Viewers didn’t know they’d be in for some of the most dramatic seasons of television when they first sat down to watch The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. ABC’s The Bachelor, which first premiered in 2002, instantly engrossed viewers with its never-before-seen reality dating show format in which one man dates and gradually narrows down a group of women hoping to find his future wife. In 2003, women were also put in the driver’s seat when The Bachelorette made its debut.
Since first premiering in the early aughts, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette has upped the ante with each new lead and batch of contestants. Despite being on air for over a decade, the show has seemingly figured out the formula for making each season feel fresh, new, and exciting. So, what’s in that formula? A healthy dose of drama, of course.
Ahead of each new Bachelor or Bachelorette season, host Chris Harrison makes a point to promise the newest installment will be the “most dramatic season ever.” And while every season can’t live up to the hype, the franchise certainly isn’t lacking in the drama department. Here’s a look at the most dramatic seasons of The Bachelor and Bachelorette — ever.
Jason Mesnick's switch-a-roo made for one of the most dramatic Bachelor seasons ever
Only moments after viewers witnessed Jason Mesnick propose to Melissa Rycroft on The Bachelor‘s Season 13 finale, host Chris Harrison welcomed Bachelor Nation to the After the Final Rose special, which was missing its usual studio audience. Of course, as fans quickly realized, this was far from a normal After the Final Rose.
Instead of welcoming the happy couple to the stage, Harrison first brought out Mesnick, who revealed his relationship with Rycroft had changed drastically since the show, largely due to his lingering feelings for runner-up Molly Malaney. The Bachelor host then welcomed Rycroft to the stage, who shared some choice words with Mesnick before angrily taking off her engagement ring and leaving the studio.
Though Malaney joined Harrison and Mesnick onstage shortly after the breakup, she had no idea about the drama that had just unfolded. So, when Mesnick admitted his true feelings for her and asked for a second chance, Malaney was just as shocked as the rest of Bachelor Nation. Still, Malaney happily took Mesnick back, later marrying him in a 2010 wedding ceremony broadcast on ABC — the place where it all began.
Kaitlyn Bristowe's season was one of the most dramatic Bachelorette seasons ever
Kaitlyn Bristowe’s season of The Bachelorette was a wildly entertaining ride from the very first episode, during which Bristowe wasn’t technically yet the Bachelorette. Instead, The Bachelorette‘s Season 11 premiere saw the Canada native compete with former Bachelor contestant Britt Nilsson for the lead role. Fortunately for Bristowe, her and Nilsson’s group of potential suitors ultimately voted her to be their Bachelorette, effectively kicking off one of the most dramatic seasons in franchise history.
The majority of the season’s drama stemmed from the surprise Week Four addition of Nick Viall, then best-known for being the runner-up on Andi Dorfman’s Bachelorette season. As revealed on the show, Bristowe and Viall had corresponded prior to Bristowe’s Bachelorette gig, which (unsurprisingly) didn’t sit well with the rest of Bristowe’s men. Shawn Booth seemed particularly unnerved by Viall and Bristowe’s relationship, which led to a super dramatic season finale that saw Bristowe struggle to choose between her final two contestants — Booth and Viall, of course.
Ultimately, Bristowe rejected Viall, but not before she let the two-time runner-up deliver the entirety of his proposal speech. That had to hurt.
Ben Flajnik's villainous pick made for one of most dramatic Bachelor seasons ever
Every epic story has a bad guy, which is likely the reason why nearly every season of The Bachelor and Bachelorette features at least one villain — or, a contestant chosen by production to fill the villain shoes. Usually, these unpopular contestants are eliminated before things get too serious with the lead. However, in one of the most dramatic seasons, Season 16, resident villain Courtney Robertson surprised all of Bachelor Nation when she ended up winning the grand prize: Bachelor Ben Flajnik’s heart (via ABC News).
Robertson exuded an unapologetic confidence around Flajnik, who was obviously smitten, and her tendency to distance herself from her fellow contestants quickly earned the professional model an unfavorable reputation. In fact, on the season’s Women Tell All special (via The Hollywood Reporter), a rejected contestant called Robertson “a liar, vapid, manipulative, not nice and hurtful.”
Speaking with Steve Carbone on the Reality Steve podcast (via Refinery 29), Flajnik — whose engagement to Robertson eventually crumbled — revealed, “I felt like the franchise, the people that cut the show, produced the show, really didn’t give us a fighting chance. Because [Robertson] was cast so negatively.”
Ali Fedotowsky had her heart broken in one of the most dramatic Bachelorette seasons ever
The Bachelor franchise’s format has largely remained the same throughout its years on television. As viewers know, the premise is quite simple: One man or woman is presented with 25 to 30 potential romantic partners, whom they gradually wine, dine, and narrow down until they (hopefully) find his or her one true love. In other words, the lead is the captain of this weird, reality TV love boat, and the contestants are at the captain’s mercy.
That said, the lead can’t possibly control the feelings of their contestants, making them as vulnerable to heartbreak as anyone else. This was proven in a most dramatic storyline on Ali Fedotowsky’s season of The Bachelorette, when frontrunner contestant Frank Neuschaefer admitted ahead of his Fantasy Suite date with Fedotowsky that he was still in love with his ex-girlfriend, eliminating himself from the show.
The bombshell revelation came as a shock to Fedotowsky, who had just admitted in a one-on-one interview to being “head over heels” for Neuschaefer (via Colombus Ledger-Enquirer). As difficult as the dramatic breakup was for Fedotowsky, Neuschaefer’s sobs seemingly proved he was equally as distraught to have broken her heart.
Juan Pablo Galavis became the villain in one of the most dramatic Bachelor seasons ever
Juan Pablo Galavis is infamously one of the worst bachelors in Bachelor history. His relationship with contestant Clare Crawley was particularly contentious, beginning with the Bachelor seemingly shaming Crawley after what appeared to be a consensual, late-night ocean romp.
“I hope nobody knows,” Galavis told Crawley the next day. He continued, “It was good, but at the same time, it was … a little weird for me.” Galavis went on to tell Crawley what happened during their private time “wasn’t right,” saying he didn’t want his young daughter to one day see.
Despite being brought to tears over Galavis’ revelation, Crawley stuck with the single dad to the bitter end, ultimately becoming one of his final two contestants. However, following a romantic helicopter ride during their final date, Crawley revealed to the camera that Galavis had decided to share with her some highly inappropriate words (via Us Weekly). “He chose to tell me something that no woman wants to hear — that he doesn’t know me, and some sexual thing I don’t want to repeat,” Crawley revealed. She continued, ‘It was insulting and it was offensive.”
This gut-wrenching breakup aired on one of most dramatic Bachelorette seasons ever
Viewers were excited to watch fan favorite Rachel Lindsay find love on her groundbreaking season of The Bachelorette. However, it didn’t take long for this history-making season to become one of the franchise’s most dramatic installments.
Peter Krause appeared to be the frontrunner for Lindsay’s heart throughout her season, but the contestant expressed doubts about proposing to Lindsay, even admitting to the Bachelorette that he’d considered eliminating himself. “… I want to [propose] once in my life, and I don’t want there to be a shadow of doubt when that day comes,” Krause revealed during his hometown date (via People).
The night before the final rose ceremony, Krause told Lindsay he simply wasn’t ready to propose the next day. Despite assuring Lindsay he was in love with her and wanted to be with her, the Bachelorette refused to settle for anything less than what she wanted: an engagement. After an emotional, tear-filled conversation that resulted in her fake eyelashes falling to the floor, Lindsay ended her relationship with Krause. The next day, the Bachelorette accepted a proposal from Bryan Abasolo, thus becoming one of the most memorable Bachelor couples.
Brad Womack's lack of proposal made for one of the most dramatic Bachelor seasons ever
As Brad Womack’s first Bachelor season came to a close, only two women were left standing: Jenni Croft and DeAnna Pappas. Womack seemed to have chemistry with both remaining contestants, though Pappas appeared to be the frontrunner for the Bachelor’s heart. Viewers watched as Croft arrived to the final rose ceremony, only to have her heart broken when Womack told her he was looking for “something more” than what they had (via Reality TV World).
As gut-wrenching as it was to see Croft’s heart shatter, viewers looked forward to seeing Womack get down on one knee to propose to Pappas. However, the Bachelor sent shockwaves throughout Bachelor Nation when he revealed to Pappas that he couldn’t propose to her, either.
“I can’t look you in your eye and tell you that I love you,” Womack admitted to Pappas. Visibly emotional, Pappas echoed the thoughts of viewers everywhere, telling Womack, “I just don’t understand how you could say goodbye to me.” Womack then went on to tell Pappas he didn’t want to hurt her, to which the contestant quickly replied, “I’m hurting right now.” Cue the waterworks.
Andi Dorfman's season ended as one of the most dramatic Bachelorette seasons ever
Andi Dorfman became a total fan favorite on Juan Pablo Galavis’ season of The Bachelor, famously shutting down the former Venezuelan soccer pro for his patronizing way of telling her, “It’s okay.” Her popularity among fans led to Dorfman being cast as the lead for Season 10 of The Bachelorette, which ended on quite a dramatic note.
During the season finale, viewers watched as Dorfman further explored the relationships she’d built with her final two contestants: Nick Viall and Josh Murray. Ultimately, Dorfman decided to choose Murray. She visited Viall ahead of the final rose ceremony to break the news before going on to accept Murray’s proposal.
On a particularly dramatic After the Final Rose special, Viall left viewers and Dorfman with their jaws on the floor when he revealed intimate details of their Fantasy Suite date, telling Dorfman (via ABC News), “… If you weren’t in love with me, I’m just not sure why you made love with me.” Dorfman immediately retorted, “Well, first of all, I think that’s kind of below the belt.” She continued, telling Viall, “That’s something that’s private, and should be kept private.”
Jake Pavelka and Vienna Girardi's relationship made for one of the most dramatic Bachelor seasons ever
While Jake Pavelka seemed like a promising Bachelor, considering the popularity the pilot had garnered as a contestant on Jillian Harris’ season of The Bachelorette, Pavelka’s Bachelor season is now widely considered to be one of the messiest, most dramatic installments in Bachelor franchise history — largely due to his tumultuous relationship and devastating breakup with fiancée Vienna Girardi.
Pavelka first shocked viewers when he proposed to Girardi, who was widely seen as the season’s villain. However, the reality TV drama didn’t stop there. Months after appearing as a happily engaged couple on the After the Final Rose special, Pavelka and Girardi announced the end of their relationship, appearing in a dramatic two-on-one sit-down interview with host Chris Harrison to hash out the specifics of their split.
During the interview, viewers watched as Girardi and Pavelka both accused each other of infidelity and fame-seeking, with the conversation reaching its boiling point when the pilot yelled at his ex-fiancée to stop interrupting him. Sobbing, Girardi stormed out, claiming Pavelka was the biggest liar she’d ever met in her life (via Us Weekly).
Arie Luyendyk Jr.'s shocking decision made for one of the most dramatic Bachelor seasons ever
Nearly six years after he first appeared on Emily Maynard’s Bachelorette season, Arie Luyendyk Jr. was given another chance at finding reality TV love when he was announced as the leading man for Season 22 of The Bachelor.
Like any Bachelor franchise installment, Luyendyk Jr.’s season had its fair share of dramatic moments, such as contestant Becca Kufrin’s ex-boyfriend making a surprise appearance to try and win her back. However, most of the drama surrounding Season 22 stemmed from the race car driver’s shocking decision to dump Kufrin, his final pick, and pursue a relationship with runner-up Lauren Burnham.
While Luyendyk Jr. wasn’t the first contestant to pull a switch-a-roo (we’re looking at you, Jason Mesnick), viewers were appalled by his decision to dump Kufrin in front of a full camera crew during what she assumed would be the first day of a weekend getaway with her fiancé. The “raw, unedited” footage from the emotional breakup was aired on the After the Final Rose special, and featured a sobbing Kufrin desperately trying to find privacy away from Luyendyk Jr. and the production crew. Not cool, Arie. Not cool.
Ben Higgins broke a major rule, making The Bachelor Season 20 one of the most dramatic seasons ever
Ben Higgins quickly became a fan fave on Kaitlyn Bristowe’s season of The Bachelorette, so Bachelor Nation was understandably delighted when he was announced as the next Bachelor. He ended up becoming one of the best bachelors in Bachelor history thanks to his Prince Charming vibe, but in the process of finding what he hoped would be his forever love, Higgins broke one of the rules the contestants on The Bachelor have to follow, albeit an unwritten one.
In most installments of The Bachelor and Bachelorette, the leads refrain from confessing their love to their frontrunners until the final rose ceremony. Higgins, however, just couldn’t help himself around contestants Lauren Bushnell and JoJo Fletcher (via TODAY). During his respective Fantasy Suite dates with Bushnell and Fletcher, Higgins made the bold choice to tell both women he was in love with them, inadvertently setting Fletcher up to feel completely blindsided when he ultimately dumped her at the final rose ceremony.
“I keep hearing [I] broke all the rules,” Higgins later told E! News. He continued, “I didn’t know there were rules to this.”
Emily Maynard raised the stakes on one of the most dramatic Bachelorette seasons ever
When her relationship with Brad Womack fizzled shortly after his second Bachelor season aired, Emily Maynard was cast in the lead role for Season 8 of The Bachelorette. Fans were thrilled at the idea of watching the fan favorite Maynard — a young, single, widowed mother — find her happily ever after on national television. After all, her Southern accent, kind disposition, and palpable love for her young daughter Ricki positioned Maynard as one of the most beloved Bachelorettes the show had ever seen. However, Maynard wasted no time letting her group of suitors know she was far from a stereotypical Southern belle.
The most dramatic moments from Maynard’s Bachelorette season stemmed from some contestants’ reluctance to become engaged to a single mother — something Maynard didn’t take lightly. In fact, when Maynard was told that contestant Kalon McMahon had referred to her daughter as “baggage,” the Bachelorette initiated one of the fieriest confrontations in franchise history. “I want to go West Virginia, hood rat, backwoods on his a**,” Maynard said (via Us Weekly), ultimately telling McMahon to “get the f*** out.” You tell him, Em!
Colton Underwood jumped the fence on one of the most dramatic Bachelor seasons ever
While some viewers expected Colton Underwood to be a total snooze as the lead for Season 23 of The Bachelor, the former football pro’s run as Bachelor ended up being one of the most dramatic installments in the show’s history.
The first dose of drama came courtesy of contestants Caelynn Miller-Keyes and Hannah Brown, two former friends and beauty pageant competitors who had beef with each other before the season even began filming. However, the drama that unfolded at the end of Underwood’s Bachelor season made the beauty pageant beef look like small fish.
During Fantasy Suites Week, Underwood was taken by surprise when Cassie Randolph, the frontrunner to win his heart, revealed she wasn’t ready to be engaged and decided to remove herself from the competition. After seeing her off, a visibly distraught Underwood ran away from the cameras, telling the crew, “F*** all of this, I’m done.” In a particularly impressive feat, Underwood even scaled a giant fence to get away from the camera crew, hiding out in the dead of night as host Chris Harrison frantically called his name.
Hannah Brown proved she didn't need a man in one of the most dramatic Bachelor seasons ever
Despite her drama with Caelynn Miller-Keyes in Season 23, Hannah Brown became a fan favorite for the maturity and grace she displayed during her emotional breakup with Underwood, which effectively helped her secure the role of leading lady on Season 15 of The Bachelorette. However, while the former beauty pageant queen seemed genuine about her desire to find her future husband, Brown’s season was unfortunately plagued by seemingly endless contestant drama.
Ultra-religious contestant Luke Parker, aka Luke P, was a source of much contention within Brown’s group of suitors, often clashing with the other men and expressing jealously over the Bachelorette’s other connections. Despite this, Parker remained on the show until Fantasy Suites week, during which Brown eliminated him after he told her he wouldn’t want to propose if she’d been sexually intimate with the remaining contestants.
Ultimately, Brown rejected fan fave contestant Tyler Cameron for singer-songwriter Jed Wyatt. However, after rumors that Wyatt had a girlfriend during filming began to surface, Brown broke off her engagement in a dramatic confrontation that was filmed and later aired on the After the Final Rose special.
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