By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jul 06, 2021 at 7:21 AM

The Olympic games. The NBA Finals. The Stanley Cup playoffs. They're all CHILD'S PLAY compared to the true sport of athletic prowess, physical excellence and just pure bro-ocity that is ... Bash Ball on Monday night's episode of "The Bachelorette." And with a name like "Bash Ball," it had to end poorly for someone – and indeed it did. Arguably it ended poorly for all of us, because the game birthed our latest villain – a man who knows what he wants and will do whatever necessary to get it. Unfortunately, "what he wants" is not a Kleenex.

I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning, where the guys sans Thomas are excited about a fresh, drama-free start that DEFINITELY won't get immediately destroyed by a newcomer, no sir. The most important development, though: Connor and Sweet Baby Boy Greg are apparently BFFs as they're just full-on cuddling together in the main room – with Greg even tending to Connor's hair. Love has clearly already been found on "The Bachelorette," and I am for it. We went from horrifying bullying in the house last season to guys happy and cuddling with their new besties – and this is a 1,000 improvement. If Connor wants me to not consider him a potential Jed, this is a very good approach. 

Of course, it can't be Greg and Connor being adorable and care-free forever. Tayshia shorly comes by to report that Katie was introduced to a new guy, and that because this is HER journey, and because she felt enough of an intrtiguing spark in their conversation, she's invited him into the house. SO MUCH FOR THE DRAMA-FREE HOUSE! At least this was all 100 percent done better than last year's Heather subplot – but everyone still seems sulky. Heck, even precious house dad Michael looks upset. And that's before the date card arrives and gives Blake the day's one-on-one date over everyone else. SOMEONE SHOULD FEEL BLESSED THEY'RE NOT PLAYING BASH BALL TODAY!

No, Blake's not playing modern day gladiator games – but his date with Katie is a little terrifying for him because they're going horseback riding, and Blake conveniently is scared of ponies. If I went on this show, I would just fill in the  questionaire with all opposites. "Oh, my greatest fear? Gotta be massages and pints of mint chip ice cream." Anyways, Blake eventually gets over his fear, and the two have a nice, flirty date – ending with a literal roll in the hay. WHAT IF YOU'RE ALLERGIC!? They gave you a whole couch out there for a reason, goofballs. Meanwhile, back at the mansion, Greg is concerned that Katie and Blake will have chemistry, putting their relationship at risk – and oh boy, Greg, do I have terrible hay-covered news for you. You might want to grab your emotional support Connor before I continue ... 

Back on the date, Blake asks Katie how and why she became so open and sex positive, which leads to Katie bravely elaborating a little bit more on her terrible experience with sexual assault in the past. Blake responds to it all well – he actually seems to listen and responds with care and what seems like genuine thoughtfulness – and the two's relationship moves on to ... prepare yourself for a stunningly unpredictable twist ... a surprise concert from a random country star. I KNOW, RIGHT?! NEVER HAVE I SEEN THIS BEFORE! The two have a nice dance, and I actually don't mind them together; Blake seems like a decent guy, Katie seems to sincerely charmed by him and the show's put in the work to make none of this seem crappy. This isn't the Heather situation – most of all because it seems Blake is here to stay.

After he gets his rose, we head off to the group date, where Katie is thinking about how there's been a lot of drama and tension in the house ... so let's get all the guys to play a hyper-aggressive and violent sport! CANNOT SEE HOW THIS COULD GO WRONG! After some practice with Wells and Franco, the guys prepare to play Bash Ball – which seems to be some ungodly combination of rugby and basketball except with fewer rules. Keeping the ball off the ground? Not necessary. Dribbling? Also gone. Unnecessary roughness? Non-existent and also seemingly encouraged. Even the XFL would look at this and say, "Hmm, we have safety concerns." Why couldn't they have played slamball instead – which has all of the OSHA concerns but also trampolines?

Now that is some deranged aggro nonsense I can get behind. 

Anyways, if you think I'm taking this fake sport too seriously, you should meet Hunter. (Or actually you really, really shouldn't.) The once seemingly decent dude overdosed on adrenaline this episode as he starts running around the field, tackling everyone and anyone he can and splattering them against the turf – all while pointing to Katie and saying, "That was for you." SHE DID NOT ASK FOR CONCUSSIONS, HUNTER!

Unfortunately, Hunter's reckless play sets the tone for the rest of the guys as they all get in on the cheap-shotting and aggro tackling – climaxing with poor sweer House Dad Michael getting wrecked on a frankly cheap shot by Justin. Thankfully, Michael ends up OK – just gotta pop that shoulder back into place and re-teach the lungs how to breathe, no biggie – but Katie shuts down the game immediately. Who could've seen this coming? Looking forward to next season when they have the contestants, after a stressful and heated week, bare-knuckle backyard wrestle. 

The rest of the date goes far better, unsurprisingly. Michael has a nice interaction talking to the middle of the three Katies he's currently seeing post-brain trauma, while Connor – sigh – busts out a ukelele song. All of the Jed clues are there. Meanwhile, Quartney lets Katie toilet paper him like a high school teacher's tree on homecoming night – strange choice, but apparently it's some weird metaphor thing for how when life gets sh*tty, he'll be her TP. That actually didn't make it better at all. This is a night one move, not night five. I think know somebody getting eliminated tonight!

Elsewhere, Hunter – still jacked up on testosterone and bloodsport – calms down a bit in order to show Katie some photos of his children back in the real world. Katie's heart is warmed – but the rest of the guys? Less so. Aaron in particular is not a fan of how Hunter brought up the level of aggression on the field and led to Michael getting pancaked. Hold on a second: AARON has a problem with someone?! COLOR ME SHOCKED! Whenever there's been a harrumph in the house, Aaron's been there at the center – from the one guy he got eliminated early to Karl to Thomas and now Hunter. I'm starting to think Aaron might be the problem. (No, I take that back; it's Hunter.)

In much sweeter news, Michael finally reveals to the guys that he's actually a widower – a revelation that clearly knocks Greg on his emotional butt. Michael sweetly talks about his experience and how you have to cherish the moments of love you have because you're never sure how long they'll last – exactly what the teary-eyed Greg needs to hear after a brutal day of feeling like his connection with Katie is starting to unravel.

Inspired, he goes to check on Katie and on their relationship – to which Katie responds that it's all going great, but she was actually worried about him because he seemed upset – maybe just because he has, according to Katie, "resting sad face." THAT IS NOT REASSURING! This is fairly standard "Bachelorette" plotting – the early frontrunner suddenly losing confidence with all the other guys finally getting attention – but Greg does seem to be taking this all hard. Or maybe it's just the RSF. 

Anyways, Hunter gets the rose, which you don't love to see. Worst of all, he decides the lesson from this successful date is that Katie clearly wants him to be even more aggro and hyper-competitive. This is definitely going to end well; always good when there's a non-zero percent chance of somebody getting decapitated. 

But first, we have our episode's other solo date – this time going to the non-British football playing Andrew, who Katie leads out into the deep, dark, mysterious New Mexico woods. Andrew's worried he's about to fight a bear, while most of the audience at home assumes we should be seeing cute Christmas lights any second now – and indeed, it's not a bear fight but a warmly lit forest oasis, complete with envelopes filled with icebreaker questions. Together they learn about each other's bad dance moves – Andrew apparently has a dolphin dance, and frankly, the dolphin community should sue for defamation – and discover that Andrew has a terrible wolf impression. But what about a wolf with a British accent?

They move on to smashing ceramic hearts (looks like a lot of fun; I do like going smashy-smashy) and playing with giant glowing balloons. By the end, they're making out and Katie's talking about how tonight could be the start of falling in love. There is some tension throughout all of this, though, that while Katie seems to like him, is the deeper connection there? Is he just a great, nice guy, or do they actually have chemistry? Is this going to be one of those dates where Katie sets him free early, realizing there's no spark?! DON'T DO IT; HE'S SUCH A SWEETIE!

Thankfully, she doesn't. Instead, they have really thoughtful and insightful conversations about what it was like to grow up with divorced parents and how that shaped who they are and who they want to be in the process. Andrew also brings up the concept of being an interracial couple to Katie, making sure she's truly comfortable with it and all it could entail – including having mixed-race children, something that was a surprising dealbreaker for a woman in a past relationship for Andrew. In the end, they're on the same page, earning Andrew a rose and falling for each other – so much so they pop into a hot tub for a steamy makeout session. Sorry, I said hot tub when IT WAS CLEARLY A BATH. If there's no jets or bubbles, it's just a hot bath, not a hot tub. USE THE JETS!

Things get no less frustrating at the cocktail party, where Hunter's aggro-strategy goes into full effect – but first, he must apply some Burt's Bees, the official lip balm of overly competitive douchebros, apparently. (Unfortunate product placement, guys.) First, Hunter acts overtly and obviously bored and annoyed by the premise of other people's feelings, eye-rolling and yawning through the other guys talking about their hopes and dreams and aspirations. Then he decides to take some one-on-one time with Katie – which isn't the world's most egregious crime, but he does have a rose already, which isn't great.

Aaron (who appears to have maybe hurt his hand, perhaps during Bash Ball thanks to human wrecking ball Hunter – as if Aaron needed another reason to be a grump), Tre and James aka Box Man certainly don't like it, especially because it's exactly the kind of behavior Hunter would've called out just a day before. James, though, may just be upset because he's wearing an all-black turtleneck and chain outfit that makes him look like that throwback photo of The Rock in the '90s but minus the fannypack. Honestly, the fannypack could only improve the look for Box Man.

Anyways, looking like the drug-peddling villain from an early 2000s crime movie, James decides to settle this and interupts Hunter's time with Katie. And after Hunter rebuffs him once, eventually James' efforts take and Hunter has to snot and snort somewhere else. I haven't talked about this much yet – BUT WHAT IS THIS MAN'S ISSUE WITH HIS NOSE!? Did the audio crew hate him?! Did he have a cold?! Is he allergic to aggro BS and commercial breaks?! Every five minutets, he's snorting and snotting and hocking a loogie, and IT IS NOT WHAT I AM LOOKING FOR ON MY ROMANCE SHOW. Someone get this man some Zicam or get him gone in an SUV of sadness and cold medicine – and considering his recent behavior, it may be the latter sooner than later.

But unfortunately, it's not as soon as this episode as he's already got a rose from the group date. Instead, we lose a bunch of Guys Who Were Technically On This Show: Quartney (this is why you don't bust out toilet paper gags five episodes into the show), some guy named Josh and Andrew M., most famous for not being the Andrew you've heard of or remember. Meanwhile, congratulations to Brendan with the tall hair for somehow getting another week of technically being around. Good for him; get that free vacation time. I look forward to him oddly having a lot to say at the Men Tell All special. 

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.