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“The Bachelor” recap: A sea change in Malta

This week on "The Bachelor," Joey takes his women overseas, and Sydney and Maria face off on a dreaded two-on-one date.

Welcome to double Bachelor week, rose lovers! It’s the time in the season that all recappers (and probably some viewers) dread. We made it through the first two hours, which saw our Bachelor bring his harem to Malta.

<p>ABC</p> Autumn has a question.

ABC

Autumn has a question.

Yes. Yes, it is, Autumn. While there was no rose ceremony tonight, we were treated to a satisfying two-on-one date and witnessed the unexpected emergence of a new mean girl.

Let’s recap!

Tonight’s cold open features this tantalizing glimpse of two-on-one awkwardness.

<p>ABC</p> Maria and Sydney are glum in the sun on 'The Bachelor'

ABC

Maria and Sydney are glum in the sun on 'The Bachelor'

More on that later. Let’s go back to the mansion, where the women are in a somber mood after last week’s pool party drama between Maria and Sydney. Fortunately, host Jesse Palmer — in yet another snug and cozy sweater — is here with some happy news:

<p>ABC</p> Jesse Palmer is the bearer of good news on 'The Bachelor'

ABC

Jesse Palmer is the bearer of good news on 'The Bachelor'

That’s right, ladies! Joey is waiting for you in Malta. Stop screaming and start packing. Our Bachelor is already there, dutifully reciting terrible puns fed to him by producers: “By the end of this, I’m hoping to bring someone to the alta, but before I do that, I have to hang out in Malta!” As easygoing as he is, even Joey can’t abide by this terrible wordplay.

<p>ABC</p> Joey gives the producers' awful pun two thumbs down.

ABC

Joey gives the producers' awful pun two thumbs down.

Once the women arrive at the (promotional consideration provided by) InterContinental Hotel and issue the required “oohs” and “aaahs” at their luxurious accommodations, it’s time for the first date card of the week. Lexi, you’re up!

Joey meets her in Valletta, the capital of Malta. They stroll through the picturesque cobblestone streets enjoying the 16th-century architecture, sampling some treats, and playing bocce with the locals. “Today just feels like I’m walking around Malta with my girlfriend,” says Joey. “And that’s exactly what I want it to feel like.”

You know who’s not feeling so good? Sydney. Back at the hotel, she complains in her confessional that her conflict with Maria is so bad, it’s affecting her health. “I’m exhausted, I’m lethargic, I’m breaking out.” Girl, that’s called jet lag. Get over it.

Meanwhile, Lexi and Joey are now exploring the Collegiate Parish Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck, one of the oldest churches in Malta. The beautiful building reminds Lexi of attending church with her grandpa, and she gets emotional thinking about how much he would have loved seeing this with her.

<p>ABC</p> Joey and Lexi visit a historic church on 'The Bachelor'

ABC

Joey and Lexi visit a historic church on 'The Bachelor'

I’m kind of surprised that everyone on The Bachelor production staff didn’t just burst into flames the second they walked into the sanctuary — but I guess God was in a forgiving mood that day.

Father David Cilia, the church’s priest, comes out to offer Lexi and Joey some sound advice: “Seek to be happy, because life is short.” Amen to that, Father. He also urges the young couple to have children if they do get married — and that sends a pang through Lexi’s heart, because (as we learned in the season premiere), she might not be able to have her own children. And that’s exactly what she’ll Open Up™ about at dinner time.

Knock! Knock! Knock! Over at the InterContinental, there’s an Accent Table of Doom at the door. The group date card has arrived, and Jenn, Daisy, Edwina, Katelyn, Allison, Rachel, Autumn, Kelsey T., Jess, Madina, Lea, and Kelsey A. are all invited.

<p>ABC</p> Maria faces the reality of a two-on-one.

ABC

Maria faces the reality of a two-on-one.

You guessed it, Maria. That means you and Sydney have a dreaded two-on-one date in your future. “This is torture,” groans Sydney, as the other women avoid eye contact with her. “I have literally been through the wringer enough, and now I have to go on a date with her.” (Pssst, sweetie! I think you mean that you’ve “figuratively” been put through the wringer. Unless I missed someone actually cranking your body through one of these.)

At dinner, Lexi fills Joey in on some key milestones from her past. She moved to San Francisco after college and focused on her career. Later she moved to New York, where she fell ill and suffered with undiagnosed symptoms for over a year. Eventually she underwent surgery and learned she had stage 5 endometriosis, a “reproductive condition where tissue that’s supposed to grow inside of your uterus grows on other organs.”

While the doctors were able to remove the invading tissue, they did inform Lexi that due to her condition, she might not be able to have biological children. This was devastating to her. “I want a family of my own so badly,” Lexi says, crying. She goes on to tell Joey that when she told her ex, he broke up with her because “he can’t be with someone who might not be able to have his children.” Damn, that’s cold.

The Bachelor thanks Lexi for Opening Up™ and assures her that this information does not make him want to flee. “That doesn’t scare me in any sense,” says Joey. “And there are a lot of ways to be able to create a family, through adoption and other things, too.” HELL YES, JOEY!

Anyhow, Lexi gets the date rose.

<p>ABC</p> Lexi and Joey smooch on 'The Bachelor'

ABC

Lexi and Joey smooch on 'The Bachelor'

The next day, Joey meets his 12 dates at Fort Manoel, which was the site of (13-year-old spoiler alert) Ned Stark’s beheading in Game of Thrones. But there will be no bloodshed today — just some swords-and-chain-mail cosplay.

<p>ABC</p> Are we not entertained?

ABC

Are we not entertained?

Poor Joey, standing shirtless in front of his harem, is feeling a little self-conscious. “I think I still need to do some push-ups and sit-ups, but it’s okay,” he jokes. “I tried my best today. Fun size Bachelor!” Would someone please tell this man he is 1-800-HOT-AS-HELL?

Today’s date activity will involve training and then some kind of knight-themed competition, with the winner getting extra time with Joey. Events include the “stare into Joey’s eyes” challenge, though Kelsey A. uses that time to plant one on the Bachelor instead.

<p>ABC</p> Kelsey A. plants one on Joey

ABC

Kelsey A. plants one on Joey

Daisy follows suit. Autumn, who is now on her third group date, does NOT love it. “As the group dates go on, you can see the connections that people have with Joey, and the way Joey looks at girls that he has spent more time with,” she laments. “It is just a little bit awkward.” She’s trying to come up with a way to “stand out” on group dates but is finding it “pretty dang hard.”

Buck up, Autumn! Maybe you’ll have better luck with the Sausage Wheel challenge. And yes, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like.

<p>ABC</p> Why does anyone go on reality TV???

ABC

Why does anyone go on reality TV???

“It’s not dry sausages. It’s juicy sausages smacking your face right now,” says Jenn with a shudder. Daisy says she got hit in the face “like 500 times” and had to walk away so she wouldn’t barf. Allison admits to cheating by grabbing a sausage with her hand, but Autumn is in it to win it — and win it she does.

<p>ABC</p> Autumn sinks her teeth into victory.

ABC

Autumn sinks her teeth into victory.

These producers are going to hell. Period. But congrats, Autumn! (I hope they let her rinse with Listerine before smooching Joey.)

There are no cured meats at the after party, which is a blessing. Joey sits down with Daisy first, and they immediately start talking babies. Joey hopes his first child is a boy, but if his wife has twins, he wants two girls. The Bachelor likes the name Emily for a girl, while Daisy likes Ocean (girl, that’s not a name) or Colette. As Joey goes on to have nice chats/smooches with Kelsey A., Rachel, and Lea, Kelsey T. and Jess sit in the holding pen fretting about how their “connection” with him might not be as strong as it is with some of the other women.

Side note: Joey says he’s “blind as a bat!" But he looks very cute in his glasses, of course.

<p>ABC</p> Peep Joey in his specs!

ABC

Peep Joey in his specs!

Kelsey T. ultimately does get her time (and her smooch) with Joey. “There’s just something there,” gushes the Bachelor. Sir, I love you, but you’ve now said that about six or seven women. It might be time to dig a little deeper, because you are going to have to narrow it down to one woman at the end.

Jess goes next. “We didn’t get to talk at the pool party, and then the rose ceremony before that we didn’t get to talk,” she says. “I’m like, ‘Can we not make this a trend?’” The Bachelor acknowledges that it’s been “tough” for her, but he wants Jess to know that he’s “so happy” she’s there. This emboldens Jess enough to tell Joey that she’s “falling” for him, and they end their chat with a smooch.

And the date rose goes to…

<p>ABC</p> Kelsey T. for the w!

ABC

Kelsey T. for the w!

Okay, get it, Kelsey T.! She’s level-headed, gorgeous, and never involved in the drama. Good choice, Joey.

A new day dawns, and the two-on-one game is afoot.

<p>ABC</p> It's a suitcase showdown!

ABC

It's a suitcase showdown!

Maria says her plan for the day is to “be honest, be myself, and hope for the best.” Sydney says her plan is to “get this girl out of here.” At the hotel, some of the women are choosing their sides. Allison is team Maria; Lea and Jess are team Sydney; Lexi is Switzerland. As for Joey, all he wants to do is figure out the truth. Is Maria a bully, or is Sydney just a shit-stirrer? You and I know the answer, rose lovers, but our man must discover the truth for himself. Off to the Blue Grotto!

<p>ABC</p> Sydney, Joey, and Maria on 'The Bachelor'

ABC

Sydney, Joey, and Maria on 'The Bachelor'

On the boat, Maria keeps giggling nervously, while Sydney pouts. (Maria likens her to an energy vampire, which immediately made me think about What We Do in the Shadows ending after next season. Now I’m depressed!) Once they get back on dry land, Joey pulls Sydney for a chat first.

“This has been really tough for me,” she sniffles. “When you left the pool party, Hell broke loose. Maria started attacking me in front of the group.” (She didn’t.) “She told Lea to shut the f--- up.” (Aaaand… producers chose not to show it? Doubtful.) “Every single situation in the house, there has been one common denominator, and that has been Maria repeatedly being disrespectful.” (It hasn’t.)

Poor Joey hears her out, and he’s clearly uncomfortable. “I’m trying to make sure I hear both sides,” he tells Sydney. “The part that is just so difficult for me is that [those sides] are just so different.”

He ends their chat with a hug, and then goes to fetch Maria for their sit-down. First question: Did you tell Lea to "shut the f--- up?'" Maria is aghast. “Absolutely not!” she insists. “I would never say that.” Joey seems to believe her. “I’m not expecting all of you guys to be friends,” he says, adding that he just wants all the women to be comfortable. Maria wants to know if Joey thinks he can put all this drama behind him and focus on their relationship. “Truthfully, I don’t know,” he admits. “I want to try.” She does NOT love it.

Now it’s time for Joey to mull things over while Maria and Sydney sit in awkward, tense silence. Oh, but Maria cannot stay quiet for long, because she’s just too damn pissed. “You’ve made up some BS this entire time,” she says. “But I told Lea to ‘shut the f--- up’? You know we’re on camera the entire time, right?” Excellent point, ma’am. Sydney just doubles down on her lie, even as Maria notes that no one else in the house seems to have a problem with her.

Even though the rose was out on the table all during the day portion of the date, of course producers make Joey wait to send someone home until dinner time. These folks love nothing more than prolonging their contestants’ pain. Get in there and end this misery, Joey!

<p>ABC</p> Three's a crowd on 'The Bachelor'

ABC

Three's a crowd on 'The Bachelor'

Rather than rehashing the past, the Bachelor decides that he wants to ask each woman how she feels about a future with him. Sydney says she sees “so much potential” in their relationship, and all this drama is just her “fighting” for him. “It shows the partner that I would be for you,” she says. When it’s Maria’s turn, she says she’s “very hopeful” about their relationship but given all the drama she now has “a lot of unanswered questions.” Still, she adds, “I’m hoping we can get there.”

Everyone watching this, meanwhile, is hoping that we can get this torturous date over with. Joey, please, please, please just END THIS. And the date rose goes to…

<p>ABC</p> Just a girl and her rose.

ABC

Just a girl and her rose.

Aw, HELL YES. Buh-bye, Sydney! Hope not to see you in Paradise. Back at the hotel, the women watch as the Suitcase Ninja carts away Sydney’s bag. “I just wasn’t expecting that,” says Lea through her tears. Girl, what show have you been watching?

Our first overseas cocktail party rolls around. Most of the women seem ready to move past all the brouhaha, but Lea looks like she’s out for blood.

<p>ABC</p> If looks could kill...

ABC

If looks could kill...

Brrrrr!

The evening kicks off with Joey and Jenn dangling their feet in the pool as they chat. The Bachelor goes on and on about how “ugly” his feet are, and Jenn teases him about his big toe, but the camera operator refuses to give us a clear shot of his little piggies. This is all we get:

<p>ABC</p> Peep Joey's feet!

ABC

Peep Joey's feet!

Honestly, the man could have Hobbit feet and it wouldn’t be a dealbreaker. Just ask Jenn! “I accept you for you and all of your bunions,” she says, and they smooch.

The mood remains pleasant as the night goes on. Katelyn brings Joey a pastry for them to share, and Madina brings him a little figurine of a knight to represent their date and Malta’s fortified city of Mdina, which is surrounded by walls. “I thought this would segue into something I want to share,” says Madina. “If I’m being all the way honest, I don’t know that I’ve been the most vulnerable with you.” She goes on to say that she has “a hard time trusting” because of her parents’ divorce, which happened when she was in high school. The whole experience shattered her trust “in the concept of love,” Madina admits.

The Bachelor appreciates her willingness to Open Up™, and they end their conversation with a trust fall.

<p>ABC</p> Honestly, it was more like a trust tip.

ABC

Honestly, it was more like a trust tip.

Very cute. Madina feels great after her time with Joey. And the other women are having fun in the holding pen, laughing and trying to catch grapes in their mouths. Lea, for some reason, is very annoyed that everyone seems to be in such a good mood. “Right now, no one cares that Sydney went home,” she complains. “They’re all, like, being nice to Maria.”

Wow. That sounds like something a petulant 5th grader would say. Lea is 23 whole years old, but I guess she never evolved out of a middle-school-mean-girl mentality. Rather than just stew silently, Lea decides to confront Madina for not being more upset about Sydney’s departure.

<p>ABC</p> Lea has thoughts.

ABC

Lea has thoughts.

“Last night you called Syd one of your best friends, and you were hoping she was going to come home, but Maria walks through the door and you kind of, like, switch up,” says Lea. “Your narrative changes a bit. You kind of —”

Madina cuts her off. “I don’t have to be mean to Maria because Sydney was my friend,” she points out. Lea is all, That’s not what I’m saying, though it clearly was. Madina, bless her, is having none of it. “You don’t have to understand how I’m navigating this journey,” she shoots back.

YAAAAS, MADINA! SAY IT LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK! Lea needs to take several seats and stop worrying about how other people are acting — especially when those actions have no effect on and nothing to do with her. But she presses forward, trying to make Madina feel bad for not ostracizing Maria on Sydney’s behalf. “I hold myself, my friends, my close circle to a different standard,” she says. “I have a different set of morals and values.”

Apparently so:

<p>ABC</p> Lea's "morals and values" in action.

ABC

Lea's "morals and values" in action.

We can’t hear what Lea said given the bleeps, but I’m guessing it rhymes with “ducking witch.” However, we do hear her use the non-word “perspectivize.”

Back inside, Lea immediately starts grousing to Rachel and Jess about how Madina “just didn’t get it,” and about how Maria “wants to use all of our curling irons. Bring your own!” (I mean, fair.)

When Maria finds out that Lea is mad at Madina for being nice to her, she starts to spiral. “Why am I so hated here?” she moans. “I can’t win with these women,” Maria continues in her confessional. “When I’m quiet, they don’t like me. When I talk, they don’t like me.” Back in the holding pen, she can’t contain her emotions, and she leaves the room in tears.

“Honestly, I’m glad that that’s the case,” sneers Lea in her confessional. “She’s a drama queen cry-baby.” And that’s exactly what Lea plans to tell Joey when she sits down with him at this cocktail party.

Indeed, she uses her precious little time with the Bachelor to lie about how the women were “shocked” by “how Maria’s treated some of us.” As Maria melts down in another part of the patio area, Lea informs Joey that she “absolutely trusts” his decision-making process. “I know that you’re smart,” she murmurs. “It is what it is.”

And what it is, rose lovers, is bulls---t.

We’ll have to end it there, because ABC wants us to tune in on Tuesday night, too. Let me leave you with a few questions while we wait for tomorrow night’s conclusion. Were you as surprised as I was that Lea turned out to be a mean girl? Is it me, or do Joey’s insecurities about his body make him even more lovable? And how much money would it take for you to play the "Sausage Wheel" game? Let me know your thoughts on Twitter @KristenGBaldwin!

The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

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