Tip to potential Bachelorette candidates: If you have any phobias, hide them from the show’s producers at all costs, unless you want to face them on national television.

It’s one of The Bachelorette’s favorite tropes: Confronting people with their darkest fears and calling it romance. Because, really, what’s more romantic than making someone do the thing they absolutely despise in the name of love? That’s how The Bachelorette plays these brutal dates; they suggest that falling in love involves “overcoming fears” and proving how much you care for someone with a grand gesture.

This, frankly, is bullcrap.

Imagine this scenario on any date in the real world...

Hey, I really like you, but you need to prove that you’re serious about me by sticking your hand into this toilet full of snakes. No, I know you’re deathly afraid of snakes. No, I know sticking your hand in a toilet even in optimal circumstances isn’t exactly a sexy act. And I don’t care. Prove your love. Prove you love me by shoving your mitts into that snake-ridden toilet. DO YOU WANT THIS GODDAMN ROSE OR NOT?!?

Think there’d be a second date? Or maybe a restraining order? Yeah, probably the latter. But hey, degradation, embarrassment, and good old fashion terror make great television!

The whole stick-your-hand-in-a-snake-infested-toilet isn’t a hypothetical, by the way; that was an actual date from this week’s episode of The Bachelorette. The show’s dark lord and master, Chris Harrison, supposedly planned this one, which took place in a real Los Angeles horror attraction called “The Basement: A Live Escape Room Experience” where groups of people (or, in this case, Kaitlyn and snake-fearing Ben Z.) get locked into a room filled with spooky atmosphere and gore effects with just 45 minutes to unravel a series of clues to unlock the only exit before “toxic gas” gets released and kills them all. Things got terrifying immediately, when Kaitlyn opened the door to The Basement and a pigeon flew out in her face. Kaitlyn, you see, is even more afraid of birds than Ben Z. is of snakes.

Ah romance! Remember when I said The Bachelorette was basically torture porn? Yeah, that.

In general, this was a very unsentimental episode of The BacheloretteWhen last we left our contestants, Kaitlyn had unceremoniously dumped Kupah after he’d made the fatal mistake of accusing her of keeping him around purely to bolster the number of minority contestants. In fairness to Kupah, The Bachelorette’s record with minority contestants is absolutely dismal. In fairness to Kaitlyn, the way to a woman’s heart is typically not through charges of racism. Last week’s episode ended with a cliffhanger; Kupah’s post-dumping freakout, followed by Kaitlyn’s realization he was having said post-dumping freakout and her leaving the Bachelor Mansion to go confront him.

Things picked up there this week, though the rest of the incident was a bit of a letdown. As soon as Kaitlyn arrived, Kupah downplayed his anger and frustration, and promised not to yell anymore. After she refused to reverse her decision and left, he resumed his rant, albeit in a mocking stage whisper. (“I honestly don’t even like her right now,” he smirked, moments after he’d begged her to take him back.) Eventually, Kupah complained himself out, and went home.

On the down side, Kupah was sent packing before the week’s Rose Ceremony. On the plus side, that meant he didn’t have to go on any of this week’s dates, which were uniformly humiliating. After Ben Z. and Kaitlyn braved The Basement, six men went on a “prank” date in which they had to teach sexual education to a bunch of elementary school kids (actually child actors prompted to ask the most uncomfortable questions about various components of female genitalia and the human menstrual cycle). It was like something straight out of a nightmare. All that was missing was forcing the dudes to stand in their underwear while they gave their sex ed lectures.

In this regard, The Bachelorette producers showed uncharacteristic restraint — probably because they’d already fulfilled this episode’s public nudity/disgrace quotient on the night’s first group date, where six more contestants had to learn to sumo wrestle while wearing nothing but a mawashi, the sport’s traditional thong. Chris Harrison, who is straight-up trolling the guys at this point, claimed the wardrobe choice was “out of respect for the ancient sport.” He was right, too; having these guys walk around with their balls literally hanging out of their so-called “man-diapers” while editors censored their entire nether regions for the entirety of multiple TV segments definitely portrayed sumo with the dignity and reverence it deserved.

Moronic and graphic as the sumo date was, it did present two important character developments for this season of The Bachelorette. First, it proved the undoing of Tony, the self-described healer prone to flights of mock-philosophical pronouncements and unintentional comedy. Tony, you see, is a man of peace. “I view the world through the eyes of a child ... I have the heart of warrior and the spirit of a gypsy,” he claimed on more than one occasion. And warrior-hearted gypsies with kid-eyes, they’re just not down with sumo wrestling. He’d worked very hard, Tony claimed, in his “advancement, emotionally and spiritually and physically” and all this fighting was setting him back. After insisting he came to The Bachelorette for “the right reasons,” he then left, I guess, for the right reasons as well. Fare thee well, Tony the Healer. You were too beautiful a spirit for this world of violence and pain. May you find a woman who can appreciate your gypsy spirit.

Bachelor Clint, on the other hand, had no issue sumo wrestling. In fact, as a former college wrestler, he easily trounced the competition in the head-to-head sumo battle. But when the time came to parlay that victory into extra one-on-one time with Kaitlyn, he choked. After playing hard to get didn’t work, he said Kaitlyn was “probably not the right person for him.”

So did that mean Clint was headed for an early exit like Tony? Not exactly. During this week’s other two dates, Clint really bonded with JJ, the sinister manipulator who last week coined the phrase “villains gotta vill.” The pair discovered they really enjoyed going swimming together, hanging out topless, and saying things like “villains gotta vill.” Clint claimed JJ was “a real sweetheart” and later confessed “I love JJ. I feel like I’ve connected with JJ more than Kaitlyn.” But Clint’s lack of a connection with Kaitlyn was putting his bromance with JJ in jeopardy, so he applied the full-court press on Kaitlyn at the week’s cocktail party, wooing her with sweet words and sweeter kisses. But this strategy backfired too, after the other 13 men in the house told Kaitlyn that Clint was not here for the right reasons, and was merely looking to extend his time with his man-love, JJ. As this week’s episode ended, Kaitlyn prepared to confront Clint, who she called “one of the biggest douches in Bachelor history.”

It should be a fun fight, but I’m not a fan of the structure The Bachelorette’s using this season where they keep leaving each episode on a cliffhanger and beginning each week with its resolution followed by the Rose Ceremony (traditionally, the Rose Ceremony ends each show). I guess this leaves viewers in suspense, but most of that drama feels manufactured (and this week’s big bust-up with Kupah was a major disappointment). Plus, by the time next week rolls around I’ve already forgotten most of the guys’ names and the reasons why Kaitlyn might keep or dump them. Keep things simple and easy. Don’t make things difficult or painful, like being a contestant on The Bachelorette.

Additional Thoughts:

-In one of his interviews, JJ let slip an interesting tidbit: He says when the bachelors get private time with Kaitlyn on group dates or at cocktail parties, it comes in 20-minute increments. The length of those little one-on-one interactions is something I’ve always been curious about.

-The funniest moment of Tony’s long exodus from the show: When he followed up the line “I have a lot to offer, and I just want to show that,” by immediately hocking a giant loogie off a Bachelor Mansion balcony. Stay classy, Tony. You will be missed.

-Line of the Night: “If the eyepatch fits, you gotta wear it,” the new brand extension of JJ and Clint’s “Villains gotta vill” movement. It looks like both of these jagoffs will be departing the show next week, but let’s cross our fingers that they turn on one another and go down in a blaze of shameful glory.

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