Image via ABC.

On Monday and Tuesday nights, two women 3,000 miles apart, one deeply familiar with the franchise, the other much less so, watched Episode 5 and 6 of Rachel’s season of The Bachelorette separately. This is their story.

Kate: Boy, do we have a lot to get through this week, what with two two-hour episodes two nights in a row. I must say, night one was a lot for me, but night two was surprisingly enjoyable. Seeing how this was your first time running this proverbial marathon, how did you fare?

Kara: I made it through. I’ve discovered that the key for me is start the show an hour later and fast forward through things like her awkward date with the guy with the creepy smile (Jack Stone). At this point, it’s hard for me to even remember what happened during the first episode aside from the cliffhanger about what was going to happen with racist Lee.

Kate: Part of the reason I think the second episode was so much better is that they FINALLY got rid of Lee. Monday night’s episode was just a badly edited jumble of fights between Lee and Kenny, interviews with Lee, interviews with Kenny, and people talking about Lee and Kenny. Their tension brewed for at least three episodes, to the point where it started to become difficult to tell when certain things happened, particularly because how dissimilar does any one of these cocktail parties or hotel rooms look from another? (For example, we’d seen Will’s exchange with Lee where he explains why it’s not okay to call a black man aggressive teased awhile ago, yet it wasn’t actually aired until this week.)

The biggest issue with the Lee and Kenny thing is that it was so boring. (See their highly transparent attempt to make us think the two had gotten into a fistfight, when what ended up happening was that Kenny and Adam accidentally hurt themselves during a group date activity.) Whatever the production company and ABC says, Lee was obviously a plant on this season to stir up race-related drama, which I find so fascinating because it was such a misstep on the part of people who are supposedly good at their jobs. The other men that were cast—as we saw with conversations between Will and Rachel, or Will and Eric on Tuesday night—have plenty of things to say about race and dating without dragging Lee’s bullshit into things.

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Kara: More than anything, I cannot believe they quite literally just jacked a storyline from UnREAL. The second season was about the show’s first black suitor and included the producers casting a woman who showed up in an Confederate flag bikini. Like you said, it’s largely just boring and, frankly, uncreative.

However, one thing about this storyline that I’m still wrestling with is how Rachel handled the whole thing. Obviously she finally came to her senses (or the producers allowed her to) and she believed Kenny over Lee. What I didn’t understand, however, is why she got so upset when Kenny went back to say goodbye to Lee. Granted, it was petty and not super necessary but if someone had been baiting me with racist bullshit for weeks, I’d probably have a few choice words for them as well. Perhaps she still didn’t understand the extent of what Lee had been doing but she seemed to hold steady last night:

At the same time, I understand how the image of all this is important to Rachel. It’s sort of the “twice as good” mentality and, as we’ve discussed, I’m sure she feels pressure for the show to be successful and to present herself well. It might have been a bit of her respectability politics showing by wanted Kenny to rise above Lee’s bullshit, but that’s a lot to ask of someone, particularly when all we’re really talking about is how somebody looks on a reality dating show that’s already pretty ridiculous to begin with.

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Kate: That was a moment last night where I really wanted to know what Rachel was thinking. While it’s pretty common to see the leads of this show get annoyed when the men or women they’re dating get too wrapped up in other contestants (those people never win, a lesson Iggy seems to have learned the hard way), I wish we knew what Rachel was thinking at that point. Was she annoyed at the producers? Had some of Lee’s comments about Kenny wedged into her head? And then of course, as you said, the focus on her image I think is always there. Some combination of all of the above seems likely but I would love to know what she thought about Lee/Kenny in the moment versus what she thinks about them now. (As an aside, I’m enjoying how vocal she’s been on Twitter—she’s really speaking her mind and it’s making the show a lot more fun to watch.)

I guess let’s talk about the many men who left us this week. Iggy; “Tickle Monster”; the aforementioned good-on-paper lawyer Jack who was so weird on their date Rachel sent him home and then we didn’t even see him say goodbye; Lee obviously; then Josiah, who always seemed like he should be doing better than he was; Anthony; Alex; Kenny and Will. I’d say Kenny and Will’s departures were the most interesting ones, again because of the conversations Rachel had with them.

Kara: PEACE OUT, IGGY. God I’m glad he’s gone. Josiah was cute but always seemed to be preening for the camera a bit too much which Rachel clearly noticed. I’m also very glad Alex is gone because I hate his hair. Will, however, was very interesting.

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I loved seeing the conversation he and Eric were having on a national primetime network television show. Will explained that, like many black people, he grew up in a predominately white area, attended a predominately white college and therefore (as he explains it), mostly dated white people. Despite the confusion from some of the white guys, Eric was right to urge Will to tell Rachel that information. As a black woman, I know that’s something I’d want to know, whether or not it would impact my feelings about someone.

Will and Rachel get along well but didn’t seem to have much chemistry. Still, seeing Rachel’s reaction to Will’s admission that he’s most dated white women was FASCINATING and clearly changed things. Rachel explained that she too had grown up mostly around white people but that didn’t result in her mostly dating white guys. You could see something behind her eyes shift a bit when Will told her that. Of course, that brings up a very long and complex history about relationships between black men and black women, as well as between black men and white women, that cannot be tackled in either a single blog or an episode of network television, but it certainly got me thinking.

Kate: That scene was a true testament to what happens when you a) cast actually smart people and b) air the kind of conversations that people actually have in relationships, instead of the meaningless I-like-you-so-much stuff that makes up most of this show. Same for Rachel’s break-up with Kenny; while it generally fit into the format of conversations leads have a lot with people who come on this show who have children back at home, it was incredibly adult of both of them and showed how much more they cared for each other than Rachel ever did for Lee, who looked like a joke of a person by comparison.

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As for other dates, she’s truly so into Bryan, I loved the hot tub makeout scene with Peter, and her date with Eric was also super cute. Must have been a nice balance from the weird one with Jack and the eh one with Will.

Kara: My absolute favorite thing about this entire season so far was Rachel and Peter’s hot tub makeout and then the look on his face when she gave the rose to Bryan. I’m guessing Rachel felt like she’d just made her feelings to Peter incredibly clear and didn’t need to give him the rose right then to justify it, but boy did he look hurt. The next day when he was slouched on the couch with his hoodie on was one of the most relatable moments I’ve ever witnessed on television. It’s not funny, but it also really is.

I will admit that while I’ve found him very cute, I haven’t always thought Eric was the sharpest tool in the shed, but he came off as much smarter and more thoughtful this episode and I liked watching that. And even though his monster tongue still stresses me out, she and Bryan and those goddamn love eyes they keep making at each other killed me.

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I’m sure this comes up every season and I’m only talking about it because I’m a newbie, but it’s wild to think that she is legitimately dating all these guys at the same time. Personally, when I like someone, I like that person so it’s difficult to imagine being able to compartmentalize well enough to simultaneously give my attention and affections to six other dudes. However, I’ve also never had men who look like Peter and Will throwing themselves at me, so I also get how you can just figure out a way to make that work.

Kate: They usually say that that’s what you have to do, just treat every situation like it’s separate, but I truly don’t know how that works either. As a viewer I’m just glad all the trash is now gone so that we can focus on the dudes who seem to actually like Rachel. As I think I mentioned last week, this is about the time in the season when things start getting more real than they have been before (Rachel meets their families soon, etc.) and when the producer manipulation starts to drop off (or at least is far less obvious).

Kara: I’m excited to watch things progress with everyone except for Matt—seriously, how is he still here? However, I’m a little worried about how Rachel is going to cope with everything. Watching her get as upset as she did saying goodbye to Alex worries me for the future. I think it’s funny how she keeps saying she’s not an emotional person because either that’s not particularly true, or this show is doing a number on her. Still, after having to watch her trot a horse through Beverly Hills and deal with Lee and that weirdo tickler, it’ll be nice to just watch her date (as normally as this process allows) and develop feelings for a group of guys who are all feeling her hard. She deserves it and so do we.