In Bachelor Nation, we like to joke that Chris Harrison claims that THIS SEASON is the most dramatic season yet and he says that EVERY SEASON but THIS time around, he might be right.
I don't think I quite have it in me to write a traditional recap (general Pandy Times anxiety, weird tension I have had in my neck and calf since early voting started, my personal worry that I'll have to wait in line 3.5 hours to vote--the standard time at my polling place--and won't have access to a bathroom at all) SO, I'll just share my hot takes with you, dear reader.
Oh dude, fuck you. Fuuuuck you. As of this episode, Yosef has attended 2 pre-rose ceremony cocktail parties and he has completely derailed each one. He approaches Clare looking for a fight (which is always a bad look and a style of engagement that truly makes me fearful of the guy), demands an audience with her, then trots out his prepared remarks about the strip dodgeball game (an activity that he DID NOT DO! He was not on that date! And THIS is why! Producers actually DO pay attention to who will enjoy what date activity). He says how this experience is so hard for him BECAUSE HE HAS A DAUGHTER and ever moment he is in Palm Springs, he is not with his daughter. Yes, that is how time works, guy. EVERYONE left their lives behind for this and you don't have any MORE important or worthy things that you are missing than anyone else does. If you feel like this is a waste of time, you can bounce! You don't need to ream Clare out for some BIG, TRIUMPHANT exit. Because it may be big, but it's not triumphant. Every sentence he said came off as needlessly cruel and VERY angry. He strikes me as a guy who is unhappy with his own life choices and he can't bring himself to look inward, so he lashes out at others, and, specifically, at women. I can't wait to see if they do a MEN TELL ALL special and the way that this guy shows his face in public again.
He says "remember, you're almost 40, Clare" and makes repeated snide comments that she's THE OLDEST BACHELORETTE EVER as if that's something to be ashamed off. Men like him, when scared, will always fall back on the standard misogyny insult line: she's old, she's crazy. He taps into a major insecurity ("everyone here is just appeasing you") and essentially gets chased out by the other men--men who are gentlemen and all say that he was out-of-line and completely inappropriate. My heart really went out to Clare as she was fighting with Yosef--that argument got DIRTY and MEAN and I know how it feels to be completely ON YOUR OWN and you have to defend yourself to a grown man who is screaming at you and insulting you. It's terrifying.
After all that, Dale comforts Clare especially well, and of course he does: he has 4 sisters and was raised by women! Honestly, dudes like that are usually SUPER perceptive to how a woman might be feeling. Throughout the episode, Dale refers to "verbal abuse" and the way those insults stay on your mind and leave scars and I was screaming, "YOU'RE DAMN RIGHT, DALE!" More on Dale later.
Worth noting: Riley knew that Yosef sucked from the start and was vocal that Yosef sucks. Points for Riley.
Clare goes away for a while to collect herself, then conducts a delayed rose ceremony that is pretty standard stuff. Three guys are sent home: a dude with very tall hair, a guy with a sorta snake-ish look, and Garin, college Professor (USC!) and journalist who I have been rooting for because he seems super solid and his Instagram is lovely. What a loss!
Throughout this episode, things didn't run on schedule--did you notice that as a recurring theme? The rose ceremony was LATE at night b/c of the Yosef drama. Then the next day, a crew of guys are ready to go for a daytime group date and they are given NO information on when they will be leaving, so are stuck waiting in the living room, "ready to go" for HOURS! Finally Clare shows up and is like, "we'll just do a cocktail party, OK?" Why not tell them that hours back? Dudes could nap or chill or swim!
While the dudes were stuck waiting around, Clare and DeAnna (former Bachelorette 12 years back) chat about the guys and Clare is ALL DALE, ALL DAY. Normally these "look, we're friends!" conversations happen, and the protagonist will gush over a few of the guys, plus DeAnna might have a chance to hang out with them poolside. But instead, Clare talks about how it was love-at-first-sight with Dale, how she sleeps with his pants over her face (I AM NOT KIDDING), and mentions no one else in the harem of dudes.
At the start of the group date that night, Dale gives a semi-patronizing speech (which Riley hilariously calls a "Band of Brothers" speech) and initiates a group hug and it all just feels like, dude are you a fellow contestant here or are you the new Chris Harrison? I think that Dale IS smart about how people are feeling and he's attempting to create a feeling of community BUT it's not his job to do that, it sorta usurps Clare's position, and it's condescending as hell to the other guys!
Clare and Dale walk off hand-in-hand to talk ("just 5 minutes!" Dale had claimed) and rather than remaining in the outdoor area on a bench or something, they go off TO HER PLACE and, specifically, to her BEDROOM for ALMOST AN HOUR. ALMOST AN HOUR!! Good Lord! Look, I am a Bachelor die-hard and I waste SO much brain space with stupid minutiae about this damn franchise, its traditions and characters, but this is not OK and not normal. YET ALSO I can totally get why Clare is falling for Dale so hard! He is super handsome but more than that, he's supportive, thoughtful, and tender with her. For many, many years I dated so many dudes and casual dating, or even not-so-casual dating can leave you defensive and lonely. I got stood up a few times, insulted, ghosted, mislead, and humiliated and it really made me defensive toward ANY guy, which made it even harder to let a good one in. So when you find a good one and he serves up the catnip of "I'm proud of you" and "I have your back," you're going to jump in HARD. BUT I wish that Clare had a bit more confidence in herself, which I think would enable her to appreciate Dale's affection, but also keep DALE on his toes by flirting with and paying attention to the other men.
I blame the destruction of this season on 2 things: Clare and The Producers. Clare is off-the-rails, never seemed to have a fully open mind and open heart to non-Dale participants, and she is being disrespectful to these guys who left a lot back at home to be here (you still suck, though, Yosef). And The Producers aren't wrangling her well enough. Dates are running late or not even happening and the Bachelorette is wandering off for hours at a time. This season is difficult and unprecedented: they are stuck at this resort and really cannot GO anywhere, DO anything, or interact with other people, so I have sympathy for how the team behind the show is SCRAMBLING and dealing with unpredictable issues. That said, the Producers need to control this and force Clare to spend more time with each guy. I felt like Chris Harrison talking with Clare 1:1 (start of episode) and DeAnna talking to her were moves to try and get a sense of WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?
Once the other guys on the group date pried Clare and Dale apart, some guys started having 1:1 time with her and then we see a clip of Clare asking the Producers, "can we kind hurry the rest along?" which is a BAD LOOK for Clare, and very duplicitous of the show to air (so, par for the course). I think that the show wants to expose Clare at this point. During Jojo's season, they were able to sort of hide Jojo's obvious crush on Jordan because Jojo had SOME interest in the other guys. With Clare, the Producers can't hide it b/c Clare talks about Dale constantly.
Riley, Eazy, Chasen, and Jason all gave Dale some grief for how he behaved and I appreciate those guys for it. Jason went FULL LONG ISLAND when he literally said, "you think you're better than me?" to Dale and flipped off the camera. Jason, are you sure you're from Long Island and not Boston??
The next day, Zach J. (aka FART BOX) has a 1:1 date and it's hard to watch because he's so hopeful and naive. Gosh this season has SO MANY additional, odd layers happening and it's FASCINATING to watch and keeps the franchise fresh and unpredictable, but it's truly VERY cruel to these men. Zach J. comes off as very sweet and likable during this date, if a bit simple? They get pedicures, Clare reveals that she's not at all ticklish (weird?), then they go swimming and KISSGATE goes down. Lord did you see that bizarro kiss attempt/abort?? They were swimming and Clare went to get out of the pool and leaned in to kiss Zach J and she leaned in 80% toward him and I expected him to pop up that last 20% but he just STOOD THERE and did NOTHING, so Clare high-tailed it outta there in a cloud of uncomfortable giggles and "let's get ready for dinner" requests. Again, and I DO feel bad for Clare here as she navigate these feelings, but when you aren't just relaxed and curious about a guy, but rather feeling a bit wounded or defensive or unexcited, then you take a chance like leaning in for a kiss, it makes the perceived rejection TEN TIMES WORSE. Oh man I have walked this road. My old roommate Liz used to tell me that I had a tendency to perceive EVERYTHING as rejection (and then she handed me START WHERE YOU ARE by Pema Chodron and saved my life) and I see Clare doing there here, too, somewhat.
I think that Clare is feeling wounded by a few of the men and she perceives Dale as her supportive, safe place to land, and all of the other guys are just collateral damage.
Of course, there IS no dinner after all. Poor Fart Box gets cleaned up and then sits there waiting for Clare to arrive for diner, but Chris Harrison shows up and sends him home instead. Again, UNPRECEDENTED. I don't think that Chris has EVER doing the sending home in this way. I would think that it's a breach of contract, to be specific. And that leads me to the end of this show/season: I think the issue ends up being that by disregarding the other men and not participating in many dates and such, Clare is breaching her contract with ABC. And my hunch is that while she WANTS to simply be with Dale, she ends up being upset when Chris Harrison/the Producers are like, "we cannot continue this season and you are breaching your contract."
The back half of this episode features a Bachelorette Roast (with guest star Margaret Cho who RULES) during which, every guy GOES IN ON Dale (who is in the audience since they are all trapped in this bonkers hellscape resort) but no one goes in harder than Old Timey Oil Baron, Bennett. Bennett KILLED me here! Way to go, dude. You're more than just a Harvard jag!
In a move that we standups call "every bachelorette party who shows up at a comedy show," Clare insists that she wants the guys to "come at me with some good material" then leaves the show practically in tears. She feels defensive for Dale over all those roast jokes and then refers to him as her "fiancee" to Producers and I thiiiiink we're done here. During the afterparty, Clare spends the entire night asking each non-Dale guy what they think of Dale and the guys are finally seeing the writing on the wall and are understandably pissed. Well, everyone sees it except for Bennett who talks to Boy Band Manager Kenny (does Kenny own a single shirt that isn't open to his belly button??) and he insists that, "No, no, Clare is open to us! She has an open heart." Oh Bennett--you're that classic dude who is book smart but real world DUMB. Not everything is a theoretical construct to be studied abstractly--some things are FELT and just perceived, if you have the skills to do so.
Clare and her yellow, sparkly dress sit there among the guys and she clutches the date rose at a bizarrely high height (eye line for the camera I guess?), but Clare opts NOT TO GIVE IT TO ANY OF THEM, saying that they didn't give her QUITE what she needed that night and PLEASE JUST MAKE IT STOP!! My heart is breaking for ALL of these guys, even dolt Bennett!!
In a clip that will be used for generations to come as an example of the extreme danger of excessive self-love, Clare then does a talking head clip in which she PRESENTS THE ROSE TO HERSELF and is proud of herself for loving herself or not accepting bad treatment or some other such slight that she has convinced herself is happening, even though every guy there WANTED to treat her right and be with her, but she wouldn't let them. It's a fascinating thing to watch, the way that people craft a narrative for who they are and how they get treated, and process every moment or interaction through that lens. Perception is reality, baby, and if you are convinced that every guy is no good and doing you wrong, then, well, every guy will be no good and do you wrong.
Next Tuesday, the shit goes down on The Bachelorette (to say nothing of the Presidential election) and I won't be watching until Wednesday because my BF and I are going out for his birthday that Tue. My BF is the Dale to my Clare, ya know? Hahaha what a bad metaphor!
So the episode ends with Chris Harrison telling Clare that she blew up The Bachelorette, Clare being kicked out of the resort (it seems?), and Bachelor all-star knockout rad chick TAYSHIA springing out of a pool in a bikini!!!
THIS IS THE MOST DRAMATIC SEASON EVER!!