There is a special magic to all Bachelor introduction packages. The solo shots amid beautiful scenery. The introspective, mile-long stares. The sweaters. No Bachelor Winter Games intro lived up to these high standards better than former Bachelor Ben Higgins’ greeting in the ABC franchise’s latest spinoff. While everyone from Bibiana Julian to Dean Unglert used their package to swear they were ready to find love in some New England sex mansion, Ben’s suggested something else: that he’s living with the ghost of his relationship with Lauren Bushnell.
Friends, the Winter Games premiere goes to great lengths to prove Ben isn’t even close to being over Lauren B.
If you weren’t sure how Ben is feeling about his May 2017 breakup, all you need to see is his bachelor-with-a-lowercase-B lifestyle. Honestly, it’s mostly just Ben sitting in a brown leather chair, staring at another brown leather chair, wishing Lauren was perched in it; instead, it’s completely empty. All Ben has is his Sad Mug and Sad Cozy Shirt. If these optics don’t make it obvious the former Bachelor isn’t doing well, Ben’s confessional interview brings it home.
“The breakup still hurts. I still feel it,” he admits, looking a tad panicked. “The Bachelor helped me fall in love in a way that I’d never felt before. If there’s any place that could help me move on, it’s Winter Games.
And, yet, Ben spends most of his time at the Games aggressively avoiding anything that could lead to love. While the highly suspicious Josiah Graham and lovable New Zealander Ally Thompson make out, and Clare Crawley finds herself in an inexplicable love triangle, Ben is nowhere to be found. It’s an easy detail to miss upon first viewing — no one would accuse the Indiana native of having the most explosive personality in the cast — it’s actually a little unsettling to realize how little Ben actually shows up during these crucial scenes.
While everyone else was hooking up and cooking sexy eggs, what was Ben doing? Staring at another chair and wishing it was Lauren? The only time we do see Ben, he’s comforting “friend-zoned” pal and podcasting parter Ashley Iaconetti, who is sobbing, as is her way on all Bachelor properties. Ben has no romantic interest in Ashley I.
This strategy unsurprisingly fails when it comes to the rose ceremony. It’s obvious Ben would have a problem if Winter Games had a traditional elimination game plan, but it doesn’t, leaving the software salesman even more vulnerable to getting the boot. This time around, contestants are voting each other off Survivor-style and many of the women question whether the obviously heartbroken Ben can even be there for the right reasons. As the great Bibiana asks, “Is he really at the state where he can talk to anyone? Or [is he] even just emotionally available?”
Ben suggests the answer to that question is no. Or, at least, not yet. “I haven’t connected. I’ve taken a step back at times … There [are] some relationships here that are blossoming while I’m just… still here.” Obviously, the only thing holding him back is Lauren.
At least the women of Winter Games prove they believe Ben isn’t a total lost cause, as he survives the first rose ceremony. Unfortunately, though, things are going to get much worse before they can get better. As the trailer for the season confirms, the reality star is headed towards a major, teary breakdown. In the premiere tease, we see a sobbing Ben telling someone, “I still find myself defending Lauren and our relationship. As much as I’ve moved on — and I have, I promise that — but for me, it breaks you every day.” The entire room, which is filled with Winter Game-ers, is just as teary as an extremely emotional Ben.
In a bright spot, that same trailer reveals Ben will seeming explore at least one love connection during his time in Vermont. In the teaser, we see Ben happily playing around with Bachelor Japan representative Yuki Kimura in the snow. It’s a sweet, flirty moment for him that’s free of any and all waterworks.
So, even Ben is willing to admit he’s not totally over Lauren, but Winter Games might actually change all of that.