Right now there is a very obvious barrier standing between Bachelor Nation fans and new episodes of The Bachelorette: the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused the indefinite delay of Clare Crawley’s upcoming season. It is impossible to imagine Clare enjoying any of the traditional trappings of Bachelorettedom as world governments implement severe and life-saving social distancing ordinances around the globe. Right now, watching Clare knock knees with a dreamy suitor in a teeny tiny helicopter would feel more like a nightmare than a fairytale (six feet apart, people!). Seeing her make out with multiple strangers could appear so reckless that Dr. Anthony Fauci would probably touch his face — again — in horror.
But, if ABC and Bachelor Nation fans alike get their way, filming will eventually start on Clare’s season, and she will likely smooch a handful of hunky men in quick succession — it is, delightfully, the Bachelorette Way. Many viewers may hope a return to The Bachelorette’s PG horniness will also feel like a return to normalcy. Yet, as I rewatch Clare’s OG entrance into the Bachelor franchise — Juan Pablo Galavis’ topsy-turvy 2014 season — it becomes more clear with every episode that we may never be able to watch this series the same way again.
The Bachelor as we know it is over forever.
This realization first fully dawned on me during the sixth episode of my rewatch of Juan Pablo’s Bachelor season. At this point, the Bachelor season 18 crew has traveled from America to South Korea to Vietnam and, finally, to New Zealand. In the era of coronavirus, it is difficult not to immediately consider all the airports the cast has walked through, all of the people they have passed on the way to their gate, and all of the air they shared with a couple hundred people on their many aircrafts. And those thoughts come before the scene that will truly shock you in this time of society-wide distancing and hand washing.
The evening portion of the episode’s group date takes place at the Hobbiton set in New Zealand, where the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed. Juan Pablo eventually gets some alone time with fan-favorite Sharleen Joynt after kissing both Renee Oteri and Nikki Ferrell, at least according to the way the footage was edited. Juan Pablo starts making out with Sharleen before she can get a word in. After nine hours of aggressive Juan Pablo behavior, this isn’t even the moment that forced me to reel back in horror and panic from the confines of my quarantine bunker.
Instead, the truly offending interaction arrives after Sharleen and J.P. share multiple smooches. As Sharleen explains her trepidation over the “inorganic” Bachelor process, she covers her entire face with her hands to calm down. Juan Pablo then takes his own hands and cradles Sharleen’s head in them before moving his hands to the base of her jaw and rubbing his thumbs all over her cheeks and mouth.
You can practically see the germs spreading on Sharleen's face.
As a cherry on top of the sundae, after all that, Juan Pablo then kisses Sharleen again. Once upon a time, such an act of physical tenderness would seem romantic (if it didn’t come from a villain like Juan Pablo). Now, it seems like the No. 1 seduction technique the CDC would outlaw if given the chance.
J.P. continues his COVID-19-era horror movie behavior later in the New Zealand episode with Clare. The pair share an emotional conversation by a river and then go back to Juan Pablo’s hotel room for a casual evening together. Eventually, Juan Pablo and Clare begin dancing to a song that was performed for them on their first date. Seconds into their swaying, Juan Pablo starts pawing at Clare’s face as a means of flirtation, rubbing his hands over the tops of her eyebrows and — again — repeatedly tracing the bottom of her face with his thumbs.
If you watch the scene, you will have an intense desire to scream, When did you last wash your hands, Juan Pablo? Was it really for 20 seconds or more? Did you see that viral video about commonly missed spots during hand washing? Did you?
While Juan Pablo may be tripping every hygienic sensor citizens have honed over the last few weeks, it’s not like he’s the only franchise lead capable of conjuring this cringey reaction. I felt just as much alarm yesterday, when I rewatched Peter Weber breathe all over Kelsea Weir and Hannah Ann Sluss in a similar episode in the middle of his 2020 Bachelor season. As people are panicking over the logistics of dating one person while also maintaining their respiratory health, it’s intrinsically stressful to see someone swap spit with dozens of love interests.
Even if the pandemic is completely solved by the day Clare’s season debuts, the lingering concerns of this distressing period won’t disappear the millisecond the Bachelorette sees a handsome 25-year-old stumble out of a limo. Chris Harrison has recognized this truth, telling People in late March 2020, “When we shoot Clare’s season, it’s going to be indicative of what’s happening in the world … When you watch Clare’s season, 20 years from now, you’re going to think, ‘What? What were these people doing? Why did they not hug? Why were they scared to embrace?’”
Maybe The Bachelorette producers should pull a Pushing Daisies and have everyone kiss through Saran Wrap. The resulting memes, at the very least, might soothe our collectively anxious minds.