Never has it been more clear that The Bachelorette exists in an alternate unicorn happyland than tonight, when contestants engaged in political debate. Well, "political" debate. A group date forced them into a pageant-style conversation in which they had to respond to questions such as "What's your idea of the perfect Virginia date?"
The Bachelorette is always a sham — a sham with a dash of true love — and a fake debate amidst 2018's rabid political turmoil is bizarre. It's the reality television equivalent of that dog sitting in the burning house, remarking, "This is fine." The Bachelorette boys visit the birthplace of the country and the show doesn't have the courage to make any sort of statement about politics. Love, in this world, is apolitical. It's also banal — the Bachelorette thrives on platitudes — and largely nonsexual.
Which isn't to say the show should ask contestants to quote The Atlantic and discuss the advantages of strap-ons, but, you know. It wouldn't hurt.
Reading between the lines of tonight's mostly boring episode, there are a few new relationships crowning. There's Jason, who gets his first one-on-one, and there's Leo, who never seemed like he stood a chance. Jason is cardboard American stock: He's a banker, he wears gel in his hair, and he seems just loose enough to enjoy most things. Leo, by contrast, is a California odd boy out. His hair is long and unkempt. He's ever-so-slightly unsure of himself, even though he throws himself off buildings for a living. (That's what stuntmen do, right?) They are men on opposite sides of the (very narrow) Bachelorette spectrum. Leo is of the new-to-the-franchise variety. He says things beyond "I feel like I'm falling in love with you." He has an intriguing career. And, he actually wears his heart on his sleeve, which is to say, he's nervous as hell. Jason is swell — the comparison to Andrew Keegan is pretty apt — but he's nothing beyond the show's usual fare.
The real meat of the episode, though, involves Chris, who is always on the brink of a meltdown. This episode, he breaks. He gets into several scuffles with Lincoln. He argues with Becca. He somehow gets Connor, a man we've all but forgotten, involved. Chris did a lot of work tonight, friends. He deserves a round of applause. Or at least another try at Paradise? For the sake of time, we'll start with the fight.
The Fight #1: It starts during pre-episde pitter-patter. Chris complains that he needs a date this week, even if it's a two-on-one. He's being generally aggressive and mournful, like if Eeyore had a baby with Danny Zuko. The conversation with Lincoln escalates, and Lincoln eventually calls Chris a "fat fuck."
"You just body-shamed me," Chris says, flabbergasted.
"Don't push up on me," Lincoln warns.
"Don't push up on me," Lincoln warns.
Meanwhile, Wills, the guardian of truth and the final horcrux (because he owns a part of my soul), is yawning. The other men look bewildered. This conversation will be referenced throughout the episode.
One-on-one #1: Jason's date! This all but proves that Becca has boring taste in men. She sent home Venmo John last week — that should have been the first sign of bad judgement. (Venmo John will be in Paradise, folks.)
They wander around Richmond, an activity only The Bachelorette thinks is viable date activity. They make a cake, for whatever reason, and go to the church where Patrick Henry asked for liberty. Things pick up with they go to an "unhappy hour." This amounts to a group of people in all black celebrating sadness. For two very non-goth people, Becca and Jason take this part of the date quite well.
The real heft of the date — the twist — is when Jason's friends show up, one of whom is named Hawk Jameson. They promise Becca that Jason is a good guy. Jason is overcome, seeing his friends, and the scene is more emotional than most Bachelorette dates. Properly vetted, Jason and Becca skip off to trade emotional burdens at dinner.
The Bachelorette always engages in this kind of emotional bartering. One contestant shares a troubling memory, and, in turn, the lead does, too. I do think this is how intimacy is established, but it's bizarre to see it play out so formally. Here, Jason tells Becca that his grandmother had Alzheimer's and he couldn't bear to see his father witness it. Becca then recalls watching her father die. Having done the trade-off, they kiss, sealing their newfound intimacy. Jason gets a rose.
"Jason was worth the wait," Becca tells the camera.
The Group Date: The debate date! The Virginia governor even shows up to see this fake debate unfurl. His question: What's the perfect date? He gives it to Colton, who apparently doesn't know Miss Congeniality well enough to say "April 25."
He says that he'd bring Becca to a dog park.
The date goes off the rails when Chris says that some of the men aren't being honest. He says, plainly, that Lincoln fat-shamed him. He also alludes to the men being crude to Becca in private, which is slightly more interesting. (Is there crude 'locker room talk' in the Bachelorette house?) Lincoln and Chris start hollering at one another once more, and the date devolves from there.
There's some back and forth with Lincoln and Becca and Chris later when Lincoln tells Becca that Connor is afraid to share a room with Chris. Connor refutes this, stammering his way through a defense. This is the real debate, friends, watching Chris and Lincoln spar at the rose ceremony. Connor — wearing a stunning pair of glasses; where were those before? — is petrified when he somehow becomes involved. Clearly, most of the guys are not interested in this feud.
Amid the drama, though, Colton finagles Becca into giving him the rose. I still do not trust Colton, and I believe Wills — who said he was falling in love, okay! — deserved it.
One-on-one #2: Leo! A quiet but earnest guy, Leo deserved more air time on this show. I don't mean to speak in the past tense, but it seems clear that Leo's ship has sailed. Becca has stronger relationships with other men, and Leo is still around because he should be. Leo should stick around long enough to end up on Paradise. One woman's opinion.
His date consists of oyster farming, which looks like an exceedingly fun activity. They dredge and eat oysters, giggling all the while. They're having fun, despite the stinky events of the group date that week. Leo says he's "gleeful."
"She should feel like she has the freedom to feel and choose as she wants," Leo says at one point, proving that he might not have the spirit for this show.
Later, they have dinner, where Leo shares that he's always felt inadequate. His story, less visibly traumatic than Jason's, is more plaintive. Perhaps it's more relatable. He's a stuntman appearing on The Bachelorette who wishes he'd been better at baseball. He could have been a contender. And, instead, he's here. Becca assures him that she thinks he's wonderful. He gets a rose, and they attend one of the Bachelorette's signature solo dance concerts.
The Fight Finale: What happens when someone gets so riled up that they can't just sit in their hotel anymore? They go to the lead's hotel, of course! Chris, hot and bothered, treks to Becca's hotel through the empty streets of Richmond, VA. He is angry at Lincoln. ("She needs to know what kind of monster Lincoln is. The man eats 12 eggs every day!" Chris tells the camera.)
He looms over the night in his camel-colored coat, angry and determined. Becca, still sheathed in her one-on-one dress, greets him.
Chris says, "I feel attacked."
Becca points out, "You've also done some attacking."
Then, she sends him home. Because the thing is, when someone is rabidly defending their own honor, it's just not that hot. And The Bachelorette sort of plays by Paris Hilton's rules.
The Rose Ceremony: There is no cocktail party this week. Becca is mad. Becca isn't having the pitter-patter of angry men. The men are crestfallen, especially Connor, who knows his number is up. Alas, Becca sends him home. There lies the show's youngest contestant. (He was 25.) Lincoln also goes home, so maybe Chris can finally rest.
The Dearly Departed: Chris, Connor, Lincoln