Episode two of The Bachelorette: Cavity Search — hey, our heroine’s a dentist! — started with a fake wedding and ended with a shot of a masked dude sitting on a toilet. Who says this franchise doesn’t understand the meaning of true romance? Um, actually, that would be me. To that end, let’s dive right in to the five most soul-crushing portions of Monday night’s two-hour telecast:
* Dating as Hideous Public Spectacle: Every portion of Ashley and William’s one-on-one Vegas date had me doing a full-body cringe — from the way she tried to throw him off balance by pretending to shop for wedding cakes and engagement rings to the passively hostile escalation of Ashley visiting a wedding chapel and having a minister start their vows. “This could be a legally binding marriage!” she giggled, after William pressed his foot to the gas pedal during the game of emotional chicken and said “I do.” Still, the worst part of the excursion was the way ABC clearly arranged to have some Bachelorette “fans” positioned outside the casino to snap pictures of Ashley upon her arrival, and then later spy our heroine having dinner at the Bellagio fountains and squeal “We love you Ashley!” William’s description of the “breathtaking” meal — “How many people have dinner in the water, and to have everybody just watching you?” — pretty much summed up the central conundrum of the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise: It’s hard for a fameosexual to distinguish between true love and public adulation. Or maybe, for a fameosexual, there is no difference at all?
* Ability to “Perform” as Amateur Actor/Dancer/Singer as Prerequisite for Romantic Worthiness: Ashley’s group date found her in updated “Hee Haw chic” — pink gingham top tied at the waist, tight jeans, requisite stilettos — and demanding that her suitors choreograph and perform routines for a chance to perform during a Vegas show with America’s Best Dance Crew winners Jabbawockeez. (Nice to see the reality-show circle of life remains unbroken.) The results of this nonsense were ultimately inconsequential — a half-dozen mostly dark-haired galoots got “alone time” with Ashley in Vegas while another half-dozen mostly dark-haired galoots got sent back to Los Angeles — but I thought West’s comment about how he was “very happy to spend time with the Jabbawockeez” said a lot about the nature of wannabe famous people and their desire to snuggle closer to actual semi-sorta-famous people. Also: How infuriating would it be to purchase tickets for the Jabbawockeez Vegas show and wind up having to watch an extended segment devoted to an ABC reality dating series? Gross.
* Selection of Known Freak Over Viable Suitor for the Sole Purpose of Heightened Dramedy: In real life*, if a woman showed up for a blind date, and her suitor turned out to be dude in a mask (who wasn’t opposed to donning a sleeping mask on top of his daywear mask), she’d flee the scene faster than Paris Hilton attending a party with no paparazzi. But instead we got Ashley saying “yes” to the mess — hey, he almost showed his true face after revealing a backstory involving a scary brain hemorrhage and subsequent divorce — over adorable mama’s boy Matt (whose voice mail to his mother — “I need you to pick me up at the airport and give me lots of love and cook me french toast.” — ranks among the all-time best exits from this show). Then again, we did see Ashley donning a Jabbawockeez mask in Vegas, so maybe she, too, has some kind of masquerade fetish? (Is there such a thing?) Whatever. I sincerely hope our protagonist made her decision without having access to all that insane footage of The Mask keeping on his headpiece while lap swimming, eating chips, vacuuming the Bachelor pad foyer, and (forgive me for typing this) dropping a deuce. Best part of the episode was seeing The Mask boiling on a 90 degree day and admitting he wished he’d chosen his signature accessory in white, not black. (* I know, I know, what does real life have to do with The Bachelorette?)
* Ashley’s Casual Horribleness: Could you believe that the Bachelorette followed up Mickey’s heartfelt story of his mother’s death by announcing she wanted to use a coin flip to decide whether or not to give him a rose? Yeah, yeah, she later admitted she’d have kept the guy around no matter what, but note that only happened after the coin came up “heads.” (Side note: Was anyone skeeved out by the sight of the couple standing in an ankle-deep pool of water for that Colbie Caillat concert? Color me stunned that some enterprising ABC ad exec didn’t manage to monetize the moment with a product-placement pitch for Tinactin.)
* Bentley’s Mere Existence: Every Bachelorette season has its villain, but this dude is trying so hard to be abhorrent that it’s actually bordering on…pathetic? Psychotic? Possibly paid for by ABC? Take his description of our fair dentist: “Great body, amazing butt, rockin’ legs. and having her tickle my [bleep], I mean, that would be amazing.” And then, of course, we had Bentley waxing misogynistic with this zinger: “Do I need to, like, ram my tongue down her throat? Honestly, I think Ashley will be open to it.” For the love of Chris Harrison, please make it stop!
What did you think of this week’s Bachelorette? Did I miss any of your favorite soul-crushing moments? Was there anything about the two-hour spectacle you thought was actually romantic? Sound off below, and for all my reality recaps and news, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!