Throughout this season of The Bachelorette, the rules that govern this world we know and love have been (sort of) thrown out the window, which has proven difficult for both viewers and contestants. Not only are the men grappling with how to handle dating someone on television who is dating a number of other people, but they’re struggling as their expectations for how that awkward situation should go are upended.

The structure of a typical Bachelorette/Bachelor episode is so rote that the fact that there’s barely been a Rose Ceremony at the end of any episode this season is really throwing off viewers, who are used to things happening in a pretty normal order: the recap of what happened last “week,” one-on-one date, group date, some other drama, cocktail party, Rose Ceremony, someone goes home. (The show was ostensibly still shot in that basic order, it’s just not being presented as such.) And of course, a lot of other rules are being broken; Kaitlyn, as we know, slept with someone before the Fantasy Suite date, and she’s had other one-on-one time with dudes off camera. This is good for her—it’s allowed her to try, as she’s said, to date each guy as if they are the only one. But it’s been a struggle for the men, who are used to a set of rules that allow them some understanding of what’s going to happen as time progresses.

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This week’s episode centered on Kaitlyn’s guilt about Nick—not that she had sex with him, but that she knows the other men will be upset. She spent a good portion of the episode reassuring various men that she cared for them. This dynamic is at odds with the fact that Kaitlyn’s the one in charge here, but seems to be a byproduct of the weirdness from which this season began (two Bachelorettes). Kaitlyn and front-runner Shawn had not one but two private conversations in her hotel room about how she told him that she felt more strongly for him than anyone else, and how that’s made it hard for him to watch her date other men.

Kaitlyn: You’re freaking me outtt.

Shawn: Are you in love with me?

Kaitlyn: You can’t put me on the spot like that.

Shawn: Yes or no.

Kaitlyn: I’m falling in love with you.

Shawn: It’s just so hard falling in love with somebody and just sitting back watching you go on dates and talk to other guys.

Shawn knows how this game is played; Kaitlyn contractually cannot tell him she loves him on camera. She’s also being told by producers to spice up who she gives roses to and when, so he’s asking an awful lot of her to show more commitment. But “going through this is a nightmare,” Shawn told her. To Kaitlyn, things probably feel the same way—just that her nightmare is figuring out when she’s going to tell him and the other men that she’s slept with Nick. When Shawn returns to her room to have basically the same conversation again, we hear her say, “I’m freaking out, I don’t wanna go through this,” through tears.

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“When we talked off camera, you said some things to me that made things very difficult. You know, like when you looked me in the eyes and said, ‘I think you’re the one,’ that’s tough,” said Shawn.

“It worries me that Shawn needs all this reassurance and there are still things he doesn’t know,” Kaitlyn said. Explaining what she’d said to him in private, she told viewers: “In that moment and in that time, I could picture myself like that, so I said something like, ‘Yeah, you’re it.”

The word “mistake” is being thrown around a lot post-sex with Nick, but it mostly has to do with information and when it’s delivered. Kaitlyn doesn’t consider it a mistake that she slept with him; it’s how she did it that’s a mistake, and how she’ll tell the men about it. She considers it a mistake that she’s taken private time with other guys, but only because some of the men haven’t gotten it as well, and are finding out about it in bad ways. She considers it a mistake that she told Shawn he was the one for her, because it wasn’t the right time to tell him that. At this juncture, Shawn thinks Kaitlyn’s upset about other men finding out about their alone time. He is in for a rude awakening when he finds out the information being withheld from him.

Which is why Chris Harrison’s “reveal” that the order of the future dates will be switched was so noteworthy. Harrison told Kaitlyn that in order to “have an even playing field before we bring the families into it,” she’ll have her Fantasy Suite date with the remaining men before meeting their families, which means she’ll meet just two families. “The point is, everybody will have had off-camera time with you before hometowns,” Harrison said.

Kaitlyn seemed deeply relieved by this news/subtle chastising, aware that she would be able to be alone with the guys to explain her so-called mistakes. “Getting to know these guys on a deeper level naturally would come first before families,” she smartly remarked. Getting to be able to explain herself to them naturally would too.

“This is such a serious thing, like I keep thinking about, this is potentially forever,” Kaitlyn told her date Chris, before sending him home (or sending him to sob on a cliff in Ireland, where he reassured a producer that he would not step off it into the abyss). “She deserves a lifetime of happiness and I’m not sure she’s ready to find that yet,” Chris said after she dumped him. “Just looking at her, she’s a mess. And I get it, I’m really scared too.”

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Chris doesn’t get it. Kaitlyn’s breaking some of the rules, and the producers are letting her. But with that, these people—including Kaitlyn—are dealing with new ways that love, sex, and information are being doled out and controlled. “If they’re gonna know, I want it to come from me,” Kaitlyn said, talking about breaking the news to the other men that she slept with Nick. This is news that she had to awkwardly confirm with him he would not break himself. In this new world order, information, more than ever before, reigns supreme.

Update: For those who want more more more Bachelorette discussion, here I am discussing this episode on the Huffington Post’s Bachelor podcast, Here To Make Friends. Bonus: in this episode, Emma Gray and Claire Fallon include part of an interview with Kaitlyn, who told them that “maybe I am a little bit more of a feminist” after shooting this season and getting so much hate on Twitter for her romantic choices


Contact the author at dries@jezebel.com.