It’s a week before hometowns. Jesse Palmer approaches our two Bachelorettes fake-drinking lattes at a fake cafe table in Amsterdam. He’s wearing a perfectly weather-appropriate suede jacket that brings out the gold in his eyes and suggests that there is a nip in the air; Gabby and Rachel are dressed as though they’ve never heard of autumn and as if each and every one of their respective limbs experiences temperature differently. But who can really blame them? They got ready on the boat they’ve been forced to live on, because not only is having two Bachelorettes inefficient and emotionally unmooring, it’s also stretched the lodging budget to its S.S Breaking Point.
Anyway, after standard greetings—“HOW’S THIS WHOLE THING GOIN’ FOR YA, IS THIS THING WORKING FOR YA?”—Jesse asks the women what should be a routine question. Unfortunately, this is Gabby’s response, delivered in her routine sexy ghost voice:
It’s not an ideal answer two weeks away from potentially getting engaged! But honestly, Gabby should feel nauseous. We’ve been watching these men for six weeks—and Gabby and Rachel have been dating them for just about as long—and I don’t think I’ve ever known a group of Bachelor[ette] contestants less than this one. I definitely remember Nate and Tino … I’m pretty sure there’s a Jimothy in the mix … maybe an Eben or a … Zarp? I want to say, Corner???
By doubling our leads but keeping the filming time and season length the same, the producers effectively halved the amount of time we have with this season’s brotestants. Gabby and Rachel remembering all of these men’s names come rose ceremony time feels like a miracle, especially when they’re forced to hold up their fur-lined Westeros shawls and hand out roses. That they’ve spent what feels like a collective 10 minutes with each boyfriend when they’re one week away from meeting their families seems absolutely monstrous. They’re still out here saying, “We have a lot of fun together, but I want to see if we can connect on a deeper level” and yet they’re days away from entering these men’s childhood homes; from finding out if their family’s whole vibe is big Roman numeral clocks, or if they come from a place that says egg like “aig,” or if Patrick Warburton has secretly been their uncle this whole time.
Of course, a few stragglers is nothing new. In the week before hometowns, there are always one or two random guys still lingering around who haven’t gotten a one-on-one yet but are still smiling their way through group dates like, “Yes, I can’t wait to take Rachel home to finally meet my beloved aunt, Joan Cusack.” But in addition to the signature variations on the phrase, “No, but like family is so important to me,” and one brotestant getting unreasonably upset at not getting the early admission group-date rose, the week-before-hometowns episode also typically consists of two one-on-one dates, and the franchise’s most dreaded date format: the three-on-one. Our co-Bachelorettes, however, are sharing a season. So this episode they get just one group date, and a single one-on-one—and Gabby uses hers to break up with someone! She is about to see “Live Laugh Love” inside all of her boyfriends’ childhood homes despite barely making eye contact with most of them in this episode …
But in the end, I guess those extra few hours with Corner don’t really matter—because when you know, you know, and when you get engaged on the Bachelor(ette), it’s typically for pretendsies anyway. Despite breaking up with her one-on-one date and having COVID-19 simply disappear one of her brotestants into the deepest depths of the Virgin Voyage: Fuckboi Ferry, this episode still came up Gabby because … unbeknownst to her, she avoided the worst possible fate for a Bachelor(ette) lead: knowing less about your chosen finalist than the viewing public.
And as for Rachel, she finally has a good week in which no one breaks up with her. But little does she know: her probable future fiancé has just been deemed a “baby back bitch” by her probable future runner-up. I absolutely dare you not to laugh.
One Breakup, Hold the Breakup
Which brings us to Nate. Et tu, Nate? Just last week, a recapper who shall remain nameless called Nate “the season’s most eligible contestant” because, historically speaking, he has been nice to Gabby, stood up for both Bachelorettes in their absence, and warned other trifling men against gendered forms of power and manipulation. He also has a handsome face and gravity-defying hair. But, as usual, I should have heeded the tried and true warnings of said gravity-defying hair, because the day after the aforementioned anonymous recapper touted Nate as a savior to the season, Reality Steve published a story—complete with screenshots, text receipts, Google Drives, and personal details—in which two women said Nate was two-timing them with one another just last year.
To be clear, it’s not the worst thing a Bachelor contestant has ever been accused of doing—it’s not even a dog food jingle writer telling his girlfriend to wait for him and then fully getting engaged to the Bachelorette—but it’s certainly more frog-like behavior than the prince performance we’d seen from Nate thus far. But as we see in this episode, his better behavior within the vacuum of The Bachelorette (where perhaps it should be noted he did have more opportunity to two-time somebody than he ever would have in prior seasons) has been deeply meaningful to Gabby. Nate was the first person that she formed a real connection with, the first person who made her feel safe in a confusing experience …
Which is why Gabby is absolutely inconsolable when she ultimately breaks up with him during their one-on-one. (Honestly, if I didn’t know about Nate’s very recent fuckboy tendencies, I may not have survived this breakup without floating directly into the Amstel River myself.)
One of the first things we learned about Nate is that he’s a father, and Gabby has always gotten emotional about how much he clearly loves his daughter. But that emotion is complex, and part of it—the part that Gabby seemed hesitant to interrogate too much too quickly—is that Gabby’s relationship to parenthood is a work in progress. In response to Nate’s role as a father, Gabby has expressed to us, but perhaps not so directly to Nate, that she goes back and forth on being a mother. “That’s something I don’t have quite figured out yet … but I know I have a lot of healing and growing to do before I become a mom,” Gabby says to the camera before taking Nate out on their one-on-one, immediately sitting him down on a bench, and becoming so wracked with sobs the moment she looks into his eyes that she can barely even break up with him …
And really, she never does! Gabby just tells Nate how great he is while simultaneously weeping for so long that he eventually understands he’s being broken up with. Of the fear she’s expressed to him that she might be a bad mom, Nate tells Gabby he thinks she’ll be a great one “if and when the time comes.” They hug and cry, and cry and hug, and Gabby kisses Nate on the mouth, like, six times on his way out the Amsterdam door.
I’d be lying if I said Gabby didn’t have a few fuckgirl tendencies herself, but what can I say? She’s our fuckgirl.
This Group Date Could Have Been an Email
Obviously, Gabby is having a tough time after letting Nate go, so the producers decide to cheer her up with a group date that makes everyone uncomfortable, keeps them inside a ship docked in Amsterdam, and places them in a windowless room that—get this—exposes everyone to COVID.
Hey, how ‘bout we don’t bring in an S&M expert and pretend the franchise is becoming more sex positive if we’re still gonna bleep out the words “oral sex” and “masturbation,” OK pals?
Anyway, after Gabby’s boyfriends scrape the wax off their chest and get dressed for the nighttime portion of the group date, Logan is notably missing. You remember Logan, right? The guy who made a huge to-do about switching from Rachel to Gabby, did it two weeks before hometowns, and swore his connection with Gabby was so strong that he truly thought he could overcome all these hiccups? Yeah, well, in between establishing his safe word as “asbestos” and the hypothetical moment when he would bond with Gabby so hard she might choose to visit his hometown over the five other men she’s been dating for weeks—Logan tested positive for COVID. The man is a nuisance, I tell you!
And I know we’re supposed to be empathetic and non-judgmental about how people catch COVID, but … how did only Logan catch COVID?! These people are literally living on a cruise ship together with windows that don’t open. They’re likely staying in tiny cruise ship rooms together, sharing shower stalls the size of Tic Tacs. And only Logan tested positive for COVID?!
Additionally, tell me why, when it was announced that Logan had COVID, no one seemed at all worried that they might also have COVID? Why was everyone just like, “Aw, too bad, hope he gets to feeling better” like they didn’t just spend a shirtless and sweaty group date exchanging safe words with him?
Instead, the moment Jesse announces that Logan has tested positive for COVID, everyone just starts talking about him in the past tense. It is extremely suspect. Gabby never Zooms with Logan to officially break up; he’s never shown explaining his symptoms on an hour-by-hour basis to friends and family, as I personally understand COVID protocol to work. The producers don’t give him a hazmat suit and a GoPro, or explain what his quarantine will look like given that he lives on a boat from which all of his boatmates are about to disembark for hometown dates, at which point the power on the Virgin Voyages: Overlook Hotel will presumably be shut off again …
So I guess we’re just supposed to assume that … COVID broke up with Logan for Gabby? To which I once again say: Congrats to Gabby on this stroke of luck, because despite Logan’s positive test canceling the rest of her group date, it means one less breakup in a group whose top contenders have felt pretty obvious for weeks now.
I Want My Baby Back, Baby Back, Baby Back
But Gabby’s contenders are still not quite as obvious as Rachel’s, who seems to pretty much be biding her time until she has to make a heart-wrenching decision between Tino and Zach. I could be wrong! I mean, I’m definitely not wrong-wrong … but good luck convincing Tino of that.
But before we get to the signature “spiraling into oblivion after not receiving the one rose that’s given out 18 hours before all the other roses,” Rachel chooses to take Zach on a second one-on-one over bringing one of two co-boyfriends on their first one-on-one (oof). For their date, Rachel and Zach bicycle around the famous Dutch tulip fields, and I don’t say this often about Bachelor(ette) dates, but it really is magnificent. Of all the places Bachelorette producers have plopped down a free-standing hot tub over the years, in the middle of miles and miles of blooming tulips has to be one of the best.
At dinner, Zach tells Rachel that he’s a different person than he was when his last relationship ended a few years ago. First of all, he says he’s 85 pounds lighter, but that’s not what he credits for realizing that he “didn’t have anything that resembled love for myself.” Do you know what this young man credits?
Rachel loves this. She tells Zach that therapy got her through the aftermath of her time on Clayton’s season, and I just really hope that this show-on-a-ship gives these people access to their own therapists throughout these seasons. Because the times, they do get tough, as we soon see when Rachel meets up with her other four boyfriends to competitively lift cheese …
Tino is crowned the cheese king after just barely lifting his cheese rack for longer than Ethan, and when they head into the nighttime portion of the group date, Tino expresses to Rachel that he has very strong feelings for her and can’t wait for his family to meet her. If you can believe it, everyone else also says this, but Tino sees his expression as different because he is different, and he expects—no, feels entitled—to be treated differently by Rachel. So, when Tyler gets the group-date rose, Tino grits out a congratulations and then retreats to a hallway about 3 feet away to have a nearly unintelligible meltdown.
And I think this happens because Tino is a genuinely nice person who prides himself on being nice … but who also has no tools whatsoever to deal with negative emotions. So when pushed, he devolves into insecurity, which unfortunately manifests in an abundance of sports metaphors and an impressively rigid commitment to the rules that he’s made up in his head. For example, multiple times throughout this season, Tino has commented on a metaphorical “scoreboard.” After Zach gets the one-on-one date this week, Tino sniffs, “All I’m privileged to know is what the scoreboard reads, and this week, Zach’s in the amazing one-on-one.”
And when Tino “hits it out of the park” during his time with Rachel on the group date, to the point that he’s actually speechless about his performance, he expects the scoreboard to reflect it …
And in the hallway, after Tyler gets the rose instead of him, Tino offers up these words, which I will do my best to transcribe, though they were close to inaudible: “Getting [the rose] after I crushed today, and that <points toward where he spoke to Rachel> would be like, ‘I’m rolling into hometowns, and I’m about to fight.’ Zach, or [inaudible], or anybody else who tries to fuck in these waters, you’re toast. Done. Let’s roll.”
Fuck in these waters? Let’s roll?! Tino, buddy, what are you even saying?! Ultimately, Ethan reacts to Tino’s nearby tirade far more eloquently than I ever could:
Which, I don’t know, maybe this not PC … but that is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard on this franchise. (And if it’s an accidental reference to Adam Sandler’s 2005 remake of The Longest Yard, well, that just makes it even funnier.) If Ethan didn’t deserve the rose before, he certainly deserves it now. Because Tino was acting like a Bachelorette-baby: He “didn’t get the group date rose [he] thought he earned,” but he sure did get a rose the very next day at the rose ceremony after 18 hours of torturing himself. Alas, Rachel sends Ethan home, and Gabby, after already losing two boyfriends, still sends Spencer home, deciding she’d rather head into hometowns with just three people.
Here’s hoping they sail the Virgin Voyage: Curse of Britt Nilsson straight up to New Orleans and keep this absurd season floating on its merry way.