Welcome to The Bachelor, where exercising in groups in front of a prospective future husband is a fun activity! The Bachelor still isn't quite sure what to do with Colton — is he sexy or is he a nubile, naive virgin? Is he a tire-throwing monster with need for speed or is he just a kind, generic 26-year-old who likes kids? Colton, show thyself!
The show itself is less concerned with figuring Colton out than it is overshadowing Colton with far more interesting characters. This episode alone has pirates, a troupe of charismatic kids, Fred Willard, and Terry Crews. Meanwhile, certain dramas take center stage, distracting from the Colton-falling-in-love narrative. There's Tracy versus Demi, a lingering thread from last week. And there's Caelynn versus Hannah B., a fight that seems far more sinister. Colton's just a spectator here, even if he resembles an early draft of the statue of David.
The first group date takes on the plot of Pirates of the Caribbean. In this iteration of the Jerry Bruckheimer franchise, Demi is Jack Sparrow, waltzing around the joint with both charisma and presumed sex appeal. Sex is sort of Demi's thing. Her strategy thus far has been: aim for just below Colton's belt, and toss all subtlety aside.
"Every time I smell you, I'm like mmmmm," she tells Colton during their one-on-one time. Moments later, she blindfolds him and spanks him. She also plays a creative game called "Are you nervous?" in which she creeps a plastic hand down Colton's body.
Meanwhile, in the role of the Commodore Norrington is Hannah B., who is competitive but too uptight. (Last week, she toasted with the phrase "roll Tide.") Swashbuckling Will Turner is Caelynn, the long-haired contestant who has insisted that Hannah B. is moments away from "breaking." These two have history. They competed against one another at the Miss USA pageant, with Hannah B. coming in behind Caelynn, who is Miss North Carolina despite having been born in Virginia. On the pirate date, Caelynn pulls a full Turner, rescuing Colton (Elizabeth Swann, in this metaphor) while Hannah B. observes from the "poop deck." (There is, alas, nothing poop-related on this poop deck.) Later, Caelynn gets a "real kiss" from Colton for being his rescuer.
"When I'm with Caelynn, my guard is completely down," says the man whose sole personality trait is that he is guarded.
In response, Hannah B. says she is both "befumbled" and "shook." Caelynn's success strikes a nerve. Both of these traits lead her to talk to Colton, a cardinal sin in Bachelor-land. This conversation is a mistake. A mistake! The first rule of The Bachelor is do not talk to the Bachelor about your issues with another contestant. Like the unwritten rule of "I can complain about my parents, but you can't join the fun." This conversation leaves Colton — poor sad boi — confused and on the verge of tears. How could he possibly be attracted to both Hannah B. and Caelynn? I know that's the point of the show, but still!
Caelynn and Hannah B.'s falling out seems to have more heft than the show will allow. A number of the other girls boil it down to "pageant drama," which, don't get me wrong, seems like it can really take a toll. Still, Caelynn refers to the issues as "real life shit" and both seem at the verge of tears when they discuss their broken relationship. What happened at the Miss USA pageant?
Later in the episode, Colton tries to get to the bottom of it, quizzing both of his girlfriends. They both give the same answer: The other is manipulative and a liar. Colton is a terrible cross-examiner. He's also a pretty terrible judge, breaking down in tears as soon as the fire starts burning. The Caelynn v. Hannah B. drama will end up eating half of this episode alive, as it probably should. This is real life shit, y'all! Not some dumb dating show. (Gentle reminder to both myself and readers that I do love this show.)
Like flowers growing through cracks in concrete, though, a few other relationships crop up around the Caelynn/Hannah B. mess. There's Katie, who got a kiss on night one.
"One thing I notice is how real you keep it," Colton tells Katie, being nicely specific. They agree that they love food — sushi specifically — and that they enjoy each other. Later, Nicole and Cassie get some love, too. Nicole calls Colton "papi" while Colton tells Cassie that she's "quirky and awkward." These are the girls who are quietly being more successful than either Caelynn or Hannah B.
Like weeds growing through concrete, though, the Tracy/Demi fight continues against the backdrop of Caelynn's drama. Tracy and Demi are still at their argument on the pirate date. Demi is pressing Tracy's buttons, pointing out repeatedly that Tracy is older than most of the women in the house.
"I feel so bad for you," Demi tells Tracy. Demi maintains that Tracy should be freaking out.
Unfortunately, the fight expands this episode, leeching onto Courtney, who finds herself interrupted by Demi. Her quibble with Demi is with her "tone," something that reflects last season's issues with Krystal Nielson. Ladies, do not enter this Lion's Den! The successful women on this show will escape the clutches of onscreen rivalries — fun as they are, these arguments almost never bode well for the future of the contestants.
Almost as if to combat the ageism conversation between Tracy and Demi, Colton's first one-on-one goes to Elyse, the makeup artist who last episode got a rose for being honest about her cougar-ness. (She is 31. Colton is 26.) Despite her crippling old age — so decrepit! She's younger than Jesus was when he became Jesus but still! How old! — Elyse finds it in her bones to enjoy a date at a theme park with kids associated with Colton's charity. Colton's charity gets kids out of the hospital and, apparently, onto dates with future paramours. This is a critical mistake for the show, because the kids are infinitely more charismatic than Colton.
Elyse, meanwhile, is a champ, scooping ice cream and riding the Tilt-a-Whirl with the children. If one of the kids (or Elyse) vomited on the Tilt-a-Whirl, the camera graciously didn't show it. In other news, one of the little girls with Colton reveals that she's already had her first kiss. Buddy, you're way ahead of the Bachelor! Did you rescue that person from a pirate encounter before you kissed them?
During the dinner portion of the date, Elyse shares that her sister tragically died of cancer after giving birth to her second child.
"It all makes sense now," Colton says, making absolutely zero sense. Elyse's story is tragic, but it should be noted that people can "make sense" without their trauma on display. The show's investment in the saddest stories from its contestants continues to be controversial. Elyse gets a rose for her vulnerability — and it does seem that Colton is interested in her. She's not involved in any house drama, and she appears to have both feet on the ground. Mark my words: I see a lively future for Elyse in Bachelor Nation.
The second and final group date for the episode takes a painful feminist route. It's about "strong women," an ironic theme, given the show's penchant for pitting women against one another. Still, this date manages to loop in Terry Crews — yet another NBC talent? ABC, how are you finagling this? Crews appears with his wife, Rebecca Crews, to judge the contest for "Bachelor's Strongest Woman." The show is making an interesting equivalency, here, assuming that physical strength correlates with...emotional strength? Political strength? Bone marrow strength? The girls all gather to work out with Colton, an activity that once more pits Colton as Mr. Hawt Dude.
"Sydney is making stretching look like Dirty Dancing," Cassie complains, missing the point of Dirty Dancing. (A question: Would any of these women help a local dancer get an abortion?)
It's on this date that Nicole mentions Napoleon Dynamite, comparing herself to the titular character. Nicole is emerging as a frontrunner, both on the show, where she's by far the funniest contestant, and on Twitter, where she's one of the show's most active Tweeters. Despite her loss in the "strong" contest, Nicole wins the group date rose — but not before Colton sends Caitlin, an easygoing Canadian contestant, home. Caitlin, you were too low-key for this show, and Colton really, really wants to send people home, apparently. She has some minor complaints about it all, pointing out that, of all people, she shouldn't be the one going home. But still, in this land, the Bachelor is dictator, and you cannot argue with his rules.
At the episode's limp pool pre-rose ceremony party, Hannah B. and Caelynn's drama resurfaces. There is no place this drama cannot reach! This drama will envelop this whole season, like a nasty, drama-filled hug! It's here that Colton runs to the producers, stressed about his decisions. Whom should he believe? Hannah B. of the "roll Tide" or Caelynn, his pirate-y rescuer? Honestly, Elizabeth Swann had the same troubles.
Drama and all, Colton keeps both Hannah B. and Caelynn. All the better to cause drama with, my dear!
Leonardo DiCaprio's The Departed: Caitlin (sent home on the group date), Nina, Catherine, Brianna