As connoisseurs (and -seuses) of all things romantic, we here at XOXO After Dark are naturally watching The Bachelorette. Come back every week to see the latest recap of every fight, every tear–and of course, every rose.

Welcome, Bachelorette fans or hate-watchers! I skipped recapping the first ep, but the short version is that Desiree, recently spurned by Aryan Poster Boy Sean, is our fair princess this season. She remains sweetly good-natured, if not an obvious brain trust so far. The producers really shafted her by supplying 25 guys, of whom mayyyyybe six are dateable. The rest are bros, serial killers, or clowns to varying degrees. First guy to get a rose is the apparently charming Ben, who played the “I have an adorable son” card straight out of the limo. (However, previews suggest that Ben will become this season’s villain ere long.)

I can’t keep everyone straight at this point, but here are some of the losers who didn’t go home first: a dude who arrived in a full suit of armor (but who couldn’t really walk in it); an ER doc with the eyes of Patrick Bateman and some questionable dance moves; a guy who designed his own mismatched comedy suit that looked like a patchwork quilt; and a guy whose chyron says he’s in book publishing. She actually kept both a guy who arrived with no shirt, and a guy who insisted on saying hashtags with everything (hashtag literally). So who did go home first? A guy who introduced himself by giving Des an “invitation to the fantasy suite,” and after she gracefully demurred, tried the same gambit THREE MORE TIMES (getting progressively drunker) before Des finally said, “You know what? Don’t wait around for the rose ceremony. You’re making me uncomfortable and I want you to go now.” Props to the bachelorette for not putting up with nonsense or creepazoids! Boo to the show producers for their crappy screening of weirdos!

On tonight’s episode, we open in the Malibu Bachelor Coop, while the twenty or so roosters left strut and peck at each other, trying to establish dominance. Interestingly, I don’t think there’s a single blond. Just Des’s taste, or attempting to avoid memories of Sean? Chris Harrison plays fox in the henhouse by coming in to tell them that Des is arriving That! Very! Morning! to pick up one (1) bachelorooster for a date. Assorted talking heads ensue, including one in which I fail to recognize Shirtless Zak with his shirt on.

Desiree chooses Brooks to be her one and only date today, and picks him up in a baby blue convertible Bentley (though I’m pleased to see that she doesn’t give up the driver’s seat for him!). She’s in a hot pink dress and the whole effect is that of a Katy Perry video. And what’s their exciting date? Trying on wedding dresses, wheeeee! This is nominally relevant because Des wants to design wedding dresses, but really it’s an excuse to make the bachelor anxious about marriage right away, and to show off pretty Des in various gowns. Brooks is required to put on some truly awful tuxes (including a kelly green number that is surely a leprechaun costume ABC had in the back of the studio somewhere) before getting a decent one, and then they go off to walk the streets of Malibu, still in their wedding finery, much to the delight of random (or recruited?) passersby.

After that (still in the wedding outfits—hey, did you guys pay for those?) they drive up a windy road to the Hollywood sign, and it’s all super-adorbs if you actually believe this show is about true love. They walk right up to its feet (because it’s the 90th anniversary of the sign, so there’s access?), and I’m just thinking that she’s getting the hem of that gown all dirty. In fact, I’m so worried about the dress that I miss the requisite “I am open to love” conversation. But you all know what that entails, right? They’ve each been hurt by others, but they each love with their whole hearts, yada yada yada. Des ends by saying, “I’m ready…” and then looking into the distance wearily as she mutters, “I’m so ready.” Easy, Des! It’s too early to let us see behind the curtain!

Shaking off her momentary despair, Des hops back in the Bentley (which is a pretty adorable car, it must be said) and drives them to their next mystery location…behind some road barricades? Gotta say, Brooks is pretty blithe when Des hops out and asks him to help her move the barriers so they can drive onto a bridge—I think he might be onto how this show works, guys. And indeed, there is a candlelight dinner set up on this random bridge that’s all lit in purple. Brooks tells Des a bit about his parents’ divorce, which gets him all choked up, but I confess I find Brooks kind of boring, so I keep tuning out when he’s talking. But he gets a rose! Lucky him.

Back at the ranch, the dudebros get the first group date card, for fourteen of them. The “clue” (which is always either completely meaningless or right on the nose) asks, “Who’s here for the right reason?” I think it’s asking the wrong question. The right one would be, “What is the right reason for being here?” I think it would reveal so much more about our lil’ roosters.

Back with Des and Brooks, they’ve moved on to the now-obligatory “private concert” involving some slightly desperate pop star playing to a single couple. Tonight’s performer is Andy someone (Grammer, as it happens…sings that “You gotta keep your head up” song), playing on an electric keyboard. The only thing redeeming about the experience is that there isn’t a paltry group of extras staring adoringly at Brooks and Des as they dance.

Coming up: the group date is going to involve making a “rap” video. Does that make Des a video vixen? She’s prepared for this by wearing an extraordinarily tight, short dress (in a lovely shade of fuchsia) and crazy-high stilettos. She then acknowledges that she’s no rapper, so she introduces their expert, Soulja Boy, who will be helping them create the video for the “song” For the Right Reasons. All the guys take turns rapping a rhyme for Soulja Boy, who picks his favorites to be leads while the rest of them learn to dance. (FWIW, Will, the only African-American candidate, contentedly admits in a confessional that he is not a rapper.)

Rappin' bachelors

There are still too many guys, so I can’t figure out who everyone is, but they all get their lines (thankfully, there will be no freestyling in the actual video) and figure out that they’re making fun of failed bachelors from seasons past.

Ben and Des are dressed country-style in cowboy hats and plaid, and Ben has a guitar. He’s playing a singer who’s only on the show to promote his single. One of the juicehead-ish guys is heckling, but it doesn’t seem to faze anyone. Next guy has a “fake broken leg and a girl back home,” forgets the next line but makes up a rhyme that’s actually serviceable. Well-done, generic muscle-y dude! I hope I learn your name someday. Des and Ben rap

One of them’s playing Jason Meznick (“I proposed one day, the next changed my mind…”). Burn? The next is Brandon, who they put in hot pants and make him lounge all over Des on a chaise lounge.  As we wrap up, there’s a group dance in the driveway that reveals that none of these people have a lick of rhythm.

The triumphant crew return to the house [ed. – oh, not the regular house, just another party house for the group date crew] having changed into suits (and Des into a much more comfortable-looking tunic & leggings) for the cocktail party. But more interesting than any of this is the fact that the BachelorNationSpeaksOut tweet feature at the bottom of the screen quotes one Alexa, who tweets: “I wish #thebachelorette would stop airing those tweets that cover the whole bottom of the screen.” Some intern is giggling wildly right now.

Anyway, back to the party. Shirtless Zak (again properly attired, but still with stupid hair) steals Des away to prove his seriousness by showing Des a book that he gave to his daughter. Des reads the inscription while I wonder, “Does your daughter know you took her book?”

The other men are sitting around the coffee table staring at a single rose in a candy dish like dogs slavering over a bone. Musclebound Heckling Dude (who turns out to be Mikey T. the plumber) is cockblocked (er, can we say cockblocked on XOXO?) by Ben the daddy. Des asks if he misses Brody, his son, and that lets Ben do the Adoring Daddy bit again. He’s pretty smooth as he moves in for a kiss…and then we cut to some parapet somewhere (WTF, this Malibu house has parapets?) where Brandon is lurking in the shadows like Batman. His eyes glitter with unshed tears as he shows his chiseled profile to the camera. Oh, ladies, can’t you feel the pain? The sensitive, manly pain? Brandon is surely here for the right reasons, you must agree. (If the right reasons are “opportunities to show one’s chiseled profile to cameras.”)

Time for fighting! Ben’s move on Des still rankles Mikey, so he decides to discuss it. He accuses Ben of not being genuine, but only being politic in front of the cameras. Essentially, he’s saying Ben is this season’s Tierra. (No way, dude—Tierra had sparkle. Until it was stolen.) Ben denies it all, then says in a confessional that he doesn’t really care what the other guys think. There’s no screaming, so I can’t tell what the outcome was.

Cut to another date card—this time it’s for Bryden (the veteran, I think?), who’ll get a one-on-one date…but that’s all we have time for before we cut to weirdly insecure Brandon, scrambling for Des time.

Brandon Brandon apologizes for not having an Ivy League education or a wealthy background, and explains that his dad ran away from the family when Brandon was five (and hasn’t been seen since!), and his mom became a drug addict, so that by eleven or so he was cutting class to get his little brother to school and take care of his baby sister. OK, that is very sad and probably deserving of more attention and thought than a six-week experience on a reality show can deliver.  Des is touched and kind to him, and a newly confident Brandon says in confessional that he’s “falling in like” with her.

Now Des is ready to hand out the party rose, and it goes to…Ben, for “using his time wisely.” Hmm. Des’s announcement is received as well as you can expect—with total silence. Brandon’s not psyched, since he just brought out the big guns, backstory-wise, and it didn’t do the trick. Is there anything that can defeat the Cuteness Ray that is little Brody?

The next day, Des is back in her cute blue car. She doesn’t come to the door for Bryden, but just honks the horn. Des, didn’t your parents teach you that it’s polite for your date to walk up and get you? Mine frowned on boys who just honked from the curb. Bryden doesn’t seem to mind, though, and the two of them go off to explore California on a “road trip.” First stop: the beach!

Des is in another hot pink outfit and looks cute, while I think Bryden could have tried a little harder. They stop for…fish tacos? Yum! and then they head north, from El Matador Beach and kite-flying to an orange grove. Or a place called Orange Grove? It’s marked as such on the BachelorMap (Mapelor?) but I don’t think that’s exactly drawn by Funk & Wagnalls.

After the commercial, it’s night, and they arrive at a tree festooned in lights with a table for two underneath it. Very pretty, but I missed where we are. Not in the orange grove anymore. (OK, next week I’ll watch on the non-HD television so I can use the DVR!) It’s times for Bryden’s big story, which is about a terrible car accident he was in when he was driving construction trucks and rolled a truck over on himself. He brought pictures of the smashed truck, and there’s seriously no cab left. Then there are some pics of him in the hospital and one of…a burn? That one’s a bit grim, dude. But Des is (say it with me) touched and kind to him. The car accident taught him to live in the moment. And to share personal subjects with a national television audience in a timely fashion.

He assures Des that he’s ready to open up to love, and to his credit, it sounds fairly genuine. For now, I say he’s Here for the Right Reasons. And Des thinks so too, because she gives him the date rose, and then they go swimming in the big beautiful heated pool next to their dinner table. Well, not swimming. Sitting. But in water. Very close together. Bryden is clearly trying to work up to kissing Des, and she’s waiting for him to make a move, but he won’t! It’s killing me. He repeats “this was awesome” about a million times, and Des keeps saying “Yeah” and gazing up at him but he won’t close the deal! Finally, she gives up waiting and says, “So kiss me already.” He lunges in relief and we have another kiss on the big board!

Coming back from commercial, we return to the big group for the final cocktail party. We get to hear from Michael, the attorney, who tells us he has Type I Diabetes. He sits down with Des (who’s in her first miss of the season, dress-wise…green and partly illusion netting, so she looks like a lizard) and is telling her his story until—Ben swoops in, despite already having a rose! Mikey the Plumber really doesn’t approve of this, finding it disrespectful, especially since “I already had a talk with Ben.” Apparently Mikey’s decided he’ll be house enforcer. But of course, all the guys agree that talking to Des when one has already secured a rose is Not Cool.

Mikey T, Bachelor Referee
Mikey T, Bachelor Referee

Ben, meanwhile, tells Des the “secret” that he knows which no one else does—namely, how Des is an amazing kisser. (Des says nothing, but America thinks, “Not so fast there, buddy.”) He goes in for another kiss before returning Des to the house, and then the jackals pounce! No, not on Des (where’d she go?) but on Ben, chastising him for violating the rules by…asking the Bachelorette to talk to him. He says, “I think people saw it as me being selfish, but I did what I had to do for me and Des.” Um, that is being selfish, Ben. The point is, it’s not wrong to be selfish when you are COMPETING ON A GAME SHOW.

Following commercial and a glimpse of Des talking to someone (sorry, I went to get a drink) we’re back to see another group of guys lecturing Ben again. OK, guys, this is boring now. Just arm-wrestle or something. Michael the attorney claims that Ben is setting a terrible example for his son—but, you know, he’s looking for true love on a reality dating show, so I think that ship has sailed.

Ooh, and after Ben leaves, the claws come out! The angry bachelors stand around and say cutting things like, “Wonder how his son’s doing, haven’t heard about him since night one.” “Nope, heard a lot about his bar.” “Yup, heard about his nutrition business.” “Heard how beneficial this appearance is for his business.” All spoken very carefully, if not to camera then certainly near camera. Message received, gentlemen.

Back to Des, who’s being toted around the house by…Brian? I think Brian. He’s literally carrying her in his arms and pretends he’s going to toss her into the pool before veering off toward the Gazebo of Vapid but Meaningful Talks. Brian has kind of a squint and I can’t tell if that’s the result of too much drink, or a bad contact, or  just nature. He looks like a slightly greasy Jeroen Krabbé.

Jeroen Krabbe

And at last (this show is two hours, people!), it’s time for the Most! Exciting! Rose! Ceremony! Ever! (this season). Ben, Brooks and Bryden already have roses. The remaining roses go to James, Hashtag Kasey, Dan (there’s a Dan?), Juan Pablo (Des asks him in Spanish to accept the rose), Brad, Chris, Brian (I always had a little thing for Jeroen Krabbé), Shirtless Zak, Richard (Richard?), Mikey T., Other Zack, Other Michael, and…(the camera keeps cutting among men whom I don’t recognize)…Brandon! Who was seriously having a stroke up there waiting, so I’m glad she picked him. Also, because he’s one of the ones I can identify.

Sadly, we’re losing Will, Robert (who?), and Nick (who?). But no one looks too cut up about it, because we have to get ready for next week’s Lone Ranger-themed (product-placed) date! And more whining about Ben, who had the nerve to kiss Des? And lied to someone? And then there’s an ambulance, and also a girl with bad plastic surgery who comes on the show to accuse an unknown Bachelor of being a “lying, deceitful pig.” We end with the “rap video,” which is as terrible as you might imagine. Until next week, fellow fans, I hope you will accept this rose!