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‘The Bachelor’ Recap: Fresh Blood Leads to Bad Blood

The mean girl vibe is only growing at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. If only everyone could be more like Katie!

ABC/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The Bachelor franchise has a new twist. It came about by chance, but it’s already becoming a fixture. Because it’s a good twist—and it’s so simple, I can’t believe they didn’t come up with it sometime in the first 40ish seasons.

The last season of The Bachelorette was unique for a lot of reasons: It was filmed in a bubble; the Bachelorette decided she loved a guy two weeks in and bailed, forcing the show to get a new Bachelorette. (Pour one out for Dale and Clare, who are now over, officially proving that you need to stick around for the whole season to find love.) After Clare left, the show brought in a handful of new contestants who, unlike the original group that was spurned by Clare, were apparently selected especially for Tayshia. They weren’t actually—technically they were brought on in case somebody tested positive for the coronavirus—but whatever. In came Tayshia, in came the new guys, and the show’s original contestants went to war with the new guys.

This season is a bit more regular—it’s also being filmed in a bubble, but Matt hasn’t hijacked the entire show to chase a doomed relationship with the hottest person available. (Yet.) But last season’s “new contestants” twist was so rich with drama that the show decided to bring it back, even if it didn’t really need it this time. In Monday night’s episode, five new women were introduced, which completely enrages the 19 remaining original contestants. No justification whatsoever is given for their delayed entrance—it’s not like they missed their flight to Nemacolin, or received a first-round bye because of their strong performance in the Bachelor regular season. It is purely presented as a plot twist.

And, sadly, it works. From the moment the new contestants walk in, they are treated with complete and utter disdain. It seems like the new women could use some sympathy: At a few points, it is suggested that the women had to wait by themselves in their hotel rooms for a lengthy period of time until the show was ready for their grand reveal. New arrival Brittany mentions that she hasn’t spoken to anybody in weeks and is craving human contact; Matt thanks Michelle for her “patience” during their one-on-one date, which I assume refers to her lengthy pre-reveal period. But instead, the new women are treated like crap because of a choice the producers made for them.

A week after the show’s meanest girls bullied Sarah off the show, the arrival of the new women bolsters the ugly cliquishness that was already festering. MJ, a supposed hairstylist with perpetually messy hair, begins calling her friends “the OGs” and the new contestants “the JVs.” And remember Victoria, who spent the first few weeks claiming she cared only about Matt and didn’t want to be part of the show’s “sorority?” She’s now the meanest of the mean girls, constantly cackling with the in crowd and trying to roast the fresh meat with poorly thought-out zingers. (A particularly Michael Scott–esque exchange started by Victoria: “So you girls are, like, backups?” Brittany: “I think they were just saving the best for last.” Victoria: “Uhh ... no … I don’t think so.” Nailed it.) Last week, we wondered who Victoria would try to bring down this week. The answer is … everybody, apparently. She calls new contestant Catalina “the dumbest hoe I’ve ever met”—Catalina, by the way, is a bilingual lawyer—and when she finds out Brittany kissed Matt when they were introduced, she calls Brittany a “slore,” which is a combination slut and whore.

But the worst is Anna, a Chicago native who for some reason is always making facial expressions that are normally associated with extreme levels of pain. Anna says she knows Brittany from the Chicago social scene, and claims that there are rumors that Brittany is an escort. Of course, she decides that the prudent thing to do is to spread these rumors to everybody in the house, including the cameras that transmit those rumors to a national television audience. She eventually apologizes to Brittany for calling her an escort … but then she just keeps calling Brittany an escort behind her back.

There’s no reason for any of this. It’s never explained why the show held back some women, why these five women were chosen, or what potential advantage joining later might have. If anything, you’d imagine that joining later puts them at a disadvantage because they have even less time to bond with the Bachelor. (On The Bachelorette, two of the latecomers went home in the first week, and none of them made the final four.) But with relatively little effort, the show has successfully created a completely arbitrary rift between cast members who otherwise would have nothing to fight about. So ... yeah, they’re gonna do this every year now.

Lamest Date: Low-Altitude Ballooning

At some point during the complete breakdown that’s caused by the arrival of new women, someone suggests that it is “disrespectful” that Matt would give a one-on-one date to a new contestant rather than someone he’s known for weeks. But hang on: If anybody deserves Matt’s time, it’s the women who waited in hotel rooms for weeks without human contact. Matt chooses Michelle, a teacher and former college basketball player, for the first one-on-one date of the episode. (I honestly can’t remember the show ever casting a female athlete to date a male athlete, which is weird considering all the guys on this show are former athletes, and male athletes date female athletes IRL all the time.) The two go on what may be the worst scavenger hunt in recorded history consisting of only TWO clues. They get their first one while standing on top of a platform with a huge zip line attached. Stunningly, the clue tells them to get on the zip line. At the bottom of the zip line, they receive a second clue about soaring to new heights, at which point they notice that they are standing next to a massive hot air balloon. Personally, I don’t think they needed the clues. I feel like if you’re on The Bachelor and you see a hot air balloon, you can safely assume you’re getting on it—let’s call it Chekhov’s Hot Air Balloon.

Hot air balloons have made plenty of Bachelor appearances before: Ben Higgins went up in one with Amanda in Mexico, Chris Soules went up in one with Britt in New Mexico. You can understand why they’re romantic—you get to drift through the air with exactly one other person in a bucket. But hot air balloons aren’t an easy date, because they’re the least practical transportation system in world history. You cannot steer a hot air balloon—the pilot can control only whether you go up or down, and everything else is up to the wind. (Please enjoy the Human Giant skit in which Aziz Ansari plays a frustrated hot air balloon cop who never catches any criminals because his mode of transportation is too whimsical.) You wanna fly hot air balloons in empty, flat areas, because you have so little control over where you land—that’s why they’re big in New Mexico. Unfortunately, this season was not filmed in New Mexico. It was filmed in Western Pennsylvania, which is all hills and trees.

So, to avoid a ballooning catastrophe (and to prevent the Bachelor from blowing all the way to West Virginia), the hot air balloon Matt and Michelle are on is tethered to the ground by a bunch of ropes that keep them from going anywhere: It’s less of a romantic flight through the skies and more of a chill session a few feet off the ground. The hot air balloon makes the whole event seem exotic, but it’s basically the same experience as looking out the window of a fifth-story building. I honestly think they were higher up when they did the zip line. The good news is that without much elevation or a changing scenery, there really isn’t much to look at, so Matt and Michelle spend most of the time making out. Mission accomplished, I guess.

Most Surprising Appearance: Maya Angelou

Matt and Michelle’s date continues with a dinner portion that, for some reason, is held in an old-timey car showroom. At one point, Michelle says something that makes Matt perk up: “People don’t always remember what you say,” she says, “But they remember how you made them feel.” Matt looks up and smiles: “Maya Angelou,” he says. “It’s one of my favorite quotes.” Michelle smiles back.

There’s nothing like that moment on a first date when two seemingly unconnected people realize they care about the same thing—a movie, an artist, a book, anything. They discover that there’s something deeper than the initial physical attraction that led them to this point, that their minds are alike as well. It’s such a critical step in forming a romantic relationship, but we rarely see it happen on The Bachelor because they rarely show contestants discussing what they’re interested in. That type of talk gets drowned out by discussion of contestants’ most traumatic life experiences, their past relationships, and of course, how they’re dealing with the drama in the house. It’s honestly lovely to see two people on reality TV connect over a poet’s quote.

Unfortunately, this beautiful moment is built on lies. Maya Angelou never said this—it’s one of many quotes that has become mistakenly attributed to her through the internet. People are particularly eager to pin faux-deep feel-good sayings on Angelou—the USPS even put a fake quote of hers on a stamp a few years ago. The quote Michelle and Matt bond over was actually said by Carl W. Buehner, an administrator in the Mormon church, and was falsely attributed to Angelou sometime around 2003. Understandably, it has become more popular now that everyone thinks a great poet said it instead of a forgettable church bureaucrat.

Luckily, Matt and Michelle have no idea that they’re not quoting Maya Angelou. They smile and share the moment, and proceed to make out in a fancy old car. The origin of the quote doesn’t matter—the only important thing is that Matt and Michelle both care about the quote, and that sharing that moment made them draw closer to each other. As the great Maya Angelou once said: “It doesn’t matter what Bachelor contestants say, only the way Bachelor contestants make each other feel.”

Biggest Groan: Boxing

There are two group dates in Monday night’s episode. The first is a fall-themed scavenger hunt—gotta show off Nemacolin’s foliage!—that entails the women sitting in large hollowed-out pumpkins and rowing across a pond. They appear to be real giant pumpkins, and they appear seaworthy, although Magi is unable to pilot hers and gets stuck near the pumpkin dock for what appears to be hours. We never know how long things on this show take because of editing, but the sky does seem to change colors while Magi is spinning in her gourd.

The second is a boxing date. The date card says something like “Are you willing to fight for love?” and as soon as the women hear it, they all groan. The women are instructed by Mia St. John, a world champion boxer, but once the women get in the ring, they completely forget everything St. John taught them and just start flailing their skinny arms in each other’s faces. There are more punches in a minutelong Bachelor boxing match than in a 12-round pro bout. It’s just nonstop face punches—no defense, no body shots, just two women simultaneously hitting each other in the face until someone stops them.

Who wins? I don’t remember and I didn’t write it down in my notes. Every season has a fighting date and guess what—no matter how good you are at fighting, it doesn’t matter. The Bachelor is not actually looking for the person who will literally, physically fight people for his love. That would be weird! So the contestants have two choices, and they’re both bad—they either get punched in the face, or they have to look like overzealous weirdos for punching people in the face. The show won’t stop having Fighting Dates—how else will they get the classic “doctors tending to a contestant” promo footage?—but we can at least sympathize with the contestants and let out a big groan.

Roughest Luck: Kim

Shortly after the new women arrive, there is a rose ceremony, and four of the new arrivals get roses. Meanwhile, Khaylah and Kaili—contestants from the show, not seventh-tier Kardashians—get the ax, despite having been on the show for the beginning.

But you know who I really feel bad for? Kim, the fifth new arrival, who waited in her hotel room … for nothing. Just a single night of being on The Bachelor and maybe 45 seconds of screen time. We don’t learn much about Kim—just that she has a Shar-Pei (who she presumably left alone for weeks, adding multiple wrinkles to his already wrinkly pup face), and that she is an ICU nurse.

In Los Angeles.

During this pandemic, which is killing a ton of people in Los Angeles.

Kim sometimes posts about being a nurse during a pandemic on Instagram. It seems miserable and stressful. (Hey, while you’re over there on Instagram, go ahead and scroll through some other Bachelor contestants on IG and let me know when you see a picture of one of them in a mask. It’ll take you a while!)

This woman currently works in one of the most difficult fields in the country. Then she gets a quick break for a few weeks to appear on a dumb TV show, but before she does that, she has to isolate in a hotel room for a while. And then finally, just as her adventure is about to begin, Matt eliminates her on the first night, sending her back to her extremely trying job in L.A. Thanks for all your hard work, Kim, sorry it didn’t work out!

The Only Bachelorette Contender: Katie

You probably remember Katie as Vibrator Girl. In the season premiere, Katie seemed like a bit of a one-trick pony: She talked about her vibrator, used her vibrator as a prop, and then talked about her vibrator some more. Without much else to talk about, it seemed like Katie’s vibrator was going to force her character arc to climax early. But now that her vibrator is locked away in her fantasy suite, Katie is shining.

In last week’s episode, Katie started off beefing with Sarah when Sarah interrupted her time with Matt, but by the end of the episode, she had reconciled with Sarah. As the rest of the contestants harassed Sarah until she left, Katie took time to sit down and listen to Sarah’s story and empathize with her. She was the only person who came out of the conflict looking good.

To start this week, Katie tries to tell the clique that they don’t need to keep ridiculing Sarah now that she’s gone. Victoria, of course, disagrees, and asks Katie to apologize for the sin of niceness. This conversation prompts some of Victoria’s dumbest statements yet. Katie tells Victoria that there’s a difference between expressing yourself and name-calling, to which Victoria replies “I can express myself with name-calling, if I choose to.” Katie tells Victoria that “I’m going to call you a bitch if you’re being a bitch;” Victoria replies with “I think you are a bitch.” (Victoria is a comeback machine.) Then, when the new women enter the house, Katie is one of the few who sides with them. She pulls Brittany aside and tells her that she knows how much it sucks to have false rumors spread. Eventually, Katie is so fed up with the mean girl nonsense that she goes to Matt and tells him about the bullying going on in the house. The episode ends on a cliffhanger as Matt decides what to do.

I can’t get a read on how long Katie will last this season—for all her screen time, I don’t think she’s really had a legit conversation with Matt. But I want more Katie! She’s funny, she’s smart, she’s empathetic, and she’s the only person on the show willing to admit that she masturbates. I think she’s successfully pulled off the turn from a First Night Antics Girl to a legitimate star of the show—which, if you can recall Dolphin Girl or Sloth Girl, is a nearly impossible feat. If the rest of the cast remains as cruel and unlikeable as they’ve been so far, Katie would be a great pick to be the next Bachelorette.