The dawn of a new year is at last upon us, which means it is once again time for America’s most important tradition: spending ten of this winter’s darkest, coldest weeks watching attractive twenty-somethings pantomime a search for True Love on national TV. Yes, 18 years after The Bachelor premiered on ABC—this franchise, were it a person, would be old enough to cast a ballot in the fall—the show’s 23rd season begins tonight. For those of you who require a primer on the latest iteration of this long-normalized Black Mirror premise before attending your co-worker’s obligatory viewing party, I am, as always, here to help.
Who is the Bachelor this time around?
That would be 28-year-old Delta Airlines pilot Peter Weber, whose reward for finishing third on Hannah Brown’s Bachelorette run last summer is an entire season all to himself. You will often hear him referred to as “Pilot Pete,” both because everyone loves cutesy alliteration and also because the producers are presumably elated that for the first time in several years, this show’s lead has a job that is both (1) cool and (2) real.
Weber grew up in Southern California. He is an outspoken fan of the Seattle Seahawks, which makes him well-suited to a life of high drama and crushing disappointment. He also has an extremely pure IMDB page that somehow notes his one-episode appearance on Days of Our Lives in 2003, but does not mention that he is the bachelor.
I want to make sure I understand: Tyler Cameron is not the lead? How is this possible?
Thanks for asking. Cameron, who is what it would look like if a set of abdominal muscles spoke with a charming drawl and were capable of displaying kindness, reportedly turned down the gig because his “heart wasn’t 100 percent there.” This is a kind way of saying that the Bachelorette runner-up, who has been romantically linked to supermodel Gigi Hadid (last year) and Kylie Jenner associate Stassie Karanikolaou (more recently), is way, way too famous for this. If he does make a cameo, he will probably be the most famous dude to appear all season, Pilot Pete included. Keep your fingers crossed, Cameronheads.
What is the most important thing I should know about Peter?
In Hannah Brown’s immortal words: Pilot Pete fucked in a windmill.
The vigor of the former Bachelorette’s proclamation stems mostly from her contempt for Luke, a would-be suitor whose regressive, misogynistic opinions about the morality of her sex life prompted her to boot him in sneering, bird-flipping fashion. But this four-word distillation of Brown’s and Weber’s Fantasy Suite encounter became a sort of gleeful tagline for the entire season, which culminated in the tell-all revelation that the pair not only fucked in a windmill, but fucked in a windmill four times.
The best part of this story arc is the fact that Peter’s family was sitting in the studio when this admission took place, and whooped it up triumphantly when the full extent of their son’s sex-having prowess was finally revealed to an audience of millions. I cannot emphasize enough how surreal it was to watch a beaming Mr. and Mrs. Weber applaud like a pair of proud Spelling Bee parents who just watched their kid fearlessly rattle off, say, “hiortdahlite.”
In seriousness, the Bachelor franchise’s mercurial, prudish relationship with sex is among its most frustrating running subplots: The notion that people ostensibly pondering a lifetime together might want to explore their physical chemistry before making such a commitment invariably gets treated as outrageous scandal. Five years ago, when Bachelorette lead Kaitlyn Bristowe admitted that she and Nick Viall had slept together before the appointed Fantasy Suite week, she endured a vicious online backlash that brought her to tears during the season’s tell-all episode.
Part of this lingering taboo stems from the show’s infatuation with facilitating traditional storybook marriages, and part of it perhaps relates to the sensibilities of a slightly-more-buttoned-up audience that watches primetime network TV. Brown, though, was delightfully and profanely unapologetic about the importance of sex in her relationships, and earned well-deserved praise for helping to drag the show further into the 21st century in the process. If Peter keeps this dynamic going—in the trailer, he appears to admit to “being intimate” with an unnamed contestant—perhaps it will be at least one aspect of modern dating that this funhouse mirror-version manages to get sort of right.
What was Peter’s single best line during the last Bachelorette season?
With apologies to all clean-energy-facility-adjacent entrants in this category, it’s this, which came at the end of a lengthy and certainly-NSFW make session with Hannah in a Latvian spa: “If this works out with her and I, we are 100 percent getting a sauna at our place.”
Who are some of the women vying for
an exponential bump in Instagram followers Peter’s heart?
As usual, the producers appear to be leaning heavily on elements of Peter’s past to gin up compelling potential storylines. Fresh off his romance with Brown, a former Miss Alabama, five ex-beauty pageant contestants appear on the official contestant roster—that’s Alayah, Hannah Ann, Kelsey, Maurissa, and Victoria P., for those of you preparing for fantasy drafts. (Yes, one of them is also named Hannah. Subtlety has never been this show’s strong suit.)
There are two Alabamians, Madison and Sydney, at least one of whom will step out of the limo and say something brutal like, “I know you’ve been unlucky with a woman from my state, but you’ll forget all about her after our first date” as I cover my eyes in horror. And there are three flight attendants—Eunice, Jade, and Megan—whose chosen professions will provide plenty of opportunities to retell the story of Peter’s dad (also a pilot!) and mom (a flight attendant!) meeting one another at work.
Also, Hannah shows up!
If Bachelor editing history is any indication, hers is probably just a brief teaser appearance; like Cameron, Brown, the newly-crowned Dancing With The Stars champion, does not need this show in order to maintain her fame. But the mere sight of her climbing out of a limo will be good for at least 45 minutes of the other contestants bemoaning the howling unfairness of her intrusion on their sacred quest for happily-ever-after. Since Monday’s premiere is three hours long, this is a pretty savvy strategy for chewing up some of those airtime minutes.
Otherwise, this season’s trailer features lots of standard-issue Bachelor tropes: romantic helicopter rides, tropical sunsets, towering waterfalls, passionate kisses—and, of course, a lengthy montage of astonished gasps, pained conversations, and free-flowing tears. In other words, it’s going to be exactly what you’ve come to expect from this franchise, except with a little more sex positivity and a lot more excruciating air travel jokes.
The 26-year-old Bachelorette runner-up quickly outgrew the reality TV franchise by doing what few contestants ever manage: acting like a normal person.
Originally Appeared on GQ