The career arc of a Bachelor contestant is a well-trodden path. If you step out of the limo and don’t get eliminated on the very first night, you’ve got a decent chance of building a lucrative social media following. From there, the even luckier ones manage to spin their appearance on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette into a subsequent appearance on Bachelor in Paradise. And the truly special ones get selected to actually be the next Bachelor or Bachelorette. This, I always thought, was the pinnacle—it pays well, guarantees you’re on TV for months, and generally leads to the biggest social following.
But Tuesday night’s episode hinted at an even bigger crown to covet. Early in the episode, Chris Harrison announces that he’ll be taking the week off—it’s time to drop his son off at college. Normally this is something that would’ve been done off-camera or during the short Bachelor offseason, but due to the unusual filming schedule and the requirement to quarantine upon return, Harrison needs to take the rest of the week off. And to fill the hosting void, in steps JoJo Fletcher, the Bachelorette from Season 12 and one of the show’s all-time most popular figures.
JoJo has truly mastered the art of making a career out of reality TV. After her brother appeared on the wildly unsuccessful Eva Longoria–produced Bachelor competitor Ready for Love, JoJo spun a runner-up finish on Ben Higgins’s season of The Bachelor into being the next lead on The Bachelorette. She picked former Vanderbilt quarterback/notable NFL brother Jordan Rodgers, after which both have prospered. Rodgers filtered through the ABC/Disney/ESPN pyramid and became a college football analyst for the SEC Network (although he probably would’ve gotten this job regardless of his Bachelorette appearance); JoJo has amassed the third-most Instagram followers of any Bachelor Nation personality ever. Last year, the two cohosted two television shows together: Cash Pad, a CNBC show where they flipped homes into Airbnbs, and Battle of the Fittest Couples, an instantly canceled competition show where “swolemate” couples competed for $100,000. And now, JoJo is the only person besides Chris Harrison to ever host an episode of The Bachelor or Bachelorette. (I think, right?)
So how different is the show with her in the role? Literally not at all! Chris’s role as the host is extremely minimal. (Last week, the show joked about how he’s generally just helping himself to extravagant brunches during filming.) Dropping off a date card at the beginning of the episode and showing up again at the end to inform the men that Bennett and Noah must settle their feud on a two-on-one date, she’s not necessarily better or worse at it than Chris. And while it’s unclear what JoJo would’ve done if Tayshia pulled a Clare and left the show, that sort of stuff happens once per season, tops.
I don’t think JoJo, or anybody, is going to replace Chris anytime soon. He’s hosted every season of every Bachelor show and spin-off. But now I’ve realized that there is a Final Boss to the Bachelor-lifer career arc. The mountain has been in front of us all along. It’s just so tall and imposing that I never imagined it was even possible to climb.
Most Baffling Theme: Dicks
I normally don’t get too worked up about the group dates on this show. Take last week’s “music competition,” for example: Yeah, the guys suck at music, I get it.
But Tuesday night’s art date was an all-timer. The date is divided into three portions. First, the men are asked to draw a pair of models posing in the nude. (Thank you to the two people who quarantined in a Palm Springs hotel room so they could get naked on TV.) The drawings, of course, are comically childish—but apparently the artists’ dick depictions were so vivid that they had to be blurred out. I gotta know what this stick figure dick looked like.
Next, the men are asked to make clay sculptures representing “their time with Tayshia” while blindfolded. Considering these men have the drawing skills of second graders and are blindfolded, the sculptures come out pretty well. (I don’t think I could sculpt a recognizable heart while blindfolded!) Blake, for some reason, chooses to make a penis:
Seems like a pretty bad representation of his time with Tayshia—she hasn’t come anywhere near Blake’s Canadian bacon. I like to imagine that this is a calculated move on Blake’s part—he’s survived long enough that he can snag a Paradise invite by swerving into the role of “the quirky contestant”—but I also think he couldn’t think of anything to make besides a dick. All the men laugh at Blake. Someone goes, “Wow, classic Blake,” as it starts to come out that this guy is apparently obsessed with weiners. (This somehow never came up when Blake was sending sweet messages to Clare.)
Lastly, the men are asked to make self-portraits. They all present works that clearly took hours of time and required legitimate artistic skill. (How? I just saw you dudes make stick-figure drawings!) Well, everybody except for Ben, who decides that for his self-portrait, he will strip naked. “I am literally and figuratively letting my guard down,” he says. “I’m going to give this”—he gestures at his mega-ripped bod—“all to you, this physical body and everything that’s inside.” (Congrats, Tayshia—you now own all Ben’s poop in perpetuity.)
Ben tries to make the whole thing sound thoughtful—but I don’t know, it kind of seems to me like he just wanted to show his dick to a girl who was not asking to see his dick. Somehow though, it works. Everybody who cackled at Blake’s sculpture penis is awed by the meaningfulness of Ben’s actual penis. Tayshia is moved to tears and ends up giving Ben the group date rose. All in all, the whole thing serves as an ever-important reminder that the context in which penises are revealed is critically important.
Most Tiring: Bennett
On last week’s episode of The Bachelorette, Ivan and Tayshia had a conversation about being Black in America that was almost certainly the most meaningful discussion of race in the heavily monochromatic history of the Bachelor franchise. On Tuesday night’s episode, two white guys argued about whether a guy who went from a $50,000-a-year high school to Harvard is privileged. The show has its ups and downs.
The thing about gimmicks is that they get old. Bennett has been the most entertaining contestant on this season of The Bachelorette due to his seemingly self-aware bit about how he’s not particularly smart but went to Harvard and lives a life of wealth and luxury that only Chris Harrison could rival. But after saying the word “chateau” a few dozen times, Bennett’s gag has grown weary.
Bennett spent most of Tuesday night’s episode picking a fight with Noah, a 25-year-old nurse from Oklahoma. Noah claims Bennett is showing his privilege by bragging about his multiple houses; Bennett says this characterization is inaccurate because he had a tough childhood. (No evidence of this claim is provided.) Bennett repeatedly calls Noah childish, even though he’s not the one who sculpted a penis as an art project. “I’m not on The Babysitter, I’m on The Bachelorette,” Bennett exclaims, for the second time in two weeks. (Would The Babysitter be a show about him babysitting Noah, or a show about someone searching for babysitter? Or is the Babysitter the lead role in the same way the Bachelorette is the lead role of The Bachelorette? It’s a tough line to unpack.)
Quite predictably, all of this bickering winds up with Bennett and Noah going on a loser-goes-home two-on-one date. While waiting for Tayshia, the person they’re supposed to care about, Bennett gives Noah a trio of gifts: a bandana, a pair of mustache socks, and a book on emotional intelligence. (“Emotional intelligence” is an old Bachelor phrase meaning “something a person with a college degree says to call someone else immature.”) Bennett explains that Noah is deficient in three of the four characteristics of emotional intelligence—just as Tayshia walks in. We get the sense that he’s going to repeat this absurd soliloquy to Tayshia, and that she’ll say, “What the hell?” and kick him off the show ... but the episode ends with a “To be continued…”
All season long, we’ve been speculating that Bennett is in on the joke—and for most of the season, it’s been funny regardless. He played a great parody of a dim-witted doofus with a million-dollar degree who boasted about his expensive things as if simply owning fancy stuff made him a man. But things took a turn once Bennett’s target shifted from himself to another person. It was fun laughing at the man with, to quote Margaret Cho, “American Psycho vibes,” but it’s not as fun watching him essentially tell Noah that he’s a better person because he’s wealthy. We already live in a world where rich people say that all the time.
Strangest Gag: The Ghosts of Palm Springs
Have you tried planning dates when you can’t do anything? Tough, huh? I, uh … I can cook something! And then I can pretend I’m not anxious about having to clean it up the whole time while you pretend it tastes good! Every other season, The Bachelorette never runs into this issue—they can always go horse-riding on a Mexican beach or repel down a mountain in Iceland. Now they’re stuck in one location. And granted, while at-home dates can be fun if you actually like the person you’re at home with, The Bachelorette needs to make dates entertaining even if the people don’t like each other—or worse, if they don’t really feel any particular way about each other. About three-quarters of the way through this season, I admit they’re doing a pretty good job coming up with compelling dates that don’t leave the resort.
On Tuesday night’s episode though, Tayshia took Eazy on a spo0o0o0o0oky date where they read a story about an old oil baron whose family died on the resort’s land. The story almost checks out—they’re told the lunatic oil baron whose family died was named William Morgan, while the guy who built the La Quinta hotel was named Walter Morgan. Anyway, they go into some rooms where spo0o0o0o0o0o0oky noises are played, and then they’re told to go to the tennis court where someone was allegedly buried, and more spo0o0o0o0o0oky noises are made. They scream and hold each other and seem to have a great time.
But come on. There is just no way you could ever convince me there are ghosts on a posh resort in Palm Springs. Put me in a hotel built in 1736 where there are a lot of creaky noises, and I’ll bite. But how are you going to tell me the pool where I’ve been crushing margs all day is haunted? The only truly disturbing noises you’ll hear in Palm Springs come from overly ambitious Coachella sets by artists who think they can outdo Beyoncé. At the very least, I’m sure they’re very relaxed ghosts. (That said, the whole thing was a lot better than the time The Bachelor filmed at a former slave plantation in Louisiana and told the contestants that it was haunted by a little white girl.)
After the date, Tayshia dumps Eazy. It may have been because he accidentally rushed to say the L-word to Tayshia in what seems to have been their second one-on-one conversation—never do this on The Bachelorette!—but I choose to believe that Tayshia couldn’t be with a man gullible enough to believe that a resort tennis court was haunted. I’ll miss Eazy, one of the more charismatic contestants on this season. They say you can still hear him making fun of Blake’s sex noises down by the pool.