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‘The Bachelor’ Recap: We’d All Like to Flee to the Cleve

Peter and his ladies (who may not actually like him?) are hitting the road, venturing to one of the show’s most exotic locales ever: Cleveland, Ohio

ABC/Ringer illustration

For years, The Bachelor has been a godsend to tourism bureaus around the world—every season, after the first two or three episodes, the show takes its quest for love to a series of locations around the globe. It’s a great showcase for exotic, romantic locations that get to show off their beautiful sights—but even better for non-exotic, non-romantic places that would like, for once, to be considered exotic and romantic. And no matter how dull the destination is, Bachelor contestants make it seem thrilling. Every place is “a great place to fall in love” in Bachelor parlance. Even if they’re sending you to Lapland in November—oh, by the way, a few seasons ago the show sent its contestants TO LAPLAND IN NOVEMBER—you raise your champagne glass and scream LAPLAAAAAAAAND as if it has been your lifelong dream to visit the coldest part of Finland in the peak of winter.

Bachelor travel always happens on an ascending scale of quality: First, they go somewhere in the United States; then they go somewhere much cooler, usually in Europe; then they go somewhere truly beautiful—Fiji or Thailand or Peru. But the contestants’ reactions are the same no matter the location. For years, I have seen contestants feign excitement over the mundane domestic locations, like Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, and South Dakota. However, Monday night’s episode brought us the greatest moment of any season of The Bachelor in recent memory—the moment the contestants find out that they are headed to Cleveland, Ohio.

I’m almost positive this is the first destination no-sell in Bachelor history. You’re supposed to pretend everything the show provides is the best thing imaginable—the hotel room you’re staying in is the nicest; the date you just went on was the most romantic; the performing artist you’re watching is a famous superstar; this 27-year-old white guy with a nice smile, some abs, and a B-plus job is a one-of-a-kind object of every woman’s desires. Surely, these women knew they were supposed to be excited about Cleveland. And yet, they could not muster it. In fact, after the no-sell, the women just go even further in on Cleveland.

I think this may have been a worked angle by the Cleveland tourism bureau. You may be surprised to learn Cleveland has a tourism bureau at all—if you were online in 2009, you might remember the “Hastily Filmed Cleveland Tourism Video,” in which a Clevelander tried to sell visitors on the city’s wide array of drifters and an economy entirely based on LeBron James—but it does, OK? And my bet is that the people who work there probably understand that most people think a trip to Cleveland does not sound appealing. So instead of network-mandatory excitement, the play here was to have all the women act pissed off that they have to go to Cleveland, then discover that it’s better than they expected. And sure enough, once the cast actually arrives in Cleveland, we learn about the surprising beauty of Northeast Ohio. The contestants go out of their way to mention how their time in Cleveland has changed their minds about the city. After a few days in the city, Peter declares it “surprising” and “a hidden gem.”

However, I’m not quite sure the gambit worked. First of all, the show doesn’t exactly do a great job of making Cleveland look thrilling. Yeah, the women freak out about the beautiful view out their hotel window, but, like, I saw the view out of their hotel window too. They’re just staring at the damn Browns’ stadium:

All screenshots via ABC

The show doesn’t do a great job making an argument for Cleveland. Kelsey and Peter’s romantic outdoor dinner is overshadowed by passing sirens, Peter’s only fact about the city is “Superman is from here”—which is true in the sense that the guys who wrote the first Superman comic were from Cleveland, but untrue in the fact that the character Superman is from the planet Krypton—and several dates take place in what appears to be pouring 50-degree rain.

Meanwhile, the show can barely find enough activities to fill those dates. The first date is at Cedar Point amusement park—the “roller coaster capital of the world”—but alas, Cedar Point is a solid hour away from Cleveland. The second date is literally at the Browns’ stadium, which is kinda cool, but, like, there are 30 cities with NFL teams. Unless you’re Green Bay, an NFL stadium shouldn’t be one of the three best things about your city. The third date features Peter and Kelsey simply walking around Cleveland, where they do two of the things specified in the Hastily Filmed Cleveland Tourism Video (looking at both of Cleveland’s buildings and eating street food) before happening upon two street events which are both clearly staged and, to be honest, did not seem particularly fun for spectators—a polka concert and a soapbox derby race. (Honestly, I feel like “having downtown soapbox derby races” actually invalidates you as a major city.)

The episode claims that Cleveland is a nice place to visit. Whether it successfully makes that argument is … debatable. But regardless of whether it successfully convinces anyone that Cleveland is a tourist destination, it gave us the above video. That’s all that matters.

MVP (Most Valuable Producer): Whoever Pulled Off the Chase Rice–Victoria Surprise

Monday night’s episode not only brought the greatest destination reveal in Bachelor history, but also the greatest strategic deployment of a contestant’s past dating history. Peter’s date with Victoria F. starts out normally—they go to an amusement park which has been closed for the day, and have a lovely time riding the teacups all by themselves. Then they round a corner, where a large crowd is cheering for them. (This crowd, apparently, was not allowed to use the roller coasters even though the park was closed. Huge bummer.) It turns out they’re walking into a Bachelor staple—the Couples Concert, where the Bachelor and his date are serenaded by a modestly successful recording artist.

Monday night’s episode was different, because they got serenaded by an actually successful recording artist—Chase Rice, everybody’s favorite college football player turned NASCAR pit crew member turned Survivor contestant turned country star. Honestly, it’s a bummer Rice started making country hits, because I think he’s had every job Bachelors are allowed to have.

But it was also different for another, way better reason. Victoria acts antsy from the moment the music starts, because, as she reveals, she is Chase Rice’s ex-girlfriend. As she tells a producer, she dated the singer in the past, but broke up with him because of his touring lifestyle. However, she doesn’t tell Peter.

Without a care in the world, Peter has a great time, happily singing and poorly dancing. (For some reason, a variety of dates this season have centered on Peter teaching women how to dance, which seems unearned based on his dancing capabilities.) After the show, he gets to meet Chase, and seems genuinely happier to be tipsy and talking to A Famous Country Music Guy than he has while interacting with any of the contestants. He even gives Chase his number and makes sure he spells “Weber” with one B instead of two. He also notices that Victoria knows all the lyrics to the song—a Bachelor Couples Concert first!—and yeah, about that ...

Victoria holds it together and pretends to be happy throughout the song, even making out with Peter. Chase somehow manages to play it cool and finish performing. Backstage, the two talk and reveal that neither of them expected to see one another. Later, Victoria explains her past with Chase, and Peter accepts her apology for not telling him earlier, even commending her strength for telling him. (Which seems like a bit much, considering it would have been blatantly dishonest if she never mentioned her past relationship, but, whatever.)

Who was this most awkward for? Peter, whose fun kissing-and-dancing experience will now forever be tainted by the fact that he didn’t know the whole story? Victoria, who had to feign normalcy while making out in front of her ex-boyfriend? Or Chase, who had to play a song so his ex-girlfriend could make out with another guy? (The real answer: all the extras who had to go into the theme park but not ride all the rides.)

What’s beautiful about this moment is that it’s strictly awkward, without any extra baggage. Victoria didn’t cheat on anybody. Her past isn’t shameful. She has an ex. So does Peter. It was on TV. But the show’s producers created this wonderful situation that was so awkward that it seemed like somebody had done something wrong.

Somehow, Peter and Victoria and Chase are all shocked by this event. Chase claims he had no idea he would see Victoria, even though he knew she was going on The Bachelor and he presumably knew he had been booked to perform on The Bachelor. Victoria continues to confide in producers about the awkwardness of the situation … as if they’re not the ones who caused it to happen. Peter seems genuinely stunned by the randomness of the event, as if he genuinely can’t comprehend how of all the contestants on the show and all the country musicians in the world, he happened to pick the one who dated the guy who performed. (As if he doesn’t remember being told “Hey Peter, you kinda have to pick Victoria for the roller-coaster date … don’t ask why.”)

It truly was a perfect storm. The situation doesn’t seem like it will be a recurring story line—after the initial awkwardness, there’s really no reason for anybody to be mad at anybody—but we’ll always remember the time the show pulled off this surprise.

Biggest Downgrade: Victoria

Hold on, you already dated the famous, rich (and seemingly nice!) country music guy? And broke up with him? In order to be one of 30 women competing for Peter, the modestly handsome guy who completely lacks decision-making skills?

Am I missing something?

The Did You Know Peter Is a Pilot Moment of the Week: Another Pre-date Flight

Each week, we’ll be tracking the moment when The Bachelor decides to once again remind us that Peter is a pilot. This week, it was pretty straight-forward—to get from Cleveland to Cedar Point, Peter flies Victoria in a prop plane.

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Lake Erie by air on a foggy day.

Greatest Rebound: Kelsey

Heading into the season, Kelsey was one of my picks to make a deep run. She’s got all the traits of a serious Bachelor contender—she’s blond, she was Miss Iowa, and she’s got an inscrutable-yet-impressive-sounding job title (“professional clothier”) which makes me think the show wants her to sound more accomplished than she is.

However, two episodes into the season, Kelsey became one of my picks to get quickly eliminated. During the cocktail party at the end of the first full week of filming, Kelsey was the main contestant in the Champagne Crisis. In case you need a refresher, Kelsey:

  • Accused Mykenna of stealing her special champagne moment, a thing that Mykenna had zero prior knowledge of
  • Spent so much time screaming at/about Mykenna that she failed to notice Hannah Ann walking over to the special champagne bottle and opening it
  • Screamed at Hannah Ann twice as hard as she had previously screamed at Mykenna
  • Called both women bitches and snakes—and snakes are her least favorite animal!
  • Knocked over a second bottle of champagne
  • Attempted to drink straight out of that second bottle, spewing champagne all over her face—in front of Peter—in the process

It was, in the words of Hannah Ann, a “finasco,” a disastrous display of decision-making. Kelsey was wildly irrational, escalating an obvious misunderstanding into a full-fledged battle, weeping and cursing out her contestants when it was pretty much her fault—no one is going to respect a special champagne moment if no one knows about it! Those are the champagne rules!

However, just two episodes later, it seems like Kelsey may be back on track to contend. She got to go on a one-on-one date with Peter, and just a few minutes after sitting down to dinner, she wept about her parents getting divorced when she was in seventh grade. In Bachelor parlance, this is what we call “opening up.” Peter also begins to cry, explaining that he has respect for women who have been through a lot—after all, his mom and grandma emigrated from Cuba with no money to their name. (Hey, half-Cuban guy checking in here: Peter, please go apologize ASAP to your mom and abuela for comparing how they left their lives behind to escape a dictatorship to how Kelsey’s parents split up when she was in junior high. Thanks.)

Regardless, it all works for Kelsey. During the date, Peter describes her as a “down-to-earth, no-drama, real person.” That’s right: He called her a “no-drama” person just two weeks after she revealed herself to be just about The Most Drama Person in the history of this show, which caters to Drama People. If the Finasco can be forgotten, what can’t?

Biggest Loser, As Always: The Cleveland Browns

The women don’t just lovingly gaze upon the Browns’ stadium—the second date takes place there, as 13 contestants play a six-on-six tackle football game on Cleveland’s field after a brief coaching session from former Browns great Josh Cribbs. (The women do not seem particularly impressed by Cribbs holding the NFL’s all-time return touchdown record. Maybe they’re Dante Hall stans.)

The women are told that the winners will get an afterparty with Peter while the losers will go home. The game, somehow, ends in a 28-28 tie, and instead of entering a sudden death overtime period, the show for some reason decides that all 13 women will get to go to the afterparty. The team that blew a 28-14 lead is crushed. The team that came back to tie the game at 28, though, is thrilled, popping champagne in the Browns locker room.

The Browns stadium was built in 1999. Since then, the franchise has won zero Super Bowls, zero conference championships, and zero divisional championships. They made the playoffs once, in 2002, as a wild-card participant. So, is it possible the first time champagne has ever been popped in the Browns locker room is … by a team of reality show contestants celebrating a tie? I think it might be!

The Absolute Worst at This: Peter

Being the Bachelor seems easy. Here’s what you do: Make sure you talk to all the women—yes, even the ones you don’t think are cute, just smile and laugh, OK, it’s not that hard; de-escalate any drama between women; eliminate the women you don’t find attractive (you have to pretend to eliminate them based on, like, personality and stuff, but let’s be real). Sure, this gets hard at the end when you’ve eliminated all the women you don’t find attractive and you have to think hard about the 45 minutes of conversation you’ve had with each remaining woman, but that’s as tough as it gets.

Yet Peter is basically failing at all of this—a situation brought to the forefront toward the end of Monday night’s episode. Alayah, who was seemingly eliminated last week, walks into the group date after the football game. At this point, Peter has spoken to maybe two of the women, but chooses to ignore the rest of them so he can focus on the return of the girl he already dumped. In case you’re not following: He basically cancels the date to get to the bottom of the issue that he basically cancelled last week’s pool party to get to the bottom of. He’s killing it.

Peter listens to every side of the story, which goes particularly poorly because Peter is one of those people who believes the most recent person he talked to. First he talks to Alayah, who calls Victoria P. a liar, and he believes her. Next he talks to Victoria P., who calls Alayah a liar (not a rhyme), and he believes her. Next, he forces Alayah and Victoria P. to sit down with each other and talk. This really confuses Peter, because after that sitdown, the most recent person he’s talked to is multiple people. Who to believe?

Eventually, he is unable to conclude anything. He’s not convinced Alayah is lying to him, but absolutely is convinced that she’s hot, so he decides to let her back on the show. In fact, he gives her the group date rose, completely ignorant to the fact that the 13 women who actually went on the group date might feel a certain way about this. He thinks this shows that he’s willing to follow his heart when confronted with hot people, but what it actually does is absolutely infuriate all the women who played tackle football for Peter’s pleasure. In the closing seconds of the episode, multiple women announce to Peter that they feel disrespected. It barely seems like any of them even like him—when he asks Victoria P. to talk, she says, “I don’t really want to talk to you right now,” perhaps the first time a Bachelor contestant has uttered that sentence.

Like I said, Peter is failing on all fronts. He’s not talking to all the women—between the date where he stopped talking to people to focus on Hannah and the two dates where he stopped talking to people to focus on Alayah, he routinely ignores large swaths of the cast to probe situations with contestants he cares about more. He’s definitely not de-escalating situations—in fact, his roundabout strategy of interrogating every possible person with opinions on a dramatic situation has created a two-episode-long story line out of nothing. And he’s not even successfully eliminating the not-hot people! He accidentally eliminated a person he thinks is hot and had to bring her back!

At this point, he might be creating problems that even he and his legendary sex-having skills cannot solve.

The Absolute Best at This: The Bachelor

As we’ve established, Peter sucks. And there hasn’t been a standout contestant, in any of the myriad ways there can be—none of these women seem like over-the-top Paradise stars (maybe Alayah?) or potential leads on The Bachelorette (maybe, uhh, Hannah Ann?) or even really worthy victors. I get that it’s early, but nobody’s standing out.

And yet I must confess: This has been the most entertaining season of The Bachelor I have ever seen. We’ve had perhaps the funniest thing I’ve ever seen on The Bachelor (the Cleveland no-sell), perhaps the funniest house drama I’ve ever seen on The Bachelor (the champagne finasco), perhaps the best reveal of a castmember’s past I’ve ever seen on The Bachelor (the Chase Rice incident), and perhaps the most humiliating thing I’ve ever seen on The Bachelor (last season’s Bachelorette returning to cry about how badly she failed on her season). And it’s been only four episodes! (The preview for next week, by the way, appears to contain a season’s worth of tears.)

Nothing good is happening. The lead is a lame dude, the cast are unmemorable, and the show is filming IN CLEVELAND. And yet, it’s magical. Maybe The Bachelor tastes best with the worst ingredients.