The Bachelor 23.10: Finale: The Honesty We Crave

The viewers of The Bachelor franchise in the Year of Our Lord 2019—or at least the viewers that are the target audience for this recap—don’t want to be insulted. We are modern, egalitarian Americans. We don’t want to be pandered to. We don’t want to be blindfolded. And we especially don’t want to be hoodwinked.

The trouble is, this is antithetical to the original formula of The Bachelor. In the beginning, there was darkness. The viewer was never supposed to see behind the curtain. The producers didn’t exist. There were no omniscient powers guiding relationships this way and that. It was just The Bachelor feeling his emotions through dozens of contestants until he magically felt his emotions the strongest with one person. Love is supposed to be unknowable and appear from nothing. But it inevitably will appear in this two-month power program that ABC has expertly designed. And then when you know you know and you know for life and this one is it. It’s simple, it’s easily digestible, and it fits perfectly into the construct of “love” as it was seen at the end of the 20th Century.

Now, ABC’s not stupid. They know that times have changed. They aren’t going to keep trotting out the exact same product year after year and expect to keep their market share. They know they have to move with the culture and move with their audience. The history of reality TV is littered with the ruins of empires that were unwilling to adapt. The best example of this is American Idol. The behemoth of American television desperately clung to their golden age, failing to innovate as the industry innovated around them, and they paid the ultimate price for it. (Please ignore their brief (and you can quote me on ‘brief’ even though it has yet to air) resurrection on network television.) But ABC and, more specifically, the producers of The Bachelor, could read the room.

We, the audience, want the facts. We, the audience, want the whole picture. We, the audience, want them to pull back the curtain. As so they did.

We open Monday night’s episode with Colton bounding over the fence and into the Portuguese night. They pepper the scene with the recording of the crew’s radio transmissions. The ‘Someone get Chris Harrison’ and the ‘We need to open the fence’. We see the van pull up to the cameraman and we get to be the cameraman jumping in. We hear a phone call to superiors back in LA about how the principal just ran the fuck away and there is a full on manhunt to find him. We are in the van that sees a dark figure in front of us. We pass the figure, and then confirm that it is Colton, we hastily tell the driver to stop, and then jump out. We see a producer catch up to Colton and try to get him to talk, to which he refuses. We see our colleague radio to the van that has Chris Harrison.

We see Chris Harrison arrive and then we panic, because what can Chris Harrison possibly say to get Colton to come back? Chris Harrison catches up with Colton and Colton says that he’s done. Chris Harrison says, “Okay, well we can be done, but you’re not going to walk back to the hotel.” And Colton capitulates.

Then Chris Harrison asks, “What do you want, you want to be done with the whole thing?”

“Yeah.”

“Done, done.”

“Yeah.”

And that’s it. They let him be.

This is 2019. A two-month power program to find the one love of your life is insane and everyone knows it and it’s about goddamn time someone said it. And, the incredible thing is, ABC is letting everyone talk about how stupid the show is ON THE SHOW!

Four people quit the show this season, which is a record. And then Colton quit! The principal quit! So five people quit. Five people were honest with themselves about this relationship, about this show, about this situation and decided to quit. And that’s the shit that we, as the audience, are here to see! We thirst for honesty the way Don Jr. thirsts for his father’s attention. This season, the contestants didn’t just ‘trust the process,’ they didn’t just do the show to do the show; they trusted themselves and that made all the difference.

I’m not going to go too deep into his goodbyes with Tayshia and Hannah G, but there are a few things that I want to bring up.

Can anyone even fucking believe the grandiosity and generosity of Tayshia’s soul, because I absolutely cannot. Colton came to break up with her and SHE was comforting HIM. SHE was comforting HIM. And then when she had finally expended every last drop of selflessness that she could afford in that moment, she broke down as well. “I don’t want to go through this again,” she admitted to him exasperated. “I don’t want to go through this again.” And she knows what ‘this’ is better than anyone else there.

And then Colton went to say goodbye to Hannah G and boy was that a whole other experience. She was clearly more blindsided than Tayshia, fully confident that she was going to finish with the final rose. Her signature line of their break-up was, “This is what I do. I make everybody better and they don’t want to stick around.” And to Hannah… to Hannah, I would encourage self-reflection.

I think the most telling moment of the episode in regards to the two break-ups was back amidst the live studio audience. Hannah G sat before Chris Harrison and said, “I don’t know. I think I was just so blindsided, and to see his reaction was like that was really hard for me, because it showed that he was struggling too, because I thought he left and it was just easy for him, but it doesn’t really help with, like, flipping the page, you know?” So the thing that Tayshia did immediately—see the situation from all sides, understand the painful decisions that Colton was making and empathize with him in the moment—Hannah G didn’t do until his perspective was literally played back to her right in front of her eyes. Hannah G is egocentric to an Olympic level and she should be admired for her peerless ability to disregard the world around her.

Our screen was then graced with Jason, Blake, and Ben Higgins, but also Garrett. Can you imagine what Becca was saying to herself backstage after watching Jason thoughtfully articulate the moment we all just witnessed followed by Garrett throwing words together with about as much consideration as a caveman? And that beautiful scene is how we end Part I.

We pick up Part II with Colton going to Cassie and telling her he broke up with Hannah and Tayshia and quit the show and she laughed in his face. She LAUGHED IN HIS FACE. And, incredibly, that felt like the right reaction in the moment.

Look, this was the most likely scenario in the aftermath of what had happened previously. Colton had told Cassie that he was in love with her and that he wanted it to be her at the end. There is just no way he could have just moved on from that. How unbelievably embarrassed would Tayshia and Hannah G be when they found out had he continued on with them? Imagine being the person who ‘won’ after that! So Colton went back to Cassie and Cassie accepted him back.

And what was SHE supposed to do? The Bachelor just broke up with 29 other women to be with her even though she already left him. If she wants to hold onto any scrap of popularity in the court of public opinion, she is going to take that offer. And it’s not like the offer is horrible. She gets to continue to date the person she “loves” (whatever that means to her) with no looming deadline and no expectation and also they get a couple more network television funded dates in yet another country. That feels to me like a solid deal.

So I don’t want to totally buy into the political game theory and cynicism, but I think it’s worth examining a more sinister possible plan behind her actions. Picture this: Cassie knows she’s done too well. She says when he’s trying to win her back that she was scared because she felt behind the other girls and that’s part of why she left, but imagine she knew that that excuse was a lie. Cassie has twisted the emotions of those around her her whole life. She can dictate even the thoughts and feelings that run through the minds of her targets. Normally, she can push love interests right up to the edge without them crossing over into madness. But, in the world of The Bachelor, she had to open the throttle all the way. If someone as powerful as Cassie is competing against 29 other people, top gear will statistically put her in like third place. And, to be clear, the goal is to finish in third place. Third place is the perfect place to finish if you want to be the principal for the next season. And holy shit would she be a good Bachelorette. She’d be one of the best Bachelorettes ever. Strikingly charismatic, unbelievably gorgeous, and enough of a blank slate for everyone to project their hopes and dreams onto. So then Cassie makes it to the Top 3 and she can clearly, clearly, CLEARLY see that Colton is falling madly in love with her. She has done too well. Her chance of being the Bachelorette is slipping away.

So she makes the one move—the one crazy, risky move—that gives her her best chance at becoming the Bachelorette. She leaves him. She tries to play it off as her being honest with herself and her emotions. I mean, that’s how Colton became the Bachelor, in a way, right? In Paradise, he quit because he said he just didn’t feel like it was the “real thing” with Tia and then he became the Bachelor. Cassie knows that if she stays, she’s going to win, so she leaves because, to her, it’s not the “real thing.”

And maybe, maybe, it could have worked. Her credibility was already compromised by all of the other women who had warned Colton about her false intentions, but that’s a relatively small hurdle (or fence) for ABC to jump over when casting her. But the plan doesn’t work. Colton freaks out and tells her he’s in love with her. Then he breaks up with everyone else and quits the show. And she has no choice anymore. If she says no again, especially after he lays out this no-commitment compromise, then it’s going to look opportunistic. So she says yes. And, though her chances of ever becoming the Bachelorette dwindle even more, they remain existent. They could still break up. She could give it a few years and become older and wiser (because she’s twenty-three years old right now) and they could name her the Bachelorette. It is still possible. Her hope is still alive.

But, of course, that is the most cynical possible take on Cassie’s actions. Perhaps she really is in love with him and really was just not ready at that moment to commit to an engagement and really did decide that leaving was the best option for her personally and then taking him back was the best for her personally. They are back together and the world is their oyster.

But first she had to MEET HIS FAMILY, the poor woman. And the family was certainly not thrilled about the whole situation. But Colton’s mom and dad made an excellent tag team as the guardians of Colton’s fragile heart. His mom expertly interrogated Cassie’s intentions. The precision with which she probed Cassie’s thoughts and decisions was exhilarating. Finally, we had someone to hold Cassie accountable for her actions! And Colton’s dad, who looks extraordinarily like Woody Harrelson, was there to take care of his big boy. He worked with Colton to clear his head. He made sure Colton wasn’t in love with Cassie because he just wanted what he couldn’t have (though I still think that’s a credible critique). So when Woody Harrelson’s voice started to crack and his eyes welled up with tears, we knew that he was going to be there for Colton 100% no matter what Colton decided, because he’s so proud of his big, beautiful, bouncing boy.

Then Cassie and Colton went on a date where they repelled down a cliff and it was clearly designed to be Colton’s date with Tayshia, but whatever. Let’s skip forward to the best part, which was the fantasy suite. They made out on the bed for like two minutes and then kicked the crew out. They kicked us out. And they did so with such infectious joy. “I love you. I love you. I love all of you people. But there’s a door right here and I’m going to need all of you guys to get out,” Colton said, beaming. And you watched the crew pack up and leave their jobs for the night. And then they closed the door. And then Colton and Cassie realized they were still miced up! And so they opened the door and we watched the sound team de-mic them while laughing with them and interacting with them and then they got everything else taken care of and the last thing we here is one of the sound guys saying, “Good luck, guys,” before leaving and Colton responding, “Thank you, Tom.”

IT WAS HONEST. It was honest. ABC’s The Bachelor has abandoned the blindfold and, instead of taking away from the “magic,” it instead makes it feel real. The moments feel real. The relationships feel real. The interactions and connections and jokes and mess-ups all feel real. And isn’t that the real magic? Not the manufactured two-month love formula, but the genuine, honest, human connections between not only the principal and contestants, but also the producers and the crew and the institution that is this show. That’s the kind of connection we crave when we tune in each week.

And now, as you are all basking in the joy that is the most positive take anyone could come up with in response to this season of ABC’s The Bachelor franchise, it’s time for me to tear this mother fucking program to the ground.

WHAT in the ACTUAL FUCKING WORLD could the producers of The Bachelor POSSIBLY BE FUCKING THINKING? ON. WHAT. PLANET. DO THEY THINK HANNAH B COULD BE THE BACHELORETTE? No, no, no, I’m being too generous to them. ON WHAT PLANET DO THEY THINK HANNAH B COULD EVEN BE CONSIDERED AS A VAGUELY VIABLE OPTION IN ANY SENSE OF THE WORD TO BE THE NEXT BACHELORETTE?

I almost didn’t watch this season of The Bachelor. I didn’t trust Colton to be an authentic principal. And I sincerely didn’t care for ABC framing the season around this man’s virginity. He had performed horribly in Paradise until literally the final week. Public opinion was aggressively not on his side. But they chose him anyway. After delaying a few days after the first episode initially aired, I capitulated and jumped in.

I can say with confidence that Hannah B is an exponentially worse selection than Colton was. I am truly worried about the safety of the show’s ratings going into next season because of this choice. Now, I assume most of my readers agree with me, but, if you don’t, please give me leave to try to convince you otherwise.

Hannah B was given the first one-on-one with Colton. The first one-on-one is supposed to be a slam-dunk. But Hannah B repeatedly failed to attach new words to the ends of words she had just spoken in a pattern most anthropologists call “having a conversation.” She could not give a toast. She could not give a toast. She could not give a toast on their first date. Roll tide.

Unfortunately, repeating ‘roll tide’ is not a personality.

She should have been sent home. I am shocked to this day that she was not sent home at that date. You know someone who was sent home during an early-season on-on-one? Lauren S in Arie’s season. Lauren S was gorgeous and charming and it honestly wasn’t a bad date overall. Do you want to know why he sent her home? She talked too much. Arie sent her home because she talked too much. I would 1,000% prefer to watch Lauren S as the next Bachelorette than Hannah B. I would rather roll the dice on this random contestant who we watched for 15 minutes before she was unceremoniously kicked off than have to sit through this season with Hannah B.

But alas, Hannah B got the rose that week and then became the focal point of the mid-season infighting storyline that consumed weeks more of this season. North Carolina Caelynn and Hannah Alabama just dragged each other under the bus in date after cocktail party after date. It was exhausting. And, if we know anything about mid-season infighting storylines, it’s that those who participate definitely aren’t frontrunners for the final rose or becoming the next principal. She was supposed to be a source for drama, not someone we have to focus on as an actual love interest.

Now you may be thinking, yeah, okay, Doug, but the South deserves a representative as the principal every once in a while. Those fly-over states will stop tuning in if they think they’re being tuned out. To that I’ll first say that Rachel was from the South, but I guess she doesn’t count because she’s Black and only White Southerners can appease the neo-confederate terrorists that are trying to ruin The Bachelor for me. But if we really need a woman from the South, then why the fuck are we going with Hannah B? She is the worst delegate in the Southern caucus. Let’s go through the list of our other well-known options. First, Raven. Sure, Raven’s taken at the moment, but she’s a perfect example of someone who everyone loved and was also from the South. I did not understand everyone’s love for Raven as I have mentioned repeatedly on this blog, but she was popular enough to merit her consideration. Second, Tia! Tia is from the same trash Southern town as Raven, but she’s more objectively attractive and she has a doctorate degree (Doctor of Physical Therapy, but “doctor” is still in the title). If we really needed someone with a grotesque Southern accent to placate the plebeians, then give Tia the staring role. Hell, let’s not stop there though. Don’t want to go back beyond this season? Fine! Give it to Hannah G! Hannah G is ALSO FROM ALABAMA. SHE CAN ALSO BE HANNAH ALABAMA. And she can—and hold onto your seats for this one folks—she can form complete sentences! She didn’t get bogged down in any of the drama all season, not even the Cassie drama that everyone else was whipped up in. Hannah G should absolutely have been chosen before Hannah B.

I sat there watching the finale in true disbelief. I thought about how they could reverse this with the same frantic concentration that I used to stop President-elect Trump from taking the oath of office. But then they brought the men out.

Listening to five men introduce themselves to you is a frustratingly simple task. Luke’s jacket was too big and he gave his best guy-in-the-rom-com-who-is-such-an-asshole-he-gets-slapped-in-the-face-at-some-point impression. Dustin gave an incredible toast and was the best of the group, but he’s Black, so she can’t bring him home. Cam came on as the most awkward White man in existence and decided it was his time and place to perform a rap that he wrote. It was the worst thing that’s happened to this country since 9/11. I hadn’t written any notes since they had officially announced Hannah B as the Bachelorette and after that introduction I wrote, “I’m going to kill myself.” Connor, who has the voice of a valley girl, got her a step stool so that he could be his height and they could “be on the same level,” which was cute. Or at least a massive step up. Lastly, we had Luke (another Luke, this one we’ll just call Nick Viall’s nephew, because he looks like he should be Nick Viall’s nephew) who made a cunnilingus joke: “I don’t go down South often, but, for you, I’d go down anytime.” You know what, fuck you Nick Viall’s nephew. And congratulations for signaling to everyone that you’re fucking asshole. “I don’t go down often,” he says. So he’s explicitly informing to Hannah that he does not like to go down on women and, if he ever does go down on her, then she should be grateful for it. So now every time that he goes down on her she should feel guilty for making him do something he doesn’t like exclusively for her pleasure. Fuck you, Luke, you fucking piece of shit.

Then Hannah got to hand out a rose. She successfully stood there and did nothing without destroying her career as The Bachelorette and all she needs to do is give this rose to someone who didn’t totally embarrass himself. Her order should be 1) Dustin, 2) Connor, 3) First Luke, 4) Nick Viall’s Nephew Luke, and 5) (5, as in last, as in for the love of God not this person, as in it’s so simple you can really honestly pick anyone just not this one sole person) Cam. She picked Cam.

 

Scoring

Am I the greatest Fantasy Bachelor player in the history of the game? Now, now, I wouldn’t say that. I’ll just say that we have filled out our brackets for two seasons of The Bachelor and I won both seasons. (I’m not going to count The Bachelorette. We’re not talking about Fantasy Bachelorette right now.) In both seasons, I defeated six opponent brackets. Y’all want numbers? There is only a 14% chance of winning in a seven-bracket league. There is only a 2% chance of winning two out of the two years of a seven-bracket league. And your boy is that 2%.

Both seasons’ wins are disputed. In Arie’s season, Becca won the competition, but he left her for Lauren B after the final rose. After intense debate, the grand arbiter, the all-powerful commissioner of our bracket Kristina handed down an opinion that gave everyone points for selecting either Becca or Lauren B. Fortunately, I was in first heading into the final week and so I stayed in first to secure the win.

Then Colton just quit. The last points given out were post-hometowns. I entered fantasy suites with a 10-point lead. I’m sure some oppositional figures who had Cassie winning would argue that Cassie “won” the competition and they deserve their 30-point allocation, but Colton did quit the competition (and also there was no ring), so those points are not disseminated. The points that I concede could be given out though are the After The Final Rose points. The league instituted this 5-point addition after Arie’s season. Those who put Cassie for After The Final Rose boost their total by an extra 5, but, alas, no one reaches my score, and so I still finish first… again.

The final standings are:

1) Doug – 239

2) Caitlyn – 234

3) Bonnie – 229

4) Kristina – 224

5) Kelsey – 221

6) Jenny – 204

7) Justice – 183

Congratulations again to me for being the best in the game, better than all the rest.

Thank you all for tuning in to another season of my recaps. And welcome to those who have been reluctantly added by their friends. I really can’t tell you whether or not I will be doing this again for the upcoming season of The Bachelorette. I really don’t want to see a season of Hannah B. But also, more importantly, if I get a job in the 2020 election cycle I will likely not have enough time to watch two hours of this horrible, beautiful, frustrating, intoxicating show every week and then write the subsequent recaps. So we’ll see.

As always,

Best as aye,

Roses without thorns,

Douglas

The Bachelor 23.9: Fantasy Suites: You're Shaking

Well, here we are again everyone. The principal has fallen for the wrong contestant and you all are going to bear the brunt of my frustrations. No, not this time. You are to be spared. After four consecutive seasons of the principals sabotaging their own happiness, I’ve finally learned my lesson. And, regardless, we have far more important things to talk about.

But, briefly, Tayshia did everything right. She was flawless, as per usual, and Colton, like so many of his predecessors, failed to see what was right in front of him. And, goddammit, I wanted all of Middle America to witness their White savior Colton giving his virginity to a brilliant, capable Black woman.

And now to the task at hand.

Cassie is unsure about her feelings toward Colton. He has told her that he is falling in love with her, but she isn’t yet willing to reciprocate the sentiment. She is unwilling to reciprocate, because she has doubts about their relationship and she isn’t sure that she could spend the rest of her life with him. As a consequence of those doubts, she wants to leave him. What Cassie doesn’t understand is that having doubts is a part of any relationship. Just because she isn’t 100% sure, head-over-heals, falling endlessly into the abyss entranced by him doesn’t mean their relationship is doomed to fail and not worth pursuing.

It is so frustrating to watch the gears turn in her head, because it is incalculably obvious that she should take a chance on this relationship, yet she has clearly been trained to believe that the love she is experiencing isn’t “real” love. This is a phenomenon that is entrenched in her family. The first time we saw it was with Cassie’s sister who demanded that if Cassie even thought for one second that Colton wasn’t one hundred thousand percent perfect for her in every way, then she should look elsewhere. Maybe I was exaggerating. She said, “There are hundreds of other guys out there too, you know? So if he’s not a hundred percent the one. If there’s any doubt, like, don’t shove that down. I know you better than anyone and I literally think that you’re perfect and I want you to be with somebody that’s perfect. Like this actually could be somebody that is forever, you know? And I don’t want you to settle for anything less.” So I was close! (I also like how she said “hundreds” of guys, because out of the 4 Billion men in the world, there are only between 100 and 999 that live up to her standards.) How on Earth are you supposed to approach any relationship when your standards are that astronomical?! Doubts are natural. Doubts are healthy even. But doubts should not be exploited to end a relationship.

And then Cassie’s dad comes into our picture. And this is where the family’s culture of not understanding love is mixed with a miscalculation that leads to a spiraling cycle of anxiety. Cassie’s dad may sense a hint of trepidation in his daughter when Colton arrives at hometowns. He refuses to give Colton his blessing, because he is unconvinced that Cassie is fully committed. A “blessing” (in my opinion) in our modern day (as modern as The Bachelor is) gives a man the approval from the parents to propose to the parents’ daughter. This does not seal a marriage. It merely gives the man the privilege of posing the question to the woman. It is entirely the woman’s decision to accept or deny. Colton is clearly not a Bad Man, which is the main test of the “blessing,” so Cassie’s dad should have given Colton his blessing and left the real decision up to Cassie. This uncharacteristic choice to not give Colton his blessing begins the spiral.

Essentially, Cassie’s dad didn’t give Colton his blessing because he believed Cassie was unsure. When Cassie found out her dad hadn’t given his blessing, she became more unsure. Then when Cassie’s dad arrived in Portugal and saw how unsure his daughter was, he expressed even more concern, which made Cassie yet more unsure about her relationship with Colton. What started as a small hole of doubt had spiraled into an abyss of insecurity.

The source of this doubt far precedes Colton’s entrance into Cassie’s life. It begins with how her parents explained love to her. When Cassie’s dad arrives in Portugal, he gives us a glimpse saying, “There shouldn’t be any hesitation in your mind when you meet somebody you want to spend the rest of your life with. None. […] If you can come to hometown and you were like I know beyond a shadow of a doubt he’s my soulmate, this is the guy, here’s why, all that sort of stuff, it would have a big different conversation.” He is the source of these outrageous expectations. He is unknowingly creating a standard that no one will ever be able to meet for his daughter. How does he expect her to end up happy?

He expects her to end up happy because he is happy and he believes that what he keeps telling her is his history. He explains to her, “You know when I met Mom, I wasn’t looking for a relationship at all. And she came into my life and boom. I was struck. And those relationships don’t come around very often, but when they do there’s no doubt. And it’s the best feeling. But I want that same feeling for you.” He has been in her shoes of being young and single and unsure, and he has proof that the perfect person is out there and you know instantaneously. But perhaps he is viewing his past with rose-colored glasses. I have my extreme doubts that he never for a second was unsure about his relationship with his wife. I think it is highly likely that over the three decades since that relationship was conceived, the doubts have been forgotten. There. Are. Always. Doubts. And, though he may not remember them, he is doing a severe disservice to his daughter by pretending they didn’t exist.

You want to know who probably has doubts in this relationship? Colton! In fact, Colton has such doubts that he is dating two other women still. What comes next is the most riveting half hour in The Bachelor franchise since Arie left Becca. And, arguably, it was more riveting than that.

Colton enters dinner more confident in their relationship than ever. Cassie enters planning to leave.

Cassie expresses her concerns as originally voiced by her father. And yet she says that today was perfect and that she loves him so much, like, so much, but that she’s not in love.

And at this moment, both parties fully realize what is going on.

Cassie continues to try to let him down easy. Colton starts to unveil his true feelings, contrary to the show’s normal format.

Cassie then repeats that she doesn’t know, she doesn’t know, she wishes she knew.

She gets up to leave. She tells a producer that she is having doubts.

Colton tells her that it is okay to have doubts and that he is okay with being patient. He says he doesn’t want to lose her.

She says she’s never been so conflicted in her entire life.

He says he’s not asking her to make a decision and doesn’t want her to make a decision tonight. He says he wants to be with her, he wants to be around her, he can’t stop thinking about her when he’s not with her and that it’s not easy going on dates with other women when all he does is think about her. The last thing he is going to do is give up. The last thing he is going to do is walk away from this relationship.

“I just… I just wish I knew.”

“It’s okay not to know.”

“But I don’t know if it is okay not to know.”

He reminds her of their first one-on-one together and how afterwards he was most excited about their relationship. He didn’t know then, but he knows now.

“What I’ve seen has led me to believe that you do care for me and you do love me and I’m sitting here telling you that I’m in love with you.”

They take a moment to take in what just happened. They look at each other, each terrified. Then they return to the argument about knowing.

And then he says, “I care for you, I love you, I want it to be you at the end of this.” And that’s it. He’s played every card he has.

And it all goes unrequited. And he says it again. And he starts to shake. And she says, you’re shaking, which just makes him shake more. And he says, I don’t want to lose you, and he shakes more.

And she says, Colton, I can’t do this.

And he says, I don’t care if you’re about to leave I’m not going to stop fighting for you.

He walks her out and says, I want so much what’s best for you.

And she says, I want you to be so happy. I want you to be with someone who’s, like, insanely in love with you.

And he steps back with shock at how ill-thought-out that statement was and then says, that breaks my heart.

She says, I’m gonna go.

He says, K.

She asks, are you mad at me.

He says, no.

He says, I love you.

And she says, I love you.

And she leaves.

He goes back to his room to collect himself. He clearly does not collect himself. He leaves his room, goes down the stairs, hits a bottle off a table, pushes a camera out of the way and moves towards the grand, white wall that we have seen so many times before. The producers call in Chris Harrison, crisis manager, to get Colton and settle him down.

Chris Harrison says, Colton.

Colton walks towards the gate.

Chris Harrison again says, Colton.

Colton continues towards the gate.

And then Colton leaps and clears the gate in one fell swoop, a move we have admired and sought after for eight long weeks. Here he is finally vaulting himself over the wood planks. And, just as quickly as he rose, he fell. And, suddenly, he is gone.

Chris Harrison says, “He just jumped the fuckin’ fence,” in what may be the best-delivered line of his professional career. Seriously, go back and watch it.

Chris Harrison, detective, asks, is there are button that opens the gate?

Chris Harrison, sees the gate slightly ajar and pushes it enough to get through.

Chris Harrison says, Colton!

Chris Harrison says, Colton!

Chris Harrison says, there’s a dog barkin’ down there.

Chris Harrison whistles.

Chris Harrison says, I have no idea where he went.

Chris Harrison says, we’re out in the middle of nowhere.

Chris Harrison breaks into a run.

Chris Harrison asks, does anyone have any idea where he is?

Chris Harrison says, “Holy fuck. He is gone.”

The Bachelor 23.8: Hometowns: What Perfect Means

In advanced baseball sabermetrics (stay with me on this one) there’s a statistic called Wins Above Replacement or WAR. If you have a 0.0 WAR, then you could be generally replaced in the starting line-up by a high performing minor leaguer or major league bench player. Each additional point of WAR is supposed to represent each additional win you give your team compared to what a replacement-level player would give your team, so if you have a 3.0 WAR, then you are turning an 85-win team into an 88-win team by simply not being replacement-level.

Caelynn is a replacement-level contestant. We could have substituted her and her hometown out with basically anyone in the Top 10 or even Top 15 and that would be the result we could expect. I mean she’s from Virginia for God’s sake. We have been back to Virginia so many times for hometowns! They went to the local ice cream shop because sure I guess. Throw in a White Southern family with some uncles that you can’t totally understand because of their accents and a bunch of Old Money that we don’t dare investigate how their family acquired and you get the Amazon Basics Cookie Cutter Bachelor Hometown.

The most difficult part about watching the hometown was when Colton asked Caelynn’s father for her hand in marriage. And we all just know… we know it’s not going to be her. But he has to ask anyway because of some stupid rule some producer made up that the blessing must be asked for at hometowns. And then the parents either give it which makes them look shallow or they don’t which makes them look stubborn. No one comes out of that looking good!

Hannah G’s date, on the other hand, was a treat. Wow. There’s a LOT to unpack here. Hannah G said she wanted to turn Colton from a gentleman into a Southern gentleman and decided to do that by taking him to a Cotillion class. Though a cheaper solution would have been to just teach him a few phrases to use in front of the family like, “If I had my druthers,” and “Affirmative Action has the Blacks taking our jobs,” and “Congratulations on your engagement to your cousin.” You know, polite Southern conversation.

The real kicker came when the Cotillion teacher provided her perfect Southern analogy about what was going to happen that night. She counseled, “All of Hannah’s life, Hannah’s parents have been holding this umbrella. When she was a little girl, they would hold this umbrella protecting her from things that could hurt her, keeping her safe. And so, Hannah’s parents are looking for someone that would be willing to take that umbrella and say, ‘I want to hold that umbrella over Hannah now.’” Oh, ma’am, bless your antiquated, misogynistic heart. Hannah isn’t a child bride being given to the neighboring town’s prince as some sort of treaty. Hannah can maker her own decisions. Hannah does not need anyone to hold her umbrella for her. She has arms. And she has feet. And she can walk wherever she wants because she has her own umbrella. And this umbrella metaphor has made me really, really angry and I’m losing the analogy with each additional sentence, but I am still adamant that that woman is wrong and that woman should not be listened to. Please can we have our money back, I like cutting my bread roll down the middle and not eating it piece-by-piece because I’m hungry dammit! Good day, ma’am!

 There was only one notable thing about dinner with Hannah’s family: the group of four women who pulled her aside first. One was in her 30s, but the rest were about Hannah’s age. Of those four women, three of them were married and one was engaged. So that gives you an idea of who is advising the 23 year-old Hannah G in her time need.

Also we got the blooper of her rapping. And I don’t really want to get into all of the ways that was problematic, so let’s move on.

And then we get to Tayshia. I mean at this point it’s just not fair. They are just leagues and leagues ahead of the other three couples in terms of their relationship. The conversation that we as a Bachelor Nation are going to have to discuss over the next two weeks is whether or not Tayshia is simply too good for him and too out of his league that it would then become a Baccalaureate crime for her to win. But let’s work on that later.

She blindfolded him and drove him to their date and then they had their first “fight” because Tayshia had “lied” about not knowing where they were going, which COME ON was so cute and so real and so fun. Give me a break, they’re perfect.

And. She. Took. Him. SKYDIVING. Even after they both almost collapsed at the mere thought of bungee jumping. He confessed, “Payback’s a bitch and I’m getting payback right now.” The producer asked payback for what. “Payback for taking her bungee jumping when she didn’t probably want to bungee jump—shit.” Everyone talks about wanting a partner who pushes them, well this is it, ladies and gentlemen! We have found our winner. Tayshia is the Challenger in Chief. When they both reached the ground and ran to each other and embraced. That moment. That MOMENT was to die for.

Then we went to Tayshia’s home and, with each new family member—especially her father—you could see that the emotional intelligence in the household was exponentially more attuned than in any of the other homes he visited. Tayshia’s father was there to get to the bottom of it. He pealed apart every sentence Colton uttered, analyzed it with the precision of a Justice, and sought out the truth. He would not accept platitudes from a man who may become his son-in-law. “You really say you’re falling in love with her,” he interrogates. “I mean, that’s a strong word. You seem like a smart man, right? And so I’m sure you can pick the right words. And sometimes if somebody’s just falling back on their default word of saying ‘falling in love’ and whatnot, that’s the wrong thing to be doing, because now you’re just creating a web, if you will.” Tayshia’s father isn’t acting as her guardian looking for a man to hand her child over to like Hannah’s family. Tayshia’s father is an advocate for her depth and her rights and her freedoms. She is a full human being who knows herself and her power and is comfortable with who she is and her father is there to make sure he won’t smother that in any way.

Tayshia and her father talked. “You don’t microwave relationships,” was a highlight. The conversation was difficult and it was specific and it was thoughtful and it was persuasive. And Tayshia proved her commitment and confidence in the relationship. Colton had previously asked for her father’s blessing and rightfully didn’t get it, but after she and her father talked , the advocate was satisfied.

I watched this episode with my two roommates and when we saw Cassie giving a surf lesson on the beach in LA in, presumably, October, we all looked at each other and wondered why we lived in New York where the temperature had just ticked down to 26 degrees.

Also, in the last season of The Bachelor, one of the four hometowns were in the LA region. This season, two of the four hometowns were there. The season before that there was also one. None of the twelve have been in the Northeast. That’s something we can unpack at another time. (Also the outsize number of Coloradans.)

Look, again, Cassie and Colton are really, really hot together and they seem to get along well, but it sort of seems like they just are good at being partners to generic people, not good at being partners with each other, specifically. That sentiment was also echoed throughout the hometown. Her sister kept insisting that if Colton wasn’t absolutely perfect, there were other guys out there for her. “I literally think that you’re perfect and I want you to be with somebody that’s perfect.” That is the wrong frame for evaluating a relationship. We fall in love with the imperfections in our partners. We find people who love us because of our flawed state not in spite of it. And together we push to grow and improve our beings.

The red flags in Cassie’s hometowns only grew when she met with her dad. He brought up the same exact points that all of the fathers had brought up. It’s too fast; how do you know if he’s genuine; he’s dating three other women; are you prepared to get hurt; etc. Instead of taking each point and responding to them with confidence in the relationship, she just snapped at her dad for not being supportive. It was uncomfortable to watch her get angry at the obvious questions. In the end, her father did not give Colton his blessing.

The rose ceremony was clearly a battle between Caelynn and Cassie. With Caelynn, he had a woman who was in love with him (the only one, I might add, to say it so far), and a truly replacement-level contestant. With Cassie, he had a woman who hasn’t said she was falling for him even though he already said it to her, yet a woman who he has a much stronger connection with and could see the vast possibilities that lie in the relationship. What helped Cassie the most was that Colton’s relationships with Tayshia and Hannah G were so solid. He knew that that he had two solid things going and didn’t need a third, worse solid thing. He had room to take a chance on Cassie. And so he did.

 

Scoring

Well the second, third, and fourth-place bracketeers behind me all also had Hannah G, Cassie, and Tayshia in the Top 3, so I remain exactly where I was the week before. The fifth, sixth, and seventh-place brackets all dropped one. So basically, the standings are exactly the same as last week. Hooray!

The Bachelor 23.7: A Defense of Cognitive Dissonance

The first date of the week went to Tayshia and she got the classic Let’s Just Walk Around Town Like A Normal Couple date and it went fabulously as per always. Then they went back to his apartment and made a meal together like a normal couple. It is these late season dates when you find out who the producers believe the right person is. They know they can let Colton and Tayshia out to do whatever in town and still have a good time.

And then he brought her to his bedroom that he called “The place where the magic doesn’t happen,” which is actually incredibly funny. And then she put on his Underwood football jersey and he told the audience that maybe that was foreshadowing and that maybe he was falling in love with her.

And I mean really…

Who wouldn’t be falling in love with her?

She’s perfect.

Colton did, though, ask her who she thought wasn’t there for the right reasons. Tayshia has stayed pointedly above the fray over the course of the whole season—as a frontrunner is advised to do—but when asked point blank who she thought people were talking about, she gave an honest answer: Cassie and Caelynn.

As soon as Tayshia says this battle lines are drawn. The two clearly playing defense are Cassie and Caelynn. Swinging away on offense are Tayshia and Kirpa. And those left on tentatively neutral ground are Hannah B, Hannah G, and Heather.

Before we move on with the rest of the episode, I want to provide a sort of a defense for Caelynn and Cassie. The charges being leveled against them are that they were discussing becoming the next Bachelorette, and how they might not be ready to get engaged at the end of this. And to that I ask, what else are they going to fucking talk about? When you’re with your friends, you talk about the future. What do two contestants on the Bachelor have to talk about? How they are both going to marry the same guy? No, no, no, there aren’t multiple winners here. This isn’t a show about polygamists. And Cassie and Caelynn aren’t stupid, they know the odds of them winning aren’t high. If we assume that this conversation happened in the Top 10 round, then they each had just a 10% chance of winning at that point. So, what, are they just going to sit around all day talking about how they are going to live the rest of their lives happily with the other persons’ boyfriend? That’s insane. So they both engaged in talk about the very likely future where they don’t end up with the final rose and that is a totally normal, healthy way to cope with the fact that your partner is dating nine other people, including the people you spend your whole days with, and, in four weeks time, one of the ten will be ENGAGED TO THIS MAN. In order to survive in this space, you have to engage in this level of cognitive dissonance. You have to believe that what you are feeling with the principal is real, but you also have to be okay with a litany of other people dating your partner and forming strong(er) connections with him or her and you have to be okay with the face that you probably won’t be the one to finish with the rose.

And maybe I’m being naïve, but I feel like if either Caelynn or Cassie was just honest with Colton about that cognitive dissonance instead of trying to flatly deny the existence of those doubts, he would understand and deeply appreciate the honesty that they were bringing to the relationship.

While I would advise that route for Caelynn/Cassie, there is another route that I would also suggest when faced with accusations of just wanting to be the principal of the next season. I call it the Dick Cheney Pledge [note: I have not seen the movie Vice yet about Dick Cheney, but its mere existence in the current lexicon likely sparked the idea I am about to present.] When Dick Cheney was running for Vice President he had one thing he clearly and repeatedly bashed over the heads of his opponents: he did not want to be president. What other candidate for Vice President could say the same? Not Joe Lieberman in 2000 and certainly not John Edwards in 2004. Dick Cheney had seen the presidency up close and personal, first as Chief of Staff then as Secretary of Defense and he knew he didn’t want to be the one in the hot seat. Dick Cheney was a content multi-millionaire of a major oil company who was asked to serve his country as Vice President and, gosh darn it, he did it even though he didn’t really want to.

If Cassie/Caelynn was confronted about wanting to be the next Bachelorette and they didn’t want to tell the truth as I advised above, then they could take a page out of Dick Cheney’s book. They could say, “I know that that accusation is a lie I don’t want to be the Bachelorette. Believe me, I couldn’t possibly imagine being the Bachelorette. The immense pressure to eliminate people I’m creating real connections with week by week? The constant gnawing feeling that I was making the wrong decision? Please. I do not envy you for a minute.” And then, when Cassie/Caelynn finishes in second and third and the masses begin to call for the person they want to be their next principal, they will call for the honest one, the one who doesn’t want the crown, but deserves it. Because, after all, doesn’t Cassie/Caelynn deserve to find love?

But they did not take my advice. Both of them simply denied the accusations and called them baseless. It turned into a classic he-said-she-said as so many arguments on this show do.

Caelynn had her date. They went snowboarding. She denied the accusations and she got a rose.

Hannah B met Colton’s family. She provided her classic bland, Alabamian charm that failed to woo the Underwoods. And Colton knew it all along. I’m still surprised she made it this far after her disastrous first date. Colton sent her home, but not before she counseled, “Man like, just… listen to people, about things, and people’s intentions.” Hannah B has heard what every other departing woman said and, instead of coming up with a new way to say it, she just made it clear to Colton that she agrees with everything that has been said to him up to this point.

And with that move, our battle lines become slightly clearer: Caelynn and Cassie on one side, Tayshia and Kirpa and Hannah B on the other side, and Hannah G and Heather in the middle.

Which brings us to the group date. Two roses for four contestants: Cassie, Hannah G, Heather, and Kirpa.

Heather begins by shocking and delighting Bachelor nation. She decides to leave the show! She’s not blind, she can see that the other girls have better relationships with him. And she also knows that it would look bad on Colton to send her home after being her first kiss. So she saves us all a painful goodbye. Also, by being the third contestant to leave without being sent home by the principal, Colton has officially become the most quit-upon Bachelor in Bachelor history and tied with three Bachelorettes as the most quit-upon principal.

That’s not because Colton is a bad Bachelor. It’s because Colton is not a normal principal in The Bachelor franchise. He does not transcend his contestants the way most others do. He is flawed and naïve and inexperienced. He knows this. And the contestants know this. And it creates a dynamic that we haven’t really seen before. The contestants are more willing to use their agency. If they don’t feel like the relationship is right, they aren’t going to wait to be kicked off. And they aren’t going to pretend the principal knows everything. This principal was specifically chosen because he does not know everything! And the contestants feel more comfortable giving him advice on how to proceed. See: Sydney, Demi, Katie, Tayshia, Hannah B, and now, Kirpa’s advice.

Kirpa was the hero of this group date. She knows exactly where she stands with Colton. She is leagues behind Cassie and Hannah G, but she is still technically in the race and she has a say in how things can finish. Kirpa made it clear to Colton that the house agreed Cassie and Caelynn weren’t there for the right reasons. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind to Colton and she wasn’t afraid to confront Cassie about it, which she did repeatedly. Cassie could only respond with hurtful attacks that the audience had not seen nor expected from the frontrunner.

And then over the course of the group date, Hannah G made it clear that she also believed Caelynn and Cassie were not there for the right reasons. That puts Tayshia, Kirpa, Hannah B, and Hannah G on one side and Caelynn and Cassie on the other. (Heather dipped before she could choose a side, which is fine.) Hannah G was the only person not to take a side in front of Colton, though. While that is the standard frontrunner playbook, the normal rules seemed to have been suspended as all of the frontrunners and runners-up jumped into this civil war.

Caelynn faced one accusation of impropriety before her date, so she had to do very basic maneuvering to get her rose. Cassie, on the other hand, arrived at a group date facing multiple accusations. And this is where we saw her power on full display.

If the accusations are true, and we have little reason to believe they aren’t, then she has become the final villain of the season. And if you see her as this disingenuous person, then her next few moves appear acutely manipulative. Cassie has somehow found the center of Colton’s nervous system and can maneuver his thoughts and feelings at will. If you believe what Tayshia and Kirpa and Hannah G have to say, then it is hard to view Cassie as anything other than an evil ice queen playing Colton like a pawn.

The storytelling done in the editor’s room for this episode was a masterpiece for ABC. I first noticed it when the group arrived in Denver and they played a mood-specific and location-specific song instead of pulling from their usual bank of generic Bachelor songs. But the brilliance came during dinner on the group date. Colton took Hannah G outside and, instead of following the conversation outside, the editors kept the moment inside in the silent dining hall where Kirpa and Cassie sat waiting. After a few moments, Colton walked back in and wordlessly picked up a rose and left again, leaving just one rose on the table. The tension could be cut with a knife. And then Caelynn arrived to set “the story” “straight” with Colton. And the editors cut away from the action AGAIN back to the silent dining hall. Was Caelynn there to defend herself and Cassie? Was Colton going to take her rose away? Was Caelynn going to just throw Cassie under the bus? The possibilities were endless. And then she left without a word. It was one of the most extraordinary series of moments in Bachelor history.

Kirpa did everything she could to warn Colton of Caelynn and Cassie. But Cassie is too powerful. And Caelynn provided the final, necessary reassurance that Colton needed.

Of course, this feud could all be a big misunderstanding. You could ignore how many other contestants agree they aren’t here for the right reasons, you could ignore how defensive Cassie and Caelynn got when the integrity of the unnamed figures were questioned, and you could ignore their vicious attacks on their accusers when they were finally named. Maybe they really are here only for Colton.  

The civil war began the week with Cassie and Caelynn on one side and Tayshia, Kirpa, Hannah B and Hannah G on the other. Over the course of the week, all of the accusations were catalogued in the public record and the accused clearly took the most hits. But when the dust settled, Cassie and Caelynn were still on one side and Tayshia and Hannah G were the only ones left on the other.

 

Scoring

I called this out at the beginning of the season. Everyone’s Top 4 and down are nearly identical, so whoever is in the lead after the Top 6 is pretty much smooth sailing. And that just happened to be me. So I swapped my Top 4 Demi pick out for Hannah B, because all of my closest opponents had Hannah B in their Top 4s and I could just block them all out. I am still 10 points in first place and now I have only two people behind me tied for second instead of three. It goes

Doug 239

Bonnie 229

Caitlyn 229

Kristina 219

Kelsey 216

Jenny 204

And our savior Justice at 183.

Believe it or not, though, the Sleeper Pick of the Week Award goes to Justice! She was the only one of us to put Caelynn in the Top 4 and she did it in her initial bracket, not from a change, which makes it even more impressive.

The Bachelor 23.6: Three Dates, Three Walls, and Three Warnings

The end of the cocktail party and the subsequent rose ceremony were annoyingly predictable. Nicole and Onyeka took their final Baccalaureate breaths and used them to yell about each other. And then we left for Vietnam. (And I feel like I should quickly point out here that Donald Trump once said avoiding STDs was his personal Vietnam and perhaps that will also be Colton’s Vietnam.)

We’ve all been waiting with bated breath for Colton’s date with our favorite instagram influencer and the winner of the first impression rose, Hannah G. In the sixth week, we finally got it and it was truly the perfect date for her listed profession: a couple’s massage at a spa in the middle of the Vietnamese rainforest. A hot mud bath, a hot shower, a hot… I don’t know, sushi roll thing? It looked great. The pics were probs fire. And they were very cute together.

Caelynn and Cassie wondered back at the hotel whether Hannah had enough of a personality to really form a connection with Colton. They were trying to convince themselves that Colton wouldn’t keep her around if she didn’t have that sort of depth to her. And I am here to tell them that that is some bullshit. Colton has proved to us again and again that lack of personality is not a barrier to a relationship. He absolutely does not discriminate against people who have no substance to speak of. It’s admirable.

The crucible moment in Hannah G’s life was her parents’ divorce. And, to her credit, she colored the story of the divorce with an thoughtful anecdote. Anecdotes are vital to good storytelling. It was clear and it was personal and, if she was on a date with someone in her sophomore year of college, maybe they’d really hit it off. But like… he’s 26 and looking for a wife. Regardless, she received a rose and remains a frontrunner.

Thrice this episode we saw the walls come down with Demi. The first time it was unintentional. She and Katie were throwing gloves, fighting for Colton’s heart and she become overwhelmed by the fact that Katie was hitting her. Talk about not being able to take a punch! While everyone else laughed off their battles, Demi lost her cool for the first time all season. And then KATIE apologized to DEMI. Oh boy that ground my gears. Katie had nothing to apologize for, y’all.

In the interim between Demi’s first and second moments of vulnerability, Colton was served his first of three warnings. Sydney knew she was operating far behind the rest of the pack. At the end of the group date, she challenged him to disprove her hypothesis. When his answer was not up to her satisfaction, she left, but not before leaving him with these words: “There are some very wonderful people in that group. Find them. Figure out who they are. Don’t be distracted by shiny things. Especially now. Really figure out what you came here to find.”

Sydney was the second person this season to decide to quit the show. In the past five seasons of the Bachelor franchise, only one contestant has left and that was Jacqueline from Arie’s season. Though, despite the recent scarcity of quitters, it’s not as uncommon of a practice as you might think. From the 32 seasons that I could get data from, a contestant left in 53% of them. A season averages about 0.91 quits per season. Even though a slightly higher number of men contestants quit than women contestants (0.89 for The Bachelor and 0.93 for The Bachelorette), there have been zero dropouts in just 39% of Bachelor seasons and zero in 57% of Bachelorette seasons. In those few Bachelorette seasons when contestants left, they usually left in sizable groups. The Bachelorette has seen three seasons with three contestants quit while The Bachelor has never seen a season lose more than two. Anyway, Colton is already at two, making him the fifth Bachelor and sixth principal with two quitters. We have four weeks left, so Colton still has time to set the record.

The second time Demi revealed her vulnerability it was deliberate. She called her mother and introduced him to her over the phone for the first time since she had just left federal prison. It was a heartwarming moment. Well, as heartwarming as you can get with a person leaving federal prison. And, given her mother is white and a woman, you know she must have done something really bad to get locked up for it.

Demi manufactured this moment to try to get a date rose. But instead, Colton heeded Sydney’s advice. Sydney had told him not to be distracted by shiny things. Instead of giving the rose to Demi, the spark plug, he gave it to Tayshia, the intelligent, caring woman who grounds him in moments of stress. A woman who was clear about her feelings of anxiety with him in a way that none of the other frontrunners were able to express. A woman who is blowing away her competition.

Kirpa’s date with Colton came as a surprise. She is very charismatic and cute and fun to be around, but she lacked a tangible connection with Colton. Honestly, the date seemed destined to fail. But, at this point, Colton hasn’t sent anyone home on a one-on-one and it seems like he doesn’t even know he’s allowed to. Kirpa is lovely and Colton is lovey, but it just doesn’t seem like they are in the same places in their lives. He should have refrained from giving her the rose. But instead, she stays on our TV for another week, and I’m really happy about that.

Giving that rose to Kirpa took another rose off of the table and added additional weight to Demi’s anxiety. This leads us to Demi’s third act of vulnerability. She snuck away to Colton’s room while the rest of the women were getting in bed. She claimed that her intention in going over there was to take his virginity. Once she arrived, she confessed that she was falling in love with him. And he responded by finally dropping the charade that he was interested in her. By her challenging him, she forced his hand and he was able to be honest about not seeing a future in their relationship. And so, Demi at last falls. Though not before delivering to Colton his second of three warnings: “There are certain girls here who seem like a safe choice, but, at the end of that, it’s not actually gonna be safe, because you’re not going to end up happy in the long run.”

Finally, we entered the rose ceremony. None of the seven brackets had Katie making it to the Top 6. I was actually incredibly, incredibly close to switching Katie in for Demi in my bracket. (I instead swapped Heather in for Demi, which paid off.) Katie’s loss may have been expected, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. She is an intuitive, genuine person who I thought made an intimate connection with Colton during their one-on-one moments at group dates and cocktail parties. But, according to him, she hadn’t opened up enough even though that was exactly the thing she was trying to disprove when she talked to him last at the group date. Whatever, it’s his loss, fuck him. But, before she left, she became the messenger for the third and final warning Colton would hear this week: “You have a great group of girls. And you know who’s ready in there. And there are some that aren’t. Just be smart about those girls.”

Colton heard these warnings. “That’s the third person who’s said there are people still here who are not ready and that’s fucking terrifying,” he vented to a producer. “That’s my greatest fear in all this, that I’m going to end up with somebody who’s not here to be engaged at the end of this.” Then he got into the weeds. “I thought when Sydney said it she was talking about Demi. And then I don’t know who Demi was talking about. And then I said goodbye to Katie and I don’t know who she’s talking about.” And then with such concentration and yet such ease, he bored his eyes into the producer’s soul and interrogated, “Am I fuckin’ missing something?” In that moment, Colton magnetized sympathy from America in a way he hasn’t been able to do all season. This is the Bachelor who nobody wanted and he is finally turning public opinion as he falls into panic and desperation.

Of course he’s missing something. He’s missing a key point in all three of the warnings. The warnings were not about one girl deliberately ‘not here for the right reasons.’ They were all about multiple girls expressing a lack of maturity necessary to make the leap to a healthy, adult relationship and marriage. And he probably doesn’t see this because he is relatively naïve and inexperienced but genuine and hopeful. And all three of the women who left could sense that, so they each counseled him in a way that other principals weren’t.

Scoring

I am so sad and I am so in first place.

That’s right you fucking losers, Dougie P is back at it again and he only had to throw Katie under the bus to do it. Doug finished with a perfect 5th Rose Ceremony and a perfect 6th Rose Ceremony to vault himself way into first place. No other bracketeer had a perfect 5th Rose Ceremony or 6th Rose Ceremony. And you know what makes that even worse? Colton gave away 10 roses for the 5th ceremony and 7 for the 6th ceremony even though we filled out our Top 9 and 6, respectively, so he just gave us two free picks.

Bonnie, previously in first place, has now fallen to tied for second and 10 points behind Doug after picking Elyse and Onyeka in the 5th and Demi in the 6th. Caitlyn and Kristina round out the three-way tie for second with Bonnie after they both picked Elyse in the 5th and Demi in the 6th. Kelsey, still in fifth and now 12 points behind Doug, incorrectly selected Nicole for the Top 9 and Demi in the Top 6.

Jenny, now incalculably out of contention, dropped Caitlin and Bri (wtf?) in the 5th, then, remarkably, only Demi in the 6th. Justice was finally able to put this Week 5 behind her. She got four right and had to take the massive hits to her total due to Elyse, Angelique, Annie, Bri, and Caitlin. Fortunately, she saved five points by swapping Alex B out for Caelynn who did, in fact, get a rose. Her 6th ceremony faired shockingly well as she just dropped points for Alex B after switching Tayshia in for Caelynn.

Doug’s vital move that allowed him to create a ten-point lead between himself and the second-place brackets was getting rid of Demi. Of the six other brackets, only one didn’t have Demi in the Top 6 and that was Justice’s.

The Bachelor 23.5: The Best Episode

Season 23 Episode 5 of The Bachelor was maybe the best episode of the Bachelor franchise that I have ever seen. It had everything. It had exquisitely crafted suspense. It had profound moral conundrums. It had serious discussions about the viability of the show’s format. It had vicious backstabbing. It had risk-taking. It had human beings supporting each other and lifting each other up. It had achingly romantic trysts. And it had hot, hot people being really, really hot together on beaches. It was perfect.

Alright, it wasn’t perfect. ABC still fell into many of their normal annoying habits. One of my least favorites of these habits is their use of music and sound effects and cutting and zooming to indicate to the viewer how they are supposed to feel about the situation. It’s patronizing and cheesy and, frankly, mean. These contestants do enough on their own to dig themselves into holes. The audience doesn’t need to be bashed over the head with an editorializing hammer.

That is what they did over much of Heather’s date. When the camera pulled all the way up to Colton’s mouth to watch him lick his fingers, my eyes rolled so far they got stuck in the back of my head. Which didn’t make things much better either, because then I had to listen to a person who has never been kissed talk about what it would be like to have their first kiss.

Okay, that’s enough complaining for now. Apart from those two small notes, it was a beautifully orchestrated date. The views were stunning, the floating city was dynamic, and the two of them did look like they were having fun together. But the most impressive part was the suspense. The whole date, the audience was glued to the screen, breathlessly anticipating a potential kiss. And what made it so successful was the structure. Throughout the date they became more and more relaxed and physical with each other. About halfway through, a perfect opportunity presented itself with the dock and the sunset and the relative privacy. But the impulse didn’t arrive. Then they were at dinner where she opened up. I’m going to go ahead and gloss over how she dated someone for eight months without kissing, because that will assuredly garner enough attention without me jumping into the conversation. And, importantly, Colton gave Heather the rose before any kiss. He indicated to us and to her that it didn’t matter if they had kissed or not or maybe would soon, he liked her the way she was and wanted to continue a relationship with her. And then they walked out onto a dark, secluded beach with nothing but a campfire. Is that not one of the most romantic settings you can think of? No. It’s not. A dark, secluded beach with nothing but a campfire and FIREWORKS is one of the most romantic settings you can think of. But that whole post-dinner scene was enthralling. After a full day of anticipation, the suspense was at its astronomical peak. No music. No awkward zooming. Just two people and a beach and a bonfire and FIREWORKS and then… AND THEN… a first kiss. It was exquisite. A master class in structure and suspense.

And then Colton returned home. He returned to have one of the most authentic and adult conversations we’ve ever seen on this show. It’s jarring to think back to Elyse’s date with Colton after just watching his date with Heather. Elyse and Colton—especially Elyse—are two adults who have dealt with love and loss and the prospect of creating and raising little human beings (or at least hanging out with a few dozen of them in a theme park). Heather and Colton’s date was like watching a rom-com about two kids scared to start high school and exploring people of the opposite gender for the first time. Elyse is a real person who wanted a real relationship with a real partner. She said, “I want to know all the silly stupid things about you and how we are together. And I can’t call Chris Harrison and say I want every one-on-one for the next year. I want the time and attention that a relationship deserves to be able—if you get down on one knee—.” Colton tried to assuage her concerns by blaming the show, which is a fair critique that every contestant has to face. But she knows what she wants and she understands how absurd this show is and how improbable it is to create a real, solid relationship on five dates over 10 weeks. She said, “I wish I could say there was something off between us, but I’d be lying. There’s a big part of me that hoped that I’d walk in tonight you’d say like that you had better and bigger connections and that you were fine and we’d be great friends or whatever so it’d be easier, but… […] I can’t… I mean like literally can’t accept a proposal after a few months of sharing your time and attention with other people. I can’t do it.” And she left.

Not only did we get the first true, real, emotionally draining conversation of the season, but we got a clear, full-throated critique of the show itself. Elyse, who is probably the contestant with the most experience in the contours of a relationship, declared, on The Bachelor, that The Bachelor is an impossible way to healthily and comprehensively find a person to spend the rest of your life with. When I first started watching the Bachelor franchise a few years ago I wore my roommate’s ear off with the studies and the statistics of all the reasons why the show is bullshit. While I tried to hold on to the skepticism, I very obviously lost most of it over the past several seasons. Elyse’s departure is the slap in the face that we all needed to remind us how bullshit the concept of this show is. And yet I’m still here writing the rest of this episode’s recap and the recap for every other episode this season.

Forward to the group date! All of the remaining contestants are getting better and better at making their move, taking risks, and standing out. The group date of ‘living in the jungle’ illustrated this. Hannah B ate that bug. Tayshia expertly stole him away for a make-out sesh. And Demi went to the bar to order drinks and burgers instead of looking for sustenance in the wild. Everyone was as on-brand as ever and it was a treat to see.

Hannah B was the first person to tell Colton that she is falling in love with him this season. It secured her the group date rose, so good on her. The moment actually brought me back to Nick’s season when Raven was the first person to say she was falling in love with Nick. I don’t know what it is about these incompetent, mediocre Southern women, but the speed with which they fall in love with people perplexes me to no end. I think Raven’s early admission bought her a couple extra weeks of roses and, unfortunately, I think Hannah B will be rewarded with the same treatment.

Cut to Colton’s date with Cassie. Now this date was longgg anticipated. Remember, three of the seven brackets in our Bachelor Fantasy League have Cassie ending up with the final rose, despite her relatively quiet start to the season. And what did the producers do? They dropped them off on a “private island” that was a sand bar in the middle of the ocean with nothing but each other. The producers seemed to have really dropped the ball on this one. They could have brought a picnic. Picnics are lovely on a beach. They could have brought a Frisbee. Frisbees are endlessly fun instruments when you have partner and some open space. That’s it, those are my ideas. But the producers couldn’t even put that together. Yet, it didn’t seem like Colton and Cassie minded as they spent the next, I don’t know, hours(?) making out on this island/sandbar. They really did seem like they got along well in previous episodes and it seems like they have a foundation to work off of, so it seems less weird that they just spent the whole time making out with each other.

The intriguing part, though, came at dinner. Cassie said that while Colton had to pretend not to be a virgin, she had to spend much of her time with particular family and friends pretending to be a virgin. And, while I can respect trying to fool a conservative family’s skeptical eyes, let’s take a brief gander at the facts. Fact number 1: Cassie is 23 years old. Look, the odds at 23—especially 23 and on the bachelor—indicate the high probability of her not being a virgin. Fact number 2: Cassie is from Huntington Beach, CA. Do you know what Huntington Beach, CA is called? Surf City. It’s located in the heart of Orange County and, sure, it’s the birthplace of modern conservatism, but it’s still got all the liberal social aspects of Southern California. And fact number 3: Cassie looks like Cassie, which is to say a very good-looking human being. Now that doesn’t mean that she’s for sure not a virgin. After all, Colton is a virgin. But there’s a reason that we’re all shocked that Colton is a virgin. And I would be equally shocked if I found out that Cassie was a virgin. Anyway, all that to say, Cassie isn’t a virgin and that’s not surprising.

For those of you who still weren’t considering Tayshia a frontrunner this season, I present to you Exhibit Floating Lantern. If I hadn’t already fallen in love with Tayshia I would have fallen in love with Tayshia in that moment. And who wouldn’t?

And finally, to round out one of the best episodes in the history of the Bachelor franchise, we are graced with a catty, rumor-fueled brawl between Onyeka and Nicole. Is Nicole here for the right reasons? Onyeka doesn’t think so because she heard from someone who heard Nicole say something that could theoretically be misconstrued that way. Two notable moments amidst the showdown: First was Tayshia who came in halfway through as a witness on behalf of the defense. She had seen the alleged crime and could testify that the rumors were false. The genius of her move, though, was that she didn’t use her time to tell Colton about it. Sure, she could have jumped into the fray to back-up Nicole., but she’s too smart for that. Frontrunners don’t get lost in the fray, frontrunners transcend the fray. So she took Nicole away from the situation and let her breathe and talk things out like a friend would. The second notable moment was when Colton came over to Nicole and Onyeka yelling at each other and he just sat down and listened to them. It was one of the most extraordinary moments of television I’d ever seen. He just sat there and listened. He. Just. Listened. And they continued to litigate in circles. Once he had heard enough to realize it was all a bunch of bullshit, he left. It was beautiful. It was my favorite thing any principal has ever done in a situation like that.

And that’s how the perfect episode ended. We got early-season brawling, we got late-season emotion, we got mid-season character arc payoffs, we got serious introspection on behalf of the show itself, and, last but not least, we got hot people being hot. Truly, what more could you possibly ask for in an episode of The Bachelor? A rose ceremony. We could have had a rose ceremony. But other that… perfect!

 

Scoring

Four of the seven brackets had Elyse advancing to the Top 9, including the current first (Bonnie, 134), second (Caitlyn, 128), and third (Kristina, 128) place brackets. The other bracket with Elyse in the Top 9 was Justice’s. After this loss, Justice now has just three of her original Top 9 still in contention. Kristina was hit the hardest by Elyse leaving as she had her making it all the way to the final three.

My bold move after Week 3 to make a switch in Week 5 instead of Week 4 DID pay off in the end. I was 3 points ahead of Kristina and Caitlyn after Week 3 and I will be 4 points ahead of them after Week 5. So I only picked up a point, but whatever. (Caitlyn, Kristina, and my brackets are all similar enough, that our differences are all already set in stone following the fifth rose ceremony.) The move did help me gain ground on Bonnie, though. After being 6 points behind after Week 3, I may now only be 1 point behind or better after this rose ceremony.

Having no rose ceremony to end this week makes things much, much harder for all of us bracketeers. We all have to choose our Top 6 out of the twelve remaining contestants. This has the potential to throw the whole game into chaos and I couldn’t be more excited.

The Bachelor 23.4: The Expansion of Mrs. Right

Do you guys remember last week when I effusively recapped Tayshia’s extraordinary performance on the group date? Yeah, well, NOW YOU PEOPLE SEE WHY. Tayshia is a goddess. A divine light that we do not deserve in this world. Colton is but a mere mortal who she is humoring for these next weeks or months or years. But no matter. What is a few years to a goddess who measures time in eons? In three hundred years, when football is no longer a sport, she will scoff to herself about the time she was wooed by a boy who earned his wage playing a child’s game. Oh, the twenty-teens were a rare age.

So I like Tayshia. She and Colton had a thrilling date. Neither of them wanted to do that bungee jumping, but they both convinced themselves and each other that they would be game and they did it. Do you know how hard it is to just convince yourself to huck your body off the side of a building when you’re afraid of falling? I don’t know how hard it is, because I’ve never tried, but given I’m also afraid of falling, I imagine it would be excruciatingly difficult. But she didn’t break! She was totally positive the whole time and she did it! She threw herself off that building! She for sure should not have gone feet first—that was acutely frightening to watch—but she made it down and then they made out in the water and they’re both really, really hot and they seem to really like each other and you know what I’m happy for them I really am.

The bombshell of the date came during dinner. Tayshia revealed to Colton—and to all of us—that she was married and, in the last year-and-a-half, she had gotten a divorce. And Colton took it in stride. Not that he shouldn’t have, but maybe a few years ago a Bachelor wouldn’t have. Our society places an exorbitantly high price on “youth” and “purity” when valuing women. The man must be older and more mature in a relationship for it to “work.” And since The Bachelor forever strives for the pinnacle idea of a relationship in society, we are usually stuck with an older man and a younger woman.

And you don’t need to look too far to see this in action. Last season, the Bachelor was Arie Luyenduk Jr, a 37 year-old man. Do you want to know how many women in their thirties made it to the Top 9? Zero. Every single woman in his Top 9 was in her twenties. And, let’s not forget that this season, Demi, 23, is parading around the mansion talking about how she has the massive advantage of age on her side.

(Further reading: I highly, highly recommend data journalist Mona Chalabi’s opinion piece in the Sunday Times about the 2.3 years men have on women in the average relationship.)

So now, not only is the Bachelor a 26 year-old, but the Bachelor is a 26 year-old virgin, which makes it markedly harder to find a woman that he can be more “mature” than. But we are living in a new era! ABC is finally realizing that we are living in an age where personality and substance matter more and the baggage of one’s past matters less. And, because of that, we are BLESSED with the presence and glory of Tayshia.

Now, as we are finally nearing the end of candied first-half of the season, I’d like to acknowledge Demi’s contribution to our Bachelor year. Demi is a producer’s dream. I didn’t realize how deeply true that was until early this episode. The date card for the group date was read and everyone’s name was announced save for Caelynn. And it was Demi who jumped in and just said, “It is frustrating seeing even more time of his going to this whole situation.” She was the only one in the room willing to acknowledge the Miss USA throw down that has been the centerpiece of this season. Caelynn responded that she’d moved on from that drama. Demi nudged back, “But Colton, I feel like, hasn’t.” That is the journalistic interrogation that we all crave for in the room. Sure, maybe this journalist has a massive conflict of interest, but she’s out here asking the questions that need to be asked.

When Demi takes time off from being a freelance investigative journalist for the Buzzfeed News, she returns to her normal job of being Chaos. She has a brilliant knack for finding the most vulnerable and anxious contestants. She then takes these contestants and pokes them over the edge. To a casual observer, it would even seem like it was the other contestant who started the rift instead of Demi. But no, it was Demi. She took the time to investigate her target and locate the button needed to set them off.

When Demi told Colton that Courtney was a cancer in the house it was merely the final act of an O’Neill play. And by God it was brilliant. To follow it up, she openly admitted her accusation in front of the group. Every step Courtney took she landed on another trap that Demi had set. And, frankly, it was partially her fault. She spent the majority of the last two episodes trying to break Demi down instead of trying to build up her relationship with Colton. And surprise, surprise, she was sent home.

Lastly this episode, we have Caelynn who shared with Colton and with us the story of her sexual assault. She spent four minutes describing exactly what happened and how it happened and how it affected her life then and still affects her life now. She illustrated the fear and the disgust and the shame and the sadness that overcame her. And Colton listened. And ABC listened. And America listened.

It’s easy to imagine how just a few years ago, a woman with Caelynn’s story would have had her experience exploited by the show’s producers or she would have been cast aside for having too much baggage or “being broken.” But those things didn’t happened. She was treated with respect and she was listened to. And that is what all survivors deserve. In fact, that is the least of what they deserve. They deserve justice, which Caelynn sought. Despite her persistence, justice was not fully realized in her case, nor is it realized in millions of cases around the world. That fact has been ignored for too long. It is time to start listening to survivors like Caelynn.

After Colton listened and acknowledged her, he brought how his last partner was also a survivor. While he didn’t say it, Aly Raisman was likely the partner he was talking about. The decorated gymnast led the fight for justice for the girls of the USA women’s gymnastics team. Because her efforts and the efforts of more than 100 testifying survivors, Larry Nassar, the former doctor of the team, will be spending the rest of his life in prison for molesting at least 250 girls and women. The oldest allegation against Nassar dates back to 1992. He was fired in 2016.

Scoring

I just want to start this section by saying that I thought I made an awesome move this week, but instead it was not an awesome move. I had Caitlin, who was sent home in Week 3, making it all the way through Week 5 in my bracket. So I could have just swapped her name out in Week 4 for someone, but I chose instead to swap her name out of Week 5, because I was convinced that the Caelynn-Hannah feud would be resolved in Week 4 and one of the two would be sent home and, since I had both Caelynn and Hannah B in my Week 5 bracket, I wanted to plug the one Week 5 hole I had (Caitlin) and prepare to use my swap for the next week on whichever contestant was kicked off. But unfortunately, they’re both still here! And all of my Top 9 are still in the game! So I just lost 4 points for not using my swap for this week and now it won’t even help me next week. Did I make any sense in that last paragraph? Probably not. Alas, let’s get to scores.

Also, as a side note, there are 13 contestants left even though it should be the Top 12, so everyone got a freebee this week.

Bonnie the Oracle got two wrong, Courtney and Tracy, but she remains in first place with 134 points. Now tied for second place are Kristina and Caitlyn at 129 points. Both only got one wrong and they both also chose Courtney. At 128 and now in fourth is Doug who lost Caitlin and Courtney. Kelsey, 126, in fifth, only dropped one, Catherine.

Jenny has made no swaps so far this season and by God I admire that. Sure she’s hemorrhaging points, but she’s sticking to her guns. Maybe those contestants will come back? This week she got four wrong and all four had already been kicked off on previous weeks: Alex B, Bri, Caitlin, Annie. Somehow, somehow, she only has one incorrect in her Top 9 next week, so she can sort of get back on track if she makes a swap this week. Jenny has 104 points.

And just a hair behind her at 103 is our fearless bracketeer Justice. Justice got five wrong this week—six if you count her swap as getting one wrong as well. She incorrectly selected Angelique, Annie, Caitlin, Catherine, and Courtney, and she swapped Alex B out for Katie, which was her one good move. Fortunately, her Top 9 didn’t get any worse between last week and this week, so she still only has five of her Top 9 already eliminated.

The Bachelor 23.3: Strong Women

“Strong women empower other women,” Tayshia slyly notes to Colton after the group date. She then prods for the history of strong women in his life, which eventually leads him to conclude, “Finding a strong woman is important.” And she quips back, “Just like how it’s really important for me to find a strong man.” She beams at him with her unforgettable smile and he leans in to kiss her.

Yeah fine okay it’s true I’m in love with Tayshia you caught me so what?! I did my best last week hiding her as my favorite candidate, but given that I put her to finish second in my bracket, I can’t say I was all that secretive. Three of the seven brackets have her in the Top 6, but mine is the only bracket where she appears in the Finals.

Full disclosure, I was pretty stuck on what the theme should be for the blog this week and it was actually my roommate Jess who sparked the perfect thesis. The thesis is exactly what Tayshia said. Strong women empower other women.

Tayshia spent the whole group date lifting up and supporting the other women there. And then when it was her turn to spent time with Colton, she just focused on her own relationship with him. That is the quality you need in a Bachelor(ette) winner. You need someone who doesn’t get bogged down by the early season drama and can provide us with a respite amidst the crises. Tayshia is a rock star and she’s going to go far this season (and in my heart).

You know who got bogged down? The women who are trying to stop Demi. Look, Demi is utter chaos. And it obviously feels like Demi isn’t taking the process seriously. But what I can say is that Demi isn’t the one initiating drama with the other women. Sure she creates an atmosphere of whimsy that some may not appreciate, but she’s not going after anyone. She’s just playing her best game. Tracy and Courtney are the ones going after Demi. And you know what happens when you fight with chaos? I don’t think there’s an actual idiom or saying here about fighting with chaos, but I’m going to make one right now and the answer is that you lose. You’re going to lose every time you try to fight chaos.

Of course Demi’s not going to win—and thank God she’s not going to win—but it’s very fun to see Colton try to navigate these horrendously exciting situations she’s putting him in. She’s blindfolding him and the producers are giving her props? Genius! Let. Her. Live. Her. Wild. Wild. Life. And Tracy and Courtney? They are not empowering other women. Demi isn’t their enemy in this competition. Demi isn’t going to watch Colton bend down to his knee in front of her and propose marriage. Tracy and Courtney should ignore the chaos and empower other women.

You know who was on that same group date and didn’t bring the drama to Demi? Katie! Katie spent the date cheering on her fellow candidates, giving everyone high fives, being an all-round supportive and uplifting member of The Bachelor Season 23 Community. Then when she had her one-on-one time with Colton, she focused on their relationship. And goddammit, it felt real. It felt REAL between them! They look like they genuinely like each other. And isn’t that what we’re all here for, everybody?! That’s what I’m here for!

Before we get to the final, grand, Miss American bout of this episode, I just wanted to take a minute to reflect on Elyse’s one-on-one. It ties in with the thesis less, unless you count her lifting up all of the strong women five-year-olds, which is a valid argument, but regardless, her date with Colton was fabulous. The carnival with the kids and then the ballroom dinner was heartwarming and beautiful and they both took it all in in stride. I don’t know yet if they have the right chemistry to be a perfect match, but they are certainly a moral and intellectual match and for that I am excited for their relationship to grow.

Now to the great Hannah B vs. Caelynn saga. For most of this episode I couldn’t figure out who to root for. First Caelynn had what appeared to be an inauthentic interaction with Colton and I didn’t feel compelled to side with her. Then Hannah B cryptically threw Caelynn under the bus, which led Caelynn to break down in front of Colton. I followed Colton in immediately throwing my weight behind Caelynn. Then at the pool party, all Caelynn could talk about was Hannah B and her desperation for attention and how Colton was assuredly being lied to even though it still didn’t seem like any statement from either of them had been contradictory up to that point. Caelynn blew a massive opportunity to move on with her relationship with Colton and chose to instead drag Hannah down. Hannah then came right back and, instead of trying to pivot, returned to bashing Caelynn for being a bad roommate. How am I supposed to root for either of them when they are both spending all of their time with Colton complaining about the other person? They were not heeding Tayshia’s advice.

 

Scoring

Bonnie maintains her lead in the brackets by only missing two picks: Bri and Catherine. As it turned out for Bri, it’s not good for your first impression with a potential romantic partner to just be a bold-faced lie (see: Accent, Australian). And Catherine, it seems, only had enough in the tank to be the villain for Night One.

Doug is now the sole owner of second place after also missing two this week: Bri and Caitlin. Kristina and Kelsey both vault into third place by getting just two wrong as well. Kristina mistakenly picked Nina and Bri, and Kelsey picked Catherine and Bri. Caitlyn is now in fifth (falling from second) after missing three: Annie, Bri, and Catherine.

Justice is currently in sixth place and luckily out of last this week. She got five wrong: Angelique, Annie, Bri, Caitlin, and Catherine. But despite being not last in the official standings, she is dead last in the future projections. After this week, five of Justice’s Top 9 have been eliminated. Fortunately, none of her Top 4 have been sent home yet.

Jenny is in last place after she got seven wrong this week: Alex B, Annie, Erika, Catherine, Bri, and Caitlin. Oh, and Erika again, because Erika was written a second time. Incredibly, only two of Jenny’s Top 9 are eliminated and her Top 6 has been left completely untouched.