I have never before seen an episode of The Bachelorette that feels so normal. Saying that is quite a stretch considering this is a dating show where 20-something guys are fighting for one woman, but the dates this week were tame and grounded compared to the show’s past history of dates that included elephant rides and road trips across a Canadian glacier during a blizzard. While this episode didn’t include the fairytale magic of adventure, there is something to be said about the magic of the contestants actually spending their time forming deep connections with Clare.

The episode starts with Clare lounging in a pool thinking about Dale, her prince charming (at this point, the season should just be renamed “The Dale and Clare Show”). “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard to sleep last night, because Dale just makes everything else disappear,” Clare says. At this point, we all know who the winner is going to be, but Clare is still contractually obligated to date the other men, so we’re off with our first group date. For this one, Riley, Jordan, Yosef, Ivan, Ben, Bennett, Zac C., Zack J. and Dale find their love languages being tested.

Clare stands from a fake tower as the men deliver passion-fueled monologues about a woman they just met. Afterwards, they run around the resort trying to find random objects for Clare to let her look inside their soul. I gotta say, there is something about watching nine men run around like children for a woman that touches my cold and midterm-stressed heart. (Shout out to Bennett for not breaking sweat during this escapade and to Dale for giving Clare dog perfume?????) Then it's time for the contestants to test their physical connection to Clare and I am fully convinced that this portion was created solely because Clare couldn’t wait to get her hands on Dale again. In the second-most cringiest moment of the night, the rest of the men watch Clare and Dale rub noses for an uncomfortable period of time before heading off to the cocktail portion of the night.

Not much to say for the cocktail except for a very long awkward silence where no one jumps up to ask to spend some alone time with Clare. But it's fine, because later on in the date Dale pulls her aside, and I swear I saw her eyes change into hearts. It’s been one week, and Clare has already said to Dale: “I totally have feelings for you.” For some weird reason though, Riley gets the group date rose.

Off to the one-on-one date, and Jason is the lucky guy. Him and Clare head off for a late-night picnic by a creek, and this is my favorite Bachelorette date of all time. The two write on rocks negative things people have told them, before shattering them into pieces. This is followed by the deepest discussion I have ever seen on the show. Jason talks about his inner demons and growing up around parents who obviously weren’t meant to be together. He discusses how he’s kept things bottled inside and is so scared, because his past has told him to never open up. I can see the raw emotion on this man’s face and feel the weight of his emotions, especially since it’s not against a backdrop of some wild helicopter ride. This is just two people talking and getting to know one another–it feels real. Even the first group date–finding a person’s love language is such a natural thing to do while dating, and while it was a weird approach, it was rooted in something deep.

Clare gives Jason a rose and proceeds to burn her finale dress from Juan Pablo’s season (which, TBH, I don’t know why she would still have that.)

The second group date of the week goes to Eazy, Chasen, Brandon, Brendon, Blake Moynes, Joe, Garin (we love this Medill alum), Demar, Kenny and Jay. Clare has them play strip dodgeball, with one team going so far as to be practically naked for the cameras. Watching this really just disgusted me. After some pretty tame dates we get this moment of clear objectification. This would not have happened if it were the other way around, and the fact that it did sends a very clear message about The Bachelorette’s regard of male objectification–Clare is clearly treating these men like meat.

After the losing team gets sent back (walking home with nothing on), Yosef expresses his disappointment in Clare at having such an activity. Back to the date portion of the night, Clare sends Brandon home after he can’t think of anything else to say about her besides the fact she is pretty.

Then, Blake, who was kicked out of the date after the dodgeball, comes back to the date in an attempt to talk to Clare. The guys gang up on him and he leaves, but at the cocktail party later, Clare rewards Blake. Obviously the memo about not rewarding rule-breakers did not reach Clare, because she just showed the guys the show has become a free-for-all with her as a lead.

While the rest of the men are stewing at their anger towards Blake, Clare pulls Dale aside for some one-on-one time. As they talk about their connection, Clare sits back with her legs on Dale’s lap, which my friend said is definitely not a first date move, meaning Clare is obviously head over heels for this guy. She then pulls out a blindfold and the two head off into a nice little corner to make out for a bit. They were so passionate, I felt like I was intruding on a private moment–but once again it's sweet to see two people actually like each other on the show.

The episode ends without a rose ceremony, but the previews do promise drama next week with Yosef.

Some Final Thoughts:

  • I don’t know why the producers are making Yosef out to be a villain for criticizing Clare about the dodgeball date. I completely agree with him, it was a classless and immature move on Clare’s part.
  • Is it just me, or is anyone else getting really weird vibes from Dale? I get he’s sweet and all, but there’s just this evil look in his eye that I don’t trust.

Photo licensed under Creative Commons 2.0. Courtesy of Horia Varlan.