“When you know who’s getting a rose, you just watch the show differently,” says infamous spoil sport, Reality Steve.

By De Elizabeth
Sep 17, 2019 @ 3:00 pm
Mark Bourdillon/ABC

By the time Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette reached its climactic finale earlier this summer, the majority of viewers — and the general public — already knew how it would end.

Brown, 24, would choose 25-year-old musician Jed Wyatt as the recipient of her final rose. The pair would get engaged shortly after Wyatt serenaded her with an original song, only to soon call off their engagement once Brown learned that her fiancé had been in a relationship prior to appearing on the series. Their relationship would come to a crashing end, and the entire drama would play out on television screens across the country.

What would have otherwise been a shocking series finale was completely expected by the majority of viewers — and Brown’s season of The Bachelorette is not an anomaly. While internet spoilers can be rampant in any franchise, they’re usually met with anger from fans who want to be surprised. But in the case of The Bachelor, spoilers are rapidly becoming part of the overall fan experience, to the point that viewers are hungrily seeking them out before a season even begins airing.

According to Steve Carbone (AKA Reality Steve, the number one source of all Bachelor-related spoilers), the reason is simple: knowing the ending in advance allows you to watch the show in a completely unique way. “The biggest response that I've gotten [from fans] is: ‘I like to know who wins,’” Carbone told InStyle. “So from the very first episode, when [they] start watching, [they] can see how the edit is going to go. Basically, my spoilers are like Bachelor for Dummies or Bachelor 101.... When you know who's getting a date, who's getting a rose, and who the villain is, you just watch the show differently, as opposed to going in completely blind.”

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Carbone has been spoiling the ending of Bachelor-related shows with startling accuracy for the past decade. His blog not only announces the winner of each Bachelor or Bachelorette season, but offers a detailed breakdown of what viewers can expect from each episode, and his podcast often provides further insight through interviews with cast members and other folks within Bachelor Nation. He remains one step ahead of the popular ABC franchise at all times; in late August, Carbone shared the name of his Bachelor 2020 prediction — weeks before the network’s scheduled announcement on Tuesday, September 17. And as ABC released the names of the upcoming contestants on the show’s official Facebook page, Carbone was going even further by sharing their Instagram handles on his social media channels. “Just remember, no one’s working harder for you today than I am,” Carbone wrote. “No one’s got names and IG accounts for this many of the women already. Not even close.” 

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With nearly 250k followers on Twitter, Carbone has clearly tapped into an audience that's not only unbothered by spoilers — it's actively looking for them. “As the show has gotten more popular, so has my website,” Carbone explained, noting that he doesn’t seek out the tea, the tea comes to him. “People just like to tell me stuff.” Of course, the flipside to being a popular blogger is that not all of his “tips” are accurate, and it’s up to him to determine what details are rooted in reality. “Sometimes I'll get something told to me and I'll know immediately that it’s 100% true. Sometimes it takes a little more digging.” 

Not everyone is thrilled with Carbone’s tactics. Having been sued twice by producers in the past, the blogger refers to himself as “public enemy number one” in Bachelor Nation. In 2011, Bachelor producers sent Carbone two cease-and-desist letters, accusing him of allegedly attempting to solicit information from cast and crew members. In response, Carbone’s attorneys claimed that there was “no interference” with Bachelor contestants’ contracts. The lawsuit was settled in June 2012, but Carbone was sued again the following year, after producers alleged that he breached the terms of his previous agreement, which he refuted. The second suit also ended in a settlement. (InStyle has reached out to ABC for comment, and will update if one is provided.)

According to Carbone, ABC has left him alone since then. “I think they realize there's not a hell of a lot they can do,” he told InStyle. “I mean, you tape your show in advance, stuff's going to get out. There's just really no way around it.” He reiterated that his information never comes from current cast or crew, explaining: “They’re basically off limits, and it's pointless to go through them, they're too scared of contracts and stuff. Hell, even after they're off the show ... some of them don't want to have anything to do with me.”

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Still, there’s no denying Carbone’s impact on Bachelor Nation. As the franchise attempts to one-up itself for the “most dramatic finale of all time,” Reality Steve is always in the know, and trusted as reliable. Media outlets often pick up his spoilers and run with them in the headlines, thus making them almost impossible to avoid, or for the network to contain.

“Even if I didn't want to see [spoilers], it would almost be hard not to see them,” admitted Kate, a 32-year-old Bachelor fan from North Carolina who reads Reality Steve’s blog. “I’ll see them on Instagram or in my Google feed. A lot of times, it’s not even a matter of seeking out spoilers. It’s more like you stumble across it.”

Kate, who has been watching The Bachelor since Andrew Firestone’s season in 2003, has trouble remembering the last time she tuned in without knowing in advance how the season would end. For her, spoilers have become part of the joy of being a Bachelor fan. “It's kind of fun,” she said. “You watch a show like The Bachelor for the drama of it — at least I do. So it's fun to know what drama is going to happen and then have the anticipation of watching it unfold.”

Such anticipation has been heightened recently, with several seasons ending in “unconventional” finales. In 2018, Arie Luyendyk Jr. proposed to Becca Kufrin, only to break up with her and propose to Lauren Burnham in the same episode. The following year, Colton Underwood and Cassie Randolph made it through the final rose ceremony without an engagement ring at all, and it’s safe to say Bachelor fans are still reeling from emotional whiplash after Hannah Brown’s finale. “Sometimes I’ll just find myself cringing,” Kate said, citing the moment when Wyatt picked up his guitar before proposing to Brown as a notable “cringe-worthy” scene. “You could probably compare it to a car wreck, where it's like you can't look away...because you know what’s coming.”

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But not all viewers want to know what’s coming — and some go to great lengths to avoid the spoilers that have become so ubiquitous online. Malia, a 24-year-old Bachelor fan from New York, hasn’t seen a Bachelor spoiler since Sean Lowe’s season in 2013 (a true accomplishment in today’s social media landscape). “I try to always watch live to prevent spoilers,” she explained, adding that she likes to live-tweet her “in-the-moment” reactions. “And I don’t follow Reality Steve anymore or seek out articles speculating about the ending, because even those will have phrases like ‘rumored winner’ in there that are normally accurate spoilers.” 

The same goes for Steve Tate, who is known on Instagram for his weekly Bachelor recaps. But unlike Malia, Tate isn’t always able to escape spoilers, despite trying his best to avoid them. “I hate spoilers,” the 36-year-old from Utah explained. “I think people who watch my recaps assume I already know who is going to win, so they will tell me all the time. It definitely makes it less enjoyable.”

Roberta, a 33-year-old Bachelor fan from Brooklyn, felt similarly until she became sucked into the drama surrounding Wyatt and Brown from the most recent season of The Bachelorette. “I went hard: subscribed to Reality Steve's podcast, started following him on Twitter, and became immersed in the world of Bachelor Nation spoilers and gossip.” Roberta, who began watching The Bachelor in 2018, explained that she’d normally avoid spoilers when it comes to dramas like Game of Thrones, but something about reality television makes it different. “It's a nice escape from my own pretty drama-free daily life,” she added.

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Social media also arguably plays a huge role in The Bachelor franchise’s transformation over time; gone are the days when these relationships would only exist on television screens and in the glossy pages of magazines. For proof, look no further than 2019’s Bachelor In Paradise when one contestant unleashed on Instagram mid-show to address situations taking place onscreen. Fans were tasked with following the two narratives at once, further blurring the line between entertainment and actual reality.

“I think it only adds to the viewership of the show,” Carbone posited. “We're just living in completely different times now.” He added that Bachelor In Paradise was seemingly unique in how they spent two episodes focusing on events that took place off-camera prior to filming — something that they might not have addressed in the pre-social media years. “I think [producers] are going into these shows knowing that there's stuff going on that they have to incorporate into their storylines or else they'd be ignorant,” he said. “You can't produce the same show that you produced in 2003." He says this is adding to the viewer experience: "I would give them credit for the fact that they are playing into social media now, and they are definitely playing into what is being said outside of the show.”

It remains to be seen what the future of The Bachelor franchise looks like. But there’s no doubt that the series has become something bigger than itself; fans aren’t just consumers of a television show, they have truly become part of it. With every spoiler read, or every alternative narrative uncovered online, fans are able to peek behind the curtain to see what’s underneath the packaged, edited version of The Bachelor we see on our television screens every Monday. And in turn, all of that makes the show itself more fun, more exciting, and more “real” than the hour-long episodes ever could be by themselves.

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