It’s already hard enough to keep up with The Bachelor. To get the full backstory of this season, you had to have watched the previous season of The Bachelorette, when we were introduced to Colton and watched him fall in love with Becca before getting dumped, and then the ensuing season of Bachelor in Paradise, where Colton attempted a relationship with Tia that neither he nor Tia seemed to enjoy at any point. And you probably should’ve watched the previous season of The Bachelor, where we met Becca and Tia. And you’re not getting invited to any good watch parties if you didn’t also watch The Bachelor Winter Games. And of course, who can forget 2 Bach 2 Furious and The Bachelorette: Tokyo Drift?
Sometimes I think of all the dozens of hours of television I’ve needed to watch to stay up on The Bachelor and wonder why I didn’t just get into a quick and light fandom like Lord of the Rings. And yet, despite doing all the pre-assigned reading, this season of The Bachelor has me feeling like I’m missing out because I didn’t watch the 2018 Miss USA pageant.
The pivotal drama point of this season is that Caelynn and Hannah B. both competed at that pageant—Caelynn, who was Miss North Carolina, finished second, while Hannah B., who was Miss Alabama, did not place—and the two have some serious animosity stemming from their past experiences with each other. On the premiere, both contestants acknowledged that they knew each other from pageanting. On the second episode, Caelynn explained that she had once been friends with Hannah, but Hannah’s attitude changed over time and they had a falling out. On the third episode, their past feud devolved into all-out war. Hannah told Colton that her personality was so different from Caelynn’s that if Colton considers Caelynn a potential match, there is no possible way he could be compatible with Hannah. Caelynn was a bit more subdued in her conversations with Colton, but still made it clear that Hannah was not to be trusted.
There’s just one problem with this entire story line—at no point in the show has anybody explained why Hannah and Caelynn fell out. Is Hannah just bitter because Caelynn did better in the pageant? Did Caelynn steal Hannah’s boyfriend? Did Hannah perpetrate wire fraud against Caelynn? Did Caelynn accidentally reveal to an animal welfare officer that Hannah illegally owned a pet ferret in a state where ferret ownership is illegal, leading to the confiscation of the ferret? Do they just, like, not like each other? We don’t know. We just know these people can’t stand each other and are going to great lengths to ruin one another. It’s hard to buy into the beef when we don’t actually know the root of it.
I actually can’t remember a time when Hannah and Caelynn have confronted each other one-on-one. Which is a bummer, because there seem to be plenty of actual beefs unfolding on the show. Demi has decided to personally fight everybody older than 25 years old. (“Being around so many younger women must be hard … especially when we’re all so beautiful,” she told the 31-year-old Tracy). Onyeka blew a whistle in Catherine’s ear and called her a bitch, and then blew an airhorn in Sydney’s ear. The feud between Hannah and Caelynn is certainly the spiciest at the moment, but it’s also the one with the least explanation.
I think I’m gonna go back and watch the Miss USA pageant just to get to the bottom of this, but I don’t know when I’ll have time. I still have to watch all the Bachelor prequels—I know they’re not supposed to be good, but they’re canon.
Best Fighting: Hannah
The first date of the show is at some sort of place that is just Medieval Times, But With Pirates. Medieval Times is great because they have actual horses and people ride those horses and do jousting with each other. The main draw of this pirate-themed one appears to be Poking Each Other With Padded Sticks While On A Balance Beam. The girls are asked to fight, and most of them are pretty bad at it. Here’s Caelynn and Tracy trying to use the padded sticks to gently leverage the other off the balance beam:
Hannah is the only contestant who figured out the proper strategy: swinging the damn stick like a baseball bat and clubbing your opponent until they fall off.
Hannah’s fight with Caelynn might be short on on-screen drama, but her performance on the plank is not. She’s just gonna bash the hell out of whoever’s standing across from her, and I deeply respect it.
Most Unfortunate Fortunate Person: Caitlin
My least favorite Bachelor tradition is the segue from sob stories to romance. Contestants are encouraged to share stories of the toughest times in their lives, which makes sense—it helps us get to know the contestants and become emotionally attached to them. So they tell us about how they escaped a war-torn country or how they lost a close family member—and then the camera awkwardly pans over to the guy they’re on a date with. The show is about the Bachelor picking the person they want to marry, not the contestant with the saddest story, but in that moment, the guy must give his date a rose or look like the world’s biggest asshole. And thus, the awful segues. Sappy music plays as the guy says something to the effect of “I’m glad you experienced great loss and struggle in your life, because it makes you hotter to me.” The whole process feels like it trivializes the tremendous pain these real humans went through by turning “Personal Tragedy” into a category contestants have to check off on their Attractiveness Résumé.
On Monday night’s episode, Elise told a heartbreaking story—her sister was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant, and gave birth shortly before passing away. Colton’s segue back to romance wasn’t so bad: “Opening up tonight about your sister had to be difficult, but it gave me insight into why you are the way that you are, and that is incredible.” But I still cringed.
Another contestant, though, was not lucky enough to have experienced great personal loss. Colton had his first real conversation with Caitlin and kept trying to get her to talk about difficulties in her life. Unfortunately, she has none. “I haven’t had anything happen in my life that I want to share with you,” Caitlin says. “I’m not sure what to open up about besides the fact that my life has been good.”
Colton instantly sends Caitlin straight home from the group date they were on. Better luck next time—by which I mean, worse luck, because you’re not going anywhere on this show until something awful happens to you.
Episode MVP: Katie
If there’s one thing I hate in life, it’s Wasteful Performative Speed-Drinking. I appreciate a good beer chug, but 90 percent of the idiots out there shotgunning beers are just spilling half a beer on the floor, and spilling beer is one of the world’s worst sins. It’s better to drink all the booze slowly than half of it quickly.
Which is why I must praise Katie, who helped spark the episode’s pool party by diving into the pool while chugging champagne. Normally I would chastise this—if you don’t finish that champagne in mid-air, you’re just dumping champagne into the pool! But it looks to me like Katie finished her bubbly mid-flight:
Let’s look at the frame-by-frame:
Now this should be an Olympic sport, and Katie should be a gold medalist.
Most Confusing Moment: Caitlin’s Limo Pull
The second group date was workout-themed, because Colton was kinda almost sorta a little bit in the NFL, and therefore enjoys working out. He’s joined by Terry Crews and a slew of women who essentially turn the date into Live Competitive Fitsagram, going out of their way to show Colton how good at stretching they are.
Afterward, the group is subjected to a series of performative strength tests, one of which is pulling a limousine. It’s established that none of the women could possibly move a limousine—and then Caitlin just steps up and bodies the multi-ton car with ease:
My assumption watching this is that Caitlin was somehow aided by some trickery—like Colton put the car into drive, or something—but no gag is ever revealed. Caitlin is never given an opportunity to reveal her strength again, and no other woman is given an opportunity to test the limo pull. Plus, Caitlin isn’t even given any praise for her achievement—when Terry Crews selects the women he deemed as having done the best job during the drills, he chooses three other contenders.
What happened here? Is it just much easier to pull a limousine than I thought, or did Caitlin just display superhuman strength for eight seconds before promptly being ignored forever? I guess we’ll never find out, because as previously noted, her life isn’t sad enough.
Most Romantic Place on Earth: Big Daddy’s Antiques
After going pirating, Colton takes his women to drink cocktails in an interesting setting—an antique store.
You might not think of antique stores as great date spots, but just about any place can be a great date spot with an open bar, and, well, every Bachelor date has an open bar. Just throw some candles in and it’s fine. I totally get why the show’s producers chose an antique store—by nature, it is filled with kitschy decor, and there are plenty of nooks for contestants to have private conversations.
But watching Colton mingle amid old signs and wooden furniture felt too familiar. Hasn’t The Bachelor done a group date in an antique store before? As it turns out, yes, they had. Here’s a clip from the third episode of the most recent season of The Bachelorette.
As you can see, it’s not just that the show opted to reuse the premise of the antique store date—they reused the same antique store. Apparently Big Daddy’s Antiques is the sexiest place in America. Here’s Nick Viall from the third episode of the 2017 season of The Bachelor, assuring his women that Big Daddy’s is “super cool.”
Yes, it’s always Big Daddy’s, and it’s always the third episode. Fellas, if you’ve been dating 25ish-year-old women for three weeks, Big Daddy’s should be first and last on your list of places to go. Some places are great first-date spots; Big Daddy’s is a great Third Episode Group Date spot.
I suspect The Bachelor has been filming at Big Daddy’s since even before Nick’s season—a 2016 Los Angeles Times article about Big Daddy’s said the show had already filmed there.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with The Bachelor repeatedly using the same setting. It’s well-lit, convenient, and like I said, kitschy. It does kind of encapsulate the show’s strategy of passing off every experience as one-of-a-kind and unique—every trip to a Caribbean beach, every private concert by an unheard-of country musician, every ride in an unusual aircraft—when really, the circuit of Caribbean getaways, private concerts, and strange flying machines is formulaic. They can even show you the same antique store three times and convince you it’s three different places.
Episode Winner: Lucy, the Pomeranian
Three women departed at the end of the episode. I’m most torn up about the loss of Bri, who pulled off the Viral Australian Accent Gambit in the premiere and then barely appeared in any of the subsequent episodes. I suspect the show’s producers had no idea how popular the fake accent would be—as I wrote about in my first recap, they failed to include the moment where she dropped the facade and began speaking in her regular voice. I don’t know how the producers miscalculated so badly, and I don’t know how Colton wasn’t more interested in a woman crafty and funny enough to pull off that level of stunt. Hopefully we’ll see her again on Bachelor in Paradise.
But the most notable departure is Catherine, who spent the entire first episode antagonizing other contenders by interrupting conversations. I assumed she would become the season’s ultimate villain, but she’s gone after just three episodes.
Which is great news for her Pomeranian, Lucy, whom she asked Colton to look after for the duration of her stay. I assumed that we would get several updates over the course of the season on Colton’s dog parenting skills, but alas, we never saw Lucy again. It’s entirely possible that Colton is kicking Catherine off the show because he didn’t have any time to look after her dog in between dates. I guess we’ll never find out, but we can presume Lucy is happy to be reunited with her DJ mom.