I’ve written recaps of two reality shows for this site. One is The Bachelorette (and The Bachelor and all its other spinoffs.) The other is Hard Knocks, HBO’s show about NFL training camps. (I would do recaps of Love Island, but that would require me to watch it every night for two months straight instead of crushing 50-plus episodes in the span of five days, so no thanks.) For many seasons, the emotional force of Hard Knocks generally stemmed from the staggered nature of cutdowns: NFL teams start training camp with 90 players, then cut their rosters to 75, then down to 53 for opening day. With each episode you could feel the room thinning. You got attached to players who were slowly weeded out—some got their hopes up when they made the 75-man team, only to be crushed when the cut to 53 came. But then in 2017, the NFL changed the rules so teams could keep 90 players for all of training camp. In the most recent seasons, everybody gets cut all at once, and all the sadness gets crammed into one episode. (Coincidentally, most of the guys who get cut by NFL teams at the end of training camp end up appearing on The Bachelorette. Remember Dale? And Eazy? And Jason? And Colton? And Jordan Rodgers? And Tyler C.? And…)
The same thing happened on this season of The Bachelorette. Normally there’s a pretty steady trickle of eliminations. This year’s a bit more rushed though, thanks to the midseason Bachelorette swap. Clare had weeded the cast from 31 to 17 in the first three weeks of the season—pretty standard; last year Hannah went from 30 to 15 in the same time frame. But this year, nobody was eliminated on the fourth episode, which was entirely dedicated to the transition from Clare to Tayshia. And in the fifth episode, the cast actually expanded to 20 when new cast members specially picked for Tayshia joined. Last season, Hannah got to trim her cast from 20 to four over the course of eight episodes; Tayshia has to do it in four.
The crunch hits really hard in Monday night’s episode. After starting last week with 12 guys, Tayshia is left with eight and still needs to get down to four—which necessitates some ruthless decision-making. On a one-on-one date with Blake, the contestant best known for sculpting a penis, it’s clear his time is running out. Blake is a classic “12 guys left” guy, he’s certainly not a “four guys left” guy. Tayshia doesn’t want to meet the family of a penis sculptor. So while Blake takes the date very seriously—he keeps saying it’s “do or die”—Tayshia spends most of it working out how she’s going to break up with him. Blake is confused, because he didn’t do anything wrong. But when the eliminations are coming this fast, you don’t have to do anything wrong.
After dumping Blake, Tayshia realizes she’s got more work to do. She returns to the house, pulls Riley, and dumps him. At first, Riley does the lawyer thing and tries to argue his way out of it, but eventually he realizes it’s useless. All of a sudden, he’s being ushered into a departing SUV. It’s a moment that underscores just how weird and unique this season is. Almost all eliminations on this show come in the form of rose ceremonies or failed dates—it’s hard to remember another contestant just chilling with the guys before suddenly getting dumped. (He didn’t even pack a suitcase! Is his stuff just sitting in the La Quinta for all eternity?)
Tayshia is distraught by all of this. After dumping Blake, she does one of those full-body cries where she somehow winds up on the ground—and then repeats it again for Riley. And then she has to dump two more guys in the rose ceremony. She has to break up with guys with the speed of an NFL GM on cutdown day, but is actually feeling the emotions that come with ending a relationship.
Also, the sped-up process of this season means we didn’t really get to say goodbye to all the eliminated cast members from the last two episodes. Let’s do it here:
- Blake, the aforementioned dick sculptor
- Riley, who called another man “lunch meat”
- Spencer, who was called “lunch meat” (also the only First Impression Rose winner in seven seasons to fail to make the final four)
- Noah, who wrestled in jeans and shaved his mustache for love
- Demar, who went to Arizona State but is smarter than the Harvard guy
- Ed, who has chicken legs and shared a bottle of wine with Chris Harrison
- Bennett, whom of course we’ll have to talk about more later
Normally, many one of these guys would’ve been given emotional, tear-drenched send-offs. Farewell to the departed, we’ll see you in Paradise.
Most Enjoyable “Men Tell All” Segment: The Yosef Dunk Session
Monday night was a split episode—the first half was new footage, the second half was the annual “Men Tell All” reunion, in which the contestants rehash their beefs. Most of the reunion was pretty standard fare—everybody yells and nothing gets settled. I would like to credit Noah for spending the past few months pre-writing zingers for his fellow contestants—he calls Kenny a “One Direction party boy manager wearing camo” and calls Bennett an “ostentatious Harvard d-bag.”
But the highlight of the evening was a surprise. Most of the contestants who returned for the special were the ones left when Tayshia took over, except for one contestant: Yosef, the guy who called Clare “classless” and made fun of her for being the oldest Bachelorette ever. It seemed unnecessary—why bring back somebody we’ve all forgotten about and who was clearly a jerk? Especially since the main point of these reunions is to give wronged parties the opportunity to confront each other, and Clare clearly has no intention of doing anything affiliated with the Bachelor franchise ever again. (She was nowhere to be seen.)
Surprisingly though, Yosef’s appearance turned out to be cathartic—essentially, everybody assembled decided to unanimously dunk on him. “You were out of line, you’re a terrible person!” shouted Riley. “I am 10 feet from you, and I am telling you right now!” Jason, who eliminated himself from the show after Clare left, seemed especially furious in defense of the woman he fell for, hitting Yosef with an impassioned “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Even the calm intermediary, Chris Harrison, felt inclined to chime in: “I rarely do this … but that was really not a good look.”
The “Men Tell All” dunk session worked because it didn’t try, in any way, to sympathize with Yosef. We really shouldn’t give airtime to toxic dicks—but we can make an exception if everybody involved agrees to go full Harlem Globetrotters on them.
Strangest Moment: Blake’s Boner
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but when guys kiss girls, they sometimes get aroused—which is a problem for men on a nationally televised guy-kissing-girls show. The key is, they hide it. (Take it from Ben Higgins and Tyler Cameron, noted Bachelor alumni who have previously attested to their boner-hiding methods on the Bachelor Party podcast. The Ringer is a worldwide leader in Bachelor Erection Journalism.)
Unfortunately, discretion wasn’t possible for Blake in Monday night’s episode. In his one-on-one date, he and Tayshia went to the desert, where a spiritual guide handed them crystals and tried to unlock their chakras. The event culminated with the guide waving a crystal over them—at which point Blake apparently got an erection. The show of course covered the alleged erection with a large black box, so we didn’t actually see it—but Blake, Tayshia, and even the Reiki woman all seemed to notice it.
Ben and Tyler claim they got hard from kissing attractive women, which is pretty understandable. Blake got hard from an older woman waving a crystal over his body. No kink-shaming here, but maybe that’s why Tayshia dumped him? Because she sat next to him and watched him get too excited about a faux-spiritual ritual performed by someone twice her age? A true tragedy—the penis sculptor, felled by his own overactive penis.
Best Appearance: Bennett
Last week I wrote about how I was happy Bennett lost; how I was tired of his schtick. But on Monday night’s episode, when Bennett surprised the men on the show by walking back into the room, I had to smile. At the start of the season, I wrote about how Bennett was clearly just a pro wrestling heel constantly bringing up his Harvard education to rile up a crowd. And what do pro wrestling heels do? They make surprise returns to the ring after they’ve been eliminated.
The scene where all of the guys look aghast as Bennett smiles and swaggers back into the room is a near carbon copy of a Royal Rumble where everybody is absolutely stunned to see Triple H after what happened at SummerSlam. It was a legit “By gawd, that’s Bennett’s music!” moment. Add this to Bennett’s controversial victory in a clearly scripted event, and he basically did all the things wrestlers do.
Last week was all part of the kayfabe. Bennett was actually so good at his heel gig that I actually ended up disliking him even though I had written about how we should treat his performance as an act. Incredible! I’m now sad to see him go—but he’ll be back. Wrestlers always come back, and I can’t wait to see everybody’s reaction when he walks in the room again.