Forgive me, a loathsome millennial, for starting this story in such a fashion, but the situation demands it: this episode of The Bachelorette brought to mind a TikTok I saw last week.
(There’s also a part two. It is worth the click.)
The most charitable interpretation of this, the second episode in Clare Crawley’s fifth televised journey to find love, is that she decided to adopt a plan a lot like the one outlined above. Stage one: Teach men to talk about feelings! Stage two: Teach men to journal and acknowledge past trauma! Stage three: Uhhhh, strip dodgeball. This is where this theory falls apart, but if you’d like a positive interpretation of the hot mess that was last night’s episode, there you go!
The second most charitable interpretation of that nonsense is that, like many of us, Clare and her producers spent so long self-isolating that they have completely forgotten what functional human interaction looks like. Hence the bizarre-even-by-Bachelor-Nation-standards dates, the strange banter, the awkward pauses, and so on.
And the third interpretation is that it’s a bad episode in which almost no one comes across as remotely likable, save the wealth management consultant.
Perhaps they’re all hangry. Let’s get into it.
It is reasonably safe to assume she drank the green juice you see below. Try not to be distracted by the doggie.
Other than that, just the usual.
Depending on how much, it might explain some of her decision-making. Yikes. She also, yes, chewed on some people’s mouths again.
There were three dates, and each was stupid in its own way. Somehow, she only didn’t eat food obviously left for her to consume once.
So the first of Clare’s dates was so that the a small group of the men could show off their respective skills with the various “love languages,” meaning they all had to stand on what looks like a set for a well-funded community theatre production of Into The Woods and proclaim their general interest in a total stranger as a demonstration of competency in the language of affirmations. If you’re already considering clicking away and never devoting another brain cell to this, wait! There’s more: next, they put on blindfolds and weirdly stroked arms for the language of touch. (Anytime a guy smelled nice to Clare you could watch as she assumed it was Dale, over and over again.) Then they had to sprint back to their cabanas or whatever to find a white elephant gift to give her. Keep in mind these people just met for the first time, and they’re all staying on the same hotel campus. What heartfelt things could they have said? What meaningful gifts could they give? It was, in a word, horse shit.
The evening part of the date somehow included no weird snacks—though it did feature Clare getting right pissed off because the date started and no one said “hey can I steal you for a minute?” immediately. It sounds pretty goofy, but in her defense, a) it really is just what happens, they all know their cue, this franchise has existed for literally dozens of seasons, and b) as stated above, no one knows how to be a human anymore at this point. A guy with a face who is not Dale got the group date rose, and I will bother to learn all their names when there are fewer of them and definitely not while there are still two people named Blake who also have a last name that starts with M.
Oh, and during the weird Rapunzel Rapunzel scene one guy compared himself to an onion and another guy said something very cheesy. Lest you think that’s an unfair jab at the poor fellow:
All but one will leave in despair
But it’s all for one, and one for Clare.
If I might offer some verse in response.
The second date in this endless episode was Clare’s first one-on-one, and it was with Jason, one of the 47 former football players appearing on this season. Clare left him a note asking him to write a letter to his younger self, and then they wrote a bunch of mean things people have said to them on clay tablets and shattered them on some rocks and burned a dress and read their letters out loud and Clare basically said, “Here, have a rose, because we haven’t totally unpacked your trauma yet and I want to make sure we touch on that in our next session.”
Part of the gimmick of this column is that I very slightly exaggerate ridiculous things for comic effect. So, lest there be any confusion, allow me to make this perfectly clear: the only slightly fictional thing in the above paragraph is when I made reference to 47 former football players. It’s two football players, plus a bunch of fitness guys, a boy band manager, a male grooming specialist, the aforementioned wealth management consultant, and a bunch of other things. The rest is totally accurate. It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen on television, and I watched every episode of the season of Bachelor In Paradise when Jordan Kimball threw a giant stuffed bear into the sea in a fit of male rage.
They did not touch the food. Though, to be fair, therapy isn’t really a time for snacks.
The third date, one of those massive humiliating group dates where the men all basically sweat all over each other, was less weird but definitely more uncomfortable. In the first segment, all the also-rans played dodgeball against each other, with the winning team promised a second half of the date. It’s a fairly standard format for Bachelor Nation. But then Clare called out, seemingly unprompted*, that she’d like to make it strip dodgeball.
It was honestly pretty awful. Quite a few of the men seemed fairly to very uncomfortable with what they were being asked to do. It wasn’t sexy, it certainly wasn’t funny, and it looks like it probably hurt? But it did give Yosef of the obviously-bad-news division of the casting pool an excuse to flex the frowny muscles in his face. Infuriatingly, he is not wrong to be pissed about the strip dodgeball thing, even though he wasn’t actually on that date. He does, however, still suck.
Anyway, one team lost and one team won and the winning team got the date, which seems to have not been much of a victory at all. First, no snacks. None. Second, Clare asked a guy why he wanted to come on the show to meet her, and since he clearly didn’t want to say “I want to build my social media profile so I can get work as an influencer,” he went with this gem of an answer:
And it’s a bad answer, but I can see both sides here. On the one hand, this dude is clearly full of shit, and is bad at being so; he could have said, “I just felt drawn to you, and I knew I wanted to get to know you beyond what I could find out from TV or Wikipedia” and he probably would’ve been fine. On the other hand, as mentioned above, they just met. Did she want him to quote her Wikipedia page?
So she just straight-up walked him out. Bye, Brandon! See you in Paradise!
Yet somehow there was more drama. One of the Blakes, the secret-message-sending one from last week, decided he was not going to take his dodgeball defeat lying down and walked on over to the date already in progress. This made all the sockless men very angry. They stormed the castle and demanded the usurper be thrown out on his ear. And Clare did send him out, though not on his ear. She also dodged a kiss in a way that caused this writer to actually curl up to hide from the secondhand embarrassment, though she also gave him an early rose later.
In short, it was all really weird. Like, a guy gave Clare a “foot massage” without removing her shoes and that was not in the top 10 weirdest things that happened in this episode.
* — Like Yosef, the internet is mad at Clare about making it strip dodgeball. But the guys were also provided with jockstraps that matched their jerseys, so it was a “surprise” in the same way that the presence of a post-credits scene in a comic book movie is a surprise, or an encore at a concert is a surprise. Oh god, concerts. Please wear a mask! I want to see live music again someday!
Bennett, who just last week seemed like the contestant most likely to shut down an orphanage right before the big talent show, somehow came away from this episode as the clear highlight. He jogged like “a gazelle,” as one of the other dudes put it. He got very lucky with his accommodations and gave a tour that included a glimpse of his robust shoe collection. And he wore a bathrobe, drank a martini, and had a hot tub with one of his new friends.
You’re an angel. Thanks for making this episode bearable. See you all next week, presumably for some more unpacking of childhood trauma and some strip parachuting.