The setup for Rice’s appearance was standard: “Bachelor” star Peter Weber would choose one contestant for a “one-on-one” date to attend a concert. In this case, it was Rice’s show at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. Everything seemed great until about an hour before Rice was supposed to take the stage. He received a call from his trainer’s wife, who closely follows the show and was tracking spoilers online. She wanted to give Rice a heads-up that a woman named Victoria Fuller was one of the contestants — and given that Rice had briefly dated Fuller, well . . . there was a chance that those wily “Bachelor” producers might be using the concert to stir up some drama.
Indeed — on Monday night, viewers watched as Weber chose Fuller for the one-on-one date, and they spent a romantic day at Cedar Point, snuggling up while riding roller coasters. Then Weber informed Fuller he had a special surprise for her: They were going to attend a private concert. Fun! The couple strolled merrily along until they turned a corner — and Fuller suddenly locked eyes with Rice, who was onstage about to launch into a song. They both froze. Rice covered his eyes. Fuller looked mortified. And, presumably, producers behind the scenes broke into evil cackles.
At the time, before Fuller and Weber showed up, Rice refused to believe he would be part of the drama, even when his trainer’s wife tried to warn him. “I was like, ‘Nah, they’re not going to involve me in this. There’s no way,’ ” Rice, known for hits including “Eyes On You” and “Ready Set Roll,” said in a phone interview. “Clearly, I underestimated either the coincidence gods or reality TV.”
Coincidence? When reality TV is involved? Seems unlikely! A spokesperson for “Bachelor” producers said they were not available for comment on how they managed to pull off this cruel trick. Rice insists that he, Fuller and Weber were all blindsided.
And so, viewers were treated to a wildly uncomfortable scene as Fuller’s voice-over narrated her thoughts. “I see Chase, my ex-boyfriend. Nothing could be worse. I’m freaking out right now,” she said, sounding devastated. “I want to die.”
But she couldn’t tell Weber that fun fact in the moment, dancing in front of dozens of people while on a tiny elevated stage, as Rice sang his latest hit, “Lonely If You Are.” Weber, grinning merrily, spun Fuller around as they danced and kissed, as “Bachelor” couples usually do at private concerts. Fuller gamely mouthed along with the words to the song. The small crowd cheered.
Afterward, Weber and Rice briefly chatted, and Rice politely didn’t mention that he knew his date. Then Fuller pulled aside Rice for a talk, in which Fuller — on the verge of tears — said that now she was going to have to tell Weber about their history. Rice encouraged her to be honest. And they awkwardly parted ways.
Looking back, Rice wasn’t thrilled about the surprise interaction, even as he says he has no hard feelings toward Fuller. (Although the show made it seem like a serious relationship, Rice says they only “hung out” briefly.) But it was certainly more than he bargained for, especially when he thought he was going on the show to promote his new music.
“I didn’t love it,” he said. “But that’s reality TV for you — I think they just gotta stir things up. I didn’t think that they would pull me into it like that.” He added that if he knew what the producers were planning, he wouldn’t have agreed to make the appearance. However, he couldn’t have been completely shocked about devious production — Rice was once a contestant on “Survivor.”
By twisted reality-TV standards, things worked out okay. On the episode, Fuller tearfully confessed to Weber that she and Rice used to date. Weber was confused, especially because he loved the concert, and at one point humiliatingly announced, “We could have Chase Rice sing at our wedding!” But he eventually comforted Fuller by saying he was just glad she was honest with him. He even gave her a rose, ensuring she will stick around for another week.
Things worked out great for Rice as well — he’s coming off a huge hit, “Eyes On You,” which dominated country radio last year. He dropped a new album on Friday called “The Album Part I,” which is the No. 1 country album on the iTunes charts. “Lonely If You Are” just got a massive boost in front of millions of viewers. His name was trending worldwide on Twitter. And viewers on social media were even calling for him to be the next “Bachelor” star. Reality TV can really pay off, even under very strange circumstances.
“At the end of the day, if it brings people back to the album, brings people back to ‘Lonely If You Are,’ then, hell, I’m happy,” Rice said. “I don’t care how it happens.”