Up until Monday night, executive assistant Fred Johnson was the token "blast from the past" contestant for Rachel Lindsay on The Bachelorette. Back in the day, Rachel was the camp counselor that Fred had a soft spot for, and when he showed up on night one with Rachel’s middle school yearbook in tow, you definitely either loved him instantly or were completely turned off. Reminders of middle school are never welcomed, even if you’re trying to be cute about it.
Although it seemed like poor Fred would always be in the background as the naughty camper Rachel still has nightmares about, this week was his time to shine. On a group date, he hit The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where he realized that at least three other guys had kissed Rachel already. Okay, so Fred clearly doesn’t get how this show works if this reveal surprised him (It’s week three, buddy!), but his quest for his childhood crush’s love suddenly became…endearing. Saying that Rachel is “deeply rooted in my soul,” Fred stirred the equally rooted, admittedly suppressed Nicholas Sparks fan in me. Who says he has to be that bad kid from camp forever?
Unfortunately, Rachel seemed to believe just that. When Fred stole her away to share his feelings, he asked if he could kiss her. Rachel was less than thrilled with the question, and Fred made the moment a little awk when he decided to kiss her anyway. But please tell me I wasn’t the only one that felt a little hopeful for an ecstatic Fred after the kiss. Is it weird for a grown man to ask if he can kiss you? Yes. But is it sweet for him to show that he’s nervous and wants to make sure he isn’t overstepping boundaries? Yes.
While the kiss gave Fred butterflies, Rachel still couldn’t move past their history together, ultimately sending him home before the group date ended. I understand her reasoning and love that she wanted Fred to leave before he got even more emotionally invested, but part of me still feels sad for Fred. Rachel said their kiss was, “like a little boy was kissing me,” hinting that despite the grown guy in front of her, perhaps Fred was never a man in her eyes.
To others, maybe you’ll always be that kid from camp or the annoying little sister, no matter how much time passes. And that’s okay. Perhaps I’m too idealistic, but I still want to believe in love forming between people over time, no matter what weird connections you had in the past. I want to believe in awkwardly interacting with a cute guy in math class but then running into him at a bar years later and something just clicking. These are the kinds of love stories that make me hopeful.
While a casting coincidence on The Bachelorette isn’t exactly on the same level, Fred represents that stroke of luck for me (especially if I ignore the fact that he probably could’ve easily pursued Rachel prior to the show). He saw his opportunity to make a childhood dream come true and did the best he could. Rachel’s views on the situation are totally valid, too. But this week, Fred appealed to all of the secret romantics in us, and sometimes we just need some good old-fashioned hope.