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It only took two weeks for the unfortunate star of this season’s The Bachelor to emerge.
Victoria Larson entered the 25th season of the ABC franchise wearing a crown and referring to herself as “The Queen.” Ever since, she has monopolized airtime with her antics, which have centered around “hazing” her fellow female contestants, rather than focusing her attention on the one man they are all competing to marry.
Divisive from the start, Larson has been called everything from a “bully” to a “mean girl” by several contestants, but managed to court the majority of the women onto her side when a new crop of contestants entered the reality dating series weeks into the competition. Pitting the original women — who consistently referred to to themselves as the “OGs” — against the five newcomers became something of a sport for Larson.
“We haven’t even started the hazing process,” Larson told a fellow housemate to kick off Monday’s episode.
It wasn’t until later that night that Bachelor star Matt James finally caught wind of what has been going on with the women for the last five weeks and began to course-correct his season. Once informed about the “toxic” environment by standout contestant Katie Thurston, James promised to the women that he planned to address the “mob mentality” and “culture of bullying.”
First, he sent home Anna Redman, who was the source of a potentially damaging rumor that one of the new girls, Brittany Galvin, was allegedly a male escort. (Galvin denied the accusation.)
Next, he turned his focus to Larson, whose most recent offense was calling contestant Ryan Clayton a “ho” for being a dancer. When confronted about the name-calling, Larson insisted her insult was taken out of context.
“What context would calling someone a ‘ho’ be acceptable to be taken in?” James, who is the franchise’s first-ever Black Bachelor, asked Larson.
For the first time all season, Larson was speechless. She was eliminated shortly after, in front of the rest of the women, during the rose ceremony.
After the eliminations, the show shifted into focusing on love stories. Five episodes in, viewers finally saw relationships develop more clearly between James and early frontrunners like Rachael Kirkconnell, Michelle Young, Pieper James and Kit Keenan. James hosted intimate one-on-ones, stole kisses amid group dates and was able to reclaim his starring role.
But the end of the episode veered back into the drama. With Larson gone, and after James’ swift decision about Redman, the remaining “OGs” had quickly changed their tunes, with many shirking accountability for going along with the so-called “mob mentality.” Among them, MJ Snyder, who was the source of this week’s “To Be Continued” drama. The episode ended with Snyder and Jessenia Cruz preparing to face off amid the dreaded two-on-one date about their flinging accusations. Cruz called Snyder out for perpetuating the mob vibe — and coining the “Varsity vs. JV” term — and Snyder denied any role in such matters.
Drama is typical with the early episodes of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. But this season’s focus on women attacking other women has particularly stood out among viewers in a year where the show should be celebrating its diversity. After all, James is the first Black Bachelor in 25 years and his cast was revealed as the most diverse in franchise history.
Former Bachelorettes Rachel Lindsay and Becca Kufrin have criticized the cattiness and vicious name-calling on their podcast, Bachelor Happy Hour, noting that the season has been frustrating to watch. “Who are you trying to attract with your audience?” Lindsay asked, rhetorically, of the producers.
Former Bachelor star Ben Higgins, who made a cameo earlier on James’ season, blamed the focus on the drama over the love stories on James being new to the franchise. Unlike most Bachelor leads, James has never appeared on the franchise (he was set to appear as a contestant on The Bachelorette, but was plucked by producers for the 2021 starring role).
“I think he has no clue what’s going on right now,” Higgins told former Bachelorette star Tayshia Adams on her Click Bait podcast. “When you’re on the show prior, you probably just assume that something is going on in the house. … And you start to pick and prod. Like, ‘How’s life going in the house? Are you okay? Who doesn’t like each other? Who are you friends with?'” He added, “I think he is so unaware of it that he’s just kind of walking through this, trying to do the best he can. And so, as a result, we’re not getting rid of the drama.”
When speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at the start of his season, James said he leaned on past franchise stars, like Lindsay, and the newly formed diversity team — which was brought in to train and work hand-in-hand with James, the contestants and the crew — when it came to figuring out how to be a lead in this franchise. So far, viewers have seen James open up about the pressures of being the first Black male lead, including the expectations being placed on him as a biracial star, as well as his emotional family history. And during his pre-season chat, he teased vulnerability. “You are going to see authenticity, you’re going to see someone who is real,” he said. “I never would have imagined that I would have been as vulnerable as I was. Never would have imagined. But I did it. And these women did too.”
Now that his season is around the halfway point, will The Bachelor veer towards that vulnerability? During an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday morning, James seemed more than ready to make the turn. “Going forward, I think we’re going to have a little smooth sailing,” he said.
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