The Bachelor bills itself as a modern-day fairytale — romantic wish-fulfillment for those of us who know better than to spend $13 seeing the latest from Katherine Heigl or Kate Hudson. But strip it down and examine it under the Puerto Rican moonlight, and the show has as much to do with finding true love as its ABC comrade Winter Wipeout.
This week’s installment kicked off with Emily, the Ph.D. student — from where, the University of Delusions? — declaring the show’s latest pit stop, Vieques, Puerto Rico, as “an amazing place to fall in love.” (Honestly, wouldn’t the dumpster behind your local Burger King be “an amazing place to fall in love”? I don’t quite get the obsession that one’s search for a soul mate can only come true at a luxury resort in an exotic tropical location.) But I digress…
Nicki gets the first one-on-one date, and chooses a gross purple “paint splatter” dress for the occasion. Her conversation with Ben is as stilted as her vocabulary is limited and her wardrobe is unfortunate. “That was pretty serious to her,” Ben says to the camera, discussiing Nicki’s first marriage. (Ya think?) A sudden deluge — or “some kind of sideways rain,” as Nicki describes it — sends the duo on a “wacky” quest for local clothes: Ben in white linen, Nicki in an oversized scarf. Both halves of the couple use the word “qualities” to describe what they like about one another, so you know it’s not destined to last, but for now, Ben’s standards remain haltingly low. “I want to walk away with a woman at the end of this,” he says, but really, a box of Rice-a-Roni or a copy of Deepak Chopra’s War of the Worldviews will suffice. They go to dinner, and a bulky mic pack wreaks havoc on the bustline of Nicki’s turquoise strapless dress. I briefly lose consciousness during the ensuing conversation, but when I wake up, Ben is telling Nicki that she “totally opened up today” and that he likes “learning things” about her. Nicki gets the rose, then makes out with Ben, not spilling even a drop from the wine glass that she clutches all the while. (Looks like Courtney’s not the only one who’s “winning,” eh?)
Next up, a trip to Roberto Clemente Stadium, because it’s always nice to defile the name of a local sports hero (who tragically died in a plane crash delivering aid to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua back in 1972). The nine women split into two teams — with Lindzi as the swing player — and play a game where the winning prize is additional date time with Ben. Our protagonist talks about how good it feels to have women dressed in short shorts and flimsy baseball jerseys battle for his affection. Our villainess Courtney, meanwhile, dishes out the bitchery, and while we’re supposed to hate her, I can’t deny that she’s got some pretty good zingers. “Blakeley is a champion out there. Who knew that strippers could play baseball?” That’s a comedy double right there, maybe even a triple. The losing team, half of them in tears, is packed onto a sad bus headed for No Self Respect-ville. The winners head to the beach with Ben, where Courtney plants some seeds for a “secret rendezvous” later in the episode.
The week’s second one-onone goes to Elyse, who’s crying before Ben comes to pick her up, probably because she knows it’s that point in the Bachelor season where one unlucky woman has to get ditched mid-date. Elyse uses some good old fashioned guilt with Ben to try to secure her rose — she quit her job and missed her (former?) best friend’s wedding for a chance to compete on ABC’s reality dating franchise — and then takes it 10 uncomfortable steps further in the next breath: “Screw everyone else. Let’s get married here and make a life together!” she pleads. Ben decides it’s time they jump off the side of the yacht, and part of me is surprised that he doesn’t make Elyse take the plunge first, then instruct the ship’s captain to race back to the dock and “forget that bruntte chick was ever with us.” As it is, though, Ben strings Elyse along through dinner, then gives her the boot, forcing her to leave a half-filled glass of red wine on the table (illegal!). “I just don’t understand what I did wrong,” Elyse sobs, still not realizing her dignity took a vacation the second she stepped foot out of the limo on Night One. Courtney has a different theory: “Maybe she drank too much and the Jersey Shore came out!” (Show of hands: How many of you were unable to suppress a chuckle after that bon mot? If you answered yes, you’re as bad a person as I am.)
While Ben is off euthanizing Elyse’s hopes and dreams, Courtney shares her desire to “refresh” and “rejuvenate” the object of her affection/competitive fire. (Refreshing and rejuvenating? That’s what they’re calling it nowadays?) “I don’t know if he’s ever skinny dipped with a model before,” she says, as if a “model” is as rare and mythical a creature as a mermaid or a Kraken. Courtney “surprises” Ben outside his hotel door, suggesting she could — euphemism alert! — “draw him a bath” or get the lotion out of her pocket and “give him a a massage.” Ben, though, is leaning toward skinnydipping. “This probably isn’t a good idea,” he lies, before asking Courtney if she’s going “full nude.” Faster than you can say “Season 3 of Bachelor Pad,” girlfriend is naked, grinning, and descending into the surf. Ben’s undies go the way of the little angel on his shoulder, too, and the couple smooch in the water.
At the cocktail party that night, Ben weakly tries to convince America he wouldn’t do it all over again. “I feel crappy about what happened,” he lies, saying he owes it to other girls to give them a chance, too. (Because falling in love is all about providing equal time across a pool of pursuers, you know?) Jennifer, who’s run out of things to say to Ben, thanks him for a date that happened back in Utah. Blakeley, meanwhile, brilliantly combines flattery and “damsel in emotional distress” to move up on Ben’s weekly rankings: “I didn’t ever think someone like you would be interested in me,” she says, her eyes all misty, before telling Ben that the Bachelor experience has made her realize she wants and deserves true love. Ben looks horrified to discover he’s had any kind of lasting impact on a woman with whom he’s spoken for 17 minutes over a one-month period. And then we come to Emily, who tells Ben she wished she hadn’t trashed Courtney the previous week, and then goes on to reiterate everything negative she said about her rival the first time around. “I still stand by what I said,” says the woman who’s clearly getting a Ph.D in passive-aggression, telling Ben that Courtney is basically a deceptive weirdo who keeps her true face hidden when he’s around. “What I encourage you to do is to drop it, tread lightly, be careful,” Ben says. But since Emily is clearly not done stirring up s*** in the house, she gets the week’s final rose (and an all-expenses-paid trip to Panama City).
Instead, it’s Jennifer who is caught off guard and sent packing. “I guess I just wonder what I did wrong,” she sobs and sniffles. Maybe it was her deicision to wear a shapeless tie-dye dress to the cocktail party? Maybe she should’ve tried harder during the baseball game? Maybe she should’ve stayed home and tried online dating, instead of allowing a total stranger to lower her half-naked into a dank pit in an abandoned field in Utah? Or maybe she should’ve simply suggested skinnydipping?
What did you think of this week’s Bachelor? Sound off below, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!