During Monday night’s The Bachelorette, I thought it would be a fun game to count just how many times disgraced Bachelor lead and Becca Kufrin ex-fiancé Arie Luyendyk Jr. was mentioned during the “Week 2” proceedings. After all, the “race car driver’s” upsetting, visceral dumping of America’s latest sweetheart has turned into a major cornerstone of Becca’s “journey” towards newfound love. But, then, the Arie name-drops and references and allusions came so fast and furious, I was too busy rolling my eyes permanently to the back of my head to actually keep track of anything at all.
The most obvious proof the name “Arie Luyendyk Jr.” needs to be forever banished from the set of Becca’s love adventure arrives in the form of the publicist’s one-on-one date with lovable frontrunner Blake Horstmann. Blake immediately comes off as the kind of guy we could all easily imagine UnReal’s Quinn King (Constance Zimmer) slapping the “wifey” label upon. He’s ridiculously handsome in a non-threatening way, has a sad romantic backstory, and literally swept Becca off her feet upon meeting her. Becca and Blake — B&B! — deserve a fairytale of a date. Instead, of all the things in the world, they’re confronted with an actual plane hanger’s worth of Arie paraphernalia, down to his demolition derby date car. It’s impossible not to wonder if Warner Bros., the production arm behind all things Bachelor Nation, specifically held onto that monstrosity to torment Becca with it.
The point of this date, unexpected guest star Lil Jon explains, is to let Becca purge all of her awful memories of her reality TV ex. This would be a good idea if the Bachelorette had either planned this rendezvous herself or even hinted to producers she was looking to wreck some of Arie’s garbage. Yet, that’s not what we’re looking at. As Becca repeatedly tells Blake on the way to the warehouse, she has no clue where they are going or what they are doing there. Rather, this entire little outing was orchestrated by host Chris Harrison.
Because of this fact, Becca’s first one-on-one date quickly feels a lot like Arie’s ambush of a breakup during The Bachelor finale, wherein the entire production crew knew what was in store for the Arie's intended, while she was kept completely in the dark. Remember how cruel that was? But, here we are again, blindsiding Becca, this time with her former heartbreak. The scene is even complete with the couch where Arie broke up with Becca and at least a dozen monitors playing his proposal on a loop. Yes, Becca quickly adjusts to that kind of sensory overload and has a blast with Blake, yet, that kind of positive reaction wasn’t promised. She very easily could have folded into a ball of tears, and no one could have blamed her.
Although the visuals of the smash-fest ended up being quite delightful, it felt wholly unnecessary. So much of Becca’s introduction as the Bachelorette has been about Arie. The season 14 trailer was about Arie. The season 14 premiere-opening package was about Arie. Many of Becca’s night one dates were about Arie. Does her first real, one-on-one date with a veritable Denver dreamboat need to be about Arie to the point where his face is splashed upon screen after screen and his name is plastered on license plates? Becca has to have some hobby other than mourning her short-lived relationship with an Arizona real estate agent who can’t stop saying “I love that.” Imagine how much fun Becca and Blake could have had exploring that interest over wrestling with the ghost of old Pillow Lips.
Yet, somehow, the demolition date wasn’t even the most egregious fixation with Arie in “Week 2.” Later, during the second group date of the episode, Becca and her broad-shouldered gentleman callers go play some ultra-competitive dodgeball with a trio of hilariously “savage” children. That is adorable until you realize one of the precocious little hellions announces to the contestants, “Becca really dodged a bullet with that loser Arie last season.” That means some producer, or producer’s assistant, more likely, sat these kiddos down and filled their heads with scripted, punny lines about Becca's nationally televised heartbreak. Again, no one needs that. Becca isn’t defined by her last relationship, and no one needs to tie every single moment of her life, and this show, to that single terrible split. The Bachelorette can want someone “who’s quick, fast, and strong,” as one of the kids screams, for reasons in no way related to her ex. In fact, as Becca herself says, she does.
If The Bachelorette really wants us to buy into its leading lady’s love story, they’re going to have to let go of her last one. Isn’t that why Becca is out here doing the damn thing in the first place?
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