By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Dec 15, 2021 at 3:01 PM

Before we start: an apology.

For those of you who were looking for recaps these last two weeks, I'm sorry. No, I didn't finally call it quits. (If any season would've defeated me, it would've been Matt James' year.) And no, I didn't fall into a wine-soaked coma-like stupor (or at least not any more so than usual). I was instead four hours and an ocean away on an admittedly poorly timed vacation in Hawaii, where I also had a proposal of my own to focus on – one I'm happy to report went better than I could've dreamed. So while the promise of a room full of people chuckling at bad Yelp reviews of Pizza Boy's pie shop and Greg eating his own cake-ified head sounds like pretty outstanding television, as you can imagine, I was a little distracted. 

Anyways, hopefully Michelle's proposal goes just as well as mine. (Seamless transition!) And at this point, after a season of taking charge, being clear with her wants and goals, and not letting idiots drag down neither her search nor her season with petty and manipulative drama, I think we all trust that Michelle will make the right choice for herself and wrap things up with a happy ending. (Not like she ever needed our permission or approval anyways; after all, for the guff Rachel Lindsay got for choosing Bryan at the end of her season – including from yours truly – they're still going strong so shows what we know.) She's been a great star in an entertaining and enjoyable season of "The Bachelorette" – and while Katie's season taught us promising things can go sour fast, I'm thinking next week's finale will stay sweet. 




But Nayte though? After Tuesday night's fantasy suites episode, call me Meryl Streep in a nun outfit, because I HAVE SUCH DOUBTS.

Let's start from the beginning. Apparently I wasn't the only one eyeing up warming climes and an escape from the Midwest as Michelle and her final three guys head to Puerto Vallerta, Mexico. But while things are warmer in the forecast, it's getting chilly amongst Brandon, Joe and Nayte because it's fantasy suite week – aka the worst week – and they're apparently stuck together in the group meeting room of their hotel, taking turns staring at walls and avoiding eye contact with each other. You almost get the impression they're all gonna go on very intimate dates, saying the same professions of love and hearing similar reassurances, with the same woman on consecutive days! Kinda awkward! But at least Joe makes light of it all by saying they've turned from "bros to foes." RHYMING IS FUN! Anyways, back to staring at the table and trying to not think about how the other two dudes in the room are sleeping with your girlfriend tonight. 

Brandon gets the first date card, and for his day with Michelle, he gets a pony ride through the jungle. Despite the fact that this is the closest he's ever been to a horse, he gets on with impressively smooth ease – but the horse is NOT A FAN, trying to take Brandon back the way he came. That horse bet on Nayte back in episode one, AND YOU ARE NOT RUINING THIS FOR HIM! Eventually, though, Brandon gets his horse in order and the two gallop away through the forest and onto the beach for a nice makeout and convo. Later that night, he busts out the L word – you guessed it: loxophthalmus – and the two happily watch metaphorical fireworks to celebrate. Also watching? Joe and Nayte, who are having a bad time.

Michelle and Brandon wake up to B roll of a bird but no bee – WHAT'S THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN!? Apparently, it symbolizes that everything went great and fine, and the two are so cute and playful together that they get into a food fight with an empanada. Man, between Emma's gentrified vegan empanadas on the new "Selling Sunset" season and now this, empanadas in reality television are really having themselves a moment. A round of applause for their agent. And as for people not having a moment? The poor hotel cleaners who had to vaccuum up their food fight mess after they left. Maybe they're like me, though, and just happy to see people on this show finally interact with the food being served. 

After Brandon's sent away, it's Joe's turn for a fantasy suite date – but we start with quite the opposite of a fantasy: ziplining. He handles it without a problem because of course he does: Joe is the most steady, head-on-his-shoulders guy left on the show (though I guess anybody seems calm and unbothered compared to delightful human bouncy ball Brandon). But hearing how Michelle talks about him, it's becoming a little clear that he might not be the one. She says at one point that he makes her feel less homesick – which is a totally circumstantial emotional feeling attached exclusively to the set-up of the show. She won't need to feel less homesick when she's back home in Minnesota. Perhaps she's noticing that what she likes and prefers about her relationship with Joe might not transfer to normal life. I guess what I'm trying to say is JOE YOU IN DANGER – though at least not tonight, though, because they have a nice (if also kinda boring) date that ends in the fantasy suite. 

Speaking of danger, things are getting even more tense in the Sad Boys Lounge between Nayte and Brandon. Finally bored with trying to ignore one another, the two have a debate over whether it's better to be the first fantasy suite date or the last fantasy suite date. I'll assume you can figure who's arguing for which. One thinks going first means he gets to set the tone and that he's the one who she wants to see first during this important week; the other assumes going last means he gets to leave a final impact. The winner of the debate? Joe, who shows up post-date and reports back that it went great and ended in the fantasy suite – news that has the power to wipe Nayte's typically confident smile off his face. 

While it's back to staring at tables and walls for Brandon and Joe, Nayte ventures away for the potentially all-important third and final fantasy suite date: a ride on the SS Clever Boat Name with Michelle. This isn't going to be entirely a pleasure cruise, though, for Nayte. While Joe and definitely Brandon have opened up and expressed their full-fledged love for Michelle, Nayte's been a little close to the vest and a little cool about busting out any big words and phrases – and with only one more episode to go, Michelle's running out of time to hear 'em.

Even so, Nayte sure doesn't seem eager to get to them, as when they sit down for their dinner date and Michelle opens the floor for him, he basically says he's got nothing particularly on his mind and nothing important to say. YOU DON'T, HMM!? She starts nudging and challenging him, pointedly asking about future plans, while he free-wheels some nonsense about we can never know the future and the kind of stuff a guy says when he 100 PERCENT HATES COMMITMENT WITH THE FIERY PASSION OF A MILLION SUNS! Eventually, though, Michelle pulls enough teeth – mentioning how his dad said he might pull away and questioning the difference between "falling in love" and "being in love" – to get Nayte to say what she wants to hear: that he can get to an engagement. She feels good about things, as the two head off to the fantasy suite, have a night together and wake up to a mariachi band performing for them outside. (SO MUCH FOR PRECIOUS ALONE TIME, PRODUCERS!)

Me? I feel less good about things. That sure felt more like leading the witness than Nayte's real feelings.

This may have been the moment all the audience's red flags went truly flying on Nayte – but this ALSO should've been the moment it was obvious he was making it to the finale. For one, let's look at these dates. Brandon and Michelle were on horses – physically separated. Joe and Michelle were zip-lining – physically separated. Nayte and Michelle? On a boat, guaranted close proximity. I REST MY (poorly made) CASE!

But the much more important second point: You don't put level of effort into somebody you're on the fence about being with. Michelle pushed and pulled and dragged Nayte into finally saying something close to a commitment; if she wasn't fully on board with him, she didn't need to do that. She's got two other great guys awkwardly staring at walls back at the hotel that she can be with instead. But she WANTS Nayte to work – and she's putting in the work. The only question is: Will he?

What's not a question: Nayte's getting a rose Tuesday night. But first, an odd story speedbump as, right as Michelle's prepping to hand out her first rose to Nayte, Brandon calls things to a halt to go talk to her in private. Oh no, is he pulling a graceful dismount? You know, when a character says "I'm sorry but I'm not ready" or something along those lines before bailing and breaking our star's heart at the very last minute? Or is he delivering some last minute dirt on Joe or Nayte to muddy the waters? Or maybe a final plea!? WHAT DRAMA!

In the end, it was more like "...what drama?" as Brandon word-vomits around some stuff about how he'll always be there for her no matter her decision and how much this journey's meant. My guy, if you're leaving tonight, you can say this all on the way out. That's what it's for. No one – besides maybe the editor trying to get this episode to two hours – needed this. That includes Michelle who does not engage at all minus a few polite "thank yous" and a death stare that screams "I HAVE SOME DEVASTATION AND HEARTBREAK TO DO; CAN WE PLEASE BE DONE?!" The woman has an un-fun job to do, and right when it was finally gonna be done and off her chest, Brandon decided he had a Hallmark speech in his back pocket that was about to expire.

Anyways, BACK TO OUR POSITIONS! Michelle returns to the brutal breakup already in progress, giving Nayte rose one before giving Brandon rose two and sending sweet, sweet Joe back to the Midwest. He handles things as well as possible, saying some final things about how grateful he was for her time and for the push that she gave him while heartbreakingly unable to make eye contact, like he's one quick look at her away from shattering. He's seemingly a good guy – and frankly the one I was rooting for the most between the final three – but considering how Michelle was talking about him, it's not an unsurprising development. 

So we have our finale: Brandon versus Nayte ... versus his own parents, who saw all the familial in-fighting and backstabbing on "Succession" and decided THEY WANT IN. (Wouldn't be the holidays without a good family squabble!) With his commitment to, well, commitment now in question, I'm worried Michelle's gonna end this season wishing she could disappear to Hawaii and leave this all behind without a word for two weeks too. Hey, worked for me!

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.