Less than 24 hours after viewers watched him hand out his controversy-charged final rose on The Bachelor New Zealand, Jordan Mauger shot to public enemy number one. Vilified for breaking things off with winner Fleur Verhoeven the 34-year-old Kiwi hunk was sent death threats, was labeled an a**hole and watched as his closest family members struggled to comprehend his actions.
“The worst words imaginable, I got them,” Mauger says. “Things like ‘You should go kill yourself,’ and, ‘You’ll never find someone.’ I had friends call me in tears because they’d been online in word battles with absolute fu**wits.”
Now, as he returns to Bachelor Nation as a contestant on ABC’s Bachelor Winter Games, Mauger is opening up about the motives behind his highly scrutinized decisions and whether his second approach, on Winter Games, found him love. Inviting ET into his Auckland, New Zealand, home, the Virgo explained how he went from a “happy-go-lucky Kiwi guy on cloud nine ” -- hanging with friends, traveling and working as an assistant film director -- to one of the nation’s most berated stars.
“Unfortunately, I knew early on that I wasn’t connecting with anyone on the show,” he reflects. “I’ve fallen for women before and felt the butterflies and I just wasn’t feeling it. It was tough because you have to see it through -- you can’t have a Bachelor season that finishes on the 10th episode when there’s 22.”
“I felt terrible [for] leading on the girls who were genuine … which was very few,” he adds. “The majority wanted more Instagram followers and free sh** after the show. But out of the genuine girls, I think they knew the chemistry wasn’t there.”
Viewers called him “robotic” and “boring” and accused him of entering The Bachelor for fame, but he says he simply didn’t feel “electric moments,” so was torn about faking romance. Encouraged by producers to “keep villains on longer for good television,” he chose his final four, then sent home the two contestants he felt were most serious about finding love.
“I thought it was unfair taking a genuine person into a fake relationship for cameras -- that would’ve been traumatic for someone who’s in it for real,” he explains. “Then, there were the other two girls [Verhoeven and runner-up Nazanin Khanjani] who didn’t really give a sh**. I saw their hissy fits, heard through crew what they said behind the scenes and saw they didn’t believe in the process, so [decided] to have them as the final two and flipped a coin for the winner.”
The move saw him nicknamed “flip-a-coin” in the Bachelor Winter Games house in Vermont, but at the time, Mauger felt he should give an off-camera relationship with Verhoeven a shot, given all they had gone through.
Two weeks after filming the finale, he realized the couple definitely had no future and discussed with Verhoeven how things were not working out. Mindful of show and media obligations, Mauger says they raised the split with producers and agreed to release a joint statement after the finale aired; however, Verhoeven blindsided him with a TV tell-all, tearfully declaring he dumped her. Although the breakup had occurred one month earlier, the interview aired just a day after viewers watched Mauger choose Verhoeven on television, causing national uproar.
“All I had done was broken up with someone, and I wouldn’t even call it breaking up because you have to have something bonding to break and there was never, ever a bond,” says Mauger, who has also dabbled in acting. “It was more like a refusal of a fake relationship. That’s where this huge grievance and upset had some untruth to it -- how can someone be so upset about some shi**y dates?”
“And my poor mom,” he adds about the impact on his family, who found media turning up at their doorsteps. “She really hoped that I would come out of it with a partner and was so proud she’d go to work and take in [news] cuttings, so when it all turned to sh**, it was very hard to talk to her because she’d be quoting media and taking it as more factual than what I was saying. She was wound up in the fairy tale, like viewers. My sister was very angry because she found it hard to process the hate that came towards me and the overflow that impacted the family. She’s got two kids and just wanted it to all go away.”
Mauger buried himself in work, taking a job as an assistant director on Ash vs Evil Dead, where crew kept him “sane,” as they spent their days in “a dark little box killing zombies.” “In some ways it was a more real production than Bachelor NZ,” he jokes, while walking down the road barefoot to get coffee.
So, why did Mauger consider Bachelor Winter Games given his tumultuous time on the New Zealand series?
Having spent time in North America, dated a Malibu girl until long-distance love became too challenging and appeared and worked on The Shannara Chronicles, the Christchurch native initially agreed to meet Winter Games producers because the dates overlapped with Burning Man. Turning up to his interview from the music festival in a camper van and covered in dust, he was shocked when producers invited him onto the series, which puts 12 American and 14 international Bachelor and Bachelorette stars together to compete in winter sports and find romance.
Anxious he would have another sour experience and be portrayed as “the flippy coin fu**wit,” he turned down the series, but after talking to producers, felt that the American franchise treasured contestants finding love, as opposed to the drama, villains and ratings he claims were prioritized in New Zealand. Coupled with his love of sport and the international element, he signed on and had a blast, likening the experience to “being in an alpine lodge with a bunch of mates.”
In between challenges like ice dancing, Mauger got to know “gorgeous” Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise’s Ashley Iaconetti, bonded with “amazing” Bachelor contestant Lesley Murphy over traveling and sports and formed a tight posse with “gorgeous” fellow Bachelor NZ alums Lily McManus and Ally Thompson.
Having been snapped with McManus in Auckland since filming wrapped, Mauger is coy about whether the two are more than friends, but confirms he did find love on Winter Games and is returning to the U.S.
“I did get the experience I hoped for on the show and the highlight was being emotionally mature, vulnerable and allowing someone to connect with me on that level,” he says. “[After] the whole sh**show of my experience in New Zealand, it felt like an important step to go there and have a moment of just enjoyment and putting my heart on the line. There were times I would go into interviews and be smiling ear-to-ear because I was just so happy.”
“Maybe that’s my motive for spending more time in America,” he teases. “My time in LA will tell if I’m going to make a jump over longer-term.”
The timing of his U.S. return couldn’t be more romantic, with Mauger arriving on Valentine’s Day, and hinting he’ll be reaching out to “a special someone.”
“I’m a pretty hopeless romantic and if I have a special someone in my life, I go to extra effort to make them feel special,” he says. “My ideal Valentine’s date in LA would involve something to eat and drink at the beach or up in the Malibu mountains or Topanga. Somewhere quiet and low-key.”
Whether or not his Valentine’s flight leads to lasting love, Mauger’s excited to catch up with Winter Games contestants at their reunion special, Bachelor Winter Games: World Tells All, airing on Feb. 22. Forming tight friendships on the series, he pauses mid-interview to read the latest texts in the cast’s group chat, then dishes on his bromance with Ben Higgins.
“Ben was the only other Bachelor in the house, so we talked a lot about our experiences,” he says. “He’s got a huge maturity about the process and was a great guide for me, especially transitioning into this new world I found myself in.”
Bachelor Winter Games airs on ABC at 8 p.m. EST on Feb. 15, 20 and 22.