Brad, a 27-year-old accountant from Denver, CO, was eliminated during his one-on-one date because Des just wasn't feeling the necessary spark, while Zack, a 28-year-old book publisher from Newport Beach, CA, was sent home during the fourth episode's Rose Ceremony.
"I just got hit with a ton of bricks," Brad said following his ouster. "I came here for myself; I came here for [my son] Maddox. I opened my heart. I shared who I am, and I don't regret coming here. I think I don't feel like she rejected me or Maddox. She just made the right decision for herself. It's hard to say goodbye but I miss my son very much."
"I'm shocked. I don't know why this happened. I really am shocked and I'm not ready to go home yet. Desiree has all the qualities I look for and I really did see a future with this girl. But rejection is not fun and it's hard to swallow. It's a hard thing to kind of grasp -- that something you think could've been so great is actually in fact not great and is not going to work," Zach said after his elimination.
"I wanted to find love and I came here literally with a leap of faith wondering and putting my trust in that I could potentially find the love of my life. But there's still that missing piece to my life, which is that true everlasting that I don't have. And without that, you feel alone. You feel like you're not complete, I guess. It's definitely tough."
The Bachelorette's fourth ninth-season episode began with host Chris Harrison telling the 13 remaining bachelors there would be two one-on-one dates and a group date over the course of the next week. There would be a rose up for grabs during each -- and if the bachelors on the one-on-one dates failed to receive a rose, they'd be ousted immediately.
The men then learned they'd be traveling to Atlantic City, NJ. They packed their bags, eventually moved into their temporary hotel and received their first date card, which revealed Brad would receive the week's first one-on-one date.
Zak Waddell, a 31-year-old drilling fluid engineer from Mico, TX, said Brad was the quietest guy in the house and had a child he was missing at home. Zak W. felt Desiree wouldn't keep him around unless she had real feelings for him because of the son, while Mikey Tenerelli, a 30-year-old plumbing contractor from Winfield, IL, thought Brad might've been too reserved for Des and would struggle to bring out the fun side of her.
However, Desiree said she was having a really fun time with Brad on her date at the amusement park and was seeing new sides of him.
The pair went on rides, played games, and ate salt water taffy and chocolate together. Des said Brad was more in his element so he didn't seem as uncomfortable as he had appeared in a group setting. The couple then enjoyed a little picnic amidst a huge sandcastle on the beach followed by a romantic dinner together at night. Brad told Desiree he was looking for a woman who was simply a good person and would be a great mother.
"I love that Brad takes responsibility for his son and works hard to provide for his family. Those are great qualities for a great husband. But I need to make sure that it's not just qualities I see, but it's really a connection," Des said. "I really just need to dig into conversation with Brad to see if he's a guy I could see myself marrying."
The conversation seemed to be lacking and awkward during their dinner date complete with silent pauses. Desiree admitted she was conflicted about Brad because the conversation wasn't flowing naturally, but the more she learned about him, the more she liked him. She planned to play it by ear and see if she could picture a life with the guy and his son Maddox. Des noted there was a lot of writing on the rose.
Meanwhile, at the hotel, the other bachelors received the group-date card.
The guys who would be accompanying Des on that date were Brooks Forester, a 28-year-old marketing consultant from Salt Lake City, UT; Bryden Vukasin, a 26-year-old Iraqi War veteran from Missoula, MT; Zach K.; Kasey Stewart, a 29-year-old advertising executive from San Luis Obispo, CA; Drew Kenney, a 27-year-old digital marketing analyst from Scottsdale, AZ; Juan Pablo Galavis, a 31-year-old former pro soccer player from Miami, FL; Zak W.; Mikey; Ben Scott, a 28-year-old entrepreneur and single dad from Dallas, TX; Michael Garofola, a 33-year-old federal prosecutor from Miami Beach, FL; and Chris Siegfried, a 27-year-old mortgage broker from Seattle, WA.
On Brad's one-on-one date, Des said there were things about Brad she absolutely loved, like how he's such a family man. But as she was learning what she really needed in a relationship throughout The Bachelorette process, she wasn't sure she saw that with Brad. The couple then walked up to the top of the lighthouse to talk.
Desiree told Brad she loved every moment of their date but something was just missing and she didn't see a forever with him. She explained she couldn't give him the rose and didn't want to take any more time away from Maddox since she wasn't sure about their relationship. Des then said goodbye and apologized, and Brad told her that he hoped she could find what she was looking for.
"I want a love that could light the darkness, and I don't think Brad and I could have that love. It's really hard to give up a great guy, but there just isn't a natural spark and it's so unfortunate because any girl would be lucky to have him. Saying goodbye is tough. It's emotional. I want Brad to find love. I want him to find that person that will complete his family and will be a mother to Maddox. I just didn't see forever," Desiree explained after letting Brad go.
Once the guys back at the hotel saw Brad's suitcase being taken away, Ben noted he felt bad for Brad, as they're both single fathers. Ben understood what it's like looking for love as a single father and how it tends to come with a lot of heartbreak and pain.
The next day, Des went on her group date at Boardwalk Hall. The guys soon learned they'd be competing in their own Mr. America pageant. They'd be judged on interview questions, swimsuit and talent -- or lack thereof -- onstage in front of a live Atlantic City audience. The reigning Miss America Mallory Hagan helped trained the boys along with a world-famous pageant coach. The city's mayor, Mallory and Desiree sat on the judging panel and deliberated the bachelors' performances.
The competition featured men in heels, men with ribbons, men on skates, men with hula hoops, and men in speedos. The suitors were each asked a live-onstage question before strutting their stuff in the two other categories.
In the end, the second runner-up was Brooks. The first-runner up was Zak W. But the winner, who performed an enthusiastic story-telling tap dance for his talent, was Kasey. Kasey was thrilled about his victory and Mikey admitted he felt robbed.
In the latter portion of the group date, Chris read Desiree a poem he wrote for her while they were in the pool. He tried to show her his serious side, and they both shared the commonality of writing in little coffee shops. Chris said they had a connection he just couldn't explain.
In the meantime, many of Des' suitors were still fired up about Ben's attitude and approach to dating Des.
"There's a lot of great guys that are here right now -- and then there's Ben. I hate Ben. Just as a person, he's not a good person. I don't even want to look at him. It drives me crazy and just makes everything weird and uncomfortable," Bryden said.
"I'm not here to make friends. I hope every one of them goes home and it's just me standing there with Des. I know I'm feeling very confident, but everyone's connection with her, I haven't been able to see because I'm one of those guys that I don't want to know, I don't care to know, so I would rather just not know," Ben explained to the cameras.
Michael G. believed Ben had an insecurity about him in which he didn't just want one-on-one time with Des but he wanted everyone to see that special time. Zak W. and Michael G. agreed they had heard more about Ben's bar at home than his own son. However, Des was hopeful for the future and saw potential in Ben as a husband. After Ben spent some alone time with Des, the guys suggested to his face he could've found a different place to talk to her rather than right in front of them.
But Ben made it clear he didn't care -- that if he got only five minutes with Des, he'd take it no matter where he was or who was around.
Meanwhile, James Case, a 27-year-old advertising executive from Chicago, IL, received the date card, verifying he'd be accompanying Desiree on the next one-on-one date.
Back on the group date, Zak W. said getting a rose right then and there would mean more to him than anything. Because he only got to play half the song he wrote for Des onstage during the Mr. America competition, Zak decided to play the remainder of his song for her. After singing, Zak told the cameras he was starting to fall in love with Des -- who applauded and seemed to love his performance. Des then gave the rose to Zak, saying he made her feel special and really interested her.
Ben was especially disappointed he didn't get the rose, as he said he wanted to be selfish and get every single rose.
The following day, Des embarked on her one-on-one date with James. The couple was shown the Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy hit by a representative from the America Red Cross via helicopter. James knew it wasn't an over-the-top date but felt honored to receive it. They observed the destruction of the storm and were overwhelmed by all the damage. James said the experience bonded himself with Desiree and it'd be something they'd always remember.
After their tour, Desiree met with a married couple of Hurricane Sandy survivors, Manny and Jan, who shared their emotional stories. The couple lost their home and most of their belongings in the storm. James felt terrible for the people, who went to the Red Cross shelter on the night of their 38th anniversary.
Des and James decided to give up their romantic dinner to the couple so they could enjoy a proper anniversary dinner date. Manny and Jan cried with happiness and were absolutely grateful and thankful. The pair were escorted to their special evening in a limo.
"Giving our date to Manny and Jan, the feeling is just overwhelming to see Manny tear up. I mean, they've been through so much -- just to give them a small day for themselves, I think it'll be something that they'll never forget for the rest of their lives and something that Desiree and I will never forget," James said.
"They're going to make [memories] and have the time of their lives... Desiree and I went to a whole different level. Desiree is a selfless person. She has a good heart, and I definitely feel I could fall in love with her. This is just the beginning."
James and Desiree then grabbed pizza and beer locally together and just enjoyed good conversation.
James felt they were on the same page and opened up to Des about how he had been in a relationship for five-and-a-half years but cheated on her during his freshman year of college. James said he cheated on a good person and he knew he had messed up. The fact his ex-girlfriend couldn't get over it and move on really hurt him, and James insisted he would never cheat again and was on the show for the right reasons.
James told Des he had learned valuable life lessons through that experience and wanted a family and was ready to commit. He said a man couldn't love until his heart's been broken and he had definitely been through that. Des worried James would falter when faced with temptation, but she ultimately appreciated and respected his honesty.
Des and James then met up with Manny and Jan at their dinner and surprised the married couple with a private Darius Rucker concert. Meanwhile, Des gave James a rose and they danced and kissed the night away during the performance.
"I can feel my love just growing. I made a decision to leave my father who's sick and I definitely know now that it was definitely the right decision. What an unbelievable person I've met," James told the cameras.
"[The date] brought us closer together and connected us in a way that other dates wouldn't have and I really could see a lifetime with him. We just look at each other and we know that we want to kiss, so that's a good sign," Des said.
The next night, the cocktail reception preceding the Rose Ceremony began and all the men were hoping to secure some last-minute time with The Bachelorette star.
"Tonight is extremely important. I've been having some issues and I'm struggling a bit. The very first date we had was amazing. I was on a high from it and it was fun, and ever since then, my feelings have been falling behind where I think they should be. Tonight, if she offered me the rose, I'm not sure that I would accept it," Bryden said.
Michael G. pulled Des aside and told her the reasons why he liked her thus far. He played a little word game with Des, which made her smile, and then he earned his first kiss. Chris also got a kiss from Des and found out he wasn't in the friend-zone, which left him feeling confident.
Meanwhile, Bryden told his fellow bachelors he had to figure out whether his feelings for Des were where they needed to be or he'd leave the show. Bryden planned to be honest with Des and then make a decision on what they should do.
Bryden then addressed the issue with Des and told her that he felt things between them were falling behind. Des said she wanted him there and felt they had a connection. She told him to take his time and be comfortable in the process, as there was no rush. Desiree feared Bryden wouldn't give it a chance and may want to leave.
After their conversation, Bryden still had doubts and considered withdrawing himself from the competition. He just wasn't sure what he should to do.