This week on The Bachelorette, Des chooses a Mr. America from her would-be Mr. Rights, the whole group travels to Atlantic City, and James reveals a secret from his past. Let's get to it!
The episode kicks off with an announcement from Chris Harrison to the guys at the mansion: They will no longer be the guys at the mansion. Instead, they'll be the guys traveling all over the world on a quest -- or "journey," in Bachelorette-speak -- to find love with Des. The first stop on this literal and metaphorical journey? New Jersey's own Atlantic City. (Or, as Michael puts it, "Las Vegas, on the ocean.")
All the guys are "super excited" -- at least three of them use those exact words -- but no one is more thrilled than Brad, who gets the first destination one-on-one date. "Brad, let our love shine through," Des' card reads when the Bachelors arrive at the Revel hotel in good ol' AC.
The rest of the top 13 feign excitement for their fellow hopeful husband-in-waiting, but behind his back, they talk about how wrong he is for Des. "I don't think Brad's a good fit for Des at all," Mikey says in a confessional. "Good kid, but he's very reserved. I don't know how he's going to bring out the fun side of Des."
Cut to Brad and the Bachelorette running around on the Steel Pier like little kids. In the beginning, at least, it seems like the guys might be wrong about Brad. He and Des are having a blast going on rides and chowing down on salt water taffy and chocolate-covered pretzels stolen right off the candy factory conveyor belt.
Meanwhile, back at the Revel hotel, Zak is trying to spot the couple on their date. "I think that Des and Brad are on the carousel," he says jealously, squinting out the window at the boardwalk. "This is a disaster. Things always happen on a carousel." (Because love is a carnival?)
Alas, nothing happens on the carousel. Something almost happens on the beach, though, when Des and Brad settle into a little alcove framed by a giant sandcastle. "There's a part of me that wants to be that girl that can can complete his family," Des says of the single dad to Maddox. "I love that Brad takes responsibility for his son."
That might be the only thing she loves. While she insists repeatedly that the more time she spends with Brad, the more she likes him, it's clear from their dinner -- in a lighthouse! -- that the guys were right about him. "Dinner was good. Dinner conversation? A little rocky," Des says in what may be the understatement of the episode.
After a lot of awkward silences, Des and Brad decide to climb the steps to the top of the lighthouse. They're out of breath by the time they get there, but Des wastes no time in cutting Brad loose. "I loved every single moment of our date, but I don't know -- I think that something was missing, and I can't see this being forever," she tells him. Translation? No date rose. Brad's headed home to his son Maddox.
"I want a love that can light the darkness," Des explains in a voiceover. "And I don't think Brad and I can have that love...There just isn't a natural spark."
Brad clearly disagrees, as evidenced by his tearful pre-limo confessional, but he doesn't hold it against the Bachelorette. "I opened my heart, I shared who I am," he says, beginning to cry. "I don't regret coming here. I don't feel like she rejected me or Maddox; I think she made the decision that's right for her. It's hard to say goodbye, but I miss my son very much."
Moving on! The next day, Des meets Brooks, Bryden, Zack, Kasey, Drew, Juan Pablo, Zak, Mikey, Ben, Michael, and Chris for a group date at Boardwalk Hall, birthplace of the Miss America pageant. Not so coincidentally, they're greeted by Chris Harrison and reigning Miss America Mallory Hagan, who tells the guys that they're going to be competing in the first (and, one can hope, only) Bachelorette Mr. America pageant, complete with interview, talent, and swimwear portions. World-famous pageant coach Christopher Dean is on hand to help them through it, and the first step, he says, is for each of them to pick their talent.
The guys head over to the Talent Table to sort through the options, which include a guitar, drums, dance ribbons, and silver platform heels. Juan Pablo picks up a baton and shows off some surprisingly nimble twirling skills (followed by a cheeky wink to the camera); Chris straps on the heels; Zak grabs the guitar; Drew recites a little Shakespeare; Brooks attempts to play the ukelele; and Kasey stomps around in a pair of tap shoes. "It's like a train wreck at every station," Mikey quips. Adds Drew: "It's a hodgepodge of tomfoolery."
As this is going on, Miss America is coaching the guys on the interview portion of the competition. Her questions -- like "If you had to name the biggest problem in America today, what would it be?" -- are met mostly with silence and blank stares, with the occasional "This is hard" comment thrown in. The worst is yet to come, though, as the Bachelors learn that they'll be parading around in Speedos and swim trunks in front of a live Atlantic City audience. "This Speedo is small," Ben says nervously. "It's going to bare a lot."
The pageant -- judged by Des, Miss America, and the mayor of Atlantic City -- gets under way a little while later, and it's pretty much exactly what you'd expect it to be. Most of the guys sail through the interview portion, answering questions like, "In a relationship, are you a giver or a taker?" and "If you could be water or fire, which would you be, and why?" The only one who really stumbles is Chris, who pulls a Miss Utah when asked what relationship skills he needs to work on.
"Maybe taking her out to dinner a few more times during the week than necessary," he says. "Wait, not than necessary -- just more than twice, or three times." (Cut to the rest of the guys slapping their foreheads in disbelief backstage.)
The talent competition is next, and though the guys clearly put their hearts into it, it's a little like an SNL skit about a talent competition. Brooks smashes a ukelele onstage, Mikey does some "meatheadish" (in Chris' words) dance routine, Bryden thrusts his pelvic area in the direction of Des and the mayor, Chris swings hula hoops on his arms while balancing in high heels, and Zak attempts to channel John Mayer by serenading Des with a sensitive, guitar-strummed love song.
After the swimsuit portion of the event, Des joins Chris Harrison onstage to announce the judges' scores. Brooks and Zak take second and first runner-up, respectively, which leaves nine guys in the running for the Mr. America title. And the winner is...Kasey!
The post-pageant pool party is relatively uneventful, though we do get to hear some of Chris' poetry and a little more Ben-bashing. ("I hate Ben," Bryden says. "I don't even want to look at him.") In the end, Zak gets the date rose, and the rest of the guys seethe silently.
Next up is Des' one-on-one date with James. There's not a lot of fun to be had on this date -- they're touring the Hurricane Sandy-ravaged New Jersey coastline -- but both seem glad to be in each other's presence. "Sharing this with Desiree has definitely created a bond between us," James says, as they fly over the collapsed boardwalk. "It's something I'll never forget, and I think it's something she'll never forget."
Later, their Red Cross tour guide takes them to meet a sweet New Jersey couple, Manny and Jan, who had to spend their 38th wedding anniversary in a shelter, after the storm destroyed their home. Moved by their story, Des and James decide to offer up the rest of their Atlantic City date to the couple, who accept tearfully before being whisked away in a limo. They're treated to a romantic dinner and a private concert with Darius Rucker -- but the best part, by far, is the re-creation of their wedding album. (The original was damaged by Sandy.) Well played, Bachelorette producers.
Des and James, meanwhile, are bonding over pizza and beer and talking about how love is all they need in life. "Money can buy the things that make you happy for a day, but what makes me really happy is relationships," Des says, gushing that she could live on a deserted island as long as she had someone to love.
James is practically swooning, but he needs to confess something before they continue: He cheated on his girlfriend in college. He swears he's changed since then, but Des seems skeptical. "Do you really think you won't do it again?" she asks, explaining that she's been cheated on before.
"I would never cheat ever again," he promises. "What I did broke my heart because I broke her heart."
Des expresses some concern that temptation might be a problem for James, but she decides to keep him around anyway. "I appreciate your honesty more than anything," she tells him as she gives him the date rose. "I feel like you're trustworthy." Later, as they join Manny and Jan for the Darius Rucker concert, she adds in a voiceover: "We just look at each other and you know that we want to kiss, so that's a good sign."
The next night, Des and the guys get all dressed up for the pre-rose ceremony cocktail party. Things start out normally, but then Bryden drops a bombshell: He's not sure if Des is the right girl for him. "If my feelings are not where they need to be, I'm going to tell her and let her know I'm leaving," he tells the rest of the guys, who seem surprised but not at all disappointed.
Bryden pulls Des aside to voice his concerns, and she says she understands but wants him to stay. "I can see potential, and we do have a connection," she tells him. Privately, she adds, "I can see that Bryden is struggling with this. My fear is that he won't give this a chance."
We're about to find out! The rose ceremony starts, and Des hands out roses to Chris, Brooks, Juan Pablo, Drew, Michael, Ben, and Kasey. She calls Bryden's name next, but it takes him what feels like forever to step forward. Finally, he does. "Bryden, will you accept this rose?" Des asks. There's another long pause, and then he says simply, "Yes, I will."
Mikey gets a rose, too, leaving Zack (not to be confused with Zak, who got the date rose earlier) the odd man out. He waxes on about how he wanted to find love and feels incomplete without a woman in his life, but he leaves with relatively little drama -- which is good, because it looks like next week is going to be a doozy.
Next stop: Munich, Germany!