“While the floors underneath our feet are crumbling, the walls we built together are tumbling, I still stand here holding up the roof, ’cause it’s easier than telling the truth.”
-Kris Allen, “The Truth”
This Monday on “The Bachelorette” was something else. We had the trademark drama – real or otherwise imagined by a story editor deep within the confines of Warner Bros. – culminating in an on-the-spot walk-off of someone that would’ve otherwise been a contender. This could have led to what may very well have been The Most Shocking Rose Ceremony Ever (TM).
But, because the person in question is Eric Hill, we will never know.
Eric Hill, if you remember, is the contestant on the show who died in a paragliding accident between the time production wrapped on this season and the time this season aired. Ever since this season bowed, watching the show back, knowing what we know now, has felt even more awkward than usual.
Such proclivities culminated in this Monday’s episode, when Eric accused Andi Dorfman, an Atlanta-based lawyer and the titular element this season, of playing up emotion for the cameras. It’s nothing new in the reality world, to pretend that we are something that we are not usually to play to the audience for storyline purposes in order to garner support from the audience, who in turn vote either with their eyeballs or their cell phones. We’ve seen story after story of a person who is featured on a reality show, and while they are featured, their individual skeletons are excised from their respective closets. Last year’s “Big Brother” alone speaks volumes to that. Eric’s concerns, which ultimately would have bought him a one-way ticket to the Men Tell All episode, were just and noble and pure, that he wanted to know what Andi was like when the cameras stopped rolling. Andi reminded him that being on a reality show did not afford them that luxury, and that he was better off being more open himself. That didn’t ease his fears at all; he went on record as saying, “I came on to meet a person, not a TV actress.”
Under normal circumstances, it would be easy to paint Eric as a heel these past three episodes. But these were hardly normal circumstances. Something had to be done after news broke of Eric’s untimely death.
Episodes were recut with respect to Eric the person instead of Eric the character on a major network reality show. Special care was taken not to villify his story or his background. And the coda of all of this… the traditional Rose Ceremony at the end of the episode was deleted in favor of a one-on-one with Andi and “Bachelorette” host Chris Harrison, who spoke with a tone in his voice that seemed to be different from his usual timbre. A tone that, for once, said, “Some things are just more important.”
“Normally, right now, we’d all be watching the Rose Ceremony. But that just didn’t seem right tonight. It just didn’t seem important who did or didn’t get a rose. What does seem right is to talk about Eric. And so that’s what we’re gonna do.”
And that’s what they did.
In the most perfect of worlds, the entire season would have been scrapped, as VH1 did with “Megan Wants a Millionaire” a long time ago. Network television, however, is not afforded the luxuries that 24-7 cablers are. All things considered, just sitting and talking about Eric was not only the right and proper thing to do, it’s the only thing that could have and should have been done.
Ironically, the woman who would not open up in Eric’s life would have to in his death. And for that brief moment, on what would otherwise be an inane waste of two hours on a Monday evening, we didn’t see reality TV.
We saw reality.