As you’ll recall from last week’s gripping installment (thank you again, Elana!), we left our Bachelor and Bachelorinas in medias res–except for Kelsey, whom we left weeping on the hall floor. And that’s just where we pick up again: Britt and Becca look vaguely concerned-yet-suspicious while Kelsey’s keening sobs travel throughout the house.

She manages to eke out, in her breathiest voice, “I think I’m just having…[sob]…a panic attack…[wheeze].” The other women are not buying it. Kaitlyn, Becca and Carly all give separate talking heads where they basically say Kelsey’s a manipulative liar…and then Kelsey asks to talk to Chris. And then (through her oxygen mask!) she says to the medic helping her “I’d better get a rose tonight for sure” and laughs.

Carly is rather delightfully eye-rolly about Kelsey’s immediate recovery once Farmer Chris has come and fawned over her, although I can’t get fully on board because Carly is wearing a giant longhorn ring of which I do not approve. The women won’t be mean or call her out to her face, but they have the stony faces of seething hatred. Kelsey is jabbering on like the mayor of Smugtown, USA, Population: Smug. Even I’m starting to imagine this:

Farmer Chris has been bamboozled into thinking his decision to cancel the cocktail party was somehow the cause of Kelsey’s “faint,” so he opens the rose ceremony by apologizing. I think for many of the women, the bloom is off the cornstalk because they’re so unimpressed with his attention to Kelsey (a la Ben and Courtney of several seasons ago).

Ashley I., Virgin, narrates the rose ceremony–if by “narrates” you mean “works herself into a whiny, weepy tizzy about the prospect of going home while she watches other people get roses.” That was pretty much what you meant, right? Anyway, Jade is our first rose recipient, followed by Kaitlyn, Megan, Becca, and finally Ashley! Thank god, because she was losing her shit up there. And do-do-do, she’s fine now! Ugh, girl, get control of yourself. They’re down to the final rose, and there are a few women left in addition to Kelsey. But Kels isn’t worried–she tells us in a talking head that she “feels empathy toward the other girls, particularly the ones who are really nervous about going home…they should be worried. They wasted their time.”

Samantha will be devastated if she doesn’t get a rose, and Mackenzie is weeping at the thought of all the hardship she’s been through (in her 21 long years). So of course, Kelsey gets the last rose, as she planned all along. Good luck with that, Farmer Chris.

Ha! The poor castoffs are basically left to walk through the hotel lobby–no escort from our gentleman bachelor–and we see the saddest shot of all time as Samantha walks alone in her sparkly cocktail dress, down the empty streets of Santa Fe. Girl, guess you should have called ahead for a taxi.

But enough of that–it’s time to move on to our next glamorous destination of romance:

SOUTH DAKOTA!!!

The next day, Farmer Chris and his fauxhawk are still feeling a little peaked, but are looking forward to no more drama.

He tells us about all the history of the state–Wild Bill Hickock! Mt. Rushmore! Calamity Jane!–and says he feels like a tough guy walking down this street in the wild west. Especially because he starts out with a photo shoot at one of those fake-daguerrotype tourist places, where you dress up in cowboy hats and saloon garb. Like Disney, but with more dust!

The excitement this week is that there’s a dreaded 2-on-1 date, which means that someone gets axed on that date no matter what. But the girls cheer at the prospect of being in Deadwood.

I won’t bother recapping the next conversation between Kelsey (still smug) and Britt (who seems to be subscribing to the “keep your enemies closer” strategy–if I were Kelsey, I’d watch my back). Suffice it to say it’s full of delusional talk and subtext. Let’s move on to the first date card, which is for Becca: “Let’s give love a shot.”

Ooh, target practice? That would be fun. Kelsey has a ridiculous “Did she say Becca and not Kelsey?” face on, and doubles down in a talking head where she says with a deadpan expression: “Do you see this face? NOT happy.”

After the break, we return to an outtake from A River Runs Through It as Farmer Chris wanders through a wheat field. Becca arrives in an SUV and everyone looks like an L.L. Bean catalog. He leads her around a corner to where two horses are tied up for a trail ride…and they have an adorable burro with them to pack their picnic! Y’all, I would ace this date. Becca professes nervousness at the riding, but she does fine. (In fact, Chris is holding his reins terribly and looks less comfortable than she does. /ridingnerd/)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Carly is announcing that Kelsey is “not a nice girl” and deciding that it’s time to call her on her mean-girl ways. Whitney preaches caution, because it’s going to look like picking on the poor widow, but Carly doesn’t listen.

Oh, but it’s Whitney who starts out! Not you, too, BabyVoice? Anyway, this is all a recipe for disaster, with Kelsey sitting on the couch surrounded by Whitney, Carly and Kaitlyn. You dummies, she’s just going to go tattle to Chris about how you formed a lynch mob! Has no one but me ever watched this show before?

The primary problem here is that Kelsey is clearly smarter than these girls, so she’s able to deflect their criticisms…in fact, I’ll let her explain it to you herself. “I get it,” she tells us in a talking head, graciously. “I am blessed with eloquence, and I’m articulate, and I use a lot of big words because I’m smart….I didn’t go through all this [bleep]…to be ganged up on by these girls…”–c’mon, Kelsey, say it, you know you want to:

But from now on, I will always be grateful to Kelsey for my new hashtag: #blessedwitheloquence.

Unbenownst to Farmer Chris, all that drama he didn’t want is waiting for him. It’s now nightfall, though, and he and Becca have finished their ride and are sitting in front of a fire pit. Where’d the horses go? Where’s the burro? I resent the lack of continuity on this date!

They’re roasting kebabs over the fire and laughing at their ineptitude. We also discover that Chris has a super-high pitched, girly laugh! They talk five-year plans (or in Chris’s case, 15), and confirm that they both want kids and are ready to start a family. They do seem like an attractive couple in a blandly midwestern way (even though she’s from San Diego). They’ve both been hurt in the past, yada yada. Chris thinks he might finally get a kiss this time! Yawn. This is dull–let’s go back to the Suite of Lunacy and Bitterness!

It’s time for a new date card, and this one is…a group date! Whitney, Jade, Britt, Kaitlyn, Carly and Megan are all on the card, leaving Ashley-the-Virgin and Kelsey as the 2-in-1’ers. The group date card says, “Let’s make sweet music together,” but come on, who cares? Just think about the possibilities of a Kelsey/Ashley date!!!

In talking heads, Ashley, insanely, thinks that this is going to be easy, while Kelsey just laughs at the notion that Ashley’s any kind of threat. Either way it’s a win-win for Farmer Chris, because both of these women are complete nutjobs.

Back at the fire pit, Becca is burbling away in an interview about how she wants a kiss, but doesn’t want her dad to see her getting kissed. Dude, you’re 25. I think it’s OK. And hurrah! She gets a little peck when FC asks her to accept the rose…oh, and then there’s making out. It looks weird, but they seem to enjoy it.

For the group date, everyone meets outside a “saloon,” and they’re waiting to see if it means singing or playing music–some of them women greet this with glee, others with trepidation. Turns out they’re going to be songwriting! (And let me guess…performing the songs for Farmer Chris?) Anyway, FC tells them what they’re doing and then introduces “a couple of friends” to help them out: Big & Rich, best known for that feminist anthem, “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.” (OK, I’m setting you up for eyerolls, but they do have a beautiful song called “Holy Water” that I would recommend.)

Whitney is all excited (and seems to have developed a southern accent, despite being from Chicago); Megan says that she’s from Nashville and so this is in her blood. Carly tells us that singing is “what she does,” which surprises me given her rather unmusical speaking voice. As everyone gets to work, I have to say that Mssrs. Big and Rich seem like really good mentors! They give attention to everyone, even Jade who is “on the struggle bus,” as she puts it. “Big Kenny” gives her a very sweet speech and then takes her for a run to get out of her head. Keep running, Jade! There’s a better future for you in those hills!

But Jade’s new inspiration falters when she looks over and sees Britt just hanging on Chris. Kaitlyn tells us, “Chris’s connection with Britt is so obvious it’s, like, awkward.” Jade has apparently just noticed the part of “The Bachelor” where he’s DATING OTHER WOMEN. Not so inspiring, apparently.

But we don’t pursue it further after the break–it’s time for beer and singing! Farmer Chris graciously starts out with a song of his own–which I actually think is nice. Usually these “performance” dates are basically designed to humiliate the contestants, so thumbs up to FC for being willing to look foolish. Well, more foolish.

It’s so terrible, however, I’m not recapping. (Plus it’s also high-pitched like his laugh.) Moving on…

Britt is up first, and there’s a glimmer of a decent voice in there, but not a lot of pitch. And she forgot one of her four lines of lyrics. But other than that, she was good! We get snippets of Whitney (terrible), Kaitlyn (foul-mouthed rapping), Megan (who claims she has a musical background but has no ear). Carly sits on the stage and serenades Chris up close, and hers sounds like a real song! “Look at me looking at you” is the refrain, which should be right up FC’s “Enough about me, how do you feel about me?” alley. (Maybe Carly’s angling for a record deal instead of a ring?)

Poor Jade is last to go, and she looks super freaked out that she’s going to make a fool of herself. She is…not good, but her lyrics are sweet and the meter is pretty close, which I count as a win! We can’t all be #blessedwitheloquence.

We interrupt this date to return to the hotel and read the last official date card: “Two girls, one rose. One stays, one goes. Let’s have good times in the badlands.” Kelsey shrieks, “I love the badlands!” Ashley is baffled because she thought they were already in them. I can already tell I don’t have the energy to handle these two.

Group date part two involves more beverages (well-earned on the girls’ part!), and FC expresses his appreciation for their efforts. He notes in a talking head that Jade was the most nervous, so he picks her to go chat with first. They snuggle under a blanket outdoors, and Jade tells him that she’s falling for him and could see herself in Iowa. FC tells us he was caught off guard by it, but his lips seem to know what to do, because smooching ensues.

The rest of the girls are staring at their empty cocktail table and wondering why there’s no rose. Carly wants it, big time. I figure this means she’s totally not getting it. Back out at the bar, Kaitlyn’s having a heart-to-heart with Chris and worrying a little that they haven’t had much time together recently. He reassures her, but we see no smooches.

Now it’s Britt’s turn, and he tells us that she’s someone he has “this weird connection with.” It’s not that weird, Chris–she’s the pretty one. Britt grabs his hand and races out the door and down the street with him. How free! How spontaneous! They run into a neighboring…hotel? Concert hall? And we hear a Big & Rich intro piped over the bumper to commercial. Whatever could it be? Whatever it is, I’m sure it was completely unprompted by the producers!

Oh, look, it’s the Big & Rich concert! (If I were one of the other girls, I’d be annoyed that I didn’t get to go see the show too.) “I know these guys!” says Britt, “From earlier today! These are my homies.” Sure, hon, whatever. FC and Britt are dancing and making out and obscuring other people’s view. B&R call them up on stage before they can get punched by a drunk country fan. Oh, and what’s that Chris is going to get? Why, it’s the group date rose! Hmm, this now feels not only fake, but super-unfair to the other women. If I were one of them, I’d be inclined to just leave.

The women predict that Britt will come in “with no lipstick on her mouth anymore,” but are trying to talk themselves into being hopeful. But sure enough, here comes Britt, holding hands with FC and licking the lipstick off her teeth. She’s holding the rose, but says nothing, leaving Chris to explain it. He says it was better that it “didn’t happen in front of everyone,” except for, y’know, the two hundred screaming fans you just interrupted. He can tell that it did not go over well, so he beats it out of there pronto and leaves Britt to the wolves. Carly is out and out crying.

Britt says, “I’m sorry, I feel so awkward right now.” But not as awkward as she does when she tells them where they were for an hour–Whitney is pissed because Britt doesn’t even like country music. The girls are all dancing around the “I am furious at you for winning/I know these are just the rules of the games” dynamic, and the glittery tears are flowing.

Sooo much sobbing.

Sobbing in the women’s room.

Just, like, a LOT of crying.

Enough of that! Ashley is loaded for bear, declaring herself “Glenda the Good Witch” (it’s Glinda, honey, but whatevs) and Kelsey “the Wicked Witch of the West.” Even bland Farmer Chris recognizes that “today is going to be really awkward.” Ya think? Well, that’s what happens when you fill a helicopter full of needy freakshows. (The Needy Freakshows was my college band.)

So they take a helicopter tour, and are set down on a mesa with a canopy bed. You know, one of those pre-furnished mesas. They toast, and then there’s nothing but silence.

Ashley’s first for some alone time–on a blanket on a rock. (It’s also super-windy and looks freezing out there. This is a terrible date. I feel like they just wanted to keep Ashley and Kelsey away from the breakables.) After sucking face with FC like she needs lips instead of oxygen, Ashley promptly bitches about how everyone thinks Kelsey is fake. Idiot. But that’s all we see of their exchange.

Chris uses his one-on-one Kelsey time to fish about life in the house: “So…how’s everything? Like in the house?” Kelsey gives a little “I’m ready to be a wife” speech, and Chris says that it’s important for the person he marries to “handle social situations” and then RATS OUT ASHLEY for calling her fake. Kelsey acts hurt and betrayed, and Chris rubs it in by saying that it sounds like the other girls see the same things. However, because Kelsey is #blessedwitheloquence, she manages to deflect all the other women’s impressions as jealous “girl talk.” But she’s seething (and crying) in her talking head: “I just got thrown under the bus, and it’s hurtful.” About Ashley: “She’s a Kardashian who didn’t get to go on a princess date…and she has way too much makeup on.” Heh. All those things are true.

Kelsey heads back to the bed, and says nothing, but just stares pointedly at Ashley. Ashley will not meet her eyes. But finally Kelsey opens the floodgates: “I know what you did.” The conversation unfolds predictably at first, but then it becomes a “you don’t think I’m as smart as you?” contest and to my surprise, Ashley apparently has a master’s degree? That makes this truly the most shocking date ever!

Ashley stalks off and grabs Chris, and while she keeps a brave face until she’s out of sight, she’s (wait for it) crying by the time she gets to him. She rightly asks him, “Why did you tell her what I told you?” and I think it’s a valid question. Don’t be such a jerk, Chris! What, don’t Iowans know how to keep a secret? Chris–too late–realizes that he is in way over his head. So Ashley makes him tell her what Kelsey said in return (“it was about a difference in maturity”). I am so over this date. I already went to high school, thanks very much.

Oof! To add insult to injury, Chris decides it’s time to kick Ashley to the curb. He has a look on his face like his about to pull a bandaid off his [ahem], as he tells her he thinks they’re in “different places in their lives.” Now, I don’t disagree with his decision–Ashley is clearly an emotionally unstable attention whore with no boundaries–but he could have done that without backstabbing her first. Can you imagine how smug Kelsey will be when she gets home tonight?

Chris fumbles onward: “I don’t think I could give you the lifestyle you want…” and Ashley, in full speak-truth-to-power mode, snaps, “So wait–you think that Britt wants that lifestyle? she wants that lifestyle more than me?” Chris is flummoxed by this unforeseen attack on a woman not present on the date. Like I said, in way over his head.

 

Ashley stalks off in tears again, but then stops and shouts, “Are you kidding me? Chris!” Chris gives a long-suffering sigh and heaves himself up off his rock of safety. Someone is making a GIF right now that just says “imagining 20 years of this” and shows that sigh on a loop. But she comes back and says, “I can’t believe I’m acting like this. I can’t believe I’ve been acting like this the whole time!” and gives him a hug. She’s still weeping, but gets in a last dig–“I tried to help you make the right choice.”

Back at the hotel, the girls look genuinely horrified to be losing Ashley instead of Kelsey. (I don’t really understand why they think he’d keep Ashley, though. They were all eyerolling at her two shows ago!)

In the weepiest corner of the badlands, Ashley is totally ugly-crying. I hope they don’t all have to ride home in the same helicopter!

Chris slouches back to Kelsey, who does her best poor-baby and comforts him for having to make the difficult choice of rejecting a 24-year-old Kardashivirgin. But does Chris have another trick up his sleeve? The sad music plays and he says “I…just don’t know if there’s something there between us. I hate this situation and putting anyone through this any longer than they have to be…and I feel like you deserve someone who’s 110% percent. And right now…I can’t be that for you.”

 

I AM DYING YOU GUYS A TWOFER!!! Oh, Farmer Chris, you have managed to surprise me! (And then he takes the helicopter home alone, which doesn’t seem very nice.)

Cut back to the girls’ room, as Kelsey’s suitcase is also taken away. They react as you’d expect:

 

And Kaitlyn shouts: “Let’s get drunk!” You and me both, girl.

Kelsey has a “dignified” speech about “rising above it,” but you know inside she’s all

 

And that’s good enough for me!

Next week on the Bachelor, Farmer Chris makes out with all the women, and there’s a rose ceremony in Deadwood. Then off they go to Iowa! (So are these girls never getting out of the States?) The women are freaked out about his lame small town. And Britt cries.

I’m gonna need more GIFs.