Is there any reason to beat around the bush? I just have to get this off my chest:
This season is a mess.
It’s just an unmitigated mess. It’s edited together in a preposterous fashion. I have no idea what is supposed to be communicated to me emotionally. It appears we’re in for even more bullshit that looks like it’s happening after the proposals. I’m about to become a body-language expert to decipher the microexpressions from Rachel and Gabby as they watch footage of themselves.
THIS WHOLE THING IS A MESS.
I mean, what even is there to get into? We’ve gone beyond dumpster fire, and I think the entire garbage dump is going up in flames. Going into every plot point feels like an exercise in futility because there is a more important point to be made.
The Bachelor franchise is broken.
For a few seasons now, we’ve been watching the struggles of the little cultural phenomenon that could, but oof. It felt like we were maybe getting somewhere with Michelle’s season, but the show’s insistence on portraying Nayte as a fuckboy (long before Nayte and Michelle’s breakup) and giving Brandon an angelic edit … but then choosing the guy who came in eighth to be the next Bachelor. So yeah, they can’t help themselves. And their commitment to making the most dramatic, controversial, and emotional show possible is fully at odds with the show’s premise.
So we’re at a crossroads with the goddamned program. They’ve either got to dial back the drama and deliver some romance (and SOME EDITING THAT SUPPORTS THOSE STORIES) or just go full-on mess and become the thing you fear the most: trashy.
That’s right, Bachelor Cinematic Universe. Just be trashy. You want to be. That’s all you know how to give us at this point. Take away the black boxes whenever someone has a thong bikini on. Put this shit on HBO Max and let everyone fuck on the first date. You don’t expect the dizzy birds on FBoy Island to make a good decision, and you do not expect those relationships to last. Offer a cash prize, and let’s get over it.
UGH. LET’S GET TO IT, I GUESS.
We’re live??? Y’all. We are live with Jesse and a studio audience with signs given to them by production. Absolutely no one wants to accept Jesse’s maple leaf. I’m not sure what part of the anatomy is the maple leaf, but nobody is looking for it. Gabby looks like a disco ball with full-on Minnie Driver hair, Rachel is proving she looks the best in body-con dresses, and whoever has been dressing her for the rest of the season hates her.
Up first is Rachel and Zach at the Rose Ceremony. I feel like that was 13 years ago, and I no longer care about this. Production told Zach he had to get off this emotional good-bye and “self-eliminate” so he could either secure his place in Paradise (or maybe as a lead??). So he’s going to somehow craft “maybe she’s just not feeling me” into some deep betrayal worthy of his leaving. He Rachel’s concerns about his age completely blindsided him, and he saw a future with her but he has to go. She does that blinking-and-shaking-head GIF you use whenever someone in Slack says something completely out of pocket. As Zach is walking himself out, Tino says under his breath, “I believe Zach is getting walked out if you’re reading this correctly too.” I wrote in my notes, Ugh, I hate Tino.
Zach says Rachel didn’t even react to his leaving, and it obviously meant something more to him than it did to her. He could see it in her eyes. And because we’re here for this live two-night event, Zach is ready to come out and talk to Rachel! Another reason this show needs to embrace its trashy side completely is if you bring out a jilted lover, I want something other than the media-trained answers each side is giving. Because I gained no new information, we heard the word clarity no less than 15 times, and it makes you think there’s no right or wrong way to be the Bachelorette. Everyone is happy for one another and wants the … zzzzzzzzzzz. Oh, sorry. I FELL ASLEEP. Get Andy Cohen in here and read some questions from Diane in Omaha. “Rachel, Sydney from Fort Worth wants to know: If you weren’t feeling Zach while you were tasting tequila and tortilla chips, why did you take him to the Boom Boom Room?”
It’s time for the remaining men to meet Rachel’s and Gabby’s families.
Let’s start with Gabby’s family, even though it wasn’t the first sit down, because this was pretty sweet. Not really, because of anything Erich did.
ALSO. We do not even have remotely enough time to get into the fact that Erich did blackface in his high-school yearbook. Y’know what, I’m looking at the clock, and it does seem like we’ve got a little bit of time. I don’t know if this was really on the Bachelorette producers. I’ve seen people talk about how they need to vet people. How would they have found this? Do they have to request a full copy of everyone’s high-school yearbook? I’m not saying it gets a pass, because it absolutely does not, but where this blackface needed to be stopped was in 2011. Think of how many people saw this white child in blackface and said, “Yeah, this is fine.” This is on whoever was at home with Erich and saw him leave the house or on the first adult he encountered when he left home and got to the school. Let’s be very clear: Erich doing blackface in high school in the 2010s is not a failure of the casting process. It’s a failure of every system and institution around Erich. And honestly, Erich, too. A 17 or 18-year-old in 2010 or 2011 KNEW FOR SURE that blackface was wrong. At the very least, they knew it was taboo. A white comedy colleague of mine was asked to do blackface in a sketch show in 2012. He refused, and his primary reason was, “I can’t have photographic evidence of this EVER come out. It’s wrong. It’s stupid. It’s racist, but it WILL ruin my career.” It might have been self-serving, but it was one fewer instance of blackface in the world. Erich couldn’t even manage that!!!!
Final thing on the blackface — why does every instance of blackface look like that?? I don’t care who the white person thinks they’re portraying; it looks like they took the darkest drugstore foundation, slathered it on, popped on the cheapest afro wig of all time, and bought a “Funky Disco Pimp With Chain” Halloween costume. Erich says he was “honoring” Jimi Hendrix, but Jimi Hendrix didn’t look like that. I guess I’m saying that if you had a more accurate costume, the blackface wouldn’t be necessary.
Okay. Umm … back to the episode. Gabby’s visit with her family is moving, mainly because Gabby can communicate what it feels like to be surrounded by love when she thought it wasn’t possible for her. It made me emotional to see the people around Gabby give her love and be so excited for her in this love and acknowledge that the hurt, scared, vulnerable part of her isn’t something to be hidden. This was a rare spot of emotional depth in this mess of an episode, and it’s primarily responsible for its being remotely watchable. But the focus isn’t on Erich. It’s on Gabby in this family visit. I guess her family likes Erich, and he doesn’t make any moves to ask for her hand or her family’s blessing. He’s just kind of there, which is fine.
It’s time for Rachel’s family visit.
Whew, this woman is a fool — what a dizzy, dizzy bird.
And what’s even worse is I’m not sure it’s her fault. Rachel wants a proposal, and THAT’S FINE. It is totally okay to be at a point in your life where you want your relationship to end in a proposal or you don’t want that relationship anymore. It’s fine to want the commitment of marriage, and IT’S EVEN MORE FINE TO WANT THAT ON THIS SHOW. That’s the point of the show. It’s also fine for her to want a proposal after all the bullshit Clayton put you through. You have one bad breakup, and you’re going to say, “This next one better be it or I’m shooting myself into space”?
There’s a conversation about whether this show should demand a proposal from people, but if that’s what the lead wants, give it to them. But this season hasn’t been able to get anyone ready for a proposal; it’s not the lead’s and the contestants’ fault. It’s the show’s fault at this point. Offer a variety of finale options!! The Bachelorettes should be allowed to propose!!! They should be able to split a cash prize if they want!!! They should partner with HGTV to find a home together!!! They should be able to do a novelty commitment ceremony like an untraditional wedding!!! They should pour different colors of sand into a vase to represent their future together!!!
Anyway, Aven starts out by stunning his family, and Rachel is excited about him until he tells her friends that he wants to spend his life with her but he doesn’t know if he’s ready to propose. The key to all this is, I think, that Aven is trying his best to cover up his anxieties and insecurities about Tino’s still being in the mix by using Bachelorette-approved language. He lets it slip for a second that “there’s another person still involved. That’s another thing.” I can’t read his mind, and I’m always going to give the brother the benefit of the doubt, but it seemed like he knew he wanted Rachel but wasn’t going to go all the way until he knew he was the one. “I want to make sure the timing is right” is a hell of a thing to say, but it makes a lot more sense if you add “And it will be when I’m the only one.”
But he couldn’t figure out a way to say that. He was saying everything else that would fill me with a lot of confidence. It isn’t until later that he starts to introduce that he had been thinking about Rachel wanting a proposal and backing off of how he felt. It sounds like he was building in an escape valve if it didn’t work out but could get his shit together if he was the only one left. Maybe. Maybe not. But again, the show’s rigid structure and Rachel’s inability to hear what he’s saying didn’t let them come together in any way. Also, when Rachel asked, “Why are you yelling at me?” Girl, he wasn’t yelling, and you know that.
Rachel goes to meet with Aven for their final dinner. Didn’t they once get a last day together? This conversation might have worked out better on a yacht or while zip-lining. She’s basically going there to break up. She says she’s looking for some action to match his words, but what can he do? It’s like when your job puts someone on a performance-improvement plan. Sure, there are “things you can do,” but the stage is set for a firing. Aven talks about what their future would look like and having kids and leaving here with Rachel, but that’s not enough. You also have to wonder if Rachel was waiting for an opportunity to let Aven go to clear the runway for Tino. Aven was the good-on-paper guy she had to find a flaw with. The show cannot tell us what happened apart from Rachel saying they’re not on the same page even though the only words missing from Aven’s side of the conversation are engagement ring. And when Aven appears in the hot seat, little new information is added. They want the best for each other and … zzzzzzzzzz. I FELL ASLEEP AGAIN! We didn’t have to do this today. There isn’t enough emotional meat here to justify running long.
I suppose we have to talk about Rachel and Tino. Rachel goes into their family time worried about his family not liking her and wanting her family to spot any inconsistencies as they did with Aven. Tino has an answer for everything. What if Rachel has to move for work? “I’ll need it to be a couple of years so I can get on a building.” What about your family? “They’ll come around because I love her.” He looks Rachel’s dad in the eye and says, “I’m going to make her happy forever,” and wow, this motherfucker is shooting his shot. Wait … did they get a final dinner?? What is HAPPENING?
Finally, Gabby sits down with Erich to talk about the end of their journey. They’re murmuring to each other about a proposal, and Gabby is trying to reassure him as much as possible. He should be reassuring her! But instead, he takes the opposite strategy. When they’re out on the balcony, Erich lets it slip that he just wants to date Gabby, and she FLIPS THE FUCK OUT. What are these men doing?!?!?! Gabby doesn’t want to pressure Erich, but she wants a proposal. Girl, pressure him! I’m tired of this!!
See you next week for the 14-hour live finale!!!