I dream of a simpler, better time. A time when Matt James’s season of The Bachelor and the franchise’s third reckoning (after feminist and alcoholic) didn’t actually happen, when a sentient Best of Kenny G compilation CD didn’t mansplain racism to Rachel Lindsay, and when Emmanuel Acho was still the guy from those LinkedIn commercials. A time when we got to know Katie as more than some kind of oracle portending future tragedies. But we don’t live in that time. I’m thisclose to securing a TemPad and I can make it real, but for now, in this unfortunate timeline, we still don’t know a lot about Katie.
The Bachelor Cinematic Universe didn’t know how to tell Katie’s story during Matt’s season, and now the show has a lead whose life story we haven’t really seen before. The number of things we’ve learned about Katie during this season that are completely new information is mind-boggling. She grew up poor, her parents are divorced, she’s outdoorsy, she has zero style. (Sidebar: She keeps trying to do an “edgy” thing, but her sweet spot is “Kate Middleton doing a rustic photo op with a touch of Strawberry Shortcake.”) And so much of what we do know about her seems to be at odds with this entire endeavor. She’s sex-positive! … on a show that refuses to let people sleep together before the ninth date. She’s cheerfully accommodating! … on a show where she needs to be unflappable and discerning. She’s looking for someone who is here for the right reasons! … but also Blake. This season is going to have to reconcile a whole bunch of shit, and if the show’s best strategy is twinkly music while Katie shares her sexual-assault story and an extreme close-up while she repeats, “Maybe I’m naïve because I’m white,” the show is already in over its head.
Let’s get into it.
It’s early morning at the resort, Thomas has been slain, and the contesticles are finally able to eat and do their sunrise cat-cow-cobra stretches in peace. A weight has been lifted off the house and everyone there is for the right reason. There is no possible way that anything could go wrong from this point on, because everyone knows that all the best television relies on monotonous, unvaried storytelling. Hunter is completely calm and his mood will never change.
HA HA! PSYCH! BLAKE AND ALL HIS JAW IS HERE! This cartoon-lion-lookin’ motherfucker is about to burst onto the scene and ruin everyone’s goddamned day.
Meanwhile, Katie walks with Kaitlyn around the Hilton Tangerine resort asking how Kaitlyn handled Nick joining her season. I mean … it was fine, except for the part where we all had to learn what slut-shaming was from someone named Ris Arrison … hmmm … that can’t be right. These old runes must have been smudged.
Tayshia comes in to gently break the news that a man … who she knows … has arrived. Bye, everyone! Deal with it! Everyone turns into Justin and their eyes pop out of their head. They put it together pretty quickly that Katie must already have some connection with this Mystery Mandible and they’re all screwed. Blake walks in and the rest of the guys stare at him in complete silence. Greg fills the Shawn Booth role and immediately becomes jealous and seethes quietly to himself. The Bumble Algorithm is overloaded.
The date card arrives and Blake gets a one-on-one. This is Hunter’s villain-origin story. Blake says that this is the best-case scenario for him, and Aaron looks him dead in the eye and tells him, “I’m not happy.” What Aaron lacks in subtlety, he makes up for in abs and embodying the spirit of Michael Jordan watching something on an iPad and cackling. Katie comes in and opens the floor for the guys to tell her, the woman who is able to eliminate them at will, how they’re feeling. Quartney asks if she talked to Blake before the season, and she says Blake sent her one sentence on Instagram and conveniently leaves out the flirty courtyard meet-cute they had where they were seconds away from kissing the entire time.
It’s time for her date with Blake, and these two have CHEMISTRY. They are ELECTRIC together. Blake normally has a real “I bought a book for her and she didn’t fall in love with me” vibe, but that’s really mellowed with Katie. He does still ask her if she’s been to Africa and says he’s really into “African animals” and that he goes to “Africa” months at a time. Katie mentions that she’s been to Ireland and Taiwan, two countries, but Blake really wants to take her to Africa. They ride horses to a bench in the middle of a rock formati— aaaaand they’re already making out. They talk about how much they have in common and they sit on a hay bale — and they’re making out again. The other guys are back at the house hoping that Blake messes it up in some way, and they’re literally rolling in the hay.
Back at the house, the date card arrives and Greg, Quartney, Aaron, Mike P., Michael A., Andrew M., Josh, Justin, Brendan, James, Connor B., Tre, and Hunter will be taking their anger out on each other. Also, I’m positive I’ve never heard three of those guys speak. Through the power of deduction, Andrew S. is going on the one-on-one date.
Back at the night portion of the date, Blake has been told by a producer to ask Katie why she’s so sex-positive so that she can retell the story of her sexual assault. Obviously, Katie has done a lot of work to process that assault and has unlearned the shame that comes with her all-too-common experience. I just wish she didn’t have to tell this story in order for men to “understand” why she is the way that she is. I wish this show didn’t conflate intimacy and vulnerability with sharing trauma with near-strangers. And I really wish anyone on this television program would have a conversation about being “sex-positive” that lays out any specifics about what that means to a relationship in practice and doesn’t boil down to just “I enjoy premarital sex.” Someone talk about what their preferred contraceptive is! Someone talk about STI testing! I would give up everything in my life to hear someone on this show say the word “abortion” without breaking into tears and begging for forgiveness.
Blake gets the rose because he has declared himself sex-positive. They head to another room to listen to an alleged singer named Laine Hardy. Apparently he won season 17 of American Idol, which was two years ago, and was born in the year 2000, which was only ten years ago somehow. He sounds great for a small child. Katie says the song “Memorize You” is the perfect song to dance to with Blake, and I’ll be good and goddamned but this one got me. These crazy kids just might make it.
It’s time for the diametric opposite of this date! Bachelor Legends Wells Adams and Franco LaCosta are here to introduce Katie’s Bachelorette Bash Ball Battle, which is a positively insane name for a fake sporting event designed to sever someone’s spine. Whose spine will it be? Stay tuned and find out! Hunter is paired with Katie for tackling drills, which consist of picking her up and gently laying her down in the grass. That is the last time Hunter will be remotely tolerable for, I’m guessing, the rest of the season. The contesticles put on tiny wrestling outfits and Greg is able to dunk?!?!? I’m not sure what the rules of this game are but GREG is DUNKING. If I asked everyone to picture someone who is able to dunk, did you picture someone who looks like a ’90s teen heartthrob? If yes, wild choice, and thank you for believing in Greg.
Hunter decides that this is the moment to turn this lighthearted game into a physically and emotionally devastating ritualistic ball game ending in human sacrifice. Once the other guys see Hunter go after someone’s ACL, the game stops being about “points” and starts being about “breaking tibias.” Michael A. is tackled from behind by Justin and he goes down hard. He is not moving. Oh shit. Michael A. is having trouble catching his breath and Justin slinks off into the brush to avoid accountability for his brutality. Katie rushes over and calls the game so no one is murdered and says that everyone can come to the after-party, please stop hitting each other.
At the after-party, Katie takes Michael A. aside first and he tells her that yesterday was his wife’s birthday and he celebrated thoughtfully alone. He thanks Katie for bringing comfort to his life and asks her to kiss him because he can’t move or feel his legs. Katie is excited to explore these relationships without drama. Connor the Cat’s shirt is fully open and he’s playing the ukulele. It makes Katie cry. The rest of the guys are marveling that they made it out alive and Hunter licks blood from a knife. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to get that rose, so he shows Katie pictures of his kids and tells her that he wants her to meet his children. He’s fucking savage.
Michael tells the rest of the guys about being a widower and Greg can hardly fathom that someone with a good attitude has gone through difficulties. I think he might be grappling with the concept of “difficult things happening” in general. Greg is blown away by Michael sharing the lessons he’s learned about perspective. Greg decides that Michael’s story is really about him, so he needs to tell Katie how he’s feeling. Hunter gets the group-date rose because Greg’s feelings are strong, but production is stronger.
It’s time for Andrew S.’s one-on-one date. He meets Katie under the cloak of darkness and they head deep into the woods to do a series of small, adorable dares and ask each other ice-breaker questions. They have a fun, easy chemistry and share an understanding that Katie hasn’t really shared with any of the other contesticles at this point. Andrew’s signature dance move is the dolphin and they both like brunch. They share what they learned from their parents’ relationships, and that they want to be married forever, unlike all those other people who want to get divorced early and often.
It’s the evening portion of the date where we hit every single space on the “Black contestant on The Bachelorette” bingo card. Oof. This is Andrew’s experience and he feels comfortable enough to share his story with Katie, and in turn America, but wow, did he play all the hits or what? There’s turning to sports as an escape from his painful home life. There’s an absentee father who was also in jail. There’s dating a white woman who wasn’t racist in her heart but would ask what strangers would think if she and Andrew had children together. TEN THOUSAND OOFS. There’s not nearly enough time to unpack all of these, but let’s just start with his white ex-girlfriend. Sir, if she’s concerned that strangers won’t think her mixed-race children are hers and that that’s enough of an issue to end the relationship, she might be a little bit racist. Also, who are these strangers asking all these questions about your imaginary children?!?!?! If a white person sees another white person with a child of color, they probably just assume the child is adopted and go about their business. Everybody thinks the white parent saved that child from a Precious Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire situation and is a hero.
Again, all of these things are parts of Andrew’s life, but off the top of my head, I can name four Black men in the Bachelor Cinematic Universe whose life stories center on an absentee father, jail, or a problematic white partner. There’s still a narrow mold for Black men on The Bachelor(ette), and the show ends the segment just short of Katie saying, “I don’t care if you’re Black, white, purple, or polka dots.” Instead Katie tells Andrew he’s going to make a great dad and husband. Andrew gets the Token Rose … I mean, the one-on-one rose.
It’s time for the cocktail party and Hunter has decided that just because he’s gotten a rose, that doesn’t mean he can’t be the most annoying son of a bitch on this planet. He sets up a telescope mini-date for Katie even though he’s gotten a rose, because he’s not just trying to get to the next week, he’s trying to WIN. Tre and Aaron cannot handle Hunter’s nonsense. Just to be clear: Hunter is in the wrong and everyone else is in the right. They’re just being a little sanctimonious about it, per usual. James tries to steal Katie away and Hunter tells him that they just started their mini-date and the laser light show is 40 minutes long. James walks three steps away and then walks back and asks again. Everyone is worried that Hunter is another Thomas, thus cementing that the house banded together to kick Thomas out because he was getting time with Katie.
It’s time to hand out the roses and Greg, Aaron, Michael A., Connor, James, Justin, Mike P., Brendan, and Tre all get roses. When Quartney is sent home, Katie tells him she’s proud of him?!?!? And all the guys say “Good-bye, Q” in unison and give him a round of applause!!?!?! What was that about! Was there a Quartney-with-a-Q story line we missed? Am I the only one who is a Quartney stan?!! Justice for Quartney!
Aaron gets ready to do the post-rose-ceremony toast, and Hunter STEALS IT FROM HIM and hip-checks a natural rubber ball into a high hoop, thus pleasing the gods.