By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Oct 27, 2021 at 9:01 AM

There's a lot to discuss from last night's new episode of "The Bachelorette" – from Michelle's first dates of the season to the emergence of our first villain – but let's start with obviously the most important and pressing subplot of the evening: Does this Casey contestant look more like Dax Shepard or Zachary Levi?

The BacheloretteX

Sorry, but somebody has to ask the hard questions!

Apparently he works as an "advertising creative director," which is a strange way to spell "stunt double for the stars." But anyways, enough about a guy probably going to get the boot next episode: It's time for Michelle's journey to properly begin – and as everyone knows, no "Bachelorette" saga has officially started until all of the contestants scream your name into the air for no reason. Honestly, I'd be terrified if I suddenly heard my name echoing through an abandoned hotel in the middle of the desert – but apparently this show thinks it's the height of romance. 

Kaitlyn Bristowe delivers the first date card of the season, which gathers several of the fellas together for detention. That's right: Class is in session as the boys sit down in very small desks and get a pop quiz from some precocious fifth graders, starting with some fairly basic math. And maybe it's that new math I'm always hearing parents complain about, because many of the fellas score an F – in particular Pizza Man Peter, who can't get any of the questions right. But that's OK, because at least everyone also hates him because he insists on making comments all the time and distracting Michelle. So maybe Pete-zza Man is scoring better in chemistry? (Actually no; when they do chemistry, the rest of the guys successfully make exploding Mentos foam while he just makes depressing brown sludge. Looks like somebody's gonna have to repeat the grade!)

Billy Madison eventually finds a class he's good in: recess, aka a game of musical chairs, during which he takes things WAY too serious and can't stop bodychecking dudes off their chairs. The guys – including Casey/Kristen Bell's husband/Shazam – are even more annoyed and so is Michelle, who seems unimpressed by this grown man trying way too hard to win a children's game. IT'S NOT "SQUID GAME," MY DUDE!

The rest of the fellas get the last laugh, though, as the school day ends with a spelling bee which oh-so-conveniently concludes with the word "narcissist." (Excellent work, "Bachelorette" producers.) Will decides to freestyle a bit – maybe because he didn't know how to spell "narcissist" in the first place – and instead writes down "Peter" as his answer, causing everyone to chuckle and Pete-zza to get more hot and steamed than a calzone. No one is having a better time than Will – and honestly, good for him. A for effort. 

After proving themselves dumber than fifth graders, the boys head off for a date night with Michelle where Brandon manages to salvage all of his spelling woes from earlier with some impressive flirting. The two have a cute, kind of awkward chat where there's a long pause where it sure seemed like a kiss was supposed to happen, but instead Brandon filled the silence with some Hallmark card flirting that Michelle playfully called out as exactly that. It's fun, cute, natural, amusingly clumsy and ends with the long-delayed kiss. The man might be good at romance. (Just don't ask him to spell it.) 

While Michelle plays cornhole with another guy, Pete-zza and Will decide they're going to have a conversation about Will's spelling bee sass from earlier. I'm sorry: I said they had a conversation when I meant to say that they apparently have a karate fight considering the WILD amount of hand gestures breaking out. To say these men speak with their hands is an understatement. No wonder the camera kept its distance; it probably would've been smacked and broken if it got within ten feet of this hurricane of hands.

Unfortunately, the only thing louder than their hand gestures is their actual voices, which audibly carry over into a conversation between Michelle and Olu about how she likes quiet confidence and that no one likes jerks. So this is going poorly for them – though not quite as poorly for Will because he does get in the line, "What else do you have to offer besides a slice, bro?" Do ... do we have a contender for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar? I SAY YES. 

Eventually, Michelle chats with Pete-zza and asks what the heck is going on. He harrumphs about Will calling him a narcissist – AND IN FRONT OF THE CHILDREN, he says while clutching his pearls. WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN!? My bro, the kid were laughing at you too. They're fifth graders; they probably said meaner things. They're just getting to that age where they become vicious. But anyways, Michelle brings up the very keen point that he needs to figure out how to contain himself because you're almost certainly going to get into fights and disagreements in a relationship – and the way he handled himself didn't demonstrate that he would handle those moments as a grown-up. 

So yeah, he doesn't get the group date rose. Neither does Will. Instead, the rose goes to Brandon – so the lesson of the day here is spelling is useless. 

Back at the mansion, Jamie discovers he's getting the first one-on-one of the season – which unsurprisingly upsets the rest of the dudes, though not just because of standard issue jealousy. (But basically, yeah, because of standard issue jealousy.) Jamie talks about how this date isn't just her figuring out if she's right for him but also him seeing if she's right for him, considering his life involves a lot of travel and such. Sure, it's a little humblebraggy, but it's a fair point: While Michelle makes the decisions on the show, the relationship still needs to be a two-way street. But the guys harrumph that Jamie's not "grateful" enough for his first date – aka they just wish it was theirs. SETTLE YOURSELVES, BROS. After all, if you want to be mad at Jamie, you'll DEFINITELY have your opportunity later this episode. (Ominous tease ...)

For their one-on-one date, Jamie and Michelle end up going on a picnic ... that is located at the top of a rock mound they have to climb. Real "one of the producers finally caught up to 'Free Solo'" vibes from this date – but while that doc was thrilling and great, I mostly zoned out during this whole adventure, thinking about how much I'd rather be watching "Free Solo." ("FREE SOLO": NOW AVAILABLE TO STREAM ON DISNEY+!) 

Things get significantly more compelling back on solid ground when Michelle and Jamie have their dinner, where Jamie opens up about his family life and past – a harrowing story in which his mom struggled with mental health, which pulled them into poverty. Eventually, his mother couldn't bear anymore and took her own life, a tragedy that broke Jamie afterwards and made it hard for him to find reasons to care about people or the world – something he had to work on and grow out of. It's an emotional and intense story, one that Michelle (unlike many other past leads) truly seems to listen to and digest instead of just saying "thank you for sharing" or some other empty "Bachelor" platitudes before moving on. I only like Michelle more after this – and I like Jamie too. MAYBE Y'ALL JUDGED TOO QUICKLY, HMM, FELLAS!?

Anyways, in a shocking turn of events, the date ends with a surprise country music concert. We move on.

After the first group date focused on Michelle's passion for teaching, group date two takes on her other (much more fun) love: basketball. After sinking a halfcourt shot like a boss, she introduces the fellas to some WNBA stars and then plays Joe – the fellow Minnesotan who ghosted her before – one on one while I guess everyone else gets a free show. Joe, as it turns out, was Mr. Basketball in Minnesota when Michelle was Mrs. Basketball (well, runner-up, she says) so it's actually quite competitive as well as a little flirty and fun. Did I just accidentally flip on "Love and Basketball"? 

A few of the other guys are a little less entertained – especially after their big scrimmage when Michelle gives Joe the MVP award, and access to the rest of the date night, despite being on the losing team. Can you be the Most Valuable Player if you're team doesn't win? I don't know – but I do enjoy hot topics from all the sports talk TV shows suddenly bleeding their way onto my silly dating show. Perhaps we'll debate James Harden and instant replay next episode! But first, any hard feelings for Joe amongst the fellas only got harder after he also earned the group date rose. BUT WILL LAMAR JACKSON EVER BE ABLE TO WIN THE BIG GAME!?

We can "First Take" later; now it's off to the cocktail party, where Michelle quickly tackles one of the key unresolved plot threads from last week's premiere: Does Rodney actually know anything about apples?

For those who forgot, Rodney showed up dressed as an apple on the first night – only for Michelle, who clearly loves apples and is from a state where the official fruit is an apple, to make fun of him for knowing nothing about the dang things. And it's something she's clearly stuck on, because she sets up a blind taste test to see just how little he knows about apples. Apparently, not only does he know nothing about the fruits, but he just generally knows nothing about food in general since he's fed a pizza slice and he reacts by asking, "IS THAT LASAGNA?" If you think lasagna has a crunchy crust on the bottom, you've been having some brutally overcooked lasagna, my good man, and I feel bad for you. He does get a big kiss from Michelle at the end of this all, though, so maybe not THAT bad. How do you like them apples, indeed. 

Unfortunately, it's not as sweet elsewhere in the cocktail party where some of the guys are getting riled about Joe – and gossiping that Michelle may have known him from before the show. Sure, Michelle did know him from before – but it ironically HURT Joe more than it helped him, with his previous ghosting serving as a cause for concern on opening night, so much so that she almost sent him home right off the bat. So yeah, maybe they knew each other – but it was a hinderance for Joe more than a help.

In fairness, though, despite the rumbling, most of the guys ... don't actually care that much. A few of the fellas throw the question out there, but most of them shoot it down and say that they're more concerned about making the most of their own time with Michelle rather than getting lost in gossip and focusing on other dudes. MATURITY!? ON THIS SHOW?! WHAT IS HAPPENING!?

Obviously, this must come to an end – and unfortunately it's Jamie who brings the grown-up good vibes to a crashing halt. You see, while most of the guys couldn't care less about Joe, Jamie is RATTLED. And apparently, he also has "information" that Michelle was already linked up with somebody before the show – to which a fellow contestant has the brilliant response of "UHHH, AND YOU'RE CONVENIENTLY REMEMBERING THIS 'INFO' JUST NOW?!" Yeah, that part's all weird – though, if I want to be kind to Jamie, it's fair to perhaps bring your concerns about Joe and any past relationship with him to Michelle to be honest with one another, especially now that they've built a pretty heavy emotional connection. 

But Jamie doesn't do that. No, that would be mature and understandable and, most concerning for "The Bachelorette," kinda boring. No, instead Jamie weaponizes it to cause chaos. THANKS JAMIE – AND WE WERE HAVING SUCH A NICE NIGHT JUST TALKING APPLES! 

You see, Jamie brings up the gossip to Michelle during their one-on-one time – but instead of framing it as a concern he has, he blames it on the rest of the house, saying that he doesn't care but ALL OF THE OTHER GUYS are talking about it and growing distrustful in the process. Michelle takes a moment with Tayshia to gather herself and digest her feelings about suddenly feeling in the hot seat around the guys, before she handles things again like a mature boss and goes to address the drama in front of everyone. She calmly explains the Joe connection – that they knew each other and even DMed briefly, but only about three sentences that Joe didn't apparently think merited a response – and asks if the guys have any other questions that need answering since apparently, according to an unnamed mystery person whose name definitely doesn't rhyme with Lamie, all of them are feeling weird and distrusting.

The obvious follow-up question would be: "Who got possessed by the ghost of Karl and told you we were upset, because 75 percent of us don't even know what you're talking about?" But since this is "The Bachelorette" and we gotta drag this drama out for at least a few weeks, the boys save that question for themselves after Michelle leaves all worried and disappointed. That's good. Wouldn't want to settle this once and for all. Instead, the guys talk and gossip some more amongst themselves, grumbling about this mysterious person who put it in Michelle's head that they were all angry and confused about the Joe thing when most of them just found it interesting at most. Meanwhile, Jamie stays silent, savoring the chaos he caused. Here's some footage of that:

Man, the emotional whiplash trying to figure out this dude tonight.

Speaking of emotions, Michelle's feeling them all so she bails on the rest of the cocktail party and moves straight to the rose ceremony, where a bunch of random guys whose names I never learned and who had a combined five lines get eliminated. Yeeeeah, unfortunately the producers must've gotten in Michelle's ear and convinced her to keep Pete-zza around for another week, despite the fact that his every literal word and action is the opposite of what she's looking for in a man and she's made that visibly clear to everyone. But hey, he DOES have pizza so maybe keep him around for the snacking? Plus, he somehow wasn't the BIGGEST villain of the night. 

I say bring the fifth graders back to suss out the culprit. And to make fun of Peter some more. Maybe that's next week ...

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.