The Bachelor recap: Battle of the blondes
This week on Interchangeable Blonde Women Talk Smack About Each Other, group dates begin — with a little help from special guest stars Hilary Duff and Ziwe — and Clayton gets some disturbing news about one of those aforementioned blonde women.
Oddly enough, the episode begins with the 22 remaining contestants entering the Bachelor mansion, oohing and aahing over the excessively-pillowed couches and Ikea bunk-beds. "We're the first group of women who get to move back in," says Rachel (?), while Susie (?) calls Casa Bachelor "historic" and "literally, like, legendary." Um… ok. Where's Jesse Palmer at?
"Once upon a time, I myself was the Bachelor," says the new host, adding once again that he's a "happily married man." (No, he did not marry the "winner" of his season. They broke up a few weeks after the finale.) With that, he drops a date card on the coffee table as the women squeal their approval. Teddi, Enci, Melina, Gabby, Kira, Mara, Sierra, Genevieve, Serene, and Cassidy — you're up!
Today's "this is what dreams are made of" group date takes place at a Beverly Hills McMansion — in the backyard, to be precise. Please welcome...
…a bunch of Central Casting rugrats! Oh, and Hilary Duff, star of Hulu's upcoming comedy How I Met Your Father. (Hulu is owned by Disney, which also owns ABC. Synergy!) Cassidy, for one, is straight up losing her sh--. "You're the first concert I ever went to!" she gushes. "I had a sign with your face on it!" Duff smiles politely, though there is a bit of fear behind her eyes.
If you haven't guessed already, this date is all about throwing a perfect birthday party for Maya, one of the kids in attendance. Clayton, as we know from his exit on Michelle's season, really loves kids and wants to be a dad someday soon — so his potential wives better be able to handle a child's birthday party, okay? "I have jobs for all of you," announces Duff. "We gotta make these kids smile and let them have the best day of their lives."
To your tasks, ladies! Genevieve begins decorating the cake (yes, hon, you should ask how Maya spells her name before writing it in frosting); Melina sets up the clown station; and Gabby and Cassidy are asked to build the doll house.
Why is Gabby the only one working on the playhouse? Because Cassidy "doesn't give a s--- about the birthday party," says Gabby. And she's not wrong! "I don't really care if Hillary Duff is disappointed in my doll house abilities, or if the girls are a little miffed," says Cassidy with a snicker. "I'm not here to build a dollhouse. I'm here to build a relationship." (Oh, that's a good one, honey. Did the producers give you time to practice it before cameras rolled?)
While Gabby is busy tightening screws and inserting tab A into slot B, Cassidy grabs Clayton and takes him off to the pool for a romantic one-on-one chat. "You're a lot different than most of the guys I date. I really like you," she coos. "I feel a lot of chemistry with you… I'm not going anywhere voluntarily." The Bachelor is impressed by Cassidy's confidence — though it's pretty clear that she's just putting on a show for the cameras. Exhibit A:
Somebody get the hose!
Once the party is set up, Duff invites the kids in to wreak havoc. "I want Clayton and the girls to get a tiny glimpse of how chaotic [parenting] can actually be," says Ms. Duff. Melina, who is on clown duty, goes hard, crawling around on the ground with the kids and attempting to juggle. Overall, Clayton is impressed with all of the effort the women put in, tossing water balloons and refereeing games of red light, green light.
And then there's Cassidy. "I spend as little time around you small people as possible," she tells one child, as Kira and Serene look on. Awww, now the birthday girl is sad!
Sorry your parents signed you up for this, Maya. "I'd rather be talking to Hilary Duff," Cassidy admits in her confessional. And that's just what she does. She tells the singer/actress all about her strong "connection" with Clayton and how she may have a "target" on her back because she's so focused on advancing her relationship with the Bachelor. "She has her eye on the prize," notes Duff later. "I don't think it's going to make her any friends here — but I'm not sure she cares."
Nope, all Cassidy cares about is camera time. Which is why I'm about 99.5 percent positive that she did this on purpose:
Yep, even though Genevieve was the one who decorated the cake for Maya, Cassidy takes it upon herself to present it to the birthday girl — or, more accurately, to the lawn. "I made the cake and I wanted to make it special for Maya," sighs Genevieve. "But Cassidy doesn't care what anyone thinks. It's disrespectful, and I would gladly tell her that right to her face."
Well, you'll have to wait, because currently Cassidy and Clayton are having another make-out session by the pool. Perhaps tonight at the cocktail party, Genevieve and the other woman can give that cake-covered blonde the verbal whupping she deserves.
The evening gets off to a calm start. Serene tells Clayton about how she became a teacher and how meaningful the job is to her. Clayton LOVES it — and since they haven't smooched yet, he leans in for a kiss now. "It was perfect," says Serene.
Back in the holding pen, the women are eyeing the date rose hungrily. "I know he's going to give it to me," announces Cassidy. "I feel extremely confident in our connection." And that's the opening the women need to start piling on. Kira starts, scolding the boastful blonde for not pulling her weight at the birthday party. "I'm not here to decorate a birthday party," scoffs Cassidy. "I'm here to date Clayton." OMG, if murder wasn't illegal, I'm guessing Gabby would smash her champagne glass and stab Cassidy in the throat. Look at how pissed she is!
"We were just there to have fun," Cassidy continues. "No one's paying us." Well, maybe not in cash — but I'm sure most of the ladies will amass some monetizable Instagram followers. Kira doesn't relent. "You talked to him for 30 minutes. What were you doing for the other three hours?" she demands. Cassidy doesn't have an answer, and just reverts to disdain: "I'm simply not going to apologize for not hanging enough streamers." To be fair, Cassidy does have her role as "standard-issue reality TV villain" down pat.
The Bachelor has no idea any of this is going on, of course. He's too busy staring into Teddi's eyes as she Opens Up™ about how hard it is to see him with other women. (Already!) "I'm just like, 'Does he, like, still like me?'" she giggles. Clayton assures her that she has nothing to be concerned about. "I will give you all the validation if that's what you are wanting," he says. "If you just keep being you, that's more than enough."
Up next is Sierra, who has some full-body glitter going on. Clayton likes how "bubbly" she is, and he's also feels good about Gabby because their conversation "flows so naturally."
Not flowing so naturally? The frosting that Clayton and Genevieve are squeezing all over this grocery store cake.
Is that a crime scene?
Eventually, of course, it's Cassidy's turn to sit down with the Bachelor. In addition to gushing over how much she likes him, Cassidy starts dropping no-so-subtle hints about the other women and their behavior. "A little [bleep] doesn't matter," she says. "I didn't come here to make Gabby happy." Clayton either isn't sharp enough or doesn't care enough to take the bait, so he and Cassidy just kiss for a bit and then she heads back to the group. I wish I could tell you that Cassidy's confidence about getting the group date rose was misplaced, but…
Blech. As soon as Clayton takes his leave, emotions start bubbling up. Mara starts crying out of frustration over the tension Cassidy caused on the date. "I feel like I am back in college, and the drama and the fighting and the [bleep] — you can't escape it," she says. As we cut to commercial, a producer asks Cassidy how her date rose smells. The answer: "Like victory." Cassidy may be an "executive assistant" by day, but she's definitely a student of reality TV by night.
Moving on to the first one-on-one date of the season, which goes to… Susie! And if you thought the "let's take our love to new heights" date card message means Clayton and Susie are going bungee jumping, you clearly forgot that this show also loves helicopters.
Of course, Team Bachelor has the pilot fly over the mansion to make the rest of the women feel jealous and miserable. During the flight, they learn a bit about each other (Clayton likes to dance, Susie was voted Class Clown in high school), and then the whirlybird comes to a precarious landing on a helipad attached to a yacht. "This is, like, so fun," says Clayton, toasting Susie with champagne. "I love the adventurous side of you. I love the confidence I'm seeing. I am seeing who you are, and I really do like what I'm seeing."
After smooching for a bit on the water, Clayton and Susie reconvene that evening at the (promotional consideration provided by) Hudson Loft. Over dinner, they talk about the importance of family: Susie's parents have been married for 35 years, while Clayton's are approaching their 30th anniversary. Susie gets emotional talking about her dad, who went through a serious illness last year but made it through and was able to hold his grandson when he got home. All throughout his recovery, Susie's mom slept in the chair next to his hospital bed in the ICU. "Seeing my mom by my dad's side was very powerful," says Susie. "I want that for myself."
You know what? Susie seems pretty sweet, and she and Clayton share the same goofy vibe. I'm not hating this match — what about you, rose lovers? The Bachelor agrees. "I couldn't have asked for this date to go better," he says, before leading Susie to a "private concert" by Amanda Jordan. (And she's wearing the same dress she has on here!)
In case you were wondering, Susie also gets the date rose.
Meanwhile, back at Casa Bachelor, Cassidy is sharing some group-date wisdom with her fellow blonde troublemaker, Shanae. "Tomorrow's very important. The earlier you get started, the f---ing better," she says. "Early connections are what lasts."
Shanae will be competing for those "early connections" with Marlena, Elizabeth, Kate, Sarah, Lyndsey, Rachel, and Tessa on the final group date of the week. Clayton greets them outdoors and then leads them inside a cavernous lodge where a stern-looking park ranger is waiting for them.
Oh sorry, that's Ziwe — star of the self-titled variety series on Showtime and recent guest star on Succession. "You're late!" she barks. "Take! A! Seat!"
For today's date, Ziwe — the self-described "icon, myth, legend" — will be vetting the contestants for relationship red flags, like "kittenfishing," "zombieing," and "breadcrumbing." First up, a game of Never Have I Ever. Anyone here ever sent a nude photo?
Hoo boy, I really didn't need to know that about Clayton. Pretty much all the women admit that they've faked an orgasm (duh), while Kate and Elizabeth 'fess up to cheating on a partner. Shanae (a.k.a. "Shanae-nae") reveals that she has felt judged by the women in the house… which inevitably leads to her demonstrating her Nae Nae technique.
"I want him to see who I am when I'm in my element," says Shanae. "I want him to notice me." Oh, he is — and so are the other women. We must pause to appreciate these reaction shots.
Guessing Elizabeth and Sarah never win big at poker.
The final activity of the day is the Relationship Red Flags obstacle course. "I want to see you ladies fight for love as they fought on the beaches of Normandy!" bellows Ziwe, pounding her fist into her hand for emphasis. (Side note: Do you think any of the contestants, including Clayton, could name which war she's referring to?)
Naturally, the obstacles — which include "Sliding into DMs," "Thirst Trap," and "Breadcrumbing" — are all designed for maximum mess and humiliation.
Women who fail are sent to the "Friend Zone." Elizabeth winds up in that sad holding pen because Shanae shoved her off the foam floatie in the "Breadcrumbing" challenge, above. "I pushed you because I was trying to win, honey," scoffs Shanae in her confessional. Alas, playing dirty does not work out, and Sarah wins the extra time after busting down the "Emotional Walls" and running into Clayton's arms first.
Full disclosure: I thought Sarah was Rachel until I saw her chyron.
Having lost at the obstacle course, Shanae is all the more determined to win the date rose at the cocktail party. Unfortunately for her, Elizabeth pulls Clayton first — and soon they're sharing their first smooch on the couch. When they're not kissing, Elizabeth laughs loudly at all of Clayton's jokes — and her giggles can be heard as far as the holding pen.
It's too much for Shanae to bear, and she walks off to cry out her all her frustrations. "Elizabeth is fake," she fumes. "She's two-faced." Or — and hear me out, Shanae — you're actually mad at yourself for not acting faster to grab Clayton, and you're turning that anger on Elizabeth because it's easier than coping with your true feelings. Just a thought.
Clayton's chats with the other women continue. It's nice to see Marlena, the former Olympian, get some screen time. Sounds like she didn't have much time to chat with the Bachelor on night one, because he only learns now that she's an Olympic athlete. She also looks great tonight.
If you're keeping track, Clayton thinks all of the women are just great. "Right now, I haven't seen any major red flags," he says, "and that's a really great feeling." Oh come ON, buddy. Now you've done it. Yep, here comes Shanae.
Ms. Nae-Nae informs the Bachelor that at first, Elizabeth was very nice to her. And then one day later, she began ignoring her and being "two-faced." Clayton takes a minute to process this information, and then immediately pulls Elizabeth aside to get further clarification. "It was brought to my attention that there may be some tension, or something going on between you and Shanae," he tells Elizabeth. "It was said that you were coming across as two-faced… I just wanted to get your side of the story."
Elizabeth is concerned, but she stays calm. She assures Clayton that she's done nothing but show Shanae "absolute kindness" — oh, but by the way, Shanae pushed her violently during the obstacle course challenge. "I chose not to bring any of that to you because it's not what I'm here to talk about," Elizabeth continues. "I'm here to have conversations with you." (The conversation kept going, but I blacked out after Elizabeth used the phrase "your and I's relationship.")
The chain of events continues exactly as expected: After her conversation with Clayton, Elizabeth immediately pulls Shanae for a come-to-Jesus talk. "I'm a little upset with you, honestly," she begins. "You said that the 'red flag here is Elizabeth'?" Shanae turns it back on her blonde rival, accusing Elizabeth of ignoring her by the pool when she tried to join in on a conversation with Ency. Oh snap, Elizabeth says she wasn't ignoring her, she just has ADHD and has a hard time "processing multiple auditory inputs"!
Perhaps Shanae has the same problem, because she essentially just repeats herself — you were ignoring me, and it was mean! — and says she hopes Elizabeth really didn't mean to be two-faced. Sigh. Give each other a reluctant hug, you two, and get back to the holding pen. Clayton is ready to hand out the date rose.
The Bachelor leaves, and the ladies sit around as instructed, steeping in their hate juices. Pretty soon Elizabeth and Shanae are bickering again, and Lyndsey — who was apparently on this date — walks off crying because she's so sick of the petty drama.
It's raining hard on the night of the final cocktail party, because God knew a stormy evening would make for a good visual metaphor for the mood. The party is of particular importance to the women who didn't get to go on any dates this week, including Eliza. Determined to make the most of her chat with Clayton, she brings along a blank scrapbook so that they can start documenting their "journey" together. "I think this is an awesome idea and I love it," says the Bachelor. They smooch.
Jill and Hunter, who also didn't have dates this week, are able to snag Clayton for chats as well. No kiss for them — but Gabby gets her first kiss of the season, despite terrifying Clayton with this pillow.
Gee, everything's going so well. "No drama!" declares Clayton happily. Dang it, sir! You've jinxed it again.
Oh, ffs. Shanae just dragged Elizabeth outside to confront her about being mean, or something. "I thought we were on the same page yesterday," she huffs. "So is it your ADHD, or is it me that you have a problem with?" Elizabeth is understandably irritated, and she tries to shut the conversation down, but Shanae won't let up. "I have ADHD!" she announces. "F---ing little kids have ADHD… And I think you're using that as an excuse!"
Or — and hear me out Shanae — you're just aggressively annoying and needy. Elizabeth disengages from the situation and walks away in disgust. Once they're all back on the couches in the living room, the other women scold Shanae for her behavior and for running her mouth about Elizabeth's ADHD. "That's nobody else's business but hers to bring up," snaps Mara. All Elizabeth wants is a genuine apology, but all Shanae can offer is, "I'm sorry, but…" excuses. Even Cassidy, formerly Shanae's "sensei," tells her to cut her losses and just walk away, which Shanae does.
If you were thinking that the night was going to end with Clayton finding out about Shanae's unfortunate antics, well… joke's on you. Instead, the final minutes of the episode take a hard-right turn back into "Cassidy is Public Enemy No. 1" territory. After sharing another make-out sesh with Clayton, Cassidy brags to the women about how the Bachelor is "kind of intimidated in like a hot way about how I'm unrelenting in my pursuit."
One of those women is Sierra, and Sierra has THOUGHTS about this ballsy blonde beyotch. "Clayton needs to know who she really is," says Sierra. "She ain't good. She's a little snake." On what is she basing this assessment? Well, it turns out that earlier in the day, Cassidy told Sierra that she has a "f--- buddy" back home, and… actually, let's just roll the videotape.
Dang, Cassidy, I don't know what you did to make the producers dislike you so much, but it had to be something — Team Bachelor only breaks out the grey-toned flashback footage when they really want to take somebody down.
Sierra says this is "definitely" something Clayton needs to know, and she's the one who's going to tell him. Indeed, she grabs the Bachelor and fills him in that Cassidy has a "friend with benefits" who she was FaceTiming with up until the day she left for filming. "Apparently he said back to her that he wanted to do nasty things with her when she got back," adds Sierra. "Obviously she's not here for you and to have love with you."
Clayton is stunned, but he doesn't shoot the messenger. He thanks Sierra for the intel and hugs her goodbye. To Sierra's credit, she marches straight over to Cassidy and tells her that she just spilled all the f-buddy tea. We don't get to see much of that conversation, though Cassidy comes out of it relatively unfazed. "Clayton clearly likes me," she scoffs. "What's he going to do?"
Here's a hint, sweetie:
I'm guessing Palmer doesn't know the answer. And we're going to have to wait TWO WHOLE WEEKS to find out whether Clayton does rescind Cassidy's rose. (Stupid NFL playoffs!) Before you go, rose lovers, a few questions: Can you tell any of these blonde women apart? Are there any women here (blonde or otherwise) who you actually like? And is it me, or has Clayton not yet shown one distinguishable personality trait? Post your thoughts below!