Sharleen Joynt on Episode 7 of The Bachelorette

The former Bach contestant, podcast host and FLARE columnist shares her insider's POV on the seventh episode of Tayshia's season

Presented by SkipTheDishes

Watching last night’s Rose Ceremony was like watching a very bad game of Telephone. The culprit to knowingly throw a wrench in the message was Noah, who, as much as he appeared to laugh off his housemates’ teasing, would seem was in fact NOT cool with their ribbing. Maturity 101: Directly confront the people offending or bothering you, and resolve things as fellow human beings. For the love of God, don’t run and tattle!

I actually didn’t have an issue with Noah before this episode. His whole jumping the fence move didn’t perturb me; if anything, his willingness to simply hop into a ring and wrestle an intimidating Chasen showed a certain physical confidence that comes part and parcel with being young. (Laugh as people may have at Ed’s shoulder concerns, I challenge any 25-year old to feel quite as invincible 10 years later.) Chris Harrison had asked if any other men might want to wrestle Chasen, and Noah merely obliged. Tayshia then invited Noah along for the evening—he did not invite himself—and she then prompted him to shave his moustache and he obliged. Last week, he followed others’ leads and landed a rose. Whether or not the rose itself was for drama’s sake, his actions were hardly crimes.

As always, you know I can’t discuss any saga on this show without speculating about puppet strings. Rewinding to the root of last night’s drama: Noah’s name was not on that second Group Date card. Now, it’s debatable whether or not it should have been—technically, maybe it should have? If the premise of going on a Group Date is indeed to get time and maybe win a rose, maybe not? There’s no question this was a strategic choice on production’s part, especially given Noah likely expected to be on that second Group Date, the one he was (presumably) originally slated for. And with his I’m-not-here-to-make-friends mentality, Noah wasn’t afraid to play into The Powers That Be’s hands by complaining about this, which (understandably, in my opinion) would irk the other men. After all, whether directly or via producer-maneuvering, his crashing did subtract from their time with Tayshia. So, while Noah may have thought he was in the driver’s seat of his actions, I suspect there was a bit more herding here than met the eye.

Noah tattling last night isn’t what got to me. We’ve come to expect a tattler or two every season, and Noah just picked up where Ed left off. But what really bugged me was how manipulative his tattling was. His complaints weren’t limited to how the men were making him feel—annoyed, insulted, picked on. It wasn’t enough for Tayshia to comfort him, to assure him she felt a connection with him, and to write off the other guys’ issues as jealousy. No, Noah’s ego needed revenge. How dare the men claim his rose was just for show? How dare they say he had zero chance at ending up with Tayshia? Without an ego, and perhaps with true, quiet confidence in what he and Tayshia shared, these flimsy insults would have been water off this duck’s back. But Noah sought to punish the men for not taking him seriously, a gesture that (ironically) highlights his youth and makes him even less likely to be taken seriously. He twisted the belief among the men that his rose was for show (a belief we never actually saw confirmed, by the way) into something quite unrelated: that the men were questioning Tayshia’s “integrity.” This claim felt like such a stretch I had to rewatch it to make sure I’d heard it correctly. Since when doesn’t a lead give out an occasional, strategic “drama rose” or two, and since when should that be twisted to reflect how sincere the lead is in their quest for love?

And this is where it takes two to tango. It bewilders me that Tayshia not only bought this, but was somehow blinded by rage, enough to cancel the rest of the Cocktail Party and skip right to a terse Rose Ceremony. The way I see it, EVERYONE KNOWS the lead is encouraged to dole out certain roses to certain contestants, to keep pot-stirrers around, to ultimately pull her weight in making as entertaining a season as possible. Past leads have openly admitted to handing out certain roses strategically at the suggestion of producers, and to keeping certain contestants around for the sake of TV. These choices wouldn’t diminish her character, sincerity, or integrity—they’d just mean she was holding up her end of a contractual agreement. Her reaction to Noah’s unfounded claims, with no moment of questioning his motives, or even fact-checking among other men (men she’s every bit as close with, if not closer), felt unreasonable to the point of uncharacteristic. Considering how measured and intelligent Tayshia seems in every other regard, I have to imagine Noah’s suggested accusation struck a nerve with her we may not be fully capable of understanding. Even Noah seemed taken aback by her reaction, in a way that made me wonder if the innocent seed he’d meant to plant turned out to be Jack’s beanstalk.

Of course, the main event in this episode wasn’t Noah’s flailing (thankfully) and Tayshia seeing red, but rather a supremely rare conversation between Ivan and Tayshia on his 1-on-1. Ivan, in usual contestant fashion, brought up his family—his brother has a history with drugs and alcohol and spent four years in prison. As contestants are always prompted to open up about their families—especially family hardships that have changed their perspective on the world—this backstory, while heart-wrenching, isn’t to be unexpected. But where things took a turn was when Ivan tied his brother’s prison experience to his own realizations in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. He and Tayshia then bonded over being biracial, and Tayshia admitted to wanting to “blend in” while growing up, all too aware that no one around her really looked like her. Don’t get me wrong, contestants do talk about this stuff. It’s just that the show never airs this type of conversation. Ivan managed to do what no contestant on this show has done before: Bring current, real world events into the inexorably evergreen Bachelor bubble. Best of all, you really got the sense it wasn’t necessarily Ivan’s intention to discuss it; the evolution of this conversation felt as natural as the perspectives shared felt personal. As unplanned as this may have been, his timing couldn’t have been better.

My episode 7 frontrunners are…

Ivan, 28

You already knew I was an Ivan fan, but his showing this week skyrocketed him to the top of my list. Ivan is thoughtful, refined, and has a gentle masculinity that is very special. None of this seems lost on Tayshia, who was able to seamlessly transition from playing Twister to crying in his calming, comforting presence. As Tayshia put it, “I’ve never met a guy that’s so giving and thoughtful, yet real and honest and charismatic.” It’s tough to imagine Ivan going anywhere anytime soon.

Zac C, 36

I have to admit I’m surprised by what a major player Zac C is becoming (I don’t know why but he just wasn’t on my radar at the start of the season), but the more I see, the more I like. Zac C feels blissfully ADULT, like he doesn’t need to try too hard or shout from the rooftops how ready, accomplished or mature he is. His low-key proactivity (or “boldness,” to use Bachelorette terms) really feels like an extension of his natural way of being. Tayshia said of Zac C: “Zac and I have chemistry and it’s intriguing to me because I want to get to know more about him—but it’s also very comfortable, like we’ve known each other for awhile.” In my humble opinion, this dichotomy is the magic combination—I give props to Tayshia for verbalizing it so perfectly. I’m really looking forward to the 1-on-1 date in his future.

Ben, 30

Ben stepped outside his comfort zone this week and it more than paid off. He ended up getting quality 1-on-1 time at Tayshia’s suite, and there we witnessed more of their remarkable chemistry. Tayshia said of Ben: “He says all the right things, he looks at me like I’m the only person in the world. I don’t want to be anywhere else than with Ben when I’m with Ben.” This relationship still feels a bit less emotionally substantive and more chemistry-forward to me than the others on this list, but I have confidence a 1-on-1 date could change my feelings on that.

Brendan, 30

Not much development on the Brendan front, but we did see a snippet of 1-on-1 time between him and Tayshia, always a sign that our early frontrunner is not to be forgotten or underestimated. I continue to enjoy how blissfully out of drama’s way Brendan remains and always enjoy the moments of his we’re shown.