By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Dec 15, 2020 at 7:19 AM

Stand-up comedian John Mulaney opens one of his great specials with a bit about trying to make a banner saying happy birthday. After a big happy start, you realize that you've run out of space for the rest of the words, and suddenly your banner has a 12-car pile-up on of letters the right side, squeezing in letters wherever you might have space. 

Anyways, can't imagine why that joke came to mind so much Monday night during a "Bachelorette" episode that seemed profoundly overloaded with things to do and characters to eliminate as quickly as possible! 

You could practically hear the producers discovering offscreen that they had two weeks to jam in four episodes of television, panicking as they tried to figure out how to get rid of the contestants as fast as possible. One almost wishes that we started the season with Tayshia instead of spending four weeks on a non-starter Clare season, but what can you do? (Other than drink heavily.)

So we start with the dramatic return that everyone's been waiting for: no, not Bennett – Harrison as he's finally back from tearfully dropping his kid off at college. Tayshia gives him a short recap – psh, as if Harrison doesn't know. Guy probably had one hand batting his son on the back and one hand with a monitor of a life feed of the show's footage. 

After refreshing Harrison on the show, it's time for a one-on-one date with Blake the goateed Canadian. He's excited – but as one of his fellow contestants points out, he's "either coming back with a rose or he's gone." Well, yes, that is the premise of the show; glad to hear you're finally picking up on these details right as we're approaching the end. 

Their date ends up with a spiritual guru who makes them chisel open a small rock and grab some shards to learn more about one another. And here I was thinking conversation was a good idea. Then the two disrobe – number three on the season for Blake! – for a chakra test and a tantric breathing exercise where you sit in each other's naps and breathe synchronized inches away from one another's face. GOOD THING THERE'S NOT AN AIRBORN PANDEMIC GOING AROUND! 

Tayshia's not thinking about that, though, as she instead realizes that she just doesn't have a close enough connection with Blake at this point with Not Going Hometowns next episode. So she sends him packing – yet another one-on-one date to end on a bummer.

But she's not done! After tearfully saying goodbye to Blake, she surprise visits the remaining dudes to tell them that this is very hard – and also Riley, can they talk in private? Well THAT doesn't bode well – and indeed she cuts Riley from the show as well. Issn't the rose ceremony that night? Why the early cut? If it's to give him a personal goodbye after opening up so much on the show, it doesn't come off that way. Instead, it just comes off like Tayshia got a message in her earpiece that the show's wrapping up and it's like to start culling things – and NOW.

Maybe we're just saving time for the big drama though: Bennett's surprise return. Yes, after his departure and serial killer-esque late night plea for forgiveness, Patrick Bateman is back for the cocktail party and rose ceremony much to everyone's displeasure on the show. Seriously, you eliminated two good dudes just to bring back the sociopath with the book club recommendations? At least Bateman's happy, though, as he was concerned he was "going to be written off as a Harvard douchebag." Might that perceeption have had something to do with being a Harvard douchebag?

Well, surely we'll get some tense conversations and ... wait, what's that? We're not having a cocktail party tonight? We're jumping straight to the rose ceremony. Oh, uh, OK then. Well, surely the show didn't bring back Patrick Bateman just to eliminate him five minutes later at a rose ceremony without any extra drama or intrigue. Wait, THAT'S EXATLY WHAT HAPPENS as Zac, Ivan and Brendan join Ben in the final four while Noah and Bennett get eliminated together. While I appreciate the poetry of the moment, I would've appreciated it even more if THEY'D BEEN ELIMINATED TOGETHER AT THE TWO-ON-ONE LIKE EVERYONE HOPED LAST WEEK! What an unsatisfying resolution, bringing Bennett back simply to boot him off five minutes later in boring, undramatic fashion. You almost get the impression "The Bachelorette" realized they were running out of time and had to ditch that subplot! OH WELL!

Plus, we have to cram in a special Men Tell All episode – or more like a special Men Talk Over One Another episode, which doesn't sound special at all. Something else that lets the air out of this reunion: A bunch of people aren't there. Where's Eazy? Where's Spencer? I never thought I'd ask this question ... but where's Chasen?! His absense is actually a big problem because the Men Tell All starts with trying to get to the bottom of Ed and Chasen's conflict, but since half of the participants are a no-show, it's just strange. Maybe it's for the best, though; no one needs to hear that guy call himself "Wolverine" again or use the phrase "smokeshow."

It's also almost worth it, though, to hear Ed's three Fs about Chasen: fraud, fake and phony – which Ed definitely just realized begins with a "Ph" way too deep into his diatribe. 

Then it's time to rehash the Bateman versus Noah drama one last time – with Noah still saying Bateman was condescending, the latter arguing that he was never intentionally so and Kenny the boy band manager talking WAAAY more than expected. Who knew the O-Town manager was so ride or die for Bennett?! Anyways, Noah determines that the two will just never be friends, and Bateman seems to be just fine with that. At least Noah read his book recommendation; that's all he cares about. 

Otherwise, this Men Tell All doesn't have that much to actually talk about – after all, the season's only been about five or six episodes long, so there's not that mucch drama to parse through. It's so rough that they actual invite Yosef, the guy who was just SO AGHAST by naked men that he just had defend his dignity by mocking Clare for being old and single, on to apologize or defend himself – which wasn't really a part of the season we're recapping. Even when the Men Tell All goes through the season at the start, it left out all of the Clare stuff, so this feels like a reach. Noah must've been so confused about who this random meathead was. 

Anyways, it goes about as well as expected for Yosef – which is to say not well. Kenny and Blake acccurately point out that he was in a harrumph about a date that he wasn't even on, and that they all could've chosen not to strip down but they did so what's his problem. Yosef then tries to say that Clare ruined his attempt at civil conversation, but Jason – the sweet guy who connected deeply with Clare and left right as Tayshia's season started – knocks that ish right down by saying that Yosef was clearly using up all the oxygen in their conversation and that he was controlling the combative tenor of their argument. HELL YEAH, JASON; WE STAN A BILLY EICHNER-LOOKING KING!

It goes so poorly that even Bennett thinks that his lack of remorse is bad news. (SOUNDS LIKE ANOTHER PERSON WHO NEEDS YOUR EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE BOOK!) Actually, it goes so poorly that Harrison steps in at the end and is like, "Hey, you seem like a real jagoff; let me give you one last chance to not be a prat on television and try to talk to you about how you converse with women," but Yosef declines – and even says that, if his daughter were to make decisions like Clare, he would happily talk to her like that as well. WELP, LOST CAUSE! Goodbye, Yosef, and congratulations on never being invited back. Hope the awkward future conversations with your daughter and your dates were worth it!

Lastly, Tayshia comes out to talk about the experience – but again, there's only a handful of episodes to talk about, so there's not much to say. The most interesting part is when Blake asks if their break-up was beacuse they just didn't have enough time, but Tayshia basically says, as politely as possible, "No, I just didn't like you." Cue sad trumpet sound but with a Canadian accent. 

But yeah, that's that. Cue some tame conversations and cue some bloopers – which, as I say every season, should just be included in the show proper because it IS reality television after all – then that's that. We've clearly only got a few more episodes to cram this all in – so much so that we're showing two episodes this week AND two episodes next week. Hold on, that's four episodes in eight days. Why do you want to hurt me, "The Bachelorette"?

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.