The Bachelorette: The Men Tell All is an opportunity for the men who have been eliminated to get closure on their season. We should all be so fortunate in life to get such an opportunity. And we should all be so fortunate to be given the opportunity that Lee has been given.
But that's getting way ahead of ourselves. The villain's chance to redeem himself was the centerpiece of the special, but it came in the middle. There's other business to attend to first.
The special opened with Chris Harrison's introduction. We've barely seen Daddy Chris this season, so getting so much of him sort of felt like being visited by an old friend. We didn't realize how much we missed you, Chris!
Then there was a countdown of memorable Men Tell All moments that was pretty close to the list I made last year and kind of annoyed me. Hey, The Bachelorette! Creating that kind of content is my job!
When the guys were introduced, Dean got big cheers. Lee got no cheers. Tickle Monster was sitting in a chair shaped like a human hand, and I appreciated that the show never called attention to it. It was almost a subtle joke for the franchise.
The first check-in was a brief one with Blake and Whaboom. That conflict feels like it happened a lifetime ago. So much has happened since then --but they still hate each other.
Then it was on to DeMario. It was weird having DeMario there. His Bachelor in Paradise story was the elephant in the room, and it got alluded to (good to know Whaboom has his back), but discussion was confined to the events of The Bachelorette — and it was weird. His cheating scandal feels so inconsequential compared to the scandal that came later. Plus, he was so unapologetic and defensive about it. He called the woman who called him out on the show a "side chick." It was like people were almost ready to be on his side, because it seems like he kind of got a raw deal with the Bachelor in Paradise stuff, and then he came out and was such a heel on The Men Tell All. It's hard to root for D-Mo, which is his nickname, apparently.
Then there was a brief conversation about Iggy and Josiah's conversation, which I had completely forgotten about. It was pretty funny, though. Josiah called Iggy "the rat of all rats," and for a prosecuting attorney to call someone a rat, you gotta be real ratty. The best part, though, was when Whaboom called Iggy "a joke," and then Will said "I don't have any problems with you, but you cannot call anyone a joke."
After all that preamble, it was time for the main event: Kenny and Lee.
Kenny took the hot seat first. He talked about how at first he thought he and Lee were friends until things went sour that night in Hilton Head. Dean said that Kenny was the most well-liked guy in the house, and Lee was not, and if it's 30 to 1, the disliked guy is probably in the wrong.
Kenny said that he didn't even think Lee's antagonism was even coming from a racist place; it was more from a place of insecurity, since he knew he was out of his depth and couldn't compete for Rachel's affection. So, he settled for tearing other men down.
About the "Kenny is aggressive" controversy, Kenny said that earlier in his life he would've have really shown Lee some aggression, but he didn't want his daughter to see him like that. He loves his daughter so much, man. Then they sent her out holding a rose and she said she was proud of him — he came in eighth, after all. It was sweet. Chris Harrison said Kenny and Mackenzie were going to Disneyland for Kenny's birthday.
I'm calling it now: this was Mackenzie's first taste of fame and she's going to want more. She's going to be the Bachelorette in 15 years.
Then it was Lee's turn. Lee had a lot to answer for. He was a monster in the house, and he also had his racist and sexist tweets from before he was on The Bachelorette, which they put up on the screen to pick apart. He acted apologetic, but no one really believed him. He kept saying he had so much to learn, and the other guys were pushing him to say it, say what he needs to fix — that is, his racism. He wouldn't do it. They questioned if he hadn't gotten caught would he recognize that the things he tweeted were wrong, and wondered if he's only sorry he got caught.
The tweets are not good, man. In 2016 he tweeted "What's the difference between the NAACP and the KKK? One has a sense of shame to cover their racist ass faces." He tried to explain that it's only half of a joke that got transferred over from Facebook. The show never let him say what the other half was, which was perfect, because it doesn't matter. There's no way he could explain it that would make it not racist.
Josiah joined him on the stage to ask him an important question that doubled as an explanation for why people were mad: "I want you to articulate to all of us, why did you come on a show where the Bachelorette was an African-American woman if on the other hand you're tweeting about black people and groups of black people who fought and died so I can be on the stage next to you? People came before me so that I can go to the same school like you, so I can drink from the fountain like you, and if you're comparing them to the KKK, people who hung my ancestors, why are you trying to date a woman who looks like me?"
He didn't answer it. He said he doesn't like racism and the joke got botched in a way that obscured his intention. So what's your intention, Lee, everyone wanted to know. He danced around it. They continued to pepper him with questions. Chris Harrison asked if he recognizes that there's racism in that tweet.
Finally he was getting worn down. He said "I am grateful that I have people in my life now that make me not like I was when I made a racist comment. I completely denounce that, and I denounce that Lee, and I want to learn."
"What are you sorry about and why are you sorry?" Iggy asked him.
"I'm sorry for saying things when I was not educated and ignorant in those subjects," he said.
And that was good enough for the guys he'd hurt. For now. Except for Will, who said he still hadn't heard him acknowledge that the things he said were racist and misogynistic. That's what we need to hear from you, Will explained. You can't get better until you recognize that you have a problem. And finally, he said it.
"That tweet was racist and I denounce it."
Anthony said he accepted Lee's recognition of where he's at. Kenny said he wanted to be an example of forgiveness to his daughter, and so if Lee is willing to take the steps to start becoming a better person, Kenny is willing to help him. They hugged it out.
"I came on again to learn," Lee said by way of closing. "I made mistakes. I appreciate even through that all, even with doubt, you guys are reaching out to help. It says a lot, and it sets an example for me to be a better friend and person, too."
It's true. These men — especially Kenny, Anthony, Josiah and Will — are doing an incredibly kind thing by giving Lee the opportunity to apologize and offering their help in educating him to be a better, less racist person. It's not their job to do that. They're good men to offer the option of forgiveness to someone who's wronged them. Hopefully Lee is sincere in his contrition and willingness to learn and isn't just saying this to get them off his back. He's really being given a very special opportunity to grow as a person.
It was all pretty anticlimactic after that. Dean came up and talked about how hurt he was when Rachel dumped him after she said she was falling on love with him during his incredibly intense hometown date. Then Rachel came out. She told him that she really was falling in love with him when she said she was falling in love with him, which if I were Dean would not make me feel better. If I were Dean, I would have told her what she should have said — "You should have kept that feeling to yourself. Who are you, Ben Higgins?" But Dean is more forgiving than I am.
She told DeMario that his dishonesty meant he had to go, and to his credit, he was pretty much like, "Yeah, I get it." She told Chris Harrison that race was an external issue. It wasn't an issue with the guys, who all saw her for her, which was nice to hear. Except Lee, apparently, who she offered to take backstage and give a black history lesson and a lesson on women's rights. Lee, dude, take her up on that. Rachel is so much kinder to you than you deserve.
She was disappointed with Kenny for how he handled the Lee situation, but she still has love for him. She wished America could have seen more of Adam and Matt, who are great guys, she promised. She still — still! — can't see Fred as anything other than the kid he was almost 20 years ago, and Fred is hurt, but he's happy for her. Aw, Fred. Someone will love you. You're a sweet guy.
And then there were bloopers! The guys loved them. "They should have been in a relationship with the bloopers," Rachel said.
Did you notice Rachel wasn't wearing an engagement ring? It's probably nothing, but I noticed. As far as we know, she's still engaged. We'll find out to whom next week.
The Bachelorette airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.