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‘The Bachelor’ Recap: It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again

Not only has former contestant Heather crashed the party, but Tyler C’s also back, and we’re doing bowling contests again

ABC/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The Bachelor is supposed to lead to the lifelong bonds of matrimony, but the real lifelong commitment made by contestants is with the franchise itself. You might think a contestant is done with the show once they get dumped—but no! If anything, that’s just the beginning: There are spinoff shows to appear on! There are podcasts to host! And apparently, you can just show up on The Bachelor again, if you really feel like it. Monday night saw the return of two contestants from previous seasons—one in a relatively conventional appearance, and one in a way that shows how to become a Permanent Contestant.

The simplest return to track is by Tyler C., who somehow finished second on Hannah’s season of The Bachelorette even though he was clearly 150 times hotter, nicer, and better than the dreaded pet food jingle composer, Jed Wyatt. Tyler is Matt’s link to The Bachelor—they played football together at Wake Forest and remain best friends and roommates. Tyler probably could’ve been the Bachelor if he’d wanted to, but he’s been too busy dating various Hadids to tolerate a group date with 13 marketing analysts named Lauren, so the task fell to his pal.

Tyler gives Matt some advice while they play about three-quarters of a game of pool—although it’s unclear what advice a Bachelorette runner-up could legitimately have for the lead on The Bachelor. Later, Tyler is the target of a hidden-camera prank on Matt’s one-on-one date with Katie: Tyler goes to a spa, but doesn’t know that his masseuse is an actress and Tyler and Katie are ordering her to torture him via a headset. (It’s unclear why Tyler was going to a spa in rural Pennsylvania during a pandemic, or how much pain their torture puts him in—but all logistical and ethical questions are forgotten because the endeavor allowed Tyler to appear on camera shirtless.) This sort of appearance from a former contestant happens all the time, even without known connections to the lead—already this year, we’ve had former Bachelor Ben Higgins and former Bachelor contestant Ashley I. show up. Last season, former Bachelorette DeAnna popped in even though it seemed like Clare barely recognized her. If anything, I’m surprised it has taken this long for Tyler to show up.

The second return is a bit more complicated: Out of nowhere, former contestant Heather Martin shows up at the Nemacolin entrance. Her big shtick on Colton’s season was that she’d never been kissed before, until she kissed Colton, which was so underwhelming that she left the show shortly thereafter. She tells a security guard whose booth is thankfully surrounded by HD cameras that she wants to talk to Chris Harrison, and Harrison emerges. Chris is stunned—STUNNED!—that this is happening.

Heather explains that she recently had been hanging out with her friend Hannah—the same Hannah who dated Matt’s friend Tyler on TV—and that Hannah thinks Matt would be perfect for her. Why is Matt perfect for her? Doesn’t matter. Chris says he wants to let Heather onto the show, but has to run the situation by his bosses (Chris Harrison has bosses?) and then she would have to quarantine. (There’s a pandemic going on, remember?)

Stunningly, Harrison’s unseen bosses decide it’s a good idea to let Heather come onto the show and provide a huge twist. In the closing minutes of the episode, Heather is finally allowed to enter the house, becoming the first woman ever to drive herself to the show in a minivan and leaving the women already on the show absolutely distraught. When she interrupts Matt—who, amazingly, is having yet another conversation about how he orders dessert before dinner—he simply starts laughing. Seriously: He just laughs for roughly 45 seconds, stuck in a state of bewildered hysteria. The episode ends shortly afterward, without Matt getting to explain why Heather’s appearance turned him into Walter White in the crawlspace.

This has kinda happened before. Nick Viall joined Kaitlyn’s season of The Bachelorette halfway through. But Nick was a runner-up on the prior season of The Bachelorette, and had begun to explore a relationship with Kaitlyn online when she was selected as the Bachelorette. Heather wasn’t nearly as successful or memorable in her Bachelor appearance, and Matt is now denying that he had ever spoken to her before the show. She showed up based on a recommendation from Matt’s best friend’s ex. Nobody even questions why Hannah thinks Heather would be perfect for Matt—the same Hannah who thought Jed Wyatt was more perfect than Tyler!!!

If a random woman showed up at the gates halfway through a season, she would probably be arrested. But apparently, being a former contestant—not even a particularly successful or memorable one—is good enough for a free pass to join any season in progress. Heather crashed the show, but it’s clearly a condoned crashing. On The Bachelor, no one is ever truly eliminated. Every former contestant is merely choosing not to participate in whatever season is currently happening.

Most Faithful Reboot: The Bowling Date

You know it was raining in Western Pennsylvania because the group date is BOWLING. Don’t get me wrong, I love bowling—especially because it’s an excuse to eat chicken wings and nachos, as the contestants do—but I promise you that somewhere out there in the Pennsylvania woods is a soaked, never-used obstacle course. (Yet again, it seems pretty clear that Matt is getting much more enjoyable quarantine dates than Clare/Tayshia did—also on Monday night, Matt goes on a date with Pieper at a private carnival that was built in the woods exclusively for Matt and Pieper. At least Clare and Tayshia got exclusively sunny SoCal weather.)

After a few minutes of casual, stress-free bowling, Chris Harrison shows up to explain the stakes of the date. The women are split up into two teams to bowl against each other, with the winning team getting extra time with Matt. The pink team wins, and they get an evening cocktail party—four women and one Matt, just about the best ratio a contestant will ever get on this show. But there’s a twist! After a short period of time, Matt says he also wants to spend time with the women who lost at bowling. Now there are nine women and one Matt. The losers are thrilled; the winners are bummed.

If this seems familiar to you, there’s a good reason. The entire segment is copied wholesale from a date from three Bachelor seasons ago: On a rainy day in Florida, Arie and his women went bowling; the women were split into two teams and competed for alone time with Arie; one team won but then the other team got invited to the date anyway. It was mainly memorable because raspy-voiced Krystal threw a full-blown tantrum about the fact that the losing team got invited to a cocktail party she felt she had rightfully earned by winning at bowling. Much to the producers’ dismay, nobody followed in Krystal’s footsteps—the women from the winning team that season were disappointed, but not furious.

I guess there are only so many ways you can spice up “a guy dates a bunch of different women.” You can either bring back contestants from past seasons or you can bring back date ideas from past seasons. Where can I bet on Matt dramatically jumping over a fence at some point?

Most Entertaining Contestant: Quarantine Heather

You don’t just get to show up and appear on The Bachelor! You have to sit in a room first, because there’s a pandemic. And while the entertainment value of Heather’s return was pretty high, I was honestly as entertained by her self-filmed quarantine videos. For some reason, left alone to her own devices, Heather decided to turn into somebody with 47 followers on TikTok. First we saw Heather dancing while balancing a pizza box on her head (the pizza eventually falls and presumably gets quite smushed).

Next we saw Heather calling herself “Rapunzel” and draping her hair out the window in the hope that Matt would climb up it. (Maybe this would’ve worked with MJ and her massive hair?)

I don’t think Heather will last very long on this season, for purely superficial reasons—most of The Bachelor is just guys deciding which hair color they like the best, and with 11 contestants remaining, Matt has already eliminated six of the seven blond women, and Heather is the blondest woman ever. But her return already has been worth it for Matt’s reaction and the quarantine moments alone.

Saddest Departure: Katie

Monday night’s episode saw the departure of the final Mean Girl. MJ tried to recover from a self-described “weak bitch moment” by fluffing up her hair to its maximum fluff—many mammals have been known to do this to intimidate would-be predators—but she is eventually eliminated on a two-on-one date with Jessenia.

We can thank Katie for the Mean Girls getting cut. Time and time again, Katie spoke out when contestants on the show were overly crappy to one another, including a warning to Matt when the house was reaching depressing levels of toxicity. She killed the queen! But apparently, Katie speaking truth to power didn’t sit well with everybody in the house. Serena C. steps to Katie for being involved with so much of the drama. “You’re lighting all these little fires everywhere,” Serena says. “You’re the arsonist!” It’s the same general logic behind “If you run into assholes all day long, you’re the asshole”—but unless there’s something we didn’t see, Katie wasn’t the asshole here. She was just the most vocal and effective advocate against an unusually cruel house. Serena implies that Katie has some alternative motive for being on the show, and even says that her “sex positivity” was a publicity stunt. (She didn’t criticize Katie for waving a vibrator in people’s faces—she literally criticized the concept of sex positivity.) Katie yells back at Serena before ending the conversation with a nifty little hand gesture.

I’m using this to end all my conversations from now on.

Despite getting dragged into another argument because of how many arguments she’d been dragged into, Katie seems to be on Matt’s good side. He invites her on the one-on-one date during which they torture Tyler. She seems like the perfect person to go on the date, because she may be the only contestant this season who has successfully made a joke at any point. But once the date is over, Katie has a sit-down dinner with Matt and … he dumps her, explaining that his relationship is simply farther along with other women.

It feels like the show got what it needed out of Katie. She stood up to the Mean Girls and was the perfect foil for the Tyler date, but didn’t end up making it to the end of the show (despite being one of the best contestants) simply because Matt wasn’t interested in her. It all works out for the best though: Just before tonight’s episode, Variety reported that Katie is a front-runner to lead next season of The Bachelorette. Make sure the record notes: I was one of the first people to endorse the Era of Katie.