With every episode of The Bachelor, I grow more convinced that we don't actually need a Bachelor. Like, what if Arie just stepped out for a week, and we let an out-of-work actor step in? Surely, Finn Wittrock could take the mantle? For just an episode?
This week takes us to Paris, which feels a little dull, but perhaps that's just the show itself. It's hard to make Paris interesting when the Bachelor (and a few of his contestants) are about as interesting as a dry baguette. But plow ahead we must! No matter how dull the proceedings, this is The Bachelor, and love is on the line. So, keep your eyes peeled: Romance may occur.
The drama of this episode lands squarely on the two-on-one date, The Bachelor's own version of The Hunger Games. The premise is simple: two girls, one Bachelor, and ample amounts of good television. The producers think these dates are juicy, or entertaining, like Roman gladiator duels. I find these dates tiring, mainly because the contestants involved were never really contenders. If you're on a two-on-one date, you are there for the entertainment factor. Thus, the date itself ends up being low stakes.
Before the blowout two-on-one date, though, this episode provides one of the more mind-numbing dates in history. Arie takes Lauren B. out in Paris, where they struggle to make a spark. Lauren seems hesitant to chat. Lauren seems hesitant to express any sort of emotion, actually. Call me crazy, but Lauren seems entirely disinterested in Arie, period. (She seemed more invested in coconut milk last week than anything Arie's ever said.) Arie is interested in Lauren, which may prove to be his fatal flaw. He's very attracted to Lauren, is the thing.
"Lauren is beautiful," he says, slowly convincing himself to stay on this tepid date.
He is trying to will a connection to Lauren B., despite the fact that she is, erm, a pain blanc, as they say in France. (She's boring! At least, the façade she presents on reality television is boring, and that is forgivable in a lot of instances but not in this one! The real blame here, I guess, goes to the producers: Why didn't y'all tell this young woman to pretend she has a mansion made of aquariums or something?) During their dinner, Lauren tries to explain herself. She's afraid of opening up, which is something she's brought up before. Her sob story is that she typically sends men to the "friend zone" for months before she decides to let them in. (A reminder: The friend zone does not exist.)
Lauren being frozen in carbonite does, however, lead to one interesting revelation: Once upon a time, Arie's girlfriend was pregnant with his child. While Arie was traveling, though, she lost the baby, and she broke up with him. Whether we like it or not, Arie Luyendyk, Jr. has lived a lot of life.
Meanwhile, the girls are staying in a U by Uniworld ship, which looks like a long, waterborne Hummer. That's not pertinent to the plot of the episode, but I find it oddly soothing that, no matter the hotel, the contestants on The Bachelor will crow with delight at it. After the one-on-one — which Lauren B. survives, despite her best efforts — a pack of the women head out to the Moulin Rouge, which, incidentally, does not feature Ewan McGregor or Nicole Kidman.
Like the two-on-ones, group dates feel more and more useless as the season progresses, and this one feels particularly limp. This isn't about love. This is a glorified embarrassment parade! Here, the women don Moulin Rouge-style regalia, looking like Busby Berkeley's girls for the evening, and strut around a stage. The outfits are gorgeous, and there's some talk of discomfort — Tia doesn't seem pleased with the thong bottoms all the girls have to wear — but it's mostly just an activity to do, I guess. Like twiddling your thumbs or watching your mother's Instagram story, but on national television.
Bekah M. gets the rose for being the most charming of the bunch. In Chelsea's words, she's "free-spirited." This means, though, that Bekah gets to perform at the Moulin Rouge. Today I learned that the Moulin Rouge is like Lip Sync Battle but without Chrissy Teigen or LL Cool J. (Bekah and Arie lip sync on stage, and, uh, that's it!)
This gives way to the two-on-one, an awkward showdown that doesn't leave anyone with a good taste in their mouth. Krystal, the most vilified woman in the house, goes on a date with Kendall, the girl who knows she's dangerously close to irrelevance. Their face-off during the date isn't like normal confrontations. Kendall approaches Krystal with a pseudo "empathy" that quickly curdles into condescension. Krystal, who's been exceedingly gracious throughout this whole ordeal, is pretty receptive to it all.
"It did come across as a little patronizing. I don't want your advice on how to live my life," she tells Kendall later. (She's not wrong! Kendall literally told her how to life her life. That's called being rude, no matter how you edit it.)
Unfortunately, Krystal also seems resigned to her Bachelor fate, which is to be the resident villain. She knows she's not winning, so she's going to get in some one-liners and get out of the building before it burns down.
"Baby, I am wife material," she says before the date. This episode might have accidentally revealed a new sort of Krystal, an even more vulnerable and candid version. In one ITM, Krystal seems to be speaking directly to someone, laughing all the while.
"Did you see her face?" she says, talking about Kendall when they found out they're going on a two-on-one. Both women are in a pitiable situation: Forced to go on a date with a semi-animated raisin in Paris, and forced to pretend they're invested in it all. But Krystal maintains a weird sort of integrity, keeping her cool despite the collapsing ash around her. Arie ultimately sends Krystal home — oh, did you forget about Arie? Because I did, too, during this date — and whisks Kendall to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Kendall's chances are still very slim, so it's not as if this win was a real coup for her. And Krystal's exit is more heart-wrenching than anything Kendall ever did. Like others before her, Krystal expresses something universal on her way out: She just wants to feel accepted. And that didn't happen here.
The last painstaking date — the fourth of this Peter Jackson-length episode — is with Jacqueline, a quiet but important presence in this show. I like Jacqueline, probably because she lives in New York and has tweeted about the "Cat Person" short story. Their car breaks down on their way to their date, which feels like a metaphor for their relationship. (Ouch, sorry.)
They do have chemistry, but honestly, anything would look like chemistry after this flaccid episode. Jacqueline seems genuinely funny, but she and Arie have actual relationship problems, not problems like "I like to friend zone men." Arie claims he didn't know if they would work out because she's smart, copping to the fact that he's intimidated by smart women. She doesn't know if they'll work out because he lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, and she's finishing up a PhD. This doesn't bode well for these kids. Seeing them grapple with these facts is actually one of the more honest moments in the episode. This is something a lot of couples face! Would Arie move to New York to support Jacqueline while she finishes her PhD? Would Jacqueline be willing to date a man who will probably never read "Cat Person"? How will this end?
At this point, it's still not clear. Jacqueline gets the rose, and, at the final rose ceremony, Tia, Sienne, and Becca K. all get roses, which leaves Jenna and Chelsea on the cutting room floor. Then, in an almost unprecedented move, we see Lauren B. kvetching to a nearby producer about being unhappy. She's jealous, she says, and she's not even excited about Tuscany. (But Lauren! What if you're on another hummer-boat?! Or what if you get to dance in a thong?!)
With this, I'd like to take a moment to recognize Jenna, an underserved member of the Bachelor pool this year. Jenna, you straddled Arie once. You were always excited, like a blonde puppy. And Jenna, never once did you make me feel bored. You will be missed.
Til next week, when the love continues.
The Dearly Departed: Krystal, Jenna, Chelsea
Lauren Count: One tall glass of (coconut) milk named Lauren B.
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