Well, cats and kittens, here we are. We’ve reached the point in the season when everything is unnecessarily emotionally intense and I’m basically just watching so my roommates and I can yell at the TV. It’s going to be a long slog from here on out. (Kind of like law school? No, just kidding, law school gets better at the end. Unless you take Fed Courts! But seriously, I’m just kidding.)
Last episode ended with a Corinne-and-Taylor two-on-one from which Corinne emerged victorious and Taylor was left in the Louisiana swamp to be eaten by alligators. Having evaded the alligators (which is impressive, because those prehistoric beasts are fast and their teeth are terrifying), Taylor rolls back into town to interrupt the dinner date portion of the evening, probably for the sole purpose of giving the producers a cliffhanger. Nick and Taylor part on good terms, and Taylor reiterates to the camera that she doesn’t think Corinne is right for Nick. Shocking stuff.
(The one good thing to come out of all that was yet another inexplicable Corinne one-liner that must have sounded pithier in her head: “What I learned tonight is that cats have nine lives and b****es have two.” WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, CORINNE? What could that possibly mean? You know what, at this point, don’t tell me. I’m enjoying the mystery.)
Next is the rose ceremony that could — and should — have happened at the end of last week’s episode. Nick ultimately sends Alexis, Josephine, and Jaimi home. I’ll miss Alexis, but she deserves someone more interesting; dolphins gotta swim, you know? (I also feel bad for Jaimi. Wouldn’t a plane ride home be really cathartic? You can wear sweatpants, cry into your hoodie, eat a bunch of snacks, and secretly enjoy watching whatever garbage is playing on the back of the seat in front you. But Jaimi’s from New Orleans! Production probably called her an Uber, and she was home in a cool 45 minutes. Kind of an anticlimactic ending, right?)
And then the whole team heads to St. Thomas. The first one-on-one goes to Kristina, a dental hygienist from Kentucky who was adopted from Russia as a child. I’ve mentioned before how often this franchise confuses disclosure with intimacy, and this date is no exception. Kristina tells Nick about her childhood: “It was hard because we didn’t have much food growing up. I don’t remember much but the cupboards were empty.”
There was actually moment, as Kristina described getting kicked out of the house at age 5 because she didn’t ration food properly, when the screen framed Nick’s face and a plate of untouched food on the table. He looked queasy; I like to think that he was confronting some uncomfortable truths about himself and privilege and this absurd franchise, but maybe he was just drunk.
The other ladies receive their group date card, and there’s quite a twist: Danielle L. and Whitney are not on the list, so they will be going on a two-on-one date. Given Danielle L.’s previous one-on-one with Nick, this turn of events surprised me. But honestly, maybe Danielle and Whitney got off easy, because when the rest of the ladies head out on the group date, it is immediately clear it’s going to be terrible (possibly worse than the Ben Higgins group date involving swimming with and getting pooped on by pigs. And you all know how I feel about pigs). It involves the women playing beach games against one another in a literal competition for Nick’s time and attention. Usually these dates happen earlier in the season when it feels less personal. Now that they’ve developed relationships (“relationships”) with Nick, they’re a lot less willing to play literal games over his heart. It looks like each woman spends most of her time on the date sitting off by herself, wrapped in a towel as a cold wind blows, crying quietly into her false eyelashes. I’ve probably been on worse dates, but damn, not by much.
Throughout the day, Jasmine (who, according to her caption, is an NBA dancer and that’s literally all I know about her) is starting to feel left out, and decides to talk to Nick about it. This is basically mirroring Dominique’s strategy earlier in the season, but with an added twist of Jasmine telling Nick how much she wants to choke him sometimes. His discomfort is palpable.
Jasmine: I mean, you know, you know what I mean?
Nick: I mean … kind of.
She is sent home immediately thereafter. We don’t even find out who gets the group date rose, and the whole thing is chalked up as a disaster.
Finally, Danielle L. and Whitney are preparing for their two-on-one. Danielle L. expresses some surprise at finding herself in that position given the strength of her connection to Nick, and Whitney responds, “Yeah, that’s the thing we both are thinking right now.” Okay, Whitney. You’ve been on zero dates and the way I told you and Astrid apart was that Astrid had a personality, but like … okay. My ambivalence is vindicated by Nick when he “breaks up” with Whitney in one of the most convoluted speeches I’ve ever heard. It’s transcribed here for your reading enjoyment:
With you and I, I feel like every time I’m with you, you have this amazing quality about you that for me there’s always this want and desire to make it great. So, knowing how important this rose is to me and knowing how much is on the line, as much as I really want to give it to you, I just in my heart I feel like I can’t. (pause) I don’t know. I mean.
Good Christ, Nick, what do you mean? What did any of that mean?!
Whitney responds by implying that Nick never gave her a chance, and that Danielle L. isn’t ready for a relationship. That theme is repeated by several other women throughout the course of the episode. It’s always interesting to see these fault lines emerge; maybe this was a huge topic of conversation all throughout filming, but it’s the first we’ve heard of it. Clearly the Danielle L. B-plot was backburnered to make more room for Corinne and Taylor, a great reminder that what we see might have very little to do with what actually happened. Anyway, Whitney doubles down on trashing the competition, but it isn’t enough to save her, and she watches Nick and Danielle L. ride away on a helicopter.
At this point, one of my roommates astutely noted that Nick never gave Danielle L. the rose, so what came next wasn’t a big surprise. They proceed to have an awkward dinner in which Danielle continues interviewing for the job of Nick’s three-month-fiancée and Nick pulls further and further away. At one point, he asks her to describe what kind of relationship she wants, and her response is … uninspired: “Love (pause) trust (pause) what about youuuuuuuuu?”. As one of my roommates pointed out, it sounds like a bad pop song. The conversation only gets worse as Danielle confesses she’s falling in love with Nick and he doesn’t really respond.
Roommate 1: Is he making a napkin animal?
Roommate 2: No, he’s awkwardly stroking her hand.
Roommate 1: … while contemplating dumping her?
And then he goes for it! He sends Danielle L. home, and then proceeds to have a total meltdown about the rest of the women. He tells the camera that his doubts are starting to get to him: “Not to discount the relationships I have left, but it’s hard not to wonder if the same thing is going to happen to the rest of my strong relationships.”
Nick marches into the women’s suite and cries, and then they cry, and then everyone is crying. To be clear, I have no problem with crying. I just don’t believe that Nick Viall is genuinely experiencing these emotions, and I find him utterly unsympathetic. Raven might have countless excuses for him, but I do not.
One last item of note: without Alexis, the end credits need another source of entertainment, and this week it’s Rachel and Corinne trying some gross chocolate that Jasmine gives them, with comical results. After weeks of seeing Corinne as the villain, it is fascinating to watch her hanging out with the other women with no apparent animosity or discord. She’s drinking wine on the couch with the girls, who laugh at the face she makes when she tastes the chocolate, then encourage her to wash it down with wine. Then she’s lounging on a bed with them, and the distinct impression I got was that they’re all … friends? Could this mean THE PRODUCERS HAVE BEEN LYING TO US?! I AM SHOCKED! Shocked. So shocked.
Tune in next week for: more crying and Corinne again using her sexuality as a weapon. Dear Lord. Here we go.
 Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the plantation where the rose ceremony was hosted as the Whitney Plantation. The Record sincerely regrets the error.