Sharleen Joynt on Episode 5 of The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart

The Bach alum—and classical singer—shares her POV on episode 5 of the new Bachelor musical series

There really is a lot to love about this show. I’ve been swinging back and forth between enjoyment and frustration with Listen To Your Heart, but I can’t deny that when I get about 60% of the way through each episode and performances are about to begin, I’m officially excited for what’s to come. It’s a true get-comfortable-and-pull-out-the-popcorn moment, to watch contestants—contestants you’ve grown to know and whose talents you’ve grown to trust—simply perform. It’s the one moment where the choices they make and how we view them are completely in their control. And in some ways, the fact that we don’t always see them performing (à la most elimination-based reality TV talent competitions) is what makes it all the more special; you’ve been privy to witnessing at least a sliver of who they are outside of performing, of the build-up and preparation leading up to that performance. It’s a unique aspect to this show I can’t say I’ve ever seen before.

This episode in particular brought about a different set of talking points from your usual Bachelor fare. Sure, the last few episodes have had trope villains and unsubtle Bachelor-esque editing, so Listen To Your Heart isn’t innocent in that regard, but this week brought to light the different circumstances talent brings into the mix. First, as it becomes clear as day that, talent-wise, the couple to beat is Rudi and Matt, it’s interesting to see how The Powers That Be are handling this inevitability. It’s not enough to simply wait and see how performances stack up against one another; we’ve seen and heard Rudi and Matt perform enough to know, out of the remaining three couples, theirs will most likely be the most powerful performance. There is of course plenty of subjectivity and taste at play, but audience after audience (and panel of judges after panel of judges) can’t be wrong. (Plus, if there’s one thing of mine I implicitly trust, it’s my ears.) Bear in mind, I don’t know any spoilers; I simply feel strongly that, in terms of audiences spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to hear a live act, well…knowing a couple is in love simply isn’t enough. There needs to be an “It” factor, a level of talent that transcends subjectivity, instead entering a realm of objectivity. It has to be undeniable, memorable and goosebumps-inducing. That remaining couple is Rudi and Matt.

To offset what appears to be a sure thing, the show is leaning hard into the one unsure thing: how Matt feels about Rudi. It’s not unlike throwing us off the scent of the clear “winner”-to-be on The Bachelor; casting doubt by filling our heads with all the reasons why this couple wouldn’t work, why this frontrunner isn’t right or ready.

I enjoy Matt a lot. Ever since the premiere where he didn’t know Chris Harrison’s name, he’s been a fun one to watch. I always value honesty in a contestant above all else, and it really feels like Matt doesn’t know how NOT to be honest. I appreciate that he won’t automatically confess to “falling in love,” even if it means having less of a sure shot at “winning,” or if it makes him less of a proper romantic lead. His declaration in an ITM, “I just don’t want to say something that isn’t true!,” showed us how inexperienced with the Bachelor franchise (both as a contestant and a viewer) this guy really is. You get the sense he’s in over his head on the reality-TV-dating front, and it is very endearing to watch.

Because of these reasons, it doesn’t surprise me Matt wouldn’t fudge the truth and say some version of the L-word to appease Rudi. However, I have my doubts the Rudi/Matt saga went down as we were shown last night. The editing was extremely wonky: Rudi told Matt she was falling for him, he told her she was courageous in doing so, and she suddenly she’s leaving in tears? Was there no “middle” section to this conversation? What was his entire response, and how did this eventually resolve? They were seen rehearsing shortly thereafter, most likely in the following day or two, so it’s safe to assume some sort of resolution (even if inconclusive) was reached. I’m reminded of the countless times we’ve seen a blowout fight between contestants on The Bachelor yet never the equally important make-up conversation, the event to bridge the gap between the fight and those same contestants getting along swimmingly a week later. We viewers are left to piece things together without actually having been given all the pieces.

In general, production had no qualms about copying and pasting Rudi’s tears across the entire episode; when the others were recapping their rehearsals and relationships during the daytime, notice how a distressed Rudi was inserted into the scene, despite still wearing her evening date outfit…

Further, given the friendships between these women, it’s hard to imagine Bri and Jamie insensitively having this discussion in the presence of a visibly upset Rudi…

It’s clear the narrative being pushed on us: Rudi’s feelings for Matt are unrequited, she’s a wreck and might not be able to perform, their relationship is on the rocks and might not make it. But we know there’s more to what they’ve discussed than has been shown—the question is why. Is it because this wouldn’t be a Bachelor franchise episode without textbook drama? Would the conversation between Rudi and Matt left on the editing room floor have left things too harmonious to be interesting? Or is it a longer term end-game, for their “love story” to culminate at the last moment, just in time for a fireworks-worthy finale? Only time will tell, but the one thing I do know is this kind of convoluted editing doesn’t take place for no reason. If Matt really had heartlessly shut down Rudi, that would have been shown.

My heart hurt for Natascha and Ryan last night. I know from experience it’s bad enough not to advance to the next level, but it’s a million times worse when it’s because you messed up or did far from your best. (It’s the difference between acceptance and regret.) I couldn’t help but analyze WHY this particular performance went awry. Natascha and Ryan have been easily two of the most polished performers on the show. (I’ve even seen folks on Twitter suggesting Natascha’s some producer plant because she’s too good to just be a regular contestant.) On the surface, it would seem Natascha handing a guitar-playing Ryan a microphone was a flub, as was her messing up the lyrics, causing them to “disconnect.” These seem like careless mistakes caused by nerves, but given how professional these two are, I can’t help but partially associate these blunders with a greater culprit: Time. Rather, lack thereof. Time to fully flesh out their (perhaps ambitious) rendition of a popular song, time to rehearse precisely when Ryan would use a mic stand or share Natascha’s, time to rehearse in the actual space, to calculate how many steps out into the audience they could venture. It made me realize just how much these two were basically winging it, half prepared, half just hoping for the best.

Think about it: Nerves and anxiety make great reality TV—at least, they’re thought to in the Bachelor world, where there are often public speaking/performing/skydiving/cliff-rappelling dates. But how does one incite nerves and anxiety in performers, people who aren’t afraid of getting up in front of crowds? It would be to take away their usual preparedness, the assurance that they’re locked in with their lyrics (as Brandon expressed concern over last week), that they know precisely how many times they’re singing the chorus to their song (as Matt confirmed with Rudi moments before going on stage—hearing him even ask this question gave me anxiety), the certainty in where the microphone should be and when. As a performer myself, my nightmares don’t entail walking out onto stage to perform an opera I’ve sufficiently rehearsed; they involve performing something I don’t know, something I’m unprepared for.

On a grander scale, you realize these performers are purposely not being given sufficient time to prepare or deliver their best, not unlike designers on Project Runway. (But, at least on Project Runway the judges and viewers know full well about the time crunch.) Notice how these contestants receive their “song assignments” with both excitement and trepidation. Think about how badly they just want to know what they’re dealing with, how they just want to get started. I said in today’s The Morning After video that it’d be nice to see these performers get to choose their own songs, to have us hear them as they’d want to be heard. But even since saying that, I realized robbing performers of that option is likely in and of itself a calculated decision. A song you know well affords a certain comfort and confidence, adjectives that have and will never be associated with The Bachelor franchise.