The nuclear option on The Bachelorette is stunningly easy to detonate. With just two words, any contestant can ruin any semblance of a good time and send an episode careening into a mess of paranoia and name-calling. They don’t need any evidence or any provocation. They just need those two magic words: “wrong reasons.”
Anybody with even a passing familiarity with the Bachelor franchise is, of course, aware of Reasons Theory. The theory states that some contestants are on the show for “the right reasons” (as in, searching for love) while others are on the show for “the wrong reasons” ( searching for fame). Quite frankly, it is far more rational for people to be there for the so-called wrong reasons—this franchise has produced a lot of famous people and roughly five happy married couples. You’d have to be naive or stupid to go on the show solely to find romantic bliss, with no interest in becoming famous. But the dichotomy persists, at least in the minds of the show’s contestants.
Literally seconds into Monday night’s episode, new Bachelorette Katie tells hosts Kaitlyn and Tayshia that “this week, I’m hoping to figure out who’s here for the right reasons.” Luckily, her men are willing helpers in this quest.
On the second group date, Katie notices tension between Aaron, the guy who introduced himself to Katie by complimenting his own smile, and Cody, the guy who introduced himself to Katie by saying that he’d been having a lot of sex with an inflatable doll. This tension was partially foreshadowed in the season premiere, when we saw a brief, unexplained snippet in which Aaron randomly confronts Cody and says, “I have never liked you,” which is a pretty strange thing to yell at a guy you just met 30 minutes ago—but now we know the backstory. When Katie pulls Aaron aside on Monday night’s episode, he reveals that he knows Cody from San Diego, and thought him to be an unsavory character with a history of self-promotion on social media. Aaron suspects that he’s come on the show just to become famous. When Katie tells Cody about this, he doesn’t really get mad at the allegation. In fact, he’s kinda chill about it. Katie thinks the situation over, and perhaps deduces that the sex-doll introduction might have been less about impressing a romantic partner and more about making a name for himself on TV. She kicks Cody off the show. He seems unbothered—if anything, he’s surprised he lasted so long.
This development intrigues Karl, whose job title is listed as “motivational speaker.” I’m a bit skeptical of this job title, because he sucks at public speaking every single time he addresses the group, which happens … frequently. At one point, he tries to rile up the gang with a JFK riff (“ask not what your Bachelorette can do for you, ask what you can do for your Bachelorette”), which falls flat, because it’s 2021 and no one reads books anymore. But regardless of all that, “motivational speaker” may be a peak “wrong reasons” occupation: If Karl’s job involves convincing people to pay him money to give speeches, he would presumably make more money if more people knew who he was and liked his personality—things a TV appearance might facilitate.
Karl sees that when Aaron accused Cody of being on the show for the wrong reasons, Katie took it seriously and immediately kicked Cody off the show. So Karl hatches a scheme of his own. He pulls Katie aside and tells her that there are more guys on the show for the wrong reasons. She’s alarmed and needs to know more—which ones? How many? What did they do to give Karl that impression? He doesn’t have any answers. He just wants her to know that any number of unnamed men may be doing any number of unspecified evil things. “I don’t want you to stress about this,” he tells her, before reminding her that she can’t trust anybody and everyone is lying to her face.
To a certain extent, the plan works. Katie becomes distraught and starts searching for whichever people are doing whichever bad things. She addresses the men in tears, ordering any man who isn’t there for her to leave instantly, before talking to Aaron to see if he has any specifics on Karl’s vague allegations. (The winner in all of this, apparently: Aaron, who is now Katie’s confidant.)
The men are bewildered, since to everybody besides Karl, everything has been normal. After a few minutes of confusion, Karl raises his hand and admits that he’s the one who tipped Katie off to the unidentified villains who may or may not actually exist. He says that he won’t say which men he was talking about, claiming he’d prefer to talk to them privately, but graciously offers them the opportunity to reveal themselves. He speaks with the exact same tenor and tone as the Hot Dog Suit Guy from I Think You Should Leave.
Nobody seems to know who or what he’s talking about. As the episode ends, the other 20-ish contestants are furiously grilling Karl about why he ruined Katie’s evening by warning her about the Wrong Reasons boogeyman (or men). In a one-on-one interview with a producer, Katie admits that she doesn’t exactly trust Karl.
And that’s the thing about pulling the nuclear option—there’s a distinct possibility that you will also get incinerated. Mentioning that someone on the show is there for “the wrong reasons” brings everything to a screeching halt, wiping smiles off everybody’s faces and ensuring that nobody can really move forward with their relationship. When someone sounds the Wrong Reasons Siren, they’re hoping that they can advance on the show by virtue of getting other guys eliminated, rather than by establishing a relationship with the Bachelorette. Essentially, they’re trying to win themselves extra fame without having to find love. So here’s a tip to any future Bachelors or Bachelorettes—if there’s anybody who just won’t shut up about who is on the show for “the wrong reasons,” they’re probably the one who is there for the wrong reasons.
Worst Gimmick-Shaking: The Box Guy
Thanks to Katie’s passionate acceptance of gimmickry, many men who entered with stupid gags and japes survived the first episode. For example: the Box Guy. Don’t remember the Box Guy? He’s the one who was in the enormous box and didn’t reveal his face until 90 minutes in to the episode. But the Box Guy doesn’t want to be known as the Box Guy. I know this because two minutes and 18 seconds into Monday night’s episode, the Box Guy says “I’m completely done being the Box Guy.”
Now let’s see how successful he was in ditching the Box Guy persona:
That’s right—on a group date where he was tasked with convincing Katie that he was “the greatest lover of all time,” he put his dick in A BOX.
Outdated references aside, this man is truly a cautionary tale. Some people have the range to outgrow the gimmicks that launched them to fame. Katie was once Vibrator Girl, and now she’s the Bachelorette. But others simply cannot. Have you ever considered that maybe Sisqó wants to sing about something besides thongs? But no: He must crisscross the globe continuously affirming that he likes it when the booty goes da-na-da-na. Such is life for Box Guy, trapped inside a box of his own creation. On the plus side, it looks like the Whaboom Guy from a few years ago is charging $50 a pop on Cameo, so he’s got that going for him.
Episode MVP: The Mud Wrestling Ref
It wouldn’t be The Bachelorette without dates that force men to physically fight each other! Actually, it totally would be, but ignore that—until the end of time, this show will have dates that force men to physically fight each other.
In Monday night’s episode, the men are woken up at the crack of dawn—which actually wakes up every contestant, including the ones who weren’t going on the date, which is a bummer—and driven out to the desert in their underwear. Eventually, they are given brand-new cowboy clothes, which they promptly ruin by mud wrestling in them. (In case you were wondering, this is not the first male mud-wrestling date in the show’s history.)
Normally, fighting dates on this show are given faux-official status. Producers will bring in an expert to teach the contestants the basics of fighting—last year, it was UFC fighter Tatiana Suarez—and then oversee the bouts. This time? The person running the show was … this guy:
The show never explained who this guy was, why he was a mud-wrestling authority, or even what his name was. He never explained the rules of mud wrestling or gave instructions on how to mud wrestle safely. He just showed up, rang the bell, and went home. I’m not even sure he knew the cameras were rolling. He was there for the right reasons.
Farthest in Front: Greg
Greg is not the most memorable contestant on The Bachelorette by a long shot. He’s not the flashiest, he doesn’t get the most screen time, and honestly, I can’t really remember anything interesting he’s done. (His gimmick-free entrance featured the phrase “You’re the type of girl I would come up to at a bar,” which is … one of the least romantic lines imaginable.) But he is crushing this show. A quick rundown.
- Greg got the first impression rose. While that honor means next to nothing on The Bachelor, five of the last seven first impression recipients on The Bachelorette have gone on to win the show (Shawn Booth, Jordan Rodgers, Bryan Abasolo, Garrett Yrigoyen, and Dale Moss).
- Greg also got the first one-on-one date. It’s pretty rare for the same guy to get the first impression rose and the first one-on-one date. So far as I can tell, the only time this has ever happened was on Season 3, all the way back in 2005. Anyway, the one-on-one date in Monday night’s episode goes great. They go fishing up in the New Mexico mountains. In a remarkable coincidence, both Katie and Greg mention that their most cherished childhood memory was going fishing with their late fathers. They also make out on an improvised toilet.
- To top it off, Katie said Greg looks like her ex-boyfriend. Got it—game over.
We’re through two episodes of this show and I can’t say I’ve really paid much attention to Greg—but he’s doing this background dominance thing where you look at the box score at the end of the episode and he’s got 31 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists. (Notably, this didn’t happen to Greg in college.) He’s Kawhi Leonard–ing the hell out of this season.
Most Surprising Performance: Mike the Virgin
There’s gotta be one person on The Bachelorette casting team whose job it is to seek out people who have never had sex. “The Virgin Hunter,” I assume they’re called. They go out into the world and insert themselves into conversations with handsome guys and just say stuff like “Hey, you know what’s cool? Not having sex!” until somebody bites. It’s the best way to explain the season-after-season presence of at least one contestant who gets branded as the Virgin. Since Sean Lowe’s stint as the Bachelor, the show has churned through men and women who have never had sex, from Ashley I. to Becca Tilley to Never-Been-Kissed Heather to Colton to Luke P., who wasn’t a virgin but decided to recommit to not having sex—and there have been many more.
Some have had religious explanations for their virginity; others just claimed they’d never found the right person or moment. Regardless, all have been treated like freaks and weirdos. While someone’s sexuality (or lack thereof) is just one element of their personality, a Bachelor virgin quickly becomes The Virgin, whose lack of sexual history haunts every interaction they have with anybody. The show puts them in innuendo-filled scenarios designed to make them uncomfortable, and soundtracks their awkward stumbles around sex with the same music they use for the blooper reel. I was hoping this trend would end after Colton’s entire season of The Bachelor was tediously constructed around his virginity—but no. This season, they went out and found another virgin. The Virgin Hunter never sleeps.
This season’s Virgin is Mike, a former minor league baseball player and gym owner from San Diego. Mike says he’s saving himself for marriage, and while he doesn’t explain his reasoning, it probably has something to do with the big gold crucifix around his neck. The show does not waste time before homing in on Mike’s virginity: They put him on the very first group date of the season—a date whose goal is, again, to find Katie “the greatest lover of all time.”
The date, hosted by comedian Heather McDonald, began with a sex quiz that first asked factual sex questions (shout-out to Quartney for knowing that socks improve a women’s chance of orgasming) and eventually asked the men about their sexual history. A visibly uncomfortable Mike put question marks on his little placard when asked when he last had sex and his favorite position, explaining that he’d like to tell her about his virginity in person. Later, the men were asked to put on performances explaining why they were the greatest lover. Everyone went sex-heavy—Quartney explains that his penis is the size of a carrot (and not a baby one), Tre does a raunchy puppet show, and Karl uses a banana to massage a cardboard cutout of Katie. (Karl once again does a miserable job of public speaking, employing the phrase “17 hours of fuck action.”) Mike seems miserable and during a one-on-one interview with a producer, he starts crying.
But when it’s his turn to “perform,” he gets on stage and reads Katie a speech about how he’s never had sex, but looks forward to a healthy sexual relationship with the perfect woman. It’s earnest and sweet. Katie loves it, and he’s named the “greatest lover.”
I’m not sure Mike’s the right guy for Katie. But Mike’s virginity was presented in a different way than it usually is on this show. He didn’t try to act holier-than-thou, figuratively or literally, by pushing his religion or chastising Katie for her own sexual choices. Even though sexuality clearly means something different to these two people, neither judges the other, and both seem interested in seeing whether something can work between them. If the show must keep seeking out virgins and putting them in uncomfortable situations—and clearly, the show seems to believe it must—I hope they always come across virgins like Mike.