Today, in one of our embarrassingly plentiful discussions about The Bachelor, my friend/co-worker/inspiration Carla Patton (who also happens to begin her coverage of American Idol on this website this week, and she’s hilarious so READ IT!) made what I thought is an insightful point about why Ben Flajnik’s season has, for lack of a better term, stunk so far. She said that while “Ben is nice,” he seems to realize that he’s creating television, so he’s saying things and making choices because he thinks they will make good TV. And because he is doing that consciously, it no longer makes for good TV. Carla’s point was that even though The Bachelor isn’t “real,” it’s entertaining and compelling because the people on it experience real emotions, and it seems like Ben isn’t letting himself do that.
Even if you don’t agree, I think it’s interesting that the very thing that might be most attractive about Ben outside of the show (his intelligence) is causing him, in at least one viewer’s eyes, to ruin the show. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen that criticism of a Bachelor(ette) before. Usually we mock them for their naivety, their cheesiness, their undying belief in every romantic cliche imaginable. But that’s the show, and that’s the fantasy — and every star of the show has fallen, for better or for worse (usually worse), into the fantasy. Except for Ben. There’s an underlying self-awareness and cynicism about Ben that rings false, and that makes his ongoing “journey” less compelling than any before. Even if we kinda like him as a guy, it’s hard to give a damn about what happens to him on the show when it seems like he really couldn’t really give a damn himself. That upsets the natural order. Because we’re the ones who are supposed to be cynical about this thing. Not him.
ANYWAY. That conversation became the lens through which I viewed the mess that was tonight’s episode, so I wanted to share, and also solicit your thoughts on the theory and its impact on humanity as a whole. Ben’s attitude, Ben’s relationships, Ben’s future: Even though it sounds like they only affect him, these are important issues that affect us all.
This week, the dates move to Ben’s other hometown, San Francisco. Ben’s sister also lives there, so he meets up with her real quick to talk about the girls. We learn that: Kacie is now defined by her baton twirling; Ben thinks Courtney is “drama-free” and “down to earth”; his mom would love Emily because she’s the “science nerd”; and Jennifer “may be an accountant,” but she’s “super attractive” anyway.
Sister says that this will be “a very funny story to tell later in life.” (In the horrific real-life spin-off, How I Met the Woman I Was Briefly Engaged to Before I Met Your Mother!) Ben’s not making any promises and his sister’s not holding her breath, but they both “hope it works out.” (See first two paragraphs.)
The first date of the week goes to Emily the epidemiologist, who brings out so many conflicting emotions in me. On the one hand, she rapped. But on the other hand, at least she’s not Courtney, who, in all her icy malevolence, observes that Emily’s date will be “boring,” because “sometimes book-smart is boring.” Books are for boring uggos! That’s why Courtney, who’s a model, only reads nutritional info and Charlie Sheen’s twitter account.
Date #1: Scaling the Bay Bridge with Emily
Ben greets Emily with a sexless bear hug, and she is “beyond pumped” to get to know him. Until she’s immediately beyond terrified by Ben’s announcement that they’re climbing the Bay Bridge. Ben and Emily are both scared of heights, so at least if they barf, they can barf together, which (if you’ve never experienced it, which totally me neither) is a true bonding experience for any new couple.
“I feel like I want to die,” Emily says, the secret passcode that begins every great Bachelor date. They gradually walk their way up the incline of the bridge. About half way up, Emily starts to panic. “Talk to me, Goose,” Ben says to a woman clearly he has no interest in boning. But this is a date, and his date is about to spew her anxiety all over this bridge, so Ben does “the only thing he can think of,” which is to kiss her.
“Kiss me, Goose.”
His magical kiss cures her phobia, and they “move forward” up the bridge, JUST LIKE THEY’RE MOVING FORWARD IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP. Emily says this aloud, so we don’t miss the subtlety of this fresh metaphor. Then, when we’re still reeling from her brilliance, she hits us with another one! “A bridge takes two things that are separate, and it brings them together.” JUST LIKE HOW SHE AND BEN ARE TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE AND THEY’RE COMING TOGETHER ACROSS A BRIDGE MADE OF LOVE!
While all this is happening, we learn that, entirely coincidentally, the women’s apartment has been equipped with a telescope aimed straight at the bridge. They can see Ben and Emily climbing the bridge! So the other women take turns looking through the telescope and predicting/wishing that Emily’s harness will snap and she’ll fall to her tragic death.
Shockingly, despite all its Fear Factor-y motives and capslock-inspiring metaphors, this date has been super boring so far. At dinner, Emily tries to spice things up with the funny story about how she was once matched with her own brother on a dating website. Besides that accidental incest anecdote, Ben and Emily discover that they have a lot in common, like their unusual desire to find their soulmate and be happy until they die.
Ben offers Emily the rose because she “gets it.” Then he says he likes that she’s probably smarter than he is, which is both adorable and accurate. They kiss, and Emily calls their date “perfect.” They kiss under their own personal fireworks show, and Emily lays on one final love metaphor for the road: “Kissing Ben, there are always fireworks.”
Kissing Ben is like lighting fireworks because it should only be done while supervised, is ultimately disappointing and it smells bad. BANG!
Just kidding, she’s not done! Here comes another one: “Today, we conquered the Bay Bridge. I don’t think there’s anything we can’t conquer.” Did I get that quote right? Sometimes transcribing these people’s passionate emotions feels like trying to capture a rainbow in a jar.
Date #2: Scratching One Off the “Leap List” with Blakeley, Jaclyn, Kacie B., Erika, Samantha, Jamie, Monica, Rachel, Nicki, Elyse and Casey S.
The date card said something about Ben’s “leap list,” which is a term that Honda invented to convince young people that blowing their savings on a new car isn’t irresponsible, it’s grabbing life by the balls and making your dreams come true! (So it’s basically a Bucket List for people who don’t want to think about death. Or debt.)
Ben greets the women and escorts them to (HONDA) cars with skis on top. But they can’t really be going skiiing on a real mountain, because that would require concealing large amounts of cleavage.
Instead, Ben reveals that today, they’re going to knock “ski down a man-made snowhill in the middle of San Francisco” off of his “leap list.” I wonder what other perverted, large-scale, unproductive things Ben has on his list! (Besides being The Bachelor, of course.) The women strip down to bikinis and scarves, and we’re treated to many gratuitous close-up shots of their boobs and butts as they go down the hill.
Then we watch as they all take turns falling down, over and over. Just like feminism.
Meanwhile, back at the bachelorette holding cell: Brittney gets a one-on-one invitation that includes a hideous “key to the city” heart-shaped necklace. But the key has unlocked Brittney’s secret: She’s less than thrilled at the prospect of dating Ben! Which is the whole f*cking point of this entire thing and she’s been here for two weeks, so you’d think she would have thought about that before now. “Something just doesn’t feel right to me. I should be thrilled and excited, but I’m not. I’m torn and confused.” Uh oh! URGENT! PAGING GRANDMA SHERYL!
After a day in the artificial arctic, Ben and his ski bunnies then move on to a Hawaiian-themed afterparty. (It’s a good thing they came to San Francisco. Really getting a feel for the place.) In their private time, Rachel grabs Ben’s face and kisses it HARD. This is a tough game for a blonde, so she’s gotta go big. Kacie and Ben escape the party (but not the cameras) to “reconnect.” Kacie is feeling jealous, but Ben tells her that he has “no words to console her,” so he consoles her with his tongue instead.
Meanwhile, Brittney’s still wallowing around in worry and doubt.
What if the one guy who’s right for these 13 other women isn’t also right for me?
She apparently didn’t realize she might have to go on a date until she got invited on one, and now she’s scared. Was she asleep this whole time? She decides to quit now rather than suffer through an afternoon of staring at Ben’s hair. Brittney says that “it’s really hard not knowing” what she could have had with Ben, so that’s why she’s bailing before her date, where she could have actually found out. I missed what it said her job is, but I’m going to assume she’s some sort of lawyer or professor.
Back on the group date, Blakeley tells Ben that all the other girls hate her, and he advises her to “try to make friends.” But just when Blakeley is ABOUT to say the magic words (“I’m not here to make friends”) Brittney shows up with her suitcase and drops the bomb! The meandering, nonsensical bomb. She was super excited to be invited on a date (no she wasn’t), but she feels like she doesn’t even deserve Ben (?!), and this isn’t for her and she doesn’t want Ben to “waste a date in San Fran.” We never really knew Brittney, but this glimpse into her psyche isn’t really making her “the one that got away.”
Ben pretends to be shocked and saddened, but doesn’t put up a fight because he doesn’t actually care. “Say hi to your grandma,” he says, Wahlberg-like, as he puts her in a car and sends her back into obscurity. In the time that it takes for the elevator to get back to the rooftop afterparty, he’s miraculously recovered. Rachel gets the group date rose for putting herself (her tongue) out there (out of her mouth and into Ben’s).
Since Brittney woke up and smelled the Matrix, another lucky girl gets a chance to go on a date with Ben’s at the last minute. And that lucky girl is … LINDZI! Obviously, she is thrilled to be Ben’s backup.
Date #3: Exploring the City with Lindzi
Ben wants to take Lindzi on a personalized tour of San Francisco’s cliches, so they travel by cable car through China Town. They quickly arrive at City Hall, the center of all romance. Lindzi is overjoyed. I think Lindzi would be overjoyed if Ben locked her in Alcatraz by herself for three hours. They go inside City Hall, the lights come up, and at the top of the stairs, there’s … some guy! Playing a guitar! With a band! I don’t know who he is, but Lindzi does and she’s now even MORE excited, which didn’t even seem possible. The more excited she gets, the tighter her long string of pearls gets around her tiny neck.
They dance and kiss a whole bunch on the City Hall stairs, right below the Board of Supervisor’s meeting chamber! So dreamy.
After their romantic private concert in City Hall, Ben takes Lindzi to a speakeasy, where they open a bookcase to reveal a private dining room. For a show that’s about broadcasting dates on television, it’s very obsessed with “private”-ness. Ben laughs at Lindzi’s story about getting dumped over text message. She recites the text again (“Babe, welcome to Dumpsville, population YOU”), and I become more convinced that it never happened. She definitely read that story in a Cosmo personality quiz and included it in her Bachelor application for “spice,” and now she has to commit and pretend that it happened.
He offers Lindzi the rose, and then they end up at a piano store (?), where Ben plays that David Gray song “This Year’s Love” on a red piano. The song also played in the premiere two weeks ago, so clearly, the editors want us to be Pavlov’s dog, and this song to be the bell. Every time it plays, we’re supposed to swoon. Ben and Lindzi get up and dance, but he’s not playing the piano anymore, so I guess they’re dancing to the memory of the song? Good grief.
Meanwhile, on the highway to/from Hell: Shawntel, the undertaker from Brad Womack’s season, is back to audition for Bachelor Pad 3: Inducing the Mayan Prophecy. I mean, to date Ben. She calls Chris Harrison on her bluetooth and claims that she’s returning because she’s talked to Ben a few times and feels “a real connection,” so this is the PERFECT TIME to approach Ben and explain that they are destined to fall in love and be man and wife.
The Cocktail Party from HELL
There is a full 45 minutes left to the episode, so we know that this party is going to be an epic disaster. To start, the women cheers to having a “drama-free night.” So deliciously clueless. Let the bloodbath begin.
Jennifer the redhead tells Ben that he’s “dreamy,” and he tells her that she’s the best kisser. “I think I could be falling in love!!!!!” Jennifer proclaims. Oh, sweet baby J. I once had high hopes for her.
Shawntel arrives, and the mansion’s all-knowing butler Chris Harrison is there at the doorway to greet her. He can barely contain his sadistic glee as he tells Shawntel to “freshen up” and surprise Ben at the cocktail party. “I’ve put everything on the line to be here,” she claims. Like what? Name one thing you put on the line!
Meanwhile, in her private confessionals, Courtney is doing her Courtney thing again. On Nicki: “You look like an idiot.” On Blakeley: “She’s the kind of girl that your boyfriend cheats on you with.” Courtney dramatically storms off after she gets fake-offended by some nothing that Lindzi said or did. Everyone tries to laugh it off about how “weird” she is. Emily says that it seems like Courtney has a “social disorder that should get diagnosed.” Well, which is it? Is she evil or ill?
Emily diagnosing Courtney with “totalbitchatitis”
But Ben’s social disorder is falling hard for Courtney’s social disorder. He takes her up to the roof so they can talk awkwardly and not-privately about how cute their babies would be.
Ben is in the middle of giving empty promises to one of his more forgettable suitresses named Elyse when Shawntel waltzes in, red dress a-blazin’ and open for business. (The business of UNDERTAKING.) She walks by a big pack of the women on her way to Ben, and they immediately go into a frenzy. “Who’s that girl?” “Who IS that?” They’re human dominoes, and the slightest touch of unfamiliar competition has sent them all toppling over each other.
“I think it’s an ex-girlfriend,” someone speculates, which immediately makes it true to everyone else. “This BITCH,” the one who’s best friends with one of Charlie Sheen’s goddesses proclaims. Finally, someone puts a name to the legs: “That’s Shawntel, the funeral director. From Brad’s season.” Cameos are not a positive thing on this show.
Ben lets out a few surprised expletives, and then it’s times for Shawntel to give her awkward speech: “When I found out you were the Bachelor, I was not happy, because you know I wanted to get to know you … and we’ve talked before … so I decided that I have to know.” So they talked one time, and Shawntel told Ben that she has a creepy crush on him, and he rejected her so gently that she didn’t realize that it was a rejection? Is that what happened? This is too embarrassing.
“I love you.”
“Get in line.”
She asks to be at the rose ceremony. Ben, seemingly unsure if the producers want him to say yes or no, tells her he’ll think about it.
Shawntel enters the room on Ben’s arm, which can’t be a good idea. He introduces her to the group and immediately leaves to find out if he’s passing or failing this surprise exam. And that’s when the she-demons attack. Shawntel says, “I’m also here to date Ben,” and everyone is FURIOUS. They accuse her of being desperate and full of it, and she accuses them of being mean and insecure because they are uncomfortable with a stranger waltzing in and demanding a spot at the rose ceremony.
To the group’s credit, Shawntel is full of it. But to Shawntel’s credit, they ARE really mean. Erika is all, “She’s ugly and has thick thighs.” Rachel is like, “She drains guys’ blood for a living!” Elyse calls her “Brad’s dumpster trash.” Everyone keeps focusing on how Shawntel thinks she’s “better” than the women who have already been eliminated, but I think they should probably be focusing on how they signed their lives away to a soulless TV show that would let this nonsense occur in the first place. Courtney, who five minutes earlier was declaring her intention to have Ben’s babies, calls the whole thing “whack” and declares that she’s “done.” She tries REALLY hard to summon tears as she says that she might not take Ben’s rose, but no tears will come. Must be time to update her software.
Chris comes in to announce that Ben has yet to decide if he’s going to let Shawntel stay. But he has decided one thing: The cocktail party is officially over.
Courtney’s lips are even more pursed than usual, soured with hatred for Shawntel and doubt in the once rock-solid sexual tension that she and Ben shared. “These girls hate me, but I don’t really care,” Shawntel says. What an idiot. Dump her, Ben! Dump her, and then dump everyone else too, and then ride off into the sunset with Chris Harrison and make this a REAL happily ever after.
But alas. Ben’s going to hand out his roses, and the roses go to…
Courtney the Model. She pretends for a second that she’s not going to take it (yeah, right), then does, but only after some vague emotional guilt-tripping: “I will, and tonight was a lot, and I just want you to know that.”
Kacie B. the Cutie Pie
Elyse the Evil Glare Giver
Jamie the Nurse
Jennifer the Redhead
Casey S. the Pixie
At this point, the roses are dwindling, and Jaclyn says, “On a scale of one to ten, I feel like I’m gonna throw up.” Is that the best stupid thing anyone has ever said on this show? MAYBE! And is this the best face anyone ever made on this show?
Time for more roses:
Blakeley the Universally Hated Slut
Monica the No Longer a Lesbian, I Guess
Nicki the Peppy Young Divorcee
Samantha the Sash-Slash-Bitch
One rose remains, and it’s down to Erika, Jaclyn and Shawntel. The tension is so thick that it actually cuts off Erika’s oxygen supply. “I’m feeling nauseous,” she says, and then falls over right as Ben is about to share something about his feelings. Did Shawntel use her funeral director voodoo to take out her remaining competition?
Unfortunately, even Erika’s near-death experience can’t spare us from Ben’s speech. Once she’s back up and conscious, Ben thanks Erika and Jaclyn for sharing themselves with him, and Shawntel for traveling here and “putting it all on the line for love.” But only one can get that rose, and that one is …
The face of rejection
The face of trying and failing not to openly relish another person’s rejection
Ben would rather date his hand than an undertaker, a horse-faced friend of a Sheen goddess, or a girl who would get an inner-lip tattoo.
To top off this tornado of sh*t, Jaclyn starts sobbing and storms out, and Erika collapses again. But so much has already happened, and neither of them have roses, so nobody cares. Ben walks Shawntel out and says that he’s flattered, but no thank you goodbye. Shawntel cries and says she feels “so dumb.”
Next Week: Ben takes his gals to Park City, Utah, where more kissing in exotic locales takes place. The antagonism between Courtney and the rest of the girls will escalate, and Emily will tell Ben that everyone hates Courtney, and neither Ben nor Courtney will take this well. “I want to verbally assault her,” Courtney will spit through her teeth, like she accidentally included the word “verbally.” All this ugliness, backed by the picturesque beauty of Utah.
Alright, Bachelor fans: Thoughts on tonight’s nightmare I MEAN episode?
(Images courtesy of ABC)