In the real world, there are plenty of things a woman can say to signal she’s on the worst first date of her life: “I’d rather do anything else.” “I feel like I want to die.” “Holy Hell, what am I doing here?”
But on The Bachelor — where producers have carefully cataloged (and willingly exploit) every fear, phobia, and life trauma experienced by its participants — the overwhelming urge to evacuate one’s bowels in a state of pure, unadulterated terror is simply Step No. 1 on the path to”love feelings.” And that’s how Ph.D. student Emily, a woman who’s as fond of using multi-syllable words as most of her competitors are of pounding Goldschläger shots at Tuesday-night happy hour, came to find herself climbing to the top of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge, despite a crippling fear of heights, and despite having been responsible for all of the aforementioned quotes.
Of course, there’s another way to look at an afternoon where you find yourself looking down at the harness and hooks that a team of strangers has attached to your body and saying “this is what separates us from a gruesome death.” As Ben so cheerfully assessed the one-on-one date: “If we can accomplish this, there’s nothing we can’t do together!” Alas, though, Chris Harrison did not arrive with a card stating, “Go directly to the Overnight Fantasy Suite. Do not pass ‘Hometown Visits,’ do not collect an acceptance letter for Season 3 of Bachelor Pad.”
Nevertheless, all’s well that ends with a romantic dinner on the pier, Ben’s overglossed lips, Emily’s tales of an “abysmal” online dating service that matched her up with her brother (insert gagging sound here), some mild-to-moderate smooching, and a fireworks display for two. Ben gives Emily her rose, which means that she’ll live to bungee jump off a skyscraper within the next two weeks.
Next up: A group date with 11 marriage-minded women who’ve already been instructed by Chris Harrison to “take advantage of your time with Ben” by whatever means necessary. (I’m sure somewhere on the editing room floor there’s footage of Jaclyn ambushing Ben during a bathroom break, Erika performing a Druid fertility rite in a dank San Francisco alley, and Courtney slipping the guy a vial of her blood to wear around his neck.)
Ben arrives in a hideous ensemble of purple v-neck, gray shorts with orange belt, and gray boat shoes. The ladies, who follow the Bachelor Handbook the way a nun follows the Bible, come prepared with bikinis underneath their outerwear. (Hey, as the Handbook states, you never know when you’ll have the opportunity for some “alone time” in a hottub with Ben, or be asked to giggle and flail your way down a man-made ski slope in a San Francisco residential neighborhood.) You see, skiing in the city is on Ben’s “Leap List.” (Dude, stop trying to make “Leap List” happen. It’s not gonna happen.) Kacie B wins Ben’s heart by “butt skiing” backwards and keeping a smile affixed to her mug despite repeated painful falls that plunge her half-naked, unpadded form into packed, icy-cold snow.
Continuing the winter-sports theme, Ben takes the ladies to a restaurant for a game of hockey. Tonsil hockey, that is. After four words of conversation with raspy-voiced Rachel — “cool,” “chill,” “like,” “y’know” — Ben decides it’s time to lock lips and communicate silently. Kacie B, smelling another woman’s lip gloss on her man, whisks Ben outside and plays the insecurity card. This lands her a smooching session, too. “She sparkles,” coos Ben, hypnotized by Kacie’s midnight-blue sequined tank dress. Rachel ends up getting the rose, but the real winner turns out to be a woman who’s not even on the date.
Back at the Bachelorette holding pen, Brittney receives a one-on-one date card and a garish pendant in the shape of a key, and decides — to the chagrin of her competitors — that “these circumstances are not for me.” With tears in her eyes and the first hints of something she’ll come to know as dignity, Brittney packs her bags and declares, “I have to find Ben and I have to leave forever.” She marches into the midst of the group date, tells Ben she doesn’t “deserve a chance with him,” gets into a cab, and resigns herself to a lonely life in front of a spinning wheel. “Brittney leaving represents that any of these women can leave whenever they want,” says Ben, totally unaware that all of the women are required to wear shock collars that are activated if they stray within 50 feet of an ABC camera operator.
With Brittney out of the picture, the final one-on-one date goes to Lindzi, but alas, producers don’t have time to plan an evening that will tap into her deepest fears and anxieties. Instead, she and Ben ride a trolley car, get some ice cream, and engage in some decent conversation without the help of alcohol. After that, they are treated to a private concert at City Hall by someone called Matt Nathanson (who once had a song covered by Tim Urban on American Idol), which inspires them to perform a tricky “dual tonsil examination” maneuver. “I don’t normally kiss boys on the first date,” says Lindzi, which prompts my half-paying-attention husband to declare, “She’s on the wrong show then, isn’t she?”
The couple then hit a speakeasy for some dinner, and the very foundation of the entire Bachelor franchise begins to crumble under the crushing weight of what Lindzi says next: “I don’t need someone else to complete me.” (Somewhere, in a Colorado mountain cabin, Trista executes a death-grip of Ryan’s arm that cuts off circulation to his hand, and screams “BLASPHEMER!”)
And finally, it’s time for the weekly cocktail party/rose ceremony. Shrewy McStalkerson (Courtney) toasts to a positive, drama-free night, which is obviously foreshadowing for a buffey of bitchery, drunkenness, and woman-on-woman verbal violence. Courtney promptly accuses Lindzi of flashing dirty looks at Elyse and huffs that Blakeley is “the kind of girl your boyfriend cheats on you with,” but her black-and-white beaded dress sure is pretty.
Jennifer, in an unflattering hot-pink gunny sack by Two Shades of Ugly, finds she has nothing to say to Ben, but distracts him with her willingness to make out in full view of her competitors. “You’re hands down the best kisser in the house,” Ben grins, but Jennifer ignores this reminder that her suitor has taken at least a half-dozen comparison samples and beams with pride.
Ben then takes Courtney to the roof and makes out with her, prompting her to note that they’d make cute babies together. “We’ll get to that,” he says, not realizing that his beloved terrier Scotch’s life lies in the balance should he not end up proposing to Courtney and fulfilling this promise at the end of his Bachelor “journey.”
Meanwhile, Nicki tries some “match game” shenanigans with markers and flashcards where she asks Ben whether he prefers white or red wine, and is thrilled to discover that, like her, his answer is “both.” (Oh how I’d live to see unaired footage of Nicki asking followup questions like “beer or hard cider,” “Bartles & Jaymes or Zima,” “rubbing alcohol or moonshine.”)
All bitch breaks loose, though, when Shawntel — the funeral director who made it all the way to “hometown dates” on Bachelor Brad’s season — arrives in the City by the Bay to join the race for Ben’s heart. You see, she and Ben had a few chats before he began his Bachelor journey, and now she’s convinced he’s thisclose to falling in love with her. (Or else that it’s been a while since she’s seen herself on TV, so why the hell not?)
“Ho-lee s***,” yelps Ben, as Shawntel interrupts his conversation with Elyse. Shawntel declares her intention to hop aboard the “journey” three weeks in, and Ben decides to let her stay for the rose ceremony. “I hope these women are gracious and welcoming,” he notes.
Um, not exactly:
* “Who IS she?” screeches a wild-eyed Elyse, in a moment that’s made for repeat viewings on YouTube.
* “This bitch walks in, shuffles her way into a crowd. I was like ‘Who are you? We are not friends. Scram bitch,'” huffs rage-drunk Jaclyn, who has exhibited not a single iota of chemistry with Ben thus far.
* Erika clings to the misguided notion that Shawntel is “uglier in person” and has “thicker thighs” than her own unsteady twigs.
* “You lost your chance because you’re a creeper and you drain people’s blood for a living,” snarls Rachel, who has clearly never lost a loved one and required the services of a funeral home.
* “We don’t re-use, like, Brad’s dumpster trash,” adds Jaclyn, a hazy halo of alcohol-breath encircling her head.
* “She rides in on her high hearse!” squeaks Nicki, somewhat clever.
* “On a scale of 1 to 10, I feel like I’m gonna throw up,” adds Jaclyn. “If Ben chooses Shawntel over me, it won’t be pretty.” Oh, honey, it wasn’t gonna be pretty either way.
Ben returns to the scene with 11 roses — meaning two women are about to lose their chance at love forever — and gives the first to Courtney. (“I saw you talking to what’s-her-butt, and it wasn’t easy,” she whispers). As the ceremony draws to an end, Erika, realizing that showing the livestock-esque tattoo on the inside of her lip probably didn’t unlock the key to Ben’s heart, collapses in a heap of terror and insecurity. Once the medics attend to her with some smelling salts, Ben completes his task, and with Shawntel, Erika, and Jaclyn in contention for the final rose, he decides he can’t give it to anyone.
Ben guides a shocked and misty-eyed Shawntel to the exit, abandons Erika on a tuffett in a dark anteroom, and loses track of Jaclyn, who retreats to a bathroom in tears.
“See ya!” grins Courtney. “Sayonara!”
And with that, the remaining Bachelorettes toast to another happy ending.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Who is your current favorite? Who’ll go home next week?
And who’ll be torn limb from limb when Jaclyn returns, hepped up on Red Bull and Absolut? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!