After arguably the worst hometown dates in the 20-season history of The Bachelor, Ben Higgins, his two potential wives and Caila are headed to Jamaica for the scandalicious fantasy suite dates.
We’ve reached the stretch run of Ben’s quest for love, where it’s finally acceptable for him and his ladies to shed inhibitions, cameras and their clothes and determine true compatibility with the ol’ P in the V litmus test.
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It’s the only time a man can sleep with three women in three nights on national television (or anywhere, for that matter, unless your name is Leo, in which case you can do it all at once) and not only not be slut-shamed, but also have all three women be more or less cool with it. But any earlier, as Kaitlyn learned, and tsk tsk, it’s open season.
Even if you thumb your nose at sloppy thirds (I’m assuming hoping he showers in between), it’s clear that Ben’s journey has been complicated by mostly disastrous visits to California, Oregon, Ohio and Texas that threaten the foundations of his rather shaky relationships.
In addition to the fact that kids are exhausting, I think Amanda’s SoCal lifestyle also contributed to her departure, as Ben is a small-town boy with small-town values. And while JoJo, Lauren B. and Caila all fit that bill to some extent, no one is comfortable enough yet to share her true feelings, even when Mom says to go for it.
Then there was JoJo’s ex-boyfriend Chad and her “bro” bros messing things up for everyone involved. I mean, seriously, who wants to jump into a sibling dynamic like that? The hootin’ and hollerin’ smooch-filled greeting alone was enough to creep me out before they starting puffing chests and flexing nuts. That being said, I personally find JoJo the most attractive of the bunch, in that I have friends who look like Lauren B. and Caila. I do not have friends who look like JoJo.
Still, everyone is leaving their hearts in their chests instead of on the table, and at some point, you have to take the leap, right? Or, in Ben’s case, just tell more than one woman that you love her. Nothing could go wrong with that…
Jamaican Me Crazy
Ben catches a helicopter to Rio Chico, where he will spend two weeks trying to identify the love of his life. And he’s more confused than ever. Caila is beautiful and has a smile that lights up a room, but she’s also a bit too smiley. And tack on an inability to express herself and a fear of being unable to love, and you’ve got one terrified Benjamin.
One look at Lauren B. was the closest he’s ever been to love at first sight, but he feels like a schoolboy chasing a crush who is out of his league. And the fear that this is all too good to be true is holding him back.
Then there’s JoJo, who he’s said ad nauseam is the one that makes him feel most like himself. They had an instant connection, and she brings out his confidence and allows him to laugh and joke more and have fun. But her hometown was an emotional roller coaster.
For their part, the girls are all bursting at the seams to drop an L bomb, but they are insecure based on uncertainty regarding his feelings for the others. Additionally, JoJo has been freaking out about her “bro” bros and how their negativity and accusations might have affected the relationship.
Jungle Hunt with Smiley Cyrus
Caila’s date is up first, and Ben has no doubts that she’d be a great wife. She runs up in some tiny shorts and a sports bra-like crop top, and she sex-panthers him with kisses before a rafting trip down the river.
They sit in rather awkward silence outside of some comments about the view from her room, and Caila is distracted by her anxiety and the thought that Ben could be in love with someone else. And that keeps the talk smaller than Donald Trump’s hands.
He asks her to relax and enjoy it, and much like the worst date I’ve ever been on, they fill the blank spaces with their lips. They stop by a riverside bar for some coconut drinks and vittles, and he pokes and prods her to open up and shake her nerves.
He urges her that if she has feelings to just share them with him, and she nods, smiles and retreats into her Debbie Downer facade. She explains herself perfectly to the camera but completely leaves Ben in the dark, and it’s off to the nighttime portion of the date.
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Delusions of Grandeur
Caila has traded her shorts for pants and an even tinier top, and she’s determined not to be reserved or live with regrets. And that means the sex panther is back on the prowl and ready to pounce. He asks for an explanation as to why she acted so strangely on the river, and she starts off by saying how amazing it is that he could tell she was having an off day. Uhh, yeah, way to pick up on your girlfriend not talking to you, brah.
She explains that it’s difficult because there are two other relationships, and this past rose ceremony was the first time she realized there were other girls who had probably fallen in love with him. And she’s been holding onto that because in every relationship she’s been in, she’s had doubts and something in her gut telling her it was wrong. But with Ben, it just feels right, and that’s because she’s in love with him.
He rewards her admission with kisses, probably because he’s so relieved unlovabenitis isn’t a mosquito-borne illness in the tropics. As you could’ve guessed from the previews, however, she is not one of the two women with whom he reciprocates the feelings.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t test the moist Jamaican waters, and she is equally interested in taking advantage of some privacy. So after a moonlight dip in the ocean while fireworks burst overhead, it’s off to the fantasy suite for a different kind of fireworks.
She’s in heaven the next morning and can see herself waking up next to Ben for the rest of her life, and she tosses in an abrupt “I love you” as if to prove that their relationship is the least natural of all of them. She knows he can’t say it back (or can he?), but she doesn’t need to hear it to know that it’s true. Just like I know my dad loves me. Even if he never says it.
If You Love Something, Set It Free
Lauren B. is also wearing jean shorts and a tiny tank, and it appears that’s the attire of choice for love in Jamaica. She is still aching to tell Ben how she feels, but she doesn’t know if she can build up the courage to do so without being able to hear it back.
They take a boat ride to a beach, where a guy named Mel tells them they’ll be releasing adorable baby turtles into the wild. They dig them out of the sand, wash them off and pile them in a bucket before setting them free. And so the freshly-cleaned turtles get sandy again as they crawl toward the ocean, where most of them will immediately be eaten by crabs or face some other certain doom. So in a way, it’s indicative of Bachelor Nation as a whole.
They sit on the shore, talking about the hometown date and how Lauren’s sister asked what makes Ben special and worthy of Lolo’s love, and how he cried when he realized he wasn’t good enough. But that’s exactly how she feels about him, wondering if she stacks up, so they’re both similarly and equally insecure.
And I Hope You Like Jammin’ Too
The night kicks off with a reggae band on the beach, and while she wants to be open and honest, she has the same doubts as nearly everyone who has ever made it this far. And now I’m starting to understand why the bitchy villains who exude confidence do so well because it’s not this constant pathetic guessing game.
Lauren says the past week has been the hardest after introducing him to her parents and then not seeing each other, and she is scared because she’s so invested and can see a life with him. He asks if it’s holding her back, and she admits she has to fight the urge to let it get the best of her.
He wants to know what he did wrong, and she reiterates that he’s the man of her dreams and that he needs to stop with this pussyfooting baby-ness that borders on the unattractive. But those are my words, not hers, as she remains smitten.
She accepts his invitation to the fantasy suite — and where do they find all these rooms that requite a skeleton key? There has never once been a standard hotel key card in that envelope.
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Breaking All the Rules
Ben is head over heels, but he needs to know how Lauren feels, so it’s a huge night for both of them to figure out what they have going forward. She’s the first to drop the L bomb, because he makes her feel a way she didn’t know was even possible. And then he stuns her by telling her he’s known for a while that he loves her too.
She whispers his name, and they say it back and forth a few times like they’re testing out a catchphrase. She didn’t think someone like him existed, but she should probably slow that roll since there’s a 50% chance he’s going to dump her.
She’s on cloud nine as he serves her breakfast in bed the next morning, and she’s relieved she won’t have to filter herself in the future since it’s all out there now.
She has to think she’s won at this point, right? Imagine how blown your mind would be if we didn’t know he was about to say the same thing to JoJo? They had to tell us ahead of time just so we wouldn’t all be like, wait, WTF? But is this even okay? Or dastardly? If we didn’t know it was coming, it’d be worse than Leah inventing that story about Lauren.
A Misguided Leap of Faith
Ben’s heart is with Lauren, but he still needs to explore JoJo and see if she can get his mind to focus on her. Otherwise, he needs to let her go. She’s still hung up on her “bro” bros, but for now, she’s going to focus on Ben.
She’s also rocking the jean shorts along with a more flowing and skin-covering tank top, and they embark on a helicopter ride to YS Falls. Thankfully, though, she has a much more revealing bikini on underneath, and it’s off to explore the terrain. She’s never been the first to say those three little words, which is a difficult obstacle to overcome, seeing as how words of affirmation are how she feels loved.
Really? Isn’t 24 a bit young to be familiar with The Five Languages of Love? My ex-girlfriend made me read that, and it turned out we spoke different languages. Shocking.
They jump off a cliff into the falls, then make out on a rock before she opens up about her feelings. It’s hard for her to say she’s in love because she’s so scared. But since she just said it anyway, she might as well say it for real. And so far, I find hers the cutest.
“JoJo, I Love You Too”
That’s his response, and she’s like, what? Are you even allowed to say that? She’s freaking out and is so happy, and it leads to another make-out sesh that reestablishes that they have the best kissing chemistry of any of these couples. Lauren was my pre-season pick, but I may be on Team JoJo now.
And with that, Ben is the first person in Bachelor history to profess his love to more than one woman, and it all comes ahead of a decision where he must choose one. It’s not Utah, Jef Holm.
What’s obvious now is that Ben has some huge balls, and a third girl is about to find out whether that’s only in a metaphorical sense.
WTF is Ben Thinking?
Ben shares a moonlit dinner with an entirely different JoJo, one who seems at ease and feels safe opening up and being herself. She has zero doubts and wants to say I love you 100 times. And in the back of his head, he’s thinking about the other girl he reassured before bagging this one. But he’ll worry about it later.
He assures her that it doesn’t scare him to tell her he loves her, but really, how can it not? He just said the same words to someone else. His real hesitation, however, comes from the “bro” bros because it’s a concern for him to consider moving forward with someone while not having the support of her family.
He felt tension without any resolution, and while she wishes she could have stuck up for him, she’s sure that her brothers are just being overprotective and will warm up to him once they see the realness of their feelings. You know, unless they just found out that Ben also told another girl he loved her before dragging their little sister to a fantasy suite. I’m sure they’re cool with this.
They head inside to their private hot tub, and he pops the cork of a champagne bottle that she catches in mid-air. Perhaps another foreshadow of things to come.
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Talk About an All-Time Backfire
And now comes the first of two hard-to-watch moments this season, but at least in this case, Ben hasn’t told the soon-to-be-departed that he’s in love with her. And while he is unsure who he will end up with, he is certain about who he won’t end up with. He couldn’t say the words back to Caila, and so he must say goodbye.
But it wouldn’t be The Bachelor if it wasn’t as gut-wrenching as possible, so I’m sure it’s a complete coincidence that, at this exact moment, Caila has decided to pay him a surprise visit because she misses him and wants to remind him that she’s in love.
Giddy is the best word to describe her temperament as she sneaks up on him, but we know it’s really heartbreak sneaking up on her. It’s clear something isn’t right as soon as she plants the upside down Spider-Man kiss on him, and then it’s off to a rock staircase for a stone-cold dose of reality (TV).
He tries to let her down easy, telling her that he’ll miss her and prompting her to accuse him of using a line on her. Oh, child, if you only knew the lines Benjamin Arnold has been dropping in this episode.
She smiles through it, mostly, but she starts to cry during their farewell hug. She gets in the car, hopping out momentarily to ask him in a roundabout way if he knew what the result was going to be while they were together in the fantasy suite. She basically wants to now if he dined and dashed, rang and ran … you know what she’s wondering.
He responds that she had originally opened up the most, but then the other two did as well. So, yes, but not officially, I guess. And that’s why it’s important her overnight date was first.
While she drives off in tears, wondering what went wrong since she was ready for their future together, he clutches his head and hopes he didn’t make a mistake. She feels like her purpose is to love other people, which is odd considering she previously said she’s afraid of being incapable of loving anyone, but she really thought this was it.
And Then There Were Two
With Caila out of the way, the only thing left to do is tell the two women Ben loves that they’ll both be accompanying him to meet his family — and, you know, hoping they don’t actually talk to each other about the pickle he’s gotten himself into. A love pickle. After they both snacked on his dill spear.
Chris Harrison separately welcomes JoJo and Lauren B. to the rose ceremony, and he listens knowingly as they both open up to him about Ben reciprocating their affections. I honestly laugh out loud at his smug reactions because he has to be wondering what the hell this guy is thinking.
Neither is scared of the other, both secure in their love, as it slowly dawns on them that Caila is not coming. The next person they see is Ben, who delivers the news that the ceremony is a moot point because his feelings couldn’t catch up with those of the sex panther. He tells them how confident he is in his decision, and they naturally both assume he is focused on her.
He can picture both of them being his wife, and what a son of a bitch this guy is. And yet I still like him. Kind of.
My only takeaway is to wonder in what world is it okay, even under these circumstances, for this dude to tell two women he loves them? Can you imagine having someone tell you they love you, then you sleep with them and then you find out they played the same game with another person the very next day?
Does this change you opinion of Ben? Or is this all part of a process he has very little control over? My feeling is that you can’t or shouldn’t play games with other people’s emotions, and he should’ve waited until he was sure to tell one of them.
Knowing this was going to happen, I didn’t expect to be outraged actually seeing it. But the whole time he was with JoJo, knowing in the back of his mind what he did, how do you ignore that? The back of his mind is f***ed up.
Sure, it’s all fun and games to watch someone you don’t know unwittingly go through it, but how would you feel if it were you or a family member?
Oh well, at least he recognizes that he’s in deep, deep trouble.
The Bachelor season 20 airs Mondays at 8pm on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order