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The ‘Bachelorette’ Recap: A Speedo-Filled Feeling-Out Process

After two episodes, everyone—including Gabby and Rachel—is still trying to figure out how a two-lead system works. But at least we know one thing: Chris must go.

ABC/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

My most consistent barometer for the secondhand embarrassment unique to an episode of The Bachelor(ette) is just how long it takes me to get through the standard two hours. How much time do I spend retreating into the safety of my phone any time a man starts talking about the immense talent of the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone audiobook narrator, or on a much darker note, describing all the many reasons that two women he doesn’t know should refrain from having sex in order to fit his own standards. If my phone is within arm’s reach, and a man starts attempting a slant rhyme, I can and will dissociate into an ASMR TikTok about iced coffee for upward of three minutes.

Which is all to say that it may have taken me longer than ever to finish the second episode of Gabby and Rachel’s Very Special Season of The Bachelorette(s). By the time Rachel had stumbled upon her sister-girlfriend making out with one of their top-tier shared boyfriends, a man named Chris had scatted his way through the talent portion of a bro-beauty pageant, and a “life coach” had confronted a “mentality coach” about making “fantasy room” presumptions before he’d even spoken to their shared girlfriends, the pause button on my remote control had officially filed for emotional damages.

But somehow, the labyrinth of secondhand embarrassment in this episode is the most comforting thing about Gabby and Rachel’s season thus far. Because at least the ringing in our ears that comes after a dude dons a thong Speedo and slathers himself in marinara sauce is something we’re accustomed to.

The unprecedented nature of this dual-Bachelorette system is what’s really unnerving. The normally well-oiled machine is not running smoothly! I didn’t even realize until I tuned in for Episode 2 that, with all the excitement around Jesse’s surprise announcement that Gabby and Rachel would be executive-producing their own season of The Bachelorette, the premiere didn’t even have enough room to establish a villain or get anyone kicked out for texting a hookup buddy before setting their phone to airplane mode on the flight to LAX. No, in between all the clips of Gabby and Rachel shouting into canyons and men earnestly fretting over what they would do when both women inevitably fall in love with them, there was barely even time for Rachel and Gabby to break up with three men at the crack of dawn.

Which brings us to Monday’s episode, which finally ekes out one rose ceremony, but leaves us with nary a hint of how the two-Bachelorette format is going to work. And no one is more confused than the men …

In the absence of precedence, our co-Bachelorettes are rising to the occasion—battling through their insecurities, adapting to changes on the fly, gesturing toward freestanding hot tubs on helicopter pads like they’re a totally normal thing—but our men are floundering with what they feel is the opportunity to fall in love with two women. The standard one-Bachelorette format seems to humble at least 90 percent of the men who encounter it because they have no other option but to invest in the gorgeous woman in front of them, but the two-Bachelorette format seems to have emboldened certain men into believing they’ll have some modicum of control over the proceedings. And let me tell you what I don’t want on The Bachelorette: emboldened men. I want these men to defer to their Bachelorette(s) so often they forget there was ever a time when they communicated their feelings without the aid of amateur poetry, arts and crafts, and carnival games on a mansion driveway. I want them to forget that Bumble even exists. I want the phrase “SuperSwipe” wiped from their vocabulary. By god, I want some clear-cut two-Bachelorette rules, because in the absence of them, the infrastructure is crumbling!

Not a Group Date

I should be clear, though: None of this is the fault of Gabby and Rachel, who are as poised as ever. Every time they descend upon their gathered co-boyfriends, they look like two gorgeous brides entering the Sunday brunch of their wedding weekend. But until that manifestation becomes a reality, Gabby and Rachel are just making up the new dual-Bachelorette standards as they go along—and for the most part, they’re a lot like the single-Bachelorette standards, just a little worse.

Last week, instead of having a rose ceremony, Rachel and Gabby simply invited their hard passes outside to break up with them in the most direct yet hurtful way possible. And this week, instead of having a group date when they could interact with all the men they’ve yet to interact with, they’ve decided to host a bro-beauty pageant and then select a handful of winners to come to their house for an “after-party.” At which point, I begin to worry that this season might just be a series of kickbacks and group hangs until someone finally succumbs to an engagement …

But before we get to the totally chill after-party, we have to discuss the fact that, after Gabby and Rachel tell the men that they have only 30 minutes to prepare for the pageant—which will include an interview and talent portion—these brotestants spend about 28 of those minutes oiling up their abs, firing up their pecs, and stuffing socks into their Bachelorette-provided Speedos.

Which is perhaps why their talents go on to include a lot of juggling, a man named Meatball pouring pasta sauce all over himself, and Jacob explaining how Gabby and Rachel can save $60,000 on a 30-year fixed mortgage (which was actually pretty funny, but the fact that this constantly shirtless man also looks like an Instagram church youth pastor is … deeply unsettling). Johnny, however, has established himself as a hot commodity early on. When Rachel and Gabby quiz him on who he’d rather kiss, he says “both.” I genuinely thought things might get a little more risqué than a pair of cheek-kisses.

Alas, the most eyebrow-raising thing that happens during the pageant is Chris telling us, “What I did is I gave them a little taste of three things that are important to me: One of these things is sports, one thing is music, and one thing is leadership.” How, you might ask, did Chris display his love of leadership to the ladies? Well, he got the men to stomp out a beat for him, then commanded them to stop—because Chris seems to sort of permanently subscribe to pickup-artist, male-dominance psychology—and then proceeded to ad-lib the worst fucking song you have ever heard in your life.

This was followed by an even worse song celebrating the terrible first song, which goes like this: “I’m gonna go / to that party / by invitation though.” If you can believe it, that bobo-Jean-Ralphio ass rhyme did not get Chris invited to the after-party—Aven, Logan, Brandan, Jason, Johnny, and Colin were instead named the winners.

And I must say: Something about the fellas rolling up to the Bachelorette house, ringing the doorbell, and being greeted by two gals holding a couple of tall glasses of ice water was so distinctly middle school that I thought for sure they were all about to watch Jawbreaker and see who tries to cop a feel first. But instead, Rachel has a series of tough conversations wherein Brandan tells her about all the states he’s visited, Jason tells her he’s there for Gabby—and in her retreat from that horror show, she stumbles upon Gabby making out with Johnny, who we already know she was interested in. By the time Colin finishes talking to her about his great love of Harry Potter, Rachel straight up marches Logan into her bedroom, and thank goodness he goes ahead and plants one on her in his finest Brian McKnight ribbed crewneck sweater.

In between, they also have a nice conversation in which Logan tells Rachel that she’s brave for coming back on the show, and says she inspired him to be brave in the bro pageant. Immediately after which Logan goes on to have a … similar conversation with Gabby. Not, like, villainously similar, but it’s proving difficult to not be suspicious of the brotestants who are having connections with both women, while also proving difficult to not be mad at the brotestants who declare their singular intentions so prematurely. So, I wonder …

Is it too early to start calling this season “2 Bach 2 Furious?” Because that is how I feel every time Rachel looks sad! For her part, Gabby is having a fine time—right up until Rachel and Gabby sit down to discuss their group date roses and realize they’ve both kissed Logan. They handle this with all the grace and maturity we’ve come to expect from them, but I feel like I’m going to absolutely swallow my tongue the entire time until they peacefully agree that Gabby will give her rose to Johnny while Rachel locks down Dawson Leery (Logan in his statement chain).

Planes, Pains, & Automobiles

Rachel’s spirits are further lifted when she chooses Jordan V. for her first one-on-one of the season.

Rachel originally connected with Jordan because of their shared passions for flying and racecar driving, and they are so blond, so adorable, and look so at home in their zero-gravity-simulation flight suits that I started wondering if it’s too late to add a few more faces to Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. But at about the time I start thinking in neon, Rachel and Jordan head into the nighttime portion of their date, when Rachel is forced to admit to herself that, despite connecting early on, something is missing. She knows she needs to cut Jordan loose, but she’s also feeling an immense amount of pressure as the Bachelorette: “If the first one-on-one isn’t working, then I’m failing in the role, and it’s hard because I really want to be the best Bachelorette for these guys.”

Rachel, that is not what this means! It means that you cannot date one more man who doesn’t make you laugh (a harrowing admission of hers from the premiere), and cutting Jordan loose simply means sending him to Sayulita, Mexico, to make out with one of your former co-girlfriends a little earlier than expected. But Rachel breaking up with Jordan does raise a format-related question: Have we considered that one Bachelorette not giving someone a rose on the one-on-one means that they’re effectively breaking up with them for the other Bachelorette as well?

Nah, why would we?! Because Rachel does send Jordan home, which then leads to the rudest montage the editors could muster, wherein they fade between sad Rachel, sad Jordan, inexplicably sad Gabby, and hilariously, an Ashley Cook and Brett Young concert that is now going on without an audience because Ashley Cook and Brett Young were paid to sing so by golly, THEY WILL SING.

But perhaps the clip of sad Gabby was just supposed to signify that our Bachelorettes feel pain for one another as much as they feel joy. Because the next day, when Nate comes over to the house to pick Gabby up for their one-on-one and they stumble upon Rachel eating cereal in the kitchen, our girl puts on a real brave front to have a morning mimosa with the happy couple.

Alas, Nate and Gabby have to head out for a classic helicopter tour of Los Angeles that ends near a freestanding hot tub, where they joke around and make out at an impressive clip. Sometimes they just start talking in this sort of Mickey Mouse voice to each other, and I can’t tell if it’s an inside joke they’ve already established, or if they’re just the exact same kind of hot dork. Either way, they are both very hot and very dorky—and also somehow very cool and stylish—and by the time they make it to the evening portion of the date, they seem truly smitten by one another. Nate tells Gabby about his 6-year-old daughter for the first time, and describes being a father with such love and affection that Gabby immediately starts crying. She also tells him that she’s not close with her mom, but “I think that’s a lot of the reason I am who I am today … I had to relearn what it was to be loved because I didn’t totally get it as a child, so for you to step up and want to give that to your daughter is amazing.”

Personally, I would be happy if Nate and Gabby just hopped back on that helicopter and took this thing on the road right now—but Gabby isn’t done being eerily eloquent while also kind of sounding like she could fall asleep at any moment. She tells the camera (noting this isn’t something she’s ready to discuss with Nate just yet) that listening to Nate talk about being a father made her consider her own feelings about being a mother. “I know if I were ever to become a mother, it would be so hard because … I feel like I would just love it so much,” Gabby says. “And I think I’ve been afraid to be a mom sometimes because I think it would hurt too bad.” But she says Nate gives her the confidence to not be so scared because “some people have the ability to love greater, or maybe feel things more, and I can see him having such a big capacity for love.”

So yeah, uh, Nate gets the rose, and the rest of us get … a lot to think about from Bachelorette truthsayer Gabriela Windey.

When the Red Flags Have Red Flags, That’s Not Amore

And finally, to address the aforementioned Chris’s whole deal, we really have to take it all the way back to the Bachelorette bios, wherein Chris’s red flags first emerged when he said that he’s his own favorite author and looking for a woman “who will love him for the hard worker he is and not complain as the two of them work together toward greatness.” Cool. Love to be told that I shouldn’t complain before the future circumstances of life even present themselves!

If you can believe it, attempting to exert control over a future that doesn’t solely belong to him is an issue that immediately presents itself in the mansion when Chris begins, seemingly unprompted, talking to the other men about his dealbreakers for Gabby and Rachel. After first telling the men that he fully expects to make it to the fantasy suites, he explains what that would look like for him: “If [I’m] in a situation where there’s four people … and the female in this situation has sex with someone else, I wouldn’t be interested in that person being the person I’m with.”

I’ll allow you time to unclench your jaw after reading “females,” but please rest assured that hearing Chris repeat it multiple times throughout the episode was much, much worse. Now, generally speaking, the sentiment of not wanting the Bachelor(ette) to sleep with other finalists if they’re considering picking you is not a new one. But creating rules and regulations for how the Bachelorettes handle their own sexual experiences on DAY TWO is a presumption so bold it could really only come from someone who made up their own job, wrote a book about volleyball, and subsequently demands that any woman in his life must shape her entire existence around said made-up job and volleyball book and not complain about it. Multiple men try to get Chris to dial back his statements, including Nate, who tells Chris that creating preconditions to love “is just a form of control that a lot of men don’t realize they’re doing, and can damage good women.”

Some of the good women Nate is referring to are Gabby and Rachel, who’ve had a mixed bag this week, but after fun conversations with Tyler and Zack, Rachel declares, “I’m finally feeling like the Bachelorette tonight.” To which I say, YAY, but also, Be careful what you wish for, Rach, because you’re about to get the most quintessential Bachelorette experience of this whole entire journey …

That’s because Quincey, Jordan H., and Hayden—who were all there for the original Chris conversation—have been talking, and they think Rachel and Gabby deserve to know that Chris is already laying down fantasy suite ultimatums. Or, as Quincey says, “I think whoever overheard the conversation and doesn’t bring it to their attention is basically keeping secrets from their wife.” Which seems a touch dramatic given that this was Gabby’s face when Chris sang to them during the bro pageant …

I don’t think these guys need to worry too much about any wool being pulled over any eyes. But you know these brotestants—they do worry about their Bachelorettes.

Once they hear the details, Rachel and Gabby pull Chris aside and ask, “Do you really think it’s appropriate to be talking about fantasy suites?” so fast that his head starts spinning. Suddenly the motivational volleyball quotes and training in the Mystery Method are getting all mixed up, and he’s trying to control this conversation in which he has absolutely no leg to stand on. Chris explains to Gabby and Rachel that “If I were to find love, I tend to think all the way to the end, and then be able to work it backwards from there.” Which, y’know, is not how that works—that’s actually not how anything works! When Rachel says that the other men made it seem like Chris had said he wouldn’t even tell the women about his intended fantasy suites ultimatum, Chris stutters, “That’s not—I always want in a relationship, the opportunity for me to be able to speak for myself first rather than for someone else to tell you what my words are.” Which again … is not a frequently encountered relationship issue, Chris!

The problem is not the world—the problem is Chris, who doesn’t even hint at an apology to Gabby or Rachel for talking about having sex with them to a bunch of other men before he’d even had a conversation with either one of them. So they tell him he can cool it on the word cloud explanations and just head on out. They walk him to the front door and gesture toward the driveway … at which point, he waits until they go back inside, circles back around the house, rounds up the men who tattled on him, and begins demanding explanations. At which point, Rachel and Gabby realize what’s happening, come tearing through a swarm of production crew to protect their co-boyfriends, and kick Chris out again.

I’m not really sure which part of Gabby and Rachel’s contract stipulated that they would not only be the Bachelorettes this season, but also serve as producers and security as well—I simply hope that next week, they draw the line at craft services.