This post has been updated.
We’re halfway through this season of “The Bachelorette,” and there’s a clear villain and a clear front-runner.
They’re both Luke P.
“We’ve never had a season where a villain — if you want to call Luke that — has such a prominent role, where they really dominate the landscape and story line for so long,” host Chris Harrison tells Entertainment Tonight.
Though our Bachelorette, Hannah, has a strong connection with him, she’s also conflicted about whether to keep him around. Most guys in the house can’t stand the 24-year-old import/export manager from Gainesville, Ga., who’s aggressive physically and socially. Luke P. has picked fights with the other guys and is usually the one cracking his knuckles in the corner, waiting to steal Hannah away to once again explain how he’s really not so bad after all. To some viewers at home, it’s not convincing. And his difficult nature is becoming his dominant story line.
Here’s a look at how Luke P. became the contestant everyone loves to hate — but that Hannah maybe wants to love.
He made a good impression. In Bachelorland, whoever gets the first-impression rose generally has staying power. On night one, the strong-jawlined Luke P. won that honor after empathizing with Hannah over her having to send Scott home when she found out he wasn’t that single. “I just want you to know that I am here for you. I’m not here to earn a couple roses. I’m here to win your heart,” he told her. Hannah felt that was genuine and gave him the first-impression rose.
Next, he poured his heart out quickly — in front of everyone. Contestants are expected to reveal their feelings for the Bachelorette nearly as fast as you can swipe left or right. But it’s a tough needle to thread: Say something “too soon” and you risk being branded as insincere; wait too long and you might be deemed too closed-off.
On the first group date, a male beauty pageant, Luke P. went for the double-flex: He paraded his muscles on the catwalk and used the night’s talent portion to tell Hannah (in front of everyone else) that he was “starting to fall in love” with her — adding a new baby step in the “I’m falling for you”-to-“I’m in love with you” progression. Luke P.'s admission went over well in the moment but plenty of the guys (and Hannah) questioned it later. They had barely spent any time together at this point, so using the L-word in any fashion put on a show but was hard to believe.
Meanwhile, other guys have found ways to express their affection that doesn’t seem so calculated. In a later episode, Peter asked if Hannah would be his girlfriend — a cute way to show he likes her while she’s dating a dozen other men. And Garrett told Hannah he’s “crushin’ on her hard.” Both admissions were sweet and appropriate, not over-the-top like leading with an almost-ILY.
Then he got really jealous of the other guys — and starting clinging to Hannah. Nearly every season it happens: A contestant gets close to the lead quickly but fails to realize he’s on a reality TV dating show and gets jealous that the star is dating so many other people. How dare she! It’s as if these guys have never seen the show before.
Rather than sitting back and recognizing that jealousy is part of the game, Luke P. has continually tried to insert himself when other men are having a moment with Hannah. He’s cut in on a one-on-one photo shoot even after he’s already had his camera time. He’s tried to follow Hannah to her dressing room in an in-between moment on a group date. The clinging has clearly been getting to her.
“He doesn’t have to be beside me the whole time to know that we’re good. We’re good. I need him to slow his roll,” she told the camera. “He is not guaranteed this."
The other guys started to hate him. Sure, no one is on this show to make friends, as the Bachelor cliche goes. But it’s usually a red flag when someone gets along with none of the other contestants. “I want a man that people are drawn to . . . people are not being drawn to you,” Hannah told Luke P., very matter-of-factly. While in Scotland, the other guys dubbed him the Luke Ness Monster.
He got in a fight with the other Luke: “There’s a fine line between bold and desperate”: This is how Luke S. characterized Luke P.'s behavior, and he’s right. Hannah has repeatedly told her guys she’s looking for someone who’s bold and will fight for her, but Luke P. has seemed to take that guidance too literally. In one episode, he physically slammed Luke S. on the rugby field, a skirmish that culminated in Luke S. sending himself home.
He started getting talking-tos: Several after-parties for group dates this season have begun with Hannah taking Luke P. aside to tell him to chill and get his anger in check. These talks could have been moments where Luke P. would apologize for his actions and really hear her. Instead he’s talked over Hannah and has usually defended himself rather than admit he’s done anything wrong.
“I want you to focus on me, and you do that,” she told him. “But you also don’t respect that I do have other relationships here . . . and that bothers me. I like confidence, but it’s cocky in a way. I don’t like that at all. I want it to change.”
It does not change.
Hannah became unsure as to why Luke P. was even still around. “The guys might not understand and not get it, but Luke P. is still here because my heart wants him to be here. My head doesn’t always want him to be here. It makes it really difficult to know what’s the best decision to make,” Hannah said in last week’s episode.
Despite their “crazy chemistry,” red flags remain, including on their one-on-one date in Scotland, where Hannah was so frustrated that she had to spend every conversation with Luke P. discussing everything that’s wrong and not just getting to know one another.
Hannah tried to send Luke P. home. He refused.
At the end of their date in Scotland, Hannah declined to give Luke a rose, her way of sending him home. She said goodbye, he left — and then he turned back around to tell her he “want[s] to move mountains for you.” Meaning: He wasn’t leaving. Yes, Hannah has said she wants someone who will fight for her, but does she want someone who will contradict her wishes, and continually fight with her and everyone else? Their date ends with Luke advancing to the rose ceremony, but first the entire house argued over whether Luke was or wasn’t talking about them behind their backs. The drama was as manufactured and petty as ever — and it drove Hannah to tears. Luke survived the rose ceremony, but the teaser for next week shows the drama and tears will continue to flow.