Step aside, season premiere superstar Lace, because Olivia’s Mouth and Science have conspired to assume control of the Bachelor experiment on Week 2, and no amount of perceived “eye fucking” with Ben can grant you the eternal spotlight now. That said, you’re super hot and your multiple personalities make for intriguing television, so please do stay. Lace is announced last for Ben’s first group date at Bachelor High, co-starring (she guesses) Jackie, LB, Lauren H., Becca, Amber, Mandi, Jubilee, Jennifer, and Jojo. “I’ve never been this turned on by a high school before,” Jojo confesses even after Ben uses the non-human term “high school athletics” to describe his personal history. Jojo is so down to party, you can just tell. Lace, however, is not impressed. She sucked at high school the first time around, and those lockers haven’t made any eye contact with her yet. So forget it. Lace is out. But the rest of the scurrying crop tops put in a solid effort to survive common high school challenges such as bobbing for apples, making “Ben’s volcano” explode with the essential ingredients needed for a healthy relationship (communication, trust, being a size 0), and pinning the state of Indiana onto a map. You might call Becca and Jojo stupid for placing it horizontally, but maybe this topsy-turvy worldview of theirs is just the kind of unique perspective Ben needs as a robot teddy bear assimilating to reality. He’s not exactly winning any academic challenges himself. “Ben, what color is an apple?” wonders Chris Harrison, for real. “Red! Red like my heart,” Ben recites. Swoosh! Two points! Mandi the dentist scores a lap around a dusty track with Ben after annihilating Amber the bartender in the hurdles, but the real sparks fly on the rooftop that night, once the Bachelor has a chance to reboot. “My wife could be in this group,” he monotones at full volume. And we’re back! Ben gets busy, kissing three random J’s (Jennifer, Jojo, Jubilee) and tenderly stroking all four limbs of Becca the Extra Virgin after she expertly handles the most sacred of all adult toys: a basketball. It’s getting hot up here, but no one is more bothered than Lace, who darts back and forth between Ben and the fiery hellscape of her mind, trying to explain away her behavior from the night before. She’s not crazy, okay? “The person I didn’t want to be came out,” says Lace, referring to, I believe, also Lace. This is when, according to Lace — or is it Lace? — Ben starts “eye-fucking” her because they’re having a one-on-one conversation. “I’m really, really excited. Like, I feel special,” Lace claims, back on board for the moment. “This is what, you know, matters,” Ben apes. Aggghhh. So many Laces, so many ways to repeat the same conversation, so little time. Suddenly Ben’s holding a rose. I half-expect him to announce that it’s the Stay The Fuck Away From Me Rose and that it’s for Lace – but nope, it’s just the Group Date Rose and it’s for Jojo, whose bubbly spirit and complete awe at being the highest she’s ever been in her life won her a steamy makeout on the Four Seasons helipad.
Meanwhile, new season 20 front-runner Olivia’s Mouth swallows that bitch Caila’s one-on-one date card whole, along with all the apples and all the roses in California. The only thing it can’t gulp down is the delicacy it craves most: the camera’s exclusive attention with an optional side of Ben. Not today, Olivia’s Mouth. Soon. Too soon. But first, how about some much-welcome — not to mention financially beneficial — diversity on The Bachelor? Ice Cube and Kevin Hart are here to promote Ride Along 2. I’ll let Ben explain the details: “Ice Cube has done everything from acting to rap.” Amazing. Thank you Ben, I had no idea. The movie stars put Caila to the ultimate test: Can she roll with this cheapo double date/corporate obligation like it’s the best time she’s ever had? Hell yeah she can! Caila somehow maintains perfect windswept hair and a lighthearted attitude as their crowded convertible blazes down the freeway. She giggles through a shady liquor store stop. She eagerly contracts whatever deadly disease is living in that hot tub from the ‘90s. And finally, she gets Ben all to herself and they’re able to connect for all the right reasons (she’s looking for a complement; he’ll do anything anyone says) over these giant burgers or whatever that they don’t even eat. Their lack of attention to dinner stresses me out almost as much as the idea of Caila staying too long in a previous relationship because she’d randomly met the guy on a plane so, like, how could they not stay together forever? But her life is not just some fairy tale, not anymore. It’s a reality show. She’s moved on. “It seems like she’d be a really good wife and a really good friend,” says the Bachelor, basically rushing himself into the same ultimately untenable situation Caila has just described. Somehow it works, for now. Ben weeps softly as Amos Lee serenades the couple in a private concert. They slow-dance, sort of, on a pile of rugs and Caila miraculously doesn’t trip. Oh jeez. He’s singing. Shut it down. She’s gonna win. Not so fast, says Olivia’s Mouth, which along with her body and manipulative mojo are full-blast “WINNING!” no matter what life sets out for them to conquer/eat alive. Today’s challenge: a group date in Dr. Love’s lab, a decidedly evil lair high above the city. Ben’s own software was developed here, most likely. It’s a totally legit lab, full of scientific wonders like treadmills. The ladies sweat it out while Ben lurks nearby, making disturbing queries like “Are you excited for me to smell you?” to zero response. Then, blindfolded, he sniffs their necks and reproductive regions (sadly this is not a joke; duh, it’s a test) and announces his gotta-be-accurate evaluations of their scents: “Beachy. Flowery. Very Sweet.” Mmm, sounds pretty good so far... “Sour.” Whoa. Hold up. Thanks to this one relatively innocent glitch from Ben, poor Samantha the soon-to-be-lawyer now must go through the rest of her life known as the sour-smelling one from The Bachelor. Can you even imagine the trauma? I don’t think I can! Obviously, Olivia’s Mouth gobbles up this intel like a discounted hot tub full of Chinese food, then spews it back into Samantha’s face to remind her of the WRETCHED STENCH she continuously emits into the world. Good God. Sour! Of all the words. This is a tragedy. Olivia easily wins the overall compatibility challenge and, later on, the Group Date Rose — though I’d counter that Emily and Haley (job title: “Twins”) talking over each other while attempting to explain just how dumb they are is a victory in itself. At the next night’s pre-Rose Ceremony cocktail party, Olivia continues to monopolize Ben’s time, which really sets Lace and her alter-egos off. The tension rises but — unlike Ben’s volcano — does not exactly erupt when one of the Laces takes Olivia aside and lets the camera crew ride along on the exclusive conversations each woman has with herself.
Though they’re both crazy, it is technically impossible, at least in this particular moment, for Olivia’s power trip and Lace’s insecurity to find common ground. (Just trust me. It’s science.) Ben floats around scattering random thanks-for-being-here prizes to the ladies he’s been unintentionally ignoring: There’s a printed photo of his first meeting with Lauren B. (she kind of digs it), a blue ribbon for volcanic exploration for Lauren H. (she’s THRILLED!), and a barrette-making station for Amanda, who’d told Ben about her two young daughters at the group date the night before. “This is about us, but they’re involved too, now,” Ben says. It’s the most thoughtful thing anyone’s ever done for Amanda, and indeed one of the most ingenious moves in Bachelor history. But what will happen when Amanda doesn’t win and her daughters refuse to stop wearing their special made-on-TV barrettes? Ha, I’m just kidding. We all know those rosettes will snap off within a week. At the Rose Ceremony, one of Ben’s picks, “LB,” just straight up escapes because this high school shit is way too much for her and she’s a real person with a real name we’ll never know. A tip of my wine glass goes to the mysterious Oklahoma introvert I genuinely had not noticed was there. Instead, Jennifer the Olivia Munn lookalike gets the extra pity rose — the pair had shared shared a nice slurpy smooch on the basketball terrace and besides, their names rhyme. It’s all very scientific and impossible to explain (to twins). So it’s goodbye to Jackie the small-mouthed, Mandi the flosser, and Samantha the sour. And this elaborate, vaguely dental nightmare comes to a close… until next week!