The Bachelorette Season 16, Episode 9 Recap: What’s In The Box?

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
Content warning: This episode includes discussions about self-harm.
This season of The Bachelorette is proving to be the heaviest ever. Not only is it taking place during a pandemic, but this group of contestants has been opening up about personal situations in a way we haven’t seen before. From overcoming addiction to dealing with racism to mental health issues, these guys are going deep and bringing reality into the show in a major way. That continued tonight — after we finally dealt with Noah versus Bennett, that is. 
Last week’s episode ended with Tayshia asking, “What’s in the box?” in reference to the “presents” Bennett gave Noah on their two-on-one: a pair of mustache socks, a bandana, and a book about emotional intelligence. Bennett tells Tayshia, “That was a gift that I, um, gave to Noah.” It’s left at that. If I was Tayshia, I’d be opening that box myself. 
Tayshia pulls Bennett aside and asks if he really said there was a zero percent chance of her and Noah being together — like Noah claimed — because she doesn’t want anyone to question her decisions. Bennett says he would never question her integrity, but wants her to know that he has “witnessed deficiencies in three of the four” criteria of emotional intelligence in Noah. Why would he assume she even cares about this? Emotional intelligence criteria isn't something people just talk about. 
In Noah’s chat, he tells Tayshia what the gift was (she really doesn’t seem to care), and explains that "people shouldn’t be talked to like they’re less,” which is what Bennett did to him.
Tayshia kicks off Bennett. It seems like he’s acting when he says “Holy cow!” and “I’m shocked!” Really, dude who the producers convinced to give another contestant a present? You’re “shocked"? I don’t buy it. 
Tayshia returns to Noah. He’s thrilled and chugging Tic Tacs (thanks for keeping that in, editors). “No, don’t be smiling,” Tayshia says. “That wasn’t a victory for you.” She isn't sure how she feels about him, doesn’t give him the rose, and will see him at the cocktail party. Isn’t that as good as sending him home? If it’s not now, it’s bound to happen eventually. Her relationships with the other men are so much more stable. 
At the cocktail party, Riley pulls Tayshia aside to celebrate their one week anniversary. Does this mean that Tayshia has only been there a week? That doesn’t seem possible, but she’s only had three one-on-one dates at this point, so maybe it is. That's wild.
At the rose ceremony, Tayshia gives roses to Brendan, Riley, Blake, Ivan, and Noah. Of course. They join Zac and Ben, who are already safe. Demar, Ed, and Spencer are sent home. Replacement host JoJo Fletcher looks like she’s going to bust out laughing at having to say Chris Harrison’s lines.
The next day, Ben gets the one-on-one date. JoJo set up a “fun, amazing oasis” and they have to ride scooters around La Quinta and follow clues in order to find it. The oasis is a bench and a bottle of wine. JoJo, really
The theme of Tayshia and Ben’s date is that he needs to open up more, and this continues on to dinner. As a viewer, this is surprising, because just last week Ben stripped naked and told Tayshia that about his struggles with an eating disorder. Tayshia gave him a rose, specifically, because he had opened up.
So, to see her pushing him to open up again doesn’t make sense, until he actually does share something more. He’s clearly nervous, but eventually tells Tayshia that after injuring his back, he had to leave the army at age 26 and went through a dark time. He then had “two failed suicide attempts” in 2018 and 2019. 
“I don’t mean to throw that on you,” he says. “This is like a weird thing to do here.” He says his sister and going to therapy saved him. Tayshia doesn’t say too much, but shows her support and is appreciative of him talking to her about this. 
If I had to guess what happened here: The producers knew Ben’s story, and encouraged Tayshia to ask him to open up. Otherwise, why would she keep asking him to tell her more, when he’s already shared so much? I also have to imagine (because I really hope this is the case) that Ben approved sharing the story prior to his conversation with Tayshia. It felt like he knew he was going to launch into it.
Whenever a contestant shares a deep story on The Bachelor/ette, it’s emotionally manipulative in one way or another. After all, you generally don’t share something so personal with someone you’ve only known a short time. The contestant feels closer with the lead for opening up; the lead feels closer because the contestant trusted them. On the one hand, if the contestants decide to share, that’s their decision. On the other, should anyone be put in that position in the first place? This is true every time a contestant opens up about something personal; Ben’s conversation just throws it into stark relief. 
In the end, Ben is very brave, and in his time on the show has helped in destigmatizing conversations about eating disorders and mental health. Ben gets the rose. He and Tayshia dance to some singer named Adam Hambrink. 
Next up is the group date with Ivan, Riley, Zac, Brendan, and Noah. It’s a lie detector test, because honesty is important and they are stuck in a resort with limited activities. The test will light up green for truth, red for a lie, and orange if it can’t tell. 
Mostly, JoJo and Tayshia ask the guys questions that are more about feelings, so not really truths or lies. “Are you ready to meet Tayshia’s family?” There's not a quantifiable answer to that. Notably, Zac admits that he cheated on someone. And, at the beginning of Riley’s test, JoJo asks if he’s used lie detector tests with his clients as a lawyer. “I refuse to let them,” he says. “They’re not always accurate.” Then, when Riley is asked his name, the test lights up red. Tayshia is confused.
Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
At night, Tayshia talks to Zac and tells him that cheating is the main reason her marriage ended and it's a dealbreaker for her. Zac shares his dramatic tale of cheating in which he dated one girl and kissed another… at Bowl-A-Rama in the sixth grade. His presentation of this is actually pretty funny. Tayshia and Zac tell each other that they’re falling in love. 
As for Riley, he's really scared about sharing something about his family with Tayshia. What he ends up telling her is kept pretty vague: When he was young, his dad got sole custody of him and his brother and “took some things from [his mother] that didn’t belong to him outright.” At the time, he resented his mom based on what his dad told him, but now he sees that he missed a lot of time he could have had with her. “It got to a point where I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror,” he says, not explaining further. (At least from what we’re shown.) In an effort to start over and become “a better man,” he got a legal name change. This is why the lie detector test showed a red light. Tayshia says, “You’re still smiling and you're stronger than hell.”
Remember what I said about the show being intense this season? 
At the end of the night, Tayshia decides not to give out the group date rose. She says she had impactful conversations with all of the men, so she’d rather wait for the rose ceremony.
But, just when it seems like it’s all over and Tayshia is heading back to her suite… “Hello, Tayshia.” It’s Bennett. They head to her suite to talk and Bennett says he’s in love with her and realized it the moment she sent him home. Tayshia says she wasn’t planning to let him go that night. He says he’s not expecting anything from her, but wanted to tell her how he feels in case there’s “an ounce” of her that wants to explore their relationship further. She says she needs to think about it and will let him know in the morning. Ugh. A Bennett-related cliffhanger again.
Next week: Two episodes. More Bennett. Everyone cries. The Men Tell All.
Winner of the episode: Ben and Riley. These guys went through a lot putting their personal lives out there. I’m sure their stories connected with a lot of viewers. As for a "winner" in the frontrunner sense, I have to go with Zac.
Loser of the episode: Bennett. Unless we get a real curveball and he and Tayshia end up engaged, I want him gone. Enough!
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.

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