By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Nov 11, 2020 at 5:59 AM

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

A strange sensation fell over me while watching Tayshia's official start on "The Bachelorette" – one I haven't felt in a long time and certainly haven't experienced this season thus far. I felt – and I want to get the wording right on this – fun? I was ... happy? And the people on my screen actually seemed happy too? What a strange scenario! And I didn't even need to drink an abnormal amount of wine to make it happen!

Indeed, for a solid chunk of "The Bachelorette" on Tuesday night, it felt as though maybe – just maybe – the show might do the improbable and pull itself out of its death spiral, using a charismatic and charming new star to make us all forget that this season was secondhand pants for everyone involved. And then Harrison was like, "CAN'T LET THAT HAPPEN!" and decided what this otherwise pleasant episode needed was an extended Clare and Dale halftime show with nothing to offer except the reminder that this season's broken. Oh, and boredom. It had boredom to offer as well. Welp, you can't win them all. 

So Tayshia arrives at the La Quinta, and all of the guys are into it. Again, as much as I really enjoy Tayshia, this whole rebooted season feels like a half-hearted spin-off, not her own actual season. She doesn't get the glamorous intro; she doesn't get the background story to get the audience in on her story. Instead, she's just dropped off at this hotel and sent in to impress a bunch of also-rans for the previous Bachelorette, while she's the show's "break in case of emergency" star. It's the consolation prize "Bachelorette" season, where everyone gets to feel like second place! She doesn't even get a full slate of Handsome Generic Stubbles, since Clare sent home half the group already. Remember when she sent that one guy home for not doing enough requisite social media stalking about her? Fun times, that abomination was. 

Thankfully, Harrison agrees that it's lame Tayshia only gets a handful of the pre-used contestants and decides to fix things. So after Tayshia has some time to talk to some of the dudes – including one guy named Brendan who's allegedly been there the entire time and dresses like Steve Jobs, so I'm clearly never calling him Brendan again – he brings here out front for a fresh shipment of men, shouting her name from inside a limo and making me think the car was possessed.

Now it not only feels like a spinoff, I can pinpoint exactly which spinoff this is: It's Bachelor in Paradise, where you just chuck in new people whenever you want and stir the pot whenever the show feels like people are too happy. Nice of them to try and give Tayshia something resembling her own season with guys not stuck in the shadow of Clare, but I'm also not sure how this is fair to the guys who've been there since day one – and what about those poor guys who Clare sent home and didn't get a chance with someone who actually cared about them? I say bring them all back too – except Yosef. He can stay at home and keep apologizing to his daughter.

Anyway, the first guy out of the screaming limo is Spencer, the dictionary definition of a Handsome Generic Stubble. He says words; none of them are memorable. There's also a Montel and a Peter – but sorry, Pete, either you gotta change your name or you gotta go home. I need a five-year hiatus on Peters for this show while we wash the stink of Petey the Pilot's season out of our collective brains. You can be Francesco instead.

The next guy out the limo is Noah – and, more importantly, Noah's weedy mustache. The guy looks like the lost member of the Florida Georgia Line minus the singing talent and plus an extra 24-pack of Natural Light. Even the rest of the fellas on the show are like, "This guy is not competition," as soon as they see him pop out of the car. Noah tries pulling his own "A Star Is Born" moment by turning around after his introduction, just wanting to take another look at Tayshia, but sorry, dude, that's a hard trick to pull off when you look like you're not allowed around playgrounds.

With a replenished supply of Brads and Tylers, Tayshia and the guys get going on their first official cocktail party of the new season – and look at that, the guys are standing up in the hopes of stealing her away and talking to her. Clare didn't get to see that. Looks like the dudes might've learned how to put in an effort; it only took four episodes and a Bachelorette who wasn't already in love with one contestant's thirst posts on Instagram. 

Much to the chagrin of the rest of the dudes in the house, Spencer the newcomer is the first guy to get one-on-one time with Tayshia, but almost all of the guys get to chat with her. But Spencer makes the best use of his time, and he gets the first impression rose. And sure, the old guys might harrumph, but Spencer's merely putting in an effort right now, not being villainous. Plus, it makes sense that Tayshia would gravitate toward one of the fresh guys who she doesn't have to worry about having leftover feelings about Clare. Why wouldn't she choose a guy who wasn't just two weeks ago using the same kind of smooth lines and complimentary chats on a different woman – probably on the exact same loveseat?

But even though the guys aren't in love with Spencer stealing time and a newcomer stealing the second first impression rose, at least they've got more time with Tayshia and don't have to worry because Tayshia nixes the rose ceremony that night. Gotta say Tayshia's living up to the high hopes and expectations people had for her; she's fun and charming and sparks nice chemistry with several of the guys in the house as opposed to just one. She's just so personable that I'm almost already starting to forget the Clare debacle anyway. 

Oh no, I just said the magic words! I'VE LEARNED NOTHING FROM THIS SHOW!

Yep, as soon as I was starting to feel comfortable with this new season and accepting Tayshia's strange substitute Bachelorette situation, the show halts in its tracks for a 20-minute sitdown with Clare and Dale to discuss their surprise engagement – after TWO WEEKS OF DATING?! My god, this is the most predictable crash-and-burn I've seen since those old-timey videos of failed flying machines. You've never lived with each other, much less lived in the reality with each other. You don't know each other's families. Hell, you barely know each other. Buy hey, Neil Lane bought that product placement, and he's getting his money's worth, dammit. 

Anyway, there's nothing interesting here. Nobody cares; we've all moved on – or at least tried to move on – from these two, and there's nothing new to reveal in this conversation. After all, there's only so much story here – literally, the show only had enough for four episodes before Harrison himself had to say, "We made a whoops."

The closest thing to drama is Harrison asks one more time if they interacted before the show – or, in his VERY dramatic words, "Did you lie to all of Bachelor Nation?" Which, when you frame it that way, guarantees that the answer is no. And indeed, they didn't contact each other before the show; Clare just Instagram and Facebook stalked Dale so much during the COVID-delayed interim that she clearly fell for him before the show began – which still kind of sucks, but what's to be done? Clearly that pandemic break is the real culprit for this season breaking, giving Clare time to putz around online, preemptively vetting and choosing the guy she wanted to be with. I bet you Becca Kufrin wishes she had that power before her season of "The Bachelorette"!

Actually, I lied; the closest thing to drama is when Harrison asks what's next for the happy couple. Dale clearly is about to say something about taking their time, learning about each other and getting married when Clare busts in with, "BABIIIIIIIIIIIIES!" Dale tries to power through it, but he can't hide his panic face, and Harrison can smell weakness. A two-week-old engagement in which the two parties are clearly not on the same page when it comes to how fast they're moving toward starting a family? CAN'T SEE HOW THIS COULD GO WRONG! It would appear Clare's disaster of a season may still be ongoing ... 

Anyway, back to the significantly less disastrous season: Tayshia greets the guys to their first group date with a glorified "Baywatch" deleted scene before kicking off a pleasant pool party in the happy summer sun. Everyone's having fun and getting to know each other; it's nice, though I am missing the show's bizarro competition challenges where they have to change a baby doll's diaper and climb a log hill while having their nipples electrocuted – all while the cast of "Big Sky" mocks them from the sideline.

That doesn't happen, but at least a competition breaks out: a game of splashball aka basketball but in a pool. The fellas put on their finest speedos and get to action, playing a low-scoring game that's probably turning James Naismith into a drill bit in his grave. We do learn some important things, though, with the game. For one, Noah is a terrible shot. The 'Stache airballs just about every shot he takes during the game. If only he knew about the Adam Morrison rule: If you have a mustache, you must be awful at basketball and play like the NBA stars in "Space Jam" after the bug monsters steal their powers.

The other thing we learn: Spencer's a little intense. There's playing defense, and then there's trying to commit aquatic homicide. Thankfully, somebody puts him in his place and gives Spencer a kiss on the lips with his elbow, bloodying up his kisser. Meanwhile, in ACTUALLY impressive defense, with the game on the line Eazy stops Kenny the Boy Band Manager's drive to the basket, preserving the blue team's win over the green team. MVP? More like MVEazy! (But really, the guy is going to be very popular when they start "Bachelor in Paradise" back up. He, Jason and Patrick Bateman are clear nominees for the new season ... whenever that may be.)

Thanks to Eazy's defense, the blue team gets the private time with Tayshia that night (though Kenny, who was definitely on the losing side, is definitely there shmoozing with Tayshia too so not sure what happened with that), where somehow some guy named Zac, who I'm pretty sure has been on nine previous seasons of the show, gets her first kiss. I'm going to assume that was an editing mistake. But even though he and Spencer (even with his clobbered lip) get kisses, the date rose goes to Eazy because Tayshia respects good defense. 

Meanwhile, back with the rest of the guys, Jason is having a bad time. As much as he respects and likes Tayshia, he's still getting over Clare. Who could've guessed that going on a date with a woman who pries open your repressed emotions and gets you to talk about your greatest insecurities, only to discover that she was thinking about someone else that entire time and never really had interest in you, would mess with your brain and heart a bit!? Still, Jason handles it all like a champ, stepping away from the show and saying his goodbyes to Tayshia. The best part: Tayshia, at first, is nervous because she wonders if other guys feel the same way still about Clare and worries that she's their second choice (never mind that she was literally the show's second choice) but Jason sweetly says that he only speaks for himself and that the other two-dozen dudes are totally smitten by her. JASON, YOU'RE A NICE DUDE! We stan a legend. Congrats on being a priority guy on the next season of "Bachelor in Paradise."

As for those other guys, Steve Jobs gets the episode's one-on-one date: a horse ride around an abandoned and desolate hotel property. Yes, nothing screams romance like strolling around a corporate retreat ghost town, all while Harrison awkwardly scooters around offering margaritas – don't drink and ride! – and coconuts, and inadvertently kiss-blocking poor Steve Jobs. I feel love in this La Quinta tonight. Still, Steve Jobs get his kiss, and Tayshia is swooning. 

There's still the dinner to go, and considering we basically just met Steve Jobs for the first time tonight, I'm not optimistic that this ends well. But Tayshia seems into him, and she likes that he seems calm because that's what she needs right now. (Maybe that's a dig on a certain lusciously haired goofball from "Paradise"? HMM!?) And for somebody I didn't know existed until now, Steve Jobs is pretty sweet! He's self-depreciating and adorably low-key about himself. He's getting very close to earning actual name privileges!

Eventually, though, Tayshia asks why he's still single, and he brings up his baggage: Back in his early 20s, he got married to his high school sweetheart only to get divorced as they fell out of love and realized they barely knew themselves outside of one another. It's honest and real – but the show puts tense and dramatic music under the whole thing, making me worried that Tayshia's going to suddenly get nervous about him. But ye a little faith about Tayshia, because she totally understands his situation; in fact, she too got married young only for it to fall through. WELL I AM ENCHANTED BY THIS HONEST CONVERSATION! Congrats Steve Jobs; you may now be Brendan again. And as a bonus, you get to makeout with Tayshia in front of a fireworks show. 

And it gets even better for Brendan, as Tayshia says in her confessional that she could see herself marrying him. BE CAREFUL WITH THOSE WORDS, TAYSHIA! I don't think Harrison as enough of his signature margaritas to emotionally handle two scrapped seasons in a single year. 

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.