Ben “don’t call me Flajnik” Higgins is down to his dirty baker’s dozen on the 20th season of The Bachelor (I’m counting the Stepford Swifts as one), and the whole gang is headed to Sin City to ensure that what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay there.

I’m still recovering from Lace’s voluntary departure, expanding the diagnosed cases of unlovabenitis to two. It’s not quite at epidemic levels yet, but it’s unclear if the virus is airborne. For the time being, at least, the 14 remaining women are more than happy to stay quarantined.

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Playing the Field

The week three developments were many, from Amber turning into a mean girl after getting her first date rose to Shushanna and Jami’s eliminations (ASPCA rejoice!) to Lauren B. snagging smooches from a straight dude in a bi-plane. 

Then there was Lace’s worsening instability and Caila-for-daily-use’s tearful realization that she is, in fact, on a reality dating show. With other people.

The girls gossiping about Olivia’s pig-in-a-blanket toes was a new low in grade-school cattiness, but then the woman destined to fill the open-mouth-sized “crazy” void revealed she’s involved in a very serious relationship with Ben … that he seemingly doesn’t know about. Plus, in a real soul-baring moment, she cried over her cankles moments after he announced that his family friends had died in a plane crash.

Thankfully, Jubes was around to play hero, working out his knots and enlarging the target on her back in the process. Her “It ain’t cute” moment wasn’t either, but Ben seems to have an understanding of her intricacies that could foster growth in their relationship despite her walls. You know, until she becomes the next Bachelorette.

But the most important question looming as we move forward is who will be playing with Ben’s balls next. Let’s find out.

The Desert Beckons

Chris Harrison arrives at the mansion bearing news of an excursion to the marriage capital of the world, Las freaking Vegas. It’s the twins’ hometown, and so they’re both hoping for the one-on-one so they can give him a tour of their stomping grounds. Meanwhile, Olivia is literally jumping up and down at the prospect of seeing Celine Dion.

After your classic out-the-car-window Vegas casino montage, the girls shatter decibel records with their screeches over a building-projected welcome message from Ben. I hope they didn’t spook Siegfried and Roy’s tiger.

They check into the Aria Sky Suites, with a penthouse resembling the pad from The Hangover. They get the pinot flowing before Caila unveils the date card to yet another chorus of banshee bellows. “You set my heart on fire” goes to Ben’s personal unicorn JoJo, who is ecstatic for her first alone time since the opening night. Olivia remains unthreatened. 

JoJo for the Win

After a twins-on-the-same-treadmill segment that once again proves that Haley and Emily should be counted as one potentially-incestuous person, a helicopter lands to whisk Ben and JoJo off on their date. 

The wind from the propellers knocks over their champagne table, and his sheltering her from the breeze presents the perfect opportunity for a first kiss. Naturally, this does not go over well with the 13 other peeping Thomasinas who are spying from the hotel room. This time, Olivia is devastated. 

Ben rests his hand on JoJo’s knee as they share a chopper ride over the strip, and they share arguably the hottest kiss of the season thus far. It just looks natural, like she’s the type to seamlessly adapt to any kissing style. She’s definitely climbing the rankings.

They share some easy conversation before JoJo opens up about her past, which is full of Ben-like one-way-street relationships where she gave more than she received. (Is it just me or does her last boyfriend seem like he was married? What the heck does “I wasn’t the only person involved in their life” mean?) That insecurity never went away, but she’s not afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve. And that earns more tongue interactions before they head to the roof to end the date with a private fireworks show.

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A Bachelor Talentless Show

The date card — Show me what you got — arrives, and it goes to divorced single mom Amanda, the Jubes, Caila-for-daily-use, super single flight attendant Lauren B., mean girl Amber, Halemily, football-hiking Leah, kindergarten teacher Lauren H., Jen-and-Ben Jennifer, unemployed Rachel on a hoverboard and Olivia. And that means Becca nabs the other one-on-one.

It’s off to the Mirage, where Terry Fator will serve as guest mentor ahead of a Bachelor talent show. It instantly strikes fear into all of the ladies who just realized they have no marketable skills, except the Stepford Swifts, of course, who are grateful their mother made them study Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance.

The terror intensifies when Terry lets the women know they will be opening for him that night in front of an audience of 1,200. Get the gong ready.

Down the Rabbit Hole

While the blurred-out faces of those who didn’t sign the release file into the theater, the women are psyching themselves up for the performance of their lives. Here’s what we have:

— Halemily Riverdances

— Jubes plays the cello

— Lauren B. juggles

— Amanda hula hoops

— Caila belly dances

— Rachel makes balloon animals

— Lauren H. sings a terrible Bachelor-based version of “Old McDonald” in a chicken costume

— Leah bounces on a pogo stick in clown makeup and catches popcorn in her mouth

— Jennifer hits tennis balls through a hoop

— Olivia pops out of a cake in full showgirl getup, complete with thigh-highs and garter belt. She kicks around like a lunatic, which the others describe as uncomfortable and cringe-worthy. But, hey, that’s a tough thing to do. Sometimes, you have to not care about making a fool of yourself. 

— Amber apparently has no talents because she’s not in a costume and never takes the stage

Things are going swimmingly until Olivia starts to feel embarrassed, has a panic attack and completely unravels. She collapses in Boyz II Men’s dressing room wailing about being unable to continue because she tried to compensate for her self-proclaimed lack of talent with an improvised routine that she is sure left Ben mortified. It is a message he conveyed in their super-secret language of touch, courtesy of a post-performance hug. Ahhh, to be 23 again. 

Anyone else upset that no one picked a winner?

Welcome to Wonderland

The date continues by the hotel pool, where the clamoring begins for the rose. Caila, on her first group date, pulls Ben aside and dives right into the make-out sesh, prompting him to dub her a “sex panther” who exudes a shy and unassuming confidence. Like I said, for daily use!

Olivia is breaking out in hives from her nerves, and the rest of the group has officially turned on her. At this point, they can’t see any trait that Ben would find attractive, and they are sure she’s the next one gone. 

Lauren H. scores some one-on-one time, and after smooching the “little Ben” puppet, she scores a real lip lock. 

Ben finally pulls aside Olivia, and even though he tells her she did great, she remains hung up on her humiliation. He’s about to reassure her when one of the Stepford Swifts interrupts, sending Olivia into a tailspin. She has only revealed the tip of the toenailed iceberg of crazy.

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Paging the Mad Hatter

As a worried Olivia fills the void with hors d’oeuvres, Lauren B. begs for own reassurances because, you know, why would he ever pick me? He convinces her not to hold back and kisses the doubts away. 

Olivia takes to lurking (she’s always lurking) while Ben chats with the other Stepford Swift, and she makes it worse by snapping her fingers and awkwardly gyrating as she interrupts and apologizes again. He asks what the hell is going on, then gives her a kiss to calm her down. She’s hoping the rose will make her feel special, but the flower goes to Lauren B. 

A Virgin White Wedding Dress

The final date card — Get dressed, it’s a big day — comes with a glamorous wedding dress that is appropriately the purest of all whites. She models it, and holy hell, these two would have some attractive babies, like the kind you don’t have to lie about. 

She meets Ben at a stereotypical Vegas chapel, where he drops to one knee and asks, “Will you marry … other people with me today?” He’s apparently been ordained, and Travis and Leah are the first victi — err, happy couple to be wed by a Bachelor. It’s all very cute and sweet, and it definitely gets Becca in the mood for deflowered baby-making. 

Ben and Becca’s post-wedding kisses are so-so at best (though not nearly as awkward as the Asian guy in the tux T-shirt who triple kisses his possibly-arranged bride), and then they marry, like, 16 other couples.

A Casino Graveyard

They spend their night at the Neon Museum, which is where Vegas signs go to die before being brought back to life. He hopes to get to know her better, and by that, he means, “Can she love? Can she feel? Can she commit?” No pressure. He might as well ask if she’s a robot.

They talk about Chris Soules, who she was nearly engaged to, and yet she tells him she’s already further along emotionally and more vulnerable than she ever was with the farmer. “It’s good to feel,” he coos. “Please feel.” So uncomfortable. 

Then they talk about virginity and wanting to jump people’s bones, but he’s attracted to her commitment. “I like you,” she responds, which is followed by a much-improved mouth frenzy and silly vows they make to each other before he decries that she “is perfect in every way.” I don’t know her, but I’m sure that’s not true. Now here’s a rose.

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Deconstructing Halemily

When in Vegas, do as the Vegans do, and so Ben has requested one more date, an early hometown with the Stepford Swifts. He’s into both of them (preferably at the same time), but it’s time to determine who is less of a cardboard cutout and will last slightly longer than the other. 

They head to the Swift residence, where they play with pooches and tour the 16-year-old-esque bedrooms complete with stuffed animals, collages and photos of old boyfriends. They want to be viewed as individuals, but they’re the first to admit it’s tough when they’re both around and indiscernible from each other. So it’s sister turned against sister.

Ben is pretty sure he knows what he wants to do, but first he sits down with mama bear to hash it all out. She breaks down the differences between her girls, and Ben decides it’s time to send a tearful Haley home. Or Emily. I’m not sure, and I’m pretty sure Ben isn’t either. 

Here Comes the Queen of Hearts

Vegas week comes to a close at Liquid Pool and Lounge, where things are getting somber and serious as all the women fear being blindsided. Olivia remains hell-bent on subconscious self-sabotage, but before she can shoot herself in the janky foot, Jen-and-Ben Jennifer makes a play. 

She’s gone not three minutes, congratulating herself for her out-of-comfort-zone aggressiveness, when Olivia has had enough. She interrupts and serves Ben cake, because while she’s terrible at jumping out of one, she’s an expert at eating it. 

She apologizes again for her insecurity, and he’s like for real, stop apologizing. So, of course, she apologizes for that before admitting that she’s falling for him and referring to herself in the third person with a terrifying “Olivia is here for you.” She mistakes the fear in his eyes for joy, and — breaking news, lady — these are all red flags.

Then with a Cheshire Cat-like smirk, she tells JoJo that Ben reciprocated her proclamations.   

Flower Power

After kisses with Caila, Becca and Amanda, Ben has to once again deal with Jubilee’s insecurities. He whispers sweet nothings to calm her anxious nerves, which she blames on her many complexities. We get it, Jubes! You have layers.

Then it’s on to the roses. Becca, Lauren B. and JoJo are safe, and the posies go to:

Divorced single mom Amanda

Kindergarten teacher Lauren H.

The Jubes

Stepford Swift Emily (or Haley)


Jen-and-Ben Jennifer (“Seriously?” — Olivia)

Football-hiking Leah

And the final rose, preceded by a giant sigh, goes to…

Progressively-overusing third person Olivia (“He’s sending me a message. Save the best for last.”)

That means it’s thorny justice for mean girl Amber and unemployed on a hoverboard Rachel who join Haley (or Emily) in Dumpsville. Amber is bummed because she really wanted to marry whats-his-name, while Rachel blames her departure on being the only one who didn’t kiss him yet. She could’ve opened up more, but hey, at least she has her career.

The Bachelor season 20 airs Mondays at 8pm on ABC.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

Bill King

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order