On Monday night, as bodies fill Stoney’s to watch the second episode of The Bachelorette, where our three Washington suitors are still in the running for our Helen of Troy, Hannah B., I am across town watching from the comfort of my home. What my apartment lacks in pools of rosé and the frenzied roars of crowds, it more than makes up for in peace and quiet. How am I supposed to get a Pulitzer if I can’t hear the TV?
As the opening music crescendoes, we’re greeted this weekend with an opening montage of Hannah B. leaping between the columns of a gazebo like she’s Liesel in The Sound of Music except, you know, she’s not in love with a Nazi.
And then—a quick cut to the men, a mass of virility and masculinity crammed like sculpted sardines in the Bachelor mansion, and yes, I can confirm JPJ’s luscious waterfall of hair looks even better under the California sunlight. And then there’s Luke S., looking like a mischievous James Dean in a fitted black T-shirt. Oh, Lucas, just like Dean, will you be gone from our screens too soon?
It’s time to get down to business. Out comes the date card, the names are read, and Luke S. and JPJ are both off on the first group date! It’s Lanham vs. DC, y’all, the Battle of the Beltway.
The men arrive at a theater, where they’re told they’ll all have to perform a talent, pageant-style, and then out come the Speedos! Yes, Speedos! Let’s hope it’s not too cold in there. Luke S., ever a respectable man, claims he’s never worn a Speedo which, come on, my dude, I think we all know is probably not true.
The Bachelors are ushered onto the stage in a series of fuzzy velvet robes (which JPJ looks a little too comfortable in) and then the music pumps, the lights start to pulse and then yes, there’s Luke S. strutting the catwalk in his Speedo, baring it all–his heart, his soul, his pale inner thighs–in the quest for Hannah B’s heart. It’s like we’re at the Westminster dog show, a series of judges inspecting these fine breeds, but minus the groomed fur and anxious canines—it’s just seas and seas of taut male flesh.
And then next comes JPJ, stopping at the end of the runway like he’s closing Paris Fashion Week, delivering a deadly one-two, flipping a wave of blonde hair over his face as he snaps the waistband of his Speedo. “I want him to be bold,” says Hannah B. in a voiceover as JPJ rotates his pelvis like the ghost of Elvis. Bold he is.
After Speedo-thon, it’s time for the talent section, and oh yes, God is good because JPJ is on a freaking unicycle. He wheels it down the aisle to Hannah as she raises her arms over her head, screaming like she’s front row at a Def Leppard concert. It turns out Luke S.’s talent is playing the trumpet, but is it a talent if you can’t do it at all? (He’s not very good. Like, not at all. As in, he’s truly terrible. Louis Armstrong rolls in his grave.)
And then the other Luke—Luke P.—takes to the stage and his talent is…telling Hannah B. he’s falling in love with her. Into the microphone. After knowing her for 48 hours. They kiss in front of everyone, in front of the other men, in front of God, in front of all of America, in front of her mom and ZZ Top-look-alike dad watching this back in Alabama.
And of course, with that brouhaha, the wrong Luke (Luke P.) wins the challenge, receiving the pageant’s crown of Mr. Right. (More like Mr. Right Away You Should Be Afraid of This Stage-Five Clinger, Hannah B.!)
At the cocktail party following the challenge, Luke S. is as dubious as I, staring into his glass of chardonnay. “I could never ever ever say that after knowing someone for such a short period of time,” he declares. And such upstanding behavior is why you got hired at Stoney’s, my honorable man.
JPJ wheedles his way into some one-one-one time with Hannah B. “You were awesome, and I had fun with you,” she says, the glow of his proud mane getting lost in the deep pools that are her dimples. He nods and smiles. I’m pretty sure he’s still wearing his Speedo under his clothes.
Neither JPJ nor Luke S. get the group date rose. Instead, it goes to a musician named Jed from Nashville, who plays the kind of acoustic music 17-year-old guys record on their Soundcloud accounts in their bedrooms. Our two Washington beaus sit by the edge of the bonfire, flames lighting their face, but they, like us, feel cold.
The day after, we’re back in the mansion, where the men gather in a sea of trendy hoodies—that is, except for Luke S., who has a man tank on. (By the way—where is freaking Joey from Bethesda? I honestly can’t tell him apart from all the other groomed, fit dudes.)
As another man gets whisked off on a one-on-one date via helicopter, the crew left behind stares forlornly at the sky, the blades kicking up dust in their eyes as the cypress trees around them wail like death, Hannah B. growing smaller and smaller until she’s just a speck in the California blue, like a dream they once had.
We can forward past this part: Hannah sits at a romantic two-top with this dude named like, Tyler or something, she talks about how she wants a family and kids, he for some reason wears a blazer with T-shirt, blah blah blah blah, he gets a rose, basking in the glow of Hannah B’s smooches and a million bedazzled votives that definitely came from a bin at Pier 1.
Up next is the second group date, which for some reason takes place at a roller derby rink. I know Joey is on this date because I heard his name called, but for the life of me, I cannot pick this man out of a crowd.
The men flail about on their wheeled feet while Hannah B. glides around in black lycra hot pants which like, how? And thankfully Joey is on screen with his name listed below which means I can finally identify him, and—yes! His team wins! He is on to the cocktail party!
The men, now showered and groomed and in their finest cocktail attire, sit in what looks like a Restoration Hardware storeroom, packed with antique wardrobes and rustic-looking picture frames. And shit—now I don’t know which one is Joey again.
Drama ensues, Hannah B. smooches and chats and giggles by the flicker of a thousand tea lights, and oh, there’s Joey, just tucked behind the broad-shouldered blazers of a few other contestants. At least I know he’s alive—I was afraid he’d fallen into, like, a galvanized flower pot or something.
Then before you know it, our two hours of Bachelorette time is almost up and here it is—time for another rose ceremony. As with all things reality TV, nothing is simple. Hannah B. cries (or maybe it’s just her really glittery eyeshadow?), male egos are dropped and bruised like fruit in the produce aisle, and one grown man throws chicken nuggets at another grown man which, yeah, checks out but also seems like a waste of some perfectly good nuggies.
And in comes Chris Harrison, which can mean only one thing: Time to hand out the roses. I have to be honest—I am not feeling confident. Our DMV boys haven’t gotten a lot of time in, which makes me think they may not be long for this bizarre little world.
A man who I think is Joey but I’m not really sure faces the camera and admits he has no clue what’s going to happen. Me neither, Phantom Joey. Me neither. The men fidget, their pocket squares peeking out in fear. Hannah B., holding roses red like her dress, begins to call out names.
And yes—fear not countrymen! Luke Stone is safe! JPJ is safe! And that dude I think must be Joey is safe, too! Hannah B.’s teeth take over the screen as a tidal wave of men come crashing down, and we did it—our trio made it through another week. Tonight, the Beltway sleeps.