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‘The Bachelorette’: More Lee, More Problems

Plus, a return to Scandinavia! And handball?!

(ABC)
(ABC)

Of all the things that The Bachelor/ette does that are completely counterintuitive to finding a potential spouse, the two-on-one date might be the most ridiculous. There is no way you can say, “Hey, I’m trying to decide whether to eliminate you or someone else, so please fly with me to a scenic location where I will abandon one of you forever,” to a person one week and then “Will you marry me?” a month later. I don’t recall anybody ever winning The Bachelor/ette after surviving a two-on-one date. But it is excellent TV. The two-on-one is just a way to get two people who are fighting to fight even more.

This year, the unlucky pair is Lee, the singer-songwriter who compared the NAACP to the KKK in tweets, and Kenny, a professional wrestler who happens to be black. The episode starts off with them in strife, following an argument from last week’s episode in which Lee accused Kenny of being “aggressive,” and they each bad-mouthed the other to Rachel.

Kenny confronts Lee and vigorously insults him in the calmest tone possible. After Bryan — who was making out with Rachel while Kenny and Lee argued — wins the group date rose, Kenny continues to trash Lee, by becoming the first Bachelorette contestant ever to give a congratulatory speech to a fellow contestant: “Bryan has done this the right way. He hasn’t snaked anybody — it’s very important, not being a bitch-ass dude.” You know what? I agree.

Later on, back at their hotel, Will tells Lee that perhaps the use of the word “aggressive” upset Kenny — that black men have historically been negatively portrayed with that word as a way to justify their mistreatment. Hearing this, Lee’s eyes roll backward so violently that I could’ve sworn they made an audible sound. “I don’t understand the race card,” he tells the camera.

When the two-on-one date rolls around, Lee does not back down. He tells Rachel that Kenny yelled at him, and that Kenny called him a “snake” and a “bitch.” True statements. But Lee also tells Rachel that Kenny dragged him out of a van to yell at him, and that Kenny admitted to having a “dark side” when he drinks. Not true! Or at least, we’ve been shown zero evidence of those things happening — and if they had, I’m confident that ABC would’ve based entire episodes around them.

Lee could have reversed course. But when told that his wording is causing tension due to deeply painful and historical context, he doubles down. He not only spins a story to make Kenny look bad, but he also throws in new details about physical attacks that might not have occurred. If there was no malice in his words, why does he (seemingly vindictively) reemphasize them? Why would he aim at the wound that Will warned Lee he might be opening? If his reality is the reasonable one, why would he potentially lie?

Host Chris Harrison claims the producers didn’t know about Lee’s tweets before allowing him on the show. Regardless, I’m uneasy with how the show is framing this situation. The episode ends with a cliff-hanger and a teaser showing Kenny with a bloodied face. The Bachelorette is selling itself by slapping the words “DRAMA” and “SHOCKING” on racial tension (and potential violence). The Bachelor/ette’s two-on-one date is dramatic television — but it’s not an appropriate setting for this conflict.

Best Geographical Correction: Rachel

Last season, Rachel lost The Bachelor in Lapland, the reindeer-filled northern expanse of Finland. Clearly, she recognized that Scandinavia is the land of love — the one place you can skip down the street with puppies after your first orgasm? — but she knew something was slightly off. And so she took her guys a couple of countries west, to Norway. There’s still snow, but now there is also lutefisk.

Best Sport: Handball

For my recaps of the last season of The Bachelor, I wrote a little bit of introductory text that went at the top of every article. Here is how it started:

There are only two good sports in the world. One is that awesome handball thing from the Olympics. The other is The Bachelor, a show that features 30 women competing to gain as many Instagram followers as they can before they’re eliminated by a slightly above-average guy who once got dumped on national television.

I don’t know why I wrote this. I probably didn’t have a lot of time to think about anything clever and decided to expand on the trope that The Bachelor is a sporting event to justify why I write about it even though I am a sportswriter.

This week I jumped off my couch and through the roof of my apartment when this episode of The Bachelorette managed to combine both of the best sports in the world. LOOK AT THIS HANDBALL ACTION:

Handball is great. It revolves around the two best athletic activities: jumping and throwing stuff really hard. It’s like soccer, only you get to use parts of your body that are actually good at doing things. (I bet you weren’t expecting an anti-feet take in the middle of an article about The Bachelorette, but guess what: Feet are trash.) I was lucky enough to cover the last Olympics in Rio, and I went back to the handball venue night after night. It was awesome. I wasn’t even writing about the games — often I’d head there when I needed to hunker down and write stories about other events. It was like my personal Starbucks filled with screaming Croatians.

Rachel and the guys did handball stuff in Norway because Norway is very good at handball; the women’s team won the bronze medal in Rio. The U.S., meanwhile, is not very good at handball; neither of our teams has made the Olympics since 1996, when they automatically qualified as hosts. Our teams are apparently filled with a bunch of randoms who go to Auburn, where the training facility is located.

But the days of U.S. handball futility are over. Just look at Will:

Some have speculated that the U.S. could dominate international handball if we just let our best athletes — basketball superstars and mobile quarterbacks and rangy shortstops — play the sport. But who needs LeBron or Russell Wilson when you have Will, clearly the savior of U.S. handball?

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that The Bachelorette featured handball immediately after I wrote about handball and The Bachelor. But if you’re the person who works at ABC and reads these posts, please email me. I have a lot of other awful suggestions on how you can cater the show to me by featuring the things I personally find entertaining that nobody else does. (For starters: The next Bachelor should be Pootie Tang.)

Most Boring: Jack Stone

I still don’t know why Jack Stone needed to go by “Jack Stone” when there were no other Jacks present, but I did know immediately that he would not win the show. Jack is an attorney from Dallas. Rachel is an attorney from Dallas. Rachel went on television to meet people who are not attorneys from Dallas. There are a lot of fish in the sea, but Jack believes that Rachel should more thoroughly search the small pond from whence she came. If a sportswriter from New York is the next Bachelorette, I’m just gonna admit that I missed my shot.

Rachel is spectacularly bored by Jack. This is compounded by Jack saying that if the two had a day to spend in Dallas, he’d lock himself in a room with Rachel so they could spend all day together. When Rachel hosted Nick in Dallas, she brought him to church. Somehow, Jack has managed to come up with a more boring idea for a date. (Also, Jack Stone, maybe don’t tell girls that you want to lock them in rooms, OK?)

At one point Jack attempts to kiss Rachel, and she says something to the effect of “No, I don’t want you to get sick.” Rachel does not mention this apparent illness to any of the other dudes who make out with her in this episode. Not pictured in this episode: Rachel eating an entire bulb of garlic and yelling “ACTUALLY I FORGOT MY TOOTHBRUSH IN LOS ANGELES.”

Eventually (and mercifully), Rachel eliminates Jack at the end of their one-on-one date. Normally, this sort of thing is followed by the eliminated contestant emotionally breaking down in a car, or the remaining contestants in the house expressing their shock, but not this time. Nope — Jack is just gone.

Most Obvious Future Bachelor: Bryan

Bryan is perfect. Rachel jokingly worries that he’s too kind and charming, and I think she’s right. He is a shoo-in to be the next Bachelor. Really, the only thing standing in the way is his own awesomeness. By my calculations, he needs to become 15 percent less adorably funny, 28 percent less charismatic, and a whopping 41 percent less handsome, or else I fear he’ll win this season and miss out on his chance to star in the next season of The Bachelor.

Best Donald Trump Zing

I assumed it would be Kenny claiming Lee was using “alternative facts.” But then Josiah brought up the tiny hands:

That’s timely humor right there.

Unfortunately, Josiah did not do well in handball. As the goalie, he made the questionable decision to take the game seriously enough to block all of Rachel’s shots, even though he wasn’t actually good enough to stop the other team from winning.

Biggest Violation of Kayfabe: Kenny

Kenny’s presence on this possibly predetermined competition packaged for television audiences as if it is reality comes after a career in a definitely predetermined competition packaged for television audiences as if it is reality. He is a pro wrestler, and his performance on this season is proof once and for all that wrestling is fake. The entire premise of pro wrestling is that a bunch of really strong guys yell at each other until they get so mad that they have to fight. There are rules and stuff, but people break those rules all the time. Sometimes, somebody who isn’t even scheduled to fight gets so mad that they join a fight while the ref is “looking the other way.”

If Kenny were actually a person who gets so mad at people that he cannot resist the urge to violently attack them, Lee’s listed hometown would be Suplex City instead of Nashville. But after being unfairly accused of aggressiveness, Kenny clearly makes sure to act in a way that couldn’t ever be construed as physically aggressive. This proves that Kenny can respond to antagonization with tact while maintaining emotional control, an admirable skill that would make him the worst wrestler of all time. BAH GAWD, KENNY “PRETTY BOY PITBULL” KING JUST USED THE DE-ESCALATOR ON HIM. THEY’RE RESOLVING THE CONFLICT AMICABLY NOW!

Most Surprising/Least Surprising Eliminations: Jonathan/Iggy

Iggy is off the show, as Rachel decided she no longer needed his protection. (In Iggy’s eyes, “telling Rachel he noticed random personality traits that he decided Rachel might not like” was “protection.”)

But I was surprised to see Jonathan — the “tickle monster” — go. I say this because I was honestly a little surprised that Jonathan was still around, considering his only notable trait was that he liked tickling people, something he did once more as he said his goodbye to Rachel. It feels like producers pitched the tickle concept to Jonathan as a first-night gag — “It’ll make her remember you!” — and he just never got the memo that he was allowed to stop tickling her. Everybody else has moved on; we haven’t even whaboomed in weeks.