This week's episode of The Bachelorette begins with a brutal, emotional gut-punch and ends with a cameraman scaring the crap out of Tayshia with a tree branch. The final four men become the final three, and there isn't even a rose ceremony.
It's another sunny day at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa, and Katie and Tayshia are taking a stroll while talking about hometowns. "As tough as every decision up until this point has been, I also feel so confident about these final four guys," she says. Still, she hasn't dropped any version of the l-bomb with any of the men because she wants to save that for her fiancé. Tayshia counters with her own strategy: "I told multiple people I was falling in love with them." Okay, sure.
Awww, Michael's FaceTiming with his son James again. "I miss him like crazy," says Michael. "It's really starting to weigh on me… I just hope he's doing ok." Well… here's the thing. James is a little boy, and he doesn't understand why daddy isn't home. "Oh, I'm just doing some work," Michael tells him when James asks. "I'm going to see you soon." The child's response is heartbreaking: "I know what the problem is. Maybe daddy left because he don't want to see me."
Ooof. Just hearing that hurt my heart, and I don't even know these people! Can you imagine how devastating it was for poor Michael to hear his son — a child who has already lost his mother — say something so sad? It's unbearable to think about. I had to pause the show and take a five-minute break, and again, I don't even know these people! Someone, PLEASE give Michael a hug.
"It's breaking me… that I'm here when he's thinking that," says Michael. "I don't want him to ever think that he's not enough." He feels guilty and selfish… and Michael knows what he has to do.
ABC Michael A. on 'The Bachelorette'
"Something happened which kind of changes things for me," Michael explains to the Bachelorette. He goes on to tell her about his sad conversation with James while wiping away tears. "I can't focus on anything else," Michael continues. "With hometowns coming up, I feel like it's wrong for me to give you half of what I could be." Even though he believes they have a real connection, Michael says he must go home to James.
Rose lovers, I really am not happy about Katie's reaction. The very first thing she said should have been, "I'm sad about this, but of course, you need to do the right thing for your son." Instead, her response is all about how she feels. "I did not see this coming," she says through her tears. "I saw us going to the end, which makes this really, um, confusing for me right now."
In fairness, perhaps she actually did respond first with "I UNDERSTAND YOU ARE DOING WHAT YOU NEED TO DO AS A DAD" and it was edited out… but the scene doesn't appear to be heavily edited. And that's what sucks. Katie, girl, I know you're the star of this show, but James is the star of Michael's life — try to put things in perspective, okay? Even after Michael apologizes multiple times, the Bachelorette is still all, Me, me, me. "I had so many things I was going to tell you," she whispers. Then Michael hands her an antique-looking stopwatch, the one he presented to Katie on night one. "I gave that to you because I understood the importance, like, of time," he says. "We ran out of time. I can't help but wish that we had more, in a different, like, world or a different circumstance. Because I do think it would have worked."
ABC Katie says goodbye to Michael on 'The Bachelorette'
Okay, so… was Michael the guy she wanted to choose in the end? We'll never know. Finally, finally, Katie says the right thing: "I mean, I get it. You're a good dad… I support you going home to James." Damn right you do! Then Michael says the seven words that will likely secure him the role as the next Bachelor: "You taught me how to love again." (To be clear, in no way do I think Michael is angling to be the next Bachelor. It's just… "single-dad widower seeks second wife" is a storyline these damn producers won't be able to resist... EVEN THOUGH IT'LL ALMOST CERTAINLY BE DISASTROUS FOR MICHAEL AND JAMES' MENTAL HEALTH. PLEASE DON'T DO IT! BUT I ALSO WANT TO WATCH IT! I AM AT WAR WITH MYSELF!)
My Lord, are they really not going to show us Michael saying goodbye to the other men? Think of the tearful hugs we missed! The fatherly kisses on the cheek! I'm devastated all over again.
Welp, on to the Tealight Candle Thunderdome!
ABC Our new 'Men Tell All' hosts
It's nice to see a live studio audience (albeit a smaller one) again. It's also definitely a little weird — at least for me — to see the Men Tell All introduced by anyone other than Chris Harrison. Change is hard. Anyhow, let's welcome back the men! Quartney, Cody, Karl, Tre, Brendan, James, Kyle (wait, who?), Aaron, Connor B., Hunter, Andrew S., and Michael are in the house. Not present: Andrew M., Austin, Brandon, Christian, Connor C., David, Gabriel, Garrett, Jeff, John, Josh, Landon, Marcus, Marty, Mike P., and, of course, the three remaining finalists: Greg, Blake, and Justin. (Thomas appears later via video chat.)
Let's run through the highlights, shall we?
Part 1: Rehashing the Right Reasons™ Drama
Kaitlyn asks Aaron to explain why he (still) hates Cody, and that explanation involves Cody's "reckless social media posts" — including one in which he (allegedly) wrote, "I will be famous in six months." Cody insists that the story post was "taken out of context" (LOL) and that being famous was never his reason for going on The Bachelorette. Brendan calls BS on this, but then Karl of all people jumps in to accuse the men of bad behavior: "When you guys go after someone… it becomes a witch hunt!"
What? This from the guy who dropped the "a bunch of guys here are fameosexuals but I won't tell you which ones" bomb on Katie? That's rich. Naturally, the conversation turns to Karl's bad behavior in the house. The guys want to know: Who was he talking about when he shared that blind item with Katie? Was it Thomas?
"Of course it was f---ing Thomas!" Karl barks. "Thomas and me had a bad chemistry." Now it's Quartney's turn to call BS. He and the rest of the men are all, Admit that you were just talking out of your butt, dude! In response, Karl throws out an even crazier accusation: Brendan just did the show for a complimentary flight to America and free beer! (Huh?)
Uh-oh, things are starting to get a little too heated.
ABC Karl and Brendan get into it on 'Men Tell All'
Kaitlyn and Tayshia have no idea how to wrangle this explosion of toxic masculinity. Fortunately, Karl and Brendan eventually calm down on their own and take their seats again.
Part 2: (Almost) Everyone Hates Hunter
Once the guys are done roasting Karl, Tayshia steers the conversation toward Hunter. James called him "Thomas 1.5," adding that he's "half the size but twice the [bleeeeep]." Brendan, who's really going for it with his Paradise audition, blasts Hunter for his whispered "top four" conversation with Greg. Though Hunter admits that there was some "dishonesty" with that top four conversation — meaning, I guess, he flat-out lied about it at the roast — the little man still insists that he didn't lie about falling in love with Katie.
"I was asked if I was in love. Then I was asked if I was falling in love. Those are two totally different things," he says. "And I answered honestly that I did think I was falling. That was honest."
Since we're all being honest… I really am not a fan of Hunter's new haircut.
ABC Hunter defends himself on 'Men Tell All'
But that's not important right now. The real issue is that Hunter continues to insist that he was honest about the "love" stuff, and he's sorry if the other guys are mad about that, because they're wrong. The only person who's willing to defend Hunter — besides Hunter — is Connor B., who was Hunter's roommate. "I'm telling you, he was falling in love with Katie," says Connor. "You're just wrong about this."
Part 3: Connor B. in the hot seat
Go to a store, buy a hat, and get ready to hold the f--- onto it, rose lovers, because there's a whole lotta yuck in this segment. It starts early, right after Kaitlyn asks Connor if he's ever been told before that he's not a good kisser.
"I went back home; I texted like 2 or 3 people I'd kissed in the past," says Connor, blushing. "And I was like, 'Listen, am I a trash kisser? You gotta be honest with me.'" According to Connor, one of his exes said he was a good kisser, and… wait, what's going on?
Oh, there is a woman in the second row of the audience who has something to say.
ABC Girl, what?
"I just think you're absolutely adorable," she giggles. "I just know you can't be a bad kisser." Cue the studio audience Oooooooohs! Andrew S. begins chanting, "Kiss her now! Kiss her now!" as the crowd cheers, claps, and whoops it up as if Los Angeles isn't currently seeing an alarming spike in COVID cases. (They're up 80 percent, people!)
ABC Not pictured: The Delta variant
"I was literally checking you out earlier," says Connor, before exchanging saliva with a stranger indoors during a pandemic. The kiss goes on waaaaay too long, and then the young woman, Tara, sits down next to Connor on the couch. On a scale of one to 10, Tara says the kiss was an 11. Sure, honey.
ABC Kaitlyn is all of us.
Same, Kaitlyn. Please, end the segment. OH GOD, THEY'RE KISSING AGAIN END IT PLEASE END IT END IT NOW!
Part 4: Andrew S. in the hot seat
I'll be honest, rose lovers: I'm not really sure what to say about this segment. It's just not very interesting? Andrew says his breakup with Katie was hard because they never seemed to have an off moment in their "relationship." He says he's "still waiting for someone to pick me for me." He says he's a "hopeless romantic." Is he gunning to be the next Bachelor? I'm not mad at the idea, though the recently resurfaced offensive tweets from 2014 [heavy sigh] may hurt his chances.
Part 5: Michael A. (and his beard) in the hot seat
After a recap of Michael's "journey" — some of which literally just aired an hour ago — we cut back to the Tealight Candle Thunderdome, where everyone with a heart is on the verge of tears. Michael, who is a goddamn gem of a man, says that leaving the show was something he had to do. He was facing "that balance that all single parents try to keep together, which is taking care of somebody that they truly love while simultaneously trying to find happiness for themselves. When you pursue one, you feel as though it takes away [from] another."
Gah, that is so sad. On a happier note, look how handsome Michael is with his break-up beard!
ABC Michael A. on 'Men Tell All'
"There's tons of hope out there for me now," says Michael. "And it really wouldn't have existed if I didn't take this leap." Kaitlyn's right: We are all rooting for Michael A. to find love. But probably not on The Bachelor… right? I mean, the best thing for him and James would be to live the rest of their lives off-camera, right? BUT MY GOD WHAT A GOOD SEASON IT WOULD BE! Once again, I am at war with myself.
Part 6: From the cutting room floor
The first deleted scene features some "trash-talking" practice from the Bash Ball date. "Your eyes are blue like a urinal cake!" says Michael A., attempting to insult Mike P. (Even his trash-talk is adorable.) Credit where it's due — Hunter's dig about Aaron's veneers was pretty funny.
In another heretofore unseen moment, Michael A. admits to Shea Coulee and Monet X Change that he failed at the so-called "WoWo challenge." This somehow turns into a cute back-and-forth with Aaron about who has more stamina.
The final clip isn't from this season at all. It's a video of season 22 Bachelorette contestant Jason Tartick proposing to season 11 Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe. It's sweet and all, but the absolute best moment of the whole proposal wasn't the tears or Jason's heartfelt words — it was the instant that Kaitlyn realized this was happening, and dammit, she's simply not dressed for the occasion.
Well hey, at least it's a cute tequila shirt. And as you'll see here, that is a "HOLY S---!" worthy ring.
Part 7: Katie in the hot seat
First things first: No, Katie is not going to give Michael a second chance. "I have nothing but love for Michael," she says. "But ultimately I could not dwell on the past. I had to continue to move forward, and my ending is ultimately how everything was supposed to happen." Wow, doesn't she sound like a happily engaged woman? (No spoilers in the comments, please!) ((But seriously, is it me, or does Katie sound and look less than super happy?))
The Bachelorette also has "nothing but love and respect" for Andrew S. Hard to know if she can say the same for Aaron because after he tells the Bachelorette that he'll always be in her corner, this happens:
ABC Katie mixes up her men on 'Men Tell All'
And if you thought THAT was awkward, it looks like
aspiring musician math teacher Connor brought his damn ukulele to the Thunderdome.
ABC Dude, knock it off.
Enough of this nonsense. It's bad enough that we're going to have to put up with this guy in Paradise.
Speaking of annoying men we'll probably have to see on Paradise, look who's here!
ABC Thomas beams into 'Men Tell All'
Live, from somewhere else, it's Thomas! And he's apologizing because he's probably sick of people hating him! "A lot of my actions, they ended up taking away the attention from you and away from a lot of amazing guys in that room," says Thomas. "And I just want to say I'm so sorry for that." Katie accepts his apology, and she even apologizes to him if she caused him any "pain" by sending his ass packing on national television. Hooray for closure, I guess?
With that, and a brief blooper reel (highlight below), the MTA comes to a close.
Katie says she has no regrets, but what about you, rose lovers? (I certainly regret watching through the credits and hearing Greg's attempt at a British accent.) We're just two weeks away from the three-hour [heavy sigh] finale — who are you rooting for? Wouldn't it actually be kind of amazing if Katie did take a flight home and the show just ended? And should we just give in to Michael A. being the next Bachelor, or should we fight it with every fiber of our being? Post your thoughts below!