By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Feb 15, 2022 at 9:56 AM

WE'VE DONE IT! (*pops champagne, throws confetti into air, cries single tear down cheek, calls entire family to tell them the good news*) WE'VE MADE IT THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SHANAE SHOW! DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES!? YES! FEBRUARY 14TH IS NO LONGER VALENTINE'S DAY; IT IS "SHANAE WAS KICKED TO THE CURB ON 'THE BACHELOR' DAY." MAKE IT SO, JOE BIDEN!

Sorry, that's excessive – actually, no. That's EXACTLY the correct reaction to "The Bachelor" finally letting Shanae go and putting watchable television back on air.

True confessions: I was dangerously close to rage-quitting this season. If Shanae survived to next week, I honestly planned to not even recap Monday night's episode and use this space to plead that you watch "Love is Blind" season two on Netflix instead – a show that's a delightful hot mess with none of the cruelly toxic waste dump fumes of The Shanae Show. But no! It's done! Actions finally had consequences! ONE LOVES TO SEE IT! Suddenly colors look brighter. The birds' songs are sweeter. The alcohol tastes alcohol-ier. It might just be the greatest thing that's happened to me over the past half year – and I got engaged during that time to someone who hopefully isn't reading this recap. Anyways, HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY! (*nervously tugs on collar*)

Anyways, let's relive this glorious moment one more time.

So we're on the two-on-one between Shanae and Genevieve, who somehow became collateral damage during the whole ShrimpGate kerfuffle. Clayton takes both women aside separately to chat about how things are going, with Genevieve opening up about how the two-on-one has stressed her out and how she feels increasingly closer to him, speaking honestly about her relationship with Clayton. Shanae, meanwhile, uses her time to lie and say that Genevieve gives off vibes like she's actually an actress and wants to leave. And because it's worked the last 71 times, she finishes off this blatant performance with some waterworks – a sprinkler system that she once again brags about to the camera afterwards as if she doesn't understand THIS WILL BE BROADCAST ON TELEVISION TO THE ENTIRE NATION. It's like you learned nothing from Cassidy. (Remember her? God, that storyline feels like 20 years ago. The Shanae Show feels like it's progressed in dog years.)

Unfortunately, we're dealing with Clayton here – so he comes back to Genevieve and asks her flatly if she's an actress and if she's been lying to him. She's understandably taken aback but finally gets her brain right to explain that she has literally no idea what Shanae is talking about – all while her nemesis smirks and quietly cackles A FOOT AWAY FROM CLAYTON! Shanae E. Coyote: SUUUUPER genius. But despite the fact that this is the same routine he's seen from Shanae every week over the last month, each time with a new person bringing him genuine tears and receipts, well gorsh, Clayton just can't decide. So he goes for a walk while Shanae celebrates to the camera, delighting in her manipulations, comparing Genevieve to a drowned chihuahua and regularly calling the other women bitches. You know, the word "sociopath" gets thrown around pretty generously these days – but I think it's pretty much right on here. 

Clayton finally returns from his interminable sabbatical and says that he wants to give the rose to the person who "has helped me see the truth in all of this" – which is around the time the color left my face and I started making a protest sign to take out front of ABC headquarters. That sounds like Shanae's music. BUT NO! In what can only be described as the greatest thing ever to happen on television, Clayton gives the rose to Genevieve, leaving Shanae swearing his name at Niagara Falls – hopefully on the Canadian side with no ability to re-enter the country. I, meanwhile, feel like I've just won the Super Bowl. (*"When You Wish Upon A Star" plays*) "MATT, YOU JUST WITNESSED SHANAE GET SENT HOME. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NEXT?" I'M GOING TO DISNEYLAND! WOO!

Back at the hotel, the women get the good news thanks to a producer coming in and grabbing Shanae's bag to chuck into the falls. And seriously, give this producer a Best Actress nomination. That brief pause and juke move in front of Genevieve and Shanae's luggage was an excellent choice, and she deserves to be recognized for her work. More importantly, though, it's practically Victory in Europe Day for the other contestants. They're cheering. They're crying. They're popping champagne. They're throwing ticker-tape off the balcony and finding the nearest Navy sailor to kiss. It's a triumph of the human spirit. 

Yes, there's a part of my brain – the stupid, annoying part that hates joy and tells me to eat vegetables – that absolutely KNOWS this isn't the last we've seen of Shanae. When bringing her back doesn't require a plane ticket to eastern Europe and a snookerloopy bonkers leap in basic logic, "The Bachelor" will definitely have her dramatically show up and try to win Clayton over one more time. But for now, I'm just going to enjoy this moment, savor it and drink it in. Because The Shanae Show has been cancelled. 

After the Shanae-nigans end, you can actually feel the women – and even the entire show – exhale and finally relax for the first time this season. For once, we get to just enjoy people's connections with Clayton, check out other personalities that aren't exclusively comprised of "hating decency" and possibly have fun watching this dang show.

So yeah, that lasts for all of about five minutes.

Mara – last seen roasting Sarah on the group date open mic night for crime of being young – is pumped, talking about how excited she is to finally have time with Clayton that definitely won't get interrupted by anyone, no sir, nothing but blue skies from here on out. So when she does finally gets her one-on-one time, she of course gets interrupted about a minute or two into feeding Clayton some poutine. In fairness, I would pretty upset too if someone upset my genius strategy of plying Clayton with gravy-covered fries and curds. That'd be an automatic rose from me – though weird Clayton seems kinda lukewarm about the dish. Maybe that's because the dish itself was probably lukewarm at best, likely sitting out the entire cocktail party and getting cold by the time he got a bite. But still! Curds, gravy and fries!

No matter the temperature, it works out as Clayton sends home Hunter (I think you've made this person up, show) and Olympian Marlena (who is absolutely better than this) while giving the final rose to Mara, her plan a success. Or ... maybe it didn't work and she merely got the final rose because she's the closest thing to festering drama the producers have left now that Shanae finally got a ShaNOPE! I guess we'll find out quickly as the show throws everyone on a plane and jets them off to Croatia! Because you can't spell "Romantic – AHHHH!" without Croatia!

It doesn't take long for their time in Croatia to curdle like Mara's congealed poutine, however, as Teddi gets a one-on-one date much to the chagrin of Mara. And in case you're not getting the idea that things are getting tense again, we get a metaphorical storm to rain on their parade. But Teddi and Clayton have a good time no matter the forecast – and no matter the fact that she has something important she has to tell Clayton over dinner: She's a virgin. That's right: I forgot that she mentioned that in the premiere and that we were doing this storyline ... again. Never doubt this show's ability to take a subplot and drive it into the dirt.

Tired as it may be, they have an honest and open conversation about her decision – how it was driven by Teddi's mom having her at a young age and not wanting her to have the same situation, as well as how she's not saving herself for marriage but instead for a man that she truly falls in love with. And credit to Clayton – a sentence I'm saying a disturbing amount with this episode – he takes the news maturely, grasping how important this is for Teddi and how he needs to take responsibility for how he handles their next steps and appreciate the weight of any decisions about sex in their future. In the end, she gets the date rose – so the first impresssion has clearly not worn off. 

As for things that have worn away: Mara's good nature! Indeed, back at the hotel, Mara realizes she's on the group date while Sarah gets the next solo date – her second one of the series already. And that cracks her brain a bit – especially because Sarah dares to be the youngest one, certainly too young to be "wife material," a phrase that's getting too much use this season. Honestly, we've had some younger contestants on this show before that've had issues coming off their age – not in terms of maturity but in terms of energy – and I would not include Sarah amongst them. No matter the case: Mara disapproves because she wouldn't be ready at that age to get married, and apparently her experience applies to everyone – so Sarah and the other youngins must be destroyed. 

Oh, how convenient: The group date is all about medieval Croatian warfare and violence! WHAT TIMING! What, they don't have tackle football in Croatia that we could set up so Mara could concuss Sarah and teach her valuable lessons about eastern European health care? So Clayton and company pull on the outfits from last season's Minnesota Vikings date and compete in ancient games and hazing rituals, starting with a pushing game that Susie crushes – so much so she says she has "a beast within." SORRY, SUSIE, YOU DON'T GET TO LOOK LIKE HANNAH BROWN AND STEAL HER NICKNAME! She seems to realize this too and instead talks about how she's a secret savage – which, hmmm, sure sounds like a catchy tagline for a new season of "The Bachelorette." HMMM!!

After pushing and shoving, the women play a thrilling game of "eat gnarly stuff" with piles of fish heads and brains. Spoiler: They don't like that game, and thankfully for them, we move onto proclamations, with the women taking a knee in their armor and announcing their grand intentions. And props to Mara for actually rhyming her proclamation into some kind of medieval boast. SEE, THIS IS THE KIND OF CLEVERNESS AND WIT WE DIDN'T GET FROM SHANAE THE PAST MONTH! I may not like Mara right now, but I can respect her.

Apparently Clayton does not, though, because he announces Serene wins the contest, causing more harrumphing. It was around now that a question started percolating in my mind: Is there something wrong with the edit this season? Because I don't remember "The Bachelor" going so whole hog on screentime for an individual person this hard before. I don't remember that, when a person evolves into a villain, they just get to have something to say about EVERYTHING that happens on the show while everyone else is practically ignored. I assumed they used all the Shanae clips they could because they really wanted her to be a mega-villain (and she kept giving them an ALARMING amount of material), but now Mara's getting the same nonstop treatment – so maybe this is just what they do now? They should consider ... not.

Speaking of Mara, back on the show, she decides that she's going to do something about these darn youths being all in love with Clayton and being on TikTok. So she decides to talk to Clayton – or, well, more like lie. She opens with verbally side-eyeing his choices – which, again, if there's one thing people love, it's telling them they don't know what they're doing and being told they should love someone else. WORKS EVERY TIME! Then the lying kicks in as she says she doesn't trust some of the women – namely Sarah – not only because she's too young but also she sounded skeptical about actually getting engaged by the end of this. THIS IS NOT THE WAY, MARA!

But hold on a second: One of her big pieces of evidence is that Sarah said early on that "it's crazy, it's fun ... but I couldn't even picture myself getting engaged in two months." That kinda feels like a totally normal thing to say in regards to GOING ON A REALITY SHOW AND GETTING ENGAGED IN TWO MONTHS! I think it's entirely fair to be dubious of this being a thing that could happen – the odds: poor! Even beyond the concept of the show, getting engaged is a big life landmark, one that it's hard to comprehend that you're ACTUALLY doing in the moment. You say things like "I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M GETTING ENGAGED AND THAT THIS IS REAL" when it happens. This is not the bulletproof case you think you've assembled here, Mara!

And apparently it's not because, despite all of her Mara-chinations, Clayton gives the date rose to Rachel instead, kinda rejecting the drama in the process. Is Clayton ... learning? You love to see a Bachelor grow up before your eyes. 

Welp, it's a shame that he's finally starting to make good decisions right before he gets MURDERED. Yes, Clayton's just hanging out when he receives a mysterious knock at the door and a note – DEFINITELY not written by the producers, noooOOOOOooooo – saying to meet him at a clock tower late at night. IT'S A TRAP! There is a non-zero percent chance this is Shanae, dripping wet from swimming to America through Niagara Falls, ready to push this man off a clock tower in the name of revenge. Certainly would be the most dramatic season of "The Bachelor" ever!

But no, thank god, it's not vengeance lurking around the clock tower: It's Susie, who just wanted some extra time to chat with Clayton about how nervous she is about getting hurt. (And get some bonus screentime to help set up her future season as "The Bachelorette?" HMMMMM!?) She then tops off her clock tower talk by dropping the season's first L-bomb, saying that she's falling in love with Clayton. Well yay! This was all the opposite of a murder plot! One loves to see it. 

As far as things I love less, Sarah's one-on-one date ends up barely being a date at all. Maybe they went hang-gliding or stumbled into a random Croatian barbecue – but if that's the case, it didn't make Monday's episode, and ABC spent a bunch of money on no usable footage, apparently. The budgeting department's gonna LOVE to hear it. Instead, we jump straight to dinner, drinking wine and bringing up malicious accusations as Clayton asks Sarah about Mara's, hmm, let's generously call them BOLD words. Sarah is taken aback, crying about having her dedication to Clayton questioned – but also in the process smartly pointing out how CONVENIENT it is that, as soon as she gets a second solo date, people happen to have this gossip to spread. 

Thankfully – and I am getting ALARMED by how often I'm saying this – Clayton does a smart thing and says that he was concerned giving her a second one-on-one would put a target on her back, and that he has no actual concerns about their connection or her intentions. WHERE WAS THIS GUY WEEKS AGO – AND WHY COULDN'T HE HAVE ELIMINATED SHANAE BACK THEN WHEN WE WERE BICKERING ABOUT GARLIC SHRIMP!? Anyways, energized by Clayton's faith and by receiving a rose, Sarah is feelling SASSY, celebrating that somebody tried undercutting her only for the connection with Clayton to grow strength. And considering last week Mara went out of her way to full-flame roast her on the stand-up date, I doubt it will take much sleuthing for Sarah to figure out who tried to take her down. 

So get ready for a generational tussle ... or not because, for all of Mara's complaining about how young Sarah is, they're not even a decade apart in age difference. One's a young millennial, the other's an old Gen Z-er – just bond over how annoying Boomers are and put this behind you!

Come on, everyone: The Shanae Show has finally been taken off air. Let's not replace it with something somehow worse and make me regret all of this champagne I've sprayed everywhere. 

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.