To celebrate 25 seasons, 1,231 accepted roses, and 47 helicopter rides, last week producers, television critics, and past "Bachelor" and "Bachelorette" contestants (including Trista Sutter, Jason Mesnick, and Emily Maynard) reunited at the Southern California mansion that has seen it all.
[Related: See photos from the reunion]
Yahoo! TV took the opportunity to pull aside the Season 17 contender, Sean Lowe, a 29-year-old insurance agent from Dallas whose televised quest to find love started airing on ABC on Jan. 7, for some exclusive scoop on his journey, the ladies, and whether it was hard to come face-to-face with Maynard at the estate where their love affair began last year.
How does it feel to be back where it began for you, especially knowing that your ex-girlfriend is just a few feet away?
It's weird being back in the rose-ceremony room. I've spent a lot of emotional nights here. But I have good memories. And as for Emily, I don't hold a grudge. She's a great girl, and while I was heartbroken, I don't blame her for making the decisions that were right for her. Having been on her side of the show, I sympathize more.
At the "Men Tell All" reunion last year, when it looked like you were a lock to be the next bachelor, you told us you weren't sure whether you were interested.
When they first asked me to be the bachelor, I said, "I don't know. Let me think about it." Because I really wasn't sure I wanted to go through it all again. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about being back on the show where I met Emily because my feelings for her were real and my heartbreak was real. I think I took a week to decide. I talked to my family and friends. I prayed about it. And I came to the realization that my feelings for Emily were very real, the situation can work, and I am ready to fall in love, get married, and start the next part of my life. I don't know how God works, but I feel like he opens doors and it is your choice to step through them or not. I know "The Bachelor" gig is a crazy door to open up, but they say God works in mysterious ways, right? So I said, "Why not? I owe it to myself to give it a shot, and maybe I'll find love again." I would never know unless I tried.
In hindsight, now that you have lived to tell the tale, are you glad you did it?
Yes. I definitely won't be pulling a Brad Womack, though. I won't ever do it again. It was so much more than I thought it would be in good ways and bad. It was physically exhausting which I wasn't anticipating. I was running on fumes the entire time. It was emotionally taxing. I didn't know, and this is going to sound stupid of me considering every bachelor and bachelorette has said it, that I could develop feelings for more than one person at the same time. But it happened. "The Bachelor" is the only situation where I think that is possible. But it happened, and it played with my head. All that being said, I still enjoyed the experience.
You've also said many times that you are going to propose once in your life.
That's the goal, anyway.
Did you feel pressure, either from yourself or from producers, to make it work or settle? Or did you always feel like you could walk away empty-handed if you couldn't see forever with one of the women?
The production team was great. I know they have a TV show to make and they want the season to be interesting, but I never felt like they didn't have my best interests at heart. They never pressured me to go one way or the other. I commend them for that. And I didn't pressure myself, either. I made a conscious decision to judge every individual relationship on its own, to give everyone a fair shake, and to always be true to myself and make the decisions that were best for me. It was really hard to send people home every week, because I don't like hurting people's feelings, but in the long run people would be less invested if I let them go as soon as I realized we weren't right for each other. Everything worked out for the best.
The first night, did anyone immediately strike you as not right for you?
"Fifty Shades of Grey" girl. Definitely. I don't know much about that book, but I can put two and two together. When she pulled the tie out and insinuated that she wanted to tie me up or vice versa, I was taken aback. You're just announcing to me and ultimately to the world that you're a bad girl. I would prefer that be revealed over time. You need a little mystery in your relationship. Good for her that she knows what she wants, but it isn't my thing.
We were surprised that the wedding-dress girl didn't register as crazy.
I don't know if that's the best move for a first date. When she stepped out of the limo, I was like, "Oh, crap. Get me out of here now." But then I sat down with her and thought, "This girl's got a good, quirky sense of humor, and this was meant to be a joke." Then she went in for that awkward kiss and I went back to thinking she's crazy. But at the end of the night when I was deliberating, I just thought, "She's kinda crazy, but funny. I'm going to keep her around to get a better feel for her." The sense of humor was enough to intrigue me at least another week.
Who was the first girl you immediately knew was top 25?
Tierra. I was drawn to her the minute she stepped out of the limo.
Was there a girl you didn't think would interest you on first impression but won you over by the end of the night?
Yeah, there were a couple. Even after the first night, I thought I knew the four or five women who would make it to the end based on initial impressions and conversations. Some did. But as the season progressed, the initial impressions wear off and I find myself drawn to other women who have amazing personalities or traits and characteristics unlike any girl I have ever dated.
Most important, did you get a free helicopter ride?
Of course -- this is "The Bachelor." I think I got a couple. And there are definitely a few hot tubs, and I take my shirt off. There are some things that happen every season.
I had so many good moments. The last few weeks of the season, I don't think America is going to have any idea which way I'm going because I was blessed with amazing, intelligent, funny, well-accomplished, beautiful women. One of my main fears coming in was that I might not find a real connection and it would be a big waste of time. But you're going to see me really start to fall for four women. It's nuts. I didn't know how to process it, handle it, or sort it out. It's good that I let my heart go there, but it was very stressful at the same time. I'm going to keep the people at home guessing the whole time.
But some people voiced concern that you are such a solid Christian boy who loves his family, that this season could be a snore.
There's a lot of drama. No matter how normal the bachelor is, any time you stick that many women under one roof with only one guy, drama will inevitably occur. It may even get physical this season. But what sets my season apart is that I'm very sincere. I really put my heart on the line, and I'm truly looking for the one I want to spend the rest of my life with. I think people will be emotionally invested for that reason. And as for me being boring, people will see sides of my personality that they didn't see on Emily's season. Sometimes I felt like I was a little stiff with Emily. I don't know if that was because she was a proper Southern belle or if it was nerves. But rarely am I that serious. I definitely loosened up.
Watch a clip of one of the women getting pranked:
What was your favorite destination?
This is going to sound very odd given that we go to several very cool, exotic places, but I loved Montana. It was gorgeous. It was right up my alley. I'm outdoorsy, and that is some of the prettiest scenery in the country. I got to ride horses and climb mountains. We had to rough it a little bit, and we did a pretty cool race where the girls had to milk goats and stuff. That's when you really find out who is in it for you. If they will milk a goat and drink that milk without hesitation, you can be sure they are serious about getting to know you.
Paint the picture of your perfect woman.
I've got three musts. One, intelligence. A woman's intellect is the sexiest thing for me. Two, she needs to be funny. I love someone with a sense of humor. And she must have a good heart. I need someone who is capable of loving the way that I do, who cares about her family and friends and is kind and generous. Outside of that, I wanted to be surprised. And I was. I dated a lot of girls on the show who were nothing like any woman I have dated in the last eight years that I've been single.
So did you find the one?
Ask me again in May.
"The Bachelor" airs Mondays at 8 PM on ABC.
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- Emily Maynard