Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Bachelor Recap: Week 6

Here is last week's recap, dear readers. As always, I'd like to remind you that if you like reading these columns you can subscribe (and read them a week sooner!) via my Patreon page. With subscriptions starting at $1/column, you can read a whole month's worth for roughly the cost of a latte. I hope you'll consider it. Click HERE to join the club.

Deep Intellectual Things Are My Jam

This was a big week for Bachelor Nation, as we saw what was threatening to turn into one of those seasons with a boring march to the final rose be infused with some unexpected drama by a herd of swimming pigs.

But first, back to the beginning, that is, the end of the week five rose ceremony, when Ben had his little heart to heart with Olivia, while everyone speculated that he might take away her rose. I was convinced from the beginning that he wouldn’t. Ben’s approach seems to be to take what he hears from other women seriously, but also to trust his own experiences one-on-one. Every time he’s heard a rumor about one of the women he has immediately gone to her and talked about it, as we’ve seen with Jubilee, Olivia, and later in this episode, Lauren B. He takes the warnings seriously, but perhaps he’s maintained enough of his sense of normalcy -- and all the ways this scenario is not normal -- to know that the dynamics between the women are fraught, and that they might not be showing their best selves to one another. In that sense, I am glad Ben didn’t take the rose away. But as they talked, and Olivia made her first play of the “I’m smarter than the other women” card, I bristled. On behalf of intelligent women everywhere, I’d rather not have the token smart girl on The Bachelor be someone who quit her job to find a husband and allegedly spent $40,000 on clothes for the process. I hope real life Olivia is smarter than Reality TV Olivia, but I have my doubts. More on that later.

There’s not much to say about Ben and Caila’s date, other than that picking her for a second one-on-one was both an indicator of concerns that Ben wanted a chance to work out, and in the end, a confirmation that yes, he’s very interested in her. People have made a lot of their convoluted conversation about feelings over dinner, but it sounded pretty awkward and human to me, especially given the messed up situation in which this date is occurring. Cailia being unsure of her own feelings after six weeks as part of Ben’s entourage makes perfect sense to me.

Things picked up on the group date. I love this date, because it is SO BEN. He’s such a beautiful man, quite a catch in the stereotypical sense, and yet he can be so clueless, it’s adorable. He really thought this particular group of ladies would love swimming with feral pigs, feeding them hot dogs. Oh, Ben.

JoJo summed the day up best: “Like a bar in Dallas, there are pigs everywhere.”

By evening, Leah started to implode, and of all people, she decided to try to throw Lauren B. under the bus. Leah needed to go home for her own mental health if going after someone who appears to be getting along with everyone, and who Ben so clearly adores, seemed like a way to endear herself to him. When she started primping after the group date to go over to Ben’s hotel room, I thought she was going to do what women usually do in that scenario on this show: share some secret part of herself in effort to prove her vulnerability, and then make out for a while. But no! The implosion continues! All that time primping, only to reiterate her concerns about Lauren B. Bye, Leah.

At this point, Ben broke out the vague religious language again, hearkening perhaps to John’s gospel:  "I'm praying for some light in this, because right now it just feels like a lot of darkness." That might just be the hurricane blowing in off the coast, Ben.

The two-on-one date was predictably awful, despite an outcome that pleased most viewers (myself included). The indignity of directly pitting two women against each other in this scenario is self explanatory, I think. Yes, the whole show is a competition, but it rarely is quite so head-to-head as the dreaded two-on-one date with a single rose. These always make for some of the most awkward viewing of the season, but in this case Olivia took it to another level for me. She started this episode playing the intellectual card to try to set herself apart from the other women, and now she continues, talking about how she likes to read about religion and politics. Fair enough. Ben, as he is wont to do, follows up with questions about what she’s been thinking, about these epiphanies she’s supposedly had in recent weeks. Her response? “I’m in love with you.”

Hey Olivia, I don’t actually think that counts as a new insight into religion or politics.

I completely lack any sort of abstract writerly distance on this one, as most of my readers surely know. Heck, I wrote a master’s thesis, in theology, on love, and suffice it to say I found this whole interaction offensive to actual intellectual women everywhere. Even if Olivia is smart -- and I’d assert that some of these women are smarter than they are portrayed as, beginning with Emily, who is waiting down the beach -- to use that intelligence to insult other women is low indeed. Finally, telling someone you’ve never had a real date with you love him is pretty much the opposite of intelligent. That’s not love, that’s delusion. Or maybe that’s my bias against romantic hogwash talking. Maybe there exist brilliant women who fall in love at first sight.

Whatever Ben thinks of Olivia’s attempts to present herself as an intellectual, in the end he sends her home because he doesn’t love her back. Good ol’ level headed Ben.

We’ve now entered the Canceled Cocktail Party portion of the season. There were no surprises in the rose ceremony, though I think the producers definitely wanted us to think Ben might actually send Lauren B. home. The most interesting thing about the final minutes of this week’s episode were the teaser scenes for the rest of the season. Often times these clips make things seems far more dramatic than they turn out to be in reality (the efforts last season to make it appear as if Chris Soules was actually considering choosing Becca when he was so obviously dead gone on Whitney are a good example). This time I think we might get a bit more of the promised drama, though. On The Right Reasons podcast, after Ben was chosen as Bachelor, Juliet mused that he is so poised, so together and controlled, that he might not be successful in finding a partner (short or long term) on the show. In contrast, what seems to be happening is that to the extent that he’s letting go and getting caught up in the narrative, his own emotions may get the best of him. He’s not prepared to have to break up with women he cares about every single week. He doesn’t know how to be a heartbreaker. He never imagined, I suppose, that he might actually “fall in love” with multiple women -- yet in the way this show, and indeed our wider culture, define “love” it’s no surprise at all that he has. Ben himself probably began this show with a very different idea of the love he seeks than what the show can actually promise him. Manufactured romance, glitz and glamour and impossibly beautiful women will of course produce the kinds of emotions we so often call love. But Ben has always seemed to want something other than that, and even if he thinks he’s found it by the end, I have trouble believing it will last. I don’t think he’ll join the ranks of Sean and Catherine Lowe and other Bachelor Royalty.

Then again, maybe that’s just me getting caught up in the show, too, and my own idea of Ben. That’s what the producers want, after all. For us to believe in a certain manufactured version of Ben, the perfect man. I dare say they are succeeding, leaving a trail of broken hearts behind them.

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