It’s Week Nine on The Bachelor, and how is our protagonist doing? “I’m terrified of ending up alone,” says Brad. Hrmm. Approaching your search for a prospective marriage partner from a place of pure panic and desperation? That doesn’t sound very healthy. But since Brad is no longer wasting time on weekly sessions with his “as-seen-on-TV” therapist, let’s assume everything’s coming up roses.
“I am ready to talk to these women on a very intimate level, individually, and see if there’s a future here,” says Brad, and while I applaud his use of the adverb “individually” — if we wanted an intimate three-on-one date in the fantasy suite, we’d tune in to the Spice channel — I’ve got an even better idea. You want to know if you’re compatible with these ladies? Try taking a 20-hour flight to South Africa while sitting next to ’em — in coach seats. But nope, Brad chooses the relative comfort of a first-class ticket, while the three remaining bachelorettes are presumably sedated and placed in the livestock hold.
First in line for a South African fantasy date is Chantal O, who’s finally allowed to drop her last initial now that Shawntel N is no longer in the competition. Despite Brad’s dorky safari hat and a sign for Lion Sands Game Preserve, Chantal says she has no idea how they’ll spend their date. Surprise! A drive through the bush yields appearances by lions, elephants, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, and Chantal’s midriff. (“Those poor, proud animals, reduced to this,” says my husband, momentarily looking up from his comic book.) Suddenly, Brad is back in Fear Factor mode. “I think a lot of relationships need to go through a test of some sort, whether it be fear, danger, whatever, to try to build that bond that forms relationships,” he says, making me wonder if he’s going to throw Chantal over the side of the jeep and see if she can make it back to the lodge alive. But quite the opposite, Chantal says she trusts Brad to keep her from playing the role of “Doomed Baby Impala” in an episode of Wild Kingdom. “It’s really a metaphor for what’s really going on in our relationship,” she declares. Okay, then who’s the safari guide holding the rifle supposed to represent?
As night sets in, it’s time for dinner, or as Chantal likes to think of it, an appetizer for some “alone time” with Brad. She then reveals a fundamental misunderstanding about The Bachelor franchise. “I take [a marriage proposal] very seriously,” she says, and the producers, using tremendous restraint, do not add a laugh track. “Like, I’m not someone who just goes and gets engaged to people and is like, ‘Oh, now I can figure out if I’m serious or not.’ Like, no.” After reading an invite from Chris Harrison to head to the fantasy suite — burning question: why does our intrepid host invite these people to possibly/likely get it on? wouldn’t this be the one instance where he’d want to lay low? — Chantal is ready to roll, so to speak. “What happens in the fantasy suite stays in the fantasy suite,” she coos. Except the fantasy suite turns out to be an exposed mattress on a raised, outdoor platform (aka a tree-house without walls). This isn’t Vegas, sister. Also: You’re on TV! Oh well. The lights go out, Chantal giggles sexily, and the camera cuts to a male lion roaring in the nighttime (see photo below). Subtle.
The episode’s second date goes to Emily, who is left alone in a clearing while Brad goes to retrieve a forgotten object. “It’s possible a lion could come and eat me,” says our bachelorette, inadvertently brainstorming what will hopefully be a key segment for this summer’s upcoming second season of Bachelor Pad. Instead, Brad returns to the clearing atop Tembo the Elephant, who must have done something really bad in a previous life to have wound up with this gig. The couple rides through the South African landscape, stopping to watch some wild pachyderms frolic in a watering hole. Tembo, meanwhile, silently curses his existence.
“I miss your daughter,” says Brad, but Emily misses an excellent opportunity for a followup question: “Do you remember her name?” As usual, the conversation between Barbie and Ken seems stilted — at lunch, at dinner, in the fantasy suite — but I can’t tell if it’s because A) they both have limited vocabularies; B) they have nothing in common aside from physical attraction; C) they’re simply gritting their teeth and letting this storyline play out; or D) they don’t have enough alcohol in their systems. But surprise, Emily chooses Option E: She is “absolutely and completely falling in love” with Brad. And the feeling is mutual. What’s more Brad, who is unfamiliar with the concept of babysitting, says he wouldn’t even think of asking Emily to the movies without little Ricki. Here’s hoping she won’t be too traumatized by Saw: 11 in 3D!
With seemingly 14 hours left in the episode, Brad then commences his date with The Dentist, whose hometown visit gave her confidence — the confidence, apparently, to wear denim cutoffs so tiny they require a “modesty pocket” to get past the ABC censors. Since the idea of riding in a helicopter is enough to give The Dentist a panic attack, Brad naturally decides she’s going to get strapped into one that doesn’t even have a door on one side. “This is Ashley’s No. 1 fear, and she’s doing so well. You know, for me to be a part of that, I’m so happy,” says Brad. She should just be glad her No. 1 fear isn’t a home invasion robbery, or Brad would be donning a facemask, breaking down her door in the middle of the night, tying her to a chair, and making off with all of her valuable possessions. (Did anyone else notice the way Brad boasted how many times he’d been up in a chopper, inadvertently reminding The Dentist of how many other ladies have enjoyed his saliva company on trumped-up televised dates.)
From this point on, the remainder of the episode — lunch, dinner, fantasy suite, pre-rose ceremony chit-chat — is an extended variation on the theme of Brad’s frustration with The Dentist. You see, they had such a great one-on-one first date, back at the carnival, but now something’s changed. “I want to talk to Ashley the way we used to talk,” says Brad, unable to consider the possibility that not every great first date ends in marriage. Even more outrageous, The Dentist refuses to flatter Brad’s ego by blindly committing to moving to his hometown of Austin, TX. “I’ve never been there!” she says, reasonably. In Brad’s defense, though, The Dentist keeps insisting a decades-long union should be based on “chemistry,” and refuses to talk about shared life goals, values, etc. In other words, he’s a caveman, and she’s a nincompoop. But at least they’ll always have the fantasy suite:
The Dentist: “What do you think of the nets, the mosquito nets?”
Brad: “They work.”
Right before the rose ceremony, Brad finally “says goodbye” to The Dentist, who reacts like a normal human being after getting dumped. “Okay,” she says, hands on her hips, ready to bolt. “That’s that?” asks Brad, aware that he’s not getting the kind of emotional goodbye that’ll make for great ratings. “I don’t know what else to say, I’m not gonna beg you to change your mind,” says The Dentist, hanging on to a tiny fragment of dignity at least until the limo ride of shame.
Brad returns to Emily and Chantal and tells them The Dentist was “worth more” than having to stand around at a rose ceremony where she had no chance. (And what? Shawntel N wasn’t?!) He then continues the ritual — while a pair of hippos roll their eyes (see below) — and asks both ladies if they’ll accept his roses. “Chris didn’t have to tell me that was the last rose this time,” Brad smiles. And now we know he can count all the way to two.
What did you think of this week’s Bachelor? Were you surprised to see The Dentist go home? Should she have fought harder to “win,” or do you appreciate that she maintained her dignity in the end? Are you looking forward to next week’s feminism-obliterating “Women Tell All” episode? And who are you rooting for to get the final rose: Emily or Chantal? Sound off below, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.