reality tv

'The feeling I couldn't ignore during The Project's interview with Nick Cummins.'

When The Bachelor ended on Thursday night, it felt profoundly unfinished.

It was an ending almost no one predicted, with 30-year-old rugby player Nick Cummins choosing neither Brittany Hockley or Sophie Tieman in the final moments of the episode. He was left alone, strolling along a beach in New Caledonia, while Brittany and Sophie tried to piece together why on earth they’d just spent three months filming a reality show that ultimately had no conclusion.

But we were promised an interview with The Sunday Project – the only post-Bachelor interview with Nick Cummins – that would shed light on his decision, and show us how the four women who made it to the very end were coping.

Indeed, Cummins’ conversation with Lisa Wilkinson told us all we needed to know about his history-making finale.

In a nutshell: he doesn’t get it.

It was clear that Cummins had no sense of how striking the contrast would be between his own account of what happened, and the tearful words of the women who were left disappointed.

While his conversation with Wilkinson was lighthearted, explaining that at the end of the day, he was wrong about what he wanted, four women in identical interview settings broke down in tears.

Brooke Blurton, 23, said her “life has been exposed,” and that she “wanted [that sacrifice] to be worth it”.

Cass Wood, 24, admitted she feels “like a bit of a joke”.

Brittany, 30, said she thought everything that had happened to her had happened for a reason, and was leading up to a relationship with Nick.

Sophie, 25, could hardly speak through her tears, and said she “literally loses words” when she tries to articulate how this experience has affected her.

These are women who feel silly, who feel embarrassed, and are yet to understand the decision that has made them the focus of significant media attention in the last three days.

Perhaps the most telling moment in the segment was Cummins’ message to the contestants. “To all the girls,” he said, “who went through a lot of stuff, I just want you to know, if I see you again, I’ll buy you a drink and say hello for old time’s sake.”

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Listen to Rachel Corbett, Clare Stephens and Jessie Stephens debrief on The Bachelor finale. Post continues after audio.

It was a sentence that began like an apology, but ended in a way that entirely missed the mark when it comes to how Brooke, Cass, Brittany and Sophie are coping.

It sounds like they want an apology – not a drink. They seem to be looking for an explanation, or some semblance of reassurance that they weren’t idiots for signing up to a reality show where they’d be forced to lay their emotions bare, only to have a man tell them he didn’t want a relationship.

This mismatch in emotional investment isn’t necessarily an indictment on Nick Cummins. Perhaps he did go on The Bachelor looking for love, but didn’t find the right person. Perhaps he really did choose no one in order to spare anyone further pain in the future. It’s not his intentions I’m doubting – but simply his perspective.

It was blatantly clear during The Sunday Project that The Bachelor was a fundamentally different experience for Cummins to what it was for the contestants. Ultimately, he had significantly more power over the situation than the women did.

He got to make a decision – they did not.

And as ridiculous as The Bachelor is, and as not-real as I know reality TV is, too many of us have experienced an eerily familiar sense of rejection to not feel empathy for these women.

They probably feel like every declaration of their feelings, every rose ceremony, every conversation, every introduction with their loved ones, was naive and silly, because the man they were opening up to wasn’t looking for anyone in the first place. Maybe that isn’t the truth about Cummins – but it’s an understandable reaction.

And despite making a decision that will no doubt play on the minds of 28 women to differing degrees, there are two words he still hasn’t said: I’m sorry.

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