Kristen Baldwin Explains Why Fans Are Still Excited About ‘The Bachelor’ Twenty-Five Seasons In
EW TV Critic, Kristen Baldwin, discusses the new season of 'The Bachelor,' and chats about Matt James, the show's first Black bachelor, what makes the star so endearing, this year's contestants, what twists fans can expect, and more!
This week on The Bachelor, the trash took itself out. Well, actually, Matt took it out — or to be even more accurate, he stared at it blankly while it stomped out of the room all on its own. In other words, Victoria is gone, rose lovers! Yet #bullygate continues.
We begin with some of the "ladies" out for their morning constitutional around Nemacolin's grounds. Victoria, power-walking with Kit, can't stop griping about the "new girls" and how "disgusting" they are. When Ryan and Brittany happen to stroll by, the four women pass each other in chilly silence. "I just can't stand her," sniffs Victoria. Assume the "her" in this case is unjustly maligned Brittany, a.k.a. the one Anna said is an escort.
Brittany is, of course, still hurt and angry about the rumor. "It's been a really hard week for me," she sighs. "I wouldn't wish this on anyone." The question is, now that Matt knows about all this "toxic" energy in the house — thanks to Katie, who filled him in on it last week — what is he going to do about it at the cocktail party? Here he comes now! Let's listen in…
Solemnly, Matt addresses the group about the "mob mentality" and "culture of bullying" that's running rampant in the house. "If you're having to belittle someone else for you to shine, those are not the qualities I'm looking forward for in my wife," he warns. "It sucks, 'cause, like, I don't get enough time with you all, and now I've got to deal with this." The absolute best moment, though, comes when the Bachelor mentions "rumors that were floating around that could potentially ruin someone's life," and the camera immediately zooms in accusingly on Anna.
Girl, you are so busted. "It's me," sighs Anna. "Like, everyone knew it was me. I made a mistake, I made a stupid comment about Brittany. I'm just like, 'Who the f--- went to him?'" Fortunately for Katie, none of them suspect that she is the mole. And you know what? Even if they found out, who gives a frog's fat ass? Katie did the right thing, dammit!
Matt pulls Brittany for a one-on-one chat first, though up until this point it didn't seem like he was aware that she's the one being targeted by a nasty rumor. Anyhow, Brittany tells him the whole story upfront. "That's not true, and everyone back at home knows that's not true," she says. Her voice begins to quiver. "It sucks because this is on national TV. Like, my mom watches this show." In fairness, all Brittany signed up for was almost-certain embarrassment on a reality TV dating show that her mom watches. She absolutely did not agree to be slandered. (Unless, of course, she signed anything listing the show's eligibility requirements.) ((Check out number 3 under "Additional Requirements."))
Of course, Matt is deeply troubled by everything he hears from Brittany. "I am so sorry that you're having to deal with that," he says. "For this to work, we have to create a comfortable environment for everybody." To that end, it's time to weed out the mean girls. Anna, you're up!
Last week, we saw Anna gleefully tell anyone who would listen that Brittany "may be having a transactional relationship with men for money." This week, she's all contrite and ashamed, bemoaning the fact that she "made a mistake" in the form of "an offhanded comment." Girl, you repeated it at least two times. ON CAMERA. Go ahead and blame the editing, which I'm sure you will, but please try to remember that you are not the victim here.
To her credit, Anna pretty much owns up to spreading the rumor, calling it "me being a shallow person in the worst moment ever." She assures Matt that she apologized to Brittany (which is, like, half-true) and that she feels "so immensely horrible" about the whole thing. The Bachelor is gracious about the situation ("I don't think you're a horrible person"), but he doesn't give her a pass. "I have a responsibility to the women that are here, to Brittany, to myself… to follow my heart," he says. In other words, buh-bye.
Drive safe. See ya never. Back in the hotel lobby, the "OG" "ladies" have all started to see the error of their mean girl ways. "I feel sick to my stomach that you guys were going through that and we were just completely oblivious to it," says Serena P. Adds Kit, "From now on, I will do my very best to make it better." For Pete's sake, even Victoria's been scared straight, and we know that girl ain't sorry for nothing. First, she apologizes to Catalina for stealing her crown, and then she offers some revisionist history to Brittany. "I do not think that you were treated fairly." Serena C., who does not participate in the mass mea culpa charade, sums it up perfectly: "I can't even explain the kiss-assery that is going on."
Ryan, one of the "new girls," is justifiably skeptical. "Suddenly people are apologizing from left and right," she says. "At the end of the day, you know wrong is wrong. You could have said this two days ago, last night, immediately. And now you're saying it out of convenience for yourself." So when she gets some one-on-one time with Matt, Ryan wastes no time filling him in on the crap she's been put through. "The main thing that has just aggravated me is with Victoria," she says. "She told me to my face, because I'm a dancer, she flat-out stated that I was a 'ho,' and she laughed about it after." Matt is, in a word, bummed.
Awww, now Ryan's crying. "I am so sorry that you're having to deal with that," says to the Bachelor. "Because that's not the type of environment that I'm trying to create for you, and I'm not going to stand for that." Cue the heavenly chorus, rose lovers: Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Matt says he thought Victoria had a "big heart," but now he knows the truth. And when Victoria finds out that Ryan complained to Matt about her, she knows her days are numbered. "Lit-er-ley everything was going amazing. Lit-er-ly," she whines, after walking away from Ryan mid-conversation. "These f---ing losers create these problems when everything is fine."
Actually, honey, everything isn't fine. Your bra, for example, is extremely not fine.
Could someone please teach this woman how to pair a dress with the proper bra???
Naturally, Victoria rushes over to Matt and attempts to do some damage control. "There's definitely some things I can work on," she says lamely. The "ho" comment was "completely taken out of context," Victoria continues — and just as I was screaming "there is no good context to call someone a 'ho'" at the screen, Matt asks the "Queen" the same question. "I'm just curious, like, what context would calling someone a 'ho' be acceptable to be taken in?" Victoria has no answer; she just sighs and twists her hair silently.
When Chris Harrison arrives to summon the "ladies" to the rose ceremony, Victoria storms off to whine and cry to producers — first in the bathroom and then outside.
"I'm the only one with a working f---ing brain in this room," she continues, as the rest of the women eavesdrop from the lobby. "And I'm not even being rude, I'm being serious. If he's going to believe some idiot over me, he's not my person… If that happens, I'll literally die."
Welp, somebody had better alert Victoria's next of kin. It's rose ceremony roll call time! Brittany, Ryan, Rachael, Serena P., Magi, Kit, MJ, Jessenia, Katie, Abigail, Chelsea, and Serena C. join Bri, Pieper, and Michelle in the Circle of Safety™. So sorry, Mari, Catalina, and Lauren, but this means it's time to say goodbye. As for you, Victoria? I think Matt says it best.
"He just stared at me," she huffs. "Like, how dare you?" Actually, though, silence is the best response to this wench. (On the bright side, it seems like Victoria finally learned how to pronounce "jester.")
As the remaining women toast to "a clean slate" and celebrate Victoria's departure, the "Queen" goes on and on in her confessional about how sad everyone will be that she's leaving. "The whole house is going to feel like s--- that I'm gone," she says through her tears. "Like, I brought so many people joy." Excellent trolling, Team Bachelor. Top-notch.
It's a rainy, dreary day as the dates begin. The first one-on-one goes to… Rachael! And it's not just any date — it's Pretty Woman shopping spree time, y'all!
Producers have done their best to transform one of the Nemacolin shops into a mini-Rodeo Drive, and they've brought in "celebrity stylist" Ty Hunter (a.k.a. Matt's "great friend," LOL) to make the experience even more glamorous. "I've never been treated like an actual princess like this," gushes Rachael. "He's showing me that he can care for me and wants to make me happy in all sorts of ways." Not sure that "ability to spend someone else's money" is something one should look for in a spouse, but hey, Rachael seems like a nice person — why shouldn't she get a free pair of Louboutins?
Also, why is production bothering to cover up the label on the shoebox? Louboutin literally (lit-er-ly) has a trademark on the red-sole design!
Though the other "ladies" are very jealous, they like Rachael enough to pretend to be happy for her… at least to her face. "It's just hard to watch other people get what I want, and I have no control over the situation," frets Pieper. "I'm so freakin' over it."
That night, Rachael arrives to dinner wearing the cobalt blue evening gown Matt (or producers?) chose for her, and she and the Bachelor sit down for an evening of fine dining. (Which they will ignore, of course.) Much like Matt, Rachael has never been in love — in part because she doesn't think she deserves love. "First off, like, I think you're out of my league," she tells Matt. "I don't have a lot of confidence in myself sometimes." This seems insane, given how gorgeous she is, but insecurity doesn't care what we look like — it comes for us all.
At the very least, Rachael knows that she needs to love herself if she wants to have a healthy relationship with someone else. And Matt is definitely digging her "just standing over here being normal" vibe. "You've never been the loudest, you've never been the first one to run up," he says. "You're so subtle… and I love that about you."
Hmmm… Is it "subtle" to tell a guy that you're "completely falling in love" on your first actual date? Not really, but Rachael does it anyway! And she doesn't stop there: "I want to walk out of here with you. And I want to start my life with you." Wait… what? Did I miss something? This woman has been essentially in the background for a month and now she and Matt are, like, "falling in love" with each other? Even for this show, that seems very fast. Give her the dang date rose, Matt.
Let us move on to the group date! Matt brings Serena P., Bri, Katie, Pieper, Serena C., Ryan, Michelle, Brittany, Magi, Abigail, Chelsea, Jessenia, and MJ to a local farm, where they're welcomed by a nice man named Ty. "Much like a relationship, a farm takes patience and hard work," says Ty. "Also like on a farm, you sometimes have to deal with s---." Correct, Farmer Ty! Now put these "ladies" to work.
Though MJ is sick of being on group dates, she's doing her best to "shine through" today. First, she fails to milk Frenchie the goat, and then she fails to collect any eggs from the chicken coop — because the chickens are too scary. The other women think her antics are just a ploy to get attention, which irritates them. Have none of them seen this show before? Also, can't they see that Matt and MJ have approximately zero chemistry? Matt and Pieper, however…
Yep, the Bachelor just interrupted Pieper's interview to give her a smooch… and that smooch is still going on. When the women see Matt and Pieper kissing, it makes them sad. (Again I ask, have none of them seen this show?) "I feel like I'm putting myself in a situation to feel hurt," says Michelle. "I don't want that." In that case, hon, you are definitely on the wrong show.
At the post-date cocktail party, Matt pulls Chelsea for the first chat. Side note: Her coat is da bomb.
Chelsea is breathtaking and seems very poised, but she insists that she's "awkward" around boys. Um, okay. Even if she is, Matt LOVES it. "I don't know if I tell you this enough, but I am very happy you're here," he says, before leaning in for a kiss.
Abigail, meanwhile, is feeling insecure about her "connection" with Matt. After all, her first impression rose was weeks ago. Like a true student of this show, Abigail decides the time is now to Open Up™, which is exactly what she does when she sits down with Matt. "You want a wife and you want a family, and you know I want those things too," she says. "But if I were to have a family, there's a really strong possibility that my kids would be deaf." We also learn that Abigail's dad walked out on the family when she was young, and that's left her with an understandable fear of abandonment. The Bachelor can relate — his dad walked out, too — and he wants Abigail to know that he admires her strength and is encouraged about their future together. (Ugh, I love Abigail so much there's absolutely no way he's going to choose her.)
Matt says he still needs to talk to MJ about the aforementioned "toxic" atmosphere in the house. Her name came up during conversations with the other women, as "someone who was, like, an antagonist," and he wants to know what's up. The hairdresser, who is absolutely guilty of being hostile towards the new women, is shocked (shocked!) by these allegations. "I lead by example," she tells the Bachelor. "If I see something, I'm gonna make peace and harmony… You can trust me." (Has anyone trustworthy ever said, "You can trust me"?)
MJ is all riled up when she returns to the holding pen. "My character was put in question tonight," she announces. "I was called an antagonist in the house, which is a really strong accusation… The floor's open for a conversation." Serena C., Bri, Katie, and Michelle stare back at her in silence, but then Jessenia speaks. "Matt approached me and asked what was the culture like in the house," she says. "I told him, you know, there has been terms used like 'varsity,' 'JV,' and I did mention your name." MJ stares at her, open-mouthed, in response. The "varsity" cracks were just a "joke," she insists. "I've tried to stick up for other people!" (Narrator: She hasn't.)
When MJ goes so far as to demand an apology from Jessenia (LOL), Katie cannot stay silent anymore. "I feel like you're deflecting," she says. (Narrator: She is.) This is painful. Matt, can you please just get back here and hand out the date rose?
Guys, the last one-on-one date goes to… Kit. As in, Kit the 21-year-old "fashion entrepreneur." When Matt said, "Tonight is Kit's night," at first I literally (lit-er-ly) thought he said, "Tonight is kids' night," and that the activity was going to involve chicken fingers and a Pixar movie. Instead, he's invited Kit over to "his" place for dinner — and he's even busting out the Swiffer duster for the occasion!
To quote Paris Hilton, that's hot.
A quiet date at "home" is exactly what Kit wants. She's the daughter of a famous fashion designer, you see, and she spent a lot of time in the public eye growing up. "I've built up so many walls over the years," she admits. "I have felt very seen by Matt, so I really want to build the house on the foundation that I've started in the past few weeks."
Matt and Kit start by baking chocolate-chip cookies — in between make-out breaks, of course. Kit is touched that Matt remembered how much she loves being in the kitchen (it's one of the ways she bonds with her mother), and she's hopeful that he might be able to help her "get in touch" with her emotions. The Bachelor wants to know what their life together might look like, and Kit's all, "Tonight, minus the camera crew." (I'm paraphrasing.)
In a somewhat shocking turn of events, Kit becomes the second woman in this episode to tell Matt that she's falling in love with him. Kit! We've barely seen her since night one, and now she gets a one-on-one and a "legitimate contender" edit? What is happening, rose lovers??? And lo, Kit gets the date rose, which she holds awkwardly as Matt kisses her.
The episode is almost over, so that's probably the last rose we're going to see tonight. But there's still one little bit of drama left. As the "ladies" are hanging out in the living room, they're startled by a knock on the door. Though it looks like a date card, the note is actually a grim invitation from Matt: "MJ and Jessenia, I need to know the truth. Meet me at the cocktail party before the other women arrive."
So… it's a mini-two-on-one date? I'll take it! Pack your bags, "ladies" — one of you is getting kicked to the curb tonight.
Gotta love a good suitcase showdown. Both MJ and Jessenia have their game faces on as they arrive for the summit with Matt. "Big hair, big hoops, big energy tonight," says MJ. "Y'all want to see me fight? Get your popcorn." Jessenia, however, seems far more serene — even as MJ starts berating her before Matt shows up. "I am furious," she huffs. "You should be embarrassed because we are here because of your actions right now." This, rose lovers, is what's known as projection.
"Are you done?" Jessenia asks calmly. She goes on to remind MJ that she lied to Matt about not bullying the new girls. Jessenia also tells MJ that she has three personalities: "Who you are at the house, who you are with Matt, and who you are when the cameras are on." Eventually things devolve into a shouting match, with MJ yelling about how she "leads by example" and Jessenia yelling back that MJ's own actions are what's damaging her character.
Finally, Matt arrives… just in time for the episode to end! We'll have to wait until next week to find out which "lady" will prevail. Before you go, rose lovers, I have a few questions. Are you Team MJ or Team Jessenia? Do producers seriously want us to believe that Matt and Kit could wind up together? And would you ever dig through wet, poop-filled hay for a date? Post your thoughts below!