A front-runner emerges as Matt shares with one special lady that he's falling in love with her and suggests he'd like her to win the whole show, too.
Matt James promised a "mean girl" reckoning and he delivered with this week's episode of "The Bachelor." But he didn't quite reckon with them all -- at least not yet.
As if to emphasize why this needed to happen, the episode kicked off with more examples of just how catty and nasty the likes of Anna and Victoria and MJ and Serena C and a few others have been throughout the season, though to varying degrees.
This set the stage for Matt blowing the wind out of all of their sales -- and some great face from Anna -- by telling them collectively that the bullying is unacceptable.
Producers went for a close zoom on Anna, who was the one responsible for starting the rumor that Brittany was an escort, and you could see all over her face that she knew she was in trouble.
There were other worried looks throughout the group, as this was definitely a growing mob mentality situation, but self-proclaimed "Queen" Victoria could be seen with her wheels already turning.
Mean Girl Purge
Before Matt had even pulled Anna fully out of the room, it seemed, Victoria had started her apology tour, making sure everyone knows that she has a kind heart and she's never "malicious." You know, except for all those times she was.
No one is buying it, considering she never apologized for anything and even went so far as to demanded an apology from Katie over Katie's reaction to her behavior. Let's put a pin in this behavior as we'll see it again.
To her credit, Anna owned up to her mistake and admitted it to Matt. She even seemed to show some real remorse once she got into the limo it was over. Now, was it remorse for what she did or that she got caught? Some things take time to fully process, so we'll give her that grace.
But Anna was the only "mean girl" Matt walked out immediately, not even getting to the Rose Ceremony proper. By the time Ryan was spilling that Victoria had called her a "ho" for being a dancer, Matt had apparently reached his limit.
He called off the cocktail party and instead wanted to get right to the Rose Ceremony. You have to feel for the women staying out of the drama who keep getting screwed on time over and over again as we reach the halfway point of the season.
But we also credit Matt for refusing to allow bullying in the house. He says repeatedly he's determined to foster a "safe space" for the women and to his credit, he certainly starts making steps in that direction.
By the end of the Rose Ceremony, both queens are out of the house with Catalina joining Victoria in getting the boot. Also cut were Lauren and Mari, who just kind of faded into the background. As for Victoria, this girl does not fade.
After freaking out over the Rose Ceremony, probably for fear of being rejected and having to face herself, Victoria's pride and whatever else is going on there would not let her exit gracefully. Instead she refused to hug Matt and charged him with listening to "hearsay" instead of "facts."
Are those the same "facts" you completely failed to provide when Matt asked you exactly in what context it's okay to call someone a "ho"? Victoria defended her comment about Ryan by saying it was taken out of context but could not provided the context in which it was meant, or answer Matt's question.
It's definitely harder to gaslight someone and manipulate and control everything when you get pushback. Victoria was clearly not quick enough on her feet to figure out how to spin out of this one, so kudos to Matt for pushing her in that way.
That said, producers were probably devastated to lose her, because her narration and commentary has been the stuff of reality TV dreams. It's been horrible and awful to the other women, to be sure, but nevertheless there's a twisted entertainment there -- "Bachelor in Paradise," anybody?
As nice as it was to see the queen of mean get the boot, as well as Anna -- who became quite the instigator herself -- this by no means was a complete "mean girl" purge. MJ, Serena C and Kit had plenty of their own catty moments about the newcomers, and in general.
Is it too soon to call it? If you've been with us since the beginning, we made a prediction after the very first episode. Tonight, that prediction moved one step closer to reality as both Matt and Rachael suggested they'd like to see her win the whole show.
They also both professed that they were falling in love with each other. It was all after a stunningly exciting -- and jealousy inducing -- "Pretty Woman" date where Rachael got spoiled with a shopping spree, topped off (or would that be red-bottomed off?) with a pair of Louboutins!
Let's just say she couldn't wipe the smile off her face, and who could blame her? There was just so much joy and chemistry throughout the date, and an ease between her and Matt, that their connection was palpable through the screen!
She opened up to him about her insecurities in general, about herself and her self-worth, going so far as to say that she believes he's out of her league. It was an endearing authenticity that is backed up by how she carries herself in the house. And for Matt, it's extremely attractive.
A stark contrast from Louboutin heels, the bulk of the ladies got to head down to the farm for their group date with Matt, which looked like it was a lot of fun. Matt was certainly having a blast.
In fact, the only one not having any fun was MJ (it's not gonna get better), as she was afraid of every little thing. But on at least one point, we're going to have to agree with her.
After a playful moment where Matt threw an egg and she caught it, shattering it in her hand, she took off to try and get egg on Matt. He ran from her, but he also ran directly into Pieper, taping an interview segment.
With MJ on his heels, Matt ran right into Pieper's arms and lips, settling in for a long uncomfortable kiss. He was sharing a moment with one lady and immediately pivoted to another. We understand that it's cool to be dating all these gorgeous women at the same time, but you have to show a little respect for them along the way.
Of course, we're at that time in the season where the contestants start to realize how hard it is to be sharing the same suitor and being happy/sad/jealous when someone else gets more time or more quality time. This just exacerbates all of those anxieties.
But it was good news for Matt's pal Abigail, as she got the Group Date Rose. Look, we're just not seeing him really feeling for her the way he does the other ladies. Abigail is this gal pal he's really impressed by and thinks highly of, but that does not a romance make.
We suspect Katie is falling into the same category. Her strength of character in standing up to and outing the bullies in the house has impressed him, but he seems to be thinking of her as a good friend and ally in this process than a romantic interest. She may well be impressing us watching more than she is Matt.
Once again proving himself a thoughtful person, Matt remembered how much being in the kitchen means to Kit, as it is a connection she shares with her mother. He does not, however, seem to have any idea that she was being a bit of a "mean girl" herself.
So while he managed to remove two of the problem children in his household, he invited another on a One-on-One. It stands as proof that some people do get away with awful behavior. Or at least, she's getting away with it so far.
In some ways, it's as much about how you own up to your mistakes as it is those mistakes in the first place. But, as we saw with Anna, owning up to it can be a great character growth moment, but it doesn't necessarily absolve you from consequences.
For Kit, those consequences so far have been a nice one-on-one baking cookies with Matt, opening up a bit about how hard it is for her to open up being a "gold bentleys" and "red carpet" kind of girl protecting herself in the public eye.
Kit is the youngest contestant, at 21 years old, and the daughter of a wealthy and successful fashion designer. It may be that she lacks the real-world experience necessary to behave better and not pile on when people are being mean. It's not an excuse for bad behavior, of course, but could set this up as a learning and personal growth experience for her.
It turns out Matt wasn't yet done with the "mean girls," which is good because he didn't get them all. He confronted MJ about her own bullying behavior in the house -- she was neck-and-neck with Victoria at times -- and her response was almost as bad, blaming everyone else.
She accused the other girls of being jealous of or threatened by her, because that's the only reason they might bring her name up. When she was asked by Jessenia if she would confess to Matt that "Varsity vs JV" as a way to differentiate the original group and the newcomers was coined by her, MJ deflected.
Instead, she said she was feeling attacked. When Katie tried to help Jessenia argue her point, MJ's misdirection and deflection and unwillingness to be real went to the next level. She was just being so ... attacked!
How would you girls like it if MJ were attacking you? Oh wait, don't answer that.
This one came down to a two-on-one bloodbath with only one person coming out alive. Okay, that might be a little dramatic. It was, however, a sit-down with Matt for Jessenia and MJ with only one rose on the table.
Once again, before Matt even arrived, MJ started attacking Jessenia and trying to rewrite history (there's a lot of gaslighting here). But we don't get to see her spin her tales with Matt as the episode ended on his arrival. So can she weave a web of lies enough to stay in the house?
We suspect that will depend on if Jessenia can keep her cool, or if Matt has kind of already made up his mind. We have a feeling MJ will be the next to go, and her behavior to this point would make that a good call. She can reunite with her pal Victoria on "BiP."
"Did you get to talk to her? Last I heard, she was, like, kind of bummed." --MJ (to Anna about Brittany)
"I'm fine with her. I don't give a f--- anymore." --Anna (after spreading rumor Brittany was an escort)
"I know some girls are gonna be upset if they ever learn that it was me that kind of sparked this fire, but if you're going to be a mean girl, I'm going to call you out." --Katie
"Before we get into tonight, I want to address something that was brought to my attention last night about the environment in the house, how toxic it is. How there's a mob mentality with the old women vs. the new women. This 'us vs them,' really a culture of bullying. I also wanted to address some rumors that were floating around that could potentially ruin someone's life. If you're having to belittle someone else for you to shine, then those aren't the qualities I'm looking for in my wife. It sucks, 'cause, like, I don't get enough time with you all. And now I gotta deal wit this. There's a lot of answers to questions that I need tonight." --Matt
"I think the reason people are so upset is because they messed up and they know it." --Katie
"It sucks because this is on national TV. My mom watches this show, and, like, this could ruin my entire life. I didn't sign up to be bullied and harassed. I signed up to find love and to meet you, finally. I was so excited when I first came here. I've never dealt with bullying before and it, like, hurts a lot. It really hurts." --Brittany (to Matt)
"I don't know who told who, but I said something that was rude about Brittany, so the fact that that all bites me in the butt now-- like, I f------ hate this. I hate everything about this." --Anna (that's not how remorse works)
"You're not a horrible person. I don't think that at all, 'cause I've been in your shoes. I've said things that I wish I could take back and that I'm not proud of. Ultimately, I've had to take responsibility for my words and my actions and I've grown from it. But, I have a responsibility to the women that are here, to Brittany, to myself ... to follow my heart. Anna, unfortunately I can't see you being part of that journey anymore." --Matt
"I've seen how words can affect people. I owe it to these women to create a safe space for them and that's what I'm gonna do." --Matt
"Suddenly, people are apologizing from left and right. It's kind of hard to know if everyone is being sincere." --Ryan (after Anna is escorted out)
"I can't even explain the kiss-assery that is going on." --Serena C
"I'm sorry I took your crown. It was just, like, silly. It was never malicious." --Victoria (to Catalina)
"Victoria just today apologized for what she did on my night one when I walked in the room and she ripped off my crown. She only addressed it today, so I can't say I 100 percent buy Victoria's apology." --Catalina
"She told me to my face that because I'm a dancer, she flat-out stated that I was a ho. And she laughed about it after." --Ryan (about Victoria)
"I am the perfect person to be his wife. But then these f------ losers created these problems when everything is fine." --Victoria (that's not how taking ownership works)
"That was completely taken out of context." --Victoria (to Matt about her "ho" comment to Ryan)
"I'm just curious, what context would calling somebody a ho be acceptable to be taken in?" --Matt
"I don't ever want to be called a bully or toxic. That pisses me off. Now that I found out that Katie's the one that fed Matt the information. F--- you, Katie. Katie's not here for him. F------ loser." --Victoria
"Like, Ryan, she's the shadiest bitch and I hope I don't get sent home for this." --Victoria (to producers, but women can overhear)
"I'm the only one with a working f------ brain in this room. And I'm not even being rude, I'm being serious." --Victoria (to producers, but women can overhear)
"I honestly feel so sorry for you that you would listen to hearsay and not all of the facts behind a situation. So goodbye." --Victoria (refusing to hug Matt goodbye)
"You lucky bitch!" --Serena P (seeing Rachael return from one-on-one with shopping bags)
"First off, I think you're out of my league." --Rachael (opening up about confidence issues and feeling even worthy of his attention)
"Maybe we're both crazy." --Rachael (after she and Matt both indicate they want her to be the winner)
"Oh, do you want to get in my interview with me?" --Pieper (Matt runs away from MJ's broken egg and right into Pieper's lips)
"That sucks that someone said that to him. Like, clearly someone is threatened by me. LIke, for someone to say that, that's, like, a big deal. It's so frustrating. You should be confident enough in yourself that you don't need to talk about other girls with him. I think I deserve an apology for even saying that to Matt. That's, like, not fair." --MJ (that's not how taking ownership works)
"She lied to his face ... He took care of Victoria, he needs to take care of MJ." --Jessenia (before their meeting with Matt)
"Y'all wanna see me fight. Get your popcorn." --MJ
"You'll find out the truth when this airs. And so will he." --Jessenia (to MJ)