By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Feb 21, 2023 at 3:01 PM

Ah, the romance of "The Bachelor." The exotic locales. The swooning gestures. The steamy chemistry of two people trying to bond over a Zoom call, muttering "I can't hear you; you're on mute" and "hold on, you froze up; I think my internet connection's bad. Let me try again."

Indeed, love was in the air this episode ... and so was COVID unfortunately, as the pandemic asked if it could quick steal away Zach for a sec and then didn't give him back for half of the episode. This season's been looking for a villain, and they finally found it: the pandemic. LOVE MY SILLY ESCAPIST REALITY PROGRAMMING! Also apparently a villain: tight production schedules, because instead of just putting the show on pause for a few days until everyone was in the clear, the show decided to churn ahead with its star in quarantine and the pomp and circumstance gone virtual. The result was a rose ceremony that at best felt like a work Zoom call and at worst felt like a lost "Saw" clip, with a bunch of on-edge women trapped in a room and a TV screen flashing on to show a stern guy holding their fate in his hands. All that was missing was Zach saying, "I want to play a game."

So yeah, weird episode – though it was odd even before it turned into "The Hallmark Channel Presents Contagion," starting with the show relocating to London. Now, I expected all the cliches to pop out: some "pip pip cheerios," some accents that would make Dick Van Dyke in "Mary Poppins" sound authentic, a few pints at the local pub. What I didn't expect was everyone saying how London is the city of romance. Everyone just keeps talking about how London is the perfect place to fall in love, and I ... are all of you thinking of Paris? Because that's on the other side of the Channel, friends. I think of a lot of things when I think of London: fog, fish and chips, soccer, history, theater, Big Ben, very entertaining comedy chat shows. Romance? Less so! "Oh but Matt, it's the home of 'Romeo & Juliet.'" OH, THE PLAY THAT ENDS WITH A DOUBLE SUICIDE!? London is where you fall in love? BAH, I say ... unless we're talking about falling in love with Viennetta desserts, then I totally understand. 

Anyways, after surviving last week's shellfish-apalooza, Gabi D'Amelio gets the first one-on-one date across the pond – all while everyone gives her their best pained rictus grins. Everyone's worked very hard to be supportive and toxicity-free this season, but we're starting to see all the frustrations and stress crack through their pleasant facades. Combustion may be inevitable. (That sound you heard was the producers cackling with glee.)

While everyone else is on the verge of a mental breakdown, a bellhop comes to fetch Gabi D'Amelio, and she and Zach get in a Rolls Royce to jet around town – and buy A BUNCH of stuff. It's been a while since we've had a good splurge date in the "Bachelor" franchise – so congrats to Gabi for guaranteeing that, even if she doesn't leave the show with a ring on her finger, she's not going home empty-handed. They first stop at a fancy perfumier to curate their own special scent, which they call "Zabi." If they were going the Bennifer combined name route, they obviously should've gone with "Gach." I can see the pretentious perfume ad now: "Romance ... Intrigue ... Seduction ... Gach."

After perfecting "Gach," the two meet up with the queen's former butler-in-chief to try a royalty-approved cocktail and – most important of all – play with a passel of corgis. NEVERMIND, LONDON IS FOR LOVE AFTER ALL! The whole show should've been just them hanging out with those adorable stumpy corgos. Not one viewer would complain. But no, we have more expensive fancy things to buy – most notably a ballgown, which 0h-so-conveniently looks vaguely like the eye-catching wonder dress from the Disney live-action "Cinderella" remake. I SEE WHAT YOU'RE DOING, DISNEY! Gabi D'Amelio gets to wear her beautiful blue gown to dinner with Zach, where the two bond some more, Gabi in particular talking about how she had past relationships that didn't make her feel like she could be herself but he made her feel beautiful today without even looking in a mirror. Cue a rose and cue a surprise UB40 performance – NOT to perform "Red, Red, Wine," tragically.

It's all very nice, and the two have fun playful chemistry ... but like fun playful FRIEND chemistry. As much as I enjoyed their generally affable and goofy date, at no point did I really feel a spark between Gach. The bad news, Gabi: I'm not seeing the final four in your future. But the good news? "The Bachelor" pretty much just restocked your closet – so congrats, you've won! 

Throughout this all, however, somebody back at the hotel feels very much like a loser: Greer. Of course all the women are upset they missed out on a one-on-one date – especially when that date comes with merch. But Greer is particularly upset because she told Zach that she loves London, even having a tattoo of tea – and now Gabi D'Amelio just basically got her dream date instead of her. Don't feel bad, Greer: The date wasn't THAT good. They didn't hit a Cadbury factory or eat any Nando's or nosh a bunch of Monster Munch on the couch while watching "Big Fat Quiz." THAT'D be the dream.

But still, Greer is in a terrible mood – so much so she excuses herself from the room while Gabi and her pile of new British belongings are in the middle of recapping her date. Then, to add insult to injury, while she's crying and pouting out in the hallway, Gabi and her mountain of stuff has to awkwardly shuffle past her, then shuffle back through to get into her room. Safe to say Greer will not be pre-ordering any Eau de Gach perfume. 

Thankfully for everyone, Greer gets into a better mood – even after she gets named to the group date as Charity nabs the second London one-on-one. Instead, it's Mercedes' turn to get grumpy – and then it's EVERYONE'S turn to get grumpy because a letter from Zach arrives to pick them up for their group date rather than Zach himself. Turns out that he's sick and can't join along for their double decker tour of London – so they're left to admire the city on their own, looking all bummed out driving around the city while a bagpiper provides background noise that doesn't NOT make it sound like a funeral.

The solution? BOOZE, OF COURSE! In the words of famous Shakespearean deciple Homer Simpson: Ah alcohol, the cause of – and solution to – all of life's problems. Indeed, after a tour that couldn't have been more grim if it was a Jack the Ripper murder tour, the women head to a pub – and when they leave, they're suddenly feeling chipper and ready to seize the day, climbing into an old-timey telephone booth and trying to get a guard to crack a smile. THE HEALING POWER OF A PINT!

Unfortunately, not even booze can brace them for the twist coming later in the night: Zach's not joining for the afterparty portion of the group date either, because he's still sick. All the women are harrumphy with Zach, taking apart his rose for the night and taking a petal each for their troubles – which I understand feeling stood up. But also: HEY PRODUCERS, WANT TO TELL THESE LADIES SOONER THAT THEY'RE NOT GOING ON A DATE!? You let all these women get dressed up and dolled up and excited for a date night with Zach that you knew probably wasn't happening hours ago!?

Because – let's be real – we all know it's COVID. Especially when the show keeps cutting to Zach in his hotel room, not looking actually sick but just wandering around and pretending to read a book he found somewhere and clearly being quarantined with mild symptoms. 

Lo and behold, the next day, instead of Zach stopping by to pick up Charity for their one-on-one date, it's Jesse Palmer delivering the news that Zach's tested positive. Incredibly, despite the fact that Zach's famously made out with everyone on the show every week, it hasn't spread and none of the women have tested positive in the process. So that's clear – but Palmer, Zach and the rest of the show have no idea what to do next. Hey, easy solution: CAN'T YOU GUYS JUST STAY A LITTLE LONGER?! Can't we just halt the show for a hot second while Zach gets better, then do the London dates we missed in quarantine? I know you've got a production schedule and places to be and new destinations to hit ... but you're not the friggin' Super Bowl. You don't HAVE to hit a specific date or else all is doomed. You're the Disney Corporation; you can't shell out a little extra money to keep everyone roomed in the hotel a little longer!? It's not like you're spending it on special effects for your movies these days.

At least somebody figures out how to handle this situation: Kaity, who makes the sensitive (and competitively savvy) decision to go visit Zach's room and check how he's doing through the door. It's a nice, cute gesture and a sweet impromptu date – though it's not NOT a little funny when the show tries to sell their connection as some grand romance with clips from their museum date from, like, a week ago. Truly a "Doctor Zhivago"-like epic romance here. But really, Kaity's clearly a frontrunner – and something gravely wrong will have happened if she doesn't make it to hometowns if not beyond. 

Eventually Zach too figures out an idea: a virtual cocktail party! Oh god, please don't be a massive Zoom call with everyone talking over one another and glitching and, I don't know, having to mute and cut the video when someone wants to steal Zach away virtually. Again, the OBVIOUS solution here is just patiently wait for Zach to burn off the gunk and then proceed with the show per usual – but apparently they just simply can't do that. Nope, gotta rush through making a simple decision like "who will be the person I want to spend the rest of my life with." So awkward Skype calls it is! Somehow London got LESS romantic. 

In fairness, though, considering the circumstances, "The Bachelor Livestream" could've gone a lot worse. He and Charity have a nice chat, with him apologizing for missing their one-on-one date and confirming that he does feel a connection with her (beyond their internet connection). Zach and Aly make out with ... oranges? Sure. Somehow it's better than Katherine, though, who tries kissing the screen and talking about how she learned a fancy new English word: "snogging," aka one of the least fancy of all the fancy English words. She also keeps pronouncing it as "snugging," which, I mean, come on. Heaven help her if she's asked to pronounce a Welsh village name.

But if you think that's clumsy, JUST YOU WAIT! Move aside, Ariana DeBose's BAFTAs rap: We've got a new American making things terribly awkward abroad!

It's eventually Greer's long-awaited time in the Zoom room, with the two talking about how frustrated Zach is to have to halt his journey. And in an earnest attempt to relate, Greer says that she felt similarly annoyed when she got COVID right before the end of the sales quarter at her job, disappointed that she suddenly was being stopped from trying to hit her goal. And Zach HATES it. The man looks like he was just fed Marmite and jellied eel. He tells her that ACTUALLY him trying to find the love of his life isn't like her trying to hit a sales goal at all, IF YOU DON'T MIND. I understand him being oversensitive to comparing this odd and eyebrow-raising process to something literally transactional ... but it also seems like a little bit of an overreaction. Hard to believe people might miscommunicate over a stiff and cold Zoom call setting – ALMOST LIKE IT MIGHT'VE BEEN A BAD IDEA. 

So after this week from hell, Greer's not feeling great – and neither is Zach, and not just because of the COVID. He's sad that this week feels like it was taken from him and that, as much as he tried, this tricky process took a real hit in terms of forming genuine connections. But TOO BAD, because for reasons I'm not entirely sure about, we've still got to do a rose ceremony ... even though the guy at the helm of it all can't even attend. JUST. WAIT. 

But no, instead we get a virtual rose ceremony with Zach Zoom-calling on a TV screen in front of the women. I know I was worried Zach might be two-dimensional this season – but this is ridiculous! Anyways, I'm sure this emotionally devastating moment will be FAR less painful by doing it impersonally over Skype. I know Zach has no real choice ... but the show definitely did, and instead of just letting Zach's one-man hot zone cool down, Zach has to telecast two breakups in a way that would definitely get you yelled at and side-eyed in real life. And also it reminded me of a scene from "Saw" – which is not the reference I want to make when watching a romance-themed reality show. 

As for who gets the axe – non-horror movie style – Greer actually gets through to next week, even with all her concerns, clumsiness and crying about not getting to play with corgis (which that last one's fair). She earns the final rose of the night, leaving Kylee and Mercedes to leave London alone without even a proper hug or goodbye, basically just signing off from the show. Hopefully they at least got to smuggle back some Irn-Bru and Walker's crisps for their trouble. And as for everyone else, surely things can't get more awkward and uncomfortable than this week, right?! Hey, at least the rest of "The Bachelor" should have, you know, a Bachelor in 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.