A hangover is never good. At best, you wake up feeling lethargic and roughly 80% worse than you did during your likely very fun evening prior. At worst, you’re confused and can’t really get out of bed. Whatever antics you pulled off mere hours earlier are now a distant, impossible-to-recreate, memory.
If you watched Tuesday night’s Bachelorette episode, “Week 6,” this conundrum sounds familiar. The chapter forces sparkling lead Tayshia Adams to take a backseat to the rising drama between two second-string contestants: Chasen Nick and Ed Waisbrot, who spend the episode arguing over words like “smedium” and “amazing.” The effect is two hours of television that appear painfully boring. But, “Week 6” isn’t actually an out-of-character Bachelorette snoozefest. It’s the episode that finally brings the reality show back to earth after five episodes of unmitigated, history-making mayhem.
It is overwhelming to realize just how much The Bachelorette season 16 threw at viewers in its initial 10 hours. The premiere covered the emotional effects of COVID-19 on original lead Clare Crawley, introduced us to dozens of men, and leaned all the way into Clare’s announcement that she “met her husband” during Night One. That latter detail on its own stands as a historic moment in Bachelor Nation history. In subsequent episodes, Clare coaxed a man into what was essentially live therapy through a date and dealt with the trauma of past domestic abuse. She also fell so quickly in love with Dale Moss that their first date ever became a fairly explicit Fantasy Suite. By “Week 4,” Chris Harrison was rushing to toss together a proposal, going so far as to FaceTime jewelry designer Neil Lane from inside of the Bachelorette bubble to demand a rush-order engagement ring.
Most Bachelorette seasons would feel exhausted to capture just three of these moments in a 13-episode season. The 2020 Bachelorette got through all of that story in a month, leaving the show to introduce a new Bachelorette and four new contestants by only its fifth week. “Week 5” is a shot of adrenaline for a season that already hasn’t caught its breath.
“Week 6” finally allows The Bachelorette to take that breather, which, by design, slows down the frenetic momentum that has come to define the season — the kind of momentum that isn't sustainable for a coherent look at the blossoming love story of Tayshia Adams. Rather than lean all the way into a single connection — as The Bachelorette had to do with Clare and Dale — we get small suggestions of who may eventually win Tayshia’s heart. Tayshia and Ben Smith start to open up to each other about their vulnerabilities. She and Ivan Hall have a sexy blindfold-based kiss. Tayshia’s conversations with Brendan Morais prove their relationship has progressed further than anyone else's romance. Doctor Joe Park gets a few minutes to shine, at last.
The Bachelorette can’t go all-in on any of these relationships because it needs to maintain each and every one for a season that can continue beyond four rushed episodes. To ensure that works, the series needs to simultaneously drum up the tensions between its silliest cast members. That is how we get far more footage of Chasen and Ed’s nonsensical feud than anyone could desire — or Bennett Jordan’s robe-at-a-cocktail-party stunt. While no Bachelorette viewer will be able to hear the words “grown,” “ass,” or “man” individually — or, heaven’s forbid, together — without shuddering after this episode, the eye roll-inducing content is a means to an end for the longevity of The Bachelorette.
This snoozy “Week 6” mechanism isn’t actually new to the series. In Hannah Brown’s 2019 season, “Week 6” of The Bachelorette was the much-panned clip show. When Becca Kufrin was the Bachelorette in 2018, the central theme of her “Week 6” was the dispute between Chris Randone and Lincoln Adim. During the episode, Chris threatens Lincoln, saying, “Don’t put your hands on me. I would destroy you.” It’s a line that would be more than comfortable in Chasen and Ed’s 2020 war of words, which nearly evolves into a (producer-goaded) physical brawl during Tuesday night’s wrestling date. While the addition of Ed’s baby doll and Chasen’s limited vocabulary was new to the series, the infighting wasn’t.
None of us want to listen to Tayshia’s men debate the ethics of the word “smokeshow” again. But it is the bitter ibuprofen The Bachelorette needed to get on with the season.