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‘The Bachelorette’ Recap: The First-Grade Soccer Game

Monday night was just a bunch of immature guys (Luke P., Cam) running around, chasing a ball (Hannah), with zero plan whatsoever

ABC

I was worried Hannah wouldn’t be able to talk. But in her three episodes as the lead of The Bachelorette, she’s emerged as loud, strong, and decisive, routinely finding the exact words to put men who cross lines into their places. On the season premiere, that guy was Scott, a contestant suspected of having an active relationship with another woman back home. Hannah’s takedown of Scott was so concise, well-articulated, and brutal that I assumed Scott was planted by ABC so that Hannah could deliver a scripted burn speech on the show’s first night and establish herself as a strong lead.

But Monday night’s episode was another curveball—and another situation handled excellently by Hannah. The line-crosser this time was Luke P., one of the show’s obvious front-runners. On the premiere, Luke received the first-impression rose, a Week 1 tradition that has revealed the winner of the show on each of the past four seasons. In Week 2, Luke refused to take his foot off the gas pedal, professing his fledgling love for Hannah in front of a studio audience and repeatedly seeking out extra time with her.

I wondered whether Luke would be able to remain a front-runner in Hannah’s good graces while also demanding an active presence in her life—normally, guys in Luke’s position sit back, relax, and wait until the crowd thins out, knowing they don’t need to engage in the petty squabbles of the early-season rat race.

But as Monday night proved, Luke P. definitely is not capable of sitting back and relaxing. During a group date, Luke saw Hannah kissing another contestant as part of a date where Hannah and contestants posed for sexy pictures together. This sent Luke into overdrive. He demanded everybody else stop they were doing, and that the photographers take a picture of Hannah standing on his back while he did pushups. (There is no Dumb Strong Guy move more pure than literally doing pushups as a response to a threat from another man.)

Hannah pulled Luke aside and told him his behavior was hurting his position in her eyes. While Luke understandably wants exclusivity in a relationship, this isn’t a show where two people date for three months—Hannah is the Bachelorette, she’s dating 30 guys, and he has to sit back and let it happen. Luke’s insistence on preventing Hannah from testing out any other relationship is backfiring and making him look possessive and insecure; frankly, it’s pissing her off. “I call the shots,” Hannah felt compelled to remind Luke at one point.

It’s unclear whether Luke got the message. He listened to Hannah, thanked her for expressing her concerns, and turned down the aggro BS. But at the same time, he literally said to the camera, “I’m gonna act like that conversation never happened.” It’s clear that Luke and Hannah have the strongest connection of any two people on the show so far, but it’s also clear that Luke isn’t cut out to stand idly by while Hannah does her thing. Luke listened to God when God came to him in a shower to said, “Hey, bro, stop having so much sex.” Can he listen to Hannah, in spite of the fact that she is not omnipotent and confronted him in a non-shower setting?

What is clear is that Hannah is willing to call anybody out if they get on her nerves. I really didn’t think she had this in her—while she had a notable feud with Caelynn on her season of The Bachelor, she was never confrontational during it—instead she essentially avoided talking to her former friend until Caelynn approached her to put an end to their war of attrition. But now, she’s willing to take a stand even against guys she cares about.

That’s huge for this show. A decisive lead is so much more enjoyable to watch—and honestly, The Bachelor and Bachelorette haven’t always had them, as some leads have opted to be as inoffensive as possible instead. And putting Luke in his place was a critical decision for the flow of the season. Either Luke will be forced to sit back and let the shenanigans of The Bachelorette take place, or he will continue overplaying his hand and crash and burn off the show despite his early lead. The first option would be fine, but I can’t act like I don’t wanna see Luke doing rage pushups through his tears in the back of an elimination limo.

Biggest Wingman Move: Lukas Graham

Connor was gifted the best date in recent Bachelorette history. After being selected for a one-on-one date, Connor was informed that the activity was canceled. Hannah got sick, or something—we were shown a clip of her receiving IVs—so instead of bungee-jumping or riding in a helicopter or sailing in a yacht, Connor got invited to Hannah’s bedroom to hang out with her as she recuperated. In real life, this would be a massive downgrade. But in The Bachelorette, once-in-a-lifetime experiences happen like 12 times a season, while mundane things like “hanging out” are actually unique. Connor had a chance to chill with Hannah, and if he owned it, he’d shine above the guys who had nothing to offer besides the spectacular experiences producers had planned for them.

Connor’s date with Hannah went … OK. He is clearly a nice guy. The conversation was fine, and the two kissed for a bit, and he had the bright idea to hide a bunch of cute notes around Hannah’s room for her to discover later. But Hannah didn’t seem swept off her feet and somewhat abruptly cut the date off so she could go back to resting. Connor was a tad befuddled, having been sent home without a rose.

But then Connor was saved by circumstance. You see, The Bachelorette had already booked Lukas Graham to play a private concert for the nighttime portion of Hannah’s date with Connor. The private concert is a staple of Bachelorette date endings, but most of the acts performing are, well, randos. (In Andrew Gruttadaro’s ranking of every private concert in Bachelor history, he described the average act as “a D-list country singer with a made-up sounding name,” and backed it up with videos of performances from Clay Walker and Matt Nathanson. Those are four first names and a “-son” at the end.) Lukas Graham, though, is, like, kinda famous? You’ve probably heard this song? And the music video for the song the band (as I learned writing this post, Lukas Graham is the name of the band and not a person, although the lead singer is named Lukas) performed on the episode has 183 million views, and it’s not even their most popular song.

I’m sure if Matt Nathanson or Clay Walker or Carson Jackson or Brooks Connor or Grady Nash or Nash Grady (I made up those last four) were the booked musical acts, the show would move on with no problem. But The Bachelorette probably had to pay some money or make some screentime promises to get Luke to agree to be on the show. (I’ve decided that if you’re going to name your band Lukas Graham, I’m gonna pretend you’re a person. They’re Luke now.) Even if Hannah wasn’t feeling Connor, they had to air the performance.

So they had two choices: Have Hannah attend the concert solo, which would be sad and awkward, or have Hannah invite Connor back for the concert. The Bachelorette went for option 2, which resulted in Connor getting a rose—a rose I’m not convinced Connor would’ve gotten if not for the fact that Lukey G. has clout.

Loser of the Week: Cam

There are two archetypes of Bachelor/ette villains. The first is the type that seems like an existential threat to a season. They have a connection with the lead—perhaps a legitimate one, perhaps one based on deception—but are constantly at odds with fellow contestants, who feel the lead isn’t getting the full picture. An example: Corinne, from Nick’s season, a hilariously conceited monster who let other contestants know she thought she was better than them, but actually intrigued Nick enough to make it all the way to the final four. This villain stands out because their sway over the lead keeps them on the show for most of a season, often allowing them to eliminate contestants who fans might actually like. We’d hate hanging out with these people, for sure, but often their charisma and talent for creating ridiculous situations make them subversive fan favorites.

The other type is the one like Cam, this season’s least popular contestant. This is the villain who just sucks in every conceivable way, and is so obviously unlikable from the jump that they don’t even stand a chance of making it more than a few episodes into the season. There is at least one of these every season, if not several. On the last season of The Bachelor, there was a loud, aggressive DJ who kept interrupting everybody’s conversations. I already forget her name. And who can forget The Whaboom Guy, except, well … I guess everybody’s forgotten about him! These villains aren’t fan favorites. We just want them gone until they’re gone, and then we never think about them again.

Cam sucked from the moment he appeared on the season finale of The Bachelor to woo Hannah with a painful white-boy rap. She enjoyed it, but it became less enjoyable when it turned out painful white-boy rapping was not just a one-time stunt, but Cam’s primary hobby and perhaps only skill.

On top of that, Cam insisted on inserting himself into situations where he didn’t need to be—last week, he crashed a date to which he wasn’t invited, forced a fellow contestant to accompany him to sit with Hannah inside a heart made out of roses, and did a toast in front of the group to “Mrs. Hannah Ayala,” plopping his last name onto hers. (Who knows if she even wants to change her name! That kinda seems like her call!)

On Monday night’s episode, Cam doubled down on annoying the hell out of everybody. He interrupted an emotional conversation between Hannah and Mike about the miscarriage of his first child somewhere between 10 and 38 times, completely failing to read the room until Hannah demanded he take a step back. Later, he made an announcement to the group, requesting the opportunity to speak to Hannah first at a cocktail party so he could tell her something deeply important about him, something he said could make or break their relationship. Although the men pushed back on this, Cam did pull Hannah aside first and told her his story. Which was that … he almost had “an amputation,” and then his grandmother died, and then … something about attempting to adopt a puppy. (The edit of the conversation was weird, and it’s possible he said something more—such as, which appendage was almost amputated and what exactly happened to this puppy—but that really seemed to be the gist.) It’s unclear why Cam portrayed this news as so urgent he needed to tell her before anybody else at this cocktail party, or why “I almost lost a limb several years ago” is something that could pose an existential threat to a relationship.

Regardless, Cam’s immaculate plan of pissing off every guy in the house failed. Hannah was informed that Cam had told other contestants that he felt he was in danger of heading home, and that he hoped to get a “pity rose” by telling her a sob story. There’s no evidence any such conversation happened, but … that’s exactly what happened, right? Hannah had enough, and decided she had no interest in taking the last name “Ayala.”

Worst Play: Jonathan

My actual least favorite contestant this season was Jonathan. While Cam at least made things interesting, Jonathan was more of a background character, but made it clear on his few moments in the spotlight that he’s aggressively dorky. He was one of the dudes last week who I criticized for having a rose-receiving catchphrase (“With honor!,” he said, as if appearing on this dumbass show is the same as pledging your sword to the Round Table), and also had the worst quote of any contestant this year: “Hannah is ingenious at having fun,” which is how someone who has never had fun in their life would describe a fun person.

Monday night, Jonathan decided to fight douchery with douchery, invading one of Cam’s conversations with Hannah and making it clear to all parties involved (including Hannah!) that he was merely doing so to make sure Cam got karmic payback for interrupting others. Hannah found the whole experience uncomfortable. Not only is it awkward as hell to sit around while two dudes yell over the right to talk to her, Jonathan made it clear his goal wasn’t really to talk to Hannah at all. He just wanted to punish Cam. (As a sworn Knight of the Bachelorette, Jonathan presumably viewed the fair distribution of justice on fellow contestants as his responsibility.)

And now I realize there’s actually a character who’s worse than the asshole everybody hates—it’s the guy so shook by the asshole everybody hates that he makes his quarrel with the asshole his defining moment.

Best Pivot: Demi

For the second time this season, Hannah’s Bachelor castmate Demi showed up as part of a gag where she spies on Hannah’s men to ensure they’re behaving well. On the season premiere, Demi tipped Hannah off to the fact that Scott (definitely a real guy and not an actor) had a girlfriend. (That time she was joined by Katie, who apparently wasn’t invited back to continue the gag.) On Monday night’s episode, Demi sat on the sidelines and watched on hidden cameras as actresses disguised as makeup artists and behind-the-scenes assistants hit on various contestants.

I kinda suspect the guys somehow knew something was up—you’d think a makeup session would be one of the few times contestants would expect not to be on camera, and yet all the men behaved perfectly. Most instantly shut down the women hitting on them, explaining how much they care for Hannah. Grant acted legitimately stunned and outraged that a supposed employee of the show would disrupt the integrity of The Bachelorette in such a way. (Heaven knows how Sir Jonathan would have reacted. He might have been duty-sworn to run the makeup assistant through with his blade.)

It was a B-minus gag, but really, it’s just a way to get Demi, a fan favorite from last season, some screen time. To that end, it wasn’t particularly successful. The Demi who sits patiently on the sidelines to assist her friend is a lot less fun than Demi the contestant, who was quite simply one of the most entertaining characters in the show’s history. But I’m just glad Demi’s career is coming along so well. Last season, she was billed as an “interior designer.” Now The Bachelorette wants us to believe she’s some sort of spymaster. Presumably, her next gig will be as a private detective or CIA operative, which sounds more lucrative and thrilling than interior design work.

Best Use of Literary Device: A Stunning Tie

Bachelorette contestants are not known for their wordplay, but I must acknowledge two spectacular figures of speech on this week’s episode.

First up, Mike. When Cam tried to secure permission from the group to pull Hannah aside before everybody else to share his non-sob story, Mike was the first to shut him down: “There are no rules of engagement here,” he said. This is a quality metaphor—Mike, an Air Force veteran, has presumably had to deal with rules of engagement in a military setting, but here, he expects a free-for-all. All’s fair in war, but not love, apparently. But guess what: It’s also a pun! Rules of engagement! On The Bachelorette! What a pull, Mike.

Next up, Tyler C. In a separate conversation, Tyler presents a different viewpoint, arguing for structure in Bachlorette World. If nobody follows any rules, he says, it’ll be a free-for-all, “like a first-grade soccer game” with nobody making any progress in any direction. I’m an ex-first grade camp counselor—please, thank me for my service—and this metaphor is perfect. Have you ever seen first-graders play soccer? Soccer is basically the only game simple enough for first-graders to understand—football and baseball have, like, wayyyyyy too many rules, but “kick the ball in the goal” is easy enough. But they can’t understand that there’s any strategic element to winning a soccer game besides personally kicking the ball in the goal. No first-grader has ever passed. In a first-grade soccer game, the ball becomes a black hole whose massive gravitational force attracts a horde of uncoordinated doofuses hoping to just once get a foot to the ball. It’s an easy activity to officiate, because no goal has ever been scored in a first-grade soccer game.

Mike and Tyler have completely differing views on how The Bachelorette should work. Mike argues for a libertarian approach where everybody acts in their own best interest with no rules; Tyler argues for order. Regardless of whose worldview you side with, we can agree that both are masters of poetic imagery.

Most Confusing Event: The Birth Date

The biggest group date of the episode was a date explaining the childbirth process to contestants. Of course, it is led by Jason Biggs and his wife Jenny Mollen, who is a Bachelor superstar—she has hosted a Bachelor in Paradise aftershow, blogged about the show, and attended Jade and Tanner’s wedding, and she finally got her call-up to the bigs. (There’s no greater confirmation of anybody’s Bachelor World credentials than saying they attended Jade and Tanner’s historic, momentous wedding. It’s where Nick had his famous one-night stand with a future contestant!)

However, I’m not sure any actual light was shed on the birthing process. The date ended with a “labor simulator,” during which a nurse (or at least somebody dressed as a nurse) placed a ton of electrode pads on the guys’ stomachs and sent huge electrical currents through their abs.

The whole thing seemed demeaning to everybody involved. On the one hand, we shouldn’t pretend that zapping electricity through a guy’s abs for a few seconds teaches them what childbirth is like. The guys were in pain, but, like, not a wild amount, and now they’re all convinced childbirth is a quick, chill process that can be overcome in two minutes, tops. On the other hand, DON’T ZAP DUDES WITH ELECTRICAL CURRENT! Who put Dick Cheney in charge of Bachelorette date concepts? Somehow, this event seemed like an insult to the pains of childbirth and also way too painful for dudes to endure just for laughs.