What show am I watching? Someone tell me what television program I just spent two hours watching with a glass of Beaujolais nouveau and a six-inch-high stack of Mega Oreos? Because this episode had a straightforward and honest discussion of both addiction and eating disorders and a female host. This episode didn’t have anyone being forced to eat a scorpion butt or run a sex-trivia-themed relay race. It was just a series of people talking and working through their emotions and personal histories. WHAT SHOW IS THIS? This is not The Bachelorette I signed up for! Where is the contesticle who is just there to promote his CBD-inspired workout classes? Where is the lead being forced by production to say “I love you” to four people to keep it spicy going into hometowns? Why hasn’t anyone thrown up on a cactus yet?!?!? Did we just have to remove Chris Harrison and move all these people into LaQuinta? Because they got LaQuinta Inns all over the country. Sure, they’re not as luxury, but let’s try it.
Let’s get to it. We have woken up in the bright Palm Springs sun after a rose ceremony, so we are on the right path, but Tayshia is feeling anxious. Thankfully, out of the desert, a learned sage emerges from the oasis to guide her on this journey. It’s JoJo. Have her put that amazing blue dress on again and hand out some roses for old times’ sake.
But JoJo isn’t there just to remind us of the parts of 2016 that weren’t actively awful and soul-crushing, she’s there to give Tayshia some advice. Tayshia has the entirely unique problem of being the Bachelorette, and JoJo just tells her that she was the Bachelorette before so don’t overthink it. That’s basically the only content of their conversation and for a moment, this show almost passed the Bechdel test.
Chris Harrison goes to greet all the guys and tells them that there’s only 12 of them remain — wait, how are there still 12 of these dudes left?! Spencer is still there? We’re still dealing with Ed? Eliminate some of these heaux. Chris Harrison introduces JoJo to the contesticles as his replacement as he drops his son off at college. JoJo is also there as a reminder that you too can find love with a failed NFL quarterback who is estranged from his more famous and successful brother. Real love exists and so do home-flipping reality shows on CNBC. So let’s get to the dates! There will be two one-on-one dates, a group date, and just for funsies, a sneak-attack two-on-one date. JoJo hands off the first date card of the week and it goes to Zac!
I looked up where Zac is from because his “Tough Guy Who Just Fell in Love for the First Time” energy is intoxicating and I want to drink it in. He’s from Haddonfield, New Jersey, and for some reason, my boyfriend whose entire family is from New Jersey had nothing to tell me about Haddonfield so I Googled it. It’s the same hometown as another slightly cynical romantic, Harry Burns. You guys. That’s exactly who this motherfucker is. Just look at him. But he’s like end-of-the-movie Harry, who is more in touch with his emotions and appreciates that Sally likes her chocolate sauce on the side, which is the Harry that you want. Please, dear God, let Tayshia have to fake an orgasm in front of him while they wear aggressively late-’80s fashion. Get him in a baggy sweatshirt and get her in a tapered-leg pant.
Tayshia is attracted to Zac because he’s not the typical guy she’s usually attracted to. She’s mostly attracted to guys whose vibes could be described as “Human Labrador Puppy” or “Hollister Greeter,” so someone who has maturity, life experience, and has turned 30 is really life-changing for her. Maybe this season is so good because we’re watching a woman realize that her dating options can include men that have shared life experience and don’t have to be described as “Spicoli-esque.”
Tayshia’s date with Zac is seemingly a Bachelorette staple where they get dressed up in wedding gowns and tuxedos and take a few fun photos. Who doesn’t like to do a fun photo shoot? My friends and I in high school would creative direct each other in sexy Shakespearean-inspired photo shoots in my backyard. Listen, I have always been exactly who I am. This kind of date is usually a group date where the lead gets a little bit of time with each person in a different bridal themed outfit — ’80s bride! Underwater bride! “Oh shit, we got married too young and now I’m realizing I should have spent more of my 20s exploring my own needs and maybe taking a French lover” bride! It seems that Tayshia has some experience with that last one and starts to freak out about putting on a wedding dress again. This is where Zac is fucking clutch. He takes a moment before they start the photo shoot, during the photo shoot, and after the photo shoot to notice how she’s feeling, ask if she’s okay, and remind her that she doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to do.
Why is a man quietly and calmly reassuring you that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do and being ready to clear the path for you to stay at home in your pajamas and eat a bag of marshmallows just the sexiest quality?
WHAT SHOW AM I WATCHING?!?!?
At the dinner portion of their date, Tayshia doesn’t know any way to start human conversation other than by going “What makes you you?” Thankfully, Zac has an incredibly thoughtful answer to that question. Zac had a life-threatening brain tumor, had multiple emergency surgeries, and as a result, he got introduced to pain medication. He got married at 23 because “that’s what happens next.” He continued drinking, abusing drugs, and partying, and all of that resulted in a DUI and what sounds like more than one arrest. His wife left him because of his addiction and legal troubles. When he was stealing one of his dad’s checks to get some money, the bank teller called his father to come pick him up and that was his moment of clarity that led to success in rehab, sobriety, and now Zac sits on the board of the rehab where he got clean.
WOW! YES! THIS IS AMAZING! Usually the show paints any failure on the part of the contestant as something to justify and disqualifying for love. It’s a liability that someone was married before. It’s a cause for concern that someone’s parents were incarcerated or not around. It’s always framed as “How can this person love when they’ve experienced hardship?” Even if the lead eventually comes around to “I’m really glad they shared this with me,” it always has to be framed as a worthwhile lesson that showed the contestant why it was so important to overcome their fears and skydive in Latvia with the Bachelorette. Zac isn’t wringing his hands over it, it’s just something about him, and he even calls it “the best ride.” Because this show can’t completely change overnight, Zac and Tayshia get on a rickety-ass Ferris wheel and make out. Zac gets the rose!
It’s also incredibly important to sit for a moment and think about how the change in the way this story is told is important for people who are sober or who are still living with addiction. Zac is worthy of love, affection, and respect. It’s not “even though” or “in spite of” his addiction; everything in his life story has contributed to the person he is today and that person is worthy of love and respect. So many families are affected by addiction, mine included, and seeing even the most subtle shifts in how sobriety and recovery are portrayed across the media and in love stories could change someone’s path forward.
It’s time for the group date and they’re doing arts-and-crafts! Fuck yes! Spencer, Ivan, Ed, Blake, Brandon, Riley, Demar, Bennett, Ben, and Noah all head to Convention Breakout Room A to find two nude pottery instructors posing in front of the classroom. Immediately, all the guys put more clothes on in case this is some sort of strip-art competition … whatever that might be. Instead, it’s an emotional gauntlet where each guy is going to have to repeatedly find some trauma to mine from within themselves to turn into a cute picture. Listen, I’ve been in and taught this performance-art class before. I definitely remember being in an improv class doing an improvised blues song and thinking, “Oh shit, I think they want us to cry. I gotta think about something to cry about?”
“But Ali,” you say, “you just loved Zac talking about his addiction. What’s different?” When you say to a group of men that they have to be “the most vulnerable” and “take the biggest risk,” they’re going to get a prize? That’s fucked up. Especially when ten minutes ago, Blake made a clay penis. Isn’t he the one who was always pissed that they had to get naked on group dates? Uh-huh …
When it’s time for the group share, Ben realizes that he’s bad at talking about his feelings and that his painting sucks and instead runs out of the room and returns completely naked. He repeats something about showing up and letting his guard down and breaking through walls. That black box they have to use to blur his junk is also …
Tayshia runs off and cries to a producer and says, “This is what happens when you date real men!” Tayshia! Yes! Date people with real emotions! These men are real people with interesting stories! Maybe don’t make them turn those stories into tempera-paint masterpieces, but yes, interesting stories and vulnerability! Also, on the way out, Brandon keeps cheering for everyone and how great their art was! A supportive king!
Tayshia decides to remove the one-on-one time from the rest of the date and wants to spend time with all of them. And her titties are out! She is REH-DEE for these dudes. Riley steals her away and they talk about his parents being divorced and how he didn’t have a relationship with his mom for years. She finally sits down with Ben again and he tells her that when he was a kid, he was fat and wasn’t being noticed by girls so he developed an eating disorder. He tells her members of his family never knew and maybe still don’t know he had an eating disorder for ten years. Tayshia gives him the group-date rose, but before we can celebrate this moment, she tells Bennett and Noah that she’s getting to the bottom of their bullshit.
The last official date of the week is Eazy and Tayshia. At first, I was wondering just how excited Tayshia was to be ghost hunting, since that is not typically the activity of our people, but then I saw her dash out of that library. Also, there’s been some rumors and allegations floating out there about Eazy, but it’s a little hard to find out exactly what the story is. Regardless, there is a real desire from some folks watching the show to not focus on Eazy, but either the show didn’t know about the allegations or they knew but kept him as one of the narrators of the season. We don’t get a lot of information about Eazy on this date and it’s certainly not very romantic. He’s also decided he’s going to tell her he’s falling in love with her despite this being their first one-on-one. She says, “Thanks but no thanks,” and sends him home. It’s also pretty funny that Eazy keeps going, “Really? Oh no,” and laughing to himself. Yeah, dude. You done goofed in more ways than one.
It’s time for the guys to get ready for the cocktail party, but first Tayshia wants to sit down with Bennett and Noah to get to the bottom of what is happening. Noah is confident that he’s a tight little package and Tayshia tends to like those. Bennett decides to act like an alien wearing a human suit who learned English via LinkedIn forums and business self-help books. He brings Noah a gift of little knickknacks that look like the serial-killer altar he’s going to arrange around Noah’s body. Noah’s response is just that GIF of Julia Louis-Dreyfus going “What the fuck” from Veep. Tayshia comes in and asks them what is going on and Bennett says he doesn’t have any problems with Noah, just that Noah is immature, he doesn’t like him, and he thinks Noah shouldn’t speak near him. He does that amazing thing where Noah will say, “You said 100 percent I won’t end up with Tayshia,” and Bennett goes, “No, no. I never said that. I said you have a zero percent chance that she chooses you.” You love to see it. Tayshia looks around and goes … “What’s in the box?”
TO BE CONTINUED …