‘The Bachelorette’ Recap: Tension in Taiwan

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After a week off for the July 4th holiday, The Bachelorette is back and as tear-filled as ever.

We’ve finally moved past the drama of Bentley and our group of lovers has traveled to Taiwan. Chris Harrison greets the remaining six guys in Taipei, telling them that their time there marks a “very important week.” Silly Chris, don’t you realize that all the weeks are important? What he meant to say is this week’s episode marks the show before the next slightly-more important episode — the hometown date! This week Ashley will be saying “see ya” to two guys whose families she doesn’t care to meet. The remaining four will all get a chance to show off their so-called real lives to our Bachelorette.

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But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we? Let’s kick some hopeful romantics off the show first. Chris Harrison tells the guys that this week’s date schedule has changed: there will be three one-on-one dates and one group date. Moreover, there will only be one Safety Rose to give out (at the group date) so Ashley won’t be able to give them out willy-nilly as she has in the past. Perhaps Chris Harrison has realized that Ashley hasn’t been treating the roses with the respect that they deserve and is trying to rein her in. Or maybe he just wants to get this show on the road so he can make time for the big Emily interview that ABC has been promising. (Spare us.)

Anyway, back to the boys. They clearly aren’t happy with the limited roses, especially JP. He’s particularly jealous and is showing a possessive side for the first time. While it’s understandable, it’s definitely not attractive. Though his jealousy doesn’t come across in insane rants, but rather in little silent stews as he sits staring, jaw clenched. It’s not insane exactly, but from someone we’ve come to root for (right? I’m can’t be alone here on this one, can I?) it’s unsettling. And he continues to steam when the first date card arrives and lucky boy Constantine begins to dress for his date.

Though it seems he needn’t have been overly jealous — as Ashley greets Constantine she reveals that their date will include a steam engine train ride to a small village. Yet, while it hardly seems like a dream date, Ashley does admit that she thinks “there is something romantic about a train ride.” And though the countryside does look beautiful, it’s a bit hard to take her romantic claims about mass transit seriously. Constantine seems comfortable enough with the date, however, and once they arrive in the small village of Ping-Shi he seems genuinely pleased with the date’s activity: paper lantern decorating. As the duo go about painting their “love wishes” on the lantern, meant to be released later that evening, Ashley can’t help her surprise at Constantine’s gusto. “Constantine is really taking this lantern thing seriously,” she says, revealing that even she thinks the whole idea is pretty much a farce. Yet during dinner Constantine definitely holds back from our Bachelorette, mentioning that he thinks they could work “if” he was in love. Which is basically a confession of non-love, but Ashley doesn’t seem to mind (or notice) because the Love Wish Lanterns distract her, as does Constantine’s long, weird passionless kiss. If she had a Safety Rose to give, you know Constantine would have gotten it.

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The next one-on-one date goes to Ben, who gets the pleasure of enjoying the most adventurous, riskiest. adrenaline-triggering date of the entire season: a moped ride on a seemingly abandoned road. (Though the risk involved could be compared to the flash mob dance-fest in one of the first episodes. It’s tough to say.) After the couple enjoy all the romance that a moped ride has to offer, they sit down to (what else?) a quiet dinner, complete with wine. Once Ashley takes a sip, she tells wine-maker Ben that it tastes like the bottle he’d given her from his vineyard when they first met. He answers with a hesitant “there are some similarities,” which is barely-disguised code for “you know nothing about wine.” They then chat about the future and Ben confesses to Ashley that he’s on “the tipping point” of love, which she naturally eats up. They then share a tame kiss.

The next day the other guys are all wondering where Ben is. It seems he never returned from his date the night before. Though we know nothing juicy happened — there’s no way the producers would have left that tidbit on the cutting room floor — JP’s mind is filled with possibilities and he doesn’t like any of them. As he mopes around the suite in anger (yes, apparently, angry moping is possible), Ben waltzes through the door, happy as a clam. Of course, he teases the other guys by alluding that something could have happened (it didn’t), JP gets up and walks out of the room.

What could possibly make JP more miserable? How about a group date with Lucas and Ames?  What’s more, how about a group date where the guys take turns posing for faux-wedding photos? Yes, that’ll do it (though to be fair, that would likely make anyone miserable). As the guys transparently fake enthusiasm for the ridiculous date, they step into a change room to don their groom costumes. Lucas steps out swathed in a golden traditional Taiwanese robe (one would assume that’s what it was, that is), Ames is stuffed into a cheesy-retro blue tux with a frilly shirt and JP gets a regular old slick black tux. As they each take turns posing for the most awkward looking photos ever (who thought this was a good idea?) JP continues to dwell on how jealous he is. Even Ashley, in her wedding-fever haze, seems to notice that something’s amiss as she instructs him to be happy. Ashley is clearly disappointed with the shoots, noting that “the guys didn’t have as much fun as I thought they would.” C’mon Ash, now you’re just toying with all of us, right?

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Once the horror-fest is over, the group heads to the bar and the tone of the party is unsurprisingly subdued. Ashley takes each guy aside for some wedding-photo-damage control. Lucas reveals about of his own jealousy as he gripes about the other guys and Ames, goofily charming as ever, shows Ashley some family and childhood photos of himself. Ashley responds with a what is both a vague and entirely appropriate response: “You’re a very unique guy.” She then gets some alone time with JP where he reveals how he’s been driven to jealousy by her dates with the other guys. However, he kind of wins me back here because he seems ashamed, not angry, about the jealousy and Ashley responds by giving him the episode’s single Safety Rose. Of course, JP regains his old, self-assured swagger in a snap (“I feel back on cloud nine”).

And at long last, Ryan finally gets his first one-on-one date. That’s right, the most optimistic guy in the group hasn’t even spent alone time with Ashley. After the two head to a temple and make wishes on some sort of Taiwanese skipping stones, they sit down for a meal. And here’s where the problems begin. Ryan begins to open up to Ashley about his greatest passion: the environment. And while anyone can appreciate how worthy a passion the earth is, it’s most definitely not sexy. And by Ashley’s bored stiff reaction — she basically just sits there smiling and nodding, but minus the smiling — it’s clear that she has no patience for earth-love when they should be talking about Ashley-love. And as he moves on from his love for the environment to his love for his family, she stops him and tells him she’s sending him home, then and there. He looks understandably crushed, and as it’s the first time we’ve seen him anything but crazy-happy, it’s a little heartbreaking. As the saddest music known to reality TV swells, he says “You don’t want to meet my family?” and you can practically hear hearts breaking across America. (Ryan as the next Bachelor? No, no, no, please no, I don’t care how bad we feel now, don’t let this happen.)

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So the week has come to a near close and it’s time for another Rose Ceremony. As Ashley confidently tells Chris Harrison that she doesn’t need time to think, we skip the prerequisite cocktail party. (Side note: Has any other Bachelorette/Bachelor played as quick and loose with the rules as Ashley? I really don’t think so.) As JP already has the Safety Rose, Ashley give the remaining three to Ben, Constantine and Ames, sending Lucas home. For his part, Lucas is very gracious, simply telling her “no regrets” and wishing her farewell. Ashley on the other hand falls apart with a “maybe I wasn’t cut out for this,” echoing what we’ve all been thinking since week two.

And speaking of qualified Bachelorettes, for the rest of the episode we head back to L.A. with Chris Harrison where he sits down with Emily to discuss her break-up with Brad. As Emily steps out of the limo, already tearfully shaking, there can’t be any doubt that she’ll be the next Bachelorette, can there? As she explains where things went wrong with her and Brad — schedules, distance, paparazzi, blah, blah, blah — she confesses that she will always have a place for Brad in her heart. “No one will hear me say a bad word about him,” she says; the sound of tabloid editors across the country saying, “Challenge: accepted!” echoes faintly in the distance. It’s clear that the only reason that Emily is doing this interview is to establish herself as the next Bachelorette, though I’m not complaining. She’s sweet and sunny and the idea of her sitting calmly by while 25 guys dance to impress her is kind of irresistible. And it’s been impressive to see how she’s commanded so much attention on this season of the show when she’s not even, you know, on the show.

Poor Ashley.

If you want to catch up on the show, head over to ABC and come back here next week for the hometown dates’ recap.

Megan Gibson is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @MeganJGibson. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.