No one saw it coming when Arie Luyendyk Jr. was selected as the Bachelor. Almost everyone thought it would be Peter Kraus or someone else who went far on Rachel Lindsay's Bachelorette season like Eric Bigger or Dean Unglert. Those guys were the obvious contenders, but it turns out that Ben Higgins was asked to be the Bachelor this season, but he turned it down.
Just as a refresher for anyone who is out of the loop: Arie's season is Season 22 and Ben was the Bachelor for the show's 20th season in 2016. He got engaged to Lauren Bushnell and they split in May 2017, so he was single by the time the search for this season's Bachelor lead began.
During the February 23 episode of The Ben and Ashley I Almost Famous Podcast, Ben was not actually present, but his co-host, Ashley Iaconetti, said that he could have been the Bachelor this time around.
At the one-hour mark of the episode, Ashley read a listener question that asked, "Is Ben going to be the next Bachelor?" Then Ashley said what a lot of the Bachelor fandom has been thinking: "That is so funny because I think that a lot of people interpreted his exit [from The Bachelor Winter Games] as the perfect exit to make him Bachelor again." It really did feel like the perfect setup for another season.
That's when Ashley dropped this bomb: "They wanted him to be Bachelor again this year." And yes, she says there was an actual offer. "He turned down the offer this year, but I do think that Bachelor Winter Games exit is something," she said. "That cannot be his finale in this franchise." (Bustle reached out to ABC for comment, but did not receive a response at the time of publication.)
Since Ben was absent from the podcast episode, Ashley had her Bachelor Winter Games co-star Courtney Dober in the studio as a fill-in co-host. He pointed out about Ben, "He does constantly refer to the fact that the franchise and the situation works for him. You can see how it does. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He's the most open, vulnerable. He's the best dude. He's one of the best guys I've ever met. He would make a bloody good Bachelor once again."
So, will Ben hand out the roses next season? Obviously anything can happen in this franchise, but Ashley doesn't think Ben being the Bachelor is a likely possibility — yet. "I don't think that would happen this September, but I could see him maybe the following September," she said. "I think that [Winter Games] has proven that he's not one hundred percent ready to jump into that specific environment. Dating off-camera, he's getting there, but not on-camera again."
Unfortunately, Ben did not get to share his side of the story during the podcast episode, but he has been asked about the possibility of returning to the franchise many times since his split with Lauren. At the 1:10:00 mark of the August 8, 2017 episode of their show, Ashley asked Ben about returning to The Bachelor.
Ashley said to Ben, "Let’s talk about the real question here. Ben, would you ever be the Bachelor again?" Ben had a lot to say in response. "At this point in my life, I am not ready to be the next Bachelor," he told Ashley. "I will say that. It just doesn’t feel right. For whatever reason, it doesn’t feel like a time in my life that I would be the best man possible for the women that would come on this season."
Nevertheless, it did feel like Ben left the door open for future seasons since he added, “At this point in my life, I don’t think it’s the wise thing to do." He added, “So I will not be your Bachelor for this next season.”
But maybe in a season or two? In a February 21 interview with Entertainment Tonight, Ben was asked if he would be the Bachelor again. He said, "That is such a good question. I didn't realize a lot of people were pulling for that." He must not check his mentions on Twitter since a lot of people feel like his Winter Games exit was the perfect lead-in to the next Bachelor season.
Ben revealed that he hasn't ruled out the possibility of returning to the franchise, but he is hesitant. He shared with Entertainment Tonight, "I can't ever say never, but I can say that I was really happy with [how] my season of The Bachelor was done, and I thought I was moving on and I thought life was gonna get a lot simpler."
Ben said, "It seems really tiring and daunting and exhausting to me right now. So I just know [it] might be hard." For the people holding out hope that Ben takes on that lead role, the key phrase to focus on there would be "right now."
Ben may not have found lasting love during his time in The Bachelor franchise, but he is an optimist when it comes to finding love in this environment. Apparently, he's been asked back before, so just maybe it will happen again and he will end up saying yes for another season.