I’d like to give some quick praise to the people who cast The Bachelorette. I had always assumed their job was pretty pointless—just throw some hot people into a house, pick a hot person from the last season for them to fight over, and roll the cameras. But seeing Tayshia in her first episode after replacing Clare as the Bachelorette has changed my mind about the whole process. This show was borderline unwatchable with Clare, but not just because she zeroed in on Dale. It’s clear now that she was also partially to blame for the season’s more boring aspects, which I had previously chalked up to the crop of guys, or the fact that they’re filming at one resort in Palm Springs rather than going on a world tour. But in one episode with Tayshia as the lead, the show—featuring the same men, set in the same place—was infinitely more entertaining to watch.
Every conversation during Clare’s four episodes was about Clare. This might seem like par for the course—of course they talk about the Bachelorette on The Bachelorette—but you also need to be able to enjoy the contestants for the show to be good. Every time Clare talked to a contestant, she used it as an opportunity to launch into a monologue about her own feelings or life journey. She chided men for not paying enough attention to her and sent a guy home for not knowing her backstory. Very quickly, the conversations in the house invariably became about what the hell was going on with Clare and Dale. Other than finding out that Clare’s and Dale’s parents bizarrely share the same hitchhiking-related romance story, we didn’t learn much from any conversations had during Clare’s stint.
But overnight, the vibe of the season has entirely changed. Tayshia actually asks the men questions about their lives, and they instantly seem happy and invested instead of confused and sad. We’re actually starting to find out about the contestants instead of just finding out how bummed they are by Clare. Rivalries are starting to form, whereas before nobody’s personalities clashed in the first four episodes because all of the guys’ personalities were overshadowed by Clare’s (and because they had to band together in solidarity against her). Group dates are fun now, because all the guys genuinely think they actually have a shot with Tayshia.
Tayshia is going to be great at this. And now I’m convinced that casting The Bachelor and Bachelorette is tougher than it looks—even if it did take a massive casting failure to make me realize it.
Best Beef: Lunchmeat
The big twist of Tuesday’s episode is that four new contestants are now in the mix. We knew that the show had recruited an unusually high number of contestants this year because of worries that some might test positive for COVID-19, but we didn’t know that some of them were just hanging around the resort waiting to be tapped in case of emergency. The “emergency” in this case was a Bachelorette swap. I have a lot of questions about how this worked—do they always have a replacement Bachelorette lined up? How long were they going to keep the replacement guys waiting to be tagged in? How come none of the guys ever ran into them at the resort pool? Whatever answers emerge, I am now doomed to spend the rest of my Bachelor-watching career convinced there’s an armada of new Bachelorettes and contestants lying in wait, just over the horizon.
From the moment the new contestants enter, there’s instant animosity between them and the 16 guys who were already in the house. In the grand scheme of things, there’s really no need for this hatred. But of course, to the guys who were already in the house, they’re a band of brothers who fought to get where they are and the four new guys are carpetbagging interlopers. To those guys: You’ve known each other for two weeks. The worst thing that happened was you dated (read: had one to three conversations with) a girl who didn’t like you. You didn’t exactly storm Normandy together. And everybody is new to Tayshia, so it’s not like anybody has an advantage.
Alas, reason does not prevail at the La Quinta Resort. The least popular of the new guys is Spencer, a beach boy from La Jolla. Spencer wins the first impression rose from Tayshia, which immediately makes him the new Dale to everybody who saw Clare quickly turn a first impression rose into an engagement. And granted, Spencer is a bit cocky, but it mainly seems like everybody hates him because he’s new and doing well.
Spencer goes on the first group date, where everybody plays pool basketball—Chris Harrison repeatedly refers to this game as “splashball,” which is not actually what you call pool basketball—and things get heated. Riley commits a blatant flagrant foul by elbowing Spencer in the face.
Notably, Riley didn’t even need to box out for the rebound—the ball had left the pool. Everybody knows that you don’t need to fight for a rebound in this scenario. You’re just supposed to stand in the pool and yell “HEY, COULD YOU GET THAT BALL FOR US?” at anybody passing by.
Later at a cocktail party, the guys gang up on Spencer. Kenny—the show’s MVP thus far—opens up the conversation diplomatically. “Let me just speak freely, to try to put it in layman’s terms, and please don’t take this the wrong way: You kind of come off like a BLEEP.” (I’m assuming he said “dick,” but considering the show’s habit of censoring fully clothed butts to make wholesome interactions look scandalous, it’s also possible that he actually said “jerk” or “buttface” and they added the bleep for dramatic effect.) Spencer later comments that “their argument for me being a BLEEP is weak.”
But Riley is more elaborate in his distaste for Spencer. “A guy like Spencer, pretty boy, he’s lunchmeat,” he says in a confessional. “We didn’t grow up with a whole lot, but what we had was fried baloney. And that man is a fried baloney sandwich, with the mayonnaise, all day.” Then, after Spencer makes a comment about continuing their pool fight after the party, Riley talks tough to his face: “It’s rough enough in my particular area, that when we come across guys like you, we call you lunchmeat … if you wanna fuck with me, we can go.”
In the first few episodes of this show, there wasn’t much infighting among the guys. The contestants were too focused on the absurdity of the Clare situation, and their anger at Dale was primarily based on the fact that he was the favorite. Even when they actually had a roast to insult their fellow contestants, nobody could come up with any good Dale zings—just a few cracks about his name. But just one episode into the Tayshia era, a contestant has already compared another contestant to a fried baloney sandwich. Huge improvement.
Worst Competitive Decision: Kenny
It has been decades since some genius first put a tiny basketball hoop next to a pool, but I honestly doubt that the rules of pool basketball—er, splashball—have ever been codified. The five-on-five game attempted by The Bachelorette may be the most serious game of pool basketball in the non-sport’s history—they even played full-court, with two hoops at different ends of a pool. (It also almost certainly set the record for Highest Average Age of any pool basketball game ever played—anything over 23 was gonna destroy that record.)
It’s a tight contest. After several intense minutes of play and a visit from the medics to deal with Spencer’s bleeding lip, one team has a 3-2 lead. As the game reaches its final seconds—at a time apparently arbitrarily decided by Chris Harrison—the ball goes to Kenny, who has a fast break opportunity. With the game on the line, he tries to drive to the hole, but gets blocked by Eazy.
Normally I try not to get too worked up over the on-court/in-pool events of Bachelorette sports competitions. But let’s be real here: Kenny should have pulled up and taken that completely uncontested 5-foot shot. Eazy played in the NFL! (Kind of!) Why are you trying to pool-dunk on him? What makes it especially galling is that Kenny hit one of only five shots in the game, a 20-footer that may be the longest shot in the history of pool basketball.
Kenny is a straight-shooter off the court—and a straight-shooter in the pool. He will forever regret his decision not to take the open 5-footer.
Worst Overall Decision: Jason
Fifteen of the men who survived Clare happily move on with Tayshia, a woman who is more interested in them and more enjoyable to be around. And then there is Jason, the only remaining guy who had a one-on-one date with Clare. On that date, Jason spoke honestly about his past and what he wants from his future, while also taking a random shot at his parents’ marriage. It apparently meant a lot for Jason to do that; he says he’s typically not that open with people. It did not apparently mean a lot to Clare, who continued her laser focus on Dale. Regardless, Jason decides to leave the show. He says Tayshia deserves a man who is there for her 100 percent, and that he can’t be fully there for her. A reminder: Clare was on the show for two weeks, and Jason probably talked to her 10 times, tops.
Jason used to play football—he was an offensive lineman, which is an atypical position for Bachelorette contenders. He played some preseason games with the Colts and then got cut. He was on the Raiders’ practice squad and then he got cut. He was on the Buccaneers’ practice squad and then he got cut. What would’ve been bad is if, after playing some preseason games with the Colts, he decided that he had given so much to the Colts that he couldn’t really focus on the Raiders—that he was still thinking about the Colts when he was on the field; that he played harder for the Colts in those preseason games than he had with other teams and wasn’t ready to play that hard for any other team. That would’ve been dumb, because any chance to play in the NFL is pretty cool, and the Colts obviously didn’t care about him.
Least Necessary Interruption: The Clare and Dale Tell-All
Because this episode couldn’t be too enjoyable. After Tayshia meets the guys, the show dials back the fun meter by inserting a mid-episode interview with Clare and Dale. Nothing interesting happens in the interview: Clare cries and talks about how Dale is the man she’s always dreamed of who shows up and makes her dad proud—just like she did at least once per episode during her time on the show—and the two vehemently deny that they had any contact before the show.
Clare is sticking to her story that she was drawn to Dale by the thoughtfulness of his social media accounts. I’m not exactly sure which thoughtful posts she saw—his Instagram before going on the show was almost exclusively sponcon for Michelob Ultra, coffee, razors, toothbrushes, recovery drinks, juices, and cocktails mixed in with a few unsponsored pictures of him being extremely handsome or shirtless. (Even his posts with family members are sometimes sponcon! When do you interrupt a meetup with a family member you haven’t seen in a while to make them take a picture with some Michelob Ultra?) I guess Clare could just tell that Dale would always be there for her after seeing that he “had a little Zoom Happy Hour with friends to celebrate #WorldCocktailDay #ad.”
The best part of Clare’s time on The Bachelorette was when it ended—both for us and for her. For her it meant that she could hang out with the guy she wanted instead of poorly feigning interest in guys getting increasingly angry at her disinterest; for us it meant we got to stop watching everybody collectively stress about how bad everything was going. Now it’s over! Your time in charge is done! The votes are counted, and we don’t want you here anymore! Get out of here! (I may be taking some non-Bachelorette feelings out on Clare.)