On The Bachelorette, the standard-operating “happy ending” occurs when our heroine with princess issues brutally rejects one potential fiance, reapplies her foundation over dried rivulets of tears, then says “yes” to a marriage proposal from her other potential fiance. It’s clean and simple and debatably satisfying — at least until the cameras stop rolling.
But in the latest installment of the long-running ABC dating franchise, I’m convinced that Ashley is going to ask the final two dudes to perform a good old-fashioned duel at 20 paces. “How will I know a guy loves me if he’s not willing to die for me?” she’ll ask, then promptly exchange vows with the losing combatant, just seconds before he expires in her arms.
Yeah, I know, that scenario sounds a little over the top, but think about the strange, unappealing hurdles Ashley has laid out for her suitors over the course of the Bachelorette season to date: Forcing William into a game of marriage “chicken” in Vegas — on their first date! Herding the guys into a public square in Thailand and asking them to pummel each other to the point of concussion/decreased earnings potential. Asking them to engage in dragon-boat racing on the open ocean (with pesky life vests left on the shore). And then essentially announcing that her first choice for a husband has left the competition of his own volition, but that she’s recommitted to her quest for finding a first runner-up who can carry out the husbandly duties abandoned by her one true infatuation.
Ashley isn’t so much interested in finding love as she is in unearthing heartbreak, or stirring up drama, or at least confirming her hunch that she’s unworthy of a healthy, happy relationship with a man who treats her with kindness and respect. This woman doesn’t need a husband, she needs a therapist. But alas, Monday night’s episode found the show’s producers shelling out cash to fly misogynist creep Bentley back to Hong Kong, and not a trained mental health professional. With that in mind, let’s review the weekly tragedy in five acts:
Act One: A hawk soars across the Hong Kong skyline. Does it symbolize Bentley as a bird of prey? Ashley as a resurgent spirit? Chris Harrison as a carnivorous beast feeding on the entrails of Ashley’s hopes and dreams? Only ABC brass knows for sure. Whatever the case, Ashley sits down with Chris for a rambling litany involving the words “afraid,” “Bentley,” “closure,” “dot dot dot,” and “lonely spinster.” Okay, maybe she only implied “lonely spinster.” Chris responds by telling Ashley that Bentley is in Hong Kong — and OMFG he’s right there in the hotel actually shut up — and he’s ready to talk. Chris slips Ashley a piece of paper with Bentley’s room number — 4315 — but to my disappointment, it’s not attached to an invitation from Mr. Harrison for Ashley and Bentley to forgo their individual rooms and spend a night in the fantasy suite. (Opportunity missed, ABC!)
Ashley finally musters up the courage to knock on Bentley’s door, and our resident douchebag asks “Who is it?” — since I’m guessing Ashley’s probably not the only woman with whom he planned to play mind games during his international holiday. Ashley is clearly hoping Bentley’s come halfway around the globe to try to win back her heart, but his annoying smirk and cloak of vagueness make it all too clear he’s been cast in the role of cad. Ashley declares that Bentley’s “dot dot dot is unfair to me,” tells him to man up and tell her he’s just not that into her, and even suggests she’s ready to finally heed the warning from her old pal Michelle Money that Bentley was never in it for the right reasons. Bentley spends a few minutes toying with Ashley’s hopes — hinting at a future in his hometown of Salt Lake City — but then like a cat who grows bored of toying with a lifeless mouse, he puts a period at the end of this bad romance. Ashley can’t believe Bentley flew all this way just to break things off. “You just wanted a vacay?” she asks. Bentley smirks. Ashley drops an f-bomb, tucks what’s left of her dignity in a coin purse, and exits the room toward a new and exciting future. Once again, we see the hawk soaring over the city.
Act Two: Lucas shows the requisite optimism about his very first one-on-one with Ashley: “It could be horrible if we can’t wait for our date to end.” But it turns out that the couple’s dishwater gray conversation as they walk through an outdoor market and dine on a boat in Hong Kong harbor is only horrible for the home viewing audience. Ashley spies a food stand of local delicacies and shouts, “We have to try something!” Lucas’ eyes race frantically to find a McDonald’s, but he’s out of luck, and ends up offering a three-word review of what Ashley force-feeds him: “Spicy.” Chewy.” “Cheeseburger?” The duo then boards a boat headed for the Sea of
love like Not Disdain. Lucas’ conversation about the pain of his divorce is unrelentingly fuzzy, but at least he doesn’t leap overboard to flee our heroine’s clutches, and that’s pretty much all she requires. Ashley gives Lucas a rose. Lucas gives Ashley a kiss. They dance. And then Ashley displays a poor grasp of the English language with this zinger: “Lucas makes me feel like a woman. There’s something about his manlihood that makes me feel protected.” Too bad the audience can’t jump off the side of that pirate ship, right?
Act Three: Ashley splits her six group-date suitors into three teams, demands that they take it to the streets to rustle up some local buddies, and then participate in a dragon boat race on the open seas. The guys are assigned blue (Constantine and Ben), red (Blake and Ryan), and black (Ames and Mickey) bandanas, and that’s about as much color as you’re going to see among this season’s suitors. (Badum bum!) Constantine and Ben play it for laughs by donning kimono-style robes and chanting like buffoons, but their surprisingly decent stabs at humor seem lost on everyone else involved.
Ashley changes into a dress that makes me think of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and brings the guys to an ugly cocktail lounge, where Ames whisks her away for a game of “Love in an Elevator.” As they aggressively make out, we see an “up” arrow on the elevator’s digital display pad. (Subtle!) Next thing you know, Ashley is getting all smoochois (that’s “French” for kissing) with Ben. (A sick and twisted voice in my head thinks Ben should ask, “Do I taste Ames on your lips?”) And then all the guys gossip about how much they hate Ryan. Mickey says if he’d been stuck in a dragon boat with the maniacally upbeat chap, he’d have hit himself with an oar and prayed for a quick drowning death. Naturally, Ashley gives the group date rose to Ryan.
Act Four: Ashley takes JP on a dinner date in the walled city (not a euphemism), and before they embark on an inevitable makeout session, he talks meaningfully about finding closure with his ex, and she tries to be all dramatic and tell him that she…did something she feels guilty about…and needs to get off her chest…that she was hurt when Bentley left…and she needed to find closure…and he came to Hong Kong…and they…talked! “I thought he was gonna pop out of the bushes,” says an unfazed JP. They tale a moonlight train ride, and a rearview camera angle shows his shirt stretching appealingly over his back muscles.
Act Five: Blake approaches the cocktail party with ambitious goals: “I definitely want to make sure she knows I’m still around!” Ashley approaches it with ambitious delusions. She gathers the guys and tells them how she fell for Bentley, how she needed closure, how ABC flew the tool of all tools to Hong Kong for a one-on-one date that several of them haven’t gotten after weeks of following her around the globe. Ashley says she’s “grown so much” — what, in the previous two days? — and waits for a round of applause. Instead, the guys look anywhere from incredulous to furious, and begin sipping their cocktails with angry gusto. Blake astutely points out it “must have gone poorly” with Bentley — and it does raise the specter that Ashley probably would’ve given the dude another chance if he’d been interested in getting one. Constantine huffs he’s been sitting around waiting for alone time with Ashley and instead she gave it to a guy who already went home. Ames points out he was sitting around, too — in a hospital. This round goes to Ames, who later comforts Ashley with a wise observation that we “prefer our fairy tales to be simple,” but that’s not how life works.
It’s also not how The Bachelorette works, guys. I mean, Ashley was already weighing her options among eight different fellows when she arrived in Hong Kong: What’s the difference if she briefly added one more dude to the pile? Lucas starts slurring. Ashley starts crying. Blake decides she shouldn’t be allowed to sit down while they’re talking. And Mickey decides to hop the first boat out of the harbor and
see if Bentley wants to hang out at the hotel bar see if his display of honesty and self-respect earns him a spot as the next Bachelor. (Silly guy! Self-respect has no place in this franchise!)
Ashley sheds more tears, bemoans her situation to Chris, and then heads to the rose ceremony, where Blake is extracted from the competition without the benefit of novocaine. All he really wants is a friend, he says, which perhaps explains his decision to appear on Bachelor Pad. And then we get a montage of “this season on The Bachelorette” previews that’s suspiciously light on JP and predictably heavy on weeping. Yay?
What did you think of this week’s Bachelorette? Is Ashley determined to sabotage her last chance at love for all time ever? Are you glad we (seem to have) said goodbye to Bentley for good? Who are you “rooting for” to win it all? Or are the guys you like too good for this hot mess of a Bachelorette? Sound off below, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!