The Bachelorette Recap: Soulmate Stalemate

The Bachelorette

Fantasy Suites
Season 18 Episode 9
Editor’s Rating 3 stars

The Bachelorette

Fantasy Suites
Season 18 Episode 9
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Photo: Craig Sjodin/ABC

America, let me just say — I knew it. I freakin’ knew it. As one of the internet’s foremost Bachelor Cinematic Universe experts, from time to time, I am called upon to give my commentary on this great franchise in formats other than this one. I believe they’re called “podcasts.” They’re for white men who like cryptocurrency and white women who like murder. Check them out sometime. Well, occasionally, I’ll set up my little microphone and put on headphones and appear on one of these alleged podcasts. On a very recent appearance, I said that as we head into the finale, we’d be watching Nayte and Brandon fight it out for Michelle’s heart.

And god damn it, I was right.

I wish we could stop right there. Just end this recap and this season with me being completely correct and 100 percent right, but we can’t do that. I mostly wish we could stop right there because this was a relatively chill Fantasy Suites episode, and chill doesn’t make for snappy dialogue. Production tried to wring the tiniest bit of drama out of the guys having to sit around and wait for each other to come back. Sure, that worked with the emotionally unsound women of Pilot Pete’s season, but for 66 percent of these men, their storyline has been “stoicism.” They tried to tease us with Brandon asking to take Michelle aside at the Rose Ceremony, but in reality, he just wanted to tell her “you look so cute and I like you a lot” one more time. So what are we left with? What is there to make a meal out of? A meal that Michelle will carefully tilt forward and lift a Fantasy Suite card from underneath?

Well … there is that one little thing of Michelle feeding Nayte exactly what she needed him to say in order to keep him around instead of actually probing him about their relationship. Y’know, just that.

Let’s get to it.

Hola! We’re in sunny Mexico! Don’t ask anyone to get more specific than that! Sure there’s a big sign on the beach and the hotel has a name, but what’s more tropical and fun than being in “The Mexico”? Michelle’s journey in The Mexico starts with her strolling down the beach with Kaitlyn, the only Bachelorette Hostess who actually had an international Fantasy Suites instead of just banging in a camper van. She asks Michelle if she has any concerns about Brandon and she says, “Honestly, no.” Girl, yes, please follow this instinct. The guy who loves you a lot and you don’t have to worry about is a great choice! Michelle has the most in common with Joe, but he’s only said 13 words the entire season. Michelle wants to bang Nayte the most so he’s got that going for him. But she needs him to memorize his lines and tell her that he loves her and that he’s ready for an engagement. The juiciest thing in this whole segment is Kaitlyn saying, “Pay attention to those fears. I wish I did that a little bit more.” Okay, I desperately need to know exactly who Kaitlyn had fears about, because I would argue that her season gave us so many iconic men. Did she know it wouldn’t last with Shawn, or did she realize a little too late that when you put your ear next to Oatmeal’s head, you can hear orders being shouted out at a suburban Panera?

In the first of many awkward couch hangs, Joe and Brandon are sweating bullets at the thought of someone else dating their girlfriend and Nayte is saying something like, “We’re just straight chillin’, glow up, stan, get that W, she’s a snack! My wig!” Tayshia comes in and tells them that the emotional stakes have been raised and if any of them are still struggling to express themselves, they need to force themselves to open up, except for Nayte. You’re perfect and Michelle loves you.

The first date of the week is Brandon! Dear sweet Brandon! My continued defense of this goofy little Travis Birkenstock has paid off! He just loves Michelle so much and he’s never been out of the country or seen a horse before! Brandon’s horse immediately decides it’s had entirely enough and attempts to walk off the shoot, but it gets corralled back and Michelle and Brandon are off on their romantic jungle ride. Michelle continues to say she thought Brandon was a smooth talker when he arrived on his rolling bed, but he’s definitely got what she’s searching for when it comes to a soulmate. Michelle manages to drop “soulmate” on each of these dates, and I admire her for the linguistic consistency.

Here’s the thing about Brandon’s date: He doesn’t really have a storyline at this point. He tries to finagle some nonsense about how he doesn’t feel good enough at this point. Michelle reminds him that he is one of a kind. What Brandon doesn’t realize is that he’s the one out of the remaining guys that loves Michelle the most, and that’s an incredible lead to have going into the final two. Don’t try to invent storyline at this point! Just give Michelle a series of small trinkets and poems to remind her of your undying affection.

It’s time for the evening portion of the date, and Brandon knows he’s ready to tell her that he’s fully in love with her. He tells her he doesn’t want to be with anyone else and she says, “You don’t have to make eye contact the entire time.” But he does — he’s so sincere that if he’s not making deep, passionate eye contact while confessing his love, he’ll wither away. It’s the life force that sustains him. He tells her that he knew when they were having ice cream together, and Michelle says that she doesn’t want to run away and Brandon makes her and her heart feel safe. Michelle is very good at giving specific compliments that supplement the “I’m falling for you” discourse.

They share an evening in the Fantasy Suite and Brandon gets fireworks while they’re making out in the hot tub. It looks like Nayte and Joe are basically right upstairs from Brandon and Michelle’s date, and Joe descends deeper into insecurity while Nayte just says, “Dank! I love fireworks!” and does a cool yo-yo trick.

The next morning, Brandon and Michelle somehow end up having a food fight in bed after Brandon tries to force-feed her a breakfast empanada. Michelle says that Brandon would take care of her and take care of her heart. Brandon heads back to the awkward men’s suite and the guys can’t even look at him. Let’s just sit here in silence for a few counts. 1 Lisa Barlow, 2 Lisa Barlow, 3 Lisa Barlow. Welp … time for Joe’s date!

Joe knows he’s got to put it all on the table and show his whole self on this date. How many sides does everyone have? As Joe approaches, Michelle does a dramatic turn and wraps her legs around him. She’s excited to see him and she’s ready for their day of ziplining. The ziplining is also a test of how vocal Joe can get. Everything is a metaphor. Nothing is a metaphor. Michelle wants to know what she’s going to be dealing with later that night. They zipline and Joe screams Michelle’s name as he sails over the treetops.

With Joe, Michelle says she wanted to see his goofy side and how when she felt homesick, she wanted to be with him. Oh, that’s … that’s not great. She’s gonna get to go home in like six days. Are those feelings still going to be there when she’s not homesick? Michelle says that it’s taken her a little longer to develop her feelings for Joe but she’s hoping the evening portion of the date will give her clarity.

Fuck. When these people are even somewhat emotionally mature, nothing really happens, does it? I mean, Michelle compares Joe to a 1,000-piece puzzle. This is the stuff of grown-ups. Michelle is asking Joe the big questions — how many kids, can you be with an extrovert, what is a real-estate developer? Michelle is convinced that Joe could be the type of man that she could change the world with, and I haven’t heard enough of an explanation of what exactly his job is but it’s enough for Michelle and it’s in Minneapolis so now he’s in the lead?

Meanwhile, Brandon is trying his best to get Nayte to express some anxiety or worry. Nayte is too busy rationalizing that having the last Fantasy Suite date is actually the best position to be in. Brandon tells him that he’s ready to marry Michelle and it’s weird that she’s on a date with another guy. Nayte just says, “You thinking about Joe right now?” This li’l sneaky rascal.

Michelle and Joe head to the fantasy suite and it’s … fine. The next morning, Joe says he could have used a few more hours of sleep and out of everyone, you know these two fucked. Good for them. She slid into his DMs like a year ago; it’s been a long time coming. Joe is able to talk about how great it is to wake up with Michelle and how he’s falling more and more in love with her. Michelle says that maybe he is her soulmate?! Anyone could be her soulmate at this point. Even me, technically! Joe is ready to get married, he’s ready to push through his shy side and he even walks away going “Besos!” Joe is a changed man!

The mood among the men has plummeted as Joe returns and Nayte gets ready for his date. The men think that Nayte doesn’t care and he hasn’t told her how he’s feeling and he’s not ready to get engaged. But Nayte is just excited for the date to begin, nothing different about this day compared to any other day! Michelle and Nayte are headed out on a boat that is fully stocked with sexual tension and emotional avoidance. Michelle is almost irrationally obsessed with Nayte and wants to spend sooooo much time with him. Girl. We can all tell you’re like, really into him, and I can’t tell if the show is giving him a bad edit or if he’s really just saying stuff like, “You know I’m totally crazy about you.”

“You know I’m crazy about you” is not “I love you.” That isn’t the same as telling someone you love them, and the reason they’re asking “How are you feeling right now about us?” is because they don’t know how you feel. Nayte keeps saying that he maybe did have one bad feeling but he shoved it down somewhere and he doesn’t know where it went because that’s how you stay in the present. Michelle says, “Oh no, being in the present is acknowledging and feeling your feelings.” She is having to teach these men so much. She also says it’s magical when she kisses Nayte. She’s down bad.

It’s time for the night portion of the date and Michelle asks Nayte if there’s anything he wants to talk about and he shrugs and goes “Nope” and tries to eat the scallop that’s been glued to their dinner plates. Nayte’s big revelation is also, “Life will be the same. Feelings will be the same.” Sir … whhhhat? “I think about all those questions and I don’t have the answers but that’s just life though.” I need this man to express one concrete thought that Michelle or any of us can work with, please.

Michelle asks him if he’s ready to fall in love, be in love, or be engaged and he says, “All three. Bet.” UGH, I guess. I was gently tearing up while Brandon told Michelle how much he loved her, but Nayte is basically reciting tone poems about the uncertainty of life and Michelle is falling for it. She says a heavy weight has been lifted off her heart. Oh, sweetie. “Any fears or doubts I entered the night with have been resolved.” Okay, let’s just get this over with, she’s going to pick Nayte at the end, right?!?!?

The next morning, they’re having brunch on the patio after the best night they’ve ever had and Michelle asks him again in the morning if he’s in love. Michelle says this is what a soulmate feels like. The Soulmate Has Been Achieved. Then a mariachi band appears under their balcony and serenades them.

It’s time for the Rose Ceremony and Michelle walks in in her very favorite dress from the Cher x Fashion Nova collection. Brandon takes Michelle aside to tell her that he loves her, and Nayte is pissed that Brandon is pulling Michelle aside because it’s a Hail Mary move. It’s time for the roses and Nayte gets the first rose and … Brandon gets the second! The Hail Mary Has Been Achieved.

Michelle walks Joe out and cries on a bench while Joe sits quietly listening. Joe is going to hold onto the change that Michelle brought out in him, and they both brought out home for each other. Michelle cries in the driveway and if you look very closely in the background, Nayte and Brandon are watching … just watching …

See you next week for the — lemme see what it says here — THREE HOUR FINALE?!?!?!? UGH I GUESS, FINE!!!!

The Bachelorette Recap: Soulmate Stalemate