As the latest edition of The Bachelor heads towards its finale, another drama played out this season far from Peter Weber and his would-be suitors. Here is the true story of how my Bachelor fantasy league was rocked by a cheating scandal, some dogged amateur detective work and an incredible email that put it all together. Names were changed to protect the guilty.
We started our Bachelor fantasy league more than 10 years ago. Everyone in the league has known each other since high school, and the league has operated on good faith from the get-go. After all, who would want to risk a decade of friendship over a few hundred bucks? Not us. That meant we avoided “Reality Steve” and other Bachelor spoiler sites before the league draft to maintain a fair playing field.
This year our friend invited his coworker Karen to join the league. And that’s where everything went wrong.
First, a quick primer on how the league works. After Episode 1, we hold an uncapped online auction where every dollar bid is a real dollar that goes into the pot. Yes, it is gross and barbaric of us to engage in such behavior — but, my god, it is a rush. Last year, Cassie (who won the final rose) went for $37. The most expensive contender went for $48. Whoever picks the eventual winner takes home 40 percent of the pot. Spots 2 through 7 also pay out in descending percentages. Unlike other leagues, there are no points. It is all about finishing position on the show.
“Something is off here.”
But early on in this year’s draft there were signs that the process was going to be vastly different. That $48 “high bid” from the year before? Comical, as Karen came in and blew the doors off the auction by bidding $212 on Madison and $113 on Victoria P. She also spent $37 on Victoria F. and $18 on Kelsey.
I was sitting at my computer watching the prices rise just cackling at this newbie setting money on fire. Karen was in for $380 and single-handedly inflated the costs of all other contestants. The pot of our little nine-person league swelled to $1K.
My friend Henry is our de facto league ringleader. He does power rankings each week with engaging write-ups breaking down the action. I look forward to his notes after each episode.
Once the auction dust had settled, I realized Henry hadn’t bought anyone. When I texted him pointing that out he wrote back, “Something is off here and I intend to figure it out.” Away we go.
“I got her.”
Flash-forward to Week 5. You remember it as the episode where Alayah returned and that Kelsey had meltdown No. 15,112. I remember it as the week that Henry rocked our league to its core.
Henry called me after the episode. As soon as I answered he said, “I got her. I caught Karen cheating.” He continued, “I did forensic accounting on the draft.” He began to lay out his investigation for me and would eventually put it together in an email that he sent to the entire league. It read like a crime novel.
He started with the draft:
Karen never made an effort to bid on any of the other 19 women. Not even a single $1 increase on someone just to kick the tires. Put differently, Karen had zero interest whatsoever in 19 of the 23 candidates. On the other 4 candidates, she adopted the opposite strategy — she would outbid everyone, no matter the cost.
Now this may not sound that odd but consider that I only bought one contestant and bid on at least four others.
Henry also explained that the contenders she bought were two favorites and two relatively random people.
She ended up buying four girls, listed below in the order in which she bought them. To provide context, I'm including the prices paid, along with their post-Week 1 rankings on New York Post and USA Today power rankings [the two most widely read weekly roundups on the internet]. Remember, there were 22 total women left at this point.
Victoria P: $113 (4th NY Post, 2nd USA Today)
Madison: $212 (2nd NY Post, 3rd USA Today)
Kelsey: $18 (19th NY Post, Tie 6-16th USA Today)
Victoria F: $37 (22nd NY Post, 22nd USA Today)
Remember, Victoria F. was not much of a standout after the first night. If you told me then she would be the one in the house to have wild home-wrecker rumors, I would have said, “There is a person on the show named Victoria F.?” The only reason Karen didn’t get Victoria F. for even cheaper was because another woman in the league thought that V.F.’s joke about the female anatomy was funny and drove the price up to $37.
Now at this point in the investigation Henry had not spoiled anything for himself or anyone in the league but that would soon change in the pursuit of sweet, sweet justice.
At first Henry tried not to ruin anything for himself by bringing in an independent friend who immerses herself in spoilers before the season and watches anyway. Henry went on:
The question I asked was this: Do Madison, Victoria P, and Victoria F all make the Final 4?
My logic was simple — these were the 3 most expensive girls that Karen bought, and if you were someone that had looked at spoilers and cheated, you probably wouldn't go for all 4 — you'd pick 2, maybe 3 of them at most. And you'd probably buy a random throwaway girl just so you didn't cash all your bets. I figured that would be Kelsey.
My friend answered me no. And so I moved on.
The investigation began to go cold… until Week 4, when Victoria F. and Kelsey come out of nowhere, get one-on-one dates and shoot up the power rankings.
Henry explained watching Karen’s non-reaction to such a meteoric rise as follows:
Surprisingly, in a room where minor victories from virtual nonentities are celebrated and decried like a Gladiator battle, neither the sharp rises of Victoria F and Kelsey nor the precipitous fall of Victoria P elicited any reaction from their owner. The lack of any reaction whatsoever to watching your $113 crown jewel fall apart was particularly noteworthy. Again, in and of itself this is evidence of nothing. But it again struck me as very odd.
Henry at this point began to realize he was asking the right questions but just about the wrong people. So he rephrased the question to our spoilery friend, substituting one specific name for another:
Do Madison, Victoria F, and Kelsey all make the Final 4?
She texted back: “yup : )”
The smoking gun
While Henry had assembled some compelling pieces, he admittedly only had circumstantial evidence and no smoking gun. That is until he asked me, “Why would she spend $113 on Victoria P. when she doesn’t even make the top 13. I think that she got them mixed up.”
That was our eureka moment. I felt like Watson to Henry’s Holmes. As he recounted in his epic email:
As Victoria P stumbled last night, various trash talk was being thrown around. Zach chimed in with a comment about Karen might as well having set that $113 on fire. It was an innocuous enough comment, but because Zach carries centuries of Jewish guilt on his shoulders, he felt the need to apologize a few minutes after.
He told her he was sorry about Victoria P, but it was all gonna be fine, and that he was probably going to lose money too. Karen responded to him, “Oh I don't really care, I didn’t even mean to buy her anyway. It was an accident.”
And that was her slip-up. Without that one accidental purchase, mistaking one Victoria for another, Karen would have had two of the three people who made it to Hometowns and three of the final four. The email Henry sent to the league summed up his case:
… based on a chilling pattern of evidence that all points towards the conclusion that blatant cheating took place:
Unprecedented auction behavior, marked by certainty in her predictions that is multiple standard deviations outside what you’d expect any humans operating under uncertainty
Remarkable performance of her picks, including multiple longshot hits from girls ranked in the bottom 4 at the time of the auction
A complete lack of reaction to the happenings onscreen, consistent with someone who knew the fate of her contestants
And crucially — no misses, after you take out the contestant (Victoria P) that she admitted to buying on accident
And that was it. That was how Karen ruined my annual Bachelor league all while also spoiling this entire season. Everyone got their money refunded. Case closed. What’s that you ask? Did Karen respond to Henry’s allegations? Of course. Here is what she wrote back:
Your 5-page, 2,000+ word character assassination certainly covered a lot of ground and one thing is for sure, I am mortified ...
I feel bad for Karen. I feel bad that she had to deal with this and felt cornered. There were better ways to handle this. Most of all I feel bad that she could have made a great group of friends that would go to great lengths for her. Great lengths... like staying up late at night doing CSI-level sleuthing, all to prevent her from being hoodwinked out of $750.
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