Imagine if you asked 13 greater bulldog bats to rerecord the Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark soundtrack and you might get something gentler than this year’s “Women Tell All” special. Imagine if you asked a third-grader to explain the philosophical significance of Albert Camus’s The Stranger while you slowly burned all her Poopsie Surprise toys in front of her and you might get something more coherent than this “Women Tell All” special. Imagine if you put people with emoji in their Twitter names to represent which candidate they’re supporting in the same room with the people who run unauthorized fan accounts for Ariana Grande and you’d get something more cordial than the “Women Tell All” special.
In a season that’s been defined by the ladytestants’ unwillingness and inability to just get along, having a reunion seemed like a Sisyphean task. At one point, Chris Harrison’s soul left his body and he looked directly into the camera as the women screamed at each other. In his head, the Curb Your Enthusiasm music drowned out the repulsive sound of Tammy’s eyes scraping against her own eyelids as she rolled them. All Chris Harrison wanted to do was show us some bloopers. Chris Harrison does all of this just to see some goddamned bloopers, but we took so much from him.
What a complete and unmitigated bummer this episode was. And what did we learn? That Victoria F. wasn’t cool about the whole thing? And Kelsey cried a bunch? No one emerged as the funny voice of reason, and Natasha and Kelly weren’t even there. This was like when you go to your office Christmas party and your cool co-workers from the project-management department don’t show up and you’re forced to hang out with Nate from accounting and Nate from accounting IS THE ACTUAL WORST. He refuses to tip the cleaning crew at Christmas and he always replies-all. You’ve witnessed Nate ask a female co-worker to make a new pot of coffee even though he totally knows how to make a pot of coffee more than once. NATE. SUCKS. That’s how this reunion episode felt.
Let’s get t—
OH! That’s right, we can’t even get to the reunion because we have to go back to Australia and finish up the nonsense from the Fantasy Suite week. Victoria and Hannah Ann are going into the rose ceremony knowing that Madison basically fucked up her chances by issuing an ultimatum. Victoria shows up in a long white gown because she’s ready to marry Peter. Peter has to reckon with the fact that he was given the choice to bang two women and lose the woman of his dreams or not bang two women and march off into the sunset with his true love and he picked “bang two women.” He says that he gets her frustration and pain and maybe he didn’t go about the week the right way. Madison, please learn that when given the option to stroke his ego instead of doing the upstanding, moral choice, Peter will choose to stroke his ego. Also, his conflict should show Hannah Ann and Victoria that he’s all-in on Madison. Hannah Ann and Victoria stand on the altar of the rose ceremony and wait for Peter to arrive while Peter stares directly into the sea. Suddenly a car pulls up and Madison gets out.
These three brunettes stand to face their judgment. The first rose goes to Hannah Ann because duh and Peter gives his second and final rose to Madison. When Madison accepts the rose, Peter asks, “You sure?” After Peter says good-bye to Victoria and provides her with literally no information or words of comfort that would be helpful to her, we’re back to the studio for the reunion!
Chris Harrison asks the women to chime in on Madison’s “ultimatum.” While Lexi says it’s unfair, Sydney says that Madison was only telling him that if he slept with someone, she would feel some type of way about it. Good talk, everyone.
The montage of all the drama ends with Tammy and Mykenna, but the first thing we jump into is the “Alayah versus everybody” drama. Sydney says that she is a great judge of character and once she gets an inkling, she just knows that someone is bullshit. Lexi says that Alayah’s biggest crime was treating the whole thing like a competition. You mean the televised game show that you’re all on?
Then, everyone is talking over each other. Just everyone. I can’t even pick out bits of conversation because even bitches who went home on night one are chiming in with their assessment of the situation. Sydney says that they’re just having a conversation and Shiann says, “You have some fucking nerve to talk because of what you do with your group.” Things are getting spicy as Chris Harrison imagines lying on a warm beach with no one screaming at him.
Chris wants to get to the bottom of ChampagneGate, a basic misunderstanding, but it turns into the platform for Tammy to relaunch her assault on Kelsey’s expression of emotion. Tammy really started the season as a fun talking head who would go medium-far in the competition, but she has turned into a full-on villain. She keeps insisting that she never called Kelsey an alcoholic but was only concerned about her. Whatever, Tammy, any goodwill you had going from early season talking heads has been ruined.
Kelsey decides that she no longer gives a single fuck when Sydney is upset that Kelsey called her a stupid bitch and Kelsey says, “I didn’t say stupid. I called you a dramatic fucking bitch.” She also shrugs and says, “I never said I was sober,” which are two things I said regularly in college. I love this bitch.
Then it’s Mykenna’s turn to do her impression of a woman in a Reba McEntire music video. “HOW DARE YOU!” Okay, Mykenna. Tammy interrupts her and asks how long Mykenna rehearsed this and I’m not mad at Tammy for that one.
It’s time for Kelsey’s turn in the hot seat. They talk about her relationship with Peter and how he accepted her and how Kelsey was just sooOOOOooo emotional. Despite this focus on Kelsey’s emotions, I still know almost nothing about her or any other woman on that stage. It’s really hard to work up the energy to be thrilled that Ashley I. comes out to surprise Kelsey when I have no idea what the significance of this moment is. Are they friends? Is Ashley I. Kelsey’s role model? Did Kelsey seek revenge on Ashley I. for a wrong committed between their families generations ago and going on The Bachelor was the only way to gain access to her? We’ll never know!
It’s time for Victoria F.’s turn in the hot seat. Honestly, we didn’t get any deep dive or examination in the accusations that Victoria F. has broken up several marriages, which is really the only thing any of us even cares about. Victoria F. must not have completed her media training because the only response she can muster is that the person who brought those accusations up just wanted to be on The Bachelor. If you don’t want to be a contestant on The Bachelor, you’ve made the life decision that you never want to be on The Bachelor in any context. I’m not over here really hoping to be one of those old couples who gives the Bachelorette advice in another country just to promote my brand.
After showing footage of Peter’s parents having sex in the back of Chris Harrison’s Ford Explorer, it’s time for Peter to come out and face all the women. Kelsey and Victoria get to address their relationships with Peter and they both thank him for basically the same thing: accepting them at their worst. Peter seems like a pretty accepting partner, except he takes it to the unmanageable extreme. Mykenna asks him why he put her through a rose ceremony if he wasn’t interested in her.
Then Savannah brings the heat right to Peter and asks if he regrets sending anyone home since so many of the women were there for the drama and weren’t there for the right reasons. Peter says that he just had to follow his heart, and it’s not his heart’s fault that it’s attracted to the very concept of drama. Peter thanks everyone and they tell him they’re glad he followed his heart.
Is it time to bloopers yet? Nope! Rachel Lindsay is there to talk about a very serious issue. Rachel is there to address the stream of hate and harassment targeted at her and other members of Bachelor Nation. Rachel reads messages that are sent to her calling her ugly, saying that she should kill herself, and using racial slurs. Rachel says if it’s uncomfortable for the audience to listen to the DMs read out loud, they should consider what it feels like for her to receive them. Chris Harrison asks if any of the women from this season have received hateful messages. Every single one raises their hands.
While I’m sure they talked to lots of the women about their experiences online, the only women who get to share the messages they’ve received are the women of color. Tammy talks about how she gets emails to kill herself, and Shiann has to remind her that they’re sent to Tammy’s work email address disguised as legitimate work inquiries. It’s wild that The Bachelor thought it was finally necessary to address online hate even after they addressed it on Kaitlyn Bristowe’s season where she was globally slut-shamed. They managed to turn that moment into an affirmation of Kaitlyn’s autonomy, and this moment becomes a mishmash of self-love, natural-hair acceptance, being a role model for little girls, and all other sorts of buzzy positivity language. Unfortunately, The Bachelor doesn’t just push the conversation one step forward and label the hate as racist, misogynistic, or even bigotry. It’s contrasted with criticism and framed as “negativity,” but when the most concrete examples given by the contestants are all from women of color, and most of the examples reference the women’s hair, skin, upbringing, and racial stereotypes, it’s a missed opportunity to not talk about how men and women of color in the franchise seem to be shouldering the brunt of the hatred online.
The show also doesn’t offer any solutions or condemnations about the messages. It just presents these messages as an uncontrollable thing that’s happening, but as long as the women on the show see themselves as role models, we all learned a lesson? Listen, I’m not sure how you solve the issue of online racism and misogyny, but it’s not a stretch to assume that the majority of The Bachelor audience are women and probably mostly white. Bachelor Nation also engages in the show in groups — the episode featured multiple watch parties with elaborate rituals and traditions. Surely, creating a culture where women can feel empowered to call each other out or challenge how they interact with women of color on the internet could do some good. The Bachelor has the power to introduce so many words and phrases into our society. Who hasn’t heard someone refer to a period of time in their life as “a journey?” So maybe The Bachelor could introduce some language to talk about what exactly is happening here in the fandom. But instead of doing that, BLOOPERS!
See you next week for the two-part finale?!?!