The first chapter of this season’s dramatic two-parter opens on a note of high tension. Literally. Leave it to The Bachelorette to indicate the villain’s first official emergence (or, in this case, slither) with suspenseful, antagonistic music chords. By the first scene, Kenny and Lee have begun the slow waltz towards the black eye we see in the previews.
Kenny and Lee "take it outside," and stoke their simmering tension at Hilton Head's wraparound porch. Kenny calls Lee a “dime store psychiatrist,” and Lee continues to provoke him. To the camera, Lee admits he just wants to manipulate Kenny.
The rest of the men at the cocktail party cock their noses and take a whiff of steaming testosterone wafting in from the porch. Peter, who should get an award for the most astute and observant remarks, notices that the only way Lee can stay relevant to Rachel is by continuing his fight with Kenny.
Outside, Rachel is too distracted by Bryan’s snake of a tongue to realize that a dark rivalry between snake and wrestler is brewing outside. Sitting on a yacht surrounded by the dark Carolina ocean, Bryan cranks his charm up to 11, and Rachel responds with Disney princess eyelash flutters. Perched on a steaming pile of confidence, Bryan says, “I feel like we’re going to fall in love by the end of this.” She wraps her arm around his shoulder and flashes an emerald ring the equivalent of Kate Middleton’s sapphire; their tongues inter-snake; metaphorical fireworks blaze in the distance.
In a feat of chemistry, Rachel proves that humans can still form sentences after converting into a quivering state of goo. In her still-fluttering state she gives Bryan the rose, and gets up to hum to herself while forest creatures braid her hair and get her ready for bed.
After Rachel leaves, Kenny congratulates Bryan on getting the rose. Without Rachel to douse the men in a cool bucket of rationality, the Kenny-Lee coals erupt into flames once again.
Kenny says, ”Bryan is the kind of guy who’s done it the right way. A classy dude. He’s a great dude. Hasn’t snaked other dudes to get to where it’s at. That’s very important, not being a bitch ass dude. Much respect and congratulations to you.”
Lee, realizing this is a comment directed at him, casually curses Kenny off. Highlights from this exchange include Kenny telling Lee he’s a stain on the couch; Lee casually saying, “I’m here to mess with everybody and it’s working.” Is this what evil looks like? Update: As of right now, Lee has not expressed any motivation in dating Rachel. His sole goal is to goad Kenny into a place of anger.
The exploration of Southern culture continues from Lee’s cowboy boots to Bluffton, South Carolina, where Rachel goes on a date with human marionette Jack Stone. Walking straight from Geppetto’s workshop to the Bachelorette mansion, Jack Stone speaks exclusively in platitudes grafted from other dating shows. Sometimes, he botches the execution: “Had I just walked in there, all of my eyes would have been on you,” he says. How many eyes did your creator endow you with, young Jack Stone?
Throughout their date, during which Jack Stone dances like his legs are — you guessed it — controlled by string, Jack Stone continually expresses how shocked he is that Rachel is wonderful. Note for the future: That is insulting.
After they dance, Rachel might've made Bachelorette history. Was this the first time a Bachelorette has ever waved the sick card when a man leaned in for a kiss?
Unfortunately for Jack Stone, things don't get better during their one-on-one. In a series of escalating blunders, Jack Stone says he “feels like he gets” Rachel’s federal judge of a father; then, when Rachel asks what his perfect date in Dallas would consist of, he says he’d want to “lock the door,” lay down, and hang out. She is not feeling it.
Objectively, Rachel remarks that there’s something missing with her relationship with Jack; yes: Instead of having a soul, he has highly expressive facial movements programed into him by his master.
This writes itself. The minute Rachel declines to give him the rose, Jack Stone’s programming malfunctions. His head begins to bob around, floating in abject silence. With nary a word, he returns to Geppetto’s workshop, having ruined his chance to be a real boy.
While Rachel and Jack Stone are on their date, Will uses U.N.-level diplomacy and patience to explain the power of language to Lee. Believing Lee to be ignorant in the way that words can trigger people, Will communicates that the word “aggressive” has a negative, racially charged connotation. Lee says he's upset that Kenny is playing the "race card."
After the date, Rachel is clearly exhausted by her travails dodging kisses and volleying small talk with her fellow Dallas lawyer. She cancels the cocktail party. Only Peter — seriously, guys, he’s observant — remarks upon what a tough time Rachel has been having.
During the rose ceremony, Rachel sends the Jonathan the Tickle Monster and Iggy the Gossip Queen home. Referring to himself in the third person, the Ticket Monster says, “I gotta find a girl who appreciates a good set of tickling.” On behalf of Refinery29, we hope none of you find out what a “good set of tickling” means.
Just a marker for your DVR: It’s during the rose ceremony that Kenny’s play on words achieves even greater heights than English professors around the country thought possible. Kenny calls Lee a “rep-ti-lee-an” and a “lee-zard." The rest of us marvel at the soaring heights the English language achieves on The Bachelorette.
Now that the dirty business of rejection has been dealt with, Rachel announces that she and her suitors are traveling to heat up the icy landscape of Oslo, Norway with their slow seduction dance. Maybe, instead of continuing on with rose ceremonies, Rachel will unlock her ability to craft ice castles with her fingertips a la Elsa from Frozen and realize she doesn't need a man for fulfillment. Alas, we won't expect that kind of happy ending from The Bachelorette anytime soon.
Rachel, who has managed to compose herself back into a human being since her last moment on the yacht with Bryan, chooses the 37-year-old chiropractor for a one-on-one. Upon walking out of the café, Rachel promptly becomes a romantic sigh, personified, once again.
After hearing of Dean’s trials and tribulations on the Goodyear blimp last week, Bryan should know better than to be excited about a one-on-one date, which are derived from recycled Fear Factor stunts.
In the latest series of impossibly terrifying one-on-one dates, Rachel and Bryan thrust themselves off a ski jump’s 187-foot apex, and slowly grapple their way down. Pulling an Aladdin, Bryan completes Rachel’s “fairy tale” and kisses her while they’re mid-air. For the rest of the date, Bryan enmeshes Rachel more deeply into his love den. At dinner, it’s Rachel who confesses her insecurities, not the other way around. The only big goss we learned about Bryan was that he had been in a four-year relationship.
At the end of the date, Bryan whips out the L word. Bryan says he is falling in love with her. It would be convenient for Bachelorette competition if, just as occurs in The Hunger Games stadium after every death, a large gong went off every time a man declares his love for Rachel.
Back at the house, in the latest insecurity rant, Eric expresses to Anthony that he’s concerned Rachel isn’t into the house’s Black men. Eric notices that during the five weeks so far, only Anthony has gotten a one-on-one date with Rachel. Anthony tells him to calm down; they’re all individuals, and he has a chance to build trust with her.
After reading the group card date, the mansion men find out that Lee and Kenny are going on a two-on-one date, because, of course. The remaining men prepare for their "hands on" date.
As it turns out, the men will be playing handball, a uniquely European blend of every sport involving a ball and net, with “a bunch of Vikings.” The men don surprisingly flattering full-body speedos. Coach Tom, who hasn’t smiled since 1989, gives the men the following pep talk: “Handball is a physical sport. Handball is life.”
It works. Handball motivates each man to show off his unique side. Josiah prides himself on playing fair and blocking all of Rachel’s shots — clearly missing the point. Will, as DeMario had done during the basketball date, impresses Rachel with his athletic prowess. And Peter, who understands Rachel the most intimately, disrupts the game by cuddling with her mid-court. Ever the rebel, Peter gets yelled at by Coach Tom.
Sidenote: Can we have a round-up of all of the men’s tattoos? I am very curious.
The second part of the group date turns into a bit of a talent show. Matt (who I swear we’re just seeing today for the first time) embroiders something onto a pillow. Alex reads her a letter. And Josiah? Josiah shows that while he’s good at stringing together smooth sentences — “Your beauty radiates from your core” — he’s bad at fooling Rachel.
It comes down to Peter the Gravely Voiced and Will the Optimist. Despite making out with Peter (and his ring? what’s up with that ring?) in a hot-tub, the setting of all Bachelorette romance, Rachel gives the rose to Will. Peter begins to question their relationship.
At last, the fun is over, and it’s come the time for Rachel to deal with the Lee and Kenny problem. Lee and Kenny prepare for their two-on-one date, of which only one will return victorious, in different ways. Kenny Facetimes with his daughter and cries. Lee polishes his boots and explains his strategy: “If he gets aggressive I’m just going to smile. Maybe wink. I know that the mile is more piercing to him than if I got into a yelling match.”
The contrast is too much to bear.
Rachel, Lee, and Kenny pile into a helicopter and descend into the wilderness, where no one but the producers can hear their uncomfortably charged game of “he said, he said.”
Rachel says that her end-goal for this two-on-one date is achieving clarity. After her first conversation with Kenny, she’s sure he’s being honest with her. Her gut feeling is to trust Kenny.
But Lee, who is by now the face of all evil, the hissing snake in the garden of evil, says, “I can be pretty calculating sometimes. I can sit back and wit for the right moment.” He sabotages any semblance of peace Rachel had with Kenny by telling Rachel that Kenny has a drinking problem. When Kenny drinks, the “dark side” comes out.
Mind you, Lee still has yet to mention one thing about his feelings for Rachel. He’s there for one reason: To disrupt the show’s proceedings. Clearly, it’s working. Rachel brings Kenny aside for another confrontation. This time around, Kenny says that Lee is abjectly lying.
Rachel’s left with her lawyer hat on to parse the truth amidst the snakiness.
The episode ends with Kenny laughing sinisterly on his way to talk to the “short stacked Southern piece of garbage” that is Lee.
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