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The question we need to be asking about The Bachelorette's Jarrod.

“Wow. I didn’t know what to think coming into today but I didn’t expect that.”

These were the first words out of 31-year-old vineyard manager Jarrod Woodgate’s mouth when Sophie Monk crushed his heart and then made him trudge tearily down five kilometres of Fijian beach in this year’s finale of The Bachelorette.

For those playing at home, the outcome was about as unexpected as a period – but clearly it had blindsided the man dubbed this season’s ‘stage 5 clinger’.

For those well versed in reality television, disappointments and letdowns are part of the deal.

But watching this season of The Bachelorette, I began to feel like the line between addictive television and heartbreak for sport was starting to blur.

Love The Bachelorette? Listen to our debrief of the finale on Bach Chat.

My hands aren’t clean. I was glued to every episode. And a large reason why was to watch a) national treasure Sophie Monk, and b) the slow moving train wreck that was Jarrod.

Every Wednesday and Thursday night I groaned into my couch cushions at the intensity of it all. The love fern. The tenacious tyre-changing. The intense cocktail party d&ms. The L Bomb at hometowns.

Creative editing can only be blamed for so much.

But when one contestant is so heavily invested, and the result is unlikely to end in their favour – at what point is there a duty of care to save someone from themselves?

Sure, the other men had emotional capital in the game too. But then there’s the guy who is contemplating a proposal. Who, rightly or wrongly, is mapping out an entire future with a woman who will never be his. The guy who believes he has found his “purpose.”

Sure, keeping Jarrod around until the end made for a gut-wrenching, sunset break-up scene that was bound to go viral.

But does that make him fair game?

With episodes so heavily edited and manipulated months in advance, could we not have experienced a finale just as watchable with Apollo the beautiful magician? Or Luke? Or any other guy on the show who seemed to be on a steadier emotional course? Someone who would bounce back a little easier?

Jarrod during the gut-wrenching finale. Image via Channel 10.
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Being runner-up is no picnic, no matter who you are – but when there’s a personality that bleeds so deeply, that leaves themself so exposed, wouldn’t this option be the lesser of two evils?

To Sophie’s credit, she has been Jarrod’s fiercest defender. Cringeworthy or not, there were things to respect.

He wasn’t in it to gain Instagram followers or land a spin-off series. He was there for her – and he didn’t leave anything on the field. Not many of us have the courage to be so vulnerable in the privacy of our small suburban lives, let alone on prime time.

But should there come a moment, when the eyes and ears of the mansion (who are privy to things Sophie isn’t) sit her down and say, “Soph, this guy is picking out wedding venues and naming your future children. Are you Googling names with him or bolting out the door?”

When asked on The Project why she didn’t send him home sooner, Sophie said she wasn’t ready to say goodbye. She was fighting between Jarrod and Stu until the end.

But that’s something Bachelors and Bachelorettes have to say, isn’t it? Otherwise there’s no theatre.

Is falling in love really such a line ball? Perhaps in The Bachelor vortex, but in my experience ‘love’ and ‘in love’ are vastly different. You know pretty quickly and the grey areas are minimal.

If you get voted off a talent contest, you can capitalise on your exposure and pursue a career anyway. Sure, the public witnessed your disappointment but the dream is still alive.

Jarrod watched the show back in the hopes of gaining closure. Image via Channel 10.
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But for the handful of love-seekers who fall spectacularly hard, it’s a different level of vulnerability. The person you can’t have can never be replicated and your humiliation is immortalised.

In an interview with The Project, Jarrod admitted he watched every episode of The Bachelorette in the hope of gaining insights from Sophie and Stu, to help find closure. Due to the nature of the show he didn’t get any after filming.

If this situation was spelled out to us by a friend over a wine, we would shaking our head at the injustice of it all. But when it’s a stranger on television, it’s “what they signed up for.”

Some pre-emptive rebuttals to whatever you’re thinking right now:

If Jarrod can fall in love with Sophie so quickly, can’t he fall in love with someone else just as fast? Sure. But the reality show environment is a different beast. Months of filming, cut off from your family, with one sole Sophie-shaped focus and you have the perfect storm for a person predisposed to falling hard.

Jarrod is an adult and is responsible for his own behaviour. Sure. But did he have to make the final two? Why get his hopes up and prolong the agony?

Just because Jarrod wore his heart on his sleeve doesn’t mean another runner-up wouldn’t have been just as hurt. Sure. No one can anticipate how someone will react in that situation. But when you can read the rose petals beforehand, shouldn’t you do something about it?

Jarrod says he has no regrets, so why be offended on his behalf? Sure. But just this week he admitted he still loves Sophie and would be open to a future with her. So there’s more grief to come. Will he still have no regrets in two months, or six months, or 12 months? Maybe? But maybe not.

After the finale went to air, Osher assured viewers that counselors were on hand immediately after filming to escort Jarrod back to Australia and check in on him every day. And this is a good thing.

But it has to be asked: if all is fair in love and war, should the same rules apply when love is sought in front of a camera?

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