Hi everyone — Auntie M here with your weekly romantic(-ish) escapism, by way of Season 16 of The Bachelorette. Clare’s still in it … but we know that big changes are (apparently) coming. Will it be tonight?
Spoiler alert: Nope.
Tonight, on The Bachelorette: Dale! Kissing! Drama! Dale! The Five Love Languages! Emotionally manipulative forced trauma bonding! Strip dodgeball! Dale!
Let’s get on with it.
THE DAY AFTER THE FIRST DAY: Clare’s relaxing in a pool floatie, and I hope it’s as restorative as it looks because remember how the first cocktail party went until literally after the sun came up the next morning? She must be exhausted. But she’s excited to learn more about the guys, even though she had a hard time sleeping because she kept thinking about Dale.
The guys are walking around the resort, checking out their rooms, occasionally randomly yelling Clare’s name, and this is probably a good time for me to point out that I have long believed that part of being on The Bachelor/ette is a form of Stockholm Syndrome. I mean, even under non-pandemic conditions, everyone is locked away from the rest of the world, and the contestants are forced to focus on competing for the attention and affection of one person. This is already an extremely artificial situation, and it may be even more pronounced this season.
My other working theory for this season is that this is literally the lustiest season of The Bachelor/ette ever, because of coronavirus. How long have these people gone without physical contact from anyone else? I’m just saying, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was even more sexual tension this season than usual.
FIRST GROUP DATE: For this date, the guys are learning about “love languages,” which appear to be based on the Five Love Languages. Personally, I’m a fan: On our second date, my now-husband told me what his Love Language is, and at first I was like “Whoa, guy, slow down, it’s only our second date,” but then I was curious and took the quiz before our third date, and now we’re married. I’m not saying it’s only because of the Love Languages, and it’s probably more because we were both a little bit older when we met and had clear ideas of what we wanted in a relationship, but I will say that knowing his Love Language, and mine, was pretty good insight to have in a new relationship.
What about you, readers? Have any of you spent time with the Love Languages? What’s been your experience?
It turns out Clare’s Love Language is “Words of Affirmation” (me too!), so the first thing the guys do is take turns telling her why they like her, and they seem pretty sincere in doing it. Clare gets a little emotional and says it’s been a long time since she’s heard such kind things from men, and she’s not used to it. And while I think that the producers are probably giving us the hard sell on Dale, I think I might actually believe it. He and Clare really do seem to be into each other.
Next up: the Love Language of Gifts! The group date guys hustle back to their rooms to come up with a gift to give Clare. Some are personal, like Riley, who might have kind of a Moonlight Graham thing going on, giving Clare a baseball with what sounds like a pretty personal note on it, or Ivan, who gives Clare a queen chess piece, explaining that playing chess helped him and his family through some tough times, and telling her that he’ll hang on to the king piece to hopefully be her king one day (aw). And then some are … less personal, like how Ben gives Clare what appears to be a dirty T-shirt, which he says smells like him, and which Clare at least pretends to appreciate.
Dale gave her perfume for her dogs. So, he seems practical.
And then it’s time for the Love Language of Physical Touch, and this is where my Lustiest Season Ever theory really starts to take hold. One by one, each guy and Clare put on blindfolds and, well, touch each other. While the rest of the guys watch. It’s awkward, and a little sad, because can you imagine how sexually deprived all of these people are after months of isolation and quarantining? The energy in that room must have been … intense, right?
Now, it’s time for the Love Language of Quality Time. This part of the date was teased as a confrontation between the men and Clare, but I’ll tell you right now, that’s not what happened. Not that it isn’t awkward — it totally is — but there isn’t a huge fight at this time, although we do see Yosef really start to come into his own as this season’s Most Annoying Gaslighter.
Clare, after an interview in which she says she’s really looking forward to Dale pulling her aside and asking to spend time with her, greets the guys. They have a toast, she sits down, and then … super long awkward silence. No one pulls her aside. Not even Dale. Clare basically has to ask them to ask her for some time. It’s about as uncomfortable as it sounds.
She first walks off with Bennett, a super smarmy-seeming guy from New York who totally lives up to that stereotype of Harvard graduates mentioning they went to Harvard in literally the first sentence they say about themselves, and although she wants to get to know him, she’s clearly rattled by what looked like total apathy from the guys. She tells Bennett that she wants to be present with him, but she’s not, and heads back to the guys to see what’s up. I can totally see how Clare would feel rejected by this. The literal setup of the show is that the guys are competing for her attention, so it can’t feel great when the guys just sit back and do nothing. But it also felt like production might have dropped the ball here, because it really just seemed like no one knew what to do.
So, Clare walks back to the group of men and asks them about it. Yosef starts off by saying he’ll speak for the group (no, Yosef!), and Clare cuts him off pretty much immediately, telling him he needs to speak for himself (yes, Clare!), and after that the guys get to it pretty quickly, apologizing and saying they don’t want her to feel rejected. Well, all except for Yosef, who has apparently decided to start living his best negging life.
Yosef: “I started out saying I want to speak for the group, and what I want to say is you’re crazy to think that we didn’t all come here for you.”
Ahem. Someone needs to advise Yosef that negging is so early-aughts. Clare, to her credit, responds with some of the best side-eye I’ve ever seen, because she seems to know that Yosef knows exactly what he’s doing with that phrasing. Riley, to his credit, tries to shut Yosef down pretty much immediately, and later, shuts him down completely, telling him in no uncertain terms that Yosef did not speak for him: “There is no we, there is no us, there is no me and you.” The way this was teased, it looked like Riley was maybe saying this to Clare, so I was glad to see it was actually being said to the guy shaping up to be this season’s villain.
In a one-on-one with Dale, Clare tells him that he scares her. He asks why, and she says it’s because of the strong feelings she’s already having for him. Dale says he also has strong feelings for her, and in an interview, says that there’s no need for Clare to waste time with anyone else. Foreshadowing, perhaps?
Clare has some time with some other guys, including Zac C., who says he wants a woman in his life with “life experience” (excuse me, but was that some age shade?), and Riley, who I like, but he did that thing where he went in for a kiss as Clare was talking, literally answering a question he asked her. Has this ever happened to you? Personally, I think it’s a passive-aggressive way to just get a woman to stop talking, but I also know that the movies tell us that it’s an extremely romantic move. What do you think?
In any case, it must have worked, because Clare gives Riley the group date rose. (Ouch, Dale!)
Meanwhile, in continued Yosef Is The Worst news, here’s what he said about Clare confronting the guys: “The response from Clare tonight was hot-headed and immature. She isn’t living up to who I thought Clare was going into this, and if I have to address it with Clare, I definitely will.”
I mean, Yosef sucks.
ONE-ON-ONE DATE: Clare’s first one-on-one date is with Jason, a former pro football player, and as far as dates go, this was … a lot. Emotionally.
In a card delivered to Jason before the date, Clare asks him to write a letter to his younger self and bring it to the date, which sounds like my own personal nightmare because I really think that if I somehow met my younger self, she’d be pretty disappointed that I’m not an award-winning documentarian/Broadway star/master chef by this point, and I’d probably just end up trying to manage her expectations, which isn’t exactly how I’d want to spend time with my younger self, because I’d really want to talk about how we’ve mastered time travel technology in the future, you know?
Anyway. Back to Jason. He seems to have a hard time being vulnerable, and says his lack of vulnerability is probably why his previous relationships didn’t work out. He struggles to open up and share his “deepest, darkest secrets,” and this is really starting to feel like a setup for emotionally manipulative trauma bonding.
Clare tells Jason that she’s the first to crack self-deprecating jokes, getting other people to laugh so they feel comfortable. It’s her way of covering up her pain and struggle to deal with the hard times in her life, and she says she sees that in Jason too. Jason says he’s exactly the same way. Clare tells him that tonight, they’re going to practice letting go, and they scream into the desert night. Clare says she needed this, and her intuition is that Jason needed it as well. But, like, how did she know that? Was there a conversation between them that we missed?
Next therapeutic activity: writing down hurtful things people said about them that they’ve internalized. Yikes. They both do it, they say it out loud, and while I do not doubt that this was extremely valuable for both of them, I just don’t think that sharing your insecurities with a near-stranger is a good setup for romance.
The therapy date continues, with them reading their respective letters to their younger selves. Jason talks about how he’s afraid of opening up his “Pandora’s Box” of deep, dark feelings, and Clare assures him that nothing will scare her, that he can trust her with whatever demons he has, and that learning that stuff will make her feel closer to him, and now I’m starting to wonder, is Clare one of those women that likes to date men that need fixing? I mean, I’ve certainly done that, and I get the psychology around it — if you’re the one person who can reconcile a troubled man with his demons, then you must be, like, truly special, right? But also, by the time I was in my mid-30s, I was happy to leave guys with their “demons” to themselves. Someone else can fix them, but it wasn’t going to be me.
Jason talks in vague terms about childhood trauma, and Clare says she can hear the pain in his voice. Jason says Clare is helping him, and that she’s easy to talk to, and Clare says that she was standing at the foot of her father’s bed while he took his last breath, which sounds truly devastating, and so she can pretty much handle anything, and you know what? When she puts it like that, I believe her. The date ends with Clare burning the dress she wore in the finale of her Juan Pablo season of The Bachelor, and Clare gives Jason a rose, and they kiss. So, emotional manipulation and trauma bonding for the win, I guess?
FINAL GROUP DATE: The date card apparently said that Clare is “looking for a guy with some balls,” and Chris Harrison tells the guys they’ll be playing in a dodgeball tournament, with the prize being an after-party with Clare. The guys are divided into Red and Blue teams, with uniforms provided: tank tops, short shorts, long socks, headbands, and jock straps.
But then! There’s a twist! Clare wants it to be strip dodgeball. Good thing the guys have those jock straps!
The tournament begins. I definitely heard at least one “blue balls” joke, among the many other “men with balls” jokes throughout the night, and I’m so happy that we can still make jokes equating men’s genitalia with strength and courage! Nothing toxic about that, right? Although I have to admit, I did appreciate Chris Harrison’s perfect deadpan to Clare that she’s probably looking for a guy who has ball control.
The Red Team wins the tournament pretty handily, with the Blue Team down to their jock straps. Now, Bachelor Twitter is pretty mad about this, saying it’s sexist, complaining that if women contestants were asked to do this there would be outrage, etc. etc. This is probably true. However, the last time I checked, men haven’t had to face centuries of degradation, oppression, and hyper-sexualization due to their gender, and I’m pretty sure this one episode of The Bachelorette isn’t going to upend decades of patriarchal favor, so, you know, I’m ok with it.
You know who isn’t ok with it though? Yosef. He’s big mad. But more on that later.
Before the Blue Team leaves the court, some of the guys on the losing team apparently pull off their jockstraps, and Clare appears to try to avert her eyes while totally not averting her eyes, and then she hugs them on their way out. See? Pandemic Bachelorette is so lusty, you guys.
Back in the room, as the guys not on the date are talking about being out of their comfort zones, the Blue Team walks in, still nearly naked. One of the guys says it’s the most action he’s seen in a while, which, ha! As the losing team tells the story of tonight, Blake Moynes — the rule-breaker who reached out to Clare before the show started taping — says in an interview that he’s really upset. So upset, in fact, that he gets dressed, and sets out to crash Clare’s party with the Red Team.
Meanwhile, Clare and Eazy have some one-on-one time, with Eazy giving Clare a foot massage. Admittedly, if I were ever in a situation where a good-looking, charismatic guy started giving me a foot massage, I think I’d honestly have trouble finding my words, so good for Clare for keeping it together. Eazy compliments Clare’s energy, and she says she likes that he lights up a room.
Clare and Chasen chat about childhood and high school and being bullied and/or ignored and/or not asked to prom, and how that has made them appreciate being on the other side of it. They kiss, and I’m glad that at this point Clare still seems to be making an honest effort to give a chance to as many guys as possible.
By the time Blake gets to the party, Clare is talking to Jay, who wore the straitjacket on the first night, because waiting to meet her has made him “crazy,” and I honestly don’t care what happens to him because he used mental illness as a punchline. Blake interrupts and asks for time with Clare, even though he was on the losing team, and when the guys still on the group date find out, they form what looks like an actual posse to go back to Clare and Blake, as Blake is basically just telling Clare that he’ll break whatever rules just to be with her. A mildly interesting confrontation ensues, with Clare eventually telling Blake that she’s going to get back to the party, and rejecting his attempt to kiss her. Blake says he hadn’t been rejected like that in a long time.
But it’s not the last rejection of the night, nor is it the best one! Which is about to happen, right now! Clare sits down to chat with Brandon, who tells her straight away that when he found out she was The Bachelorette, he knew he had to be there. Clare presses him further, and the conversation doesn’t seem to go exactly as Brandon might have hoped. Here’s my paraphrased, not-quite-verbatim recap of the conversation, subtext included:
Brandon: When I heard you were the Bachelorette, I knew I had to be here.
Clare: Cool, cool, so what about me made you want to be here?
Brandon: [long, extremely awkward pause] You’re gorgeous.
Clare: Okay, thank you. And?
Brandon: Well I don’t really know anything about you. You’re from Sacramento, right?
Clare: You … don’t know anything else about me?
Brandon: Well, not specifically, but does anyone know you?
Clare: Dude, I’ve been on the Bachelor franchise four times, and I have a public Instagram, plus you’ve had months to learn more about me. You got … nothing?
Brandon: [general desperate word salad involving the following: here to find love, start a family, I’ve felt special moments between us and I know you have too, etc., etc.]
Clare: Actually, I haven’t felt those moments between us, and there are some pretty great guys here, and so I don’t want to pursue anything with you, kthxbyeeeeeeeeee.
That was pretty awesome to watch. This season of The Bachelorette is unique for a lot of reasons, and one of them is that the guys had extra time to learn more about the woman they’d be pursuing. Clare has been clear that she only wants to meet men who are truly interested in meeting her, and it looked like Brandon didn’t even do any baseline research — the kind we all do in this age of online dating. This was one of those moments I’d been hoping for this season, with Clare making it clear she’s not messing around.
Group date rose goes to Chasen. Fair enough, I suppose. They had a good kiss.
COCKTAIL PARTY: Blake Moynes is super nervous, which makes sense, considering he crashed a party he wasn’t supposed to go to, and Clare rejected him when he tried to kiss her. Immediately after the party starts, Clare pulls him aside and gives him a rose, saying she didn’t want him to worry. She says that she doesn’t want him to break the rules all the time, but she appreciates that he did (again), and reassures him that everything he’s doing is right. Blake, assuaged, returns to the group, and needless to say, the rest of the guys are not happy about it.
Clare and Dale spend some time together, and both continue to confirm their growing attraction for each other, as well as a deeper connection. Clare talks about how the pandemic has been hard on her, in dealing with her mother, who has dementia and lives in a care facility. Dale, sweetly, says that he’s kept Clare and her mom in his prayers, and tells Clare that she’s not meant to go through all of those hard things alone. He tells her he knows they’ll have their time, and he’s not going to rush her or push her, but he wants to be on all the dates. Then Clare pulls out one of the blindfolds from the “Physical Touch” part of the group date and puts it on him and then they just make out for a little while.
In an interview, Clare says that she feels like what’s happening with Dale is “magical … these are my dreams coming true.” Aw.
Finally, Yosef. Ugh, he sucks. He’s complaining about the guys in their jock straps, saying it was humiliating. He says he sees “red flags” and that he intends to share his concerns, about Clare, with Clare, at the cocktail party. Great! Who doesn’t want to see a grown man try to scold a grown woman in front of other adults? Should be fun!
It’s a cliffhanger episode tonight, with no rose ceremony, and it looks like next week the guys start to get super jealous of Dale, because apparently they forgot the premise of the show. And Yosef continues to melt down and may even try to insult Clare because of her age. Good luck with that, Yosef!
READERS: What are your thoughts on this episode? Was the dodgeball date sexist, or was it all in good fun? Was Jason’s date manipulative, or meaningful? Love Languages: Yea or Nay? Is Yosef the actual worst? (Kidding, we already know the answer to that one, and the answer is yes.)