We’re one week away from The Bachelorette finale, and boy do things look bleak.
Our bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, a perfect lady, has somehow found herself choosing between human cheek implant Bryan, sweet but immature Eric, and Peter, who “has black friends.” Rachel is so ready to get engaged that she’s willing to tie the knot with a guy her entire family hates just because he speaks Spanish sometimes. Real talk: Rachel’s final three boyfriends all look like great sperm donors but there’s no way they’re worthy of Rachel Lindsay, a woman who was too damn career-oriented to settle down with Kevin Durant.
Predictably underwhelming final three aside, Rachel Lindsay’s season was exactly what the doctor ordered. (Not you, Bryan. You are a chiropractor.)
Typically, The Bachelorette “Men Tell All” episode is a glorified infomercial for plaid button-downs. It is true filler content—two hours of Chris Harrison trying to wring a single drop of tea out of a dozen dull, monosyllabic dudes.
Of course, this isn’t your average Bachelorette season.
Rachel Lindsay’s journey to get engaged in less than two months was a “historic” one due to the fact that, in 20 freaking 17, Lindsay is somehow our first black Bachelorette. Lindsay is also many other things: an accomplished lawyer, a woman who loves athleisure, too good for Nick Viall, etc. But naturally, Bachelorette producers weren’t about to let this opportunity to address Race in America go. You know who’s unqualified to lead a serious dialogue on race relations? Men who can afford to take two months off from work to go on a dating reality show.
This all culminated in a conflict between Lee, a white country singer who Bachelorette producers probably knew was racist, and Kenny, a lovely black man. The other contestants weren’t smart enough to understand what Lee was actually doing when he started undermining and insulting black men in the house (either that, or the entire show was edited to extend the Lee storyline and make it seem even more confusing). After a few episodes of prolonged drama, a few men started to see through Lee’s “act” (note: Lee never pretended not to be a racist), meaning it was only a matter of time before Rachel realized that something was up. This uncomfortable tension came to a head on a two-on-one date, during which Kenny, Lee, and Rachel were forced to hang out together in the wilderness. Lee naturally lied to Rachel about Kenny’s “aggression,” Kenny got upset, and Rachel finally got a glimpse at the gross dynamic that producers had been exploiting for weeks.
Given the inordinate amount of screentime Kenny and Lee got during the show, the “Men Tell All” special was naturally dominated by a debate over whether or not Lee is a racist. On one side of the debate were all of the contestants and a slideshow of racist tweets, and on the other was Lee. Despite admitting that he was the author of said racist tweets, Lee insisted that, “I don’t like racism at all.” His rationale for not being a racist—despite tweeting and acting like a racist—was that he had “a lot to learn in that area.” When pressed on a misogynistic tweet, he replied that he had just gone through a breakup.
Obviously, the other contestants weren’t having any of Lee’s bullshit. Dean interjected that, “You were promoting your actions every single time on Instagram… Not one moment before this were you apologizing for anything that you said or did.” Then Josiah took it a step further, asking Lee why he decided to come on a show “where the bachelorette was an African-American woman” if he also believed that the NAACP was akin to the Ku Klux Klan. DeMario Jackson then basically recycled all of these previous points while standing up, explaining that, “You compared the NAACP to the KKK… that’s stupid, bro.”
This segment should have concluded with Anthony’s speech about Lee’s insidious racism. Instead, Lee told Anthony that he’s “always been well-spoken”—ew—and Lee got to “denounce” his tweets and get his reality-TV show redemption. Like the entire rest of this season, this interlude was downright rude to the black contestants, who were tasked with forgiving and pledging to educate a man who’s consistently mistreated them.
Meanwhile, Kenny was just as endearing as he was all season, confiding in the audience that, “If y’all thought you were sick of seeing this shit, I was sick of living it.” He carefully stated that his tension with Lee “didn’t feel like racism,” but that “I think that Lee made a point to badger certain people.” After Lee offered Kenny a weak apology, saying that, “I should have been a better friend,” Chris Harrison had the audacity to ask Kenny if he would ever consider being pals with the racist plant Harrison and his team put on their show. To his credit, Harrison proceeded to bring Kenny’s adorable daughter McKenzie up onstage. So that was nice.
The second most dramatic moment in the “Men Tell All” was the return of DeMario Jackson. Since getting kicked off Rachel’s season for double-timing his girlfriend, Jackson has gone on to further sully his Google search results in Paradise. During the very first week of filming the upcoming season of Bachelor in Paradise, production was suspended due to allegations of sexual misconduct involving Jackson and fellow cast member Corinne Olympios. Despite the fact that Olympios hired a lawyer and released a statement claiming she remembered very little of the night in question, and that “something bad obviously took place,” Warner Bros. ultimately released its own statement insisting there was no evidence of misconduct. Filming resumed, and there’s already a deeply distasteful trailer hyping the show’s controversial return. And while neither Jackson nor Olympios came back to Paradise, both appear to be taking part in the reunion show. “I’m doing the ‘Men Tell All’ for The Bachelorette and I’ll be doing Paradise as well,” Jackson told TMZ. “I owe it to my castmates. They’ve been very supportive of me throughout this whole entire thing and I want to thank them all personally, face to face—give them all hugs and bro out or sis out, or whatever. They’ve been so helpful.”
But anyone tuning in to Monday night’s “Men Tell All” hoping for some insight into the Paradise scandal will have to wait for Bachelor in Paradise to run its course. This reunion was reserved for all things Rachel—and there was clearly some artful editing done to avoid any mention of Corinne making it to air. DeMario defended his decision to leave his girlfriend to try and get engaged on television by calling his ex a “side chick.” In an increasingly nonsensical speech, he demanded, “Are there any ocular facts that she and I dated?” to which a heroic out-of-frame contestant replied, “What does that mean?”
Chris Harrison, who likes to think that he has receipts, insisted that he had DeMario on tape admitting that that woman was actually his girlfriend, to which Jackson responded with some drivel about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. At this point, the other contestants began alluding to the Paradise incident; one hinted that DeMario had “been through a lot,” and fan favorite Dean interjected that, “He’s made some dumb choices. He’s no Whaboom, he’s no Lee. Let’s cut the guy a break.”
The episode ended with a customary appearance by the bachelorette, during which Rachel called out DeMario—“I’ve dated a number of DeMario’s before”—and talked about the weight of being the first black bachelorette. “I have the opportunity to be a spokesperson for African Americans, for women,” she explained, all the while insisting that “race wasn’t an issue for me” in her personal relationships with the men.
Oh, and she had words for Lee: “You can exit stage left and meet me backstage and I’d be more than happy to give you a black history lesson, a lesson on women’s rights.”