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‘The Bachelor’ finale turns into a nightmare as Peter’s mom eviscerates the woman he chooses

Season finales of ABC's "The Bachelor" often end with a twist. Here is a look at three that left audiences shocked. (Video: The Washington Post)

Everything you’ve always wondered about why Bachelor Peter Weber is the way he is can be explained by his mother, Barb, who had a gloriously unhinged meltdown on the season finale Tuesday night, unlike anything the show has ever seen before.

In an instant, an iconic Bachelor villain was born. Barb is about as popular in Bachelor Nation as the novel coronavirus. Scholars of attachment theory — the idea that aspects of a child’s connection with their parents can dictate their adult personality and relationships — may have seen this coming, after Barb’s tearful histrionics Monday night, in which she implored her son to choose “angel” Hannah Ann, instead of religious Madison.

Peter is an adult who lives with his mother, a woman who knows an awful lot about his sex life. She thinks she knows what’s best for her child, who seems eager to please her. And the fact that she is quick to make a big scene explains why Peter was quick to forgive Victoria F. when she would cause drama. It shows us why he is most drawn to the women who keep him at arm’s length, rather than the ones who profess their love for him, like Hannah Ann. When tears and conflict are how love is modeled for you by your primary caregiver, you develop an anxious attachment style. Peter doesn’t need a wife — he needs a therapist.

The troubles begin, or an accidental attachment

From the start, Hannah Ann is not without her own uncertainties. “Last night, Peter told me that his heart is being pulled in two different directions. And that was like a knife in my heart,” she explains to the camera, somehow muddling her coronary metaphors without quite mixing them.

For a moment, it seems possible that she will hesitate, perhaps even decline to arrive at the proposal ceremony, and for a while Peter stands alone. These scenes are scored with ominous and apprehensive choral music, as if we were watching the camera pan over an army praying before battle in a film about the Crusades and not a television show about the transparent anxieties of a man whose angular face looks like it was made from an awkwardly pinched marshmallow. “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry,” Chris Harrison says to Peter of this clearly producer-engineered delay, his tone dripping with delight. It’s not entirely clear that he defines “sorry” in quite the same way the rest of us do.

Eventually, Hannah Ann shows up, pulled back to Peter, perhaps, by Barb’s magnetic fixation on this foolish young woman. Even here, Peter wavers, telling her, “I know that I told you that I was falling for you. And that my heart was being pulled in two different directions. And now I have to follow my heart.” Having said all this, he suddenly pronounces Madison’s name and pauses just long enough to suggest that he’s confused Hannah Ann’s name with that of the woman he really loves. But he corrects his course, explaining that Madison has left, informing the one woman who’s still around that he loves her, and getting down on one knee to ask her to marry him.

“I can’t believe it, but I’m engaged,” Peter tells the camera after returning from Australia, laughing nervously. We do not believe many things he says in this episode, but we believe he cannot believe in his own decisions.

Soon enough, it’s clear who he made them for. When he arrives at his family’s home, a home in which he reportedly still lives, Barb is quaking so hard with anticipation it might register on the Richter scale. She sobs repeatedly, collapsing against her son like kelp tossed by the cruel sea onto a foggy beach. Will she discover that her boy is betrothed to an elegant princess or will she learn that her family is to be forever haunted by a wicked fairy queen?

Peter strings out the revelation, his mother almost exploding as he so slowly, so gradually, tells his story. “Who is it?” she demands, and still he carries on: Well … you see … there was … I asked her … a beautiful … well … you see …

“I can’t wait to see my daughter!” Barb exclaims when she learns who her son has chosen. This is a very normal thing to say about an adult woman you’ve met once. And it portends normal things to come.

Where has my daughter gone?

When Hannah Ann arrives at Peter’s parents’ house a month later (Peter, honey, it’s time to move out!), she’s still wearing that sparkly pear shaped Neil Lane diamond. But her face is no longer beaming with the giddiness she wore as they got engaged. “I think we both know this has been hard,” Hannah Ann tells Peter.

What has happened? What could be so hard? The pair speak so elliptically that viewers can guess at what’s happening only if they’ve seen this show several seasons over. Some of us still haven’t gotten the horror of having to watch Arie Luyendyk Jr. blindsiding Becca Kufrin by breaking up with her after their engagement but before the show’s finale, saying he wants to try again with his runner-up Lauren Burnham. (Arie and Lauren are married with a baby now, and Becca is engaged to the man she picked as Bachelorette.)

Did producer meddling ruin this season of ‘The Bachelor’ or save it?

This is the first time all season we finally see Hannah Ann display a real sense of personality, and she shows no remorse over leaving Peter, who’s still hung up on Madison. “I want so badly to be able to give you my entire heart,” Peter tells Hannah Ann. “But I can’t do that.”

To Hannah Ann’s credit, she does not try to convince him to stay. She calls Peter out on proposing when he didn’t really mean it. She wants “someone who’s going to be true to their words and not be torn or conflicted 90 percent of the time.”

As Hannah Ann prepares to leave, she doesn’t cry. She rolls on out, steady as a woman who doesn’t just pick someone because the music’s stopped. Instead, she’s picked herself. “I’m strong and I’ve been my own rock throughout this, and you don’t have to worry about me.”

You’re not the one we’re worried about, Hannah Ann.

The Barb-b-qing of Madison

After being verbally destroyed by Hannah Ann on live TV — during the watch party, she savages him with truth after truth — Peter’s misery isn’t over. First, let’s flash back to a few weeks (months?) ago. Chris Harrison pays a surprise visit to Madison, who is back home in Alabama and has no idea that Peter a) proposed to Hannah Ann b) then broke up with Hannah Ann. He gleefully spills those facts to Madison. “Are you still in love with Peter?” Harrison demands to know. Madison says a lot of words that add up to “sort of, I guess.”

Regardless, romantic music swells, and she hops on a plane to Los Angeles to surprise Peter — they reunite and mumble sweetly at each other. Then we return to present day, with Peter sitting on the couch with Harrison. He hasn’t seen Madison since that day and doesn’t know where things stand.

What happens next is truly jaw-droppingly awkward. Throughout Peter and Madison’s romantic reunion, the show’s producers have helpfully inserted a small picture-in-picture at the bottom of the TV screen with Barb’s reaction. It’s brutal — Barb glowers and rolls her eyes through the whole thing, just in case anyone had any doubt about how she feels about the woman who is not “angel on Earth” Hannah Ann.

As Peter prattles on about how his and Madison’s future (they’re going to take things one day at a time, even though there will be obstacles, but he’s hopeful), Barb looks increasingly furious. When Harrison gives her a chance to speak, she unloads: She doesn’t just hate Madison because Madison is more into “ministry” than partying and therefore totally incompatible with her son. She hates Madison because Madison kept their family waiting three hours that day back in Australia.

“We didn’t get an apology from her,” Barb vents. “And when I proceeded to ask her if she was madly in love with my son, she said no, and that she would not accept a proposal in four days. How do you expect a mother who loves her son with all of her heart to take that?”

“I said that I wanted Hannah Ann so badly, because I knew we just clicked right away,” she continues. “Unfortunately, we did not have that connection with Madison.” Burn. The camera eagerly panned back to Madison, who looked like she wanted to say a lot more than she would be able to on live TV. “I can’t change the past, and there is a lot that is out of my control,” Madison offers. “I have love and respect for Peter, therefore I have love and respect for Peter’s family. I will never say a negative word about anyone or anything.”

Might not want to make that promise too soon. Peter nervously jumps in to tell his family, “She’s one of the most amazing people I ever met, and I know that if you give it time you will be able to see it.”

Barb isn’t having it — she continues to eviscerate Madison “My heart went to Hannah Ann, because anyone who loves your child, your son, your daughter, you love them dearly,” Barb insists.

“I disagree,” Madison cuts in, to the wild cheers of the audience, who is definitely Team Madi. “This isn’t just Peter’s journey. When you sign up to come on a show like this, you are looking for love too. … This isn’t just Peter choosing me, this is me choosing Peter.”

Harrison, in family therapist mode, tries to wrap things up: “Barb, how do we turn the page and give this a shot together?”

“Chris, he’s going to have to fail to succeed,” Barb says, to literal gasps from the studio audience. “All his friends, all his family, everyone that knows him, knows that it’s not — you know, it’s not going to work.”

Yikes! The crowd, now really riled up, starts booing loudly, as Madison casually flips her hair over the shoulder. “We’ve been trying to help them,” Barb continues over the jeers. “Would we want it to work? Yes.”

Uhhh, sure Barb. Peter’s dad finally weighs in as well: “Honestly, I hate this situation,” he says, adding that Peter and Madison have so many “obstacles” this early in their relationship that it seems insurmountable.

So yeah, good luck Peter and Madi — seems like things are going great. At least you all have this photo, because as you may remember, earlier in the season, Madison attended Peter’s parents’ vow renewal. Memories!

Was it all just a dream?

Peter awoke with a start. A doctor was shining a light into his eyes. He had an awful pain in his forehead. “You’ve just had a terrible blow to the head, son,” the doctor said. Peter could hear the sound of jungle animals calling. Somewhere nearby, there was a golf cart parked with a trail of blood leading from it to where he now lay. Was he was he still in Costa Rica? He was.

It felt so real, the dream. The many dates. The weird swimsuit competition The Neil Lane diamond. The pain in Madison’s eyes. The helicopter trip to Uluru. His mother’s rage; the familiar grimace of embarrassment and disappointment from his father. His temples began to throb.

Madison. He needed to find Madison. He needed to move out of his parents’ house. He needed to stop listening to Chris Harrison. He needed to change everything, before it was too late.

Where did it all go wrong? Other than going on “The Bachelor” to begin with, of course. His nights with Victoria and Hannah Ann. The things he’d admitted after. But it became clear to him that if he didn’t want his whole world to fall apart if he didn’t want to lose the love of his life, and his family, and the respect of America, all in one fell swoop he needed to do things differently. He’d have to start when the women arrived in Costa Rica. And they’d be there soon.

He knew what he had to do, the man he would have to become. He would remember it every time he looked in the mirror and spied the jagged line of his fading scar. Of course, there was one problem with his plan. Nothing could change the fact that Barb was still his mother.

Hannah Jewell and Anna Rothschild wondered what ABC’s "The Bachelor" was doing to their heads—so they got a brain scan while watching the show. (Video: Lindsey Sitz, David Jorgenson/The Washington Post)


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