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Earlier this week, the Duggars hinted that there would be a courtship announcement on an upcoming episode of Counting On.

The news caused quite a stir within the fandom community, largely because the family had never done anything quite like this before.

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Courtship announcements are quite commonplace now that most of the family’s 19 kids have reached marrying age (which, for the Duggars, begins in one’s late teens).

But usually, the act of announcing the relationship is left to the couple.

Never before has the process been so drawn out. 

Duggar Family: Counting On Season 4 Photo

And never before has a relationship been used as a ratings stunt to draw a larger audience to the family’s ailing reality series.

The situation gives credence to the rumors that the Duggars are facing cancelation and will do anything to avoid that embarrassment.

And it’s made even more sad and bizarre by the fact that the principal players in this thing are children.

Photo via Instagram

Yes, Justin Duggar is only 17 years old, and it looks as though he’ll be the one to make a courtship announcement this Tuesday.

Obviously, there’s nothing strange about a 17-year-old dating, but as the Duggars so frequently remind us, courting is something more than dating.

It’s "dating with a purpose" — and that purpose is marriage, followed by frenzied breeding.

Photo via Instagram

So it’s a lot for someone to take on before they’re even old enough to vote.

We’re sure Justin feels like he’s up to making such a major decision and announcing it on national television, because getting in over your head and taking big, foolish risks is what being 17 is all about.

A kid’s parents are supposed to talk him down in situations like this one, but clearly Jim Bob smells ratings, which means the Counting On community is about to be introduced to a new Duggar under very strange circumstances.

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Yes, Justin doesn’t normally appear on the show, a fact that his siblings noted when it was revealed — in a preview for next week’s episode — that he would be joining the rest of the family for so social-distanced video conference.

"We are going to have another family video chat," Michelle told the usual brood.

When Jim Bob revealed that Justin would be sitting in on the call, the news was greeted with considerable confusion.

Photo via Instagram

"Justin joined the video chat. We were like, ‘Oh, okay,’" said Jessa’s husband, Ben Seewald.

Knowing that the family had been teasing some courtship news, most Duggar fans probably figured out what was in store at that point.

But just in case it wasn’t clear, Justin stopped just short of making it official:

Photo via Instagram

"Well, I actually do have some news for the family," he said.

And it seems that until next week, additional details will be hard to come by.

Because this courtship has (reportedly) taken place remotely due to the coronavirus, the family has had an easy time keeping it under wraps, which means we know nothing about the identity of Justin’s love interest.

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It also means that there’s a good chance Justin has never even met the girl he’ll likely be engaged to before the year is out.

As for the rumors that the situation was largely engineered by his overbearing parents — well, those seem more credible by the day.

No wonder Jim Bob insisted this situation be featured on Counting On — it’s bizarre even by Duggar standards!

We just hope producers will slip this kid the phone number of a good therapist before they pack it in for the season.

UPDATE: Justin and Claire Spivey really are courting!