I’m a big fan of when reality TV show contestants tell you what show they’re on—and what show they’re not on. For example: Contestants on Love Island love to say “It’s Love Island—not FRIEND Island!” Last season on The Bachelorette, Bennett started repeatedly saying “We’re on The Bachelorette, not The Babysitter!” And Monday night, Victoria came up with a new one: “This is The Bachelor, not The Sarah Show!”
Unfortunately for Victoria, Monday night did turn into The Sarah Show. Sarah started off the season as an obvious front-runner, getting the invite to one of Matt’s first two one-on-one dates. But she already showed signs of uneasiness in the show’s early weeks—on her one-on-one date, she told Matt that her father has a debilitating neurological disease, and that she worries that she’s spending precious time on the show that she should be spending with her dad. Last week’s episode ended with a cliff-hanger when Sarah fainted during a rose ceremony; this week’s episode begins with the rest of the contestants speculating that she faked it for attention. The old Feinted Faint maneuver! (Personally, I don’t doubt anybody who has physical issues during the endless early-season rose ceremonies—the women are forced to film through the night, never eat full meals, and have to spend the whole time standing upright in heels.)
In Monday night’s episode, the slight rift between Sarah and the house turns into a ravine, and Sarah falls apart. Not only is she stressed about her dad, but she bristles at the usual proceedings of the show. She gets jealous listening to the erotica written by other contestants for Matt—we’ll get to this later—and interrupts a group date that she wasn’t even on to hash out her feelings with Matt. But doing so draws the ire of the rest of the women, and it all goes downhill from there. As Sarah stays cooped up in her room, the rest of the women work themselves into a frenzy against her—everyone starts to dislike Sarah so much that they all forget about how much they dislike Victoria. And the less she shows up, the more unpleasant her rare public appearances are. Eventually, Sarah tries to make nice—there are a lot of tears and seemingly sincere apologies—but she gets nowhere with the majority of the other contestants, who don’t fully understand what’s going on. They think Sarah is getting one over on everybody by stealing extra time with Matt. In reality, she actually wants to go home. By the end of the episode, Sarah can’t show up anywhere without getting dunked on. And though Matt tries to convince her to stay, she’s made up her mind: It’s time to leave.
It’s obviously the right call from every angle possible. There will be other guys, and, after being the focus of most of the early running this season, there will be other opportunities for Sarah to be on reality TV. Her time will be much better spent dealing with something important like family than getting bombarded with unimportant drama. Lots of reality TV contestants spend entire seasons hanging on to their spot on the show and get forgotten instantly, but Sarah’s decision to ditch the show early makes her more memorable than some of the contestants who will last a lot longer.
Least Convincing Sell Job: Chris Harrison’s Book
At the start of the episode, we’re told that Matt is worried he’s not stepping outside of his comfort zone, and therefore has ceded the job of planning the dates to Chris Harrison. (Yeah, as if the Bachelor is usually responsible for planning dates on The Bachelor.) On the first group date, the women are led to a room where a woman is busy reading erotic literature out loud. But it’s not just any erotic literature—she’s reading a passage from Chris Harrison’s 2015 romance novel, The Perfect Letter. The selected passage of Chris’s book features his female protagonist yearning for satisfaction from her man, and also the word “buttocks,” consistently rated one of the sexiest words in the English language. (Other words Chris presumably used during sex scenes: “moist” and “turgid.”)
Yes, Chris wrote a book. It has 3.5 stars on Goodreads, which seems pretty decent—although Colton Underwood’s book has 3.4 stars, and I have to imagine that’s one of the worst books ever written, so, grain of salt. Chris isn’t fully comfortable reading his own sex words, though, so he brings in contestant turned podcaster Ashley I. (who somehow still gets referred to as “Ashley I.” despite all her season’s competing Ashleys fading into obscurity) to recite them. Ashley has written a book of her own, but it’s a kids’ book. Only Chris gets to write romance books.
After hearing Chris’s writing, the women are asked to write their own sex scenes featuring themselves and Matt. Some go tame; some go for elaborate Bachelor-themed sex jokes; Victoria and Katie go for fully explicity sex scenes which are as censored as “WAP” on the radio. (Katie’s famous vibrator did not make an appearance.) Nobody besides Chris uses the word “buttocks,” in spite of its overpowering hotness.
I think the show meant for the women’s over-the-top sex scenes to be the funniest part of this whole endeavor. But for me, the funniest part is the entire premise: We were told that Chris Harrison had the opportunity to plan a date, and used the opportunity as promo for the book he wrote almost six years ago. This is like if I had to plan a date and was like, “Hold up, let me retweet some of my best jokes about Tom Brady from the last few NFL seasons. Damn, these jokes are great. Now it’s time for you to write your own NFL jokes!” I hope Harrison gets a few sales out of it, but honestly, I thought ABC was paying him well enough that this wouldn’t be an issue!
Biggest Hurdle: Matt’s Charcuterie Etiquette
It is three weeks in, and Matt already has broken a critical Bachelor rule—he cares about the food. Normally, the Bachelor and his date are pre-fed, so they’re not hungry on dates, because it’s tough to look romantic when you’re scarfing down food. But as soon as Matt sits down on his one-on-one date with Serena P., he can’t take his eyes off the charcuterie board that’s been put between them. First, he asks Serena to explain the general concept of a charcuterie board, saying that he’s “not a big wine drinker.” I don’t know why this is mystifying to Matt—a charcuterie board is the most easily understood food possible, it’s literally just meat and cheese on wood. But anyway, as Serena explains different charcuterie options, he starts eating stuff off of it—I think he chomps on some mango, a surprise inclusion in any charcuterie set. I always thought The Bachelor’s careful pre-planning to ensure nobody eats during dates was dumb—but now that I’ve seen Matt look more interested in eating than listening to Serena, I get it.
While the Bachelor isn’t supposed to eat the omnipresent charcuterie board, he is supposed to drink the champagne that goes along with the charcuterie board. And when Matt does, it doesn’t go well. He hiccups for several minutes on end, as shown in a post-credits scene. They’re particularly gross hiccups. They sound moist and turgid.
I’m worried about Matt. He’s “not a wine drinker” on a show that seemingly revolves around wine consumption; he pays attention to the food in front of him on a show that discourages on-screen consumption; and he can’t make it through a bottle of champagne without getting drunk and/or overly carbonated. How’s he going to make it through this season?
Episode MVP: Nemacolin’s Animals
Matt’s date with Serena is entirely animal-filled. The two discuss Matt’s childhood pets—he had a turtle, which prompts Serena to say, “Oh, so you were a weird kid?” which is legitimately hilarious. Matt tries to argue that turtles are particularly empathetic animals, but I don’t buy that.
The two also go horseback riding through the Pennsylvania woods, and unlike last week’s ATV rides, there are no near-death experiences. Afterward, they sit down in a pasture filled with animals to try to have a normal date. But after roughly 35 seconds of conversation, they are interrupted by a herd of donkeys. (A donk of donkeys?) It feels too coincidental that the donkeys arrive at almost exactly the moment their conversation gets serious—either they were intentionally released by Bachelor producers at the correct moment, or they smelled the charcuterie board. But I really cannot stress enough how surrounded Matt and Serena were by donkeys.
This is why we’re better off in Pennsylvania than in Palm Springs. There was no opportunity for spontaneous animal mobs in the SoCal desert. It would not have been cute for Tayshia and Zac to get swarmed by a bunch of lizards or scorpions—although it did seem like a lot of the dudes trying to win over Tayshia were snakes.
Biggest Surprise: Victoria the Comedian
Last week was all about how much we hated Victoria, who managed to be toxic and manipulative while accusing the very quiet Marylynn of being toxic and manipulative. And worst of all, it worked! In the episode-opening rose ceremony, Marylynn was one of the contestants eliminated while Victoria got another rose. Immediately after that, Victoria gladly takes the position as the leader of the brigade against Sarah when she faints. She says Sarah is “worse than Marylynn.” (Now that Sarah is gone too, you’ve gotta wonder who she’ll say is “worse than Sarah” next week. My bet is on one of the Serenas.)
But this episode kinda showed that Victoria has a sense of humor about this whole thing. Her attempt at writing erotica is (A) extremely dirty and (B) primarily intended to zing her contestants. The punch line of her story compares the fakeness of the women on the show to the non-fakeness of any Matt-related orgasms—and the women on the show, who seemed to be pretty fed up with Victoria’s nonsense, all start cracking up. After spending most of the last episode openly insisting she had no interest in making friends with the rest of the women on the show, she seems pretty firmly in with the group. At one point, she openly advocates for Katie to make sure she spends time with Matt after Sarah interrupts the group date. And, like, yeah! That’s not an angle villains usually take. Later, she tells Sarah that she doesn’t need Matt—she needs a Xanax. And, like, yeah! Sarah would be much better served leaving the show and dealing with her mental health. It’s heartbreaking—the worst person we know just spent an entire episode making good points.
From the moment she stepped out of the limo, Victoria was being loud to get attention, but Monday’s episode revealed that everybody else seems to be in on the joke with her. When the focus was on her, it was intensely grating, but as a tertiary character, she somehow works.