Bachelor Nation loves a surprise ending. The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have flourished over the last few years with romantic mysteries that can only be solved in the final act of an “After the Final Rose” special. Listen to Your Heart clearly tries to raise its Monday night finale, “Week 6,” to similar stakes as permanently stable couple Bri Stauss and Chris Watson go up against the much shakier pairing of Jaime Gabrielle and Trevor Holmes. Listen puts in a lot of work to make you question who will win its inaugural competition.
But, of course, Bri and Chris win Listen to Your Heart. They impress the finale judges with renditions of Adele’s “Feel My Love” and Ed Sheeran’s “Give Me Love” after skipping a Fantasy Suite date the night prior. Then, once they've been named Listen champions, Bri and Chris run through the Nashville finale venue screaming with joy. Eventually they find themselves on a tour bus and contemplating their future. A six-week flash-forward shows the duo recording music together in L.A. studio The Village.
Listen wants us to believe this is a pristinely packaged musical fairytale. Yet, the drama around Bri and Chris’ Fantasy Suites rejection suggests the couple isn’t as perfect as they appear — or they simply don’t understand the Bachelor Nation game.
At the midpoint of “Week 6,” Bri and Chris enjoy the second one-on-one date of the episode. Chris says he sees himself “creating a life” with Bri outside of the series and she concurs. Then, they turn to the Fantasy Suites card on the table.
“Because of past things, I’m not in a rush to get anywhere, you know? I first want to get to know you on an emotional level but anything past that, I want to save,” Bri says, obviously referring to escalating their relationship to sex. Chris agrees, saying that “accelerating too fast on the physical front” has stunted past burgeoning relationships. They agree to skip the Fantasy Suite, convinced the move will protect their romance.
This is a decision that fundamentally misunderstands Fantasy Suites at best and suggests a lack of emotional intimacy at worst. Fantasy Suites are infamously posed as “the sex date” of the Bachelor franchise. Peter Weber certainly doubled down on this section of the competition's hornier leanings on two different series. But Fantasy Suites are for more than consummating weeks of sexual tension with bed-breaking sex. That means Bri and Chris did not have to have sex during their prospective overnight date. Instead, a Fantasy Suite date offered the couple their first-ever opportunity to connect without producer interference and oversight.
They turned it down.
As 2014 Bachelorette Andi Dorfman wrote in a Hollywood Reporter guest column, “Sure, most of the time there’s intimacy involved. But it’s not just physical, it’s emotional as well … It’s the first time you get to spend time with this person that you’re dating without producers. Cut the cameras, cut the microphone: it’s just you two and you get to see the true side of this person behind closed doors.”
If you truly see a future with someone beyond the series, there is no reason not to accept that extra, profoundly personal time together. After all, absolutely no one is forced to have sex during Fantasy Suites.
In February 2018, Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay confirmed she “did nothing but sleep” during her overnight date with Bachelor Chris Viall due to fatigue over the 2016 election. Hannah Brown, who is one of the most sex-positive Bachelorettes in history, was very vocal about her decision not to sleep with Tyler Cameron during their Fantasy Suite. “She said that she didn't want to have sex, and I was like, 100% … This should be normal. We should not even bat an eye at it,” Tyler Cameron then told Paper. When Andi Dorfman detailed her Fantasy Suite with winner Josh Murray, she lavished the most affection on the experience of “swapping stories” with her future fiancé and having the time to seriously discuss their beliefs.
Bri and Chris could have added an important layer of complexity to Listen Fantasy Suites by accepting a shared hotel room — and then talking on camera about their desire to wait to make their romance more physical. In a series built by extreme flowery dedications of love with a relative stranger, such unapologetic real talk would have grounded the series and proved the intensity of their love. Difficult conversations make a lasting relationship — not starry-eyed platitudes.