How Should You Really Feel About The Bachelor’s Barbara-Madison Showdown?

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
After 11 long weeks, that’s it — The Bachelor season 24 is over. Technically, ABC aired its annual “After the Final Rose” finale special to reveal the status of its lead’s love story months after production has ended. However, when viewers look back on the 2020 Bachelor’s final episode, “Season Finale, Part 2,” it’s unlikely they will reflect upon Peter Weber’s upsetting breakup with “winner” Hannah Ann Sluss, or even his in-limbo relationship with first runner-up Madison Prewett. 
Instead, they will think about Peter’s mother, Barbara “Barb” Weber, a woman of 1,000 eyerolls and endless love for Hannah Ann. Above all, they’ll remember the showdown between Barb and the contestant her son ends the season with, Madison.
Barb’s behavior may have been more Real Housewives reunion than traditional Bachelor parent, but it did open up a whole new avenue of drama for future seasons of The Bachelor(ette). It’s an unexpected evolution that’s necessary for a franchise that has reinvented itself with almost every iteration since 2017.
Peter’s finale borrowed heavily from the two previous seasons of The Bachelor without any of the intense shock that came with those installments. By the time Peter’s season is done, he only has one contestant left — just like Colton Underwood did in 2019. However, Colton’s final choice was deliberate: He sent Tayshia Adams and Hannah Godwin home to directly pursue Cassie Randolph. Peter was simply broken up with by his second finalist, Madison. 
Peter then breaks up with Hannah Ann — whom he gets engaged to on the final day of production — after avoiding her for a month. In the monstrous style of Arie Luyendyk Jr., Peter springs the split on his “winner” in front of cameras during a post-production date. Hannah Ann is irritated but not surprised by the news (unlike Becca Kufrin, who was blindsided). Hannah Ann is mostly upset by Peter’s indecisive and selfish actions. This breakup leaves room for Peter and Madison to reunite at “After the Final Rose.” They do not get engaged, and Madison refuses to even admit she is in love with Peter (she simply confirms she “loves” him). 
Barb is thoroughly displeased with this entire series of events, which we know thanks to the reaction shot camera producers set up in the right corner of the screen. The camera was trained on Barb for much of “Part 2,” and revealed the reality TV mom was unable to hid her displeasure over Peter’s breakup and his eventual poolside reunion with Madison. It was the kind of behavior you would expect from Jane Fonda’s titular character in 2005 rom-com Monster-in-Law
Barb’s outsized dislike for Madison adds the kind of reality TV magic missing from Peter’s lukewarm interactions with his finalists. It’s impossible not to wonder why Barb is behaving in such an extreme way, even if you fully disagree with her tactics. Finally, host Chris Harrison invites Barb to share her opinions, and you lean a little bit closer to the TV to listen. 
“When I went for Hannah Ann, it was because she was the one who embraced me with love. She was so organic. She was just so loving towards me,” Barb says. On the other hand, Barb claims, Madison made the family wait “three hours” to arrive for their meeting (“She didn’t want to meet us”) and didn’t apologize for the “rocky” delay.  When Madison finally did show up, she supposedly said she wasn’t “madly in love” with Peter and confirmed she would not accept a proposal from Peter in four days, when The Bachelor would film the finale. 
“How do you expect a mother who loves her son with all of her heart to take that?” Barb asks. 
Madison responds by saying that because she “has love” for Peter, she has “love and respect for Peter’s family.” Since Madison explains she would never say a “negative word” about Peter’s loved ones, she stops talking and asks Peter to say something. The Bachelor attempts to offer up some empty phrases about “passion” and “how he feels” about Madison, both to Chris and his parents. Traditionally, this is where Chris would wrap the segment, say some hopeful fluffy words about Peter and Madison’s future, and move on to the awaiting Bachelorette, Clare Crowley. The host seemingly tries to begin that process by throwing a softball question to Barb about “just wanting what’s best” for Peter. Barb refuses the easy answer, and accuses Madison of refusing to compromise with Peter. 
This swerve gives both women the opportunity to offer up their most memorable thoughts of the evening. “This isn’t just Peter choosing me, this is me choosing Peter,” Madison says, continuing a powerful finale run. The audience cannot help but clap in support of Madison's thoughtful sentiment. However, Barb also gets to slip in the instantly unforgettable line of “Chris, [Peter] is going to have to fail to succeed,” as a rejoinder before announcing this pairing “isn’t going to work.”  
Fathers have been famously harsh on The Bachelor since the dawn of time. Production went so far as to bring Cassie Randolph’s dad Matt Randolph to Portugal when it seemed like an engagement was on the table between his daughter and Colton. When Peter prepares to propose to Hannah Ann during his finale, we see him FaceTime with just Hannah’s father to ask for her hand in marriage. Hannah Ann’s mother is not involved in the scene, despite the fact that Mr. Sluss says, “We want to give you and Hannah our blessing.”  
Barb’s over-the-top mother-in-law behavior reminds us that moms can be just as vocal in these situations as the parade of grumpy fathers we’ve come to expect from The Bachelor(ette). Now, Madison and Peter will have to deal with the aftermath — and that may just be the most realistic part of their messy romance. If they can survive the wrath of Barb, they can survive anything.
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