The episode started with lighthearted banana-related accusations, but devolved into racism.
FYI this post contains some spoilers.
A specter haunts the third week of The Bachelorette—the specter of DeMario. Up top, the alleged girlfriend-haver who stormed the gates of the mansion at the end of the last episode tries to beg for his place back on the show. Rachel makes swift work of demoralizing him one last time, and the angry mob of drunken suitors that had assembled to do the same is not needed.
"I'm glad that you've realized that you should move forward, but I need you to know that forward isn't that way, to the mansion," Rachel says. "Forward is outside."
Onward! (For everyone except DeMario.)
The cocktail party before the rose ceremony reveals that everything I thought about the tickle monster—who declared himself the tickle monster and tickled Rachel when he first met her—was wrong: Rachel likes him. I guess there's just something irresistible about a guy who chooses to wear giant inflatable hands over his real hands and then tickles you with them? I've been in a long-term relationship for over four years so I just don't know anymore.
What I do know is that the ongoing feud between Lucas and Blake rules. During the cocktail party, Lucas defends himself from the charge that he's not here for the right reasons and advances his own accusations against his rival: "I don't know if he has a crush on me? The other night I woke up and he was peeling a banana and he was licking the banana like this [demonstrates licking a banana]."
Rachel takes this new information to Blake: So, she asks, do you eat bananas over Lucas's bed when he's sleeping? The aspiring drummer/personal trainer denies having eaten bananas over Lucas's bed when he's sleeping and is frankly offended because he has an airtight alibi: "I'm on a ketogenic diet so I don't eat carbs."
I [clap] love [clap] this [clap] show.
The rose ceremony sees both Blake and Lucas eliminated, which is crushing for me only momentarily because they have a fight while they're doing their exit interviews that makes it all worthwhile. The rejected men take turns yelling at the camera and each other and it's truly top-notch TV:
Lucas, mad (and very drunk) [to the camera]: He's a workout dietician! [To Blake:] Go drink some protein powder.
Blake, also mad: At least I'm not a failed comedian—I'm a personal trainer!
With Whaboom but a hazy nightmare, Rachel then takes Bryan, Tickle Monster, Peter, Alex, Will, and Fred on Ellen for a group date, during which Ellen immediately makes all the men take off their shirts and twerk. The Bachelorette knows what the heart wants.
Alex, who earlier displayed his ability to solve a Rubik's cube really fast, shows off the side of himself that is ripped and extremely good at booty-popping. (Later, during a game of Never Have I Ever, Alex shows another side: He admits to peeing in mansion's the pool.) Tickle Monster can't dance, but gives it a good-natured try. Peter does a nice job somewhat rhythmically undulating his body. Bryan, who I dislike, just sort of stands in front of female audience members and gestures for them to stuff dollar bills in his pants. Will gets compliments from Ellen. Fred, poor Fred, is presumably neither good nor bad enough to show on screen.
The after party is an arms race: Never Have I Ever made it known to the contestants that some among them have actually pressed their dirty lips against Rachel's pure mouth. The group-date guys are now insecure, panicking, and ready to kiss. Fred takes the news the worst: "Have you kissed her already? You kissed her? Did you?" he asks everyone. It's quite sweet—he's had a crush on Rachel since he was in third grade, or something, since she was his camp counselor, so he's really nervous. It's unfortunate that when he gets his time with his beloved he can't pull it together. Instead of just going in for a kiss, he asks Rachel if he can go in for a kiss, which must have sent her into a dizzying flashback of when Fred was nine years old and asking her if he could have permission to go to the bathroom. At the end of the group date she sends him home, which is understandable, but she does it in this way where it looks like she's going to give him the group-date rose, which is savage. Good twerker Alex gets the rose.
Watch: How to Get Over Your Ex
Rachel's one-on-one date with Anthony was boring to me, but it seemed ideal for Rachel. They ride down Rodeo Drive on horses to make use of a good pun and then have a romantic date under the stars. Despite the evening having zero drama and no twerking, Anthony gets a rose.
Meanwhile, back at the mansion, Eric has been expressing that he feels unsure of Rachel's feelings towards him throughout the episode. He really likes her, he says, but he's worried that she doesn't feel the same. There's always one person who has an existential crisis like this in Bachelor Nation and is made to look bad for it. But it's a completely rational thing to feel when you're a contestant on a show that makes falling in love a frantic and depraved fight to the death. Unless you're on a one-on-one date with the Bachelorette, you hardly get any time with her. At the same time, she's making out with everyone and getting tickled by giant hands. Anything could happen and it's hard to know where you stand. So he's been frustrated and depressed by this, and when Anthony comes back from his one-on-one Eric mentions this to him.
Iggy then butts in and misconstrues what Eric is saying, and Eric, who I really empathize with and simply think has trouble communicating his emotions in the moment (same), gets mad. It seems like he's just trying to explain to Iggy that he wants to directly ask Rachel if she likes him, but he's yelling it and not making sense. Iggy is then like, "what" and Eric is all like, "why are you even butting into my conversation with Anthony?" and it devolves from there.
I guess there's just something irresistible about a guy who chooses to wear giant inflatable hands over his real hands and then tickles you with them?
This sets us up for the racism arc that's seemingly to come. On the group date—in which the rest of the guys get the opportunity to take of their shirts, mud-wrestle, and get judged by Rachel's "girls," who come along—Bryce and Lee tell one of Rachel's girl's, Raven, that they don't think Eric is right for Rachel, even though they don't have any reasons why. Raven tells Rachel this vague piece of non-information after the mud-wrestling battle is won by Bryce, and Rachel brings it up to Eric during the after party. Despite the attempt at sabotage, Eric ends up earning the group-date rose because he opens up to Rachel about how he's been feeling about "the process" and she likes that.
After their chat, Eric confronts Bryce and Lee about what they said. It's here where it starts to get weird: Lee does this gaslighting thing where he essentially tells Eric that he thinks he's an amazing person but also scary because he saw him yell. It all feels very coded and bad and like they're trying to portray Eric as the angry black guy, and then it escalates at the cocktail party before the rose ceremony.
Lee continues his villainous gaslighting campaign, this time teaming up with Iggy, and tries again to convince Rachel that Eric isn't here for the right reasons, adding that he's a scary guy who yells. It's messy. Eric just wants to celebrate his group date rose in peace and now Rachel is questioning him and he has to deal with nonsense from some guy who sounds like Foghorn Leghorn. I would be yelling too, honestly!
Apparently, it gets worse next week—and if you google "Lee from the Bachelorette," the first thing that comes up is his alleged racist tweets. I miss Whaboom.