Contestants on “The Bachelorette” this summer have shown greater comradery than in seasons past, but that didn’t stop tension from mounting with the arrival of franchise alum Blake.
Monday night’s episode saw the official entrance of the man who dated “Bachelorette” stars Clare and Tayshia last season, much to the worry of current star Katie’s existing suitors, many of whom are beginning to develop real feelings.
Greg, who received Katie’s first impression rose, says he feels like he’s “dating Katie at this point” and is struggling to come to terms with new person coming in. Naturally, this triggers an immediate 1-on-1 date card for Blake.
“If some of these guys are mad, I just really don’t care,” Blake reflects. “I don’t have time to be worried about that. I came here for Katie and a connection for Katie. That’s it.”
A connection with Katie seems pretty apparent: On their date, she opens up to Blake about her past experience with sexual assault – since Blake hadn’t yet joined when she told the other men – and they share a heart-to heart about the importance of trust and feeling safe with a partner.
The night ends with a sweet moment as the two dance to a private performance from “American Idol” winner Laine Hardy. Katie thinks their relationship is “easy;” Blake adds it feels “right.”
Here’s what else happened on “The Bachelorette”:
Interview: ‘Bachelorette’ co-host Tayshia Adams on her ex Blake Moynes crashing Katie Thurston’s season
Which ‘Bachelorette’ contestant got hurt on the group date?
Andrew S. gets the other 1-on-1 date (and later the rose) which means all remaining men are together on one group date: An athletic competition that bizarrely combines basketball and rugby (and wrestling singlets?).
The competition is fierce – the prize for the winning team is a cocktail party with Katie, after all – but the “Bachelorette” star calls the game early after an overly-aggressive tackle by Justin slams Michael A. from behind onto the field.
Injuries on sports group dates in Bachelor Nation are often over-hyped, but this one feels like a pretty big deal. Thomas notes Michael isn’t moving and worries things could be serious. At one point, a medic asks if there’s numbness or tingling. Michael just says it’s hard for him to breathe.
Justin says he feels terrible and wasn’t trying to hurt anybody. He heads over to apologize and Michael gets up on his own, though he’s clearly still in pain later.
“I’m good,” he says before Katie calls the game. The black team was in the lead, but she says all the men are winners and invites them to the after party, where she opens up to Michael about feeling “pretty emotional” after seeing him get hit.
More emotions ensue when Michael opens up to the other men about his late wife, who’s birthday would have been the day prior. It feels like a serious bonding moment for the contestants – Greg tears up and gives him a hug at one point, and they all agree Michael’s positive attitude puts things into perspective.
All signs point to Michael taking the group date rose, but it’s Hunter, who got emotional showing Katie photos of his children, who nabs this one.
Who gets sent home on tonight’s ‘Bachelorette’?
At the rose ceremony, Katie whittles the field down to her final 12 contestants, which means saying goodbye to Andrew M., Josh and Quartney.
A teaser for the remainder of the season promises more Blake, Greg and Andrew S. (no surprise there); plus a whispered “I love you” to Mike P., a surprise visitor who Katie says is the “last one she ever expected,” and an exit that makes her question if she just lost her “person.”
Interview: ‘Bachelorette’ star Katie Thurston talks Chris Harrison absence in her ‘unexpected’ new season
And: ‘Bachelorette’ co-hosts Tayshia Adams, Kaitlyn Bristowe on ‘father figure’ Chris Harrison’s exit
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘Bachelorette’ recap: Blake joins house, who got hurt on group date?