By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Dec 22, 2020 at 3:56 AM

My dearest Brendan: I'm so sorry.

I should've known that when I picked you as Tayshia's lucky suitor that I'd be dooming you to a tear-filled SUV ride back to society, that as soon as my wine-addled lips uttered the phrase "I like Brendan," the powers of fate – aka Chris Harrison – would immediately plot you and your adorable turtlenecks' demise. I'm not saying that I ruined you and Tayshia's romance ... but yes, that is exactly what I am saying. I'll make sure to keep your name out of my mouth come "Paradise" o'clock.

So yeah, Brendan got axed off the penultimate episode of "The Bachelorette" – but much more happened beyond that Monday night. And even his departure is much more complicated than simply Tayshia no longer digging on our ruggedly handsome live-action Alfredo Linguini from "Ratatouille" stand-in. (Am I the only one seeing this, or is the boxed wine blinding me?)

It's fantasy suite week – a crucial time for Tayshia as Harrison's voiceover warns that she must choose well or miss her opportunity for love forever. FOREVER!? Harrison, you know you can meet people outside of this La Quinta, right? Not everyone meets their love after taking over a reality show a third of the way through; there's, like, apps for this stuff now. Harrison's not done stressing people out either, as after everyone pensively sits by a fountain and stares into the middle distance, our host visits the guys and alerts them that "if you're not ready to propose, that's something to figure out." CUE OMINOUS CLOSE-UP ON BRENDAN. I do hate the pressure to propose on this show. Let people live in reality for a bit – hell, let them KNOW EACH OTHER FOR LONGER THAN A 5-HOUR ENERGY – before they decide to spend the rest of their lives together. 

While we're on the topic of thing I hate, I also despise fantasy suite week – the show at its absolute crassest and most emotionally deranged. Our star confesses their love for a person, gets intimate with their date and talks about how special their connection is ... only for them to do the exact same thing with essentially the exact same conversations the following two nights. And the show tries to sell this all as truly in-depth and romantic connections. It's incredible more people on this show don't realize this show is for lunatics and Brendan their way outta here. 

So Ivan gets the first fantasy date – though nothing about the activity planned is a fantasy as they plan to set the record for the world's longest coldest kiss. And how does one go about doing this? Sitting in two separate ice baths and just smashing your supposedly frosty mouths together like you're poor Schwartz and that pole from "A Christmas Story" – heavy emphasis on "supposedly." 

First of all, these ice baths are set up in the middle of a sunny summer California day, so we're not talking Arctic cold here. I bet those things were actually refreshing as hell considering last week every single person on the show was sweating out an Aquafina factory. Second of all, what is romantic about a five-minute kiss – not making out for five minutes, but just one tedious, constant lip lock? You're just smushed against a person's face for five minutes, nose-breathing on one another, sucking in each other's air. (God help these two if they ate something before right before this.) Well, at least there's not an AIRBORNE PANDEMIC GOING ON TO ADD TO THE SEXUAL THRILL OF IT ALL! That's so much time doing nothing other than thinking about what a person's face smells like and trying not to awkwardly look in one another's eyes from three centimeters away.

But in case none of that sounds romantic, don't worry: Two men will provide live commentary on the whole thing, discussing whether or not you'll be able to get an erection later that night! SEXY!

Anyways, they set the "record" – try doing this in Wisconsin during the Polar Plunge instead of during a California heat wave, cowards – and head off to their romantic dinner, where they both say that they're falling in love with each other. It's kind of boring, but that's strangely kind of the appeal of Ivan and Tayshia: Together, they're just a normal couple that does cute normal couple things like cook and talk. I like it ... but in tonight's case, it doesn't make the most compelling drama. They then head off to their fantasy suite for the night, which is a sexy, sexy ... Airstream. Is the Airstream at least in a romantic setting, like a hillside overlooking a sunrise or beautiful nature? Nope, just on the La Quinta grounds. Still better than that weird dark windmill cave Peter and Hannah B. went to town in! Considering their relaxed vibe, this is the rare fantasy suite couple that I actually think is being honest when they say they just chatted all night instead of making that Airstream's air steam. 

After their lovely, one-of-a-kind night of emotional and physical intimacy with Ivan, it's now Zac's turn for a lovely, one-of-a-kind night of emotional and physical intimacy. Instead of sucking face while breathing one another's CO2 and getting a tan and frostbite simultaneously, however, the two have a painting date where they make a Jackson Pollock – with their bodies as the paintbrushes. Also: I take a drink every time somebody says "explore." In related news, I am writing this from a hospital bed due to an exploded liver.

As for the date, some people might find this sexy, but I am zero percent into it. Paint is sticky, man, and in that heat, that stuff's sweaty and narsty. Plus, you don't even have a decent painting at the end of it because you're NOT Jackson Pollock, so you just have a blob of smeared blended color over your canvas and your entire body. But hey, at least this date gives me the chance to use the phrase "explosive spanking" in context as Tayshia gives Zac's rear a two-palmed color spank only to get splattered in the face by his booty paint. 

After de-Sherwin-Williams-ing themselves, our couple meets for dinner where Tayshia asks how Zac apparently went from never wanting to have kids to suddenly being all about it. One wonders if maybe it has someething to do with the fact that you want kids, Tayshia, HMMMM!? After that mystery's solved, the two trade L-words and then go to their hotel room. Cut to them the next morning, moaning and groaning ... because they're jumping and dancing on the bed. You know, just your normal adult morning bed dance. And boy, is Tayshia exhausted and out of breath from all of the ... jumping on the bed that happened. Cut to a bird eating a bee, and I'm not even sure what that's even supposed to mean. I don't remember that part of the birds and the bees talk AT ALL! 

While we unpack all of that, last but not least, it's Brendan's turn. Date one was a dumb world record ice bath, and date two was a messy paint party – so there's no way his date could be worse than either of those? OH, WHAT'S THAT I HEAR? "BACHELOR" PRODUCERS MOCKINGLY LAUGHING AT MY NAIVETE?

Indeed, Harrison and company send these two on a ring-shopping date – because that's just what poor proposal-obsessed Brendan needs. This show hates this lovely man. There, he meets Neil Lane, who Brendan clearly has never heard of before; he's just a mysterious jewelry man whose first and last names are almost anagrams. Anyways, have fun spending the next several hours with him discussing engagement, the one thing you currently fear most, instead of getting to have an intimate and nice date with your girlfriend! So Tayshia and Neil Lane have a fun date where she tries on rings and Neil Lane gets his money's worth out of this product placement (he says he makes all of this jewelry by hand, and now I like to imagine him crushing a rock into a diamond between his own two human hands) all the while Brendan silently pleads for death with his eyes. 

Unfortunately there's only one solution to Brendan's problem, and it's not getting rid of Neil Lane. It's getting rid of himself. Yes, in a shocking display of emotional intelligence on "The Bachelorette," Brendan explains to Tayshia that he's clearly still coping with the past relationship going wrong, and while he may be over that person, he's not over that experience. "There's a big part of me that still needs time to heal," he explains, before saying she deserves someone who's emotionally ready for the next step and shockingly taking himself off the board, knowing he can't give her his full heart in a proposal. Look at all that emotional intelligence – and he didn't even need Patrick Bateman's self-help book! Somehow I love you even more, Brendan. I'm sorry I cursed you with my prediction – and I'm sorry this show insists on people getting engaged after TWO MONTHS OF KNOWING EACH OTHER! I have bread in my kitchen that's older than these relationships. (I should probably do something about that ...)

Well, that leaves a rose ceremony with two roses and two remaining men. Seems like an anti-climactic episode; surely nothing could possibly happen to mess with OH WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT, IT'S BEN! First, once-rejected contestant stops off at Harrison's permission to come back, explaining (fairly reasonably) that saying "I love you" after someone breaks up with you seems like poor, emotionally manipulative timing. So he changes out of his casual black Henley shirt into his formal white Henley shirt and knocks on Tayshia's door, who's fixing her hair in the mirror, just waiting for a surprise suitor to say hello. I bet she was putzing with those locks for three hours waiting for her cue. 

Anyways, she lets Ben in, and he says his peace – all while Tayshia sounds exceptionally tired. Almost as though this JUST HAPPENED A WEEK OR TWO AGO! Listen, I get it; there aren't that many options for drama when you're stuck in a bubble with only one set and a limited amount of people you can bring in – but we're doing the surprise magic return-o-boyfriend routine AGAIN!? "What do I do with that?" Tayshia exclaims after hearing Ben's explanation and then going in a separate room to think. I DON'T KNOW, EXACTLY WHAT YOU DID WITH PATRICK BATEMAN PROBABLY?! 

I guess we'll have to wait for Tuesday night's finale, however, to find out – an evening that Harrison promises will have "an emotional ending you won't believe." Unlike the world record set during tonight's episode, I have a feeling that I will, in fact, believe it. 

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.