The intro of this weekly recap is usually where I say something along the lines of, “Hello, Sports Bachelor Nation!” and crack a joke about how you’re probably getting ready to pour a bottle of wine down your throat, or about how this reality show is sports or something else that’s meant to entertain you as you read about a show that is also meant to entertain you — in fact, whose only job is to entertain you.
Tonight is not that night. For several reasons:
1) I can’t get the taste of last week’s episode — in which Lee, a racist piece of garbage, picked a fight with several black cast members — out of my mouth.
2) The Bachelor in Paradise had to shut down filming because of alleged sexual assault between two incredibly drunken cast members, a situation which casts a terrible shadow over the entire franchise.
Neither of those things are entertaining. They’re both dangerous. They’re both gross. They both make me feel sick to my stomach, so you’ll excuse me if I’m having trouble mustering up enthusiasm.
With that said, let's take a look at what happened last night.
DEALING WITH LEE SOME MORE
We left off with Lee baiting Eric with racially charged statements. Lee refuses to apologize. Instead, he says:
“You’re damn right I enjoyed pissing him off. I have so much fun talking shit on these nights.”
Eric removes himself from the situation. Lee drops the “I’m not here to make friends” line, which used to be funny, and now, like so much else on this show, is not.
Then Lee interrupts Kenny while Kenny and Rachel are talking to each other. He refuses to go away, then gives Rachel a block of wood that he rudimentarily carved the word “enchanting” into using his grandfather’s pocket knife. This is not only creepy but also means that this guy came onto the show with a switchblade and no one was like, “hey, maybe we should take this guy’s switchblade away.”
Dean, one of the white guys, says, “I think Lee’s a f[bleeeeep]ing moron,” and, “I just think he’s kind of a bitch.” It’s good to see a white dude grow a pair and call Lee out, but of course Brady, another white dude, is like, “Everyone comes from a different background and has weird quirks.”
Oh, is that what we’re calling it these days? Being racist is like, a fun little character flaw?
Meanwhile, Bryan tells Rachel that they’re in a 100% real situation that’s like a fairy tale. Sure, if by fairy tale you mean the original text of Grimm’s Brother’s stories in which they describe the bloody way Cinderella’s sisters cut off their own heels to try to squeeze into the glass slipper. And then everyone dies of the bubonic plague.
Dean says he hopes Kenny punches Lee in the face and I’m like, why don’t you just do it, dude?
Rachel speaks to the camera about the pressures she feels being a black woman on this show. She’s crying.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she says. “I get pressured from so many different ways, being in this position. I didn’t want to get into all of this tonight. I already know what people are going to say about me and judge me for the decisions that I’m making. I’m going to be the one that has to deal with that, and nobody else, and that’s a lot.”
Good work, Bachelorette producers. Way to put a smart woman who appears to be trying to take this show as seriously as anyone can in a really horrible position. Knocking it out of the goddamn park.
Rachel gives Lee a rose. Diggy goes home. I liked Diggy.
GOODYEAR BLIMP DATE, THE ONLY GOOD THING
The fact that Lee is still around makes everything extra bad, but Dean and Rachel go on a one-on-one date in the Goodyear blimp, which is a bit of brightness in an otherwise dark moment for the franchise.
Dean is absolutely petrified of heights, not in a cute “haha I’m so scared LOL” way, but in a “oh my god I’m going to puke everywhere and maybe actually pass out” way. Rachel is a little worried. But then Dean gets himself together and drives the blimp, then he and Rachel drink champagne in the blimp, and then they make out in the blimp. Lotta blimp action. Also: I’ve always wondered what the inside of a blimp looks like, and now I know: a bus.
The Goodyear Blimp’s Twitter account proved to be the only good Bachelor-related thing we have left. It was trolling people all night as the episode aired:
When throwing shade, it helps to cast a blimp-sized shadow. (and have a giant LED screen, sure) https://t.co/2inuOHnbUK— Goodyear Blimp (@GoodyearBlimp) June 20, 2017
Awesome people. https://t.co/CDl9MVmz3a— Goodyear Blimp (@GoodyearBlimp) June 20, 2017
Back at the house, the guys are like, “Dean is five, six years younger than Rachel,” as though that were a problem. My dudes, I’m sorry you’re so insecure in your own fragile masculinity that you can’t imagine an older woman with a younger man.
DEAN TALKS ABOUT HIS MOM’S DEATH AND IT’S MOVING
At dinner, Rachel and Dean talk about their upbringings. Dean says he was raised religious and that his mom died of breast cancer when he was 15. He says that when she moved to hospice, he asked her when she’d be coming home, and she said, “Never.” And then Dean says that his dad sobbed on his bed the day he told him that she passed away, while Dean just sat there, stoically, supporting his father.
I’m not tearing up.
My tears quickly dry when Rachel and Dean go to a surprise country music concert. The singer’s name is Russell Dickerson, which is like Mad Libs for a country singer name. But everyone knows it’s not an episode of The Bachelorette unless a generic country singer gets his two minutes of glory. The producers probably go on the Facebook group called, like, Aspiring Country Singers Who Want to Sing Good and Look Good Too, and just choose a guy at random.
I can imagine the conversation. “Who should it be, fellow producers? Harrison Butterson or Flint McDustbuster?”
What is a Russell Dickerson— Jonquilyn Hill (@jonquilynhill) June 20, 2017
PLOT TWIST: Russell Dickerson is actually a hologram of a stock art photo of a country music singer.
The group date takes place on a boat. They’re all dancing, and for some reason Peter decides to rap, and his bars are trash. He rhymes “heart” with “fart” and calls Rachel a “girl from the hood.”
Let’s go to writer Katie Barnes’ Twitter feed for a moment:
Um. Rachel's dad is a judge. She is not from "the hood" as it were. She's just black. #TheBachelorette— Katie Barnes (@katie_barnes3) June 20, 2017
Rachel says she wants to test the men in a cerebral way, so she’s making them compete in a spelling bee to find out how clever they are. This is terrible news because I can’t spell for beans. If this is the measure of a human’s brain power, it’s truly astonishing that I even have a job.
All the words have to do with dating, like, polyamorous, which I couldn’t spell without spellcheck if you put a gun to my head.
Iggy sucks. He’s talking to the camera about how much he hates Josiah, and I can tell that he’s turning himself into the Dude Who Hates All The Other Dudes. Which means that he’ll be going home soon. Someone I can’t remember calls Iggy a “gossip queen,” and I’m laughing.
Josiah floats like a butterfly, spells like a bee! #TheBachelorette pic.twitter.com/ErVDWCbN5b— The Bachelorette (@BacheloretteABC) June 20, 2017
NIGHT GROUP DATE WHICH IS AWFUL BECAUSE LEE IS THERE SO OF COURSE IT IS
Josiah spills a drink on his crotch. I deeply identify with him. Iggy calls Rachel, sweetie. I hate Iggy. Iggy seems to have aligned himself with Lee, so Iggy can go straight to hell.
Rachel takes Lee aside, and Lee says that Eric screamed at him aggressively. He calls Kenny a ballerina. He picks fights with almost every black contestant while telling the white guys at the bar that he doesn’t have a problem with them.
When Kenny tries to talk to Rachel about Lee, Rachel is like, “Why would Lee say you were aggressive if you weren’t?” And Kenny is like ... “Because Lee doesn’t tell the truth?” And Rachel doesn’t seem to totally buy it. Kenny is left sitting there on a bench with his head in his hands, and I want to punch my television screen.
“Nothing I said made a dent in how she felt about me,” Kenny says. He also says he feels like he’s living in a reality of alternative facts, which is true, and sad, and descriptive of not only The Bachelorette, but also our current cultural state.
NEXT WEEK WILL BE EVEN WORSE
Lee is a reptilian piece of trash. The producers might be, too, because they’re setting Kenny and Lee on a two-on-one date from which only one can return. Oh, and they’re getting two episodes of television out of it. Yup, that’s right: Next week we’re stuck with two evenings of this show.
Clinton Yates, of ESPN’s The Undefeated, said it best:
yeah, two night special with this particular relationship? Incredibly slimy— Clinton Yates (@clintonyates) June 20, 2017
ENDING THIS RECAP ON “UGH” FOR THE SECOND TIME IN TWO WEEKS
In light of The Bachelor in Paradise allegations, I’ve been reading a lot of first-person accounts from producers on the franchise. They’ve all basically said that morals come second, behind explosive filmed moments, as the TV show UnREAL made so clear.
I can’t help thinking of all of that while watching the microaggressions and coded, racist language that Lee spews everywhere. These people are in a mansion they can’t leave, with 24/7 surveillance — it becomes a cage. They have no cell phones or any connection to the outside world. Their environment revolves around killing time and withstanding excruciating boredom. It’s punctuated with bursts of intensity when they’re with Rachel, followed by hours of emptiness to obsess over what they just said and did, as well as what everyone else just said and did.
Producers use this pent-up energy and brain spirals to build beds of tinder out of people’s emotions. Then they get contestants to rub each other the wrong way until the whole thing goes up in flames.
This is what reality shows are made from, and it’s slimy in any context. But it can be slimy in a funny way when the lighter fluid is, say, the fact that a contestant eats too much cheese, as it was during Nick’s season. It’s an entirely different ballgame to make blazing drama from racism.
It’s not drama. It’s just awful; and the fact that they could’ve avoided this by not putting Lee (whose alleged racist tweets recently surfaced, meaning that the producers either didn’t check his private account, as they claim, or willfully ignored it) on the show, makes it far worse. This is not some way to further a conversation about race in America; it’s exploitative and painful.
I can’t remember what it feels like to watch this show and be amused. I forget that it’s supposed to be a program about dating or something like dating. Instead, it’s become a sinister fun house that traps viewers and contestants for two hours on a Monday night that we can never get back. And I, for one, would like to get out.