In love, sometimes you have to listen to the universe. On Monday night’s edition of The Bachelorette, a stray dog urinated on hapless Ashley’s “wish lantern” (although the crafty editing team saved the footage for the closing credits), while the matchmaking gods said “no me gusta” to her pairing with Ryan via a traditional game of tile-throwing. At this rate, if any of the remaining suitors makes it to the finale and gets down on bended knee, I’m fully expecting a rift in the earth to open up, swallow the guy whole, and burp up a recommendation for a local therapist where our fair dentist can build up her self-esteem, get her priorities in order, and perhaps re-enter the dating pool sometime around mid-2013. But I’m clearly getting ahead of myself here. Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…
Things kick off with Ashley declaring — for the sixth or seventh time this season, I think — that she feels like she’s starting fresh by traveling to Taipei, Taiwan with her six remaining suitors. “They’re really in it,” coos our heroine, a mere three words (“to win it”) away from doing a full-fledged Randy Jackson impersonation. What follows are three one-on-ones and a particularly woeful group date, with a chaser of tears, regret, and peroxide from last season’s Bachelor “winner,” Emily.
Date 1: All aboard for a steam-engine ride with Ben’s slightly sexier, better dressed doppelgänger. “Are you looking for love on this trip?” Ashley asks Constantine, right as the phallic train enters the darkened tunnel. “We’re going deep into the village!” Oh producers, it’s not nice to turn Ashley’s innocent remarks into full-fledged euphemisms. The lovebirds head into Ping-Shi village where they paint a “wish lantern” emblazoned with their romantic hopes and dreams. Constantine scrawls “2011-” on the lantern, signifying the birth year and lack of end date for their relationship, but Ashley interprets it as “2011 minus.” Uh-oh. Why can’t I shake the feeling this relationship is going to be measured in months, not years? Maybe it’s the way Constantine keeps saying things like “I care about Ashley a lot, but…” Or the way the duo fail to hold hands during their navel-gazing dinner conversation. Then again, maybe it’s Constantine’s general sanity, which makes him skeptical about the idea of entering into the bonds of marriage after a few wacky weeks on a reality dating program. Eventually, the couple sets their lantern free (again, not a double entendre) and it’s suddenly surrounded by dozens of additional lanterns (likely released by some underpaid production assistant). As we fade to black, Constantine’s disembodied voice begins to play. “I’m open to the idea of marrying this girl,” he says, and I can’t help but wonder if he made the comment while perusing some profiles on Match.com, or maybe some head shots of cast members from the summer season of Bachelor Pad.
Date 2: It’s Ben with a moped in a gorgeous gorge! (That sounds like the end of a game of Clue, no?) Cue scenes of Taiwan’s natural wonders being polluted by the toxicity of reality television. Before long, the couple is at dinner, and Ben confesses to Ashley that he’s “on the teetering point of having stronger feelings than just liking you.” As Ben adds that he doesn’t like prematurely dropping the L-bomb, I start wondering if he might be a better match with Shawntel the Funeral Director, who’d have made a far better face of the Bachelorette franchise than fellow franchise vets Ashley, Chantal, or Emily, as far as I’m concerned. Ben does an adorable eyebrow raise when he mentions bringing Ashley home to Sonoma, but then he ruins all my good will toward him by showing up the next morning wearing a white knit cap, seersucker sports jacket, turquoise v-neck t-shirt, black shorts, and flip flops. JP leaves the room, declaring the fact that Ben’s date lasted overnight is a “total mindf***,” but no one storms out over dude’s crimes against fashion. Illegal! Still, if Ashley’s going to wind up engaged at the end of her “journey,” I can’t help but feel like she’d have the best chance of making it work with Ben, no matter how unfortunate his wardrobe. Time for a George Michael dance break: “Sometimes the clothes do not make the man…“
Date 3: Need we say more than the fact that Ashley brings Lucas, Ames, and JP to Taipei’s “wedding-photo district,” dresses them like human dolls, and proceeds to test their potential to pose handsomely for future covers of Us, People, and InTouch magazines? “It makes this whole experience so much more real,” she grins, as her suitors die a little bit inside. Lucas is trussed up in a shiny gold shirt that goes all the way to his ankles, or as he sees it, a dress. Ames is assigned a sheer, pink ruffled shirt and powder blue tux that is still not as ugly as the Pepto-Bismol-colored pants he voluntarily wears to the post-shoot cocktail party. JP gets a black tux and a battered backdrop of Taiwan’s Northeast Coast that has an unseemly crease right down the middle. Ashley is shocked to find the guys don’t enjoy traveling halfway around the globe to wind up getting stuck inside a cramped photo studio, but when JP gets tears of jealousy in his eyes, it’s enough to score the week’s sole pre-ceremony rose. See how crying is an equal-opportunity power move on this franchise?
Date 4: Ashley arrives wearing a blue blouse that might just be a strategically knotted scarf and tight, tight white pants — perfect for a day-trip to Longshan Temple. Ryan declares there’s something “really romantic and intimate” about watching people pray, but the mood is killed when the duo roll some “bricks” to the matchmaking gods that will only grant their wishes if they land opposite sides up. Naturally, the tiles land on the same side, which is probably what gives Ashley the courage to dump her perky suitor by the end of lunch. Or maybe it’s that Ryan puts Ashley on the spot by asking her what she does to preserve the environment. Girlfriend clearly has a carbon footprint the size of a Yeti’s, since she can’t even squeak out something like, “I’ve got an energy-efficient bulb in my kitchen pantry.” Ryan fails to catch the subtext in the conversation when he asks, “Why doesn’t every house have a tankless heater?” and Ashley responds by saying “I’ll think about that when I build a house someday.” Seconds later, she gives the guy his walking papers — not wanting to leave him hanging until the rose ceremony — and Ryan ends up choked up in the middle of a flower garden. It’s hard not to feel bad for the guy when his dreams of marriage and fatherhood have been dashed so abruptly, but it’s time for a cocktail party.
Wait, what’s that? Ashley doesn’t need no stinkin’ cocktail party before this week’s rose ceremony. (Fine, lady, but you’re not making me feel guilty about the extra glass of sauv blanc I poured after Ryan’s fit of tears.) Ashley hands out roses to Constantine, Ben, and Ames, leaving Lucas to crinkle his nose like a woebegone golden labrador. All our Texas nice-guy wants is someone to make breakfast with! (In that case, here’s hoping he declines any invitations to attend “Bachelor/Bachelorette reunion parties.) And with that, we’re off to hometowns, but not before we check in with She Who ABC Wishes Had Told Brad to Put Everything He Owned in the Box to the Left Before They Picked Ashley as The Bachelorette!
Yes, folks, it’s a sit-down chat with Chris Harrison and Emily, who’s here to formally announce her breakup from last season’s Bachelor, Brad Womack, in an effort to get the paparazzi to stop hiding in the bushes outside her kitchen window/ set the record straight/ pave the way for her redemption on Season 8 of The Bachelorette. There’s a lot of sniffling and moist eyes, but not much in the way of actual mascara-smudging tears as Emily drones vaguely about her reasons why not. The tabloids made it tough. She loved him but she wasn’t convinced they’d be able to make it work long-term. Her desire for love possibly overshadowed the reality of what their relationship was about. Her five-year-old daughter is smart enough that she doesn’t believe all the creepy guys with cameras are mistaking her mommy for Taylor Swift. “This is my worst nightmare,” says Emily, who clearly doesn’t have the kind of macabre imagination that makes her wonder if she’ll find human remains under the floorboards of her potential future husbands, or Google their names along with search terms like “inmate finder” or “mug shot.” Ah well, I wish Emily well on her quest to return to anonymity, unless or until the Bachelorette franchise draws her back to its seductive flame.
What did you think of this week’s Bachelorette? Which of the four remaining suitors is best for Ashley? And which one do you think she’ll end up with? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!