In March, everyone was captivated by The Bachelor's, Colton Underwood's, gripping fence jump after Cassie broke up with him—including This American Life producer, Emanuele Berry.
On This American Life's three-part episode, "Escape from The Lab," Underwood recently spoke to Berry about his experience on the reality TV program— how he lied to producers, failed to protect the woman he loved, and tried to flee the production and Portugal altogether. On a show that's usually overproduced, Colton's season of The Bachelor became very real, very quickly. When the show attempted to ruin his chances with Cassie, he decided that was the final straw. He was done.
The Fence Jump
After Cassie broke up with him, Colton grabbed his wallet and took off his mic with the intent to run away. He planned to get a new passport and leave the country. Then, to escape, he jumped the fence. To his surprise, no one was there. No producers, no crew, no food tents, nothing. He was alone for two hours. When Colton realized he had nowhere to go, he "turned himself in" to producers. Yes, that is the wording Colton used when describing the event to Berry. Those fifteen minutes of television revealed a glitch in their carefully crafted system. The star stopped performing under their guise of a handsome, bland man the show could project whatever story they wanted onto.
Colton Jumps The Fence After Cassie Breakup 💔| The Bachelor US www.youtube.com
Berry details exactly what happened after Colton he "turned himself in," explaining how he was able to avoid the producers longer than expected: "... He's still upset, and overwhelmed, and not ready to talk. So he plays the system. He says there's a rule that you cannot be filmed or recorded while talking to the show's therapist. So he asked for that."
The event proved how sick of a bubble the Bachelor franchise is and how it functions. When a show's lead only has one way to attain the space and time he deserves away from his calculating, hurtful producers, it's telling of a larger problem. But this isn't news: The show doesn't care about its leads or its contestants.
Conning the Con
However, this wasn't the first time Colton acted on his genuine frustration and distrust of producers. Colton disclosed that at the beginning of his season he was asked to rank the female contestants. When the producers didn't give him a date with his number one pick, Hannah Goodwin, he knew he had to find a way to have some sort of control. From there, he planned to throw producers off track, keeping Hannah G. at the top of his list while, in his heart, he was really falling for Cassie. He explained:
"I sort of recall remember feeling a little burnt when they did that. I was like, so let me get this straight. Hannah's number one on my list right now, and she's not getting a date this week. So from there on out, I was like, all right, if you're going to do that to my top girls, I'm not really going to tell you who my top girls are. Because I don't want you messing with them. So in a weird way, I tried to defend myself and defend the girls by not being truthful to them who my top was."
The calculated move would backfire once the production tried to ruin any chance he had with Cassie. The show went as far as to fly her father to Portugal to talk her daughter out of pursuing their relationship. When Colton found out, all the producers fled the set, knowing how blindsided and betrayed he would feel in that moment.
Colton described their deception to Barry, "Oh, I was thinking I just got screwed. I was thinking that that wasn't her doing. I know what the format of the show is. And for me hearing, 'Hey, by the way, my dad came back,' really sparked something in me. I was like, OK. So I don't have the control I thought I had."
Choosing the Slow Burn over the Hot Flame
Throughout Colton's season, he was the butt of the joke. His virginity was publicized as the focal point of his season. Furthermore, his relationships with the contestants were always influenced by the producers' involvement. For example, the show pointedly did not give Colton a date with Hannah G., but one with Hannah B. instead. The Bachelor production always tries to push a story about hard and fast love, a fairytale kind of love-at-first-sight. But as Colton tells Berry, he resisted that narrative from the start, even more so as he fell in love with Cassie:
"I think with Cass, the best way to describe our relationship is it was such a slow burn. And it was, in a weird way, in the dynamic of The Bachelor franchise, where it's supposed to be quick, and fast, and intense. It was sort of a relief to find a normal relationship in which it was a slower burn, and I wish it was a more realistic approach to a relationship. When I was with Cass, it was like a breath of fresh air."
No Means No, Even After the Show
Colton's transparency and almost incessant dedication to pursue Cassie changed the long-running franchise forever. Instead of perpetuating the unhealthy and unrealistic notion that two months on a dating show could lead to marriage, Colton demonstrated the benefits of compromise and getting to know one another in a healthy way to incorporate both partners' needs. He undermined The Bachelor's antagonism between "the lead" and "the winner."
While Colton wanted to get engaged, he prioritized his relationship with Cassie over the show's push for high ratings. Today, they're taking things one step at a time. It's a bold move for Colton to openly discuss why he wanted to throw off producers and exactly what occurred during the aftermath of his escape. His interview blatantly undermines viewers' trust in the franchise, especially its producers. By speaking out, he's showcasing how the system is broken, for both contestants and the leads. Like most of the Bachelor Nation, I didn't initially care for Underwood. But now his honesty and vulnerability may be shining through, shedding light on why now more than ever the show isn't deserving of good people.