I’m filling in for the inimitable Ali this week — fear not, she’ll be back for the finale! But in the meantime, let’s break down the “The Men Tell All” special, which somehow managed to be both wildly messy and yet not nearly messy enough.
The first 45 minutes of this two-hour special are dedicated to Jordan, which tells you all you need to know about this season of The Bachelorette. If drama is like water, this season has been an arid desert stretching endlessly in all directions, and Jordan was the one oasis on the horizon. So fine, let’s talk about Jordan.
The primary complaint against Jordan, voiced here mostly by David and Colton (with some shout-outs from apparently-was-on-this-show-once Christian) is that he wasn’t serious. Poor Colton was having real feelings and was all ready to get attached and finally get laid. Poor David was feeling hyperdefensive about not getting enough attention and not being a front-runner. Poor Christian was a male model who also had a real job, according to him. They were all there for the right reasons! But all season, there was Jordan, goofing off and looking like an idiot and yet somehow still getting more camera time and pulling focus from everyone else.
Everyone arrived on “The Men Tell All” apparently ready for those concerns to be taken seriously and treated like real, meaningful complaints. They were ready for Jordan to look like an ass. Except all of them — Colton, David, everyone — make exactly the same mistake in this “Tell All” reunion as they did in the filming of the main season. They forgot, again, that on this show, being serious is boring. It’s much better to be an idiot in gold underwear who yells things like “typically when someone drives a Rolls Royce, they roll down the windows!” as though that is a familiar phrase we’re all going to understand. Jordan knows exactly what he’s doing, and keeps saying things like, “These guys couldn’t stand having fun!” Chris Harrison, atypically insightful, also knows what Jordan’s doing, and asks David and the other complainants if their real problem is that Jordan’s silliness totally worked. They splutter that no, that is not their problem, and then go on to yell fruitlessly about how Jordan wore golden underwear around the mansion.
Let’s get something straight about the damn golden underwear, once and for all. Becca brought the underwear and gave it to Jordan. (Obviously a producer gave Becca the underwear. But still — he did not pack it himself.) How are these guys still ticked at this dude for wearing the underwear she gave him! How on Earth are they still mad at Jordan for the gold underwear, when anyone with any ounce of self-awareness would’ve seen that he was the only dynamic guy on camera for at least 70 percent of this season? You cannot tell me, as Colton does numerous times in this episode, that you came on this famously sloppy romance reality show and were so serious about your burgeoning relationship with Becca that one guy’s shenanigans were what ruined the whole experience.
Anyhow, there’s almost a modeling walk-off, and Jordan screams at someone’s high-water pants, and his whole bit ends with him pointing at each member of the cast and yelling, “fuck you, fuck you, Grocery Store Joe what’s up, fuck you, fuck you.” Cut to commercials.
Much of the rest of the show is an attempt to create any kind of interesting story where none exists. We get five minutes with Grocery Store Joe, a cute dude eliminated on night one who was such a beloved figure that he now gets his own segment in the “The Men Tell All” episode. GSJ does get one good line, as Harrison tries to tease out any kind of multi-word answer from him and eventually falls back on “you’re a man of very few words.” “I don’t know you that well,” GSJ tells Chris Harrison. “You seem like a great guy.” Harrison chortles at this bit of sly deviance from the network party line of immediately pretending Chris Harrison is your bosom buddy.
We get five minutes with Wills, and those five minutes prove that Wills is the only actually nice, adorable, charismatic contestant on this season. Which makes it even more dumb that obviously they’re not going to pick him to be the next Bachelor. Chris asks him about his fashion choices, and Wills’s connection with Becca in the clips is as real and obvious as any human connection could be in a Bachelorette-reunion-episode montage. Too bad he’s going to get lost inside the continent-sized island of floating trash that is Bachelor in Paradise.
Here is a brief ranking of items of clothing on this episode of The Bachelorette, from best to worst: everything Wills is wearing, Leo’s cherry-red suit, Jordan’s shiny underwear, Christian’s high-water pants, and then finally at the very bottom, Colton’s “I’m a wealthy drug dealer sitting in a strip club in an episode of CSI: Miami” black-on-black embossed suit.
Speaking of Colton, in the giant void left by having dealt with all of Jordan’s drama, Colton’s virginity is really the only thing left to act as a boredom stopgap. It does not work. Colton speaks emotionally about how hard it’s been for him to have his masculinity questioned, and everyone cries. In a humiliating twist for Colton, after trying so hard to tell off Jordan for being a clown in the episode’s opening, he then has to listen to Jordan offer some sincere words of comfort about being confident in yourself. Truly a disastrous outing for ol’ Colton this week.
Do more things happen in this episode? Arguably yes. There’s a particularly egregious promo edit where it looks like Chris Harrison invites all the guys to say something bad about Becca, and Jean Blanc stands up and confronts her. But in the episode itself, no one responds to the pleading invitation to say something, anything bad about her, and when Jean Blanc does make it up to the sofa for his big moment, it’s to issue a heartfelt apology for his behavior. The same thing then happens again, with a big dramatic buildup to the moment Chris confronts Becca about being dumped that ends in him begging for her forgiveness. Chris, at least, books the gospel singers to come back and sing his apologies. It’s fine.
Then there are the obligatory bloopers which Harrison introduces with his usual glinting-eyed relish. Why does that man love bloopers so much? Every single time we get one of these episodes, he nearly dissolves with glee at the idea of footage of these poor dummies getting booped in the head with a mic, or swatting a bee out of their faces. Does Chris Harrison live so far from us mere mortals that this semiannual bloopers ritual is the only time he sees actual unscripted moments like someone walking into the wrong door?
But the most important thing about “The Men Tell All” this season has nothing to do with what actually occurred in this episode. The most important thing is all the stuff that they did not talk about, including the front-runner’s disturbing social-media activity, or, more troublingly, the contestant who was later discovered to have been convicted of assault. Lincoln is absent from the episode entirely. No one mentions his name, no footage of him appears, and The Bachelorette does its very best to gaslight the audience about Lincoln’s existence. Certainly there’s no serious sit-down discussion about the way the show vets its cast, about changes being made to the casting process, and about the broader, more endemic problem of prioritizing messy drama over cast safety. And none of that silence is particularly surprising.
It is extremely frustrating, though. And it’s yet another symptom of how little interest The Bachelor franchise has in addressing any of its own morally dubious, suspiciously lax casting and producing practices.
So much for “The Men Tell All,” then. Have fun next week, when Garrett weeps and the producers make Becca stalk down a ridiculously long walkway over the ocean while dressed in formalwear and heels.