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‘The Bachelor’ Recap: A Liar in Our Midst?

After a “finasco” of an episode, we’re left to wonder: Is Alayah really faking it, or did 20 other women just successfully stage a coup?

ABC/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

How hard is it to make a pun? Monday night’s episode of The Bachelor focused almost entirely on a successful ensemble effort by the show’s 20 remaining contestants to expose the “conniving,” “duplicitous” ways of Alayah (pronounced like “a layup”). Yet somehow, not one of these women turned to the camera and said “Alayah? More like A-LIAR!” and ripped off their microphone and threw it to the ground in triumph. Come on! This is easy!

I was surprised by the decision to focus on Alayah, who barely factored into the first two episodes of the season. When the episode started with fellow contestant Sydney revealing she thinks Alayah is trying to deceive Peter, I wasn’t sure whether to believe her, because, again, I barely knew who Alayah was. But a legit Bachelor controversy springs up nonetheless. Sydney’s surreptitious dragging of Alayah is immediately made public by Peter, who, clearly unversed in the art of conflict resolution, puts Sydney on the spot and forces her to name names. For her part, Sydney is all too glad to comply.

Peter is wrecked by the allegations. See, he is attracted to Alayah, and how could a person who is hot also be using him? So devastated by this betrayal, Peter completely ruins a pool party by spending the entire time grilling contestants about Alayah. Most of his interviewees mildly agree that Alayah plays up to the cameras—a heinous crime that surely no other contestant is guilty of—but Peter remains conflicted, still wanting to believe the hot person is genuine.

The episode flips when Peter speaks to Victoria P. about Alayah. Victoria is a Louisiana blond whom Peter takes on a one-on-one date this episode. Even before their date, Peter decided that Victoria was “nurturing,” probably because he doesn’t know anything about any of these women besides their ages and job titles and Victoria’s job title is “nurse,” and nurses are nurturing. So he trusts her when she spills her own Alayah secret: Victoria knew Alayah before the show, when they both competed in the Miss USA pageant—Victoria was Miss Louisiana USA, and Alayah was Miss Texas USA—and Alayah somewhat strangely asked her not to mention their history to producers or Peter. Peter believes Victoria 100 percent and takes her testimony as gravely as possible—she’s nurturing, remember?

When confronted, Alayah doesn’t have a good explanation for why she’d want to keep the pageant friendship a secret. She says something about how she was looking out for Victoria because if the producers knew that they had multiple pageant contestants on the show, one of them might not be cast. This explanation … does not hold up at all. For one, it implies that Bachelor producers couldn’t figure out on their own that both Victoria and Alayah were pageant queens—you know they have Google and Instagram, right? But it also implies that The Bachelor is notoriously anti-pageant when, if anything, the opposite is true. What a mediocre college football career is to The Bachelorette contestants, a successful pageant career is to The Bachelor contestants. A major plot line from last season of The Bachelor was an ages-old feud between Caelynn, the former Miss North Carolina (who was actually from Virginia) and Hannah, the former Miss Alabama. It was never quite explained why they hated each other, but it was an extended plot line that lasted for almost half a season, as both made it pretty far down the road—Caelynn finished fourth while Hannah ended up becoming the Bachelorette. (An extremely kind reading of Alayah is that she wanted to keep her friendship with Victoria a secret so that Bachelor producers wouldn’t manufacture another pageant-girl-on-pageant-girl feud, but there’s little evidence that’s the case.)

Meanwhile, this season is even more stocked with pageant queens. In addition to Alayah and Victoria, there’s Kelsey (Miss Iowa USA) and the already-eliminated Maurissa (Miss Teen Montana USA), plus Hannah Ann, who was a runner-up at Miss Tennessee. (She probably finished second because she did an exceptionally bad job answering a question about what to do with fraternity members who kill their pledges.) Maybe they stocked Peter’s pool with beauty pageants because of his relationship with Hannah … or maybe they’ve just decided the easiest way to build a cast is through pageants.

Which makes sense. Pageant queens have everything the show needs: They’re beautiful, they’re used to being poised in public and speaking on camera, and perhaps most importantly, they’re highly competitive, willing to do whatever it takes to win. Oh, and perhaps even more importantly, their past pageant experiences mean that many of them know one another, providing a foundation for future Bachelor-conjured drama. A good Bachelor contestant looks great in swimwear and is good at answering questions on camera. The show is more or less a three-month-long beauty pageant.

Things don’t end well for Alayah. Peter decides to pull a rose that had been intended for Alayah, thus sending her home. However, there are some differences between this show and beauty pageants—on The Bachelor, Alayah can randomly reappear in future episodes even if she loses.

Strangest Choice: Country Western Pete

Peter’s rich. He’s a pilot. His dad is a pilot. He drives a Mercedes. He lives in Westlake Village, which is suburban town near Los Angeles about 10 minutes from the mansion where episodes of The Bachelor are filmed. This has been really convenient for the show’s production—there’s already been a date where a contestant met Peter’s family at Peter’s house, a date where Peter flew his own plane, and now two dates where Peter has pointed out the window of his car to show where he usually takes a left.

However, in Monday night’s episode, the show decided to make it seem like Peter lives in the Old West. First there’s his date with Victoria, where he says that he wants to show her the type of fun he has “all the time with my friends.” They drive to a store where they try on cowboy boots and cowboy hats and frilly jackets. (It should be noted that this store is not in Peter’s hometown at all, and is actually a solid half-hour drive.) Then they go to a bar called the Canyon—which may be the closest bar to the Bachelor mansion—where they do some line dancing while a live band plays country western music. I was skeptical that this was a truly normal activity for Peter, but I looked the bar up and it does actually have a weekly line dancing night. So OK, maybe Peter does hit up the Canyon once in a while. But then the country vibes get ratcheted up even further; on this week’s group date, the women are brought to a place called the Country Palace Saloon, a Western-themed bar where former contestant Demi hosts a pillow-fight tournament.

Now, to be fair, there are some country-western vibes in the hills of Southern California. They used to shoot cowboy movies there! When you see the region’s arid hills and sparse greenery, you feel like you’re in the old West—because they filmed enough movies there that our associations with the old West are actually associations with Southern California, not with the actual old West. And on a very practical level, producers just chose a store and two bars that were in the general vicinity of the mansion, where Peter happens to live nearby. Country Western Pete may have simply been born out of convenience.

But it does feel like a more concerted effort to make our coastal flyboy seem like a good ol’ boy from Middle America. That’s somewhat of a Bachelor trope—I remember Ben Higgins’s season opening up with shots of him looking aloof on an Indiana farm, even though he was a software salesman who lived in Denver. The Bachelor definitely has a type—cosmopolitan 6-foot-3 guys with skin-care routines and dreams of social media fame. But it also thinks people would find these guys to be hotter if everyone thought they were cowboys.

Least Appreciated Contestant: Tammy

The pillow-fighting competition should be a moment of triumph for Tammy. She mentioned in her introductory promo that she tried out for the boys’ wrestling team in high school because there was no girls’ team … and that she had a winning record fighting against the guys. (A local newspaper notes that all of her wins came by forfeit, presumably because none of her opponents wanted to wrestle a girl. PROBABLY BECAUSE THEY WERE SCARED OF LOSING, though.) And she does dominate the pillow fight, demolishing her opponent with a barrage of hits before dragging her to the canvas and pinning her.

Alas, she does not win. Fred Willard, in his annual turn as A Weird Old Guy Announcing Bachelor Competitions, asks Chris Harrison whether Tammy’s pinning of her opponent is legal; Chris says it isn’t, and that Tammy has been disqualified. But what even are the rules of pillow-fighting?! While Tammy’s pin is punished, other women get away with hair pulling, throwing elbows, and straight-up just sitting on opponents. There isn’t even any sort of bracket for this tournament—after all the women fight, the producers simply select two women (who they deemed “the best fighters”) for the championship match. And unsurprisingly, they choose Sydney and Alayah, the two women who have been in an actual fight for most of the episode.

Somehow, this is not the first time Tammy has been screwed by The Bachelor’s lack of interest in competitive fairness! She was also the victim of Course-gate in the first episode, when Kelley completed an obstacle course first by running in a straight line when the contestants were clearly instructed to follow a loopy path:

If winning athletic competitions were the point of The Bachelor, Tammy would be en route to a ring. Unfortunately, the show is more interested in using these competitions to highlight whatever drama is happening. Whatever—I can’t wait for Tammy to obliterate the medal count on Bachelor Summer Games.

The Did You Know Peter Is a Pilot Moment of the Week (DYKPIAPMOTW): The Airplane Hangar

Welcome to the newest segment of this recap—a weekly summary of how we were reminded of Peter’s job in this episode! We’re two episodes into the season, and we’ve already had a pilot-themed date (complete with 100 Top Gun references, an airport-themed obstacle course, a pair of military pilots instructing women in flight terminology, and a private flight in Peter’s plane for the winner), some shots of Peter flying a plane, some shots of Peter washing a plane, a slew of flight attendant contestants (all eliminated), 8,000 pilot puns, and 9,000 women saying they want to be Peter’s “copilot.” Monday night’s episode saw Alayah wearing a pilot’s hat around the mansion, explaining that she’s friends with a pilot’s wife and ready for the lifestyle of sitting at home and waiting for her pilot to fly back.

However, the winner of this week’s DYKPIAPMOTW easily goes to the end of Victoria’s date, when the two have dinner in a room filled with historic planes. Do you know how hard it is to get reservations at Chez Le One Table Du Airplane Hangar?

Screenshot via ABC

It’s not explained what planes these are, but at the end, Peter asks Victoria what her favorite plane is. Luckily, she picks one that has a camera installed in the dashboard to film their subsequent makeout session.

Three weeks in, Peter still hasn’t discussed any of the women’s jobs with them—Madison is a “foster parent recruiter”? Seems interesting! Kelsey is a “professional clothier”? Does she just work in a Macy’s or does she make clothing? DOES PETER ACTUALLY KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT VICTORIA OTHER THAN THAT SHE IS A NURSE WHO IS “NURTURING”?

Worst Development: Angsty Pete

I was all in on the choice of Peter as Bachelor. He seemed charming and nice and vulnerable, and I thought the story line of his prodigious sexual ability would provide some nice pop this season. (Plus, I gotta look out for my white half-Cuban brothers.)

However, I gotta admit the guy’s been kind of a dud thus far. He’s a pushover in most interactions—he doesn’t put up any sort of fight when women are clearly hogging his time, whether those women are contestants or, uh, the lead from the last season of The Bachelorette. And when he gets in his feelings, he just kinda sulks. After Hannah hijacked a date in the second episode, Peter canceled a seemingly fun date where women were going to tell stories about their past sexual experiences. That could’ve been CONTENT, Peter! And in Monday’s episode, he basically cancels a pool party to hear all sides of the Alayah beef, choosing to interrogate women in bikinis instead of drinking with them and hitting a beach ball around. I honestly don’t think Peter’s bathing suit even touched water. There’s a solid half-hour of women trying to wrap towels around themselves because they’re sitting in swimsuits on what must have been a 64-degree day instead of going in the heated pool.

Peter also doesn’t seem particularly decisive. He has no interest in mediating beefs between women. He left the decision of WHETHER HIS EX WHO DUMPED HIM ON TV SHOULD GET A SECOND CHANCE to her with a half-hearted, “Uhh, do you wanna come join the show?” and he turned a pretty simple accusation of dishonesty into an episode-altering mole hunt. When he has to make tough calls, he prefers to soak in angst instead of act, canceling fun activities in lieu of Thinking Time. Good Bachelor seasons have action; I suspect this Bachelor season will have lots of shots of Peter silently looking into the distance.

Most Surprisingly Valuable Appearance: Chris Harrison

One of my favorite Bachelor tropes is that every rose ceremony ends with Chris Harrison walking in to let everybody know that there is only one rose remaining. Chris, WE KNOW; we can see that there’s only one rose on the table. One is, like, the easiest number to count to. Basically, this show doesn’t need a host, and there’s no obvious moment for a host to become relevant, but ABC is paying Chris Harrison millions of dollars to host, so he gets this weird line every episode.

However, years and years of having Chris announce the final rose finally came in handy Monday night. After Peter steps away mid-rose-ceremony to collect his thoughts, he seemingly decides to go back on his decision to give Alayah a rose (and also chooses not to simply distribute that extra rose to a different beautiful woman). So Chris enters the room with two roses on the table and … he REMOVES one from the table. In 24 seasons of the show, it may have been the first time we actually needed someone to tell us there was only one rose remaining, because at the time, there were actually two roses. Congrats, Chris!