Warning: There are major spoilers from Aug. 20's Bachelor in Paradise episode ahead.
Bachelor producers aren’t ready just yet to pick the next leading man of their franchise yet — sure, Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette was full of hot men, ripe for the Bachelor picking, but so much can change during the short season of Bachelor In Paradise that it seems wise to wait and see if one guy stands out from the rest of the competition. In a big-time twist, that man might no longer be Mike Johnson, who seemed to have the most Bachelor Nation supporters up until now. Suddenly, Derek Peth might be a new Bachelor front-runner.
Derek, who first appeared on Jojo Fletcher's Bachelorette season, has spent his time on Bachelor In Paradise canoodling with Demi Burnett, from Colton’s season of The Bachelor, and up until the Aug. 20 episode, it seemed like he was just one of the pack. After all, he's done the Paradise thing before. Derek was on BIP Season 4, where he got engaged to Taylor Nolan. (Their relationship didn’t work out, hence his coming back onto Bachelor In Paradise.) It also turns out Derek and Demi also didn’t work out, because Demi, who came out as bisexual in the beginning of the season, realized she wanted to be with her girlfriend from before Paradise. When Demi decided she wanted to pursue things with this woman, Kristian Haggerty, over Derek, she also had to dump Derek on the beach. Within minutes, fans were absolutely buzzing about his Bachelor chances (don't worry, there are some still feeling conflicted because Mike still seems so promising).
Evan Bass, formerly of Rachel Lindsay’s season of The Bachelorette and Bachelor In Paradise, is probably the most prominent Bachelor Nation member to declare what legions of fans were tweeting about, too:
Kristina Schulman joined the conversation shortly after Evan's tweet:
Wells Adams, the Paradise bartender, for one, raised his hand in reply and then posted a campaign video for Derek:
The official Bachelor in Paradise account also got in on the conversation, as unsubtly as possible:
Of course, this isn't just your average breakup conversation ahead of a triumphant new search for love. Derek's chat with Demi was absolutely dripping in emotional maturity, something that's pretty rare on this franchise of shows. Derek took Demi telling him she didn’t want to be with him in a mature, confident way. He wasn’t thrilled, but she explained that it wasn’t about him — it was just that she had stronger feelings for Kristian. Derek was broken up, but he showed more of that signature support and emotional intelligence that he's been serving since Demi first started to feel conflicted in Week 2.
"As you all watch this, I want to ask that you have as much empathy as you can for Demi. I’ve seen some really hurtful things being said that don’t reflect how I feel and I lived this. I’m glad that you’re finally all able to see how open and honest she’s always been with me."
"I think it’s unfair to assume we should all be clean slates bent on getting engaged because we’re on a show. This is our lives and we’re all just people seeking meaningful connections. That’s what Demi and I are both doing and it should be respected."
Still, every Bachelor needs that one moment. The one that says, hey, this person needs a chance to find love on television. And Derek is a good man, a mature man, but boy, did his post-breakup confessional interview sound a lot like the beginning of a “make me the Bachelor."
“Everyone’s always said, oh, you’re a great guy… but I don’t want to hear just that. It’s the same rejection I’ve always gotten,” he said. “You know, here it is again. It doesn’t matter to me that it was a man or a woman. It hurt no differently.”
That'll do it.
And listen — I still love Mike as an option for Bachelor, because he is kind, smart, mature, humble — the list goes on. But Derek is showing emotional depth that would make him a downright pleasure to watch as the Bachelor, too. Yes, Derek was upset about getting dumped, but he recognized — like a rational adult — that Demi’s happiness was most important and that he will eventually find his own love. This man’s romantic journey has the potential to be so mature it will pay all our bills and clear our skin.