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‘The Bachelor’ Recap: And the Academy Award Goes to …

Shanae is the next Meryl Streep, according to Shanae. (Actually, when she really thinks about it, she’s better than Meryl Streep.)

ABC/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Contestants on The Bachelor are ineligible for most major awards. Although the Emmys does give out five awards for reality TV shows, but none for actual cast, and The Bachelor has never been nominated. But don’t tell that to Shanae, who begged on Monday night’s episode for either an Oscar, Emmy, or Golden Globe and probably deserved all three. She is one of the greatest villains in the history of The Bachelor. I don’t say this lightly. I have great respect for villains of Bachelor past—but with a truly despicable performance, she has cemented her legendary status.

Monday night’s episode starts with Clayton trying to find out the true extent of Shanae’s temper tantrum from last week. Contestants tell him about how Shanae crashed their after-party and threw their hard-earned football trophy into “a pond.” (It is unclear why everybody keeps describing the final resting place of the trophy as “a pond;” there did not appear to be any ponds where they were.) Clayton confronts Shanae about this, and she appears to have a moment of genuine remorse. She apologizes to Clayton, then goes to the larger group and tearfully apologizes to them as well. The women begrudgingly accept Shanae’s apology, and tell her that she’s welcome to talk to them if she needs to.

It feels as if Shanae has had a come-to-Jesus moment, and realized that she had lost herself in petty BS. She returns to Clayton a seemingly changed woman and passionately makes out with him—and then the ominous music comes in. This is when you know things are not as they seem. Normally a Bachelor makeout is accompanied by sappy strings, not shark-in-the-water-style suspense.

As it turns out, Shanae’s apology was a sham. After having convinced Clayton, the women, and the audience of her sincerity, Shanae tells the camera that the entire thing was a ruse. She says that faking an apology when she wasn’t actually sorry was “the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life”—wow, incredibly easy life you’ve had!—and finishes with a triumphant “I’m not sorry, hoes!” She praises her own acting ability, demands award consideration, and ranks herself above Meryl Streep.

And quite honestly, it was an incredible acting job. It’s not just that she faked the tears—she made a lot of inspired choices throughout her fauxpology. When she returned to Clayton after tearing up in front of her housemates, she genuinely made it seem like a weight had been taken off her shoulders, like she finally had the chance to be the person she wanted to be.

Shanae, of course, seems like a terrible person. In addition to her blatant selfishness and willingness to hurt others, she’s made fun of other contestants’ mental health and bodies. (She’s also bad at sharing food, which is pretty evil too.) Her villainy is totally pure. There is no end game here. Shanae is clearly not interested in being in a relationship with Clayton—because surely she realizes that if they did end up together, it would fall apart as soon as he watched the season and realized she openly lied to his face like 37 separate times. She just wants to ruin everybody’s day, every single day. She even gets pissed off at her fellow contestants who smile and clap when another contestant announces a dating success. Other peoples’ joy disgusts her. Comic book villains are more redeeming.

But Shanae is clearly charismatic enough to win Clayton over, at least in the short term. When Clayton had to pick between Shanae and Elizabeth during the completely contrived feud sparked by Shanae, he picked Shanae. When Sierra alerted Clayton to the fact that Cassidy was potentially seeing a guy on the side, he kicked Cassidy off the show, but when Sierra alerted to the fact that Shanae is pretty much the worst person on the planet, Sierra got the boot. This is the fifth episode of this season of The Bachelor, and four of the five have been almost entirely devoted to Shanae. I pretty much can’t tell you anything about any of the other contestants—one of them is a flight instructor, I think?—and yet, it’s been a fun watch, because Shanae’s brand of charismatic evil makes the show completely unpredictable.


Next week will be Shanae-heavy too. As this episode closes, Clayton is headed off on a two-on-one date with her and Genevieve, another one of her (completely righteous) detractors who we know nothing about. They’re headed to Niagara Falls, and Shanae has already threatened to murder her opponent by likening her to a dog that she will throw into the cascading waters of the Falls the same way she threw that trophy into an alleged pond. (Just when you think Shanae can’t get any worse, she starts murdering hypothetical dogs via waterfall.)

Shanae is right about one thing: Her performance is award-worthy. Whether she is the worst person in the world or merely playing the worst person in the world on The Bachelor, her acting talent is off the charts. Or maybe it’s just that easy for an attractive person to trick Clayton.

Biggest Spoiler: Clayton

Unfortunately, we don’t have to worry too much about whether or not Shanae survives her two-on-one date and goes on to win the season. After picking Shanae over Elizabeth last week, Clayton posted a thorough apology directed at Elizabeth. “I thought at the time that [your feud] was solely, petty drama,” Clayton wrote on Twitter. “I would have sent Shanae home immediately for making fun of you for being neurodivergent, had I known. Overall, the experience of watching hasn’t been fun, simply because I’m seeing all the damage I caused.”

On the one hand, it’s a good thing that Clayton has acknowledged his faults and that he’s standing up to the grosser stuff happening on his season. Maybe Jesse Palmer wasn’t totally wrong when he identified Clayton as the Most Genuine Bachelor Ever. But Clayton’s “I should have sent Shanae home” bit makes it pretty clear that he’s not actively with Shanae. Unless we think he’s going to send one of these apologies to every girl he eliminates over Shanae until the end of the season, we can probably assume she’s not making it past the two-on-one.

Episode MVP: Gabby

Gabby has become my favorite contestant on this season—a rare Genuinely Good Person to appear on this show. She’s an ICU nurse, she’s always smiling, she’s always joking about stuff. But she really won me over during her one-on-one date on Monday night, when she fully planked on a Toronto sidewalk to better pet a frisky Canadian golden retriever:

Gabby didn’t care about her cute date outfit getting ruined by dirty asphalt. She didn’t seem to care that the cameras were rolling, or that Clayton was nearby. She just wanted to commit 100 percent to petting that pup as well as she possibly could. (And so far as we can tell, this was a totally random, unplanned dog—not an obvious plant, like last week’s Houstonian barbecue family.) Clayton ends up ruining the moment by petting Gabby’s head, forcing her to deal with her stupid boyfriend instead of continuing to focus on the dog. But this moment feels like a good encapsulation of what makes Gabby great: Most of the contestants seem really concerned with Being On The Bachelor, and she’s just out there having a good time.

Best Group Dater: Marlena

The Bachelor has two ideal group date formats: There is the Physical Battle, when contestants have to violently fight and inflict bodily injury on each other. And there is the Performance, when contestants have to write a joke or sing a song and then stand on stage and perform it. And in back-to-back weeks, Marlena has crushed both of them. Last week, the sprinter who represented Haiti in the Olympics dominated a tackle football game; Monday night, she won the Bachelor roast.

The contestants were brought to a local comedy club—actually, now that I think about it, it wasn’t a comedy club at all, but just a bunch of chairs on an outdoor patio—and asked to roast each other by comedian Russell Peters. Most of the roast jokes were duds. Eliza’s joke was “Clayton, we all know you have a huge dump-truck ass—so why haven’t you taken out the trash?” Hunter compared Shanae to Jeffrey Dahmer, which, well, yes, both bad people, but I think there are different levels there. Sarah and Mara made increasingly angry jokes about each other’s age. But Marlena’s jokes actually landed: “Shanae is like a herpes outbreak, the harder you try to get rid of her, the more she keeps coming back;” “Hunter has irritable bowel syndrome, which much like her personality, is shitty.” JESUS. Why the violence?!

Marlena is dedicated to burning her opposition, whether with a microphone or on a go route. If Clayton picks her, he’ll never have to fear any enemies for the rest of his life.

Second-Best Jokes: The Bachelor’s Recurring Anti-Canadian Material

Monday night saw the cast move from Houston to Toronto, as The Bachelor has apparently chosen “places where Drake claims to have fallen in love with exotic dancers” as its theme for the season. (Miami next?) There were a lot of directions they could go in Canada—have new host and Toronto native Jesse Palmer give a tour of his hometown? Go skywalking on top of the CN Tower? But The Bachelor has spent the past few seasons honing a very specific rotation of jokes about Canada, and finally, it was time to cash in.

On his one-on-one date with Gabby, Clayton challenges her to a one-on-one game of street hockey, claiming it’s very popular in Canada. If you watch this show at all, you’ll notice that this is the same thing Blake and Katie did on their New Mexico “hometown” date. Afterward, they approach a suspiciously hot street vendor selling beaver tails, leading to some confusion from Gabby about whether they contain actual beavers; a similar line of questioning came up on Serena’s “hometown” date on Matt’s season. Later in the episode, Eliza presents Clayton with a flight of maple syrup shots. Drinking maple syrup as if it is an actual beverage has been a Canadian-related trope on The Bachelor since Canadian male model Daniel’s Bachelor in Paradise intro, but has carried on through subsequent seasons, including Blake and Katie taking postcoital syrup shots.

I’ve gotta give the show credit: Most jokes get less funny the more you tell them—but not jokes about Canada. Canada is slightly different from America in roughly 11 ways, and the more times you make jokes about those 11 things, the funnier they get. Trust me! I would know. Plus, the exchange rate on the jokes is better in Canada, so you get more bang for your buck.

Biggest Mystery: The Jesse Joke

The Bachelor is famously overzealous with censorship—they’ll even censor contestants wearing jeans. But I’ve never been more intrigued by a censorship moment than Monday night, at the “comedy club” when Russell Peters introduced Jesse and Clayton with some jokes. He had some solid material, like a bit about how Clayton looks like a slightly worse Jesse. But then he turned his attention to Jesse’s lack of success on the show and said, “You didn’t find love on the show, but you did find it on [BLEEP].”

I have spent every waking moment since Peters’s joke trying to figure out what he said. There is no curse word that makes sense there. Maybe he’s saying a drug (“on cocaine”), which would explain the censorship, but that also seems like a pretty wild and baseless claim about Jesse’s personal life, and the reaction from the assembled women wasn’t total shock. I’ve also tried long and hard to make a sex joke fit into the one-word hole Peters provided, but nothing really does. Maybe he said “online?” Or “on Pornhub?”

My best guess is that he named a dating app (“on Tinder,” “on Hinge”) ... but that would be a lie, since Jesse actually met his wife at a boxing class, and it wouldn’t be all that funny. And also, why would the show bleep that out? Are they trying to avoid giving ad time to a company? Is it part of the show’s efforts to make it seem like he actually did meet his wife on the show, which has been a recurring theme this season? Usually the aggressive censorship on this show brings me great joy, but this time it has brought me only a mountain of unanswered questions. From here on, I am dedicating my career to uncovering the truth.