“Are you allowed to say that?”
That question was the reaction one of the final two women on ABC’s hit reality show, “The Bachelor,” had to Ben Higgins when he told her, “JoJo, I love you too,” on Monday night’s episode.
Currently in its 20th cycle, the show drew 8 million weekly viewers who had fallen in love with ABC’s 27-year-old Bachelor, a software salesman from Denver, CO.
But on Monday night’s episode with just three women left, Higgins did something no other Bachelor in the history of the show has done:
He told two of the finalists he loved them.
So that scene with Joelle “JoJo” Fletcher, a 25-year-old real estate developer from Texas, might have been romantic — had Higgins not just told another contestant, 25-year-old flight attendant Lauren Bushnell, the same thing a few hours earlier.
Fans of the show were outraged by Higgins’ loose lips. The moment he told the second woman JoJo he loved her, fans lost it and called him the worst bachelor to ever grace their televisions. And for Higgins, who always seemed to say and do the perfect things, the heartless move seemed very out of character.
So, what the heck happened?
According to the show and Higgins, the bachelor fell in love with two women. Higgins is quoted as saying he never thought he’d find himself in this position because he didn’t know his heart was capable of loving two people at the same time.
But if you’ve been watching the show — even if you are well aware that the show is cut exceptionally well and a lot of it is make-believe — then you have trouble believing Higgins. Because for the entire season, he’s seemed to be madly in love with Bushnell and not that interested in Fletcher.
There’s a fan theory going around about why Higgins was driven to tell two women he loves them. And it actually makes a great deal of sense. In a nutshell, the theory is that the producers put him up to it, because his obvious chemistry with Bushnell ruined the season finale. (When contacted by Business Insider, ABC had no comment.)
Here’s the evidence:
Ben was madly in love with Lauren B this season, and it was too obvious.
He’s said that he’s like a “schoolboy” around her, chasing her around the playground. He has also said he thinks she’s too good for him and can’t understand why she’s single and that he thinks their relationship is too good to be true. And they’re very cute together on-screen.
Ben was into JoJo, but said early in Monday’s episode that he wasn’t sure he was in love with her.
He also met her family prior to Monday night’s episode and it didn’t go well. Fletcher’s brothers were very sceptical of Higgins and didn’t think he was as into their sister as she was into him. Higgins more than implied on the show that the hometown date gave him pause about JoJo.
Ben messed up big time when he told Lauren B he loved her before the finale.
One day before his date with JoJo, Higgins had a date with the apparent frontrunner, Lauren B. In the fantasy suite, she told him she loved him for the first time, and he replied that he’d known he was in love with her for a long time as well.
The producers probably didn’t like that. Lauren B would be the obvious winner before the finale had a chance to air. And ABC can’t have that.
In all of the show’s cycles, saying the “L” word too early seems to be a big no-no. It’s not clear if it’s written in a bachelors’ contracts with ABC, or if they don’t like to say it for personal reasons. But previous bachelors and bachelorettes have alluded to the fact that they’re actually not allowed to say it too soon.
For example, previous bachelor Sean Lowe, who got married to contestant Katherine Giudici, told the Hollywood Reporter: “When you can’t say ‘I love you,’ you have to come up with other things…”
And while another previous bachelor, Brad Womack, did tell a contestant he was “falling in love with her” (but not, not that he WAS in love with her), he said it in a weird way that made it seem rebellious: “I’m not going to sit here and listen to [you say ‘I love you’] and not say anything back,” he told the woman.
And let’s remember what Higgins said to JoJo when she asked if he was “allowed” to say “I love you” back.
Even “The Bachelor” host Chris Harrison says Ben reciprocating “I love you” feelings that early in the show is something he’s never seen before — and thought he’d never see.
Each week, Chris Harrison blogs about the episode after it airs for Yahoo. And this week, he revealed how extraordinary it was that Higgins revealed his true feelings for Bushnell this soon. He writes (emphasis ours):
“That night, in the fantasy suite at Sandals in Ocho Rios, Lauren finally confessed what she had been feeling for a while and what she failed to tell him at the end of her hometown date… that she loved him. And at that moment Ben told her that he loved her too. It’s a thing I can’t remember ever seeing on our show, a Bachelor telling someone that he was in love that early, and to hear the ‘I love you’ given and returned was something I wasn’t sure I’d ever see on ‘The Bachelor.'”
Read that again: That move was “something I wasn’t sure I’d ever see on ‘The Bachelor.'”
Yep, Higgins messed up.
If Ben really did break some official rule and say “I love you” too soon, he may have blown the finale for ABC, which is a big problem.
ABC has to have its finale. The show has ended a lot of ways over the 20 cycles, but one thing every finale has always had is that there are 3 people in the end: The happy couple and the person who gets rejected.
Fans have had lots of theories about who will win the proposal, and Reality Steve, a popular Bachelor blogger, has nailed the ending a few times. But viewers have never known with 100% certainty who the winner will be before the finale airs.
So Ben may have been asked to do some serious damage control to cover up his finale-blowing mistake and told to make the race look closer.
Even JoJo was surprised to hear Higgins return her feelings.
“So today, having you say that back to me — I was shocked,” she told him at dinner later that evening, reflecting on his outburst of feelings.
So were we!
Was Ben forced by the show to tell JoJo he loved her in order to save the finale and ABC?
We’ll probably never know for certain. But it sure seems like a real possibility based on Ben’s reaction to both women.
Take a look at his reaction here, as JoJo tells him how happy she was to hear her feelings returned.
Here are the two “I love you” scenes from the episode. You be the judge.
JoJo’s is below, starting at the 2:20 mark:
And here’s the more convincing “I love you” to Lauren B: