I'm working on my Week 8 recap, which will go live on Patreon sometime tomorrow -- read it as soon as it's published by subscribing HERE.
The Pontoon Boat of Love
This week, we went to Warsaw, Indiana, but by the excitement levels you would think we were headed to Paris. In seriousness, I suppose one can understand the women looking forward to this, at least in theory. You can learn a lot about a person by seeing them in the place they grew up, so going to someone's hometown is bound to either propel a relationship forward or possibly bring it to an end. Still, it’s Indiana. And Ben doesn’t even live there anymore.
Lauren’s one-on-one to start the week seemed like further affirmation of Ben's feelings for her, since she's the one who gets the grand tour of Warsaw. His church, his school, the movie theater where he had his first kiss -- and then, the community center where he used to work with kids. Lauren gets to see him in what appears to be his element, and he gets to test her potential as “wife material” by seeing her with kids. They ended the day at Ben’s favorite dive bar, and the clip of him talking about how great it felt to be hanging out there like this was real life “with his girlfriend” was telling.
In contrast to Lauren, JoJo’s one-on-one date wasn't even in Warsaw. Granted, her date was also totally amazing and completely lost on her, initially. The first sign of excitement we saw was when the Mrs. Higgins Cubs uniform showed up. (Just once I'd like a woman on this show to say, hey, actually it's 2016 and I'm not sure I want to change my name. Just once!) Over dinner at Wrigley Field they had one of those classic Bachelor “vulnerable” conversations in which no one says anything specific, and they both feel so much closer as a result. I honestly can’t decided whether I think JoJo will stick around past hometown dates or not.
Amanda, Becca, and Caila’s group date was rough from the start. As Ben explained how the day would go and that only one of them would get to spend the evening with him, all of their faces were so sad. Ben didn't seem to like the situation anymore than the ladies, and yet by this point he must already know to an extent what he wants to do. His body language with Becca said everything about his intentions (or lack thereof), and he just had a second one-on-one with Caila last week. Unless he's really not feeling it with Amanda (but he clearly is) he needs more time with her, and she with him.
Amanda gets the rose, and with it, a trip to...McDonald’s. Now, I love McDonald's. I know I probably shouldn't, but...it's oddly delicious, not to mention cheap. So, I'm definitely with Ben when it comes to McDonald's breakfast for dinner. But not on a date with someone you've only just started seeing. Clearly this is just a money grab on ABC’s part, a little extended advertising for McDonald's as they try to return to favor and financial success. I couldn't help musing though, that besides the dive bar where Ben took Lauren, this might be the only thing to do in Warsaw after dark. No disrespect to the small town. Heck, my friends and I used to walk to Dunkin Donuts for a wild night in Kalamazoo, MI, so I'm not one to judge. (We also shot off a lot of bottle rockets, purchased in Ben's home state of Indiana, so I feel some small Midwestern kinship here.)
I may be right about the lack of things to do, but the town (slash ABC) came together and threw a carnival just for Ben and Amanda. Amanda and Lauren, as far as I’m concerned, are the two who really got the hometown treatment.
Well, until Emily’s one-on-one. Can we just note that this poor woman had to endure TWO two-on-one dates? I am confident that is a first in 20 years of The Bachelor. But beyond noting that, there's not much to say about this date besides perhaps that it was kind of a dick move on Ben's part to introduce her to his parents when surely he already knew where the day was headed. One-on-one dates can be an affirmation of existing feelings, or they can be a last ditch effort to see if there's anything worth hanging on to, before sending a woman home without the agony of a rose ceremony. In this case, I think Ben relied on his parents to tell him what he already knew. Emily is just too young. Ben wants marriage and children (he says), Emily wants to be… an NFL cheerleader. And, while I don't understand her goals at all, I'm glad she going to go off and pursue them. That's what you should do at 23. Or 33, for that matter.
Ben's mom crying about Ben possibly choosing Emily was the best and worst moment of it all. She was trying so hard to be nice -- a nice Midwestern mom! -- while in so many ways saying, Oh my word Ben, don't mess this up by choosing someone you clearly can't actually marry.
I’m becoming frustrated with Ben’s new tendency to claim he doesn’t know what to do or what he wants. I think what this maybe translates as, rather, is that he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. With Becca, he says he didn’t know until moments before what he was going to do, and yet on their date days before he seemed entirely disinterested. Becca herself said she’d felt no affirmation of her feelings that week. Maybe he really is confused, but I think the source of that confusion might have more to do with his desire to make all the women happy at once, to actually be this Perfect Ben, who he can’t actually be, rather than with confusion about his own desires. The teasers for the rest of the season play out the Confused Ben scenario all the way to the final rose, though, so perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps Ben is wishing he could bend the rules and continue to date them all until somehow, someday, it magically becomes clear who is really his soulmate.
On that note, I’ll point out that Lauren was the only one not wearing black at the rose ceremony. Oh no. She was wearing white, again. Everyone else appeared to be at the funeral of their relationship with Ben.
The teaser for next week promised high drama, mostly in the form of protective fathers and brothers, and Ben himself will be on trial as potential step father to Amanda’s kids. Hometowns are usually rough for the women, but I think in this case they’ll be equally rough for Ben. He thinks he’s ready for parenthood, but honestly, who is ever ready for that? And one date isn’t actually going to give Amanda, Ben, or the kids, a full sense of what life together would be. Nonetheless, I think that’s what I’m most looking forward to seeing in Week 8. That, and JoJo’s older brothers lecturing Ben about brainwashing women. I usually expect the drama to die down in the final weeks of the season, but Pontoon Boat Ben delivers.