For those who read the spoilers, the end of Season 20 of The Bachelor was a foregone conclusion—even when things got switched up at the end.
Until quite recently, the situation seemed likely to breakdown thusly: Ben would pick Lauren B. as his bride, JoJo would be sent home to live her normal life, and Caila, his third runner up, would become the new Bachelorette—a diverse Bachelorette.
Reality Steve had predicted it this way, and his success rate is pretty good. As he’s explained time and time again, though perhaps fans might be clamoring for JoJo as Bachelorette, the way the shooting schedule works out, the second runner up is almost never chosen for Bachelorette. That’s because the Bachelorette starts filming almost immediately after the final episode of The Bachelor airs, and her new role is announced during the After the Final Rose live episode, which airs immediately following the finale.
This means show producers don’t like to pick the reject of any given season as the new Bachelorette: though said reject would have parted ways with the Bachelor long before the finale airs, for the viewers, she’s just been dumped on TV before they’re told she’s the new Bachelorette. If the point is getting as many people amped on the new contestant as possible, that’s a very quick turnaround from heartbroken to single and ready to mingle. And for those who don’t watch the show with a healthy dose of skepticism, it’s hard to follow.
As of last week, things looked like they were developing according to plan. Caila was seen shooting B-roll in her hometown, though that didn’t officially confirm anything; ABC has shot packages for potential leads before and not picked them. Still, it was a good sign. Until Reality Steve reported Monday (after being tipped off Friday) that ABC was picking JoJo instead. Though Caila had seemed, to many, to basically treat her time on the show—especially during the Women Tell All—as an audition for Bachelorette lead, it didn’t work.
“From everything I’ve heard, Caila is not happy, nor should she be,” Steve wrote, further explaining his take on the casting process:
Seven consecutive seasons the final two girl hasn’t gotten the role, and there have absolutely been some worthy candidates. Honestly, I still don’t know how it’s gonna look to announce JoJo as the “Bachelorette” tonight within the same hour of her coming out and talking to Ben about the dumping. Yes, I know that this happened four months ago and of course she’s over it, BUT, a majority of this show’s audience doesn’t grasp that concept and they want her to feel devastated and asking for answers tonight. Then to turn around in the same show and say, “And by the way, JoJo is our Bachelorette” is just bizarre.
But the show’s producers and contestants knew this, and they handled last night’s After the Final Rose episode very carefully. Though the finale showed a bereft Ben (including his mother, who was a delight in her confusion over how her son could be in love with two women) and a crying JoJo, by the time we got to the After the Final Rose special, everyone had their stories straight. Ben explained that though he was in love with JoJo and Lauren, the difference was that he couldn’t imagine his life without Lauren. Lauren smiled a little too widely at times. JoJo’s confrontation with Ben was hardly that; she seemed calm and explained that watching the show back, she could see that his relationship with Lauren was stronger. She wished the two of them well. She teared up—but only when it was announced that she was the new Bachelorette.
Why any given contestant is picked over another is ultimately a combination of many factors; the producers certainly take popularity into account, but it’s not as if they’re polling their whole audience to guarantee ratings. It’s very possible that they thought JoJo would be more likable than Caila, if only because she was one of two women who were told by Ben that he loved them, a show first.
Caila, who is half-Filipino, may not be the Bachelorette, but it’ll be interesting to see how ABC’s executives and the show’s producers—who were so confident the new one would be “diverse”—spin JoJo’s casting. Her background wasn’t paid much attention to before, probably because she was never really seen as a probable Bachelorette candidate, and perhaps also because not much was made of it. While Caila’s Filipino heritage was discussed during her hometown date, JoJo’s date focused mostly on the protectiveness of her brothers. However, Jojo’s bio from this season reads:
My mom is Persian, and my Dad was born and raised in Tennessee. I’m proud of my mother’s background despite what social opinions are. It’s important for me to stand up to people stereotyping Iranians.
ABC’s press release says nothing about her heritage, however, describing her as a “Southern Sweetheart”:
Jo Jo Fletcher first stole America’s heart on Ben Higgin’s season of “The Bachelor,” where she charmed both Ben and Bachelor Nation with her bubbly personality and sweet, girl-next-door wit and spunk. As their relationship progressed, the Texas real estate developer struggled to open up.
Will they start touting JoJo’s not entirely white background? It’s likely, given the pressures the show has been under to address its homogeneous history, though that means nothing for who they’ll cast to date her. But more than anything, the producers and executives are happy they have someone they think people will tune in for—and someone who is certainly experienced in what it means to make good reality TV.
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Images via ABC.