They got me. These idiots got me. It’s been a long, long, long, long year, and somehow an even longer season of The Bachelorette, despite Tayshia getting four fewer episodes than Clare. I’m tired. I’m worn down. My birthday is the same day this recap is going up, and I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to add another year to my age to make up for the y’know … general everything. Much like Zac, I’ve given you all everything and I couldn’t stop the tears. He just loves her so much!
Because in the midst of all the everything, The Bachelorette managed to deliver one of its more satisfying love stories in a while. If you walk back through the seasons, it’s been a minute since two people fell in love without any take-backs or do-overs. And this season did it twice! They’re all so in love! They’re engaged! Tayshia picked Zac. The second I saw his taupe Jordans on the dance floor, I knew Tayshia was in good hands. For a woman who continually said that she wants someone to make her feel special, she picked the man whose love language is “words of affirmation,” and that’s a smart decision for her.
Watching the episode, two things that stuck out to me that, if acknowledged, would put this season into the god tier. Because this season had everything: two total men showing up at the Bachelorette’s door, multiple scooter sessions, and a proposal set in the middle of the elephant graveyard. So why don’t we dive into the baffling before we dive into the delightful? Let’s get to it.
So, the incredibly vague conversation Tayshia had with her dad happened before her last date with Ben, right? It didn’t happen at the beginning of her week, right? Let’s all agree on one simple fact: This bitch does not repeat outfits. She hasn’t even repeated a bathing suit, when everyone really has one good bathing suit and one you wear when your good one has sand in it. Because if you believe the editing of the show, this was the order of things: Tayshia’s dad surprises her in her suite; Tayshia goes on a date with Zac; Tayshia eliminates Ben. Ergo, if she’s wearing the same outfit on her date with Ben and when her dad talks to her, those events happened on the same day. I wonder if her dad was actually telling her, “Please, dear God, don’t marry the guy who you already decided you didn’t want to be with but convinced you to take him back by showing up at your door in the middle of the night. I don’t think that’s as cute of a story as you think. It’s not like he’s a cute Black Filipino rocket scientist or anythi — YOU ELIMINATED WHO?!?”
The show needed to stir up a little drama by making the audience think that Tayshia’s dad, whom she is really close with, disapproved of the entire proceedings and make it seem like Tayshia was questioning her relationship with Zac, even though Zac is a pure delight and is probably one of the most emotionally aware and expressive men the show has seen in a while. Zac telling Tayshia’s dad that he looks forward to the hard times so he can step up and support her DID THE TRICK FOR ME, and I think it did the trick for her dad, too. And do you know how hard it is for a white guy to impress an older Black dad? IT’S FUNCTIONALLY IMPOSSIBLE.
You don’t have to manufacture this dilemma, though, because Tayshia’s dad sitting her down right before her date with Ben and telling her, “Don’t make a huge mistake” IS GOOD TELEVISION!!! And they wouldn’t have had to instruct her dad to not refer to anyone by name or physical description and/or cut around any mention of Ben’s bare ankles. Because someone really did need to point out to Tayshia that her fixation on Ben was not it.
Which brings me to the other major flaw in the season: Tayshia is completely unable to see her own patterns. There’s been so little discussion about the type of guy that Tayshia usually goes for or her own bad dating habits, but when you look at when and where she’s bent the rules, a pattern emerges. Tayshia is completely willing to blow up the process or question her own thoughts and feelings when a man with a nice haircut tells her that he loves her.
Also, how fucking weird is it that the two men who showed up on her doorstep are named Ben and Bennett? They both used the same tactic with Tayshia: Fuck up in some way, get broken up with, and then show up professing their love. Both times, it worked on Tayshia enough to get her to momentarily take the guy back. I totally get the appeal of a square-jawed man showing up and saying “I love you.” It’s the reason that Don Draper was able to get away with so much bullshit with Betty for so long. So when the time comes to deal with Ben showing up at her doorstep and saying, “I love you. I don’t know what I want or what I expect you to do, but at least I’m here at an inappropriate time,” Tayshia agrees to have him come to the rose ceremony and INITIATES A KISS WITH HIM. OH, TAYSHIA.
What makes this even more frustrating is that this is kinda what Ben does! Think back to the group date where he didn’t take the time to grab Tayshia because he thought he would have time to do so and thought he could ask for more time. What did he do to fix that mess-up? Showed up at her hotel suite in the middle of the night and then pulled her aside first at the next rose ceremony. Why didn’t he tell Tayshia he loves her? Because he was confident he was getting a rose and going to Fantasy Suites. After Tayshia kisses him, he says he’s “100 percent confident” he’s getting a rose. He goes through a pattern of feeling incredibly confident so he kinda phones it in, and then when it doesn’t go his way, he shows up and spills his guts. It’s the Ted Mosby school of relationships. It doesn’t matter if you behave correctly in the relationship as long as you can arrange a big gesture when you fuck up. Ben is constantly emotionally running through an airport with an incredibly specific gift. “Remember? On our first date, when you took that salt packet?” “Bitch, I guess?”
AND IT WORKS ON TAYSHIA. Maybe if you haven’t been in a lot of relationships built on stability and honesty, a big gesture and a giant teddy bear or showing up outside your apartment in the rain can paper over a lot of bullshit. I imagine if you date a few John Paul Jones types, you’re likely to end up with more than one acoustic apology song after he forgets to pick you up from the airport. But I need TAYSHIA to see this pattern and realize this! I would love for Tayshia to realize that she’s been pushing the guys to walk through their own emotional minefields, but she doesn’t do the same for herself. As a result, the audience can’t really get to know her on a deeper level.
Also, apparently her religious differences with Ivan are enough to send him home. What was that about? When was any of that revealed? It would have been nice to know how and when Tayshia’s faith interacts with her life and how Ivan’s religious life didn’t match with hers. This is the show where Rachel Lindsay took multiple dudes to actual church.
But all of this to say that a real love story is actually kind of boring to watch. Just think about the last time you went to dinner with your friends who have a deep, long-lasting love. It probably occurred nine months to 14 years ago. They don’t have interesting stories. The best story two people in love based on shared values and mutual respect are going to have is about Pottery Barn and birch-textured flameless candles. It’s a cute story, but it’s not an exciting story. That’s what it feels like watching Zac and Tayshia.
So what are the highlights of the Zac and Tayshia love story we get this episode? Let’s start with the incredible base Zac laid down when he met her family. How about Zac telling Tayshia’s family the first time he saw her trademark glow was when she told him about her family for the first time? How about when Zac told Tayshia’s mom that in five years he sees them “happy”? HOW ABOUT WHEN HE SAID HE WAS EXCITED BY HIGH EXPECTATIONS RATHER THAN SCARED? I had no idea he could fly so high. Everything in Zac’s family time with Tayshia was about how she inspires him to do better or how thrilled he is to take care of her. Compare that to Ben’s time with her family, where all he was talking about was how Tayshia made him feel and how she fit the mold of what he’d want in a wife. It all sounded fine, but in comparison to Zac knocking it out of the park, it came up a little short.
Zac is the only one who gets the privilege of a final date in a fitness studio where they get to learn a short ballroom dance. Here it is! Finally! A romantic activity-based date where you can actually glean something from the task. Tayshia spends most of the date very nervous (because she’s nervous that things are going so well with Zac), and Zac spends the entire time trying to unlock his hip swivel. He reminds her to check in with him and make sustained eye contact. He describes the dance by saying, “We’re in a union.”
They head to the evening portion of the date where Tayshia continues to invent fears about the relationship that no human person has ever had just because she’s got to find something wrong. She asks him, “What if our plans change?” That’s literally all a relationship is: two people dealing with plans changing together. That might give some insight into what has gone wrong in her other relationships. I would love to know that if that’s true! She also says she’s worried about what happens if she decides to be a stay-at-home mom instead of the ambitious influencer that she is. I hate to be like this but, What man would be upset that his wife wanted to be a stay-at-home mom? Who has Tayshia dated before that her wanting to be a stay-at-home mom was an issue? Like on an ideological level? Zac tells her that what she does is not why he loves her.
The bar is certainly low, but Zac is MILES above it. For someone to tell you that you’re loved because of who you are and not what you do is fucking huge. Bless this man. He also tells her that it’s his nine-year sober anniversary and that his sobriety is the thing that allows him not to run away from difficult things. It’s given him the tools to challenge fear and face life. You gotta love a man with some therapeutic tools. Tayshia says she started the day uneasy but she’s going to bed happier than ever.
Once Ben is dismissed (by Tayshia telling him that they missed monumental time because she sent him home), the proposal for Tayshia and Zac starts moving forward. Neil Lane shows up to Zac’s hotel suite and they both ride up to the mountains and walk through the largest bunches of pampas grass I’ve ever seen. Tayshia puts on an amazing white-gray one-shoulder gown with some thick lacing in the back. Tayshia has never and will never sweat. Zac has to climb up the mountain to find Tayshia. He says he loves her because she’s a fighter, she’s strong, and she makes everyone around her better. He also loves that she’s a dork, which for hot people just means “has fun” or something. He also says that she drives him wild. He would drink her bathwater.
Tayshia goes into her speech about how she didn’t know that true love was possible and that she hit rock bottom, but she found something amazing in Zac because he shows gratitude and has the biggest smile. She tells him that she’s found more than love and she’s tried to find reasons it wouldn’t work, but Zac isn’t the type of man who will run away. Are you weeping yet? This is when I began fully weeping. She says she’s ready to jump into more fountains and hail a taxi. I’m ready for these people to find a hobby to do together.
Zac tells her that the smile his parents saw on his face when she met his family is the greatest gift she could have given his family and that he’s going to choose her every day, every week, every year. He gets down on one knee and barely gets any words out before Tayshia screams “YES!” He starts fist-pumping while they make out. They are positively delirious with love when they do their post-engagement interview, and Zac says, “Yeeaaahhhh! Make some beautiful babiiiieeessss!!! Woooooo!” and grabs Tayshia’s ass. He says it’s time for them to hail a taxi, and there’s a Flintstones-style taxi for them to walk off into the sunset with a sign that says “Just Engaged!”
And that’s a wrap on this wild season! I’ll see you all in 11 DAYS for Matt James’s season!