Welcome back to the second bloodied leg of The Chad Show, ABC’s ultimate will-they-or-won’t-they-die summer docudrama in which a relaxed pool gathering quickly devolves into a disappointing horror movie. And you thought this was a friendly dating show? That’s so cute. Wait, are you looking directly at Chad, who’s begging for attention 24/7? How many times does he have to blink in your direction before you learn to never do that? Chad the Meat Monster, the greatest super-villain to hit the Bachelor franchise since Shady Nick, is lurking around JoJo’s impromptu pool party, desperate for mentions of his own name and more reasons to punch people. “I’m not here to start issues with you guys” is clearly the new “I’m not here to make friends,” because all this monster wants is an old-fashioned fight. He nearly finds a punching bag in Derek, who told JoJo about Chad’s negativity and threats of violence in the house (to be fair, she asked). But the investment banker keeps a remarkably level head in the face of Chad making things absurdly competitive and personal. (“Whatever guy like me once stole your girlfriend…” etc.) Chad accuses Derek of “stalking JoJo on TV” and really studying up before his big trip to the mansion — and Derek’s reply here is the best, delivered in perfect upspeak: “Why would you NOT watch the show?” I really hope The Bachelorette is using this in all of its promos for the rest of the season; otherwise what does any of this mean? Buzzkill: Now there’s a rose ceremony, during which JoJo waits ’til the last minute to keep Chad purely for the drama, then dumps Ali (who?), Christian (who cares?), and jolly old 33-year-old St. Nick B., who deserves so much better than this unceremonious boot. Back up the trash-lined chimney of the dating world he goes…
Chad and his dark storm cloud seem very out of place in sunny L.A., so naturally the smart thing to do is invite both of them to the first stop on the gang’s romantic journey around the whole wide world. Oh, cool, it’s…some desolate woods in the middle of Pennsylvania. Huh. Okay. A bit murder-y, but fine. Apropos. They’re all gonna perish, you know. As the rest of the guys settle into their new death lodge and attempt to avoid the meat monster, JoJo whisks away Luke the model-esque war vet for a one-on-one date to a totally enchanted, bear-dotted forest. “He’s in IMPECCABLE shape,” JoJo marvels as today’s beau chops up some wood for their hot tub, then strips down to a bathing suit on command. What is this, a dog show? Why aren’t we more closely inspecting his haunches instead of hers? There’s just no time, and that water is so hot. They’ve got to go eat dinner and hit another pointless private concert.
Much of their conversation seems like a scripted vehicle for Luke to talk about his friend who died in Afghanistan and establish that he DOES still have the ability to feel things after going to war. “I know that Luke would make an amazing husband,” JoJo gushes. My biggest question: Is Luke tall enough for JoJo? He’s got 6 inches on her, but she tends to prefer at least a whole head above. This bachelorette loves to nestle — we’ve all seen it. With Luke, she has to sort of bend her knees and tuck her head in as they slow-dance. I’m just saying it’s more effort than she’s used to, and I’m surprised she’s okay with it.
Back at the death lodge, a giant black bear serves as today’s extra security guard as Chad stretches out the rugged terrain of his body. Is it watching Chad? Or IS it Chad? “It’s not a wise decision to poke the Chad-bear,” says Chad, or maybe the bear?! Gosh, Pennsylvania is scary. And to up the horror: Tomorrow’s two-on-one date will feature Chad and Alex, and only one will return. The 13 other guys freak out in silence as if their beloved father is about to head off to war. “Alex is a real American hero,” explains Jordan, the impressively high-haired baby of this effed-up family. “This is for everybody.” But first, here’s the reason they’re all holing up in Nemacolin: a football group date with some real, live Pittsburgh Steelers. Woohoo! Nothing more romantic than strutting onto the playing field and seeing Big Ben “I settled sexual assault charges out of court, twice” Roethlisberger staring you down. Really, though, JoJo loves Ben (ugh, this is so last season) and they have a ball gossiping about her misgivings re: all the fellas. But before she can knock Evan’s manhood too thoroughly, the dick doc gets another nosebleed. We’d been fooled into believing Chad was the one responsible for Evan clutching his face in embarrassed agony, but nope. It’s just the unbearable bloodiness of being Evan. Also, James Taylor is legit bleeding from an actual contact sport, and JoJo can barely contain her delight at the prospect of someone suffering a concussion because of sweet little her. “Blood is just gushing down his face!” she cheers, more turned on by the “nicest man she’s ever met” than ever. He opts out of stitches, assuming his heroism will earn him the group date rose. But JoJo pins her petals on former football pro Jordan Rodgers, who barely had to break a sweat in either the athletic or emotional departments tonight to convince her they’re on the same page as far as pedigree.
The five football losers, plus Luke, Chad, and Papa Alex somehow cram into a sectional sofa intended for four non-meat monsters at most. “Who here has a problem with me?” bellows Chad out of nowhere. Half the guys raise their hands. He’s ‘roiding out again, but none of the bros are scared as long as they have the security guards and each other. Tomorrow, Papa Alex promises, “This energy that we all feel is gonna go away forever.” The sun comes up, and the hunt is on. It’s time for today’s epic battle: Chad vs. Alex, Evil vs. Good — or as Chad puts it: “A grown man vs. an angry child.” There he goes mistaking height for maturity again. Classic monster mistake. After a silent helicopter ride (which you’d think would be impossible, but this show just keeps pushing the envelope), Good and Evil stumble out into the woods. Lumber-JoJo is there to greet them in a cozy red flannel. Sure, there’s murder in the air, but it’s no big deal. If you live for love, you’ve got to be willing to die for it. Those are the rules. It’s hard to tell who will strike first during this thoroughly chilling hunting party: Chad and his temper, Alex and his deftly wielded words, or another black bear hungry for blood. The producers want so much more bear action, you can just tell, but instead we must settle for a low-key private gossip session between JoJo and Alex. The good soldier tells her everything: how fake Chad always acts around her, the way Chad threatened to find out where Jordan lives so he can beat the shit out of him post-filming, the way Chad’s sweat beads up on his throbbing neck muscles whenever he shreds in the sun. It’s eye-opening for JoJo, and that’s really not what she wanted because ugh, Evil is so much hotter to her than Good. Every time! What’s a bachelorette to do? “Like, I’m not an aggressive guy,” Chad lies to JoJo’s face. “Why are you smiling?” she flatlines. This is it. She has to turn the hot monster down. Maybe if he was willing to have conversations instead of threatening violence all the time, this could work out…but as she peers more closely, she realizes his looks could kill her right now. So, nah. Not gonna happen. As Lumber-JoJo trudges away in tears, Chad hurls his lovely blue tin cup into the lake. What kind of horror movie is this? Nothing’s even happening! “It’s just unfortunate that I can’t hurt you right now without getting into trouble,” Chad sighs as he slumps down for a breather, mere inches away from an already triumphant Papa Alex. The up-for-grabs date rose glistens extra brightly at the center of their grubby picnic blanket, and I wonder if it’s a decoy, a secret strawberry bait for the bears. No such luck. Alex gets the rose; there’s nothing sweeter. JoJo has officially dumped Chad and spends the rest of the night snuggling up with Alex in a quaint “zero sexual chemistry”-themed cabin. We all hoped Chad would be left for dead in the forest just like last season’s Olivia, stranded on an island and wondering why. (Those two could be very happy together, by the way, until one of them ends up in jail.) But the meat monster refuses to leave! In previews for the next episode in two weeks, Chad’s fingernails screech down a windowpane, then he’s somehow let inside the death lodge to continue tormenting the other guys. Is he merely a mirage? Did the bears get him? Will Chad and Olivia pop up as the hosts and only stars of this fall’s groundbreaking new Naked and Afraid spinoff, Bachelor in Purgatory? Stay tuned…