There is no Bennett. There is only an abstraction of Bennett. There’s only a gray suit with white sneakers and no tie despite that not being a look at all. There is no real Bennett, only an illusion, an entity, a Harvard degree. For a moment, you might look into Bennett’s eyes and think you’re looking into the eyes of someone who shares your same desires and hopes, but those left Bennett long ago. You might be standing with Bennett while wearing a bridal-inspired romper and he leans in to give you a kiss that YOU DO NOT WANT and for a moment, his flesh feels like flesh. But if you really wrap your fingers around his arms to stop him from kissing you, you might feel that instead of skin, he’s completely wrapped in a leather Kindle cover. There is no brain, only a book on emotional intelligence. There is no heart, just a gift-wrapped box of mustache socks. His personality is hazy and indistinct. So that’s not Bennett hiding in the bushes. That’s the idea of Bennett, and you should be very afraid.
Let’s get to it.
Because if we can just get through the bookends of Bennett’s absolute nonsense, we can get to more sweet moments with cute dudes! Cute dudes, everyone! Even if you’re not into dudes, there are emotional conversations where people are validated and seen! Validated emotions, everyone!
This two-on-one is still fucking happening. The other guys are waiting back at the cocktail party staging area in their suits and they need Tayshia to just eliminate someone so she can eliminate more of them with dignity. Bennett is still trying to convince Tayshia that “you have a zero percent chance” and “imagine if you were arguing with a 14-year-old” aren’t actually condescending things to say. Tayshia asks “What’s in the box?” and Bennett calmly answers, “I … uh … a gift for Noah.” Sir. There is absolutely no way to explain what is happening with that there box that makes you sound like a competent person and good potential husband. Tayshia takes Bennett aside first.
Okay. I’m really going to need someone to explain exactly how Tayshia arrived at her conclusion that Bennett was questioning her integrity because he said Noah had a zero percent chance. I think it’s something about if Noah has a zero percent chance, Bennett is assuming who has a shot to end up with Tayshia and he doesn’t know who a good match for her would be. She sees something in everyone that’s still there, including him, so how dare he question her integrity and question if she’s able to make her own decisions.
I’m not saying Tayshia shouldn’t be frustrated or what Bennett is doing isn’t incredibly annoying but just … what? What does she think integrity means? Because what she’s complaining to Bennett about isn’t what Noah told her made people think she wasn’t making her own decisions.
She sits down with Noah and he’s like … fine, I guess? Noah manages to sneak in there that he doesn’t like the way Bennett talks to her or anyone else, and that’s the most succinct case for sending him home. Bennett was kinda funny when he was misspelling limousine and failing to do basic math, but now, he’s just kind of a dick whose face looks tighter and tighter each time we see him. Bennett, you’re doing too many face masks! The fluid holding your cells together is now just snail mucus. You need to re-foliate.
Tayshia comes back after deliberating and says that Bennett made her feel very special but he’s just kind of a douche, while Noah is really cute but he’s just really 25. Tayshia says that she has to ask Bennett to leave and walks him out. Bennett actually says, “Holy cow, I’m shocked!” like he’s a mom in an ’80s commercial when the detergent gets all those stubborn stains out. This moment plants the seed that Bennett can’t imagine being without Tayshia for no real reason other than he was rejected and she’s very pretty. Tayshia comes back inside and tells Noah that this isn’t a victory for him and he doesn’t get a rose either because he’s been a very naughty boy who needs to be sent to time out.
It’s time for the cocktail party! After addressing the men and telling them that Bennett has been dismissed, Riley takes her aside first to celebrate their one week anniversary. How long have we been doing this? I can’t tell where time is moving more slowly, inside the Bachelorette bubble or in my home while my other job is on hiatus and the sun sets at 4:15. Zac gives her a picture of them from their photo shoot and they sit like a couple. Just look at them, all slouchy and legs crossed toward each other. According to Cher Horowitz, that’s an unequivocal sex invite. She just fucking makes out with Ben.
When it’s time for the rose ceremony, everyone counts how many roses and promptly freaks out. Five roses! FIVE ROSES!! FIVE ROSESSS!!! THREE OF US ARE GOING HOME!! There are still so many of you!! Ed is still legally here!! But not for long. Brandon, Riley, Blake, Ivan, and Noah all get roses. Ed, Spencer, and Demar are all sent home. No one other than Demar gets an exit interview, so bye, Ed and Spencer! You, too, were also here.
It’s the next morning and there will be two one-on-one dates and a group date. JoJo arrives to raise the stakes. There are seven contesticles left and the roses mean you’re going to hometowns. JoJo says that hometowns was when she realized she loved her failed quarterback and loved hearing about how his family doesn’t talk to his very famous brother because her fiancé’s sister-in-law is not a devout Christian. It’s the little moments with family that put everything into perspective. Ben gets the first one-on-one date of the week and everyone is so happy for him! These men have been through so much together and they just want each other to succeed! You get out there, Ben, and you make out with our woman so good! Maybe Tayshia doesn’t have to choose and just live in one of those TikTok houses. Meanwhile, Zac completely breaks down in tears about bringing Tayshia to meet his family. You love to see it.
Ben and Tayshia’s date is zooming around on electric scooters on a scavenger hunt to find an oasis at the hotel. The first clue tells them to find the place where love is the score and Tayshia has absolutely no idea what this means. After a few stops and Ben ripping open a piñata with his hands and taking his pants off, they find their oasis: a bench in front of the spa. They couldn’t even open up the spa? Just let them soak their feet in a warm tub of water? I would absolutely murder someone just to pick which aromatherapy experience I wanted for my pedicure. To be that close to the spa and not even sip some cucumber water that’s never as good as you want is a crime.
It’s time for the evening portion of the date, and Tayshia asks Ben why he feels the need to put on a smiling face and put up walls so often. I don’t mean to be cavalier, but do you really need to press for a reason why a military man who suffered from an eating disorder might cloak his feelings in a positive attitude? Ben also does that thing where he says he’ll answer any question she has. So she asks him what his deal is, and Ben lays out why he tends to put up a happy front. His military career ended sooner than he wanted and he broke his back. That left him very limited physically and he was living in a really expensive city. He only relied on his sister during that time, but even she doesn’t know that he had two failed suicide attempts. His relationship with his sister helped him get the help he needs, and he’s found therapy and he’s in a much better place now.
Wow. This is incredibly brave and honest of Ben. The fact that he’s able to talk to Tayshia, a relative stranger, about his history with mental health and suicide is a triumph in itself. This is something I can’t recall hearing before on the show, and mental-health struggles like this are usually framed as something that happened to a friend or family member and rarely the contestant themselves. Also, this season has seen people open up about seeking therapy in a way that feels very intentional. Clare was very open about her mental-health struggles and seeking therapy, and I wonder if the show sought out men who would be sympathetic to a lead who was open about that. However we ended up here, this season feels like a watershed moment for discussions about mental health and I hope that therapy can be destigmatized for a whole audience of people. Ben gets a rose.
Tayshia and Ben walk over to a little stage and dance to a concert from Adam Hambrick. Listen up, Adam, you gotta change that name. No one is going to line up for tickets to see a Hambrick. What are your fans going to call themselves? The Honey Baked Honeys? I also have literally never heard of this person and his Twitter presence is weak. I guess the list of musicians that are willing to endure a reality-show bubble is QUITE SHORT.
It’s time for the group date. It’s a lie-detector test date. Goddamn it. This is good. I know that this is a flawed practice rife with bias and unscientific proof, but the potential for mess is there. Tayshia sits down to fake the detector and put the guys at ease. The only inconclusive answer is a no to “Do you regret sending anyone home?” Please, don’t be thinking about Bennett.
Brandon has reservations about Tayshia meeting his family. Zac cheated, and Riley can’t even get a clear answer to the baseline-setting question of “What is your name?” At the cocktail party, we’ll get answers to all of this. Brandon is worried about his family meeting anyone because he was married before, so bringing someone home is a huge step. Zac made out with another girl at the Bowl-A-Rama in sixth grade and he wanted to make sure he was upfront about everything. Riley’s story is the most in-depth. Riley says that Riley isn’t his real name. When his parents divorced, he lived with his father and they were incredibly close, but they had a falling out once Riley was able to get answers for himself about his parents’ marriage. He wanted to distance himself from his father, who he was named after, so he went with his mom and got a legal name change. He says that people change their names all the time and he just wanted to start from scratch. He didn’t know how to answer, and as a lawyer, Riley believes polygraphs are full of shit. I love him and want to protect him as he works through these feelings.
At the end of the date, Tayshia says she’s so torn because everyone’s conversation was so honest and emotional that she can’t just give out the group date rose so she needs to sleep on it. As she heads out, she’s stopped in her tracks by a Brooks Brothers mannequin hiding in the dark. Oh no! That’s Bennett.
What the fuck? No. No! NO! I don’t want this. This is not okay. Bennett just murmuring, “Hello, Tayshia” in a hotel courtyard is terrifying, and I would like this to stop. Tayshia offers to sit down with him, and he goes on about how fresh her room smells. Dude. Please. Even typing that now, I want to throw up a little. Yikes. Yikes. Yikes. He explains that saying good-bye was bizarre and surreal, and he realizes that he loves her. Tayshia makes what I can only describe as a face. He keeps saying “an ounce” to refer to a small amount of feelings inside either of them, and I need him to stop. Tayshia is very confused because hearing someone tell her I love you for the first time (even though she and Zac told each other they were falling for each other) is making her have feelings.
Tayshia is going to think about if she’s going to allow Bennett to rejoin the competition. Tayshia! What is it?! Do you think Bennett is a grown-up so you should be with him just because? He’s the guy that gets left at the altar in a rom-com; he’s not the guy you end up with. He’s the guy who’s dating the romantic lead at the start of the rom-com. He’s basically a less charismatic Bradley Cooper from Wedding Crashers. That’s not the start of a great love story for him. And Bennett keeps trying to kiss her! The entitlement! The audacity! The “To Be Continued”!