Monday night's episode of The Bachelorette was yet another lesson in how this "family" handles death: by bucking with tradition by cutting a Rose Ceremony and replacing it with an awkward Q&A with Andi, the Bachelorette who rejected a suitor who died.
A brief recap: while filming of this season was still happening, Eric Hill, a contestant on this season of The Bachelorette died in a paragliding accident. While Eric had not been chosen by Andi and wasn't one of her final paramours, his death has added a weird quality to the season. It's odd (to say the least) to watch a man discuss finding the love of his life when you know how short his life will be.
Last night was Eric's last appearance on the show and if we can give any credit to the producers, it was weird just like death is. Andi did not say goodbye to Eric during a Rose Ceremony – she basically asked him to leave after they had a heated conversation in which Eric essentially accused her of acting for the cameras and not being relaxed around him. Andi found this very offensive and she ended up crying, telling the rest of the men that if they didn't think she was taking the show seriously, they could leave:
It just strikes such a nerve to me that someone can look me in the face and say that I have a poker face to this when I have done nothing but try to be natural for y'all. Like this is not easy for me. I am exhausted. I am so exhausted and I am trying so hard. I am trying so hard, I really am.
Then ABC cut to commercial and when the show came back, we saw Chris Harrison, explaining that it "just didn't seem right tonight" to air a Rose Ceremony because that was Eric's last scene. "It just didn't seem important who did or didn't get a rose," added Harrison. "What does seem right is to talk about Eric."
But the conversation Harrison had with Andi was not about Eric – it was about Andi and by extension, the show. Some of Andi's statements reflected accurately about the lack of closure many people feel when someone they know dies. She said that her fight with Eric was "not the last conversation you would want to have with someone." She also wisely pointed out that during the show, it doesn't feel terrible to leave on bad terms with someone, because you know you'll be able to see the men again at the Men Tell All. In some ways, this was very fitting: when people die, they are gone, but the people they left behind remain. Andi even alluded to the bubble world the show creates, alluding to how Eric's death popped that bubble.
But as they did with Gia Allemand, the producers of The Bachelorette largely turned a tribute into a person who had died – who the producers and contestants clearly knew or liked – into the tribute about the show. Andi answered questions from Chris about how Eric's death affected her, which is less a tribute to Eric and more a way to garner audience favor for this tearful woman on her journey to love. When the worst thing happens to Bachelor Nation, the producers find a way to make it about the show's message, while desperately trying to avoid being called inappropriate or opportunistic.
Though Chris and Andi's talk was all about how Andi felt about love and really told us nothing more about who Eric was as a person, Andi's last conversation with Eric felt very real – on his end. He pushed her to open up to him and even though it didn't work, he forced a side of her that was more interesting than the canned one-liners she spews out as a requirement of the show. But Eric went home and even more morbidly, he's dead now. He couldn't last on the show and he didn't last in real life.
On Sunday night's episode of The Bachelorette (for some reason four hours of this show were aired this week), a contestant named Ron went home suddenly because a friend of his died. Ron's departure was glossed over; condolences were shared, but there you go – life happens. If it's not a part of the show, it's not important or particularly understood, even though it's more real than anything that's happening on screen. Which is fine, except that it results in hilariously dumb statements like this one from Josh M., a former pro baseball player rumored to be a front runner for Andi's heart. Josh M. has fallen so far into the Bachelor sinkhole he doesn't seem to know what reality is any longer:
"It could happen to any one of us here, that's what's so real about it."
Josh M.'s idiotic reflection is Bachelor Nation's biggest problem (or it's greatest gift): It functions well when things go according to script. When things go off-book, the total lack of reality in this reality TV show becomes so obvious it's not funny anymore. It's just depressingly oblivious.