The Bachelorette Recap: Dealing With the Past

The Bachelorette

Week Six
Season 18 Episode 6
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

The Bachelorette

Week Six
Season 18 Episode 6
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Craig Sjodin/ABC

My dear friends, I’m back and ready to dive in. But before we get into the meat of the episode, I need a moment to celebrate.

We did it! We did it, Joe (Biden, not Mr. Basketball)! We have a Black Bachelorette with an all-Black final four! Black family hometowns! Clap clap! Black family hometowns! Clap clap! What a moment. What an experience. What a mood. After everything we’ve been through this year with Bachelor Nation — my lawyer informed me that if I speak on Katie Thurston’s “12 Days of Messy,” I will violate my parole — a rare first in this franchise is worth applauding. Also, in the long, rich history of this show absolutely fucking with Black contestants and other contestants of color, knowing we’re on the verge of watching a Black love story unfold on The Bachelorette is pretty fucking sweet. This season has marched along without the everyday racism that’s passed off as fun drama or the impetus for romantic redemption. Look at what we can achieve if we don’t cast racists and cast leads who value kindness above all else. So yeah, I’m pumped going into these last few episodes, and I hope The Bachelorette sticks the landing for Michelle and all of us at home. When I said “us,” I was pointing to the back of my hand.

Also, it’s worth celebrating that this is not only the first all-Black hometowns, this is the first all-light-skinned final hour. It’s a parade of Nathan’s from Insecure, and I love that for Michelle.

Let’s get to it.

The Bachelorette should be hosted and produced exclusively by children! Luke, Kelsey, Ahmed, and Jayleen are stars and royalty. They know what the people want. They’re willing to get us some amazing produced moments with these men. They were asked to come up with date ideas and said, “Where did we go on a field trip before?” When I was in high school, my English teacher asked us during quiet writing time where was a good place to go on a date, and we said, unanimously, “The aquarium!” We did not tolerate any follow-up questions or other suggestions. The aquarium is a perfect place for a date. Children understand romance. Michelle’s students have made her drawings and written her letters about how much she deserves love. This just proves that there is no hot male teacher Michelle’s age at their school because that would have been their first preference for her husband. But no matter, the youth are not fazed, and they head to the guys’ suite to interrogate them.

They want to know who the bad guys are. Have any of you been grounded? Nayte immediately tries to do a handstand to impress the children. They can smell desperation. They can smell who wants it too much. Kelsey says that Olu is warmhearted, and she thinks that Nayte would be good to play basketball with. Uh oh, girl, I have some footage to show you. Martin immediately starts talking to the literal children like he’s in the VIP section of an ultralounge. They do not want to hear about the intimate and romantic moments you’ve had with Michelle. She teaches them fractions! You’re wearing too much cologne and irritating Ahmed’s allergies!

The producers have told Clayton that this is his moment to prove why he should be the Bachelor, so he immediately begins to build a narrative and a blanket fort with the kids. He’s fine? Right? We can all agree that he’s just absolutely acceptable and fine. It’s just baffling that out of all the men this season (and even from seasons past) that The Bachelor’s best option was a man whose only discernable quality is “muscles.” He’s like Krunk with less personality. He’s the only person who can tell a child that he farted in front of his girlfriend and I feel absolutely nothing. It seems like after the turmoil of the last few seasons, The Bachelor wants to return to their bread and butter, which is men whose entire vibe could be summed up as “bread with butter on it.”

The children slap down the first date card of the week, and they pick the guy they like the best and who production told them needed the airtime. It’s obviously Clayton! Michelle and Clayton head to the Bell Museum after dark, and this is the coolest date. None of the statues or animals come alive and need their help solving a mystery, so it’s not a perfect night, but it looks very fun. Clayton performs some mating dances for Michelle in the hall of birds, and she says she loves how willing he is to make a fool of himself. Michelle says that her best quality is how much she’s willing to help the people she loves, and Clayton says he is experiencing so much growth. He’s advancing at a rapid rate for a human of his size and age.

It’s time for the evening portion of the date, and Clayton says he’s considered having offspring and finds that acceptable. Clayton is trying to run through as many romantic and profound lines as he can during the dinner portion of the date. At one point, he completely throws away the line “Love yourself before you love somebody, absolutely” like it was yadda yadda yadda. Dude! Slow down! You’re going to have so much more time when you’re the Bachelor. Unfortunately, Michelle tells him that he checks all the qualities she’s looking for in someone, but she just doesn’t know if she can get there in time. She’s just following her heart.

Then we spend an outrageous amount of time with Clayton as he leaves the show. Am I correct in thinking that this is the next day when the kids return to give him handwritten letters about how much he deserves love. Luke just wants to know if he can come to Mr. Clayton’s eventual wedding with his sister. Is your sister between the ages of 20 and 29 with a valid U.S. passport? Clayton is full-on weeping. He hasn’t cried in years, but these fifth-graders’ crayon scribbled words have moved him to tears. He wants a family, he wants children, and it feels good to weep like this in the hallway of this hotel — good-bye (for now), Clayton. We’ll see you in a few months if the internet hasn’t already ruined your season.

It’s time for the group date. Rick, Rodney, Nayte, Joe, Martin, and Olu are heading to a farm in another classic elementary-school field trip location. Michelle is really straining to make the activities on the farm feel metaphoric. Milking a cow? Are you willing to get your hands dirty for love? Giving a bottle to a tiny calf? Nurturing men are sexy. Shoveling poop? Uhh … changing diapers? Yeah, that checks out. When it comes to the farm, Rodney keeps calling every cow “Bessie” and constantly narrates milking the cow. Joe is a baby cow whisperer. Tiny cows are walking up to him and lowering their heads in reverence. Nayte keeps pretending to get winded so he can sneak off to give Michelle kisses, and animals flee at the sight of Martin. It’s also revealed that Rodney has a secret handshake with Michelle after making another secret handshake with Ahmed. This man is high octane adorable, and I fucking love it.

It’s the last group after-party, and the mood is tense. Michelle knows that these guys should be the most vulnerable they’ve ever been. Vulnerable. Everybody drink. Nayte places his token on the “I’m falling for you” board game track with the declaration that he’s “seriously, strongly falling for Michelle,” and Michelle says that her heart is going a million miles an hour and she feels strongly about him too. Ricks tells her he doesn’t have any doubts in a complete whisper. Rodney tells her how much he wants her to meet his family and see where he came from. Meanwhile, Martin is telling the other guys that Michelle is a little immature because she wrote a poem for a poem challenge about something that happened to her in high school. She clearly hasn’t worked through that, and she’s a little defensive.

Fuck this guy! Is there some legal requirement that if you’re a guy from Miami with that exact haircut and fake glasses, you have to act like a complete and total asshole? When he’s with Michelle, he tells her how he loves that she handles herself like a woman. Also, what the fuck does that mean? Olu decides to tell Michelle about what Martin is saying when she’s not around. This is the only way to tattle to the lead: The accusation is specific and limited in scope, the offense just happened, and there are presumably witnesses to the bad behavior. Olu tells Michelle just about the “haven’t dealt with your past” line, and he says that he isn’t doing this to benefit himself but to let Michelle know what’s happening. It just reinforces how Michelle has been feeling about Martin. When it’s time to hand out the group date rose, Michelle takes Martin aside just to clear things up. Martin does not clear things up.

Michelle just wants Martin to confirm or deny if he called her immature, and if he didn’t say it, where would that come from. Martin’s defense is “Am I even allowed to defend myself?” Rick tells the other guys, “They’re definitely arguing.” Martin says there’s a difference between having insecurities and being insecure. Okay, cool. Which one is Michelle? Also, let her finish a sentence, please. Martin is telling Michelle how to feel about what happened and how she should completely reshape the definitions of words that she knows to fit Martin’s narrative … where she’s immature and insecure. But those aren’t negative things if you look at how Martin wants you to. Martin says, “I apologize for maybe speaking over you.” Goddamn it! This is not even fun villainry. This is an “annoying guy at the bar who really wants to tell you what you don’t understand about the blockchain.” Oh, is it a decentralized public ledger, Chet? I’ve turned my full body and face away from you, and I’m currently eating cheese curds, but that has not discouraged you from continuing this conversation. Michelle walks Martin out. Martin sucks, and I do not like him. Nayte gets the group date rose.

It’s time for Brandon’s one-on-one date! They’re heading outside of Minneapolis to Stillwater, Minnesota, where Michelle grew up. It seems like Stillwater is one of those towns with a historic downtown shopping district and some very specific festival. Let’s see … Stillwater Lumberjack Days. There it is! Brandon and Michelle share some ice cream, and Michelle says that Brandon feels like her best friend, and they can’t stop laughing together. Michelle has a lot of chemistry with the guys left, but Michelle has rom-com energy with Brandon. They head to Michelle’s childhood house, and Brandon smooches her very excitedly in the car. He’s ready to meet the parents, but they’re away. So instead, they’re going to finger bang in the hot tub.

But uh-oh! Michelle’s parents, fully mic’d, arrive back home. So you better get dressed, young man, and tell us how much you love our daughter. Put that boner away!

They sit down with Michelle’s parents and Brandon talks about how special Michelle is and how she’s told them so many sweet things about her parents and that he was excited to meet them. Michelle says she liked how much Brandon trusted her. He wants three kids, and Michelle’s mom is in love with him. Brandon asks for a little alone time with Michelle’s parents and takes a moment to ask for their blessing. Bold and kinda weird move, Brandon. But this man is serious. He makes uninterrupted eye contact with Michelle’s parents to ask for their blessing. Michelle’s mom gives him her blessing after saying that it’s ultimately up to Michelle, and Michelle’s dad is like, “Please, don’t ask me this.”

They head to the evening portion of the date, and they both felt like they had the most special day together. Michelle got to see how well Brandon fit in with her family, and Brandon says that he would love for Michelle to meet his family. He gives her a bracelet that his mom made for her, and his family said if we meet Michelle and she’s wearing this bracelet, we’ll know that she’s the one. So hang on, if Michelle showed up and she didn’t have the bracelet on, would Brandon’s family throw her out of the house for not being his true soul mate? “She’s not wearing the bracelet! She is not the chosen one! Begone!” Brandon tells her that he’s falling in love with her, and he advances past Nayte on the board. Michelle says her heart is racing a million miles an hour (for the second time this episode), and he gets the rose. They make out aggressively and slow dance by the highway.

It’s time for the cocktail party, but before the men can even put on their suits, Kaitlyn and Tayshia come in and tell them that Michelle knows what she wants to do. The cocktail party is canceled. The guys are very scared. There are six guys without roses and only two roses left to give out this rose ceremony. Michelle is wearing a fabulous red gown, and she says it’s the hardest decision she’s ever had to make.

Joe gets the first rose, and Rodney gets the second. Yes! Rodney! Yes! I love this. But at the same time — oh no, Olu and Rick! My emotions are on a roller coaster. Olu tells her that she helped him grow. Rick says something in a full and total whisper, so I don’t really catch it. Something about how Michelle changed him and he loved the journey. That’s all I can make out. But wow, this really is Michelle’s School for Wayward F-Boys.

In the final credits scene, Clayton paints Jayleen’s nails, and she predicts that he’ll be the next Bachelor. Get this child a producer credit.

See you next week for hometowns!!

The Bachelorette Recap: Dealing With the Past