'The Bachelorette' Recap: Love Don't Cost a Thing

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"The Bachelorette" - Episode 904
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Desiree meets 11 of her guys at Boardwalk Hall - the birthplace of the Miss America Competition. There Chris Harrison, who will co-host ABC's live telecast of the 2014 Miss America Competition, on Sunday, September 15 (2013) with "Good Morning America" co-host Lara Spencer, and the reigning Miss America Mallory Hagan, reveal that the men will compete in the first ever "The Bachelorette's Mr. America" title. A day of rehearsing leads to another surprise: they'll be performing in front of a live audience, with Desiree, Miss America and the Mayor of Atlantic City, Lorenzo Tyrone Langford, judging the competition. Wacky talent performances, an exciting display of swimsuits and the all-important interviews lead to one suitor being crowned. But the competition at the after party is also fierce, with Ben continuing to flaunt his time with Desiree in front of the other guys. Who will end up with the rose? -- on "The Bachelorette."

In all the seasons of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette," has there been a cuter couple than Manny and Jan?

The adorable pair, still rebuilding their home after Superstorm Sandy, showed their younger counterparts what true, abiding commitment really is. Watching them look through their restored wedding album and toasting their decades-long marriage melted our hearts. Their house and furnishings may have been nearly destroyed by the storm, but those are just things. They can be rebuilt and rebought. Love is far more precious.

As for the new romances on the show, Desiree seems to have a fresh front-runner after her trip to the Jersey Shore, while a former favorite seems uncertain if he should even be there any longer.

Shifting sands

Time to hit the road! Des and the guys leave Los Angeles for the bright lights of Atlantic City. There, her first one-on-one date is with Brad, the guy who admitted last week that he has a kid. He's a pretty serious and reserved fellow, though he does to seem to let his guard down as they hit the boardwalk, play games, ride the carousel, and eat saltwater taffy.

[Related: Desiree Hartsock: 25 Things You Don't Know About Me]

But Des still feels like Brad is holding back, and their stilted conversation at dinner doesn't help matters. We counted at least three awkward pauses. Afterward, she invites him up to the top of a lighthouse, but instead of being a romantic moment, it just feels cold and weird.

Des admits that "something's missing" between the two of them, and gently lets Brad down. He departs without a rose to go back home to his son.

The other guys (specifically Zak W. and Ben) are, like, "Toldja so."

Pageant princes

The group date features the rest of the guys (except James, who has the second one-on-one this week) participating in a Mr. America competition with an interview portion, talent show, and, yes, ladies, the swimsuit round!

The guys are hilarious as they work on their "talents." Juan Pablo apparently can toss a mean baton, while Chris teeters around on high heels. "It's a hodgepodge of tomfoolery," Drew notes.

[Related: Always a Bridesmaid! Jessica Simpson Walks Down the Aisle Again]

The competition — judged by Des, Miss America Mallory Hagan, and Atlantic City mayor Lorenzo Langford — starts off with the interview segment. Mikey T. tries to show his sensitive side by talking about crying on the inside.

Then, of course, in the talent section, he rips off his shirt and does some standing pushups. He doesn't want to be seen as a meathead — and then immediately acts like a meathead.

In the end, Desiree crowns Kasey as her Mr. America winner. He gets a crown, a sash, and a bouquet but no rose. That's being saved for later in the evening.

As usual, the other guys are snarking on Ben, this time for taking Des aside where everyone can see him. But whatever the guys see isn't what Des sees. She looks smitten with him.

To everyone's relief, though, she doesn't give Ben the rose. Instead, she gives it to Zak W., who sang her a sweet song on his guitar. And the guy wanted it bad, really bad, so good for him. He seems a bit intense, but whatever floats Desiree's boat!

The power of love

Des picks up James for a helicopter ride, but this one is not for pleasure cruising. Instead, the two ride with the Red Cross to view the destruction along the Jersey Shore after Superstorm Sandy. They see devastated beaches, wrecked homes, and the remnants of a once-thriving boardwalk. They even pass by a roller coaster still out in the ocean.

Upon landing, they meet a couple named Manny and Jan who are in the process of rebuilding their home. Turns out that the first night they spent in the Red Cross shelter was their anniversary. Awww! Manny and Jan have relied on each other's love and support to get through difficult times.

Des and James decide to give up their fancy evening date to Manny and Jan as a belated anniversary present. It's Manny's first time in a limo. We need a tissue!

[Video: Miss Utah USA 2013 Joins the Pageant Answer Hall of Shame]

While the old couple enjoys a lavish spread at the House of Blues, Des and James scarf down pizza and beers at a local tavern. She says that Manny and Jan reminded her of her own parents — they'd been through difficult financial times, too. But they always had love, and money didn't matter as much.

James opens up and admits that he's made mistakes in past relationships, including cheating on his girlfriend of five and a half years. That definitely rattles Des, who's been cheated on before. But she respects his honesty, and it's clear that these two have a lot of chemistry. She ends up giving him the rose.

Later, they rejoin Manny and Jan, who've been given a restored version of their wedding album. The two couples then dance at a private concert by Darius Rucker. They even switch partners, with the big, burly James towering over petite Jan. Seriously, ABC, you're killing us here with cuteness!

Cocktail party and rose ceremony

We were wondering which of the guys would be the one who starts "struggling" with how "difficult" this situation is. At first, Zak W. seemed a good candidate, but it turns out to be Bryden. The Army guy who seemed so into Des on their one-on-one date a couple weeks ago is maybe not feeling it anymore. Part of the problem is that he hasn't had much time with her this week.

When the two finally talk, he admits that he feels like they're falling behind in the relationship. Des assures him that she wants him there, but Bryden still seems unsure about whether he'll accept a rose. Uh oh.

When the rose ceremony starts, James and Zak W. are both safe. The other men who receive roses are: Chris, Brooks, Juan Pablo, Drew, Michael, Ben, Kasey, Bryden, and Mikey.

So, Bryden's talk about turning down a rose was just that — talk. Meanwhile, Ben's open-collar yellow shirt makes him look like a used car salesman. Come on, Des, that just screams "he's not the one for you."

The only guy eliminated (since Brad left earlier) is Zack K. Who is Zack K.? We were not sure ourselves. When the camera panned over him during the ceremony, we had a hard time recognizing him.

And his last words walking out to the limo are probably the most he's said all season long. Sorry, Zack K., you will not be missed.

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"The Bachelorette" airs Mondays at 8 PM on ABC.

 

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