Sex talk on The Bachelorette is usually uncomfortable. During Rachel Lindsay’s season, contestant Jack Stone came off creepy — not seductive — when he told the Bachelorette he dreamed of spending time in bed with her “in a locked room.” Hannah Brown admitting she “fucked in a windmill” led to one of the most upsetting conversations in the history of the series. Clare Crawley and Tayshia Adams seemingly were not allowed to host overnight dates before the Fantasy Suites — despite their entire production schedule revolving around a resort they shared with their contestants.
These moments should be the limit on The Bachelorette and “intimacy” awkwardness, as they say as a rose-colored euphemism on the series. But, Monday night’s “Week 12,” aka The Fantasy Suites Episode, handcrafted a brand new way to sow sex panic in its contests. It came off as mean — and unnecessary.
In the first proper scene of “Week 12,” cameras settle back in on the men’s shared, clubhouse-y hotel room at La Quinta. Tayshia's top three contestants — Ivan Hall, Zac Clarke, and Brendan Morais — all sit on the couch in various states of stress, pondering the heavy implications of the week. It is unclear if any of the guys actually stay here, or if they’re just herded into the space for filming. We do know they’re forced to stew on the fact that the other two men in the room may sleep with Tayshia, the woman they’re falling in love with, in the coming hours.
“It’s definitely getting harder to be around you guys,” Zac announces. “After this week, it’s gonna be weird,” Ivan agrees. All Brendan can do is stammer about the “strange dynamic” of this week. No one feels comfortable sharing their fears plainly: It’s upsetting to imagine your girlfriend — and someone you might propose to in week’s time — having sex with a man lounging three feet away from you. This isn’t normal, no matter how well everyone understands the Bachelorette game.
“We all know Ivan’s a good dude. I would let my sister date him. I don’t know how I feel about my girlfriend dating him,” Zac says, encapsulating as much as the men feel free to admit.
The punishing setup only worsens over “Week 12.” The Bachelorette producers force whichever two men didn’t go on the current Fantasy Suite date to return to their central living space and wait for the overnight suitor to return. As the guys stand by, they theorize what could have happened on the Fantasy Suite, once again dancing around the implicit suggestion that their co-star had sex with the Bachelorette. “I’m sure Ivan’s feeling on top of the world,” Brendan tells an obviously on-edge Zac.
The experience doesn’t improve once the cast is reunited post-Fantasy Suite. Ivan repeatedly says how “great” and “cool” getting the Fantasy Suite card was, in a clear attempt to be honest, yet not disrespectful, of his co-stars. Still Zac looks quietly enraged when Ivan, pressed by Brendan, admits he “didn’t sleep” during the “long night” of a date and watched the sunrise with Tayshia. The possibility of marathon Fantasy Suite sex hangs over the room (even if it’s entirely possible Ivan and Tayshia talked the entire time, as many Bachelor Nation leads say is necessary). When Zac returns from his Fantasy Suite, the three men sit in excruciating and prolonged silence. Ivan stares up at the ceiling.
It didn’t have to be this way. If it felt weird to watch these interactions, that’s because they had never occurred on The Bachelorette before. Traditionally on Bachelorette and Bachelor, producers sequester the top three in their own private lodgings starting with Fantasy Suites. This move allows the finalists to invest in their unique connection without the jealousy or insecurity of watching the object of their affection continue to date anyone else. This is vital considering the sexual undertones of Fantasy Suites week. Colton Underwood’s Bachelor season actively clued viewers into how separate contests tend to be at this time. Colton had to go to Hannah Godwin and Tayshia to individually break up with them during Fantasy Suites week — they weren't even in the same Airbnb.
No contestants could have been afforded similar consideration in an easier manner than Ivan, Zac, and Brendan. They are stuck at a resort that is over 45 acres large. If production wanted to give the men their privacy at this delicate time with separate rooms, they could have. La Quinta must have the space. Even if every other villa was somehow booked during a pandemic, producers certainly didn’t have to goad the men into waiting up for their co-stars after their Fantasy Suites like a pair of disappointed parents.
Peter Weber’s season of The Bachelor — the only other Bachelor Nation season to trap the top three in a kindred situation — may explain why such a nightmare unfolded on The Bachelorette. Finalists Hannah Ann Sluss, Madison Prewett, and Victoria Fuller shared a hotel room in Australia for Fantasy Suites after Victoria's now-infamous celibacy ultimatum. “[Peter Weber], the king of kicking the can down the road. Heaven forbid you make a decision. But there are things that we do as producers that will force you into this uncomfortable zone and force you into making a decision,” host/producer Chris Harrison told Bachelor Happy Hour podcast about the decision in February. “Sometimes we do it for your behalf, sometimes we do it for the Bachelor, the guys, or the girls.”
It's unclear whom the Bachelorette producers were specifically puppetmastering with their “Week 12” plot, but they did end up with the explosive Fantasy Suites ending of their dreams. Brendan abruptly self-eliminates, creating the perfect space for a surprise Ben Smith re-entry and three-person rose ceremony. It's almost like they planned it that way.