An ABC executive stands at the door in a beautifully appointed palace–slash–therapist’s office. “Hello? I’m here for—“
“Fräulein, bitte, have a seat,” a very intimidating and discerning Austrian psychoanalyst says, gesturing to an antique chaise longue across from her desk. “What can I do for you?”
The ABC executive sits down on the chaise: “Nice to meet you. I’m an executive with the American romance television program The Bachelor, and we did a light Google search about Vienna and apparently Freud is from here. It’ll be the only regional specific we’ll mention on the entire episode, but we’re just looking for a setting where a group of aspiring influencers and ICU nurses can open their hearts.”
“That is what you want, but what do you need?” the psychoanalyst says as she peers over her glasses at the ABC executive.
No one has ever asked me that, the ABC executive thinks to herself. I have to take care of everyone else’s problems. I’m the one who has to edit Mara into a villain and then immediately turn around and edit Sarah into the villain. I’m the one who has to get a bowl of sugar snap peas and trim the ends for Chris de Burgh’s persnickety ass. I’m the one who has to do EVERYTHING around here.
“I need … some goddamned help,” the ABC executive finally says.
“Und how can your partner give you that?”
“He can step the fuck up and actually do his job and be the goddamned Bachelor.”
“Und what would it take for him to do that?”
“Send. Those bitches. Home.”
Let’s get to it.
What in the hell? Clayton actually has a backbone and shows some good decision-making skills in the moment? Okay, someone has to bring applesauce and cheddar-cheese cubes for the afternoon snack more often! Between realizing Genevieve should have gone home a while ago, because he knows nothing about her and she’s completely unable to speak out loud at this point, and Sarah being revealed as the villain of the season, Clayton had a good week, in which he resembled the lead of this television program who is equipped to carry out his duties. The bar is practically on the floor, and he meets that incredibly low bar. But before we can applaud Clayton for completing a task, we have to deal with Sarah and Mara.
How dare this show try to trick us into thinking Mara is a villain because she hated Sarah for no reason and is old, when she is a villain because she hates Sarah for a very good reason that everyone agreed with and is old? Apparently, Mara is just the only one willing to say something directly to Sarah’s face, which is the burden of being the only 32-year-old in a room full of 20-somethings. Our order is wrong, and the waiter should know about it. As the women wait for Sarah to return from her second, undeserved one-on-one date, they’re all quietly hoping she doesn’t come home and falls into Ždrilca Bay. Sarah walks through the darkened Hvar streets and muses that “karma is a bitch” and that the haters only made her relationship stronger. When she gets back to the hotel, she’s coming in HOT. “Which one of you dumb idiots thought you could take me down? If you come for the queen, you best not miss!” she says, slapping Gabby in the face.
Mara makes a series of self-righteous eye rolls before finally speaking up and saying she talked to Clayton only about her situation (lie) and it wasn’t anything negative (lie). Mara still insists this is all for Clayton’s benefit and she’s just looking out for his best interests. Sarah just isn’t ready to be a wife at 23 years old. From what we learn later in this episode, she’s right! This should have been our two-on-one! Bring back the seasons with multiple two-on-ones! Put Mara and Sarah in the Croatian fighting pits, and Clayton can climb out with the winner, leaving the loser to fight a trained bear. We’re in the land of all those Game of Thrones locations, so give the drama and ending that final season should have given us!
Okay, it’s been like 12 minutes, and it’s already time for the rose ceremony? I am completely unmoored from space and time. Everyone is just worried about getting through this rose ceremony with as little drama as possible because the rose ceremony next week (at the end of this episode) will let us know who is going to hometowns. This is all feeling very fast.
But while everyone is hoping for a fun and easy cocktail party, Mara chooses chaos. As Clayton gives Serene a jar of symbolic butterflies and tries to figure out just which base Teddi is willing to go to, Mara asks to speak to Sarah. Mara takes offense to Sarah’s saying that telling Clayton about her was a last-ditch effort by a woman who is about to be sent home. How dare Sarah be absolutely right?! Mara says that she’s just worried about Sarah’s confidence becoming cockiness and that all the other girls see it, but she won’t let Sarah answer for any of her crimes. Mara says, “It would behoove you to take a step back about your comments and your cockiness,” which is amazing New Jersey energy. If you’re fighting with someone from New Jersey and they suddenly pull out the 12th-grade vocab words, RUN. You’re getting a punch for each syllable they drop on your ass.
When the other women scamper back from watching at the curtain, they all sit down and reveal that Sarah has been bragging and has made it seem like it’s her and Clayton against the rest of the house, when it’s really Clayton against tying his shoes. It’s time for the rose ceremony!
At this point, I said out loud, “Oh my God, Genevieve is still here?” She had not spoken a word this entire episode.
Susie, Serene, Gabby, and Genevieve get roses. Mara and Eliza are going home. They didn’t get a one-on-one date, so they’re going home. When Mara hugs Clayton, I notice her square-tip nails and everything comes into focus. I know exactly who this woman is, and she’s saying “I love you, girls! Good luck!” to everyone’s face but “I hope this all bites her in the ass” about Sarah to the camera. Fly away, you square-nailed bitch!
It’s time for another international trip, and they’re heading to Vienna! I went once with my mom as a kid, and I was amazed at the sights and sounds of Vienna: topless women at the indoor hotel pool, pickle vendors on every corner, and an aggressive commitment to fried food rivaled only in the American South. It’s the perfect city and the perfect place to fall in love. The theme for this week is FAIRY TALE and PSYCHOANALYSIS! Let’s get to the first penis of the week … I mean first date, fuck.
Susie gets the week’s first date, and it’s the Princess/Pretty Woman date! Clayton takes her shopping at a “luxury store” that sells only pastel bandage-dress knockoffs, and all of the bags look like they’re from a party-supply store. Susie keeps shouting, “THIS IS SO OUT OF MY ELEMENT!” The only person whose element this is is someone pretending to be the last remaining Habsburg in order to scam American soldiers overseas. Their next stop is at Eva Poleschinski’s private gallery to select this red gown. For reasons. Clayton and Susie don’t have a meaningful conversation at any point during this daytime date, but they see sides of each other and are grateful to have seen those sides.
It’s time for the evening portion of their date, and Susie is wearing that red gown because she has to. They head to a palace in Vienna, and Clayton asks the witness leading questions when she says no one has done anything like this for her before. “Because you don’t feel worthy?” What the fuck, dude? Clayton has index cards in his pocket with questions he thinks will be appropriate for the situation, and he has practiced with those questions and nothing will throw him off his game. “Do you think you have to do everything yourself because you’re so independent?” Susie tells him her parents came from humble beginnings and that’s why she has always been independent. Let me just say being independent and not waiting for a man to buy you things is a good thing. Not everyone will be cast on a reality show and get dresses from a fancy gown-maker and whatever the Austrian equivalent of Forever 21 is. Clayton gives her the rose and they head into the next room, and THE GUY WHO SINGS “LADY IN RED” IS THERE SINGING “LADY IN RED.”
This makes me LOSE. MY. MIND. This is the wildest musical-guest appearance in the show’s history, and I will not explain my reasoning. When the first notes of LADY IN RED begin, I just start screeching like the butterflies in Peacemaker. This was all a setup to get to this moment. The gown. The shopping spree. Who cares if this matters or if this is relevant at all to anyone’s life? She’s wearing red, and there’s a song about wearing red. LADY IN REDDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Chris de Burgh whispers, “I love you,” as the song ends. I’ve lost my mind.
It’s time for the group date. Sarah, Teddi, Genevieve, Rachel, and Gabby all head to couples therapy. This date is amazing. The Bachelor is innovating in the space. Incredible. They should do this date every season. No notes. It generates enough drama, illuminates who the women in the front are, and gets us a surprise elimination. I don’t care if that woman is a real psychoanalyst or a producer who puts on an Austrian accent. She does what needs to be done. The biggest story from the group-therapy session is the complete destruction of Genevieve’s ability to speak words in front of other people, which leads to Clayton telling her that if she can’t participate in this farce of a couples-therapy session, she has to go home. Genevieve nods in silence and exits. Then Rachel has to have her session! Perfection. The other key piece of drama comes when the therapist says one of the women is actually the Mole.
Rachel says that at the after-party, everyone should finally speak up about what Sarah is doing. Having this information that Sarah has been bragging about her relationship with Clayton and making up that they cried together is fantastic, and we should have gotten this earlier. The show wanted us to like Sarah enough to get her to this point, so they withheld what could have been some real fun. Call this season Arkham Asylum because it’s chock-full of villains. The other women say they’ve been so thrown by Sarah that they all thought about going home, and Clayton uncharacteristically can’t have this! He sits Sarah down and tells her that what she has been saying to the other women is untrue, and Sarah tries to cry in front of him, and he says, “That was fake crying!” Look who just wore his big-boy underwear overnight for the first time! Sarah says her face is dry because she has no more tears left to cry. Save it, Ariana Grande. Clayton tells her that trust is the most important thing (since when?) and asks to walk her out. Sarah keeps asking if they can just talk about this! Why would he throw out their relationship that is so strong! Clayton, remember that time I made up when we cried together?!? Clayton needs more time to think about sending Teddi home, so he can’t give out the group-date rose tonight.
Finally, it’s time for his one-on-one date with Serene. Honestly, I could have seen this ending in tragedy, but Clayton really likes Serene and she seems normal and into him, which is all he’s asking for at this point. They get the “dancing with old people in the square” date, and Clayton says, almost unprompted, “I like dancing.” At dinner, they talk about how Serene has brought only one person home, which is normal for Black families. We’re not just bringing anybody home. She says she grew apart from the guy she dated in high school, which is also correct and normal. She feels she might have wasted part of her 20s dating this guy who hasn’t been there. There are whole photo albums from the late aughts, including my second trip to Vienna, that I can’t even look at. But Serene and Clayton have the fact that they’ve dated other people in common, and she tells him she’s falling in love with him. She validated him, and she gets the rose.
It’s time for the rose ceremony, and Teddi doesn’t get a rose. Like we all knew this was coming? At this point in the episode, it is inevitable. Rachel and Gabby are also heading to hometowns, and Gabby whispers, “She’s so graceful,” as Teddi and her virginity are walked out. Clayton doesn’t know that when you walk someone out, you’re supposed to sit down with them and have a little conversation to let them down easy. Instead, he just gives her a quick hug and says, “It was so nice to get to know you,” as fast as possible and shoves her into an SUV.
In the preview for Hometowns and beyond, that teases that maybe Clayton ends up alone. I wonder if that was the historic announcement Mike Fleiss kept teasing on Twitter!