Bachelor Nation, in case you didn’t know, Zach is here to find his best friend. His BFF, all right? That means no catfights, no drama, and certainly no tears — unless they’re crying about how much they like him. Zach is the first Bachelor in a long time who seemingly has no patience for the way this series works. The way these episodes are structured is: (1) romantic dates (2) a fight about something small, like shrimp or emotional intelligence (3) the Bachelor confronts the instigators (4) the girls fight about the Bachelor confronting them and (5) no one goes home. Rinse and repeat!
Zach, on the other hand, is skipping step five. According to the producers’ grand timeline, Christina Mandrell was supposed to stick around until final five, when, after weeks of being embattled, Zach told her he just couldn’t put Blakeleeyeigh Maigh through a hometown date without being sure about her. Now who will create drama? Rodeo Brooklyn? One of the three blonde Katherines? Sparkly Jess, who has only just now, three episodes in, stopped shaking? Probably no one. Let’s get into it!
We start off once more with various shots of Zach showering. You won’t catch this guy with BO! After he’s sparkling clean, he once again calls Sean Lowe, who at this point has to be Zach’s emergency contact. For the second time, Sean gives Zach the novel and eye-opening advice that he should be looking for a best friend, which WE KNOW! HE KNOWS! EVERYONE KNOWS! Sigh. It’s not Sean’s fault — The Bachelor should be hiring him and Catherine a sitter for all of this free labor they’re doing — but the branding of Zach as this Sean Lowe–esque, romantic, “best friend”–seeking Bachelor is a little overboard. Let the man be his boring self! All he wants to do is make small talk and kiss hot girls, and that’s okay!
Kaity — one of the seemingly endless number of blonde Katherines — gets the first one-on-one date. But, silly girls, it doesn’t start today — it starts tonight. Already sleep deprived and drunk on a deadly cocktail of Red Bull, Champagne, and green juice, the other contestants go into a tizzy at this announcement. What could Kaity’s date be? Star gazing? A drive-thru movie? Another trip to meet Zach’s family?? Nope, it’s a night at the museum, no Ben Stiller included.
Unfortunately for my cold, dead heart, this date is actually pretty sweet. Even though the museum has clearly made some budget cuts — they force Kaity and Zach to use flashlights instead of turning on the lights — the two giggle like children while running through exhibits of taxidermied elephants and dinosaur skeletons. During the dinner portion, Kaity opens up about her previous relationship, which seems pretty toxic and took a toll on her self-worth. She tells Zach she just wants a good man in her life, and he actually has a pretty decent response, telling her she deserves more than just the basics. The standards are on the floor, people!
But the date isn’t done here: Zach asks Kaity to spend the night with him. She hesitates (probably not wanting to get Nick Vialled) but obviously says yes, because honey, this just launched you into first place?? There’s a tent set up with matching pajamas and little I Love Lucy twin beds, because this is not a fantasy suite, people!!! Zach and Kaity do a little more running around to tire themselves out before pushing their beds together and kissing a whole lot. Honestly, they match each other’s energy and I’m here for it.
After a very confusing ad requesting single dads for the next season of The Bachelorette (Are they already plotting Christina Mandrell’s reign?), Kaity does her walk of shame back into the mansion. And it is very shameful, considering she’s wearing a set of pajamas that has leopards printed on it. The other ladies are obviously confused: Did fantasy-suite week come early for Kaity? Will all of them be getting sleepovers during the group date? What does this mean for the sanctity of the tried-and-true Bachelor format? Doesn’t matter, because in response, Kaity does absolutely nothing to assuage the other women’s fears, saying she got “no” sleep after she and Zach’s passionate night in the pup tent. Good for her!
Group-date time, and it’s obviously Super Bowl themed. So sorry, it’s actually the fifth annual Bachelor Bowl, which honestly should air concurrently with the Puppy Bowl. The girls are playing full-tackle football for Zach’s heart, probably in the hopes of stirring up some real drama. After Zach offers some cheesy platitudes about football (remember, he’s just a guy who likes family, football, and frozen pizzas), he introduces their “coaches,” a.k.a. former Chargers players Shawne Merriman and Antonio Gates, who probably never thought they’d reach the coaching-Bachelor-contestants phase of their retirement. The winners of this game will go to the afterparty and the losers will go home, because that’s a twist we’ve never seen before!!
But The Bachelor is pulling out all the stops to make this Bachelor Bowl feel different. There’s a hype reel! A marching band! Jesse brings a colleague, ESPN commentator Hannah Storm, to see his other job! Unfortunately, it’s pretty much the same as every other football date. There are team names based on the Bachelor’s name (although, I will admit, “The BallZachs” made me laugh). Someone (Anastasia) fakes getting hurt to stand on the sidelines with Zach. A couple of girls score touchdowns that ultimately mean very little. The Shallcrushers lose, and honestly, didn’t we as well?
The one thing this game does accomplish is getting all the ladies hopped up on adrenaline before the afterparty. Between shots of Zach making out with seemingly every woman on the planet, the contestants start snapping at Christina. They’re sick of her bragging about her one-on-one, and frankly, I would be too! Christina, you didn’t even meet Kronk himself, cool it with the family talk! In the middle of all of this, Bailey asks Zach for validation that he likes her and is met with a blank stare. He sends her home because it was clear their awkward, limo-exit kiss was going to be the peak of their relationship. Christina calls her exit “inevitable,” which, while being hilarious, earns a fresh round of commentary from the other ladies.
But all hell breaks loose when Zach says that Charity, who just generally seems like a very sweet person, has won the group-date rose, and Christina seems genuinely confused by this. Having the dual pedigree of (1) having a famous mom and (2) starring in a Taylor Swift music video, she just can’t seem to comprehend not being chosen first every time. Don’t get me wrong, I support delusional women, but has she watched one episode of this show? Sensing blood in the water, Brooklyn pounces on this, telling Christina she’s self-centered and asking her if she’s “ever considered literally shutting the f–k up,” which we saw in every trailer for this season. In response, Christina just looks even more confused as it finally dawns on her that her actions have consequences. Fight back, Christina! Embrace the villain edit! Don’t just sit there looking like you’re trying to figure out the square root of 73 in your head! All of this is too much for poor Charity, who runs out of the room crying because her moment has been ruined. Sweet, sweet Charity. Dry those tears, you’ll be rewarded with a one-on-one soon.
It’s time for Ali’s one-on-one date, and Zach’s waiting under an arch at what appears to be an active construction site. Ali’s in a horrific lace getup that The Bachelor would have you believe is a wedding gown, but is actually a jumpsuit with a detachable skirt that even Shein wouldn’t dare sell. They’re skydiving in wedding outfits, because of course they are! During a brief montage, I fantasize about that one skydiving date when Rachael from Matt’s season absolutely ate shit. Unfortunately, no such drama happens here, because they seemingly land in a vineyard? With a hot tub?? I guess because jumping out of a plane didn’t give Ali and Zach ample opportunities to make out. During the night portion of the date, Ali opens up about how she’s pretty type A and in control to keep herself from being hurt. They kiss, she gets the rose, and they dance to a singer named Griffin Palmer, because clearly they blew the musical budget on Latto last week.
Because Zach’s not a regular Bachelor, he’s a cool Bachelor, he throws a pool party instead of a cocktail party. Sadly, this results in some horribly cringe moments for Zach, including when he says “holy” when looking at the women in their swimsuits and claims that this event is him “soft-launching” his chest hair. Were the multiple shots of him showering not enough? He chats with Ariel and Jess, but the real party begins when Brianna reveals that she’s leaving the mansion because her connection with Zach isn’t strong enough. After this doesn’t rattle him, she drops the second bomb that Christina has now gotten into fights with three different women. Seeing that Zach has been sufficiently shocked, Brianna drops the mic, walking off in a cloud of lady tears and YSL Black Opium perfume. Bye, Brianna! I’ll see you at the Ashford in Jersey City!
Naturally, Zach goes into Detective Zach mode and, in front of the whole group, says he needs to “speak with some individuals” about the situation. I don’t love the cop energy here. He pulls Christina to speak on the stairs, which we also saw in every trailer for this season. Once again, when Zach confronts her with this information, her vibe is just generally confused and distressed. She’s just like Harry Styles: This doesn’t happen to people like her very often! She can’t really pull together a defense besides saying it would be a “real bummer” if she left, and that just won’t hold up in a court of law. So while prosecutor Zach speaks with Brooklyn and Charity, Christina has a full mental breakdown on the steps. She knows that while she’s created sufficient drama for this episode, these are horrible optics for the Mandrell Sisters. The funniest part comes when she leaves the stairs to cry on the ground, and multiple women walk by her without saying a damn thing! Maybe this cast is more savage than I thought.
Because so many women have left midweek, Zach’s only cutting one woman at the rose ceremony. Jess, Gabi, Ariel, Genevie — who has her arm in a sling, how did we not talk about that??? — Greer, Katherine, Kylie, Davia, Anastasia, and Brooklyn all get roses. It’s pretty much down to Mercedes and Christina, and you think Mercedes will be heading into that big limo in the sky, but it’s CHRISTINA going home! I’ll admit this was the first time this franchise has genuinely shocked me in a while. You know Zach fought with the producers backstage for the right to send her home, and I have to respect his dedication. But, like I said, it’s a delicate balance between looking for love and looking to make an iconic season. Clayton had too much drama. Michelle didn’t have enough. The Bachelor universe is a delicate ecosystem, and I fear that Zach has stomped on it with his big, clunky Allbirds, or whatever equally nerdy footwear that boy chooses to sport. Only time will tell.
Next week we’re finally leaving the health hazard that is the Bachelor Mansion and heading to the Bahamas. Bon voyage!
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