If there’s one thing last night’s recap episode taught us, it’s that not all Greatest Ever seasons make for great recaps. Over the last few weeks, even if I wasn’t spectacularly entertained, I’ve managed to find aspects of each episode compelling and/or nostalgic. There have been so many great personalities to walk through these hallowed halls of heartbreak!
However, I’m sorry to say JoJo’s season did not translate for me at all. It led me to the conclusion that, in the same way that a season is only as good as its contestants, a recap episode is even more dependent on them. Case in point: JoJo herself was a phenomenal Bachelorette: down-to-earth, cool yet relatable, funny, confident yet never arrogant, self-deprecating. She was the quintessential woman that men want to date and other women want to be friends with. She is, to this day, one of the most charming Bachelor Nation members I’ve ever met in person. She just has that “it” factor, that star quality. Her Instagram following and unique post-show success (including a clothing line and an HGTV show with fiancé Jordan) suggest I’m not alone in thinking so.
Therefore, it’s with sad surprise that I report that last night bored me to tears. Of course, JoJo and Jordan’s engagement was beautiful and the hopeless romantic in me is glad to see them still together and evidently very much in love. (I appreciated their honesty in admitting their first year post-engagement was brutally difficult.) But those fleeting feel-good moments aside, this season just did not recap well. We weren’t able to see JoJo’s many adorable moments, the little in-between interactions, her witty comebacks and one-liners. (Although I will say, her matter-of-factly sending Chad packing was pretty fantastic.) The innate issue (or selling point?) of this Greatest Seasons Ever format is it’s actually more about contestants being featured, more so than the lead herself. It’s about singling out any notable or finalist men and guys’ individual “journeys” and rehashing their heartbreak. And while JoJo did have some memorable guys—Jordan aside, Derek, Evan and Wells were the obvious stand-outs—none of them made it particularly far.
Meanwhile, I remember strongly feeling Robby and Chase were about as milquetoast as runners-up could be. (Note how all three of the above men were interviewed in “catch-up” conversations yet these two runners-up weren’t, proving The Powers That Be agree with me.) That may sound harsh, but as increasingly “in love” and vulnerable as both Robby and Chase became, I never quite bought what they were selling. Mid-2016 brought us firmly into the Instagram influencer age, making it harder for contestants to prove to us how Right Reasons-y their intentions were. Robby practically exited the limo already in love (I will never forget him telling JoJo he was falling in love with her ON THEIR FIRST DATE) and, in his subsequent stint on Paradise, he sure was quick to switch his occupation from whatever it was he did before The Bachelorette to “Influencer.” (The fact that this elicited groans from his beach mates—many of whom were also influencers—says it all.) Chase’s “journey,” while a tad more intriguing given in his family backstory and his reticence to fully open up, was also a flop. He ultimately came off as neither entertaining nor emotionally available; it’s as though he did fall for JoJo, but with as little gusto as one can muster. (I did enjoy his departure, however; how he described getting sent home after being given a Fantasy Suite card as “pull your pants down and kick me in the nuts” is one of my all-time favourite franchise quotes!) Even Luke’s “journey” felt like a slog to get through. I remember enjoying some of Luke’s lighter moments (he was very popular among the men and I have fond memories of him referring to his “bow legs”), but those moments were unfortunately omitted from his recap in favour of only serious gazes and makeout seshes. In general, last night gave us a flurry of extended makeouts and professions of love and tearful exits, yet zero flavour differentiating one relationship from the next.
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This already glacial recap was made even worse by the facepalm-inducing insertion of contestants of colour. Let us dissect: In a montage of five intro videos including winner Jordan, finalist Luke, and season fixtures Alex and Evan, we were inexplicably shown Grant, who never even had a 1-on-1 date and who was one of two (yes, TWO) Black men to make it into the mansion. Grant hardly got any airtime before leaving in Episode 5, but I’m willing to concede this could have been a coincidence. EXCEPT: In the limo exit montage featuring future Paradise star Derek, winner Jordan, runner-up Robby, villain Chad, franchise success story Evan, season fixture/comic relief Daniel, finalist Luke and franchise favourite Wells…are we supposed to believe it’s also a coincidence that those same two Black men were the only other two featured? Grant was shown again, as well as Christian, who left in Episode 3, who never got a 1-on-1 date, and whose name (based on airtime) I’d challenge you to have remembered. (If you think I’m kidding, go back and rewatch this!) It’s bad enough to fail so spectacularly in the representation department, but to retroactively purport this hyper-white season—and hyper-white program—was more diverse than it was? It was a struggle to even type this paragraph, I’m cringing so hard.
As nice as it was to “meet” our future Bachelor Matt James, even this introduction felt like a preventable misstep. Chris Harrison said to Matt, “Obviously, the announcement was absolutely huge.” OK, but why? We’re spoon-fed every other tidbit of information, from what contestants are like, to why our lead is so eligible, to how far along each relationship is…yet we can’t explicitly address why this announcement was “absolutely huge?” We can have an entire season revolve around one man’s virginity but can’t even fleetingly address this franchise’s 18-year history of conspicuously lacking diversity? Even in the context of a sunny “we’re working to be better?” It’s as though even the words “race,” “Black,” and “diversity” are these forbidden terms that cannot be uttered by our host. Matt emphasized getting a massive response from his Black friends, saying they’re excited for him to “represent what it’s going to look like to have diverse relationships.” Of course, he’s right, and I’m very excited to finally watch that diversity. But just as I was irked two weeks ago that Deanna and Clare were brought in to defend Kaitlyn having sex on her season, I was irked that, an entire Bachelorette season away from filming, it was already on Matt to talk about race last night. As I said two weeks ago, there was a time (a time not too long ago), where this would have sufficed. Matt could be the show’s mouthpiece, and the airing of his words could be construed as approval and agreement. But now, it’s not enough. It’s not enough to just film and air and smile and agree. SAY SOMETHING.
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I’ll attempt to end on a positive note (though it’s a struggle—I want those three hours of my life back). I am pretty pumped we’ll finally go further back in time next week, to the first ever seasons of each The Bachelor and Bachelorette. Hearing Bachelor Alex Michel say, “I’m actually a little bit nervous about the etiquette of a six-person date” fills me with anticipation. THIS is what we want; not the “journeys” from a few years ago, of a few influencers-in-training. We want the journey of this show. Greatest Seasons Ever is such a unique opportunity (thus far wasted) to show how we got here. Can you imagine how strange Group Dates and Rose Ceremonies and Fantasy Suites and First Impression Roses were back before we came to regard them as regular lingo? That is the journey I want to see; the journey of the “journeys.” Bring on the Mother journey!