To neatly sum up this week in the Bachelorette mansion, it was when things got real, for both the bachelors and Lexie.
Gone are the days in week one and two when the boys could swing in at the cocktail party with a cheeky jibe or sweet compliment and Lexie would dish out the roses like smiles.
No - this week she made the guys work hard for every morsel of attention. Some crumbled under the pressure, and some took to the competition swimmingly (literally). Add an intruder into the mix, and some of the guys realised they may actually have to play the romance card to win Lexie's heart.
Enter the aloof, long-haired-hat-wearing Paul. Who would have thought he would have been the one to kiss Lexie first this season? His strategy was to act cool, calm and collected in the corner. He fits a romantic comedy cool-guy trope, with added cooking skills.
Contrast this with Hamish, who the entire show seemed to revolve around this week. For better or for worse? If we consult the hypothetical textbook of suitors, Hamish would be in the section of the book titled: Excellent banter, but is that all there is? After Lexie's aforementioned kiss with Paul, we saw a streak of jealousy from him. It's a theme that continues for the rest of the week's episodes.
We're at the point of the competition where the rose ceremonies are telling us a lot about what Lexie's final decision may be. Vaz with his epic fail during the speed dating fiasco saw him go straight home, along with Jake whose chat didn't live up to Lexie's expectations.
Josh was ditched before an elimination round even began, and the same went for Aidan. I don't even want to address the elephant in the room, Vaz's waterfall of tears as he exited the mansion. Look, I feel for the guy, rejection is tough. I don't just see how he thought he was sticking around for long after his disastrous argument about identical twins last week.
There are two groups of men in the mansion at this point in the competition: the ones that Lexie sees her self diving into a relationship with, and the ones she keeps around because they're entertaining. The latter category - I'd put Matt and Damien on this list - were swiftly sent to pack their bags. It tells us that while Lexie loves a laugh, she wants to make sure that she picks the right person at the end of all of this.
Then there is the case of Hamish, who could arguably fit in both categories. He has caught mad feelings, but if he wants Lexie to pick him, the 'Mish must make it his mission to show his vulnerable side.
The intruder: Let's discuss
It wouldn't be a dating competition without an intruder. Bach fans will recognise Jesse as last Lily's second choice.
To the demise of Matt, after he literally missed his shot at one on one time with Lexie, Jesse got the all-important dinner date. As much as I'd like to buy into a narrative of last year's second choice swooping in and stealing the competition, my gut says there's a bigger purpose to Jesse being there.
Consider how Hamish stepped up to the plate this week: He was so sick of Todd, Jesse, Jack, and his apparent best mate Joe closing in on "his" girl. He even considered not accepting Lexie's rose at one point. He dragged Jesse through the mud by leaking his observation about Lexie liking to party.
But, his moment of vulnerability landed Hamish an epic heli-boarding date. We found out later that this date was actually meant for Joe. An unfortunate ice hockey injury on the group date meant Lexie gave Joe's date to Hamish, and it's unsure at this point if their friendship will ever recover.
Kisses don't mean as once as they much did - everyone has locked lips with Lex except for Jesse. As we head into next week, the stakes have never been higher.
Who went on dates?
Paul, Hamish, and technically Jesse with his dinner date after winning the double date comp.
Josh, Matt, Aidan, Jack: Brand marketing challenge
Jack finally got a chance for a deep and meaningful chat with Lexie, and he pleaded his case for affection exceptionally well. The most interesting case of product placement yet.
Matt and Jesse, The first double date!
Lexie proves she ticked the criteria in 80 per cent of men's dating app profiles: She likes going on adventures. On this date, there was claybird shooting and off-roading. Jesse swooped in with a lucky shot to win a rather uneventful dinner date with Lexie, but at least he got a rose out of it. Poor Matt.
Todd, Paul, and Jack: Tree planting
Determined to make another good impression, Jack pulled out all the stops to make sure he got some coveted lakeside romance. Not-so-humble Hamish was livid Jack copied his lake swimming idea, but I don't think his copyright infringement argument would stand up in court. They were in Queenstown. It was bound to happen more than once.
Who went home?
Is it just me, or did Lexie send home a tonne of people this week?
She is getting things done, and we love to see it. The guys, not so much.
Vaz: Shedding tears and most of his dignity, this was the end of the road for him and his abs.
Jake: He just couldn't quite match the finesse of his brother Quinn, but I bet his primary school class will be stoked to have him back.
Josh: Lexie gave him the chop when Jesse entered the mansion, but it wasn't too surprising considering how the other boys are faring.
Damien: I will, hand on heart, miss Damien and his comic relief endlessly.
Matt: The same goes for Matt, whose jokes were a bright spark on this show where heartbreak is on the horizon.
Aidan: There just wasn't a spark, and Lexie gracefully let him down before a rose ceremony even began.
And the Herald's rose goes too ...
I'm siding with the underdog this week, awarding my rose to Jack for his admirable tactics when he realised he had to get his head in the game, Troy Bolton style. Who saw a kiss coming from him last week? I certainly didn't.
He seemed to impress Lexie, even if she can't quite put her finger on the reason why. The lust might fizzle, or it could be the beginning of a bright spark no one saw coming. Anything could happen.
Who should be packing their bags?
As much as I love the chaos Jesse's presence has ensued, he seems the most likely at this point to either exit the mansion, or reveal that he is actually a secret mole. I don't trust him, but maybe he will do the right thing and leave the original bachelors to compete for Lexie in their peaceful bromance bubble.
I hate to kick Joe while he is down, but there's only room for one Whangārei lad in the mansion, and despite his cocktail party pashes he needs a grand gesture to seal the deal.
Coming up next week ...
Home visits, heartbreaks, dramatic exits, and Lexie makes her big decision. I can't wait.
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