“We had sex.”
So Kaitlyn Bristowe’s matter-of-fact confession to “exploring her relationship” with suitor Nick Viall went on Monday night. It wasn’t just compelling TV—it was downright subversive.
The franchise—a primetime game show where love is ostensibly the final prize—has long been open about the behind-the-scenes sex. Back in 2010, Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss said on 20/20 that most consummate their relationships with at least three lucky ladies each season, usually in the Fantasy Suite™—a fancy ABC-funded hotel room strewn with rose petals and stocked with condoms. We all know these single adults are having sex here, but viewers and ABC have a sort of unspoken gentleman’s agreement: Barring any deeply held Christian beliefs (Hey, Sean Lowe!), sex happens, but only in the Fantasy Suite™, and neither parties will ruin the romantic facade or the show’s Victorian sensibilities by talking about the deed.
Up until now, it’s all been very Charlie Rich and not so much Salt-N-Pepa.
But Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe has pulled the curtain back by sleeping with Nick Viall in week two, refusing to apologize for it, and stating her intention to do the same with the remaining men in the week to come.
The first hint that this episode would be all about sex came during Ben H.’s one-on-one date. After rowing a canoe to an island and playing a G-rated game of hide-and-seek, Kaitlyn asks Ben if he’s ready for the Fantasy Suite™ dates. Ben sweetly replies, “The stigma behind overnights is that you have to be physical,” and says he respects her and their relationship enough not to focus on the sexy stuff. “I’m excited to get to know you away from all of this and talk all night,” he says. A different woman might have swooned at the prospect of chatting the hours away with the clean-cut software salesman, but our heroine jumps to the only conclusion one could for not wanting to bed a woman three weeks in, asking him, “Are you a virgin?”
Ben’s no virgin, he assures her, and we’re left to wait until next week’s overnight dates to find out if he puts out.
Before those intimate dates, Kaitlyn has something to confess to Shawn, the personal trainer and Ryan Gosling lookalike who won the first impression rose and his own private time with Kaitlyn early in the season where they “talked all night” and she told him he was “The One.” Because he has “trust issues,” Kaitlyn feels she needs to be honest about her early sex with Nick.
Following her confession is perhaps the greatest 60 seconds in Bachelorette history. Shawn nods excessively, licks his lips, wipes his mouth, clenches his jaw and his Guinness, clears his throat, and stammers, “Do you regret it?” He is so upset upon hearing the news of her indiscretion that he runs to the bathroom but “can’t even piss.”
Though she says it was probably “too fast,” Kaitlyn won’t be slut-shamed here and ultimately, Shawn knows how this whole thing works: If he wants to stay in the game, he’ll have to accept it. “I’m just gonna man up and get over it. I can’t be mad, right?”
Neither will Kaitlyn apologize for sleeping with Nick when Shawn pulls her aside during yet another interrupted rose ceremony and threatens with his eyes not to take her offered rose because, “How could you sleep with Nick?”
The only mistake she’ll own up to was telling Shawn at the halfway mark that he was a sure thing. “I am here to explore other relationships. I admitted that it went too far. I did feel guilty about it. I’m not sitting her being ashamed of myself. I just wanted to be honest,” she says.
Shawn does take the rose, and Nick and “talk all night” Ben join him as the remaining men who will join Kaitlyn in the Fantasy Suite™ episodes.
Though he has already had “off-camera time” to “explore his relationship” and “connect on every possible level,” thereby “taking our relationship forward” (the euphemisms don’t stop), Nick is first up for the overnight dates, during which we learn half a dozen ways to talk about sex without actually using the word. Curiously non-fratty Americans also learned the meaning of “Eskimo Brothers,” a delightful term for when two men have sex with the same woman—an expression Nick attributes to Shawn’s alleged sexual escapades with an unnamed country music star. Kaitlyn says, “Ew,” presumably at the language and not the act, considering the Fantasy Suite™ dates coming up.
Nick and Kaitlyn predictably have sex (again) and viewers are treated to possibly the first morning-after scene in Bachelor/ette history. As the pair lounge in pajamas and kiss during their postcoital brunch of eggs benedict, sex on the show starts to feel normal.
Following their night which, as Kaitlyn playfully recounts, involved eating chocolates and talking on the couch for hours—and, presumably, plenty of sex—an enraged Shawn storms over to confront his nemesis, Nick. After labeling him an “asshole” who’s in it for ulterior motives other than Kaitlyn, he officially puts the Irish sweater-wearing sex-haver on notice. In next week’s episode, Shawn learns that Nick has been spreading his tales of Eskimo Brotherhood, and threatens to reenact that elevator scene from Drive on him if he doesn’t watch his big fat mouth.
Though even Chris Harrison has referred to this season as “rearranging chairs on the Titanic,” there’s something refreshing about the explicit way the show has been forced to handle sex this time. After treating it like a strange secret for some 30 seasons, Kaitlyn Bristowe has left ABC no choice but to show us what goes on behind closed doors. It’s about damn time.