Now that this cutthroat race to an early engagement is getting serious, Ben needs to know more than who can wear a crop top the best. Namely: Which of his three girlfriends can bone him the hardest? Only he and the camera crew know the truth. Caila, Lauren, and JoJo all opt into the Fantasy Suite, and Ben announces he’s in love with TWO of them. This is unprecedented! Oh, but don’t worry — it’s not totally sleazy or unfair or WRONG in any way. Ben is an attractive man who’s willing to verbalize his emotions. Unless you too are an alien, you should have gotten the memo a long time ago: Feel-bots can do whatever the fuck they want. The gang’s in Jamaica now, and good lord does Caila need to get her groove back. She seems more anxious to prove to herself that she loves Ben than she is to tell him. But her official self-diagnosis is that she’s preoccupied by thoughts of how his other relationships are progressing and can’t get out of her head. As the software sales rep and Ben float in total silence down a river, I achieve through osmosis the same “quiet, reserved melancholy” Ben insists is plaguing Caila. It is not fun. After a lengthy costume/lighting change and most likely an intense series of pep talks, Caila is restored to her default mode: extra bubbly. Knowing she’ll be cast off on the spot if she doesn’t say “I love you,” Caila goes for it and gets stiffed with the bill: No response from Ben and a Chris Harrison-furnished invitation for bang time anyway, because why not? Jamaica, right? Spring break? Like a good meditator, Caila opts to focus on Ben’s breathing to convince herself this is all a test of character and she’s on the right track. “Ben doesn’t have to say anything. I can feel in his breath that he feels the same.” Ugh, this is getting sad. She sounds like a minor character in Sex Toy Story 4 who has a hunch its best days are behind it. Desperation doesn’t suit her, and none of this is working. The sparks between Caila and Ben are so nonexistent that production must go for broke with a massive fireworks display that’s visible through the bedside window! I THINK WE GET IT! No time to cool down, though: the Sex Olympics continue the following day as Ben meets up with Lauren, the one with denim undies and a face like a Care Bear. An incredibly hot Care Bear. I promise it’s a compliment. Unlike Caila, Lauren is not lost in her head. “There’s something about the water, and just… sunshine!” she beams. Ben loves her “authenticity” and feels like he can be himself. This date is a step up from Caila’s jerk chicken river stop: Lauren and Ben get to help release baby sea turtles into the ocean! Things get pretty emotional as dozens of tiny turtles crawl out of the couple’s bucket to embrace their first day in the world. So, too, Lauren’s “life with Ben has just started.” It’s a stretch, but so is the DOUBLE RAINBOW her exposed belly suddenly projects onto the sky. Let’s just go with it and question everything later. Long after the sex for sure. Lauren somehow manages to avoid saying “I love you” during both a beach chat about how each of them fears the other one is “too good” for them and a dinner-hour discussion of how Ben is the man of her dreams and she envisions him…with her family…in the future. His eyes are begging her to just say the magic words already before he blows his load and tells her first. But the ultimate seductress holds out until they’re safely ensconced in the Fantasy Suite before she slips him the good stuff: “I am completely in love with you.”
Against all odds, BEN SAYS IT BACK! They execute an adorable face-bump to seal the deal, followed by a marathon of slow-welling tears and murmured oddities, and I must say it’s the most intimate moment of the season by far — and that includes the time Olivia begged Ben to care about her fat toes while he was in mourning. “It’s crazeeeee,” Lauren squeaks as their Fantasy Suite footage fades out. But if there are no fireworks, how can we tell they’re having sex?! It’s JoJo’s turn, finally. “I feel like you’re so far!” she yelps, trotting over to meet him after Ben’s voiceover informs us “My heart is right now with Lauren, but I need to explore where it’s at with JoJo.” He gets a helicopter on the case, stat, and they soon touch down at YS Falls, a seven-tiered cascading waterfall placed on Earth to remind JoJo of all the other women who might also make her man froth with pleasure. Just kidding. Jojo loves it! Suddenly, disturbingly, we’re confronted with Ben’s high-impact torso tattoo. Some light Twitter research suggests its content is a Bible verse, but I took a closer look and am pretty sure it’s a stealth plug for Manwich, The Bachelor’s favorite sloppy joe sauce. “Being scared hasn’t done anything for me,” realizes JoJo, and it’s true — now that she’s seen that tattoo and still wants to tell Ben she loves him, she’s practically invincible. So she just goes for it.
Wait, what?! He can’t just announce his true feelings. That’s totally against the rules of the show! The feel-bot has gone rogue. He’s speaking her love language: words of affirmation! It’s romantic and surprising and orgasmically scenic and everything else JoJo wants it to be (except monogamous). After Ben’s mid-afternoon feelings splooge, the Fantasy Suite is a done deal. JoJo assures him that her mean old reality TV-wannabe brothers would welcome him back with open waxed arms if he were to genuinely commit, and Ben reassures her he wasn’t just trippin’ back at the falls. “Every fear I ever had was wiped away today,” JoJo’s voiceover gushes as she catches a flying champagne cork for good measure. “This whole experience has been perfect and fairytale-like.” Girl, huh? HARDLY! You went on so many agonizing group dates! The pigs almost ate you! As a snack! But luckily there’s no room for negativity in that private hot tub. Mere moments before Bang Time, JoJo’s selective memory will serve her just fine. The next morning, Prince Charming takes off with his wittle overnight backpack, having completed the final leg of his sex-ed journey. “Ugh, that’s brutal,” says JoJo, alone in the universe until they meet again. Ben assumes he’s got a free day of recovery and sits statue-like in a lounge chair, staring blankly off to the side. Should he let his junk breathe a bit more? Is he REALLY in love with two women? What if the crabs got him for good? But production has other plans: Caila has been summoned (give me a break if you believe this impromptu visit was her own idea) to creep up on Ben from behind and ruin his silent reverie. Guided by his emotional barometer, which was somehow uncorrupted by all the sex, the feel-bot knows he must dump Caila on the spot. It’s incredibly awkward overall, but at least she doesn’t show up right when Ben and JoJo are melon-balling each other for breakfast, like a terrifying preview suggested. Only after Ben says “It’s really hard to imagine saying goodbye to you” does Caila catch onto the truth: This is Ben’s unique way of saying goodbye to her. She casually dismisses the whole situation, then has her hearse swerve back so she can get some answers. “Did you know this week?” (Translation: Did you use me for sex?) Ben talks his way out of that pickle like he always does and leaves Caila shaking with sobs, still convinced she loves him.
Later on, at the pointless Rose Ceremony, JoJo is down for some tension-relieving conversation. “Are you the most anxious now that you’ve ever been?” she asks her competition — but a heartfelt answer from Lauren is not in the cards, nor is any conceivable way to make this less uncomfortable. “I’m confident in this, more than I’ve ever been,” Ben informs his two incredulous special lady friends who must keep pretending for a couple more weeks that this untenable three-way situation is awesome.
“It’s weird that you can fit us in one hug!” marvels JoJo. Lauren, too, can’t believe her good luck: “One whole arm for me?” But the jest dies down as quickly as a baby sea turtle in a used hot tub. This is it, rose-lovers. Lauren vs. JoJo. Blonde vs. brunette. Only Ben’s parents can decide for him now.