By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Dec 02, 2020 at 5:59 AM

Is ... this the most mature season of "The Bachelorette" ever?

Yes, I know the bar for that title is set somewhere below sea level and that the competition is Detroit Lions-esque. And yes, this is still a show that featured a guy sculpting some man business out of clay and just last week had its host autograph bare butts. But between last episode's intense talk between Tayshia and Ivan about being Black in America and now Tuesday night with just about everyone opening up about some kind of significant emotional life event, there sure are a lot of legitimate conversations breaking out amongst real people on this show as opposed to just gathering together a bunch of shallow Instagram influencers. Either that or THE INSTAGRAM INFLUENCERS ARE ADAPTING! 

See what happens when Chris Harrison isn't around? CHAOS! People acting like humans? Petty drama getting nipped in the bud? What's next: Cats and dogs, living together?!

That's right: Harrison is mostly a no-show this week, quick popping in early to say bye as he goes to move his son into college. And while he's off overseeing what is sure to be the most dramatic and unexpected college move-in day in "Bachelor" history, the very arduous job of drinking wine and mimosas, getting late-night visits from lost contestants and autographing the occasional butt will be occupied by former "Bachelorette" JoJo – last seen giving Tayshia some quick advice over brunch approximately two minutes ago.

Anyways, it's time for the first solo date of the day, belonging to Zac – but he has THINGS TAYSHIA DOESN'T KNOW. Add in a dramatic hold on his luggage before he leaves on the date, and I'm starting to think we might get an early casualty this episode. 

It certainly seems that way when they find out that they're going on the worst date: a wedding photoshoot. Because what better way to relax and have fun than force you and your date to jump way ahead to think about your potential marriage – with the added bonus of having flashbacks to any previously failed marriages you might have!? Unsurprisingly, they are not having fun with this premise at the start – and to add to the discomfort, Zac wears an ill-fitting white tux jacket. The only person having a good time seems to be the photographer. 

But then something happens: The two start having fun and relaxing! While the show puts terrible filters on the camera – it's supposed to look all swoonily misty and romantic, but instead looks like somebody Vasolined the camera lens – the two let go and end up having a nice date where Zac busts out an adorably clever line about how she takes his breath away. 

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE STUFF SHE DOESN'T KNOW!? Knowing the show, this is likely just some overdone melodrama and nothing that notable to ... oh, he had a brain tumor back in his college years. And he got quickly married amid the chaos of a life-or-death moment? AND he starting partying too hard afterward, getting into drinking and drugs? AND he netted a DUI in the process, leading to his wife leaving him, only causing him to spiral even more out of control to the point of going to rehab? Never mind, that actually IS a lot of heavy life material that one might have a hard time preparing to tell a significant other about.

I suppose that's what happens when you have an older batch of contestants (amongst Tayshia's final dozen guys, less than half are in their 20s when, throughout the show's history, it's typically quite the opposite): You get people who've actually lived a life and probably have some baggage beyond the usual suitcase of clothes. The result is a season that currently feels a little more wise or knowing that usual. Again, not the highest benchmark to clear, but we're getting a lot more real and considerate conversations with Tayshia, who seems like she actually engages Zac on these topics instead of the usual, "Wow, thank you for telling me that; you've opened up, and I like that" generic babble that makes opening up about personal trauma on this show feel like a cold and rote transaction rather than two people actually caring about one another's life experiencecs. 

That being said, as if he's gonna get sent home after opening up about all of THAT – and indeed, he earns a rose as well as a ride on a nearby ferris wheel. And for more good news, Tayshia says she's feeling butterflies about Zac – though has she considered she might just be afraid of heights?

Welp, that's been a lot of heavy conversation thus far this episode, so time to lighten the mood. SEND IN THE NUDES!

Indeed, this week's group date is an art class – and why just have a regular class when you can bring in two random naked people to pose in the buff for our generic stubbles? I've never been in an drawing class, but this seems like a situation that exclusively happens in screenwriters' minds and not in reality. But, if this is an actual teaching technique, the nude guy here looks exactly like the kind of guy who's a little too eager to sign up for this gig. 

Anyways, the instructor explains the concept of the date, but all of the guys are too distracted by surprise random man butt to listen. But eventually they break out of their hypnosis to claim their seats and do their best Jack Dawson impressions, drawing the models like one of their French girls. Or maybe it's their worst Jack Dawson impressions, as Bennett's drawing looks like it stars an accidental minotaur and another is literal stick people but with man bits. 

OK, so they're not the best at imitating "Titanic" – but maybe they'll do better with "Ghost" as the show then challenges the generic stubbles to sculpt symbols of their love for Tayshia out of clay. Oh, and they're blindfolded – because these guys seemed like SUCH accomplished artists that they needed the extra challenge. So yeah, Blake makes a penis – very un-Canadian of him – while everyone else makes some dopey art. Patrick Bateman also takes some time to give a blindfolded Tayshia a surprise kiss that's supposed to be sexy but ends up making me very uncomfortable. If I was unable to see and suddenly someone in a crowded room grabbed and kissed my face, one word: mace. That person would never stop tasting pepper. 

There's one final challenge on this group date: a self-portrait, one that's meant to reveal these guys to Tayshia – and one that will earn the best artist bonus alone time with her. And I must say, of all three tests, this one is easily the most impressive. Brendan (one of my front-runners for the finale) makes a frame along with a touchingly cute speech about sharing it with someone else. Ivan paints a puzzle with a piece missing. Riley talks about his troubled relationship with his mother, and even Blake – hot off his sausage sculpture, stumbling over the word "monogamous" – comes up with something thoughtful about growing up in a rough and often loveless household. DAMMIT, YOU'RE RUINING MY LIGHT AND JOKEY TONE WITH YOUR GENUINE EMOTIONS AND FEELINGS! 

Ben feels pretty much the same way, as he realizes looking around the room at the other guys' thoughtful and borderline-artistic self-portraits that he took the prompt a little too literally, drawing a bad headshot with some pretty colors to help disguise it. So with everyone else stepping up their game – and his struggles with opening up – Ben does what any logical person would do: strips down and gives a speech to Tayshia in the buff. He says a lot of nice and seemingly authentic things about how it's tough for him to open up and how this is him offering his all to her ... but it sure seems more like he's saying, "I'm offering you this hot butt." And it must've been very hot, because it moves Tayshia to tears. The sexiness: IT'S JUST TOO MUCH!

Amid the tears, Tayshia smartly realizes that picking a "winner" – essentially ranking these guys' traumas and emotional releases – seems a little cold and callous, so instead everyone wins time with her. And that night, the real conversations continue with Riley opening up more about his relationship with his mother and Ben – who gets the group date rose – actually opening up about his past battles with bulimia. Again: Most mature season ever?

Here's how you KNOW it's actually a mature season featuring grown-ups: Tayshia wants to end drama while it's just getting started. Somewhere, the "Bachelor" producers are crying themselves to sleep.

But yes, at the end of the group date, Tayshia adds a little bonus message for Noah and Patrick Bateman: She still sees their little snide drama and passive aggressive jabs, and she's going to finally make it go away. Ever since Noah arrived, Bateman's Harvard-taught, high-class but low self-awareness routine has soured significantly between swiping seats at the drawing class, bickering about privilege and pompously using big words like he really wants you to know he's better than you because he's skimmed the thesaurus. (BACK OFF, BATEMAN; THAT'S MY SHTICK!) And all Noah's done is, OK, be a little annoying about earning roses and time with Tayshia, but otherwise he seems to be just ... happy and fun and flirty? IN 2020?! HOW DARE HE!

So there's only one way this can end: a two-on-one – and congrats to Tayshia for initiating it so soon. It's always a pet peeve of mine when "The Bachelorette" tries to set up its star as a strong, smart, independent and empowered woman who knows what she wants, only to undercut her by making her ignore bad behavior and keep transparently toxic dudes around for the sake of drama. But not so fast with Tayshia!

Before we get to that, though, we have a final solo date with Eazy. Everybody loves Eazy! Even the guys at the house are happy for him! Surely this date should be a delight that in no way could end poorly! 

For their date, the two go on a haunted ghost tour of ... the La Quinta. OK, so I've been enjoying the low-budget, relaxed nature of the dates thus far this season, getting people to behave like an actual cute couple on a date ... but this is some real hot trash nonsense. No one – NOT ONE PERSON – believes this La Quinta is built on some haunted foundations. You're telling me this place just happens to have a few rooms dedicated to old-timey portraits, creepy dolls in chairs and ominous clues and typewriters left around? I even googled William Morgan, the supposed ghost at the center of this terrible "Blair Witch" remake, and he does not exist. And what scarier place to end this specter-filled saga of terror than ... a tennis court? My god, the ghost of Maria Sharapova's career might be there! HARRISON, SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LEAVE?! All of a sudden the writers get lost and think they're working on "The Conjuring."

So the date sucks, but at least Tayshia seems to have had a fun time, and Eazy is very charming – so much so that Blake, back with the rest of the guys, thinks that there's something strong brewing between the two. SHOWS WHAT BLAKE KNOWS, THOUGH, because Eazy is sent home. Yep, Eazy says something even more frightening than the story of William Morgan and his haunted tennis court: He's falling in love with her. And Tayshia ... well, Tayshia is not, so instead of dragging him along and letting him fall further into something that's not gonna happen, she cuts things off right away. Fair – BUT DON'T PICK UP THE ROSE JUST TO SET IT BACK DOWN! A cruel tease, I say!

Anyways, have fun on "Bachelor in Paradise," Eazy. You're going to do so well there. 

Now would typically be the time for the cocktail party, but we have unfinished business to wrap up first: Noah versus Patrick Bateman. Surprisingly, I'm somewhat rooting for Noah, who seems actively disinterested in continuing this feud as opposed to Bateman, who cannot BELIEVE he's being forced to interact with a 25-year-old who has the GALL to have a good time. He probably doesn't even have a Roth IRA!

The smug condescension continues into the two-on-one, with Patrick Bateman starting right away before Tayshia arrives with a gift for Noah. I'm sorry, I mean a "gift" – and there is no font large enough to convey how sarcastic those quotes are. It's a three-part gift, beginning with a red bandana from a supposed conversation the two had about their time on the ranch. I'm sorry; am I supposed to believe Bennett's been a cowpoke? Congratulations to the William Morgan horror story from earlier; you're now the second most outlandish and unbelieveable nonsense I've heard this episode. 

Gift number two in the box is a pair of socks covered in mustaches – which is actually kind of a cute gift, but Patrick Bateman laquers it in such aloof pretension that you're ready for him to explain the concept of socks to Noah. But that's just foreplay for the ultimate condescending dig: the book "On Emotional Intelligence," complete with a speech about where Noah's lacking as a human being. So this man is maybe a sociopath – and also, he just so happened to have this book with him?! It's not like Amazon's delivering into the La Quinta bubble. Maybe Bennett's the author – his follow-up to "American Psycho," mayhaps? – and he's been pawning that book off to everyone on set.

No matter the case: BAD GIFT. And Noah is understandably put off by Patrick Bateman's pompous attempt to "help him." The Harvard grad's got real nightmare dad energy, so much so I thought he might end up sending Noah to his room – and with no dessert either! 

Tayshia eventually shows up and witnesses more of the arrogant back-and-forth Bennett's been fomenting, and she is still unimpressed. But before she eliminates anyone, she busts out her best Brad Pitt in "Seven" impression and asks: What's in the box? That's right, Bateman; she sees your little attempt at a parting gift. And unless she's a really big fan of mustache socks, I doubt she's gonna like what she finds.

But between Bennett attempting to bury that box and hopefully both of these two getting the SUV ride of sadness back home, I think I'm going to like what we find next week. Because in a battle between condescending Harvard grads and creeper staches, everyone loses ... but also kind of wins. 

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.