All Hail Tayshia, the ‘Bachelorette’ GOAT

One day, historians will trace the beginning of 2020’s global meltdown to Pilot Pete standing droopily in the middle of the Australian outback handing a ring to a 23-year-old without two brain cells to rub together. Honestly, we should have written the entire year off as a loss right then and there. 

The beginning of the year’s Bachelorette didn’t look like it was going to be much better. Between filming being constrained to the area between the La Quinta breakfast buffet and the ice machine and a lead (Clare Crawley) more interested in finding out what Dale was saying about her than carrying the weight of a television program, things went about as well as I’d come to expect in 2020. But then, much like absentee ballots coming in from Fulton County, Georgia, Tayshia arrived with the promise that last year might not have been entirely worthless after all. 

Due to a brief, misguided Bachelor franchise hiatus, this was my first introduction to Tayshia, but it didn’t take long to convince me she’s one of the best who’s ever done it. 

Tayshia Adams from The Bachelorette Photo by ABC/Craig Sjodin An uphill battle

It wasn’t an easy road for our heroine. On top of being just the second woman of color at the helm, Tayshia was tasked with saving a season that had gone off the rails, winning the affection of 20+ men who’d shown up for someone else, and doing it all within the confines of a single resort slowly being burnt to a crisp under the Palm Springs sun.

But man, did she deliver. She gave us fun, she gave us whimsey, she gave us a love story — and she did it all in record time. 

Real can be interesting

I’ll admit it: I’m a first-half-of-the-season kind of viewer. I like the antics, the costumes, the stupid fighting between people who hardly know the bachelorette’s name. I usually start online shopping somewhere around the midpoint of the season when people start talking about their feelings, then glance back up in time for fantasy suites.

Even Tayshia couldn’t save us from the mid-season lull, but sometime after Noah shaved his mustache and dates stopped involving physical combat, the conversations she initiated became interesting enough to put choosing a new pair of sweatpants on the backburner. She talked about real things with her men and sought out those willing to have those discussions rather than simply spew platitudes and skate past uncomfortable emotions. Instead of treating discussions of trauma and hardship as boxes to be checked on the path to an engagement, she gave these conversations their proper space, allowing us as viewers to sit with police brutality, racism, addiction, eating disorders, suicide and loss.

We got to see serious conversations about relationship logistics too, which are usually merely alluded to. She asked them about kids, about priorities, about jobs and regrets. She let Ivan (perfect, precious Ivan) go in part because their faiths (or lack thereof) didn’t line up in a way she could get past. She’s been married before, folks, and she wasn’t here to screw around. 

And guess what? That’s a hell of a lot more interesting than hearing two people coo about nothing, no matter how epic the scenery is.

Give and get

To her credit, Tayshia didn’t ask people to do her the courtesy of tearing down their walls without offering them respect in return. While past protagonists have dragged men who’ve just finished dumping their hearts on the floor through a gut-wrenching rose ceremony, Tayshia pulled the best men (see: Ivan, Riley) aside to shatter their hopes and dreams in private, and didn't force Ben to deliver a proposal at the end that she didn't intend to accept. It doesn’t seem like much, but we’ve seen far worse.

Above all, Tayshia was unapologetically herself. She brought the show a levity that felt genuine and a weight that felt necessary; the best relationships need both. She knew what she wanted, and she went out and got it with minimal hesitation, by Bachelorette standards. Her clear-eyed approach to her project left me both happily entertained and sincerely optimistic for the staying power of her final rose. I can’t remember the last time both those things were true.

Let’s continue to revel in this victory, people, because I'm still not convinced Matt James’ entire season isn't going to be a sh*t show, and I miss Tayshia already.