By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Nov 24, 2021 at 11:46 AM

It was Take Your Kids To Work this week on "The Bachelorette" as a handful of Michelle's students took over the show (fine, yes, "took" "over" the show), played matchmaker and set up our star's dates. And you know what? They did an absolutely terrific job, resulting in a very entertaining and insightful episode. ABC, hire these fifth-graders immediately as full-time producers – labor laws, shmabor maws. They're already better than everyone who was behind Matt James' season, and I bet they would be willing to work for just Skittles, juice boxes and an extra hour of freetime on the iPad. 

So indeed, several of Michelle's students got some extra homework this week: meeting the remaining eight guys, picking out who will get the one-on-one dates and organizing the day's events. So all three dates this episode are watching "Paw Patrol" and going to the local candy store, right? Incredibly no – though gummi bears and pizza are involved at one point, because they're children but also GENIUSES.

First, however, they have to meet the guys and ask the tough questions, starting with ... who has the worst breath of the bunch. (Sorry, Rodney – who also gets asked if he shaves his nipples.) Most of the guys do well ... except for Martin, who spends the whole time humblebragging to the youths about his past dates with Michelle while slowly asphyxiating them by wearing too much cologne. Because of course Martin wears too much cologne.

On the complete other side of the equation, though, there's Clayton who becomes the pied piper of the day by brilliantly proposing building a pillow fort. Welp, we've got a winner today – a well-earned victory too. Amazingly the hotel room has enough sheets, pillows and cushions to build a structure that brick wall of muscle Clayton can fit inside and take questions from the children. He cutely dodges all their questions about kisses and such, and easily wins over the children as well as the first one-on-one date with Michelle. After all, as one of the students points out, he's good at building forts and can probably carry groceries with ease – and aren't those the two most important traits for a relationship partner? (That's a hypothetical question: Obviously yes.)

So the children set up Michelle and Clayton with a mobile pizza party and candy-palooza on the way to a Minneapolis museum, where the students also scattered charming dating games for our couple to play and a special presentation in the planetarium. Dang, kids, you really put in some work this week! Somebody used their recess and study hall periods wisely!

It's a perfect date with a ton of charming interactions and adorable moments and also gummy bears. The one thing it's missing? Any romantic spark whatsoever. Clayton seems like a solid guy – charming and fun and easy-going and good with kids and excellent at forts – but his relationship with Michelle has strong friend chemistry, not romantic chemistry. And unfortunately for Clayton, Michelle agrees, realizing midway through the date that she's just not feeling that special somethting – and doubts she'll get there in time for hometowns next week. So she withholds the date rose and politely sends him on his way. 

This all makes sense except for one small detail: THIS GUY IS SUPPOSED TO BE THE NEXT "BACHELOR"?! Listen, Clayton seems like an excellent guy ... but he was mostly a blandly nice non-factor this season with very little screentime save for clips during physical challenges and his masterful fort skills. I was waiting for the moment where he made an impact, became a star and gave the audience something to grip onto for the next season – and while the episode tries giving him his "audition" moment with a prolonged goodbye, tearfully reading the students' letters and proclaiming "I JUST WANT TO FIND LOVE SO BADLY; I'LL DO WHATEVER IT TAKES – EVEN STAR ON A REALITY PROGRAM," it feels too little too late. There are contestants who are obvious "future star" candidates; Clayton wasn't that this season. Maybe the kids got to pick that too. THE POWER OF FORTS! Anyways, here's to his season revealing a personality that this season didn't. 

We're off to the group date, which the children have set at a farm. Because the Midwest, right?! As everyone knows, it's just one big cornfield and barnyard between the coasts! Anyways, the guys have mixed reactions to their farming fun; Greg just dives in and milks like second nature while Rodney looks absolutely terrified by these animals. THEY KNOW WHAT YOU ATE FOR DINNER, ROD! Joe in particular knocks it out of the park, though, milking his cow like a champ, serving as a cattle whisperer with the baby calves and turning into a one-man Land-O-Lakes facility during the butter churning contest. Meanwhile, Nayte looks far less comfortable, giving up on the crap-shoveling portion of the day (because nothing says swooning TV romance like a close-up of dung) due to a hurt back. I call literal bullsh*t on that. 

After everybody hopefully took a long and intensive shower, the group heads out on a hayride before the traditional dinner date portion of the night. Nayte opens up about his family – particularly his father and the emotional difficulties he's had breaking through with him – Joe talks about how his family had a dairy farm and everybody in general is charming, genuine, trustworthy and OH GOD THE SHOW'S ABOUT TO RUIN THIS IMMEDIATELY, ISN'T IT!? Dang it, who took the show out of the kids' hands and gave it back to the producers!?

Indeed, as soon as Michelle talks about how comfortable she's feeling with the fellas, Martin decides he hasn't made much progress on digging his own grave this episode so he tells Olu and the other guys that his recent miscommunications with Michelle are all her fault for not paying attention – and maybe all that stuff she talked about in her poem shows that she's actually too immature for him. OR PERHAPS YOU'RE A TRASH COMMUNICATOR WHO CLEARLY HATES WHEN WOMEN CHALLENGE HIM ON ANY LEVEL? Something to consider – something he'll have to consider very quickly because Olu decides to use his time to tell Michelle that Martin is a garbage person. I'd normally say using your time for gossip and drama isn't the best strategy – but Olu probably realized his time remaining on the show was short so might as well do some good on the way out. And to that, I say bless you, Olu, and may you get the best cot on "Paradise."

Armed with new info, Michelle takes Martin aside to talk about how he's trash, telling her that he loves her maturity only to tell others that she's immature to defend his own crappy words. And as she's gloriously done this entire season, Michelle takes no guff, calmly but strongly explaining to Martin that it's pretty trashy for him to weaponize her words and accuse her of immaturity to excuse his own missteps. If there was any hope of Martin clinging on for hometowns, he extinguished that early and often during this conversation by consistently trying to talk over Michelle, condescendingly saying things like "am I allowed" to defend himself and non-apologizing for all of the above. So Michelle, finally convinced the frosted tips have bled into his brain, guides him to an SUV and triumphantly sends him back to Miami to be single forever. "A woman like that doesn't deserve my time," he proudly declares on the ride home. GOT A FEELING YOU'LL HAVE A LOT OF TIME ON YOUR HANDS COMING UP, MY BRO! 

After Martin finishes his self-funeral and Nayte gets the group date rose, Michelle heads off on her final one-on-one before hometowns, conveniently heading off to her hometown with Brandon for some ice cream and a tour of her parents' house. Brandon seems like a cute guy who seems super in love with Michelle ... but this date made it crystal clear that these two are just on different life levels. Brandon just seems so ... young with her, squirrelly and loud and just a smidge immature. His energy sometimes feels more like Michelle's babysitting than on a grown-up date – and maybe she's looking for something with a little more zaniness and energy to be the yin to her pretty level-headed, grounded yang, but the match seems iffy to me. Also: His first reaction to seeing her senior photo on the wall of her parents' house was "Look how straight your teeth are!" Because ... they're not now? You're lucky Martin has set the bar for verbal miscues so low, my friend. 

Still, he's charming, sweet and clearly swooning out of his mind while Michelle takes around the house, to her childhood bedroom and eventually to the backyard hot tub since her mom and dad aren't home. SURE HOPE NO PRODUCERS PHONE THE PARENTS UP AND TELL THEM TO HEAD BACK HOME SOON! WOULDN'T THAT BE EMBARRASSING! So of course the parents show up – a terrific acting job on their part, pretending like they're just returning home all normal and unassuming – and awkwardness ensues.

Thankfully for everyone involved, things settle down nicely as the two get dressed and have a pleasant conversation with the parents about their love story, ending with Brandon secretly asking for her parents' blessing if he makes it far enough to propose. They say yes before rinsing off the hot tub while Brandon and Michelle head off for dinner at the Alamo. There, he presents her with a bracelet from his mom and busts out the L-word while she busts out a rose for him. Congrats, you're headed to hometowns, Brandon. Pro tip: If you've got a hot tub at home, maybe take a pass on that this time.

So while Nayte and Brandon are safely on to the next episode, we still have two more hometowns to book and four guys remaining – Joe, Greg, Rodney and Olu, who's particularly nervous because he's the only one remaining who hasn't had a one-on-one date. He'll have to make the most out of the night's cocktail party. Just one hiccup: There is no cocktail party tonight as they're headed straight to the roses. WELP!

And indeed, even though he's dressed in his barbershop pole finest, Olu is eliminated along with Greg. Because obviously. Sorry to these men, but even those recently emerging from decades underground knew Joe was getting the first remaining rose of the night – and while Rodney's definitely the fourth man in the final four (the Cincinnati amongst Georgia, Ohio State and Alabama, if you want a different college sports reference), he has a better connection with Michelle than Olu or Greg. I imagine those two already had their bags packed. 

So that leaves us Joe, Rodney, Nayte and Brandon headed into the season's final run. If I was a betting man, I'd guess Joe and Nayte will make it to the final proposals with the former getting the yes – a pretty swell ending to what's been a pretty swell season of the show. But as Katie's sweet-then-sour season demonstrated, there's always time to send everything down the toilet!

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.