I’ve been doing these recaps for a long time, and I get messages from my dear, dear readers all the time. You say, “Ali, I have trouble maintaining female friendships and my desire for control in social situations where I feel uncomfortable often causes me to lash out with my words.” And of course, I could just tell you if your go-to behavior is both confrontational and passive-aggressive. I could flip through the DSM-V to find descriptions of harmful social behavior. I could also launch into my Jeff Foxworthy–esque stand-up routine:
If you’ve ever made someone cry in a dressing room at Express, you might be a Mean Girl.
If you’ve ever convinced someone to sing “My Heart Will Go On” a capella in the sixth-grade talent show because you knew they couldn’t hit an E6, you might be a Mean Girl.
If you’ve ever made someone feel bad because they were wearing knockoff Juicy Couture, you might be a Mean Girl.
If you’ve convinced the all the bottle service waitresses at Bounce New York to accidentally spill a bucket of ice on your ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend, you might be a Mean Girl.
If you’ve ever convinced all the bottle service waitresses at Bounce New York to accidentally spill of a bucket of ice on a girl who was tagged in your ex-boyfriend’s Instagram stories without any confirmation that they were dating and you found out later that she was his cousin and they were celebrating her being done with chemo but you still found a way to make it all about you, you might be a Mean Girl.
If you’ve ever voted someone out of a sleepover, you might be a Mean Girl.
If you’ve ever masked your own insecurity by accusing another woman of toxic behavior, you might be a Mean Girl!
Listen, if we could get through the rest of the season without anyone pejoratively accusing anyone else of being a sex worker, I will finally feel peace and become one with The Force, leaving my cloak behind on the big ol’ rock I type these from. Let’s get to it.
This episode starts with the women having to go on their group date after Sarah has eliminated herself. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. They still have to go on this group date. Matt is shaken and he says that Sarah didn’t think he was the one for her and there might be more women who feel like that. Umm… that wasn’t what happened? He also says that they talked about, and I quote, “a lot of stuff.” Meanwhile, the women are sitting together waiting for the group da — BWA-HAHAHAHA. I can’t believe these women still have to go on this group date. Victoria says that the trash took itself out and flips her hair. Katie continues to be the only one in the house who cares about other people’s feelings and tells Victoria there’s no need to talk about people who are no longer there. Victoria tells her to shut up. Katie says that’s just a reflection of Victoria’s insecurities.
The ladies head out for the group date, which is just a cocktail party somewhere on the Nemacolin grounds. Most of the women start their conversation with Matt at this cocktail party by asking how he’s dealing with Sarah leaving. He loves being reassured by all the women he sits down with. Then he sits down with Chelsea, who shows him a photo of herself and her mom and she tells him about her natural hair journey. And I’m sorry … if you’ve mostly dated Black women, your response to another Black woman telling you about her journey with relaxers and the pressure to fit in with her white friends wouldn’t be, “I can’t imagine.” You should be able to imagine. Because you too have 4A curls, Matt James. Have you never had to drop your girlfriend off at the hairdresser and return hours later and she’s still under the dryer? Have you never had to buy a silk pillowcase for a loved one? Have you never sacrificed precious bathroom counter space to the entire Coconut Hibiscus Shea Moisture line? Chelsea gets the group date rose.
Meanwhile, Katie and Victoria sit down because our nation needs to heal and so does the Bachelor resort. Victoria presents her case that Katie shuts her down when she’s just trying to express herself. The way Victoria expresses herself is to call people “trash,” and she wants an apology. Katie says she’s not getting an apology because name-calling and expressing yourself are two different things. The fact that Katie knows the difference between those things has people clamoring on Twitter for her to be the Bachelorette. That’s how slim the pickins are this season. Victoria says, “Well, you can express yourself all you want with your dildo. You can’t be serious about getting married.” Katie shouts, “I LOVE MY VIBRATOR.” That’s why she should be the Bachelorette.
It’s time for the rose ceremony and the only thing worthy of discussion is THE FIVE NEW BITCHES THAT STROLL IN. Okay, my theory is that ABC realized this sorta worked during Tayshia’s journey and generated a modicum of drama, and since they can’t go anywhere, the show has to wring every last bit of intrigue out of this situation. The first new girl out of the limo is Brittany, who is wearing a fantastic black sparkly gown and who goes up to Matt and makes out with his face. Very aggressively. The other ladytestants watch from the window like they are trying to spot a scandal in Bridgerton. Victoria says she feels disrespected and marches over to the other women to tell them what’s happening. Then Brittany enters the house and says, “I guess they saved the best for last.” Victoria calls her a slut and whore.
Can we fucking not? I might be asking a lot from a woman who allegedly had a Trump flag in the background of an Instagram picture that she deleted when people started pointing it out, but can we not call someone a whore because she kissed the Bachelor on The Bachelor?
Also arriving is Michelle from Minnesota, Ryan, Miss Puerto Rico Universe Catalina, and Kimberly, who we’ll never hear from again.
Once in the house, the other women cannot fucking handle what is happening. Victoria asks to talk to Catalina, and Catalina innocently thinks Victoria is another pageant queen. Instead, Victoria says, “I should have that crown,” and takes Catalina’s crown off her head. All of the other women just start repeating “Victoria” in that way you say your friend’s name when she’s about to get into a fight with the bouncer. Matt comes back in and asks how everyone is doing and some of the women go “not great, Matt.” Anna immediately starts her campaign of misinformation about Brittany. They’re both from Chicago and Anna was warned via DM about Brittany. I’m from Chicago and I’ve never heard of either of these women, so there’s that.
Time for the rose ceremony. MJ, Pieper, Bri, Magi, Michelle, Mari, Ryan, Kit, Serena C, Abigail, Katie, Victoria, Lauren, Brittany, Jessenia, Anna, and Catalina all get roses.
It’s the next day and Chris Harrison comes in to explain to the new women that they’re on a show called The Bachelor and their lives are about to be a living hell. Mari, Bri, Abigail, Brittany, Ryan, Catalina, Magi, Anna, and Victoria are all getting the group date that week. Oatmeal arrives to guide Matt through the process of alienating all the women by showing too much affection to one person and then breaking up while on a Freeform reality show. He’s set up the date that day and it’s a humiliating obstacle course with a nebulous prize that will reveal nothing about the women! Let’s go! Mari wins and her only prize is a golden trophy of nuts sheepishly presented by Chris Harrison. Magi gets stuck in a pumpkin canoe in the middle of the lake! That’s where she lives now.
At the cocktail party that night, Anna takes Matt aside to finally tell him about who she is. She grew up in Minnesota and loves boats. Brittany is told by a producer to interrupt them and Anna refuses to give Matt up and demands another five minutes to tell him everything important about herself. Anna says it’s DISRESPECTFUL for Brittany to interrupt her with Matt, even though that’s just how this works! But that’s enough of an offense for Anna to let everyone know that Brittany has a terrible secret. Anna takes Victoria aside and tells her that Brittany might be an escort and that she entertains men for money.
Let’s be absolutely clear: There will be no sex-worker shaming on my watch. If Brittany is an escort or a sugar baby or just has rich male friends and boyfriends who want to spend money on her, THAT’S FINE. Who gives a shit? If she is, she’s still worthy of love, dignity, and respect. If she isn’t, that’s also totally fine and says nothing about sex workers as a group of people. Because honestly, who wouldn’t want to be a hot girl who has rich men pay for your lifestyle? That sounds like a delight. Sure, if given every choice and opportunity, many of us would be nurses and lawyers and teachers but a few of us would just accompany rich men to the opera and get a diamond bracelet.
Anna decides she has enough made-up evidence to take this issue to Brittany and asks her in front of everyone on the group date if she’s an escort. Brittany is stunned and rightly so. Anna isn’t doing this because she wants to find out about alternative revenue streams. She wants to humiliate and degrade Brittany. She would have saved some time if she just said, “I heard you were a dirty whore? Is that true?” Brittany is upset that Anna has basically told everyone in the house and made all these assumptions about her without even getting to know her. The discourse around this moment is fucked because there’s nothing wrong with a being a sex worker but we live in a society that hates sex workers. I need any of these women to read a pro-sex-worker text.
Bri gets the group date rose.
The next day, all the women are discussing the rumors about Brittany and Michelle is getting ready for her one-on-one date with Matt. She meets Matt in the woods for a Chris Harrison–designed love scavenger hunt. They go on a zip line. They say they want the same number of children. They ride in a hot-air balloon. They head to the night portion of the date and we learn no new information about Matt or what he’s looking for. We learn a lot about Michelle. She’s a teacher in Minnesota and she talks about how hard the pandemic has been on her students and how she felt she addressed the murder of George Floyd with her students. Matt says again, “I can’t imagine what your students are going through.” Sure, he’s not a middle-schooler doing Zoom math, but I would have loved a little bit from Matt about how he felt during the movement for racial justice this summer. (Especially because you could view his casting as a response to that very movement.) I don’t need him to break down or bare his soul every time he’s on camera, but we don’t know anything about him. So any moment of connection or shared experience he can have with the women he’s dating would be very helpful. Apparently he talked with Michelle about his food tours and the achievement gap and the opportunity gap, and it would have been great to know what they talked about!
It’s also possible ABC is wary of showing those conversations on their flagship television program even though some of the best moments on Tayshia (and Claire’s) season were the moments where the show didn’t feel overly produced and everyone was able to have an honest conversation. Matt just says Michelle is the “type” of person he could see himself with and she has all the depth he’s looking for in a woman. Very cool. She gets the rose.
The next day, Katie takes on the role of house therapist and sits down with Brittany to reassure her that the rest of the women are being mean girls. The date card says that Katie, Pieper, Serena P, Rachael, Kit, Chelsea, Jessenia, Lauren, Serena C, and MJ are going to fight for love. God damn it. They train in the woods for like 10 minutes and then they have to box each other. Serena P gets her clock cleaned and Matt shuts the date down. Who was that for?
At the night portion of the date, Matt says he felt the date got stressful but everyone got out of their comfort zone! It’s so hard to tell who his front-runners are because all he does is put his hand on their knee, asks what he can do to reassure them, and goes in for a kiss with absolutely no warning. He’s got one move and it’s awkward!
All the rest of the women on the date decide that now is the best time to cackle about how cruel they’re being! The new girls are cocky and they came in like they own the place! They think they get to spend time with Matt! They’re ignorant and how dare they think they deserve a one-on-one date! And back at the house, Victoria and Anna are laughing about how Brittany is soo weird, when I can’t imagine a more conventional woman, and how she could be a serial killer or the dumbest ho Victoria has ever met. Katie says they should just put all of the digs aside and finally welcome them into the house. The other women throw their heads back in laughter at the thought of being compassionate to another person you are in competition with! The fuck is sportsmanship?!
Katie has had enough and goes to Matt to tell him that the bullying and the rumors have got to stop. She’s also very savvy to realize that her saying something to the women wouldn’t mean anything, but Matt trying to correct the behavior might actually accomplish something. She’s able to understand the complex social dynamic and she’s managing the house better than Matt. Matt says that no one is able to bully their way into his heart. Tune in next week for more white-lady tears over facing mild social consequences for their actions!