Mbali tells Lee she's leaving. Picture: Supplied/MNet

In a shocking reversal of the usual procedure, stunning, accomplished and high-minded 26-year-old make-up artist Mbali this week decided to bid The Bachelor goodbye! And her sudden decision to turn her back on Lee Thompson and her fellow contestants in M-Net’s dramatic reality dating series, "The Bachelor SA," ended in anything but a fond farewell.

There’s been good and bad chemistry, tears, laughter, connections and disconnections in equal measure in the four episodes of the series – all of which became too much for Mbali, who decided to cut her journey short. The exit came as a surprise to Lee and the ladies of the mansion, but looking back at her experience it becomes clear that it wasn’t all fun and games for the high-maintenance lass.

So what led to her dramatic decision? On her first group date in episode one, Mbali felt uncomfortable and questioned the whole idea of sharing a man, “Why would you want to?” she asked. Later in the series, she revealed that she had held back throughout, saying that “I hope that he will see that I am someone who doesn’t need to do much to be noticed." 

The last straw came in tonight’s episode – the steam-punk-themed photo shoot group date, where she was joined by Gina, Jozaan, Chanieel, Jenna, America, Nontombi and Jacqueline. Throughout the date, Mbali felt unnoticed and pushed aside, to the point where she withdrew and made the decision to call it quits. It was during the cocktail ceremony that she pulled Lee aside and dropped the bomb. He respected her for making such a bold decision. The other ladies were left in shock and reduced to tears as Mbali coldly walked out of the mansion.

And if Mbali’s exit wasn't enough, there was more drama at the cocktail party: Lee finds America in tears and she confides in him that her journal was stolen in the mansion. And that isn't all:  Kim had felt disrespected during episode three’s rose ceremony, and revealed her feelings in a love letter!

The group date was enjoyed by the rest of the ladies who loved dressing up and getting up close and personal with the charming Lee. So much so that Jacqueline and Lee shared an intimate kiss during one of the steamy scenes of the shoot – in front of all the other ladies! Unfortunately for her though, it was Jozaan’s reticence that won over Lee, who invited her for a high tea to spend some quality time together.

The one-on-one date, which was held at the luxurious five-star Michelangelo Hotel, was given to the belle of ball, Miss Reddy. Breathtaking in a black gown, Michelle R was spoilt with a five-course dining experience in a private room with her Prince Charming. At the end of the evening, he gifted his princess a pair of dazzling diamond earrings from Jack Friedman, "a special way to end a special evening”, he said. And just when she thought it couldn’t get any better, Lee pulled out a rose!

With 12 women left – half of the initial 24  selected for the show – and feelings running deep, the race has become much tighter and more intense!

"The Bachelor SA" is screened on M-Net Channel 101 every Thursday evening at 7pm and is also available on Catch-Up.