The course of true love never did run smooth. This week's episode of The Bachelorette -- the fifth in Desiree Hartsock's quest for love -- was a bumpy one for the show's romantic heroine and her 11 would-be suitors. One guy had a devastating revelation about his relationship with Des, two other guys nearly came to blows on their date with her, and someone else revealed his intentions toward her to be somewhat less than honorable. There may be a fairy-tale ending still to come, but is there a prince?
The episode opens with the remaining bachelors arriving in Munich, Germany, for the first international stop on their "journey to find love." After a quick briefing with Chris Harrison, they retire to their hotel, where the first of three date cards is delivered to Chris (the contestant, not the host). "In Munich, we can fall in love with each other," the card reads in German.
Chris sets off to meet Des for a day of sightseeing -- it's her first time in Europe, and she wants to just explore the city and all that it has to offer. Things are going well for them, but trouble is brewing back at the hotel. While they're shopping and eating sausages and trying on traditional German costumes (lederhosen, anyone?), Bryden is having a heart-to-heart with the other nine guys about his feelings -- or lack thereof.
"The longer I'm here, the worse I feel," he says in a confessional. "Des is an amazing girl, and it's not that we don't have a connection...Things just aren't progressing the way they should be. There's something missing."
After talking it over with the guys, Bryden decides he needs to leave. And for some reason, he can't wait even an hour to tell her. He actually tracks her down on her date with Chris to basically ruin whatever fun the two of them are having, which turns out to be dancing to polka music in the middle of a public plaza.
"This date is perfect. Today is perfect. And I don't think anything could go wrong," Chris says naively, seconds before Bryden shows up.
Bryden apologizes to Chris for interrupting the date and then pulls Des aside to tell her he's just not that into her. (He doesn't use those words exactly, but that's the gist of it.) He lists his reasons for going home, tells her he considers her a friend now, and then sends her back to "enjoy" the rest of her time with Chris, who is understandably confused and worried about what it is Bryden is doing.
Des, for her part, is sad, annoyed, embarrassed -- and maybe a little heartbroken. "It hurts," she says. "But I'm not going to let Bryden affect my date with Chris. Not at all. I just want to get back to Chris so that I can feel happy again."
Chris rises to the occasion, and in that way, Bryden's exit actually turns out to be a good thing for him. Later that night, he and Des bond over a romantic dinner in a real-life castle, and he assures her that, unlike Bryden, he's in this for the long haul. "I'm in a place now where I'd rather be in a relationship. I'm ready to start a family and build a new life," he says. He then proceeds to bring her to tears with a poem he wrote for her on the plane ride over to Germany.
"You showed me what a true man is, especially after what I've had to deal with," she tells him afterward, pinning the rose on his lapel. "I couldn't have asked for a better date."
But wait -- the date's not over yet! After dinner, Chris and Des are treated to a private concert by Matt White. "This is epic. This is a fairy-tale," Chris says in a voiceover as he and Des sway together on the dance floor. "I am slowly but certainly falling in love with Des. And I think it's mutual. She doesn't have to say it. She can say it through her kisses, she can say it through her eyes. I know it's happening. This is real, and this is happening."
The next day, Des meets Juan Pablo, James, Zak, Brooks, Drew, Mikey, and Kasey for a group date on top of a mountain, where they're given a lesson in yodeling. That's followed by some sledding, which Zak likens to the whole Bachelorette experience.
"You know, love is like sledding down this hill," he begins. "From the first day, we all pushed off and looked down and said, 'Here we go.'"
The rest of the group date -- which consists of beer and pretzels in a giant igloo -- is relatively uneventful, although it seems as if the guys have found another villain in James. They don't understand what Des sees in him, and they worry he may have ulterior motives for getting close to her. (They're right, but more on that later.) He and Des spend some one-on-one time making out, but in the end, Brooks gets the date rose.
Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Chris is sitting in awkward silence with Michael and Ben, who are gearing up for their two-on-one date with Des. "I don't even want to look at the f--king guy, let alone spend the day two feet away from him on a date with the girl I like," Michael says of Ben in a confessional. Later, as the two share a silent limo ride on their way to meet Des, he muses in a voiceover: "Today, Ben will be found guilty of fraud and impersonation of a Southern gentleman."
Des has other ideas. She wants to see how Ben and Michael interact with each other in awkward situations -- so she strands them in the middle of a freezing lake in something called a hot tug, which is like a cross between a hot tub and a boat. Unable to escape without risking hypothermia, the guys start to passive-aggressively hash out some of their issues. Michael, attempting to prove that Ben is an "absentee father," grills him about his ex and his kid, prompting the single dad to admit that he hasn't talked to his son since coming to Germany. (He chalks it up to the time difference.)
Ben is not happy. "What I thought was going to be fine and we were going to be able to be civil...I was totally wrong," Ben says in a confessional. "I don't know how much more of what he's saying I can take."
"This is not good," Des says in a confessional. "Michael is definitely pushing Ben's buttons. I feel so uncomfortable."
Things only get worse from there. Once the trio are back on solid ground, Michael's attacks intensify. During dinner, he presses Ben for answers about why he doesn't get along with the rest of the guys in the house, and why he didn't go to church with everyone on Easter Sunday. Des is visibly uncomfortable, and she says so -- but Michael will not let up. Ben, to his credit, keeps his cool until Michael takes another dig at his parenting abilities, at which point he politely excuses himself from dinner to take a breather (read: pace outside while cursing a lot).
"I knew coming into dinner tonight that it was going to be awkward, but I had no idea it was going to blow up so quickly," Des says. "And now I'm conflicted because I don't know what I want to do with the rose. I may want to let both of them go."
After confronting Michael about his aggressive tactics, Des goes outside to check on Ben. She seems to sympathize with him, but she admits later that she has reservations. "I know that there are some things the guys don't like about him," she says. "And for Ben to be the outcast in this wonderful group of guys, that says something."
Des goes back to Michael to find out what exactly he doesn't like about Ben, and he makes his case. It doesn't really seem all that convincing -- especially in light of Michael's own bad behavior on the date -- but it does the trick. Much to everyone's surprise, Des gives the rose to Michael, which means Ben is going home. And he does not take it well.
"You want me to sit here and look unhappy? I'm not," he sneers in the limo. "Tonight will go down in history as the worst date of my life."
He then proceeds to taunt the producers about how they "missed out" on having him as the next Bachelor and asks the limo to take him somewhere to get drunk. As the car drives away, he's overheard asking how long he has to wait before he can be seen in public with someone.
The drama is far from over, though. Ben may be gone, but James is still very much a contender for Desiree's heart -- and Kasey and Drew have some new, unsettling information about him. Apparently, they overheard him bragging about his scheme to use the show (and Des) to boost his love life with other women. He thinks he's got a good shot at being the next Bachelor if he makes it to the top four, and he's already imagining all the dates he'll get when he goes back home to Chicago. Kasey and Drew plan to tell Des about this during the pre-rose ceremony cocktail hour, but their plans are foiled when she calls off the party. She already knows which guy she wants to send home -- and it isn't James.
Zak, Kasey, Juan Pablo, Drew, Brooks, Michael, and James are safe for another week, which leaves Mikey the odd man out. But judging by the previews for next week's episode, it looks like he's escaping just in time.