By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Nov 25, 2020 at 6:56 AM

Make sure to play along with "The Bachelorette" with Kesslers and SportClub's Bachelorette Fantasy League!

I not too proud to admit when I'm wrong. Heck, I write a column on a silly dating reality television show and yell about it on the internet while drinking boxed wine; I'm clearly not too proud for just about anything. But just three weeks ago, I wrote – as the headline and everything, so clearly I was filled with irrational confidence (and, yes, probably wine as well) – that Tayshia couldn't save this broken season.

And I was wildly wrong.

Ever since the show catapulted Clare and Dale off the show so they could debate having babies on their own time and brought in Tayshia, "The Bachelorette" has been a pretty good time, offering a charismatic star along with my favorite aspect of the show: doofy bros doing silly things and getting into stupid fights in the name of love for my amusement. And this week's episode kept that winning formula going, so I'm hoping that my boxed wine pairs well with eating some crow. 

It's the aftermath of Noah's group date rose for a group date he wasn't even on, and everyone's still sulky. Literally everyone's just sitting outside by the pool – not swimming or chatting or catching some rays but just staring angrily across the La Quinta pond at Noah, who's having a giggly ol' time calling them a "bunch of weens." Eventually, everyone comes in from their harrumph-off to hear from Harrison, who complements Noah on his bold move. HARRISON, YOU INVITED HIM OUT INTO THE FIGHT OCTAGON; DON'T ACT LIKE YOU DIDN'T PRETTY MUCH CAUSE THIS!

Anyways, it's off to the next group date ... which is more like a group competition fighting for a one-on-one date. Their task: write and perform an original love song for Tayshia. Oh boy, I have a feeling we're not exactly gonna get Celine Dion "My Heart Will Go On" from these generic stubbles – and indeed, we get a bunch of songs that somehow make "Listen To Your Heart" only the second worst "Bachelor"-related crime against eardrums in 2020. Given a table of instruments and some time to come up with some lyrics and hopefully something resembling a beat, the guys go to work – though Bennett aka Patrick Bateman says he's going to "spit some flow," so clearly we're doomed. 

And indeed, the final products barely qualify as music. Zac bangs on a wooden box and sings a ditty about Tayshia. Blake "plays" an accordion and breaks a mandolin. Several people do spoken word, which feels a little bit like a cheat; I DEMAND SINGING AND ATTEMPTING TO FIND A PITCH! And then Bennett raps, which is exclusively exciting news to Vanilla Ice beccause he is no longer the world's worst white rapper. I'm not going to say that my ears were bleeding, but I will say that I somehow found myself missing Jed – and when you're missing Jed, something's gone wrong. Even Kenny the boy band manager wouldn't sign these guys to a deal, and I'm pretty sure that guy is in charge of managing the corpse of O-Town's career. 

Anyways, Ivan wins the singing competition with a confidently performed spoken word piece – sure, a bit cheating, but I won't begrudge having to miss hearing somebody slaughter some panpipes with a bad love song – and earns the world's cutest "Bachelorette" date. Since the show's taking place in a bubble, the extravagant adventure dates are La Quinta-bound, so the two have a precious night just doing adorable couple things like ordering room service, playing The Floor Is Lava (get these two on the next season of the Netflix game show!), playing Twister and getting into a pillow fight with the world's worst down feather pillows, exploding with feathers after merely a hard stare. Maybe they should've should've been stitched together with thread and not merely hopes and dreams. Still, the only thing this date is missing is a round or 15 of "Super Smash Bros. Melee." That'll test the foundations of any good relationship.

After ordering a massive ice cream sundae served in the Stanley Cup, the two end up having ... maybe the best conversation ever on "The Bachelorette"? Ivan and Tayshia go outside to chat about their families, which in Ivan's case means talking about his brother who got involved in some bad stuff growing up and ended up going to prison, watching his child grow up on the other side of a glass wall. So clearly we're not straying away from hard topics – but then the two talk about this past summer with George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests. And ... it's kind of incredible.

What makes it special isn't that it's a preachy or didactic conversation about the topic; it's not some after school special. Instead, it's two Black people honestly talking about the emotional toll and experience of being Black in America, a conversation you rarely find on television – much less on "The Bachelorette," which approximately five minutes ago was playing The Floor Is Lava. It was a startlingly real chat on a show that's not exactly known for its earnestness – and credit to the show, they really let the conversation play out. This wasn't just a few lines about what's going on outside their bubble; this was a solid 10-15-minute chat about how emotionally they were affected by the summer's ongoing debate around police brutality and systemic racism.

By the end, Ivan gets a rose, the two watch a Facebook slideshow of childhood photos, and I genuinely smile – a rarity for this show and especially this season considering how it started. 

So to help wash down all that real conversation, authentic interaction and real-world honesty, now we have a bunch of bros chug down smoothies made of cow farts and maggots. CAN YOU SAY TONE SHIFT?!

Indeed, everyone gets ready for another group date and talks about how excited they are to get more time with Tayshia ... and then Noah chimes in that he wishes he could too, but gosh, he's just got this rose preventing him. Hey, De-Mustachioed Guy, maybe learn some tact. Patrick Bateman in particular is not amused by Noah whining about not getting time after dive-bombing a date he wasn't even on. Dude's gonna mess up Noah's 401k or tank a stock to get his revenge. HE'S GOING TO WRITE A VERY STRONGLY WORDED LETTER TO THE NEW YORKER, I TELL YOU!

But first, he's got a group date to win: a game of truth or dare, devised as a kind of scavenger hunt accross the La Quinta searching for embarrassing things to do in the name of love. And to help judge their tasks, Tayshia brings in her friends Sydney from Colton's season and former "Bachelorette" Becca Kufrin. Bold choice. I mean, when she was in Tayshia's place, she ended up engaged to a guy who apparently thought school shooting survivors were actors amongst a plethora of other bad takes. Thankfully, though, she's simply tasked here with judging people's ability to swallow nasty smoothies, not their character. 

One of the guys' challenges involves getting their butts signed by Chris Harrison – which seems more unfortunate for Harrison than for the guys, honestly. Another "dare" features the fellas broadcasting sex moans across the entire La Quinta complex, so pour one out for the poor hotel staff just trying to clean up all the down feathers in Tayshia's room while Kenny moans loudly into a microphone. But the worst dare is the smoothies, made of assorted fruits ... and also cow intestine, water scorpion and other less-than-delectible ingredients. And these smoothies do NOT look well mixed. The guys, though, impressively knock back these nasty concoctions without puking them back up, so congrats on them for surviving "The Bachelor: Fear Factor Edition."

But wait, their stomachs and taste buds aren't out of the woods quite yet, as they all have to make declarations of love to Tayshia ... all after knocking back a whole habanero pepper. Now, I don't want to pretend like I have a stomach of steel here – let me remind the world that I once passed out at a chili cook-off due to spice overload – but come on now, we can do better than habaneros. Let's throw some ghost peppers on this competition and REALLY see some fireworks. Burn, "Bachelorette" contetstants, BURRRRRRRNN!

But no, they survive and earn their way to the truth portion of the night, aka the cocktail party portion where they have heart-to-hearts with Tayshia. Patrick Bateman opens up abobut the time he almost got married but bailed because he realized it wasn't what he wanted as well as the heartbreaking time one of his colleagues had a cooler business card than him. Tayshia also seeks out Zac and hopes to get him to open up emotionally – and what better place to do that than in a hot tub. It's been a while since we busted out the ultimate "Bachelor" cliche! I guess the soothing bubbles work, beacuse Zac opens up a little bit (translation: they make out) and he earns the group date rose.

Wait, but what did these guys actually earn for gulping down larvae smoothie!? NOTHING!? And people thought Clare's naked dodgeball was rough...

While the guys are having fun on the group date, Ben is not having a good time, still seething over the previous group party when his master plan to wait until the end to make a final impression on Tayshia blew up in his face, the night ending too soon for him to take time with Tayshia. So he decides he'll make his own time by finding Tayshia's hotel suite – an idea so good that Ed decides he's gonna do it too. Just one problem for Ed: He doesn't know where Tayshia's place is and ends up ding-dong-ditching Chris Harrison at the crack of dawn. (Sorry, Harrison; you've probably heard enough about cracks this episode after that dare earlier.) Between bailing on his fight last week and now this, Ed is both terrible at this show and terrific at it. 

So while Ed and Harrison have nice late night chats over wine, Ben ACTUALLY finds Tayshia and the two have a heart-to-heart at 2 a.m. ... allegedly. Nobody looks like Tayshia, with a cute top and nice hair, when answering a surprise doorbell ringing at two in the morning – and they're certainly not holding a decent conversation. This chat needed approximately 74 percent more vocal fry and at least 98 percent more eye-rubs desperately trying to stay awake. Or this was planned. "The Bachelor" bending reality for entertainment's sake?! WHY I NEVER!

That takes us to the cocktail party, where everyone's tense talking about how much they really wish they had a rose – which Noah, of course, takes as a cue to proclaim to the room how much he LOOOOOVES having a rose. Noah, I really and genuinely wanted to have your back after last week's overheated drama pointed in your direction, but you're gonna need to learn some tact. And apparently that's not happening tonight because, after everyone harrumphs at him for rubbing his rose in their faces, he goes to Tayshia and says that there's drama in the house because the rest of the guys think that she gave him the carnation simply as a message and nothing more. Noah, spend your Tayshia time being cute and flirty, not getting caught in drama! I revoke my previous support; it's like you shaved off your brain along with your 'stache last week. 

Anyways, Tayshia doesn't take well to the guys thinking that she's not serious about her rose dispersal choices and that she's just doing things for drama, so she reams out the Miscellaneous Stubbles and blows up the rest of the cocktail party, instead going straight to the rose ceremony. So yeah ... that goes over well with the guys. NOAH: MAKING FRIENDS! Ed yells a lot at the babyfaced happiness assassin while Bennett seethes in the corner. I used to say he was Patrick Bateman but without the whole murdering thing – but I'm not so certain about the latter if Noah keeps this up. For now, he's just killing Noah with words about how Noah's not going to win (probably true) and how Noah is a baby person. BUT DID YOU SEE HIS CHICKENSCRATCH MUSTACHE!? That thing probably too him a whole year to grow out! 

And maybe we'll see that future murder on television because Patrick Bateman gets a rose, keeping him and Noah together for at least another week. Meanwhile, several other dudes get the axe including Jordan, who was a person, and Chasen, who spent a whole episode desperately trying to get a catchphrase or nickname to stick only to receive no screentime this week and for America to totally forget who he was. Goodbye, Wolverine aka Ew Jackman. At least we'll never have to hear "smokeshow" ever again. Kenny also gets sent home. Back to life managing O-Town again, I guess!

And then there's Joe. Sweet, sweet Joe. Remember him during the fight night last week and how much fun he was making jokes about himself and his smacktalk? He was too good for this world – or at least the world of "The Bachelorette" as he also gets the boot despite being funny, clever and genuine. I miss him already. Here's to "Paradise" ... 

That's Tayshia's first slip-up so far, but otherwise her season, despite the odds, has turned out quite entertaining and enjoyable. But we've still got plenty of time to ruin that – and I think I can predict the babyfaced doofus eager to do 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.