The Bachelor is constipated. Forgive it! Perhaps the show just had too much protein this season. Not enough fiber! Not enough water! The result is fairly tepid — or just awkward — television. Colton is trying his hardest to be the debonair gentleman, but things are just moving a little slow. To move things along, The Bachelor introduces a few experts in the field of moving things along. Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, self-declared fans of the franchise, join the fun, livening up the show with some witty banter, and, later, Billy Eichner arrives. Somewhere in between, there are fireworks, a boat, and one very silly spat about a rose. All the while, our Bachelor Colton looks ever-so-slightly pained. I guess, like Socrates said, the ideal Bachelor is a reluctant Bachelor, right?
Remember that, at this point, Colton’s women have barely made an impression on him. The frontrunners from episode 1 are still major frontrunners: Hannah G. is floating on her win from last week, as are Katie, Cassie, and Caelynn. In some arenas, at least, things are going decently for Colton. He kisses Caelynn and enjoys some quality time with Heather, the girl who’s never been kissed.
In most arenas, though, things aren’t looking wonderful. Or should I say “perfect”? Colton is up against vicious odds, with 24 women — all of whom are actually fairly interesting — blasting their charisma around the room. To boot, the show has Mullaly, Offerman, and Eichner to offer. Colton is a slab of grilled chicken on a buffet table surrounded by chicken fried steak, okay? He pales in comparison. (Also, unrelated, he probably eats a lot of grilled chicken.)
On the first date, Elyse rises above the rest by announcing that she is proud of being old. The date theme is storytelling, and every girl is tasked with sharing a “first.” This is all shepherded by Mullally and Offerman, who are far more excited to be there than Colton is.
Elyse shares that this is the first time she’s dating a younger man. She gets a rose for her bravery. My lady! A flower for your uncouth declaration of thy advanced age. (Elyse is 31. The rest of the over-27 girls in the house have declared themselves cougars.) Colton deserves kudos for not giving the rose to Demi, who clamored for it with all her might. The camera loves Demi, and the drama does, too. This does not mean Colton is going to give her the official group date rose.
But drama she does stir, when Tracy and Demi step aside for a tete-a-tete about “time with Colton.” These conversations always feel tedious because, on the outside, we’re certainly aware that Colton’s time is anything but free for auction. Producers control who gets time with whom, and it’s never the fault of either Demi or Tracy if Colton’s time with different women is disproportionate. Their spat erupts at the final cocktail party, when Demi interrupts Tracy’s time with Colton for a massage.
The Tracy v. Demi conversation would be a classic Bachelor spat, were it not for the strange age conversation embedded in it. Tracy is 31, and Demi a smooth-talking 23. (“You are an amazing woman,” she tells a weeping Tracy at one point.) Tracy has made it clear that she’s here to win; she’s also made it clear that she doesn’t want 23-year-olds interrupting her quest for love. I want to take a moment to point out that Colton is 26, just barely on his own insurance plan. (Is he on Obamacare? Because he certainly doesn’t have a salaried job. Maybe he’s on ABC’s insurance.) Alas, Tracy’s on-air persona is clouded by her recent apology for offensive tweets. This doesn’t exactly make Demi sympathetic, but it does make the situation seem irrelevant.
Another woman-to-woman conflict emerges between Onyeka and Sydney, two contestants who are polling high with the citizens. They’re both likable and easygoing. Plus, Onyeka has proved that she’s bold and punny. In this case, Onyeka interrupts Syndey’s “time” with an air horn, announcing, “I was horny!” Again, punny! Sydney doesn’t like this, and returns with a pot and a wooden spoon so she can make some noise during Onyeka’s time. It’s a very muted version of the Bridesmaids battle toast, but, unfortunately, the person being fought over isn’t nearly as interesting as Maya Rudolph.
The only true relationship issues arise from pure nerves. Hannah B., on her first one-on-one, suffers from minor camera fright and barely speaks a word during her date. She can’t come up with a toast — a Bachelor necessity — and she prefers smiling over speaking. Which is a real shame, because Colton thought Hannah would be an easygoing first date pick.
“If something’s not perfect, I feel horrible,” Hannah tells the camera, smiling brightly. When things start to go un-perfect on the date, she looks despondent, like she knows her fate. She doesn’t go home, though. Hannah rescues the date by admitting she lost her virginity despite wanting to save it for marriage. She’s not perfect, she points out. Hannah has a lot of sexual repressions to unpack here. Not being a virgin does not equal not being perfect.
Billy Eichner does some light rescuing on the second group date, providing some of the best commentary the show’s seen in a while. “The last time I was among this many virgins — I was on The View,” says Eichner. Later, he tells Colton to investigate being gay. Also, he’d asked ABC for a guest spot on The Goldbergs, and this was all he could get. Sadly, Eichner cannot stay for the whole season, nor can he replace Chris Harrison. Related: I miss Difficult People.
The second group date moves into a camping-style sleepover, one of the show’s best group dates in years. The girls sit around campfires and gossip about how much they all love the same man. Heather, who’s never been kissed, tells Colton her truth. So bold! He accepts her as she is — but they don’t kiss. Blast! Heather’s chances at having her first kiss aired on national television are mostly dashed. Another kiss bites the dust.
Lastly, I want to commend the hardest working part of the show: Colton’s tongue. Stilted as the show may be, Colton’s food-taster is slippery, active, and finding its way into a lot of mouths! I have seen a lot of it this episode. It might possibly have more charisma than Colton. Colton’s tongue for Bachelor!