(Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Bachelor Season 28, Episode 4.)
The internet might’ve decided that all men spend their time thinking about the Roman Empire, but Joey Graziadei is apparently not one of them. At least, he wasn’t until this season of The Bachelor flew him out to Malta and dressed him up in a brown skirt and a chain mail cowl for a romantic gladiator match.
… And somehow, that wasn’t even the most harrowing conflict to come out of this week. As expected, Canadian executive assistant Maria Georgas and Rhode Island vintage store owner Sydney Gordon’s long-simmering feud ended in a horrendously awkward two-on-one date. Unfortunately, however, that was not enough to squash the awful vibes in the house. Instead, one of Sydney’s friends decided to pick up her banner and keep the bad energy flowing for no real reason. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what the second half of ABC’s dramatic, two-night Bachelor extravaganza brings, but Monday’s episode already brought enough chaos for a whole month.
Credit where it’s due: These Bachelor editors are really on their game this season. The premiere taunted us with a flash-forward to Joey crying on his proposal beach, presumably rejected, and this week, we got a humorous tease of the unavoidable two-on-one. As we saw, Maria and Sydney sat silently on a boat with sinister music playing in the background, and they both looked appropriately miserable. (For the record, I’m not falling for that premiere trickery, though; I still fully believe that Joey will find love.)
For those who need a refresher on where Maria and Sydney’s empty rivalry began, it’s really quite simple. It all started when 31-year-old Madina Alam complained that her age was getting in the way of her connection with our 28-year-old Bachelor. Maria, in turn, had the audacity to suggest that 31 is not that old, and she added that she, at age 29, is also older than Joey. Then, Sydney decided that it was her duty to tell Madina that Maria had dismissed her concerns—which prompted Madina to tell Joey that she felt she was being bullied. (Let the record show, however, that Madina has since said she regrets that word choice.) When Joey confronted the women about this allegation, all hell broke loose, and as last week’s dour pool party proved, things have not improved since.
You could tell by the exhausted looks on everyone’s faces this week that they wanted Maria and Sydney to just drop it already, but alas, Bachelor Mansion was not built on that “live and let live” kind of energy. As excited as all the women were to fly to Malta, you could nevertheless feel the dread in the air whenever they had to sit together as a group.
Joey, meanwhile, has continued to do an impressive job of making all of this look easy. His self-deprecating charm during his travels this week was both impressive and, at times, delightfully corny. Case in point, the moment when he cheesed for the camera and said, “By the end of this, I hope to bring someone to the alta’—but before I do that, I have to hang out in Malta!”
Lexi won the one-on-one for this week, which included a scenic walk, a delicious-looking pastry, and a round of bocce ball. The two also visited a gorgeous cathedral, where Lexi reflected on her close relationship with her grandfather. Later on, she opened up to Joey about being diagnosed with stage 5 endometriosis and explained the reproductive complications that come along with that. Joey was as understanding as ever, and of course Lexi received the rose. She seems like a shoo-in at least until hometowns, but Joey also seems to be cultivating strong connections with a number of these women, so her position is far from secure.
While Joey sampled cured hams and danced in the streets with Lexi, the mood back at the hotel was far less celebratory. Sydney insisted that the conflict was affecting her “health”—meaning, her stomach was in knots and she was breaking out—while Maria mostly just looked exhausted. When all of the women but those two and Lexi received a group date invite, their fates were sealed: a two-on-one date lurked just around the corner.
It turns out, however, that it was the group date at Fort Manoel (and not the gladiatorial two-on-one to come) that inspired Joey’s strange Roman Empire get-up. First, the women got into some knight costumes and learned to sword fight for his love, Then, they had to bear their knightly souls by staring into his eyes—a task some enhanced with a kiss. Ever the honorable Bachelor, Joey actually volunteered to join the women for the final, most embarrassing challenge, which required them all to stand around a wheel and catch flying sausages with their mouths. “I couldn’t make the women do something I wouldn’t do myself,” Joey said, and with that, he cemented his status as the realest Bachelor in the game.
In another twist of fate, Autumn Waggoner, a 26-year-old account executive from Missouri, won the group date because she was one of the few people who did not cheat at the sausage game. In the end, however, it was actress, realtor, and clothing store owner Kelsey Toussant who wound up taking the group date rose.
Back at the hotel, Sydney and Maria were about as awkward as you’d expect. Sydney complained she was being “tortured,” and later on, once they got on the boat for their two-on-one date to the Blue Grotto, she equated the day to “spending the whole day with the Devil.” Maria, meanwhile, called Sydney a “vampire” for draining her energy.
After a very unpleasant boat ride, the three pulled up to a dock where, sure enough, only one rose sat on a table. Sydney seemed to make up a story about Maria telling her friend, Lea Cayanan, to “shut the fuck up,” and Maria denied it. Joey knew this date wouldn’t help him get any closer to the truth (which makes me think he only agreed to this to please producers) and ultimately, he went with his gut and chose Maria. Her reward for sticking it out? A live performance of the song “Ave Maria,” because subtlety is overrated.
Most of us probably gasped out a sigh of relief when Sydney went home—she’s been far less eager than Maria to just stop talking about Age-gate—but her friend Lea was less than thrilled. In a truly bizarre move, she pulled Madina aside to chastise her for calling herself Sydney’s friend while also being nice to Maria. (Apparently, being someone’s friend also means treating their petty rivalries like gospel?) Madina treated this nonsense with exactly as much respect as it deserved and walked away.
All of the conflict has clearly been wearing on Maria, and the conflict between Madina and Lea opened the floodgates. Lea smirked as Maria stood outside crying and telling producers she wanted to go home. As far as she’s concerned, Maria is just a “drama queen crybaby.” This is an especially disappointing turn, considering that it was Lea who burned the “steal a one-on-one date” card on Night One, signifying her solidarity with her fellow cast members. Just when it seemed the drama could die down, we might’ve already gotten a new villain. Et tu, Lea?
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