Hello! I’m Kathryn, and I’m stepping in for Ali tonight as your Bachelor recapper. There’ll be two recaps: one covering the first fantasy-suite shuffle toward the freezing finish line, then another published on Tuesday, about the two-hour “Women Tell All” talk-tastrophe.
We begin this hour with the barest scrap of narrative tension this franchise managed to wring out of last week’s unsatisfying half-measure of a fantasy suite episode. Did Nick give Raven an orgasm? Huh, I wonder if they’ll let Bachelor Nation believe anything other than that Nick Viall is an extraordinary lover who could melt even the most frozen Lapland princess.
Worry not, I guess. After a fairly mild-mannered departure (“It meant a lot to me!” “It meant a lot to me!”), we are treated to one of the dumbest, goofiest, most bizarrely juvenile orgasm-implying montages I have ever seen. Raven runs through the barely populated streets of Lapland, high-fiving strangers and petting dogs. She skips past a rainbow fence? She looks through a heart-shaped window? She frolics in the snow? At the end, she stands smiling in an elevator as it closes. What? As visual metaphors go, it doesn’t even make sense! Where is my old-timey train barreling into a wintry tunnel? Where is my crackling fire, my lit candle? Where are my Laplandish fireworks?!
Don’t get me wrong: I suppose I’m happy for Raven that Nick is, as she swears, “really good at what he does” and she’s “really satisfied today,” but I mostly just feel sorry for her. She does not need this reindeer-infested winter wonderland, or Nick Viall, of all people. She needs a vibrator and a glass of wine. Instead, she’s dancing around — alone, not even with the object of her affection — in this weird, semi-suggestive orgasm-dance montage that makes me cringe with after-the-fact contact humiliation. Can you imagine that conversation with the producers? “Hi, Raven, regardless of what happened last night, we need you to dance around in snowbanks and look slyly at the camera as though Nick Viall has finally shown you how to unlock the secrets of your own body and given you a pleasure you’ve never known before. Could you move your head a little to the left, please? Great, thanks.”
After dispensing with that nonsense, the episode moves on to the bigger events: Nick’s two remaining fantasy-suite dates with Vanessa and Rachel. We get Rachel first, and they’re very sexy together. They have a very classic, pre-fantasy-suite date, where she’s bad at skiing but in a reasonably cute way, and then they feed reindeer, and really, what is this season even doing? It will never cease to be unutterably weird that The Bachelor already announced that Rachel will be the next Bachelorette, especially given the edit she gets in this fantasy-suite sequence.
Rachel gives some classic late-season-frontrunner material here. Her biggest fear is rejection, and she talks about how hard it is to let her guard down. Nick teases her about previous dates where she lost it a little, and he helped her calm down again. (This does not fit with memory of those events, which generally involve Nick being useless in almost any emotional circumstance, but … okay, buddy.) And then we get two troubling statements. First, Rachel tells Nick him how rare it is that he likes being challenged (so he claims), and she calls him “rare and refreshing.” As excited as I am for Rachel’s Bachelorette season, and as happy as I am that she seems like the kind of person who could carry a season of this franchise with grace and humor and excellent wardrobe choices, this is a potentially troubling indicator of her discernment. Nick Viall? “Rare?” “Refreshing?” Really? At the very least, calling someone who has been on this franchise 70 billion times “rare” is quite a stretch.
Even worse is Nick’s response. After Rachel describes him as “rare and refreshing,” he replies, “I might be white, but I’m still a minority.”
Yeah. I’m just gonna let that one sit there so we can all meditate on how stunning that is. Nick Viall just told the woman who’s about to become the first black Bachelorette after dozens of white-as-the-Lapland-snow seasons of this damn franchise that he’s a minority. I know he’s joking, but yeah. No.
So they have a nice fantasy-suite date, and the next morning they cook eggs together and Rachel wears an adorable, fleece, penguin onesie situation, and then Nick’s off to reunite with Vanessa. Here’s where the decision to pre-announce that Rachel is the next Bachelorette starts to become truly odd. Nick’s chemistry with Rachel seems so natural and unforced, and they seem to truly enjoy each other’s company. Vanessa, meanwhile, cannot spend more than ten minutes in his company without bringing up how much he bugs her, and how “heavy” things always are between them.
Nick’s explanation for their tension is that they are “so similar,” a statement that makes even less sense after he’s careful to point out that she’s very traditional and he’s not traditional at all, that she loves living in Canada while he’s “like really … proud? To be an American?”, and that she wants to “murder Nick, chop him up, and feed him to the reindeer.” Although they never mention it, there’s also the whole issue that Vanessa is devoted to her career teaching special-needs adults, while Nick is devoted to his career of being on reality shows and hanging out with Elijah Wood. Surely, there were never two people so remarkably alike.
And yet, they are apparently so similar that it’s the thing Nick is most worried about in their relationship. They are both impulsive and stubborn. They’re passionate people who find themselves in “strong conversations.” They have “the potential to have more conflict,” given how similar they are. They might even hate each other? Even their date, which involves running back and forth between a sauna and an ice bath, looks more like a form of torture than a romantic interlude. But because we already know Rachel won’t win this season, and because Raven is an abashed Southern rose who’s happily running her hand along a rainbow-colored fence after experiencing her first orgasm, it’s hard not to read into this date. We’re looking at two people who actually care enough about each other to have some real fights.
The post-date aftermath scene is also significantly more convincing than Raven’s quiet “it meant a lot to me.” Vanessa is full postcoital ice queen, wrapped in a feathered comforter, confidently telling the camera that the fantasy suite only solidified her belief that Nick is “everything she wants in a husband and partner.” Even better, she now has “more of an appreciation for who Nick is.” That? That is far more suggestive than “he’s really good at what he does,” which sounds like a thing you whisper to your seventh-grade best friend after French-kissing a guy for the first time.
So it’s on to the long-delayed rose ceremony — the least dramatic, least suspenseful rose ceremony in all of Bachelor history. Given the audience’s knowledge of what’s to come, the best the Bachelor editors can do is linger on Nick’s tearful incoherence (“This decision is very difficult,” he snuffles woefully), then mercifully move things along. First rose goes to Raven, final rose to Vanessa, and a very confused Rachel becomes the franchise’s Charlie at the end of the chocolate factory, thinking she’s lost everything, only to later realize she’s being handed the whole damn company.
We don’t get to see that part tonight, though. All we get is Nick giving boilerplate Bachelor farewell copy about how much he loves her and how great she is, and Rachel being driven away in the back seat of some long, dark vehicle, staring hollowly out the window. She wants that love that’s unexplainable. She wants to feel that for someone, and to have them feel that way about her. Little does she know, her chance is coming!
But until then, we have to finish up this dull, freezing-cold season with Nick.