We were already more than well aware that The Bachelorette would reveal Eric Hill's death and the cast's reaction to the news during Monday night's hometown visits. Last week, the series callously used the tragedy as a teaser for the hometown visits episode, but when it actually came time to see this announcement on television things got tough. At first, it seemed that The Bachelorette was employing a rather strange way to deal with such a sensitive moment. But then, the series actually seemed to tear down its usual wall of fantasy and revealed what's important: The way in which Eric positively touched the lives of those he knew.
"We learned this morning that [Eric] passed away," Chris Harrison tells the group after gathering them in his home in dramatic, ominous fashion. Marcus immediately walks outside to gather his emotions with Andi in tow before they all return to the room to deal with their emotions together. Suddenly, the veil seems to be lifted, when everyone in the crew comes in, the set pieces are moved around and we see everyone embracing. A producer puts her arms around Andi as she keeps whispering "I can't believe that was my last conversation with him."
Andi was of course referring to Eric's last night on the show, when he had a conversation with her about being real and being honest. She was furious, he felt misunderstood, she cried, and then he was sent home. When Eric passed, the weight of that conversation came crashing down on Andi. It was a bit strange hearing her talk about how Eric's passing will affect her ability to play a game show, but eventually, she got to the real heart of the matter: when real life intervenes, it feels rather strange to play this game, however rooted in reality, for the sake of some television cameras.
Finally, when Andi broke down during the Rose Ceremony things got dramatic. It was almost too much to listen to The Bachelorette's typically melodramatic score played over a scene that is actually so real — a scene that communicated the end of a life, and not just the end of someone's time on a TV show. Of course, ABC had to show Eric's friends and former cast mates reacting to his passing — it wouldn't be fair to his memory to brush their emotions under the rug — but there's a point at which The Bachelorette went from airing the honest, unedited reactions of Andi, the guys, and the crew, to milking the tragedy for 15 extra minutes of programming.
When the show finally returns to the rose ceremony and Andi's farewell conversation with the guy she eliminates, there's not much of a sense of closure. The whole affair just seems wrong and out of place. How can we even be thinking about eliminated suitor Marcus Grodd's disappointment and rejection when we're still reeling from watching these people lose someone they all cared about?
This season may be dedicated to Eric, but the way the series' editors are running things, you wouldn't know it. Then again, with the strange version of reality that exists on this show, there are too many available options of how to handle this sort of thing "correctly," either.