The first footage of season 23 of The Bachelordropped Monday night, and the trailer indicates fans will get everything they've come to love about the show: contestants clashing, shirtless montages, sexy beach frolicking ... and lots of tears.
But there's one five-second chunk in the one minute and 30-second teaser that sticks out. At just past the minute mark, our Bachelor, Colton Underwood, is seen getting a hug from a woman in a green coat as he says, through tears, "I'm scared."
The exchange comes across as vulnerable, genuine, and possibly heartbreaking -- and ET has learned there's even more to it than meets the eye. A source confirms that woman isn't a contestant; she's a producer.
In all its years on the air, the Bachelor franchise has only occasionally broken the fourth wall and shown exchanges between cast members and crew. When it does, the experience is powerful for viewers; reality TV becomes its most real when the audience is taken behind the scenes.
These rare moments have usually been discussions. For example, near the end of Becca Kufrin's season of The Bachelorette earlier this year, she was shown talking through her personal confusion with a producer ahead of breaking up with one of her finalists, Jason Tartick. On Kaitlyn Bristowe's season of The Bachelorette in 2015, Shawn Booth was shown discussing his tormented feelings for the woman who would soon become his fiancee.
So, what would cause Underwood to reach out for a hug, as he cried, to a producer? And why would the show choose to air this footage? We can't remember ever seeing another lead in an embrace with a producer, and we're guessing the reason for showing this footage is powerful.
What we do know about production of The Bachelor is that cast members become close with producers. This isn't surprising or strange; they spend months together, traveling the world and talking about their feelings. Plus, producers are assigned to work consistently with specific cast members, and the lead (aka Bachelor or Bachelorette) also works with, and bonds with, certain producers.
While we might have to wait to find out what sends Underwood into a producer's arms, former Bachelor Ben Higgins revealed to ET that he'll be making an appearance on the season, and said that from what he's seen, it's going to be pretty intense.
"It’s outrageous," he promised. "We were able to meet up, talk and catch up. What I got a sense of from my time on the show is that this season is going to be more genuine, raw and vulnerable than any season in a long time.”
"I think what we all expected was that Colton would be doing this in the purest of ways with really the intent to grow and use this as a platform for him to grow into the man he will become. I saw that, I see that and I think we’re going to get to watch him continue to grow up right in front of our eyes," he added.
The Bachelor premieres Jan. 7 on ABC.
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