Monday night marked our first glorious "Bachelor" episode without any Shanae-nigans (*throws last handfull of confetti and ticker tape, pulls out slice of cake I was saving like wedding cake*) and that alone made the latest episode an undoubted improvement over the rest. But don't underestimate these producers: They've still COMMITTED to creating a terrible season of television. So while they no longer have Shanae, they found something new to enrage audiences: one of the world's most irresponsible and unethical portrayals of a therapist on screen since Hannibal Lector, and even he would probably be concerned about the lack of professional conduct on display.
We'll get to that literal malpractice in a second; first we've got Mara versus Sarah to wrap up. Last we checked, Mara was upset at Sarah for the crime of, I don't know, being young, so Mara chucked Sarah under the bus to Clayton, implying that she wasn't ready and wasn't there for the right reasons. But after their one-on-one date, Clayton and Sarah talked it out, convincing him that she's genuine – and that somebody else just saw her as a target now that she received two one-on-one dates. So now she's coming back to the ladies' hotel with a rose and with spice, telling the other women that SOMEBODY tried to desperately undercut her but it didn't work – so feel free to confess who you are. Nobody says anything – but they don't have to because Mara's sporting the world's loudest, most obvious smug smirk on the couch. I'd LOOOVE to play Mara in poker.
When she does open up to the other women about what she did, she explains that she just had to "speak my truth," a phrase that I think now has to be retired thanks to reality show villains like her. It wasn't always this way – this phrase used to have meaning and purpose – but now, if you say some variation of "speak my truth," I'm fully working under the assumption that you're a liar and probably a jerk who wants to use "speak my truth" as cover for their bad behavior. It is a red flag on par with someone starting a sentence with "I'm not racist but" or "I'm just really honest." A shame – we all owe the English language an apology.
At the cocktail party, while Serene gets a jar of "fireflies" (aka cheap lights from Croatian Pier 1), Mara and Sarah have a true confrontation about the latter's attempt to take her down, with Mara using every synonym in the book for condescending to describe Sarah ... while also being preposterously condescending in the process. Her whole problem is that Sarah's just too confident and too happy about her relationship with Clayton, and it's making all of the other women upset – which honestly seems like an other women problem rather than a Sarah problem unless there's something we're not seeing. Or maybe Shanae set the bar for toxic, vicious manipulation so high this season that anything else seems sane and harmless in comparison. She also complains that Sarah called the move "desperate" and a last-ditch effort from someone going home, which ... was it not?
No matter the case, it all comes off bitter and painfully insecure on Mara's part. (It doesn't help that, prior to this, Mara's most notable moment was going hard at Sarah at the roast with jokeless insults without any discernable motive beyond "grr youth.") But it's also pretty entertaining because all of the other women hilariously pile against a nearby window to snoop on it all.
I expected we'd get at least one more hour of this Mara versus Sarah drama – but in a shocking turn of events, Clayton decides to end a conflict in a timely and efficient manner. YOU CAN DO THAT!?!?!? During the night's first rose ceremony (that's right: first, because the show was not messing around last night – maybe because it too just wants this to end) he gives the axe to Eliza, who was apparently a person on this show, and Mara. WELP, YOU PLAYED YOURSELF! Number one lesson of "The Bachelor": Don't waste time complaining about others when you could be making your own connection – unless you really want to know what the inside of the goodbye SUV looks like. And you might not even get THAT, because Mara's Uber seemingly never shows up, sending her walking up and down the streets of Hvar. ONE-STAR RATING FOR YOU, "BACHELOR" UBER!
While Mara wanders the streets of Croatia lost, the remaining seven women jet off to Vienna where Susie gets the latest one-on-one date and Genevieve is sad. But if you think you're sad now, Genevieve, just wait until you find out that Susie's date with Clayton is WINNING THE DAMN LOTTERY!
So Susie's the lucky winner of a shopping spree courtesy of "Clayton," popping into a fancy clothes shop and letting her buy pretty much all the cool fashion she wants. "I've never had a man take me into a shop and say pick anything you want," she notes. Well, yeah, it's a lot easier for the guy when IT'S NOT HIS MONEY. I too would throw my significant other a lavish shopping spree if I had a blank check from Disney in my backpocket and their connections with a Viennese designer on speed dial. This isn't a romantic gesture from "Clayton" right now; it's a romantic gesture from ABC's accounting team.
When she's done raiding the storefront, Susie gets access to the designer's special high-fashion closet of gowns. She tries them all on – starting with one that makes her look like a giant feather duster. Thankfully she passes on that one and instead lands on a gorgeous red dress made of princess vibes that requires a footman to deliver it to her room afterward – in front of all of the other women, of course. RUDE, FOOTMAN! She wears the red ballgown to dinner – which is good because the show didn't book "The Lady in Red" singer Chris de Burgh for her to show up in a little black dress. A luxury shopping spree AND a surprise music act that's actually famous and not an unknown country opener?! Clayton must really like Not Hannah Brown ...
After Clayton gives Susie the rose and Chris de Burgh whispers "I love you" in a way that haunts me still, we head off to the group date – where things go absolutely sideways. Since we're in Freud's neck of the woods, the show books a psychoanalyst to put Clayton and the women through couples therapy. Sorry, that's incorrect: They put Clayton and the women through THE WORST THERAPY SESSIONS IN RECORDED HISTORY.
At the center of the misery here is Genevieve. She was already having a hard enough time feeling on the outside looking in while Clayton builds stronger relationships – but she just also doesn't feel comfortable doing therapy and really talking about her feelings. And almost CERTAINLY not like this. But instead of understanding that this is a delicate situation and that opening up about trauma and one's emotions – ESPECIALLY on camera – is a choice, Clayton, the therapist and the show put a frankly absurd level of pressure on Genevieve to open up, that she's putting their relationship at risk for not wanting to participate in something SHE DID NOT CHOOSE. "Why are you nervous," the therapist asks early on with a hint of judgment in her voice. YEAH, WHY WOULD YOU BE NERVOUS TALKING TO A COMPLETE STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND ABOUT YOUR MOST DIFFICULT AND COMPLEX FEELINGS IN AN AMBUSH THERAPY SESSION, ALL IN FRONT OF CAMERAS BROADCASTING TO THE WORLD AND NEXT TO YOUR BOYFRIEND WHO'S DATING SIX OTHER WOMEN, HOLDS YOUR FATE EXCLUSIVELY IN HIS HANDS AND MOST RECENTLY ACCUSED YOU OF BEING A LIAR AND AN ACTRESS!? Why is Genevieve being made out to be this close-minded, emotionally chilly person when she's the only one being rational here!?
After being uncomfortable, with cameras, Clayton and the therapist all probing at her with pressuring judgment, Genevieve and Clayton finally leave and take a moment off to the side where he basically just breaks up with her right then and there. He explains that he has closer connections with others, especially if she doesn't feel comfortable opening up at this point. Seems more than a little callous – but thankfully it seems like Genevieve's done with this all anyways. Between getting dragging into the Shanae-icane and now this horribly uncomfortable sequence, I'd be happy to head back home too.
I've had problems this entire season with the incentivization of the concept of "opening up," the increasingly cold and transactional way the show treats these women discussing these difficult topics and traumas – and this group date only validated and solidified my concerns. If contestants on this show feel comfortable sharing their stories, they totally can and should. It's their lives; it's their experiences to share if they're up to it. But this idea, highlighted on this group date, that you're somehow failing as a relationship partner if you don't feel ready to open up on cue to other's expectations is not entirely healthy – especially in this heightened and public format. And ESPECIALLY in this utterly imbalanced relationship power dynamic, where one person has pretty much ALL the control. The show loves to pretend about these stories and these issues, that it shows the romance's "realness" and "true connection" – but the way it's treated them reccently, particularly with Genevieve on Monday night, shows that it couldn't care less. Hard to believe a show that let Shanae go buckwild on everyone's sanity wouldn't be responsible about these matters!
The rest of the sessions go better – if only because, compared to what happened to Genevieve, they couldn't go worse. Gabby discusses the insecurities fostered by her relationship with her mother. "Can you offer her that security," the therapist asks Clayton. Yes, can you, Man Currently Holding Her Fate Precariously In His Hands While Dating Several Other Women, make her feel comfortable and safe? I think we all know the answer to that question. The more this choreographed process pretends to be deep, legitimate and "authentic," the more sociopathic it feels. Maybe they should just commit to ridiculousness again.
Speaking of ridiculousness, though, we haven't even gotten to the most wild portion of this all. So while the other women are a little stressed about therapy, Sarah's a little too pumped about it, happily chatting with the other women in the waiting room about how much she loves therapy and how confident she feels and ... OK, maybe Mara had a little bit of a point before, though it plays less malicious than simply tactless. Her eagerness continues into the therapy session, where she goes on a long tangent to our psychoanalyst about how much she thinks this rules and that she loves the process. It's a little "teacher's pet" behavior – but again, it feels more like word puke than planned.
Our therapist, however, feels otherwise. But surely she'll discuss this in private and in a sensitive OH OK SHE'S BROADCASTING IT TO EVERYONE LIKE A CRAZY GOSSIP QUEEN! That's right: At the end of the date, she and Clayton thank the women for their honesty and for participating in the couples therapy, with many of them being truthful ... BUT ONE OF YOU WAS NOT! No wonder Genevieve didn't feel comfortable opening up to you, Dr. TMZ! VALIDATION! God, I hope this was an actress and not an actual therapist – and if she is, I imagine she returned to her office on Tuesday with a significantly lighter appointment schedule.
So after Dr. Gossip Girl rolled that grenade out into the room, Clayton's wondering who the dishonest one could possibly be – but the women have a confident idea: Sarah. Yes, apparently it wasn't just Mara who was peeved; as they report one by one to Clayton, it was the whole house that didn't like her confidence and conversations about her dates. I don't know what I'm missing here – but apparently Sarah also lied about how she and Clayton cried on a date. And when Clayton talks to her about it, she cries ... sort of. Certainly not to Clayton's expected standard of sobbing, so he coldly tells her he doesn't believe her and walks her out. OH, SO NOW YOU'RE AN ACTING EXPERT! Where was this Tisch School-level eye for acting talent back when Shanae was earning Razzies with her performances, Clayton!?
So Sarah gets a chilly exit – and she responds with some iciness in her own right, saying that if he can be that easily swayed and turned distrusting, maybe she doesn't want to be with him anymore anyways. SURE SEEMS TO BE A REOCCURING THEME THIS SEASON! We are jetting our way to an acccidental Juan Pablo-esque roast at the end of this season – and I, for one, will watch and will bring the popcorn.
After showing Sarah the door, Clayton decides that, thanks to all the nonsense, he's going to withhold the group date rose. So much for couples therapy providing clarity! YOU DID GREAT, PSYCHOANALYST; FREUD WOULD BE PROUD! In the meantime, he goes on a one-on-one date with Serene, taking a horse-drawn carriage ride around Vienna, shoving hot chestnuts into their mouths and wandering their way into a TOTALLY IMPROMPTU charming little accordion dance party with an adorable older couple. Everything this show knows about human behavior was learned on the Hallmark Channel. Thankfully, their dinner conversation later on is much more genuine, discussing how Clayton would be the first guy she's introduced to her parents in years and how old failed relationships aren't wastes of time but instead informative learning experiences. Sure, it's a little trite – but no less true and more honest than most chats, hitting on real topics without feeling like Mandated Emotional Discussion (sponsored by the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Hulu's "Pam & Tommy").
At the end of the date, Serene gets the rose – leaving her and Susie locked in for hometowns and Rachel, Gabby and Teddi vying for the final two spots. If I was a betting man, I would've put my money down on Gabby being on the outside looking in; Rachel's connection with Clayton seems clear, Teddi got the first impression rose and Clayton seemed to hint at questions about the depth of their relationship throughout the season. And if I was a betting man, I would've lost money because Rachel and Gabby gets the final roses, sending Teddi tearfully home.
So Rachel, Gabby, Susie and Serene: We have our final four! Wait ... we're ALREADY at the final four?! How did we get here!? Congratultions to Shanae's storyline for bending my perception of time, I guess. Or maybe the producers are done with this season and just want to get to the ending as fast as possible. If that's the case, congratulations to them for finally doing something right this year.
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.