This season of The Bachelorette has been plagued with questions. Is starting with two Bachelorettes sexist? What to do when the chosen one eschews the rules of the Fantasy Suite and has sex when and with whom she wants to? Can a villain of seasons past just join the ranks midway? And why is ABC sequestering them in Ireland?
But if the season of Kaitlyn Bristowe has taught us anything, it’s that there is no sense to be made from this debacle. The men chose Kaitlyn and got what they deserved. Now we’re all paying for it.
On this very special episode of The Bachelorette—Fantasy Suite Dates!—the final three contestants are whisked away to…Northern Ireland… where instead of leaping off yachts into the Caribbean or spelunking in caves in Chiang Mai, the perpetually sweatered stars bask on hilltops and drink whiskey in yet another castle.
First up is Ben, the 26-year-old software salesman who Bachelor Nation is lobbying hard to be the next Bachelor. Kaitlyn and Ben go horseback riding, feed donkeys, and exchange mildly romantic pecks, as they nibble from the obligatory picnic basket.
Last week, Ben told Kaitlyn the Fantasy Suite was laden with outrageous expectations and that he’d just as well spend the time off-camera talking all night, leading Kaitlyn to believe he must be gay. Ben assures her he is into ladies—her specifically—and takes Chris Harrison’s offer to “forgo his individual suite” and have the “best sleepover ever” with Kaitlyn in the 19th-century castle.
It’s not totally clear what went on during their overnight date (a welcome diversion from all the kissing and telling that’s been this season’s norm) but the two “only slept a half an hour” and had “a good time.”
Shawn is the final man to get a turn spending “off-camera time” with Kaitlyn. Their fantasy date (still in Ireland) is set at a golf course. Producers dress the personal trainer in hip-hugging cornflower blue trousers and a pink shirt and let the fantasy begin.
With the lack of adventure dates (not counting boxing and the bird-filled haunted house), love puns have been hard to come by this season, but we get an exceptionally weak one here. “Golf is a lot like love, in that it’s something you can do until you’re old and gray,” Shawn said, then proceeds to play terrible golf, knocking ball after ball into the water hazard.
They play truth or dare and Shawn streaks across the course. With all the sex and talking about sex this season, an innocent nakey run through the course, black bar covering his genitals and all, somehow manages to be one of the more PG moments.
Another night, another castle, and before the Fantasy Suite card can be opened, Kaitlyn just has to know about that “Eskimo Brothers” secret Nick swears Shawn is hiding.
The last thing Kaitlyn wants to do is bring up Nick or his wrist full of wooden bracelets during this once-in-a-nighttime castle date with Shawn, but what the hell?
“What don’t you like about Nick?” she asked.
Face instantly red, Shawn explains Nick is not there for the right reasons (Drink). Though Shawn doesn’t divulge with which country music star he allegedly shared a sexual partner, he called his accuser “delusional and manipulative.” Kaitlyn wonders what kind of man Shawn really is and worries about the reputation of her “future husband.” And so the two decide to go to the Fantasy Suite to hash it all out.
When she wakes up, Kaitlyn says she’ll know whether Shawn could be her husband or not.
And could he be? Who knows? Instead of a birds and bees montage usually placed to help viewers decode just what went on in that hotel room, Shawn just walks down the hall and out the door. Nick happens to be waiting outside his room and another short but tense bro-down takes place.
“If I hear my name come out of your mouth one more time to Kaitlyn, it’s not gonna be pretty.”
“Are you threatening me?”
“Get the fuck out of my place right now.”
Having had the opportunity to sleep with each of the contestants at least once, it was time for Kaitlyn to whittle the pool down to just two. Before she can make her decision, she needs a fireside chat with Chris Harrison to complain about Nick and Shawn. They decide she’ll trust her gut, which tells her to send Ben home. Through tears, she tells Ben that he’ll find the best girl in the world, but it won’t be her. Ben is gracious in the face of rejection, and says that Kaitlyn has forever changed him.
Back in the rose room, the flowered men take one long synchronized sip of champagne. The camera pulls back and producers leave Nick and Shawn to mill about the room silently, tug at their sports coats, and not speak to one another. It is awkward and beautiful and without a doubt the highlight of this episode (and perhaps the season).
Now just two men are left and our Bachelorette is off to meet their families in…Utah.
Have there been massive budget cuts? Is Kaitlyn allergic to the sun? Might she have burns covering the lower half of her body that make bikinis impossible?
Both families seem just as miserable to be called to such a cold clime for their blessings. Nick’s family likes Kaitlyn (better than that Andi) but is worried that he will lose again. His 10-year-old sister sobs into the hotel sofa, echoing the feeling of the millions of Americans still tuning into this season.
Shawn warns Kaitlyn that his family is a tough crowd. His mother “can’t make it” but his sisters and father are there to give her the once-over. “Whatever they say goes,” and he says he’ll take a step back if they aren’t on board.
Surprise! They’re the most easygoing gatekeepers ever and instantly see love the minute Shawn and Kaitlyn walk in the room. Shawn’s dad is a bit concerned about the pace of their love. Is it lust?
“What the hell’s going on?” Shawn’s dad asks.
We wish we knew. Both men are in love, Kaitlyn is more confused than ever, and romance is dead.
Next week, Chris Harrison promises the Men Tell All reunion show “will give you all the answers,” but I won’t hold my breath.