Let the dates begin! Two episodes into season nine of The Bachelorette, Desiree Hartsock has already gone wedding dress shopping, hot-tubbing, and road-tripping with two of her many hopeful suitors. And somewhere in the middle of all that, she managed to also film a rap video with special guest Soulja Boy. (Save something for the finale, guys!)
Week two of Des' quest for love kicks off with the remaining bachelors -- all 19 of them -- setting up house at the mansion and hoping for a date card. Brooks, a 28-year-old Utah native, is the first lucky recipient of some one-on-one time with Des, who cruises into the driveway a short time later in an aquamarine Bentley.
"I'm really hopeful that my husband is within this group of guys," she says in a voiceover, as the men appear outside to see Brooks and Des off on their date. She's serious about finding her future spouse -- so serious that she takes Brooks to a bridal boutique so she can try on wedding gowns. (To be fair, this isn't just a ploy to get him to talk marriage; Des is a bridal stylist in L.A.)
In a normal situation, a big white dress on the first date would almost certainly be a big red flag, but normal is relative on The Bachelorette, and if Brooks is freaked out by the activity, he doesn't show it. In fact, he gamely plays into the fantasy, trying on hideous tuxes and cracking cheesy, pseudo-romantic jokes before carrying her out to the car and staging a wedding cupcake taste-test.
"I really felt like we were newlyweds," Des says afterward. "Brooks was the best guy to bring on this date. It's not supposed to be serious. It's supposed to be fun, and Brooks just rolled with it."
Still dressed in their wedding garb, the faux bride and groom head up to the famed Hollywood sign, which is normally closed to visitors. Perched on the second "L," high above the city, they talk about past heartbreaks and share their first mini-makeout of the season.
"This could be the first kiss with somebody I spend the rest of my life with," Brooks says in a voiceover. (So much for managing expectations.)
Later, they drive down a closed road and onto a deserted bridge, where they enjoy a romantic dinner for two, complete with chandeliers and a live performance by Andy Grammer. Brooks opens up about his parents' divorce, and Des is so moved by his honesty that she gives him the date rose right then and there. He's safe.
The rest of the guys, however, are scrambling to make an impression on Des. And the next day, Dan, Juan Pablo, Kasey, Zack K., Will, Brian, Drew, James, Mikey, Zak W., Nick, Michael, Brandon, and Ben get their chance. Arriving at the Malibu Rocky Oaks Estate Vineyards, the bachelors learn that they're going to be filming their very own rap video with Soulja Boy.
"I always thought that love was a little bit like hip hop," Soulja Boy says. "You gotta go with the flow."
"Flow" is not the guys' strong suit. They stumble through the dancing and rapping, spitting offbeat rhymes about being there for "the right reasons" and "all four seasons." The result is an awkward but funny parody of past Bachelor/Bachelorette contestants, including Jason Mesnick, Wes Hayden, and Justin "Rated R" Rego. (Sample verse: "I'm jobless, I'm homeless / She's a means to no end / I'm here to get famous, not to make friends.")
After filming, everyone's ready for a drink -- which means it's time for cocktail hour and one-on-one chats. The guys seem to be getting along just fine, until one of them starts hogging Des' attention. As all loyal Bachelor/Bachelorette fans know, every season has to have a villain -- and this season's (according to the rest of the house) is Ben, the token single parent. (Every season has to have one of those, too.)
The men think Ben is there "for the wrong reasons" and confront him about his behavior, but in the end, the only approval he needs is from Des -- and he gets it in the form of a kiss, and then in the evening's only date rose. Lovelorn Brandon, however, also manages to steal a few moments with the Bachelorette, and he uses them to tell Des his life story, which includes an absentee father and a drug-addicted mom. In part because of that, he's eager for some stability. "I want to come home to you," he tells her earnestly. "I just want to love you."
The next day, Des has her second one-on-one date of the week, with Bryden. The two take a road trip up the coast, stopping at El Matador Beach (where they try unsuccessfully to fly a kite), an orange grove (where she introduces him to brie), and Ojai Spa and Resort (where she gives him a rose after he tells her about the terrible accident he survived in college). Later, in the hot tub, they make awkward small talk about how much fun they've had together, until Des finally says, "Just kiss me already!" (He does.)
Next on the schedule is the pre-rose ceremony cocktail hour, where Ben -- who is already safe from elimination -- further angers the other guys by interrupting Michael's one-on-one time to talk to Des. "This guy has some pair of balls!" Michael seethes.
In the end, though, Des gives Michael a rose anyway. The other lucky winners (besides Ben, Bryden, and Brooks) are James, Kasey, Dan, Juan Pablo, Brad, Chris, Brian, Zak W., Drew, Mikey, Zack K., Michael, and Brandon. (Will, Robert, and Nick are sent packing.)
Tell Us: Do you think Ben is as bad as the guys say he is? Who's your favorite so far?