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The ‘Bachelorette’ Recap: Prepare to Walk the Plank

Season 19 is becoming the normal psychological gauntlet of the show with hardly any of the polyamorous payoff

ABC/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Finally, we’ve entered the Bachelorette portion of Season 19 of The Bachelorette. Gabby and Rachel seem to have completed the logistics requirement of their dual-Bachelorette season (after the producers texted them during the premiere to ask if they could pretty-please cover their TV-producing shift for the first few weeks). Now that they’ve split up their boyfriends, it’s just two separate Bachelorette journeys, charting two parallel courses, just like it always should have been in the first place—and we know this because all of our favorite Bachelorette tropes are finally popping up here in Episode 4. There are men handsomely jogging up to group dates, racing to see who can reach the Bachelorette(s) first; there’s a big group of people traveling to a new country and dressing like they’ve literally never encountered cold weather in their entire lives; there’s a physically violent group date as a metaphor for love, and an uninterrupted rose ceremony, and talk of “the right reasons,” and—

Oh wait, what’s that now?

Everyone is living on a docked cruise ship built for 3,000 people? So, when the men get kicked off, they have to walk the length of three football fields, over a water slide, and through the fine jewelry shop in order to deboard a ship? And all the empty space kind of feels like we’ve arrived at the hotel from The Shining if the hotel from The Shining had been decorated by Bobby Berk? Oh, and there’s a man on the dock tearfully comparing romantic love to the way that he loves his golden retriever? And the way his golden retriever loves him in return? Uh-huh, OK, and now I’m hearing that one of the Bachelorettes just called that man a “[bleep-y] ass [bleep]”, and that she was right to do so???

I’m just tallying up my notes here. If my calculations are correct, despite the producers finally separating Rachel and Gabby’s journeys, this season of The Bachelorette does indeed remain unprecedented … but only in the worst possible ways. As a result, I’m calling it: The dual-Bachelorette season is officially a flawed product. Beta trials are over, and the test audience (Rachel and Gabby) has said, “No.” At least, it sounded like “no” … it was a little hard to hear in between all the sobbing.

This week, when Rachel said, “It’s been challenging for Gabby and I to have our insecurities brought out as being compared to one another,” it was a real “Oh my god, [she] admit it” kind of moment. Not only is Rachel having to be really open about how insecure she’s felt the last two weeks, but the franchise is being forced to admit that it put both her and Gabby in a position to feel that way, like, all the time.

It’s the normal psychological gauntlet of The Bachelorette with hardly any of the polyamorous payoff! And in some ways, Rachel saying that being rejected three separate times during the last rose ceremony is the single most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to her is the kind of future icebreaker answer that no money can buy: Hi, my name is Rachel Recchia, I’m a 26-year-old flight instructor, and Jesse Palmer stole my dignity THRICE on prime-time television …

But an icebreaker is probably not worth being emotionally traumatized on the national television show that was supposed to serve as an apology for being emotionally traumatized on a different national television show. I can only assume ABC went ahead and put Season 19 in a body of water so that if our co-Bachelorettes ultimately float away into a sea of their own tears, there’s at least an easy, oceanic excuse. But perhaps even more wild than the terrible time Rachel is having falling in love this episode is the fact that all of this begins in Paris, France.

After the past few seasons of the COVID-era Bachelorette simply parked its traveling circus at hotels and hometowns across the continental U.S., arriving in Paris now feels like your tackiest aunt suddenly showed up to Thanksgiving sporting the Devil Wears Prada makeover.

Are you filming B-roll in front of the—

The Eiffel Tower? Yeah, we are.

Given that the stylists have been dressing Gabby and Rachel exclusively in FashionNova and Ann Taylor Loft, respectively, I simply did not know we were working with Western Europe money in the travel budget this season! But I guess renting a (possibly haunted) cruise ship to host all travel, lodging, and cocktail parties from here on out is a pretty solid penny-pincher. So, bon voyage, Gabby and Rachel: I truly hope you survive this.

Deux Tête à Tête à Paris

For their one-on-ones in Paris, Gabby chooses Jason (who you may recall told Rachel he was there to pursue Gabby, but did so without completely degrading Rachel, plus looking like Bryan Greenberg) and Rachel chooses Tino (who you may recall from getting Rachel’s first-impression rose, plus looking like Miles Teller). Meanwhile, the other men meet Jesse in Le Havre, France, to board their new digs on the Virgin Voyages: Valiant Lady, where they hopefully will not have any visions of blood pouring out of the onboard Swarovski crystal store.

For some reason, now that Rachel and Gabby’s journeys have officially split and their boyfriends are quartered off to different areas of the Virgin Voyages: Ghost Ship, the artistic result of that split is represented by now seeing their individual dates montaged together. We’re constantly flashing back and forth between Tino and Rachel making crepes, to Jason and Gabby making out, to Tino and Rachel making crepes, to Jason and Gabby trying on berets …

It’s kind of hard to get a handle on what these connections are like, except that Rachel and Gabby seem (briefly) happy, so I guess I’m happy. For the nighttime portion of their date, Rachel and Tino get down to business discussing the hopes and expectations they have for family and career. Rachel hopes that she can find a man who won’t be repulsed by the idea that he might have to take care of the children on his own every once in a while when her job calls for it, and Tino is just relieved to hear Rachel wants to have children too. After agreeing that they both want to raise children in a household with equal parental responsibilities, Rachel and Tino quote Jessie Spano at each other for a while—I’m so excited, I’m so scared—about how quickly they’re falling for one another.

Elsewhere in Paris, Gabby sits down to dinner with Jason in hopes of dragging more than four consecutive words out of him. He tells her that he grew up feeling like he wasn’t good enough and always trying to prove himself, and he took it really personally when he failed. “Now, as an adult, through therapy, I’ve figured out how to speak up for what I want, and it’s helped with everything in my life,” Jason says as Gabby positively swoons. At this point, we’ve certainly seen the therapy-as-a-turn-on trope in The Bachelor(ette), but what Jason gives us next is a level-up.

Gabby opens up to Jason about her estranged relationship with her mother, and how the hardest part is that she still loves her mom, despite her mom not having the tools to love her back. And Jason, with tears sparkling in his eyes as he listens to Gabby talk about her mom, says those nine little words that every woman wants to hear:

And sure, we can all theoretically understand the thrill of bringing a hot, quiet man out of their shell, painful pull by painful pull. But the thrill of meeting a man who is so intimately familiar with multiple forms of trauma-healing tools that he can cite them by name … well, that is a new form of romance, even to your friendly neighborhood Bachelor historian. The chemistry between Gabby and Jason remains a little halted given their very different levels of extroversion, and in some ways I worry that Gabby’s bar for these one-on-ones is just like, “It’s so great this guy didn’t cover his ears and start humming ‘Free Bird’ while I talked about my feelings!”

But in every other way, I just want to accept this single happy segment of this episode, because things are about to get terrible!

Rachel Is in Group Date Hell

Gabby gets the first group date, but once again, despite their allegedly separate journeys, Rachel and her boyfriends are invited to come along. Rachel arrives and is seated next to Gabby just like they were when they were co-dating, and then Rachel’s boyfriends arrive, and are seated across the boxing ring. (Did I mention the group date is boxing? Of course the group date is boxing.) So, Rachel spends the entire date listening to Gabby’s boyfriends dramatically declare their affections for her before each round, and spiraling into despair because none of her boyfriends are so much as making eye contact with her, let alone coming over to say hi or declaring affections.

And this is not a new dynamic for the show. We’ve actually seen the majority of our recent Bachelorettes—including Michelle, Clare, and Gabby just last week—dealing with the feeling of being ignored when they were pretty sure they signed up to be the center of attention. Does this look familiar?

But the difference for Rachel is that after being in the position to be repeatedly rejected in favor of Gabby last week, when she doesn’t get meaningful eye contact from her boyfriends now, she need only look to her left to find a Bachelorette who is getting attention and begin spiraling into thinking that no one there is actually interested in her, she doesn’t deserve to be the Bachelorette, and Jesse is lurking somewhere nearby, ready to rip up her contract and tell her she’s not even welcome on Bachelor in Paradise.

Rachel—continuing a long line of Bachelorettes who’ve made the reasonable assumption that a lack of effort shown is equal to the amount of fucks given—absolutely melts down, just as I assume The Bachelorette producers knew she would. So, after staring off the side of this comically sized ship while dressed exactly like Regina George about to cause a high school riot

Rachel storms into the room where her boyfriends are gathered and tells them that they all accepted her rose, and she thought that meant they wanted to be there. “I want you here,” she says. “But you made me feel hurt and unseen. I want you guys to want to be here for me, and I didn’t feel that at all tonight.” Rachel grits her way through reminding them that every moment counts, tells them she’ll see them at tomorrow’s group date, and they all assure the camera that they’ll bring their A-game from now on.

And then the producers, back in their torture bag, give Rachel and her remorseful boyfriends a group date that can only be described as body horror.

When they enter the group date location after a somber round of run-and-jump hugs, they have to watch two French people make out for a while, until the couple breaks apart to tell them that this date is all about practicing techniques to seduce Rachel. Which starts off with a cringe-inducing round of no-foreplay flirting, somehow resulting in Zach putting Rachel in a headlock. In the second round, the men are asked to make out with their own hand, and in the third round, Rachel is asked to don a blindfold and sniff their armpits …

What in the middle school truth-or-dare is this?! The last round is at least love letters, but the fact that they have to be read out loud means that a lot of the men write poems, and amateur rhyming is simply not a seduction technique. Tyler ultimately wins Rachel over by revealing that he’d actually written her a letter the night before and brought it with him to read if he ever got the opportunity. Which I’m choosing to believe is incredibly sweet and not incredibly strategic, on account of how Tyler is cute as a button and later tells Rachel that love is always worth risking pain. Maybe these two could just leave together right now, and cut out the fresh round of terror headed Rachel’s way …

Hayden Is a Dog

Unfortunately, this particular shit-ship set sail all the way back in last week’s episode. As a cringe warning: Some of the things I’m about to tell you, I actually cannot believe were said by a human man on national television. Between Hayden the alleged Leisure Executive calling two Bachelorettes bitches, denying it, using a dying dog for sympathy, and then veering dangerously close to declaring romantic love for that dog … well, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but thank goodness for Meatball.

Which brings us to the two wild things that the editors ask us to just accept in this episode, without explanation:

1. That, after rejecting Rachel’s rose at last week’s ceremony, and then airing what appeared to be a preview of Meatball begging his way back on to Team Rachel … Meatball is just back on Team Rachel in this episode, without ever addressing it again.

2. And similarly, that after Rachel clearly offered Hayden a rose only because the producers said she and Gabby needed an even number of boyfriends, we hear tell of Rachel and/or Gabby having some sort of conversation with Hayden about how offensive it was to call Gabby “rough around the edges,” but we never actually see it …

But we can be sure that it happened because Hayden is positively sulking around the Bachelor mansion before the men head to France, telling anyone who will listen that he didn’t do anything wrong, the women overreacted to his comments, and that Gabby called herself rough around the edges. So of course, he went ahead and weaponized her biggest insecurity against her in order to reject her. Just like any normal guy would do …

Or as Hayden says to Meatball: “My dumb ass uses the verbiage that Gabby uses to describe herself, and she fucking didn’t like that. Well, bitch, maybe you shouldn’t use that word to describe yourself then.”

Are your ears ringing yet? Because, reader, I gasped. Of Rachel and Gabby together, Hayden says, “I’ve been comparing my ex to, like, this [bleep], right? They don’t hold a candle to her, and I don’t want to just settle. I can tell you right now, I don’t see how any guy here could be like, I’m fucking marrying these girls.” And the editing is definitely a little wonky on that bleeped bit, but there’s nothing to suggest that Hayden wouldn’t have said something awful there. It is so, so disgusting. But if Hayden is going to score that FabFitFun sponsorship, he does need to stay on camera for as long as possible, so before the cocktail party he says: “My main goal now is to get that rose from Rachel, and I have something that will take our relationship to another level.” And I kid you not, that “something,” is …

A scrapbook of Hayden’s dog, Rambo, who is dying of cancer. Hayden tells Rachel that potentially missing his beloved dog’s last few months of life is proof of how committed he is to their relationship.

And, listen, I feel very sad at the thought of a pet suffering, but on Hayden’s part, it is such a wildly blatant attempt at manipulation, I can’t believe Rachel didn’t start laughing.

Then Hayden has the nerve to say that Rachel didn’t respond sadly enough, because she let Tino interrupt their time. So he starts making his rounds again, complaining about how awful Rachel is. By the time Meatball finally tells Rachel what Hayden has been saying about her (including a bit we haven’t heard about him comparing “something about breasts” with his ex-girlfriend), and Rachel pulls Hayden aside to confront him, Hayden assumes he’s getting pulled aside to talk about Rambo some more.

I truly loved this moment from Rachel, and I loved her marching Hayden off this cruise ship’s gigantic plank even more. Outside, on the dock of shame, Hayden draws up every bit of liquid inside his body to squeeze out a few tears for the performance of a lifetime when he declares: “I wanted this to work, but … I want Rambo more.”

Uh, pal, this was not your choice—and Rambo is going to know it. But Hayden isn’t done! “I know for a fact that no one has the amount of love that I have for Rambo … I am blessed that I have Rambo who loves me unconditionally.” Hayden, Rambo is a dog. A dog, Hayden!!! Having a pet is an incredibly meaningful experience, and that kind of love is certainly valuable, but comparing the love you have for a dog—AND THE LOVE A DOG HAS FOR YOU IN RETURN—to romantic love is wild stuff.

Wild stuff, I say. And to Logan, who is attempting to jump ship from Rachel’s Clubhouse to Gabby’s Clubhouse (as a reminder, Gabby did not choose him), I will simply say this: For the love of god, NOT NOW, LOGAN! See you back here next week to set sail for Belgium and get a brand-new stamp on Rachel and Gabby’s emotional distress passport.