“I Applaud Madison for Owning How It Made Her Feel”: Sharleen Joynt on The Bachelor Episode 9

Bach alum Sharleen Joynt shares her insider POV on episode 9 of Pilot Pete's season

I have mixed feelings about last night’s episode. On one end, I despised the blatant puppeteering on production’s part in housing the final three women together. This has never been done before and, given it was Fantasy Suite week and these women were literally taking turns to leave and sleep over with the same guy, it felt downright sick. It was obvious The Powers That Be were purposely targeting an already unravelling Madison and, given her views on sexual intimacy and how many filmed conversations she was likely made to have (speculating on all the sex Peter was having, of course), this felt like a new low. We all know overnight dates week is already hard enough when you’re living alone—it’s a whole lot of anxiety and thumb-twiddling—and this shift didn’t even pretend to serve any purpose other than to chip away at Madison’s sanity. I can only hope a habit isn’t made out of this.

However, as painful as the housing change was, I have to admit I relished the depth of discussion Madison’s concerns brought to the table last night. After a season of champagne-“stealing,” of mean girls saying nasty things to and about each other, and of Peter making facepalm-worthy choices, it was refreshing to witness a woman wrestle with challenges that for once felt valid. The thing is, even if you don’t see eye to eye with Madison’s religious beliefs or agree with her standards in terms of a partner’s behaviour, it’s not difficult to see where she’s coming from. It’s a welcome change to be able to relate to a woman on this show, particularly in Madison’s case as she’s clearly intelligent, reasonable, and has been drama-free since day one. In other words, she’s picked her battles, and the battle she finally did pick was a worthy one. I think it says something that, even despite her turmoil, Madison is and has been well-liked by the other women, and as evidenced by her non-villainous edit last night, perhaps by production as well.

I’ve heard of folks criticizing Madison’s demands of Peter for sounding eerily similar to the ultimatum Luke P gave Hannah Brown last season. I’ve seen people say that if we had a problem with Luke P’s demands, we should have the same problem with Madison’s. In my humble opinion, there’s a huge difference between voicing your preferences as they pertain to choices you’ve made for yourself, versus judging what others choose to do based on assumptions you’ve made about them. First, and crucially, Madison told Peter BEFORE Fantasy Suite week how she would feel if he slept with other women. She had reflected on what she could stomach and told Peter precisely what that was. Luke P simply presumed Hannah’s actions would align with his expectations of her, without communicating what those even were. He made sweeping assumptions about her beliefs and behaviour, correlating her sexual choices with her worthiness as his partner, all the while lording a sense of superiority over her. Madison, meanwhile, made no assumptions whatsoever about Peter; she straight up and simply told Peter what she could and could not handle. It wasn’t about Peter’s actions or judging them, but rather how his actions affected and hurt her.

I’m a big believer in sexual compatibility and absolutely think it can be critical to a successful romantic relationship. However, if this really is the two-way street Peter has repeatedly claimed it is, why shouldn’t Madison have expectations of Peter and why shouldn’t she voice them? Contestants are regularly skewered on this show for having had an ex a little too recently, yet a final 3 frontrunner can’t be unhappy with the lead dismissing her clear wishes? Madison is expected to accept a proposal in a week or so, yet Peter can’t keep it in his pants for her? It bugged me how Peter, for all his “two-way street” talk, kept emphasizing how Madison’s demands made things difficult for HIM. With all the unknowns, the downtime, the lack of distraction, and the fact that she was forced to live with his other “girlfriends,” things this week were indisputably harder for her. I know this is Peter’s journey and this season is about him figuring out which relationship works best for him, but honestly, he should know by now who he’s choosing. Just about every lead knows by overnights (if not far sooner) who he’s picking, and quite frankly, if they don’t know by now, perhaps they shouldn’t be getting engaged in a matter of weeks.

It’s easy to dismiss Madison’s issues this week with the standard: “Well, she knew what TV show she signed up for.” After all, everyone knows this show’s relationships culminate with overnight dates, so much so that the term “Fantasy Suite” has become synonymous with sexy time. It has become something of a cultural phenomenon, referenced across countless parodies. It’s hard to not hold Madison at least somewhat accountable for putting herself in this position in the first place. However, as I’ve said over the years, very few people come on this show solely for romance, and even fewer truly expect to wind up engaged. In my day, it was about the YOLO experience. Today, it’s that same YOLO experience plus the many perks that come with reality television notoriety and Instagram followers. I’ve always said any contestant would be crazy to truly expect to wind up being “The One” at the end of this, thus I am sure no one is more surprised than Madison that she’s reached this point and that feelings have developed in the way that they have. Not only can one not really prepare for this experience, they certainly can’t prepare for how it feels to have the object of their affections sleep with their friends, all the while being expected to be A-OK with it.

Despite Madison’s religious beliefs being a central part of her storyline the past two weeks, I don’t see how her concerns last night had anything to do with that. If you think about it, her “saving” herself for marriage because of her religion was a complete non-issue. Over dinner, Madison told Peter, “I can’t wrap my mind around, in a week from now, if you’re down on one knee, and six days before that you slept with somebody else. I just can’t wrap my mind around that.” Frankly, she wouldn’t be alone in feeling this—wouldn’t anyone (at least, anyone with the notions set by our cultural standard of monogamy) feel the same way, whether or not they were religious or were saving themselves for marriage? The Bachelor has normalized this Twilight Zone-ish alternate reality of one man dating several women, making Fantasy Suites a bizarre rite of passage all finalists must endure. But I personally admire and applaud Madison for owning how it made her feel as opposed to pretending to be cool with something she’s not. She’s within her right to be uncomfortable with her ostensible soon-to-be fiancé sleeping with other women a week prior to proposing. Her willingness to vocalize that, despite it not being what Peter would want to hear, is exactly what a “two-way street” is all about.

My predictions based on Episode 9 are…

Madison, 23

As upset as Madison was by Peter’s actions this week, I don’t think she’s ready to walk away from this relationship. I still strongly believe Madison is the woman Peter ends up choosing. However, if I’m right—given that her concerns do suggest a degree of traditionalism and/or jealousy—I’d be curious to know how watching the season back would be for her. Peter has always looked at Madison with an extra sparkle in his eye and I can’t see him ever (willingly) saying goodbye to her.

Hannah Ann, 23

I never would have guessed on Night One that Hannah Ann would end up being one of my favorite ladies of the season. She’s articulate, easygoing, and blissfully drama-free. Given Peter’s clear affinity for drama (this man somehow equates an “easy” relationship with it being “boring”), I worry this might actually work against her, but at any rate, Peter clearly has a soft spot for Hannah Ann. He’s becoming more and more comfortable using the L-word about and around her, something I don’t think he’d do if he intended to send her home anytime soon.

Who’s going home next week

Victoria F, 26

Despite these two finally taking a step forward in their relationship and not fighting for once, I still don’t see this pairing lasting. Not a single issue from last week was legitimately solved (Peter only apologized and said he was on her side), and this week Peter even said, “I love everything about my relationship with Victoria except when it comes to just communicating.” I do think Peter confuses the challenges of a relationship with being challenged in a relationship, and I personally believe that’s why this one has lasted as long as it has.

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