Siiiiiiigh. This show, man. The one thing about time being so weird right now, at least, is that it’s felt like a fortnight passed between last week’s episode and last night’s, which means I had forgotten who all of these people were. I didn’t know what a blessing that was until they came into my life again at 7 p.m., going on about love and music and making me somehow start to loathe both in the process. But that’s Bachelor Nation for you!
Anyway, there are still Texans on the Bachelor spin-off show, which is in its second week, and features musicians going on—what else?—music-themed dates in an attempt to find love through songs. In fact, we got a couple of new contenders this week, when both Ruby Jane Smith, of Austin, and Mariana Jasel, an R&B singer from Dallas, finally made appearances. (Taking a cue from another franchise spin-off, Bachelor in Paradise, the show is introducing new contestants every week.) Last week’s episode ended with the eight women handing out roses to eight men, sending four of the original twelve male contestants home. While last night’s episode started with eight men and eight women, the show raised the stakes by introducing three new female contestants, including Ruby Jane, Mariana, and Natascha Bessez, a New Yorker who quickly and confidently started stirring the pot.
I have to say, watching eleven women “fight” for the approval of eight (probably pretty mediocre) men was tough to watch. Almost half of them were vying for some guy named Brandon Andreen, a military veteran from Nashville with curly blond hair and blue eyes. Tellingly, I found myself attracted to him only when he was sitting on a couch passively making a beautiful woman feel insecure—which says much more about the psychology of heterosexuality within a patriarchal system than it does about Brandon’s looks and potential as a romantic partner.
Despite the fact that I watch The Bachelor and its spin-offs as often as I can, they’re gaslight-y, dishonest, and an often depressing reminder of the lies we tell ourselves about human connection. Listen to Your Heart is especially bad because it throws adult contemporary music into the mix. Plus, these shows are fun to watch only with friends, which we can’t exactly do amidst this pandemic.
But let’s check in with our Texas contestants to see who survived this week’s rose ceremony and who’s in the most powerful slot going into episode three. They’re going to need that: promos for next week reveal that there will be a musical competition element in which pairs of contestants will perform for a panel of judges, including Jewel and a reliably fedora-clad Jason Mraz, who will grade performances based not only on musical talent but on romantic connection (it’s unclear how that will be judged).
Location: San Antonio
Rudi kicked off this week’s episode by looking hungover as heck on national television, which is a power move in itself. Aware that her intensity during the first episode may have jeopardized her survival in the second episode (“I know I’m a lot,” she told the camera multiple times), she tried to establish connections with a couple of different bachelors this time, including Ryan Neal, a 28-year-old John Mayer superfan from Dearborn Heights, Michigan. Their kiss was as profoundly awkward for them as it was for us at home. But no matter: Rudi at least seems to have smoothed things over with Matt, the bachelor she yelled at in last week’s episode for implying he was going to take her on a date and then didn’t. She even slapped him, playfully, and then they made out, after which he straight up said, “That was intense,” in a way that totally revealed how into her he is. Matt gave Rudi his rose too. He’s smitten with Rudi, and that means the San Antonian’s got power. Plus, we got another clip of her singing in the house (a duet with Ruby Jane at the piano), and she’s really good: she has range and sings with emotion.
Style: Indie pop
Though we heard Ruby Jane sing with Rudi in episode two, I don’t remember what she sounded like—Rudi’s voice clearly overshadowed hers. She was memorable in other ways, though: for example, when Brandon told her that he’d been to her hometown of Austin only once, for a bachelor party, she admitted that she has a self-professed “bad reputation for hooking up with guys who go to Austin for bachelor parties.” Personally, I admire her for taking it there right out of the gate. The Bachelor franchise is actually about lust, both for people and for fame, and not about love. So any female contestant who boldly asserts herself early on brings a refreshing honesty to a delusional program that’s frequently steeped in PG-rated heteronormativity. Despite her flirting with Brandon, Ruby Jane ultimately gets a rose from a folk/soul musician named Gabe, with whom we have not once seen her interact. This suggests that she’s received what diehard viewers like to call “a producer rose,” in which someone behind the scenes told Gabe to give Ruby Jane a rose because they wanted her to stick around the show for a while. That’s power.
Oh, Sheridan. Bless his heart. He’s gone all in on Julia, the woman who gave him a rose in the first episode. This was a bad call, as Julia is one of multiple women who has a “connection” with Brandon, even though he has only really shown interest in Savannah, a yoga instructor to whom he gave his rose. Sheridan got a date card last week and picked Julia, and producers got him to tell the camera that if the date went well, he was sure that he and Julia would emerge an official couple.
So the two went on their date—with Sheridan wearing a blazer and one million rings—which saw them going to the iHeartRadio studio to record an on-air segment that of course didn’t air (Bachelor NDAs would never sanction a mid-production leak like that). They sang Maren Morris’s “The Bones,” which Julia obviously picked, since she knew all the words and sang her heart out, while the camera showed Sheridan reading from something. She also totally sang over him when it came time to harmonize, so she’s not a particularly good musical partner. The next day, Julia revealed that she still wanted to pursue something with Brandon. Then after Brandon rejected her in favor of Savannah, Julia accepted Sheridan’s rose, while all viewers cringed.
This is going to be bad. Sheridan seems like a nice guy, and if “Nice guys finish last” is a well-known adage in the regular world, it’s even more true within Bachelor Nation. Julia is only going to cause him more pain, and we’re all going to have to watch. That being said, that Sheridan now has sympathy from the audience could help him in his post-Bachelor career. Hannah Ann Sluss famously got tooled around by Pilot Peter in the regular Bachelor franchise, and she now has 1.4 million Instagram followers and has basically done a whole press tour about how much Peter sucks. If anything, Sheridan’s current place in a love triangle (or, if you include Savannah, a love rhombus) could increase the chances that he sticks around for further episodes, since that makes for good TV—and thus gives him a moderate amount of power.
4. Gabe Baker
Gabe got hardly any screen time this week, and we barely know who he is yet as a person and a musician. When he first appeared in last week’s episode, I even asked myself, “Who the heck is this jabroni?” so he’s obviously made an impression. But he made it through to next week without embarrassing himself, so that’s good for him. Also, he gave his rose to Ruby Jane, a contestant the producers clearly want us to pay attention to. If they’re hitching Gabe’s wagon to her star, I suspect that he’s making it through next week and onto at least episode five.
Mariana unfortunately got less than a minute of screen time this week and no rose, so she’s got this week’s lowest power ranking. I know nothing about her aside from the fact that she is from Dallas. Such a short and insignificant appearance may earn her a few thousand extra social media followers, but it’s probably not going to do much to help her music career—or help her win this reality competition, for that matter.