Matt takes the 'ladies' on the largest group date in Bachelor history, while 'Queen' Victoria makes all of her fellow contestants miserable.

By Kristen Baldwin
January 11, 2021 at 10:00 PM EST
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Credit: ABC/Craig Sjodin

For the second week in a row, The Bachelor has kicked off with a cold open — last week, it was Katie with the vibrator; this week, it's Sarah getting light-headed at the rose ceremony — rather than a more general "tonight on" preview. What do you think of this format change, rose lovers?

Oh, and a lot of other stuff happened, too. For instance, Victoria wore this:

Credit: ABC

I just don't… The sleeves? That torso cutout? The… fabric? Is Victoria actually an ancient Egyptian princess reanimated as an '80s department store mannequin? Discuss.

As for Matt, let's recap week two of his "journey."

Our Bachelor is up with the sun, running and biking on his (promotional consideration provided by) Peloton. After the women stroll through their plush (promotional consideration provided by) Nemacolin digs, Chris Harrison arrives — wearing that same Star Trek/Hunger Games jacket he sported during week two of Listen to Your Heart.

Credit: ABC

I love a man who recycles! The host has some important information: "Because this is a record number of women, not everybody is going to go on dates this week." Hear that, "ladies"? If you weren't feeling desperate and insecure before… for Pete's sake, get on it! Bri gets the first one-on-one date, which begins with a romantic ride around the Nemacolin grounds on his-and-hers ATVs.

"She's not very good at it," sniffs Victoria, as she and the other women watch Bri struggle to drive off with Matt. Victoria insists she's not jealous of Bri for getting the first date ("I'm not jealous, it's just, I want that"), and she also helpfully announces, "I'm literally so sick of you guys." In response, Jessenia puts a smile on her face and doles out some serious shade disguised as a harmless observation: "I think it's just a matter of everyone copes with their emotions differently," she says. "I'm very capable of still being happy for someone else while dealing with my own emotions. And I'm especially not the type to, like, dump any of my, like, baggage onto someone."

Brrrr! I wonder how Matt and Bri are doing.

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Oh great! Now the Bachelor is dead, and we have to start all over again! [Pause] What's that, producers? Matt and Bri are fine and just laughing their heads off while lying in the mud? Oh, okay. Even so, the Bachelor feels awful about the little oopsie. "Bri's mom, I'm so sorry," he says into the camera. "I vow to protect her better from now on."

What better way to decompress from a near-death ATV experience than a soak in a wood-fired hot tub? But I guess Team Bachelor forgot to ask the grounds crew for some firewood because suddenly Matt has his shirt off and is wielding an ax.

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That's a 12-pack, all right. Matt and Bri climb into the hot tub, where they sip champagne, and he apologizes once again for almost killing her. Within a minute or two, they are smooching, and smooching, and smooching. Then Matt utters the seven little words every woman longs to hear.

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How dreamy!

At dinner, Bri opens up™ almost immediately: She was raised by a single mom, who got pregnant with her at the age of 13. Growing up, says Bri, she was her mom's whole world. But recently, things changed. "During quarantine, I found out that my mom was pregnant and she's going to have a baby and she has a fiancé and she's going to start this new family that I'm not physically a part of," says Bri. "There was a moment in time where I was like, I don't feel like I have a home to go to anymore."

You see, Bri also doesn't have much of a relationship with her father — and Matt can relate. "When I was growing up, when I needed him the most, my dad just wasn't around," he says. Then he raises a glass and proposes a toast (not a "cheers," rose lovers, an actual, proper "toast"!): "To a continued adventure, and to exploring love with you." Of course, she gets the date rose! (And more smooches. And a "private" fireworks display.)

Back at the hotel, if the editing is to be believed, Victoria has not stopped talking. Like, at all. First, we see her griping to a producer about how annoyed she is with the other women…

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…and now she's whining to the entire group about how she doesn't want to be on a group date: "I don't feel like I can be my most authentic self." Honey, do you even have an authentic self? Either way, of course you're on the group date — along with Chelsea, Serena P., Abigail, Sydney, Illeana, Kristin, Lauren, Jessenia, Serena C. [gasps for air], Kit, Kaili, Katie, MJ, Mari, Pieper, and Rachael. As a warm-up, Victoria, why don't you insult the other "ladies" a few more times before you all turn in for some beauty rest?

Credit: ABC

Ok, so the tl;dr version of this fight, as far as I can tell: The women saw the fireworks from their window and realized they were part of Bri and Matt's date. "It's like a knife to the heart!" someone moaned. Victoria took this as vindication: See, you guys aren't happy for Bri! Marylynn and the other "ladies" tried to explain to Victoria that two things can be true at once (wanting to be on the date; being happy for Bri), but she wasn't having it. Man, this group date is going to be fun!

It's rainy the next day, as all 18 women (!) arrive for their group date with Matt. (Though we didn't hear her name read off the date card, Khaylah is also in the group.) And hey, look who's back!

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It's "Bachelor Nation's beloved photographer" and Arnold Schwarzenegger lookalike, Franco Lacosta. (He's the dude who shot Tayshia and Zac's "wedding" date on The Bachelorette.) And yes, it's another wedding-themed date because as we all know, in the Bachelor universe, women fall into one of two categories: "Married" and "Worthless."

One by one, the women pose with Matt under a floral arbor. Victoria actually tries to walk into Mari's "wedding" photo with the Bachelor, but Mari tells her to back the f--- off… politely, of course: "Oh, I think we need a few more shots, but you can stand there and wait a second." That's how you do it, "ladies"! Though it's Pieper's turn next, Victoria cuts in line. Too bad she has approximately zero chemistry with Matt.

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The "Queen" also pulls Matt into a kiss, which she describes as "passionate" — but it looked a lot more like "close your eyes and think of England" to me. Anyhow, Franco has only finished shooting about half of the women when Chris Harrison arrives and announces that the "ladies" are going to have to "fight" for Matt's heart. What could this possibly mean?

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Yep, it's a bastardized version of Capture the Flag, in which two teams battle to retrieve Matt's "heart" (gross) while tagging each other with wedding-themed items dipped in paint. While Matt, Chris, and Franco watch from the sidelines, the women pummel each other with paint-soaked purses, bouquets, and even a wedding cake. ("This is fantastic!" gushes Franco, snapping photos of the action.) Big Paulie serves as referee, but I'm pretty sure I saw him looking at his phone while all the chaos was going down.

In the end, the red team wins, meaning Pieper, Kaili, Serena P., MJ, Jessenia, Lauren, Khaylah, Kit, Mari, and Victoria (blech) get to spend the evening with Matt, while the gold team (Katie, Serena C., Illeana, Sydney, Rachael, Chelsea, Abigail, Kristin) must skulk home in disheveled disgrace. (Mari was on the gold team, but she won the "MVB" award and thus gets to crash the cocktail party.)

Credit: ABC

"There's frosting on my boobs and this dress, and I'm tired," says Katie, tearing up. "But you can't fall in love if you don't even have time with the guy."

Lauren, who hasn't spoken to Matt since exiting the limo, goes first at the cocktail party. "I want somebody who is a man of faith," she informs Matt. "My dad always told me that the key to his marriage with my mom… is to keep God first." ("I like that," replies the Bachelor, for approximately the 74th time this season… and we're only on episode 2! But I digress.) Indeed, the Bachelor does like that, because he is a Christian — and he hasn't always felt comfortable being open with his faith in a relationship. "It turns a lot of people off," he says. "You saying that is affirming."

Jessenia cries while telling Matt about how she's "dealt with a lot of infidelity" and he assures her that it's "not something I would put you through." Great… but do any cheaters announce in advance that they're going to cheat? When it's Victoria's turn, she opens up™ by telling Matt that sometimes she feels insecure. "Like, picking out a dress today, it was like, 'Oh, I hope I don't look fat.'" The Bachelor is all, You looked great, and he challenges Victoria to "own" who she is. "There's a reason why you're still here, because I enjoy those things about you," he adds. That's nice of him to say, but I still maintain that he's not into Victoria. Exhibit A: Victoria has to ask him for a parting kiss.

Exhibit B:

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Lauren gets the date rose.

On to the second one-on-one date. Sarah the broadcast journalist, you're up! Literally, you and Matt are up in the air, flying in a biplane. After the aerial foliage tour, Sarah and Matt share champagne by an outdoor fire and talk about how much they love their respective families. Matt asks Sarah about her father, and she chooses not to tell him about her dad's struggle with ALS. "I could tell that Sarah was struggling with something," Matt says later. "She's slow getting started, but I need her to be open and vulnerable." Well duh, Matt — but you know she's gotta wait until dinner. That's how this always goes!

And that's how it goes tonight. At dinner, Sarah fills Matt in on everything that's happened with her dad, and how she quit her job to be a caretaker for him. It's an incredibly sad story, but also heartwarming in a weird way — I definitely started tearing up when Sarah talked about how she brushes her dad's hair now, just as he used to do her hair for school when she was a little girl. "It's brought our family so close," she says. "I feel like I just poured my heart out!"

The Bachelor is appropriately moved by Sarah's story. "I can't think of a more selfless act," he marvels. "And the fact that she should be home with her pops right now, with her family, and she's here with me having dinner — I don't even know what to say. It's an honor." Yes, it is. Now give her that date rose!

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The night concludes with another outdoor hot tub make-out session, but this time Matt does not have to chop wood to heat the water.

When the cocktail party rolls around, Abigail — the fan favorite/first impression rose recipient — finally gets some camera time. Missed you, boo! We get some brief glimpses of Rachael, Chelsea, and Bri, followed by Kit the socialite fashion entrepreneur. Hey, and there's Magi the pharmacist! Remember her?

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Everything seems to be going great. Then Marylynn sits down with Matt, and the pouting begins. "This week has been really challenging for me," she says. "I just felt like, 'Man, did I say something that rubbed him the wrong way? He hasn't asked me on a date. Does he want me to be here?'" Great strategy, toots — men love nothing more than being guilted by a needy woman they've known for literally three days. Matt handles it like a gentleman, though, and he even has a gift hiding behind the couch for Marylynn: An orchid, which is her favorite flower!

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How very sweet of him to remember. (Or, you know, "remember" after he was reminded by a producer. Tomato, to-mah-to.) As you might expect, Victoria — who's been fighting with Marylynn since the episode began — is not pleased to see her rival return carrying a flower from Matt.

Credit: ABC

"Marylynn is toxic," she drones. "I don't want to be around her toxic energy… I think Marylynn should go home." To that end, Victoria and her Holly Hobby Hooker dress march over to Matt to inform him that Marlynn is a big ol' meanie-poo. To hear Victoria tell it, she was forced to sleep on the couch rather than share a room with Marylynn (false). Naturally, the Bachelor is concerned. "I'm really glad you shared that with me," he says. "I'm gonna get to the bottom of this."

You know where this is leading, rose lovers: Now Matt has to go pull Marylynn and grill her about this whole mess. Did she really say "hurtful things" to Victoria? Of course not (at least, not that we saw), but now Marylynn's on the defensive, and as she says to Matt, it's her word against Victoria's. The Bachelor is completely confused — and the other women are also perplexed by Victoria's claims because none of them have seen Marylynn say or do anything unkind.

Once her chat with Matt is over, Marylynn tries to broker peace with Victoria, but the latter refuses to even sit on the same couch with her. "I think that there's a lot of miscommunication here," Marylynn begins. "Victoria, I'm sorry that I hurt your feelings, but…" Immediately, Victoria interrupts and tells her rival that they have "very different realities of what occurred." (That's true — there's Victoria's reality and actual reality.)

"I don't want to continue fighting," says Marylynn, but Victoria cuts her off again and declares that they're like "oil and vinegar." (Great, now I want a salad.) "I think that we can come to an understanding," Marylynn persists, but Victoria suddenly storms off. "I need a break," she whines. "You're too much for me."

The other "ladies" are frustrated by the drama, primarily because it means fewer of them will get to speak to Matt before the rose ceremony. "Victoria, may I ask why you felt the need to talk about tension in the house with Matt?" asks Khaylah, as the women wait for Harrison to arrive with his Butter Knife of Bad News. Adds Katie, "To stress him out with, like, our own personal tension with the girls, I think was just super unnecessary."

Speak for yourself, Katie. The Bachelor producers would argue that Victoria's actions were very necessary. Now go assemble for the ceremonial dispersal of roses!

Who will join Sarah, Bri, and Lauren in the Circle of Safety? Rose ceremony roll call: Pieper, Kit, Magi, Rachael, Abigail (yay!), Chelsea, Jessenia, Katie, Serena C., and… wait a minute, what's going on?

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Looks like Sarah's having some trouble staying upright. She stumbles off the rose ceremony riser, and Bri leads her off to the side of the room so she can sit down.

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"She's going to pass out," Bri tells Big Paulie, who calls for the medic. And with that… the episode is over! A few things before we adjourn, rose lovers. One: It's pretty clear that producers edited the rose ceremony out of order for some reason because there are at least 10 roses on the table right before Sarah has her fainting spell, but then only about five roses are left when Matt goes to check on her. (Yes, I hate myself for sleuthing this stuff out.)

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Also, am I the only one who is not looking forward to more Victoria drama next week? I don't blame Sarah for saying the longer Victoria stays around, the more she questions her own relationship with Matt. Stop being a producer stooge, bro, and send her home! Finally, are you rooting for anyone besides Abigail? Post your thoughts below!

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Chris Harrison hosts the romance reality competition series in which a gaggle of women vie for the Bachelor’s heart — and a wedding proposal. Will you accept this rose?

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