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The ‘Bachelorette’ Recap: What the Hell Happened in Those Fantasy Suites?!

Did Jesse Palmer bring down a curse on this season in between Monday and Tuesday night? Because the second episode of the week was a real head-scratcher.

ABC/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

We have received explicit instructions. Standing in an elephant graveyard of wires, overturned archways, and abandoned pedestals, Jesse Palmer introduced himself (“Hey, Jesse Palmer here”) following Part 2 of the Fantasy Suites episodes, and then proceeded to warn (threaten?) us that we needed to ready ourselves for the Season 19 finale. “Take some time,” Jesse tells us at the tail-end of a show that has occupied four hours of our time this week alone. “Get yourselves ready, and prepare yourselves for the most shocking finale of all time.” And I simply cannot explain to you how seriously Jesse gives this admonishment. He is the Newsroom cast announcing on an airplane that Osama bin Laden has been killed; he is delivering the news to us and for us.

So now I ask you: How seriously are you heeding Jesse Palmer’s instructions? Are you meditating on Gabby and Rachel’s monogamous futures? Are you sitting in an infrared sauna, ridding your body of toxins to make room for other people’s pain? Are you booking an emergency appointment with your therapist, and quiet-quitting your job, and telling your family they’re on their own this week in order to [checks notes] prepare yourself for the most shocking Bachelorette finale of all time? Oh, and I guess I actually have one more question for you: What in the off-camera hell happened in these Fantasy Suites?

If you missed Part 1 on Monday night, Rachel had great overnight dates with Aven and Tino, Gabby amicably sent Johnny home, and Erich fell more in love with Gabby, then ruined it a little by relitigating a difficult conversation they’d already had. If you missed Part 2 of Fantasy Suites, then I truly do not know what to tell you. I think I may have dreamed it. My notes just say “WHAT’S HAPPENING” over and over in Wingdings font.

The best explanation I can offer as to what happened between Gabby and Jason and Rachel and Zach, respectively, is that there must have been a gas leak at the Vidanta Riviera Maya Resort. Maybe the entire hotel was built on sacred burial ground and is doomed to haunt the last one-third of all Bachelorette contestants who enter its sacred suites? I guess the suites with indoor hot tubs could actually be home to a hellmouth, and it wasn’t Jason and Zach we saw exit their Fantasy Suite dates but Beelzebub and Tchort, two demons sent to destroy the happiness and emotional wellbeing of previously joy-filled men?

No matter the explanation, though, there were unexpected Andi-Dorfman-and-Juan-Pablo-scale disasters erupting left and right during Rachel and Gabby’s final Fantasy Suite dates—as it turns out, they really did need a two-night event to air it all out. However, there’s simply no explaining the final segment with Jesse—but rest assured that I’ll try.

He’s Just Not That Into You(r Franchise)

All I could think during Jason’s Fantasy Suite date was, “We were rooting for you, Jason, WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU!” It is firmly established within Bachelor canon that a more reserved contestant may make it to the end of their season and realize that the time during which they thought they’d come around to getting engaged has run out. At which point, they can either present the lead with the option of becoming girlfriend and boyfriend atop a platform specifically outfitted for engagement, or simply self-eliminate …

Jason, however, provides a fun new twist on the archetype, wherein he knows that he has to tell Gabby he’s not ready to get engaged … but he just never really offers up a Plan B. He tells her that he doesn’t want to “walk away from this,” but during the nighttime portion of the date, he doesn’t even seem to be open to the idea of dating Gabby. It is much-discussed that Jason is a private, reserved person, and so this experience has been especially difficult for him. Gabby is receptive to that, and it’s obviously part of what’s made Jason appealing to her all along. But, also, Gabby has another man who’s literally in love with her and wants to be in a serious relationship with her, and Jason is basically being like, “Yeah, when all this is over, I’d love to give you a call some time.”

Jason’s main hang-up seems to be that with all the cameras around, he doesn’t feel like he and Gabby can “fully know” each other. Which is a good enough reason not to get engaged, but it seems as though the more Jason says it, the more he starts to believe that none of his relationship with Gabby has been real. So, who exactly were the two knuckleheads gallivanting around the tennis courts and swimming holes of Riviera Maya all day long, laughing and making out, I wonder? Fake Jason and Fake Gabby?

Gabby understands where Jason is coming from, and invites him to the Fantasy Suite because she thinks the private time together could be just what he needs to feel more comfortable. “One conversation with Jason really could change everything,” Gabby says to the camera.

But reader, it does not. Or at least not in the way Gabby had hoped. Around the time the editors start playing horror movie music and showing bugs in champagne glasses the next morning, we know that something has gone wrong. Apparently, behind closed doors, Jason decided there was no way this could work, and it seemed to Gabby like he probably knew that all along. The next morning, Gabby isn’t looking for any apologies, but she tells Jason he led her on before telling him goodbye. It’s sad, but ultimately it gives Gabby the clarity she needs to see that it’s Erich, it’s always been Erich, and it’s always gonna be Erich. (At least until whatever happens next week, which we’re all currently preparing for via a balanced diet and Ujjayi breathing, per Jesse’s instructions.)

I am not made of stone, and so when Gabby finally goes to Erich and tells him that she needed to process how safe and loved he makes her feel because the concept is so foreign to her, and he tells her that he loves her, I did weep. Luckily, I was not the only one who had that particular physiological response on Tuesday night…

The Tracks of Zach’s Tears

If you can believe this, Rachel and Zach’s Fantasy Suite is even more confounding than Gabby and Jason’s. Because two happy people enter, one weeping person leaves, and we don’t get to see any of the in-between. Once again, the morning-after cinematography of Rachel and Zach’s Fantasy Suite features no shoes on the ground, and instead a wildly awkward breakfast-not-in-bed.

Rachel is very clearly smiling her way through breakfast, most likely with the intention of breaking up with Zach at the soonest ABC-mandated opportunity. But Zach is absolutely baffled by the night he spent with Rachel. To reiterate, I can only guess at what happened inside the Fantasy Suite, but given Zach’s change in demeanor, my best assumption is that Rachel unzipped her skin suit to reveal that she’s been Martin Short all along.

There’s really no other explanation. But after their uncomfortable breakfast, Zach goes to talk things out with Jesse and we finally find out what happened … sort of. Per Zach, Rachel was a completely different person with him behind closed doors. Through tears, he tells Jesse that their conversation felt so inauthentic, and that despite him telling her he was ready to get engaged, she kept questioning him about his age and how he could possibly be prepared to get married.

To me, it sounds like Rachel knew she wanted to break up with Zach, and so she invented the narrative that he’s too young to commit. (As Zach points out, Rachel is only a few months older than him.) That’s not a kind thing to do, but if it’s not the Martin Short skin-suit thing, then that’s what makes the most sense to me. But to Zach, who is in love with Rachel, he can’t make any sense of Rachel’s shift in behavior. And this is the power of Fantasy Suites—you either bone or bear witness to the fact that you’ve never spent a moment alone with the person you think you want to marry.

Hey, Jesse, WTF?

Would you believe me if I told you that after four hours of Fantasy Suites, we don’t get a single Rose Ceremony? Instead, just as Zach pulls Rachel aside to talk to her before the Rose Ceremony, the scene crash-cuts to Los Angeles, where Palmer is standing in the aforementioned abandoned studio, waiting to tell us a laundry list of confounding statements, which I will briefly comment upon here:

  • “I know you’re all anxious and eager to find out what happens next, but unfortunately you’re not gonna see that tonight—and I’m very sorry for that.” Not so sorry that you’re not doing it, Jesse!
  • “Things have just been so emotional, so dramatic for both Gabby and Rachel, that we felt it was right to take a moment, and to prepare ourselves for the shocking events that are about to take place.” He knows that WE know that they filmed this months ago, right? That no one needs to emotionally prepare for something they’ve already produced, edited, and LIVED?
  • “Events that are going to change both Rachel and Gabby’s lives forever. My guy, you lost the right to use that particular series of words when you started handing out cruise vouchers last week.
  • “So, next week, we’ll all watch the most emotional finale in Bachelorette history, and it’s gonna take place right here, on this stage, LIVE.” It will not take place live! Gabby and Rachel may RESPOND to it live, but the preview for the next episode consists of events that took place IN THE PAST. Why is this franchise so weird about time?!
  • “So take some time, get yourselves ready, and prepare yourselves for the most shocking finale of all time.”

You heard the man: Get ready! For what? We do not know. For how long? Well, we know the finale is supposed to span the next two weeks, but in all his pontification, Jesse does not mention that fact once, so who knows. And for who? Well, it should be Rachel, Gabby, and whichever non-possessed boyfriends they returned home with. See you somewhere, sometime to sort through it all.