By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Feb 01, 2022 at 1:31 PM

I've been awfully unkind to this season of "The Bachelor" thus far – mainly due to putting me into a drunken rage fugue state for two hours each week. So let's start this recap by saying something positive: There was barbecue on Monday night. Because if this thing's gonna be a relentless clown car fire, might as well smoke some delicious meats on it. Sure, it was maybe 30 seconds of a two-hour broadcast – but that's 30 more seconds of quality than last week's episode had. So, uh ... improvement!

Maybe it all just seemed like good television because Shanae was nowhere within earshot. Yeah, that was probably it. 

Speaking of which, we start "The Shanae Show" with the latest cocktail party, where the women want to address the drama in the house and hopefully move on – but Shanae says "Nah," so THAT'S THAT! Good thing Clayton's showing up to put this drama to bed once and forHAHAHA oh Matt, silly boy, there you go again thinking Clayton has a spinal cord. No, Clayton takes Shanae and Elizabeth aside for a conversation where the two just basically start fighting again. Elizabeth asks Shanae for an instance of bullying to back up her claims, while Shanae responds ... with shrimp. No, really. Shanae was VERY hurt that, when she made shrimp, the other women weren't appreciative enough – and that's Elizabeth's fault because (*brain cells murder themselves*). 

Now, since we've seen all the footage and know the reality of Shanae's irritating ignorance and rude behavior, I'll offer Clayton some mercy for not eliminating Shanae right off the bat and giving her the benefit of the doubt. BUT! A reasonable person with a single vertebrae to stand with would perhaps send both Elizabeth and Shanae home, deciding that if these women can't figure out their nonsense for the sake of love – or even just for the sake of their own public images or other people's existences – they can go away and settle this garbage fight on their own time. After all, this isn't the final two. THERE ARE MORE THAN A DOZEN OTHER WONDERFUL WOMEN A ROOM AWAY NOT FIGHTING ABOUT SHRIMP TO HANG WITH!

That's what perhaps a vertebrate would do, but unfortunately ABC did not cast one of those as its lead this season. So even though he is VISIBLY annoyed sitting between the two of them bicker, mentally leaving his body before eventually he physically follows suit to do his best Allen Iverson impression to the camera ("We're talking about shrimp. Not a game, not a game. Not a game! We're talking about shrimp!"), Clayton refuses to make a solid decision. For Elizabeth's sake. For the other women's sake. For his own sake. Not to keep harping on this point ... but Michelle would never. 

It's not as though there are a lot of smart, rational decisions being made elsewhere in the house, though. You see, Shanae wraps up her unproductive chat with Elizabeth by saying she's a "big" woman. So for those keeping score, she's now made fun of Elizabeth's mental health and called her fat. This would seem like a golden opportunity to take this information to Clayton and say, "Hey, I don't want to be annoying, but just to give you a peek behind the curtain, Shanae just called me fat. That's the kind of person she is. Hope this helps in your decision!" But instead Elizabeth just goes to complain to the other women – who all could go to Clayton as well as a unit to end this, too. After all, Clayton's just off hiding somewhere, doing neck exercises I guess. But instead we get more arguing when Shanae arrives snarkily eating shrimp (what else?) from the buffet. SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING!

(*sighs, takes deep breath*) It's not their fault; I don't want to blame the victims here. I just really need somebody here to end our misery. Please.

Oh, by the way, during this argument, Shanae eats her shrimp with her gob wide open. It says A LOT about her that somehow this doesn't even land amongst the top ten Shanae crimes this season. Thanks to Shanae, this season's been the worst thing to happen to seafood since "Airplane!" Poor shrimp; they did nothing to deserve this.

Eventually Clayton does make an announcement, via Jesse Palmer: He's cancelled the rest of the cocktail party because he's exhausted from all the drama and is ready to hand out roses. OH, IS POOR BABY CLAYTON EXHAUSTED!? If you're tired, Clayton, IMAGINE HOW THE WOMEN ACTUALLY COPING WITH THIS FEEL! Look at poor Jill and Genevieve, whose brains have imploded trying to grasp that time is evaporating away because of garlic butter shrimp. At least Jill gets some good distainful lines in about how little fun she's having. Jill for "Paradise." Or another season of "The Bachelor." She deserves a mulligan. We all do.

But yes, we go to the rose ceremony where no one seems happy to be here. Clayton sounds annoyed and bored. The women sound annoyed and bored. Even the 47 ads for "Pam & Tommy" sounded bored. Things get briefly exciting at the very end when the final rose is, naturally, between Shanae and Elizabeth. I even tried convincing myself that maybe Clayton would give the rose to one of the two other women still standing, who haven't had a speaking role yet, and send the two rivals home – but then I remembered that Clayton will never ever do anything fun, cool or commendable on this show. And lo, my pessimism was proven correct as he gives the final rose to Shanae while Elizabeth and the two mystery women walk out with polite goodbyes.

Congrats, Elizabeth. You are now free while everyone else is stuck dating a man who has no respect for their time, words or mental health. Because honestly, if Clayton can't see what Shanae's doing to everyone else in the house and the toxic effect it's having on everyone's minds, it's reckless negligence bordering on cruelty. Starting to wonder if Claire the grump from the first episode was actually onto something.

Maybe the producers realized they were dangerous close to inspiring a mass rage quit, because for a while after the rose ceremony, things kinda almost sort of ... improved? 

First, the show decides that perhaps a change of scenery will help matters, so they send Clayton and the women off to Houston. Remember when they tried selling this season with "they're back at the mansion"? Yeah, we've now bailed after three episodes. Wow, truly an essential component to the program. Really helps underline how little they knew they had with this season.

BUT NO, MATT! BEING POSITIVE! THIS IS THE GOOD PART OF THE SHOW! (*slaps face*) OK, anyways, while they're in Houston, Clayton gets a visit from a buddy – and credit to Clayton (that phrase can't be right), it's an actual friend from the real world and his real life, not a fellow "Bachelor" alumni. I always find it so strange and sad when people talk about chatting with their BEST FRIENDS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD and it's three people they met on a reality show when they were all trying to date the same person. Like ... did you not have friends before this? Explains A LOT. Anyways, Clayton and buddy Clarence talk about how Clarence has a wife and child, and Clayton would like that too – and gosh darn it, he thinks it might just happen with this process. Yeah, there's not much here ... but also there's no Shanae so the season's never been better. 

Things actually ... continue not being terrible! For the episode's solo date, Clayton picks Rachel the pilot – which means MORE Shanae-less television. And while the date itself is odd – a horseback ride into a TOTALLY UNEXPECTED barbecue with a "family" that the show really works hard to pretend is NOT AT ALL STAGED, NOPE – it's a pleasant time. The hired extras happy family gets some cute and fun interactions out of Clayton and Rachel while we the audience get to look at delicious smoked meats and veggies. And again: No Shanae! YOU SEE HOW TOLERABLE YOUR SHOW IS WHEN SHE'S NOT AROUND! Amazing how much I don't want to throw my TV out a window when it's not spewing bile through the screen!

Again, it's not perfect. Clayton's still a goob who talks through a makeout session with Rachel on a dock, followed by a painfully forced and awkward conversation starter at dinner where he tries to make Rachel think he's questioning their relationship, only he's actually questioning why someone as great as her is still single. Clayton, you are not suave enough – and you have screwed up too much this season – to pull that move off. After that, though, they have a sweetly earnest conversation about how Rachel's flying ambitions have made it difficult to find a guy willing to go with her on that journey and support her. And as derpy as Clayton can be this season, he seems totally behind her, sweetly whispering "I'll never dim your light" while dancing to – and you're not going to believe this – a random surprise private concert from an little-known country act (chicken fried JoBros, in Monday night's case). 

I'd say "what a decent chunk of television this has been" ... but you know that part in a horror movie when a character says, "Coast is clear!" only for the slasher to pop out and stab them in the face? Yeah, it's like that – except the slasher is Shanae.

Yes, as soon as I started warming up to this episode, "The Bachelor" decided to switch back to "The Shanae Show" – which is a BAD SHOW. Remember when they made a sitcom out of the Geico cavemen? THAT IS PREFERABLE PROGRAMMING! Listen, we love good villains ... but Shanae is not a good villain. She's not clever with her digs. She's not fun or inventive. She's not that interested in love. And for as much vitriol as she's deservedly received, she really doesn't ... do that much? She mostly just rudely complains about everyone to the camera before rudely complaining about everyone to the camera, then eats shrimp ... but only as fuel for more rude complaining about everyone to the camera. We're stuck in a room with the cattiest, most irritating mean girl from high school – and "The Bachelor" won't let us out. 

Speaking of rooms, Gabby, Genevieve and Sierra are in their hotel room having a deserved rant sesh about the most recent Shanae-nigans and talking about how – FINALLY! – they're going to come together as a unit to tell Clayton about her true colors. BUT WHAT DO YOU KNOW, Shanae's room just happens to be next door – and apparently the walls are made of tissue paper and wishes because she can hear all of their plotting. Again, it's not just that Shanae is toxic and annoying – but the show LOVES it and desperately wants to enable it for as long as possible. It's as though the "down with toxicity" conversation after Matt James' season never happened. 

You know what could make this all better, though? BRAIN DAMAGE!

Yes, Clayton and the producers decide that what this tension-filled atmosphere needs is VIOLENCE. So they take the group date – featuring Shanae, Gabby, Genevieve and Sierra – to the Houston Texans stadium for some tackle football. I bet it was either this or a trip to the shooting range. Guess we dodged a bullet – quite literally!

Things start off decently enough, though, because at first it's just a tailgate party where Clayton and ladies partake in all of our classic football traditions: grilling hot dogs, playing bag toss and, of course, checking out the latest hybrid vehicles from Hyundai. It's just one of those basic football memories everyone has. I'll always remember my first experience at Lambeau Field, walking up to the stadium with my dad, seeing the players on the field, locking the charging pump to the all-new Hyundai Ioniq and marveling at its 139 horsepower and 60 MPG highway, available at your local Hyundai dealership for the low, low MSRP of $23,600. A football Sunday just wouldn't be complete without it. 

Anyways, before we get to see the roomy and luxurious interior of the new Ioniq 5, the date heads onto the field for a game of football – just what everyone feared. Because like the brand new Hyundai Ioniq 5 hybrid, the women are intelligent. They've seen this show before and know that a pick-up game is doomed to end in bruises, blood and apologies. Clayton's brain, however, doesn't have a Hyundai Ioniq's impressive horsepower, though, so he thinks a game of concussionball – FULL-CONTACT CONCUSSIONBALL – is going to be a hoot. And best of all, the winning team will receive an afterparty with Clayton while the losers will go back to the hotel – a plot turn that's never backfired whatsoever. No one's ever regretted this – just like no one's ever regretted buying a brand new Hyundai Ioniq 5. (*narrowly dodges a tomato*) OK FINE I'LL STOP!

So yeah, in case ShrimpGate didn't murder enough brain cells, we're now playing tackle football – though, all things considered, it could've gone worse. No hospital or ambulance sightings, so that makes this the most successful football game in "Bachelor" history. Some genuine humor breaks out when Sierra seems to forget how football works and tries to run an incomplete pass into the endzone. And most importantly, Shanae gets wrecked by Marlena the Olympian, who is jazzed to be here and is an absolute beast on the field. If an NFL team picked her up, she would immediately be a top five player on the roster. She rules – a shame it is that we've spent so little time with her. Or Jill. Or any of the charming non-sociopaths on this season. There's some really fun people here! Bummer that we're stuck watching "The Shanae Show" instead. 

On that note, Shanae's team loses the game – but because Shanae is a boring and tedious villain who's never had a clever thought pass through her brain, everyone knows what's going to happen. She's obviously going to get dolled up and go to the winner's party. But maybe, just maybe, Sierra and company will get to Clayton first and render this tired power move inert! Oh, sorry – there I go again dreaming of a better television show. Instead, when Sierra goes to Clayton to spill the tea about Shanae, she wastes time with a bunch of vague words and overdramatic statements. She doesn't bring up the insults. She doesn't bring up any specifics on her actual behavior in the house. She uses big statements like "you wouldn't want somebody like that as your wife" – because people LOVE being told who they should or should not want to be with. Dammit, you all plotted together ... FOR THIS!? This will not do the trick!

Indeed, Shanae inevitably arrives to the afterparty and steals away Clayton – who KNOWS she's not supposed to be there and KNOWS this is rudely taking away from others' time, but this season is all about enabling bad behavior so (*shrug*) nothing matters. And of course, Shanae sweeps in talking about how she heard them all plotting to get rid of her – a more substantial and specific accusation than anything Sierra said, so Clayton surely believes her, at least enough to make out with her on a nearby bar. So congrats to her for winning the night – and probably another week of survival.

However, since she's not a smart person, Shanae goes to the other women, grabs the winning trophy and chucks it into a bush. GIRL, WE SAW A JACKET CHUCKED INTO A POOL LAST SEASON; GET NEW MATERIAL! But most concerning for her, this would seem to be something new that all the women could tell Clayton about – evidence of her psychotic and unhinged behavior behind his back. But no, stunned silence and muttering amongst one another should totally work. 

So yeah, between Clayton's ineptitude, the other women's misguided good nature and the producers' cynical embrace of toxicity this season, "Hyundai Presents The Shanae Show Brought to you by Hyundai" probably isn't getting cancelled anytime soon. Brace yourself for another rough ride next week – something you'll never experience in a brand new Hyundai Ion(*tomato hits face*). 

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.