Entertainment TV 'The Bachelorette' : Katie Thurston Sends Home an Early Favorite Because 'Something Was Missing' Also on Monday's episode, Katie challenged her remaining suitors to refrain from pleasuring themselves By Dana Rose Falcone Published on July 12, 2021 10:00 PM Share Tweet Pin Email This post contains spoilers from Monday's episode of The Bachelorette. At the halfway point in her journey, Bachelorette Katie Thurston felt she had a "solid group of guys," she declared at the top of Monday's episode. "There are more than one guy right now that I feel a strong connection with, maybe even falling for," she told co-hosts Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe. Among those men: Andrew S., Blake, Greg and Michael A. Katie also wanted to issue her remaining suitors a challenge to "withhold their self-care as long as possible." Tayshia and Kaitlyn needed some clarification on what that meant, so Katie explained that a "friendly handshake with themselves" was off-limits. "I cannot wait to see the boys and give them little look, make it a little hard for them," Katie told the cameras of the Seinfeld-style contest she devised. Bachelorette Katie Thurston Proposes a Unique Challenge in Sneak Peek — No Self-Gratification Kaitlyn then informed the men that Katie wanted them to stop pleasuring themselves. "Stay off the lotion, stop running the shower," she ordered. Some of the guys, like Blake, thought this would be a tough challenge, but virgin Mike P. said, "I've been mastering this my whole life." ONE-ON-ONE DATE Katie selected Justin for her first one-on-one date of the week and they got a glimpse of their potential future when Bachelor Nation photographer Franco took their wedding photos. Katie wore a white wedding dress and Justin put on a suit; they exchanged vows at an outdoor ceremony. "You are the paint that colored our world. Our marriage is a canvas, so let's paint something beautiful," Katie said to Justin at the altar. ABC/Craig Sjodin Will you accept this rose? Sign up for PEOPLE's free weekly Bachelor Nation newsletter to get the latest news on The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and everything in between. No one officiated the wedding, so Katie took it upon herself to cue the "you may kiss the bride" moment, and then Franco snapped photos. The fake newlyweds posed for the camera and smashed cake in each other's faces. "We have this connection that is so strong," Katie said of Justin. When Katie and Justin sat down for dinner afterward, she opened up about how she finds weddings difficult because her dad is no longer around to walk her down the aisle. "It does bring up a lot of pain," Katie told the investment sales consultant. "My dad won't be able to do that for me. Even when it comes down to a proposal, he's not around to give his blessing." Katie also shared that, to complicate matters, "Before my dad passed away, I also found out he was not my biological father. My mom kept that a secret." Her biological dad wanted to have a relationship, but Katie said she found it hard to form a connection with her biological dad while mourning the man who raised her. "Anytime I tried to get close with him, it's just a reminder of the fact that my dad who raised me is no longer here," she said. After hearing Katie's story, Justin said he wanted to be there to comfort her. "You continue to amaze me with the strength that you have," he said. Craig Sjodin/abc Katie told the cameras she felt "so happy and comforted" by Justin, and they kissed. "I just want to say thank you for not only listening to me today, but in every conversation we have, I can tell that you care," she told Justin before giving him a rose. "I can tell that you're going to be a great husband, and I want to continue to explore our relationship." They wrapped up the night by dancing to a private performance by singer Max. "Justin is someone I can see myself falling for," Katie said in an on-camera interview. GROUP DATE Blake, Andrew, Michael A., Greg, Aaron, Mike P., Brendan, James, Tre and Hunter embarked on the group date, hosted by RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars' Monét X Change and Shea Couleé. The queens poked fun at some of the men before informing the guys that they'd be competing in The Great Royal Debate, where they had to share why they deserved to be there with Katie in the end — and why the other guys didn't. Monét X Change and Shea Couleé helped the men brainstorm their presentations and jokes, and a lot of the guys planned to make digs at Hunter. During the prep process, Shea Couleé asked Hunter whether he loved Katie, and he said he didn't feel ready to use the L word quite yet. "I don't think that I'm in a place right now where I've been able to explore that enough to say that," he said. ABC/Craig Sjodin But during the Great Royal Debate, the topic came up again — and Hunter gave a different response. "I'm falling in love, absolutely," Hunter said in front of the group. "No question." Having overheard Hunter's conversation with Shea Couleé earlier, Tre called out Hunter for flip-flopping, and Aaron and Brendan piled on insults, too. Hunter tried to be the bigger man, though. When asked by the drag queens if he had any insults to dole out, Hunter declined and instead used his time during the debate to share his feelings about Katie. "When I do find the woman I'm going to spend the rest of my life with, I will never take it for granted," he said. "And I think that woman's you." After the debate wrapped, Katie told the queens she felt "surprised" by what she learned about Hunter. So during the afterparty, she gathered more information about the situation. Tre recounted the story of overhearing Hunter telling Shea Couleé before the debate about how he didn't feel like he loved Katie. And Aaron told Katie of Hunter, "The things he says really don't match up." Craig Sjodin/abc When Katie asked Hunter for his side of the story, he promised he only possessed genuine intentions. "I'm not being calculated," he said. "I don't know what else I can say to defend myself." But Katie needed more. "I'm going to be honest though, I don't feel good right now," she told him. Katie walked out of their conversation declaring, "I need to like throw up" — and then went to the restroom and did exactly that. When she returned, Katie informed the men she did not want to continue the night and would not be handing out a group date rose. SECOND ONE-ON-ONE Following their initial spark, Katie picked Connor — who showed up dressed as a cat on the first night — for her second one-on-one date of the week. "I've never been this excited for a first date," Connor told the cameras. But Katie felt that she and Connor were only in the friend zone. "We are missing this physical connection," she said in an on-camera interview. "When we kiss, I don't feel that spark or that passion. My hope is that we can get beyond that." For their day together, Katie and Connor went double dating with Kaitlyn and her fiancé Jason Tartick. They played two-on-two volleyball and a trivia game about their relationship, and later grilled up some hot dogs and hamburgers. ABC/Craig Sjodin "I have real feelings about her," Connor told Jason. "I care about her a lot." Meanwhile, Katie told Kaitlyn, "I really just love everything about Connor." Jason Tartick Says Wedding Plans with Kaitlyn Bristowe Are 'Full Speed Ahead' — 'We're So Excited!' Then Katie and Connor shared that all-important kiss. "It could not have gone better," Connor said in an on-camera interview. As Connor spruced up for the evening portion of their date in his room, Katie couldn't bring herself to get ready. She knocked on Connor's door looking visibly upset. Though Connor likely sensed the breakup coming, he embraced Katie as she cried and told her, "It's okay." "It's hard for me because, I don't know, I just feel like with us, I want it to feel like you are someone I could walk away with at the end of this," Katie told Connor. "And it's like the most heartbreaking thing, because I remember how I felt when we first meant … You've done nothing wrong in this." Craig Sjodin/abc Connor proceeded to ask what happened that changed how she felt about him. "There was something missing in that kiss, and that was hard for me because everything about you, everything about us was so easy, so good," she replied. "But when we kiss it just … that was the one and only time that something was missing." Katie and Connor said their tear-filled goodbyes and to the cameras, he wondered, "How bad of a kisser am I?" Connor paid the other men a final visit to bid them farewell, and his departure shocked the group. "I'm shook right now," a crying Tre told the cameras. Blake used the moment to build his relationship with Katie, who'd been crying back in her suite. He showed up outside her balcony and held up a boombox, à la Say Anything. Katie invited Blake up and they kissed passionately in the hallway. "To see Blake standing outside, am I dreaming?" she said in an on-camera interview. Blake said when he saw Connor return in tears, he couldn't help but think about Katie and wanted to comfort her. "This is just one of those moments where, if we're going to be together, being there, being supportive and just kind of coming in to hopefully soothe you, like … I was looking forward to come and see you," he said. "That was the greatest surprise ever," Katie replied. Impressed by the romantic gesture, Katie continued to kiss Blake. "With Blake and I, there's just overflowing passion," she told the cameras. "There's this undeniable chemistry. With Blake, this is what I'm looking for." Blake felt the passion as well. "I'm certain that I'm falling for Katie and she's falling for me, too," he said. "It's impossible to deny that Katie and I are going to fall in love." ROSE CEREMONY After what Katie called a "hard" and "emotional" week, she headed into the rose ceremony with her mind set on the future. "I'm at the point where time really isn't going to make a difference tonight," she told the men. "I have strong relationships with men in this room and I owe it to them, I owe it to myself to just be very intentional with where my heart is and what I want to do with my time going forward. So that being said, the cocktail party is canceled. I know within my heart exactly what I want to do." ABC/Craig Sjodin Once Katie assumed the position to start handing out roses and grabbed the first one, she called out Hunter's name. But instead of offering Hunter a rose, Katie asked him to go talk outside — and brought a rose with her. "I'm just looking for clarity," she told Hunter. Hunter assured her again that he came to find love, but he returned inside without a rose and rejoined the group. Katie ultimately gave roses to Blake, Andrew, Greg, Michael A., Mike P. and Brendan — sending Hunter home, as well as Aaron, James and Tre. "I don't think she made the right decision," Hunter told the cameras. "I want her to want me, and she didn't. She didn't 100 percent want me here, so f--- that." The Bachelorette airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.