The dates start on The Bachelorette, but Clare thinks the guys aren't trying hard enough.

By Kristen Baldwin
October 20, 2020 at 10:00 PM EDT
The Bachelorette
Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC

Good Lord, rose lovers, it’s week 2 and we’re skipping rose ceremonies already? Of course, this is no ordinary season of The Bachelorette. And let’s focus on the positives: Even if there was no rose ceremony this week, we were treated to… this:

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Let us go forth and recap!

It’s a beautiful morning in Palm Springs, and Clare is soaking up the sun while daydreaming about the man who may be her future husband. “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard to sleep last night, because Dale just made everything else disappear,” she gushes. “I don’t know what to do!” Don’t worry, honey — the producers have that covered.

Over at the guys’ villa (or whatever), Chris Harrison has arrived with a date card. Side note: Was there a sale on pastel tees at the La Quinta gift shop?

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Credit: ABC

But I digress. Riley, Jordan, Yosef, Ivan, Ben, Bennett, Zac C., Fart Box, and Dale are summoned for the first group date of the season. I’ll admit, I’m surprised Dale didn’t get the one-on-one this week… but I’m getting ahead of myself. For a second I expected the guys to board a minibus to the group date, but then I remembered that 2020 is a pandemic hellscape. Instead, the men follow a trail of heart stickers on the ground (nice work, Bachelor Interns!) to another part of the resort grounds, where Clare and Harrison await.

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Oh good, it’s an exercise in Love Languages — which is totally a real thing and not a spurious concept some dude made up to sell self-help books. One by one, the guys stand before Clare and thank her for the opportunity to love her like the queen she is, etc. Riley gets extra points for composing a couplet (“All but one will leave in despair/ But it’s all for one and one for Clare”), but once again the Bachelorette only has eyes (and ears) for Dale. “I’m committed to giving you everything I have,” he says. “I am who I am, and I’m here.” Yes, yes you are.

Part two of the date involves… each of the guys grabbing random objects from their rooms and presenting them to Clare like a sacrifice to the gods. Just look at them go!

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Credit: ABC

And that, kids, is what happens when your pants are too damn tight. The guys who aren’t on the group date razz their rivals as they race around the grounds… all except Bennett from Harvard, who strolls in as casual as can be. “His body doesn’t allow him to sweat!” marvels one suitor. “Look at that gorgeous stride!” Adds Jason, “He looks like a damn antelope!” (Side note No. 2: I would definitely watch a full hour of these doofuses making fun of each other.)

Fart Box says the gifts for Clare should not be about “monetary value,” it’s more about the gesture behind it. (Let’s be honest: It’s also about what the guys can find in their hotel rooms that isn’t actively gross.) Ivan brings Clare the Queen from his chessboard; Riley offers her a baseball from the last game he ever played; Ben gives Clare his favorite t-shirt (it looks clean? fingers crossed); Fart Box hands over a box filled with smaller boxes, Russian-nesting-doll style (do any of them fart when opened? Unclear); Other Zac gifts Clare a book (HE ACTUALLY BROUGHT A BOOK TO QUARANTINE! SOMEONE MARRY HIM THIS SECOND!); and last but never least, Dale presents Clare with perfume… for her dogs. (Is that a thing? Discuss.) “I can tell they put a lot of thought into the gifts,” says Clare, though she offers no evidence to back up this assertion.

Up next: Physical touch! Clare and each of the guys don blindfolds and grope each other, in a PG-rated way, of course. I’ve gotta say, rose lovers, I am digging the low-budget vibe of this date. It’s going to be interesting watching this franchise figure out how to operate without global travel and awkward “private” concerts and random celeb guest stars. It feels very Bachelor Pad season 1 with its cheap-o challenges (pie eating, egg toss), and I am, as the kids probably no longer say, here for it.

Anyhow, when it’s Dale’s turn to manhandle Clare, he wants to make sure that she feels his “strong presence.” Oh, she feels it, buddy.

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Credit: ABC

Jordan speaks for all of us: “Watching Clare with Dale was definitely uncomfortable.”

The post-date cocktail party is all about the “love language” known as quality time. “I cannot wait to be pulled aside and just continue sharing the love,” says Clare, giddily. But once she sits down with the guys, none of them — not a one — makes a move to pull her for a chat.

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Credit: ABC

What the holy hell? Has no one here seen this show? Bennett finally offers to kick things off, but the damage has already been done. “Don’t everybody jump at once,” moans Clare, as she walks away with Harvard. “That was sad.” I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, rose lovers, but our Bachelorette is a bit high maintenance. So she cuts her chat with Bennett short and marches back to the group to read them the riot act. “I’m a little bit taken aback,” she huffs. “I just sat here and was embarrassed and had to… almost like… does anybody want to spend time with me?” Clare goes on to say that as a woman, she wants a man who will show her how he feels, not just sit like a lump and make her do all the work, dammit.

Dale almost gets the situation under control by apologizing for not stepping up and telling Clare that he’s still on “cloud nine” from their first meeting… but then Yosef derails things again. “You’re crazy to think that we didn’t all come here for you,” he tells Clare, who definitely does not enjoy being called “crazy,” even in the most colloquial of ways. Fortunately, Dale whisks Clare away before things can devolve further into chaos — and she LOVES it.

“I totally have feelings for you,” confesses the Bachelorette, once she and Dale are alone. Wouldn’t you know it, Dale feels the same way! The rest of her one-on-one chats go well enough, but it’s Riley — who smooches Clare during their slow dance to some (imaginary) Boyz II Men — gets the date rose. He’s very much of the “I’m gonna stand up for my woman no matter what” camp, and that’s exactly what Clare wants. Is it possible that Dale has some real competition? (Don’t answer that.)

Knock knock knock! There’s an Accent Table of Doom at the door! If you can believe it, rose lovers, it’s Jason who gets the first one-on-one date with Clare. Unfortunately, they won’t be watching My Cousin Vinny — instead, they’re gonna be talking all about their feelings and emotions. Poor Jason even has homework for the date: Clare leaves him a note instructing him to write a letter to his younger self. (Here’s mine: “Dear 13-year-old self: Do not spend your allowance on the retail version of the sparkly boots Madonna wore in Desperately Seeking Susan — they hurt like hell and you’ll never wear them.”)

For the date itself, Jason and Clare take a stroll down to a campfire and talk about humor as a defense mechanism. “I’m the first to crack jokes,” says the Bachelorette. “I’m the first to just… make a joke out of myself to make others laugh.” Um, has Clare met herself? Anyhow, she chose Jason for this date so they could set aside the wisecracks and “practice letting go.” After a cleansing scream, they take turns writing negative things people have said about them on clay tiles. Jason’s include “manipulative,” “selfish,” “can’t love,” “insecure,” and “cold and mean.” Clare’s: “Needy,” “hard to love,” “too picky,” “I’m a bitch.”

They smash the tiles to bits and then read each other their letters. Jason admits that he doesn’t want to open the “Pandora Box” of his past because there are “demons” inside. Though he doesn’t go into specifics, it seems Jason’s parents were not the model of a healthy relationship, and growing up in that environment left him and his brother somewhat scarred. This is just the kind of vulnerability Clare is looking for. Jason gets the date rose, and a big ol’ smooch. Then, in a final act of healing, Clare throws the dress she wore on Juan Pablo’s finale (which she brought with her for some reason?) onto the fire.

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Credit: ABC

Burn, baby, burn!

The second group date begins with Clare firing dodge balls at her suitors: Eazy, Chasen, Brandon, Brendan, Blake Moynes, Joe, Garin, Demar, Kenny, and Jay. “I really do want a man who has some balls!” announces Clare. “So today, we are going to be playing dodgeball.” Harrison shows up to divide the guys into two teams — red and blue — and informs them that the winning team gets more time with Clare. Also, did we mention that it's strip dodgeball? Which is totally a thing? Yep.

“Clare, you gotta be looking for a guy that’s gonna have ball control,” says Harrison, in full announcer mode. Once the game gets going, the Black Box of Shame ™ really gets a workout.

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Everyone on the blue team strips down completely, with the exception of Brendan, who would like to maintain an eyedropper's worth of dignity. Clare sends the naked men home with nothing but their sneakers and their shame to keep them warm. And because these are straight men, the first thing they do when they get back to the villa is plop their bare asses on the couch.

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Credit: ABC

Dear God, I hope La Quinta burned that furniture after production wrapped. “I hope we get a new couch,” says Bennett. “I think we should get a cleaning crew in here, for real.”

At the post-game cocktail party, Eazy starts things off right by giving Clare a foot massage. I really like him, rose lovers. Do you think he’ll stick around after Clare (allegedly) leaves? Next, Chasen tells Clare about being bullied as a kid, and they share a smooch. Uh-oh, what’s this? Blake Moynes may have gone home on the losing team, but he’s not about to let producers dictate where he can and cannot take his well-groomed beard. He strolls in and interrupts Jay’s conversation with the Bachelorette. “I mean… didn’t you lose?” Jay asks rudely, before skulking away.

Blake proceeds to tell Clare that he just wanted to show her that he has “balls,” that he’ll make an effort to woo her, and so on. But the rest of the dudes are quite irked, and they arrive en masse to call Blake out on his shenanigans. The Bachelorette diffuses the situation and sends Blake home — but not before denying him a kiss.

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Credit: ABC

“That did not go the way I thought it was going to,” mumbles Blake to himself. “I haven’t been rejected like that in a long time.”

If you thought that was awkward, get a load of Clare’s sit-down with Brandon.

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Credit: ABC

First, Brandon says he just had to sign up for the show when he found out she was the Bachelorette, but the second she asks him to elaborate, he’s got nothing other than “you’re just so beautiful.” Clare is clearly displeased, so Brandon tries to change the subject by whispering, “Can we not talk about that?” Dude, you are on camera and wearing a mic — whispering is not going to help. Poor Brandon tries to argue that none of the guys could have possibly known anything about Clare before meeting her, and she’s all, Duh, it’s called Google, dumbass. (I’m paraphrasing.) How hard would it have been for him to find one clip of Clare saying something about anything? All she’s looking for is some variation of, “I saw you do that thing and I was very impressed.” That’s it, you buffoon!

Brandon cannot deliver, and so he gets the boot. “I don’t think I want to pursue this anymore,” says Clare, before walking him to the Reject SUV. (Does this mean he gets to leave the bubble, or does he have to stay until the Men Tell All? I have so many questions!) Anyhoo, Chasen gets the rose.

It looks like we could be headed toward another early exit as the final cocktail party of the week approaches. Yosef has been stewing since Clare snapped at him during his group date, and he was appalled to hear that she made the guys “strip down butt naked and play dodgeball” on the second group date. These, Yosef says, are “red flags,” and he is not going to let them slide.

Yosef is going to have to wait to air his grievances, though, because as soon as the cocktail party starts, Clare pulls Blake Moynes aside and gives him a pre-rose ceremony rose. “Everything you are doing is so right,” she tells him. “I don’t want you to worry any longer.” When Blake Moynes walks back into the party with the rose on his lapel, the rest of the guys are predictably non-plussed. If only they knew how little this all mattered! The only person who matters to Clare is sitting with her right now.

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Credit: ABC

What are they talking about? The same stuff: Their “deep connection,” how ready Dale is to talk “in detail” about his feelings, how they both want someone to help them through the tough times. “You’re not meant to go through these things alone,” says Dale. “You’re not meant to go through life alone.” Of course, Clare LOVES it… but what do you guys think of Dale? He comes across as pretty genuine to me, I guess, and he and Clare do seem very comfortable with each other… but how would you describe Dale’s personality? I’m not sure I’ve detected one yet. What we do know for sure is that Clare really loves to “converse” with Dale in the “Love Language” of “physical touch.” Yep, they’re making out again. “I feel like what is happening with Dale and I is just magical,” sighs Clare.

Would you look at that, we’re out of time! And if the previews are any indication, next week the guys are going to be gunning for Dale, mocking him mercilessly on a roast-style group date and gossiping about whether he and Clare messaged each other on social media before the show. For now, rose lovers, let me know how you’re feeling about Clare’s “journey” so far. Was the strip dodgeball game humiliating or all in good fun? Would Jason make a good Bachelor (after Matt James, of course)? And what is your love language? (Mine’s sleep.) See you next week!

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The Bachelorette

One single woman searches for her future husband amid a sea of studs in this romantic reality series. Will you accept this rose?

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