Tonight's Bachelor finale has fans well and truly stumped when it comes to who Peter Weber will choose. On-screen, it's down to Madison Prewett and Hannah Ann Sluss, and honestly, God bless America with those two archetypical names. As usual there is a TON of speculation as to who he'll choose, but there's also the possibility he won't choose either. He could always pick no one and walk into the sunset alone, like a few bachelors before him. And then there's one persistent rumor that has Peter ultimately choosing a woman behind the cameras: Bachelor producer Julie LaPlaca. Fueling speculation, fans have unearthed photos of the two spending New Year's Eve together, while others have pointed to more ephemeral hints (she was wearing his favorite football team's jersey? Sure!).
Whether this is really happening or a just convenient fan fiction remains to be seen. But it does remind us of a few times reality stars have hooked up with the show's producers, both on- and off-screen:
There's something poetic in the fact that our first reality star/producer hookup goes all the way back to the very first season of MTV's The Real World, which was very much a show testing its boundaries and allowing what unfolded to essentially create a genre of television. Halfway through the season, they sent the three women in the cast — Julie, Becky, and Heather B. — on vacation in Jamaica while leaving the boys at home to play pool and tend to the fish tank. While on vacation, Becky apparently got a little frisky with Bill Richmond, one of the show's directors. Which leads to weird questions like "Did the producers set up a girls-only vacation for the purpose of letting the director and Becky have some alone time in Jamaica? Probably not, and to the show's credit, Richmond left his position after the relationship was revealed.
David was a soulful, confident, beguiling bro from Boston, who was an endless source of fascination for his housemates. Was he into blonde boho Rebecca? Was he playing the field in Seattle? Perhaps he was bisexual. The mystery of David's love life was solved when camera crews caught him and producer Kira stealing moments when they thought they were safely off radar. But that was nothing compared to the explosive argument between them that actually made it onto the show, with Kira having lost her job due to their indiscretion and David a roiling ball of 21-year-old angst and emotion.
Kandi Burruss joined the cast of The Real Housewives of Atlanta in its second season, and by its fourth, she'd met line producer Todd Tucker. While the pairing never led to any on-screen drama over Todd's job as producer per se, his job probably indirectly led Kandi's Mama Joyce to make about a billion accusations about Todd being on the come-up. Eight seasons and one kid on, it's not hard to see Kandi and Todd as the producer/star story that worked.
When Survivor host and producer Jeff Probst started dating season 9 contestant Julie Berry, her season was over, and there was no actual controversy over their fling. They dated for four years, Julie never returned to the show, and as Susan Hawk might've said, their breakup caused no ill regrets. Still, there's no way to watch Probst handle a tribal council since the Julie years (they dated from about 2004 to 2008, or roughly seasons 9 to 17) and not wonder if he's got his eye on any of the women. And as Julie lays out in the above clip, her relationship with Probst effectively prohibits her from returning for any all-stars season.
Okay, yes, this was a scripted show, but any time we hear talk about producer-involved shenanigans on reality TV shows, we can't help but think of the manipulative, scheming, sexually self-destructive characters from Lifetime's breakthrough series about the behind the scenes action at a suspiciously Bachelor-esque TV show. If Peter does end up choosing producer Julie on the Bachelor finale, many people will justifiably call it a truth-imitating-fiction development, ripped straight from the pages of an UnREAL script.
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Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.