense Fantasy Suites week during which Brown accused him of being judgmental about how their shared faith played into her decisions to be sexually intimate with other contestants. "I have had sex and Jesus still loves me," Brown bluntly told Parker before sending him packing.
The Men Tell All, show, however, opened with a clip showing that Parker returned after his elimination with an engagement ring to confront Brown during her rose ceremony with finalists Jed Wyatt, Tyler Cameron and Peter Weber. In a moment that had clearly been set up by show producers, Parker joined the rose ceremony and took Brown by surprise. She continued to stand her ground, however, and again kicked Parker off the show — much to the amusement of her finalists and the viewers watching during the live reunion show.
When speaking with Harrison during the live show, Parker said he was the one who was "completely blindsided" by how his TV breakup played out. He stood by his return ("From day one, I felt like I was on a rescue mission for Hannah") and said, "A man is supposed to lead and guide a woman in the relationship."
Parker and Brown initially bonded over their Christian faith. Parker, a born-again virgin, told viewers and Brown about experiencing a religious awakening about four years ago that led to him abstaining from sex until marriage. Before his exit, Brown was clear that their beliefs differed when it came to sex and marriage, but that it mainly boiled down to his controlling delivery.
"It wasn't the fact that she had sex that would make me completely want to leave her. I went back to the rose ceremony because I thought she was making a mistake," Parker told Harrison during the reunion. "I made a mistake. I made Hannah out to be this perfect woman, perfect wife for me with all the qualities I want in a future wife."
Parker also recalled to Harrison, "I'm literally getting fitted for a suit to propose in and I'm finding out the night before my one-on-one time with her, she's having sex. And that's not something I want in a future wife."
What didn't make it to air is that Parker said he was prodded to bring the ring by a producer. He also claimed that Brown had told him that she, too, was abstaining until marriage and that she would not be having sex in the Fantasy Suites — a claim that Brown outright refuted when it was her turn to take the stage at the reunion show.
"I am so over being slut-shamed and being [made to feel] like that makes me not a woman of faith, because, oh my gosh. I live my life and make mistakes and sin every single day and so do you, and so do you, and so do you," she said, referencing the hits she has taken from viewers and on social media. "I'm also not going to say that me having sex in a windmill was just the scarlet letter on my chest to have. I'm not going to stand here and feel that way, and you're not going to make me feel that way." (That last line is a reference to a quote that went viral about her having sex with contestant Weber in a windmill-themed Fantasy Suite.)
But Brown also explained to Parker that the Fantasy Suites dates, which are overnight opportunities for the star to be with the finalists without cameras, are about emotional connections, and not just physical ones.
"Luke is really obsessed with sex and Fantasy Suites being about sex. Honestly, did I sit around and be like, 'Huh, who am I going to have sex with in the Fantasy Suites?' No. I didn't," she added during the show. "That wasn't something planned. That wasn't something that really was everybody's business to know, and it wasn't your business to ever ask me."
Harrison had praised the Brown and Parker drama for bringing the franchise into uncharted territory to spotlight talk of faith and religion at the beginning of the show. When speaking to Harrison, Brown said she felt like Parker "weaponized" her Christian beliefs and used them against her. "I was, at the end, threatened by the shared faith that we had," she said. "The basis of what I believe is love and loving others and understanding and not shaming. And his love was contingent on if I did the things that he wanted me to do as he saw as a wife should do. Not an unconditional love."
Ultimately, Parker walked off the reunion stage. He did not speak with press after the taping.
After his exit, Brown said she hoped her on-air relationship with Parker would be relatable to the many women watching who might be in a controlling relationship.
"Unfortunately, it's a relationship that lot of women can relate to," she told Harrison. "A lot of women have been in toxic relationships, and maybe, just maybe, me going through that and being able to remember my worth and figure that out for myself can help somebody that's in that now and see the signs of that. And ultimately, it makes me feel like I don't have regrets because that was worth all of it." Though the final cut stopped her there, Brown had added this during the taping: "He was that toxic masculinity type, that’s who he is."
She then closed the show by looking straight into the camera and apologizing to viewers for keeping Parker around for so long: "Bachelor Nation, I am sorry. I am sorry for this whole thing with Luke and him just being on our television screens for so long, way longer than really any of us ever desired. It's my fault — a lot his — but I did it. I was there, I'm sorry. I'm tired of talking about him — the Luke P. show is canceled, we will not renew the season."
When speaking to THR after the taping, Brown said it felt great to be able to share her honesty on a larger stage. "That’s been my message the whole time, that’s who I am. I’m sometimes honest to a fault," she told THR, "But that is what I want in a relationship and what I want from any type of relationship: friendship, partnership, a love relationship. I want honesty and for them to be real. I sometimes get so tired of hearing myself say, 'Be real, be honest.' But if I’m going to ask for that, I have to be that. That comes with good and bad, but ultimately, then I can’t say that the person I watch on TV is somebody that I don’t recognize."
Parker posted his thoughts on Instagram last week, writing, in part: "In our conversation my heart was never to judge or condemn Hannah. I was simply making a decision for myself on what I expected in our relationship, our conversations and our beliefs led me to believe we were on the same page about sex."
Before signing off on Monday night, Harrison promised that next week's two-night Bachelorette finale will answer the "rumors out there" — a reference to reports about Wyatt — and teased the upcoming sixth season of Bachelor in Paradise.
The franchise also announced a The Bachelor Live on Stage tour, which will be hosted by former star Ben Higgins and will fit an entire season of Bachelor drama into one evening by giving audience members a chance to find love, according to ABC. Each stage show will introduce an eligible hometown bachelor, and Bachelor Nation will have a say in the rose ceremony as Higgins guides the bachelor along his journey to find love on stage. "I am ecstatic to be able come to your cities with an amazing team of people from Warner Bros. to visit you and show you all a taste of what it is like to be on The Bachelor! We are coming to your cities, meeting you in person and hopefully spreading some love along the way!" said Higgins in a statement. (For more info, head here.)
Kirsten Chuba contributed to this story.