Hey there! The great Ali Barthwell is out this week, presumably gunning laps around Lake Minnetonka with a speedboat, Miami Vice style. I, Nick Quah, will be your humble chaperone in her stead today.
After several consecutive seasons largely constrained to bio-secure resort bubbles, which rendered the show less of a grand adventure and more of an elaborate adult summer camp, The Bachelorette is finally jet-setting between cities again. How I’ve missed this! There’s something truly satisfying about seeing the highly synthetic Bachelor-verse out interacting with the real world again, smooching amidst a sea of confused, blurred-out strangers. This feels right.
As teased at the end of last week, we’re off to Minneapolis, Michelle’s home town, which Google tells me is a manageable three-hour flight from Palm Springs. I’ve only ever been to Minneapolis once, but I’ve found it entirely agreeable, even in the dead of winter. Anyway, we begin by seeing the massive blob of burly bachelors roam down a downtown street, where Michelle greets them and reveals that, surprise surprise, it’s time for a one-on-one date, and Joe’s up to bat.
The pick should come as absolutely no surprise. After all, Joe’s from Minnesota, which makes him a geographically appropriate date. Minnesota Joe also has a ton going for him, in addition to having literal home court advantage in this episode. The dude, as Kevin Durant would say, is “a hooper,” much like Michelle. He’s slid into her DMs in the past (though he did end up ghosting her in that interaction). And as we find out during the date, he also reminds Michelle of her dad and brother (hm!), being the quiet and reserved type. As the Fountains of Wayne joint goes, the guy has all kinds of time.
We get a lot of sports action this week. The date with Joe brings them to the Twins stadium, and to Michelle’s high school, where they canoodle in front of her old locker and play one-on-one pick-up during their one-on-one. Here is where my brain drifts, wondering what, exactly, is Joe’s mold as a baller. Is he a pass-first guy? Who does he model his game after? He definitely seems like a Damian Lillard type.
Meanwhile, the embers of last week’s cocktail-party fire continue to smolder. We last left things at a moment where it felt like maybe, just maybe, we’re hitting that point in a season where we’re past the manufactured conflicts. You know, when all the also-ran troublemakers have been excised from the pack — Pizza Guy is gone, as is Gaslight Jamie — and the remaining bachelors can breathe easy, focus on the task at hand, and hey, maybe even forge lasting male bonds. (Get you a bromance as cozy as Connor B. and Greg’s from last season.) Boy, I do love it when the guys seem to genuinely love each other. But alas, it was not to be, as the season has one last villain on store for us: Chris S., the commodities man of California with just a touch of early-Gossip Girl Chuck Bass, who stepped into the wrestling-heel vacuum and proceeded to antagonize everybody else under the guise of serving Michelle’s best interests, singling out Nayte as the guy who thinks he “has it in the bag.” And so, back at the hotel, Nayte’s feeling the heat a little bit. Chris S., on the other hand, mostly sits back, stews, and feels entitled about getting an unprompted reward for his supposed good deeds.
Back at the one-on-one with Joe, who’s sporting a strong Uniqlo-Everlane look, we’re now at the evening portion, which in the Bachelor-verse means it’s time for the customary dispensing of trauma. Joe opens up further to Michelle, recounting a truly devastating turn in his life. We’ve had some traces of the context: we know he was once Minnesota Mr. Basketball, but we didn’t yet know why he never made the jump to, say, the Minnesota Timberwolves. And that’s because a combination of a severe injury — a broken fifth metatarsal, which I’ll let you Google — and a botched surgery threw him off trajectory. He was never the same player after that. The loss of that identity crushed him, bringing him to very dark places. “Ball was life, and that life is gone.” It’s a really moving moment, as is his polite follow-up right after: “Thanks for asking.” Oh, man. Look, I know it’s craven at this point to bring us back to the Bachelorette framework, but this is reality television: Joe, already with a huge lead, seems to widen it further. One might even go so far as to say this season is probably Joe’s to lose at this point. Or is it?
Time for the group date. Nayte gets the second one-on-one — which is obviously to suss him out, given last week’s brouhaha — and the rest of the guys are bussed over to the US Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings. Look, the volume of sports in this episode is really doing it for me, but I totally understand if it does nothing for you. It’s definitely doing something for Clayton, reportedly the next Bachelor and an absolute boulder of a man, who is very excited about the stadium setting, being a former football player himself. Through football, he seems to believe, he will be able to best express himself to Michelle.
… except there’s a twist: There will be no football on this day. But there will be vikings! The men are confronted by three cosplaying Vikings, who make them take turns shouting manly war cries. This, dear reader, is why I watch The Bachelorette and its sister incarnations: the wanton displays of varying masculinities. I watch, so I may understand. The whole thing is a stark contrast to last week’s spa-tastic group date. Clayton, a mountain of an individual, acquits himself well with the war cry. (Maybe too well.) As does Rick, who really has this thing with the eyes:
Chris S., meanwhile, gets the shrimp edit. We’re given his woodland creature war cry, his struggle at other various physical acts, and later, when the men are made to dress in Viking-ish attire — flattering for some more so than others; Olumide, in particular, gets to flaunt the ornate grooves of his midsection — Chris S. is given a half-donkey suit, which, obviously, he stews over. There’s some consumption of various gnarly delicacies, which is a gambit the show has gone to a bunch over the years, but I guess it’s less culturally fraught this time round given that the cuisine in question is Nordic. Anyway, highlighted dishes include head hash (which I’ve had, and honestly isn’t that bad) and fermented herring, to which Rodney — dear, sweet Rodney — innocently inquires: “Are they crunchy?”
At the afterparty, Clayton, an asteroid of a human being, gets the first pocket of alone time, and after weeks of getting little flavor from the guy, I’m beginning to see why he might well be the next Bachelor after all. He checks in on Michelle, he asks what her experience was like on his side of the Bachelor fence, he’s moderately charming, he gets the group date rose. The rest of the afterparty is largely uneventful, except for Chris S., who huffs and puffs about not getting a level of special treatment from Michelle for the “good information” he previously provided. He ultimately doesn’t get any alone time with Michelle, which deepens his descent.
And we’re off to Nayte’s one-on-one, which involves some speedboat action on Lake Minnetonka with a side of inquisition. Michelle sics her two best friends on the guy, and as the boat floats out on the lake, they prosecute the case: “Do you know anybody who might be here for the wrong reasons?” (Somebody watches the show.) (I mean, who doesn’t, at this point?) They seem satisfied with Nayte’s response, and warm up to him in general. It’s all very sudden, frankly. I wasn’t particularly sold.
I also personally didn’t get much from Nayte in the evening portion of the date, which seems to take place either in a convention center or some sort of transportation depot. He talks about wanting to preserve an inner child in his relationships, which, sure. Michelle, meanwhile, goes deep on a past experience going through intense, debilitating anxiety during her last relationship, where it sounded like her suffering went largely unnoticed and unattended to by her ex. This gives a lot more context to her previously shared fears about not being seen.
The date is interrupted by Chris S., who, having spiraled down to the very bottom of his insecurities and straight through to the molten core of the earth, crashes the festivities (never a good move) and demands a private conversation. Nayte is incredulous, but Michelle grants the request. Chris S. expresses that he feels “really played by the whole situation,” seeing as how he was never granted time during the afterparty, and he didn’t want Michelle “to make the wrong decision.” The guy, obviously, doesn’t have very much to stand on. With the authoritative diplomacy of any veteran school teacher, she expresses appreciation for his attempt to … I dunno, do good, I guess, but body checks him for his insistence on speaking for her, which she needs absolutely no one to do. So she sends his ass packing and goes back to Nayte, where the date is capped off with her marveling at their unsurpassed level of chemistry. Maybe Joe’s lead isn’t so wide after all.
The cocktail party is mostly drama-free. Rick gets some dance time. Rodney — adorable, precious Rodney — declares fealty to Minneapolis on a rooftop. Brandon gets a birthday cake … well, there’s a bit of drama. Martin runs into turbulence when he makes an unforced error complaining about how “females” in Miami (where he’s based) are “high maintenance.” The look on Michelle’s face as he’s made to explain himself will be seared into my brain forever. Later, with the bros (you know how it goes), he claims, “I don’t think she understood what I meant to say.” Sure, guy.
Will we ever get a chance to learn what Martin meant to say? As it turns out, maybe we will. He ends up getting a rose, along with Olumide, Rick, Brandon, and Rodney, who’s made to sweat a little as the last guy picked. Casey, who has intense dad energy, and Leroy, who has amazing glasses, are sent home.
And that’s it! We’re now heading into the intense stage of the season, and I’m pumped. Thanks for letting me sit in for Ali. It was a pleasure.