Monday night’s episode of The Bachelor was Fantasy Suites, which typically means ~sex~. But for once, sex was the least interesting thing this show threw at its audience, after Bachelor Ben revealed to two women that he loved them, in what appears to be a show first.

There is a rule, unwritten but still generally understood, that the leads are not supposed to reveal before the show ends—on camera at least—who they plan to choose at the end. That does not mean that they haven’t done it, but if they have, it hasn’t been on camera. The contestants, on the other hand, feel like they have to say it, in order to make it clear to the lead that they’re ready for commitment. So what you typically see is a couple of people saying “I love you” to one person and not getting it back.

Advertisement

Ben upset that rule, by saying it to both Lauren and Jojo. (Caila went home, in a very awkward turn of events that all but solidified her turn as the next Bachelorette.) Prior to his declaration of love, both women had admitted that they were scared to put themselves out there, but you could tell they felt like they had to.

“I feel good about us, but I don’t know where you stand with other people,” Lauren told Ben, before later revealing, “I am in completely in love with you, and you are really the man of my dreams.”

“For me, I’ve known I’m in love with you for awhile as well,” he responded. “That’s crazy!” she said later.

Advertisement

So things went well with them—until they also went well with Jojo, who was the most obvious about how what Ben was doing upset the rules of the show. “I know I won’t ever get an answer with Ben until I’m the last one here,” she said, acknowledging on camera the reality show rules that require most contestants to be in limbo until the Final Rose Ceremony. That being said, she still felt like she needed to tell Ben that she loved him, adding, “When I think about the future, there’s not a doubt in my mind that I would want to spend it with you.”

When Ben responded,“Jojo I love you too,” what passed over her face was pure shock, in a way that I’m not sure I’ve seen on this show. “What?” she said back, before adding something incredibly telling: “Are you allowed to say that?”

“I was shocked. I’m freaking out! I was so scared because I was like what if I say it and he doesn’t feel it,” she said in a state of excitement. “This is the first time that I have zero doubts that he’ll be my husband some day.”

Advertisement

There’s something tricky about what Ben did. In a real-world scenario, saying “I love you” would obviously confirm to someone that you care deeply about them, but on The Bachelor, it means more. Jojo was so excited about Ben’s reciprocation of her feelings because she’s seen this show before, and knows he’s not supposed to say it at all, which means she thought he was telling her she was the only one he loved, despite the other women left.

Why Ben decided to upend the rules is unclear. Much has been made of him feeling after Kaitlyn’s season like he was “unlovable,” and if we are to believe that storyline, several things he said last night reinforced that idea. “Today meant a lot to me because for the first time I know where you stand,” he said to Jojo. “I found myself not able to hold back,” he explained to Caila about his feelings for the two other women—and how his feelings for her didn’t match up.

Ben did acknowledge subtly, and then less than subtly, in his People blog that he knew he wasn’t supposed to do that according to the rules of the show, when he said it first to Lauren. [Emphasis added.]

So when she told me that she loved me, I simply could not hold it inside anymore. I knew it wasn’t the exact right time and that there could be consequences but it was bursting to come out and I could not have been happier to tell her that I was in love with her right then and there. And then again and again and again.

Of course it didn’t hit me till the next day what that meant. Not that I loved Lauren, but that I had confirmed it in my heart and let her know about it. It means that if I wasn’t feeling that for these other women, I could no longer keep them here. I would need to end this thing earlier than I had anticipated and propose to Lauren whether the producers had a TV show to make or not. I owed these women that much and if that was where my heart was, the rest would just have to fall into place.

Later, at the Rose Ceremony, things were upended yet again. For instance, Chris Harrison’s stoney face when Jojo revealed that Ben had said he loved her.

And here’s his face when Lauren said the same thing.

“I was surprised,” said Lauren. “I am too,” responded Chris, not altogether approvingly.

Advertisement

While standing next to each other during the Rose Ceremony, the women actually spoke, albeit awkwardly. Then they palled around with Ben and had a group hug, with Ben saying, “Hey gang!”

“I am in love with these two women. My heart is with Lauren and my heart is with Jojo. Nothing about this is going to be easy,” he said.

For her part, Lauren seemed aware of the fact that nothing was certain with Ben, despite his breaking of the rules. “It’s tough to be standing there and be reminded of the fact that Ben could have stronger feelings for Jojo. It’s just the reality of the situation. I hate it. I mean I’ve never been in love with two people but I don’t think it’s impossible. I think it’s very possible.”

Advertisement

And after the Rose Ceremony, and seeing Lauren, the reality seemed to dawn on Jojo too. “There is a part of me that wonders if he says those things to Lauren,” she said. In the promo for the finale, which airs in two weeks, we see Lauren say, “I’m scared that Ben is in love with Jojo too.” Who knows what prompting these women have received from producers (who are at least relieved Ben said “I love you” to two women and not one, which would have totally ruined their ending), but it’s clear that this is an upset that has turned the tide against Ben, who had been generally perceived as very nice, if a bit boring.

As the show’s producer pointed out, the reaction on Twitter from former contestants and leads was swift and interesting.

This morning on Good Morning America, Ben worked off the bad press by announcing that he is, in fact, engaged. So we know for sure that things worked out for him (for now) and that the show managed to make do with what he gave them, despite him “breaking all the rules.” They always do, don’t they?


Contact the author at dries@jezebel.com.

Images via ABC.