Andiam-no.

I was watching this week’s episode with my gal Friday when she pointed out that this season’s defining characteristic is that Chris Harrison hasn’t once referred to it as the most anything season ever. The only superlative is that it’s the least superlative – which actually says a lot.

The most interesting thing to happen this week was Kendall getting a hometown without ever having had a 1-on-1 date. It’s possible that this phenomenon has occurred before, but this bookie can’t remember the time. That we’ve already reached the high-water mark of this write-up before getting to a hundred words also says a lot.

And even though Jacqueline ran intellectual laps around Arie as she broke up with him, it didn’t make for interesting television as it was a bit like watching a Formula One car race against a cinder block. It’s no shock at all that Arie’s two strongest relationships are with Becca K, who makes every conversation about Arie, and Lauren B., who makes every conversation seem like it’s happening with a brick wall. Arie is falling hard for two very different women, even if it’s for the same exact reason: he doesn’t have to try very hard when talking to them.

If you bet the favorites last week, you’d still be in the running. Lauren B, Becca K, Tia, and Kendall were all in the top four. Kendall’s on the outside looking in this week, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t worth a wager, considering the long(ish) odds:

Lauren B         8-5

Becca K           7-4

Tia                   5-1

Kendall            6-1

Tia’s chances may seem a little low, but that’s only because she’s a front-runner for the next Bachelorette. She’s been getting the edit all season, but as Arie turns his attention to Becca K and Lauren B, it seems like a foregone conclusion. But there are a number of ways next season’s Bachelorette could shake out – see for yourself:

Other Season   1-1

Tia                   3-2

Lauren B         10-1

Becca K           10-1

Kendall            15-1

Bekah M.         20-1

Field                -110

There you have it. Hopefully there’ll be more to say next week when hometowns happen and every girl’s dad wants to punch Arie in the face for asking for his daughter’s hand in marriage while dating three other women at the same time. But if anyone can make that scenario uninteresting, I’m sure it’s Arie.

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Dim Bulbs in The City of Light

Bonjour, mes braves. To all of you who made it through this week’s episode, you’ve won my admiration. To those of you who didn’t, you’ve earned my respect.

Before we start to break down exactly why you would have been better off watching paint dry, let me first congratulate everyone who put money on Kendall making up the second part of the inevitable Krystal 2-on-1. In addition to being a few dollars richer you also profited off Krystal’s misery; there’s no punchline for this setup, I just wanted you all to bask in a job well done.

Normally I might feel compelled to make apologies for that kind of statement, but normally we aren’t confronted with a contestant that could easily be described as Chad (from JoJo’s season) minus the threat of physical violence. While Krystal wasn’t physically aggressive, she displayed no capability for empathy, changed her behavior to manipulate situations to her personal gain, and admitted no shame when confronted with her actions. Instead of being a psychopath, she was merely a sociopath – that’s about the highest compliment I can give her. Kendall, you’re a saint for trying not once but twice to engage with Krystal as a human being. Arie, you broke up with her on national television in front of woman she disdained; you should probably be looking over your shoulder the rest of your life.

As one villain exits, another is born conveniently edited in the form of Lauren B – which is a real shame considering she and Arie are perfect for another. Lauren B. proved to be Arie’s conversational equal this week as she offered the same monotone “Wow” when met with the beauty of the Seine, a wheel of cheese, and the local architecture. This is not unlike Arie giving an emotionally hollow “That’s amazing,” “That’s awesome,” or “You know” on subjects ranging from contestants’ spirituality to literally anything else that isn’t directly about him. The last time I recall him actually investing in a conversation was last week when Lauren B. revealed she takes coconut milk in her coffee. Star-crossed lovers, for sure.

Lauren is of course unhappy with watching Arie date several other women besides her, which is unfortunate considering that’s the premise of the show. What I would be more unhappy with in her position is Arie trying to relate to her romantic hardships by sharing the tale of his ex-girlfriend having a miscarriage, ending their relationship because his lifestyle kept them apart, and then painting himself as the victim. Arie, I hate to break it you, bud: you have not been wronged here.

But if you were able to make it through the Agents of Chaos and the Masters of Inanity, there was a slight reward waiting for you. I am of course talking about Jacqueline, who we are only finally getting the pleasure of knowing and unfortunately will likely never see again after next week. Jacqueline’s ascension has been meteoric, thanks in no small part to her professional aspirations. I can only assume the budding psychologist came on the show to perform some kind of case study, but she’s quickly made the leap from research to practical application in the field.

After discovering last week that the quickest way to Arie’s heart is down his throat, she swiftly changed all her tactics by blowing out her hair, pushing up the girls, and simply putting her lips on his to keep him from saying anything stupid. Arie doesn’t do even slightly complicated, and yet somehow he sat through Jacqueline explaining that getting her PhD means six years in one place that will almost one hundred percent not be Scottsdale, Arizona – and he still gave her a rose! I don’t know about you, but I think Jacqueline should get a master’s degree just for that.

That being said, it’s tough to see her lasting much longer given there’s only one more episode between now and hometowns. Still, the odds are up for the final seven and it’s anyone’s game – anyone but Jacqueline’s, that is:

Lauren B.        2-1

Becca K.          3-1

Tia                   7-2

Kendall            6-1

Bekah M.         8-1

Seinne              15-1

Jacqueline       50-1

RIP, Jenna – you were too fun for this world. Can’t wait to see you on Women Tell All.

The Airing of the Grievances

We need to talk about the weak link holding this season back from being one of the most enjoyable in recent memory, the one person responsible for turning each episode with this otherwise fantastic cast into a two hour slog. I’m not talking about Ashley, the contestant to make it the farthest without ever talking. Nor am I talking about Lauren B. 2.0, who is somehow just as beautiful but even less interesting than the original girl from Ben’s season (though I’m still not convinced they aren’t the same person). And it isn’t even Krystal – hell, every season needs a villain. No, the real problem with this group is Arie; and while we’ve scratched the surface in the past we need to fully break it down.

Arie is, at best, a C- man. There isn’t anything terrible about him, but there isn’t really anything good about him, either. When the women are talking he gives the appearance of listening, but mostly just looks at their mouths and either says “Yeah”, “You know,” or, “That’s awesome.” And when he is no longer able to sustain that bare minimum level of engagement, he plays with their hair or touches their clavicle until they eventually take the hint and start kissing him. During Rachel’s run on The Bachelorette we saw her future fiancé display an almost encyclopedic understanding of Neil Strauss’ The Game; Arie seems to have plucked out some bits about physical contact and said, “That’s enough for me.” It’s not the same level of sociopathy, but it still isn’t a great look.

His attempts at conscientiousness are almost always rooted in self-interest. Though it’s pure speculation to state that the reason he invited the losing bowling team to the after-party was because he wanted additional time with those women, it’s tough to overlook that he was shown making out with three women from that squad (Lauren B., Bekah, and Kendall) and only one (Becca) from the winners. What’s more, when Krystal did what any self-respecting Bachelor villain would do and threatened to leave, Arie told the remaining women, “I don’t want to disrespect you by going up there, but I really feel like if she has strong feelings, I should address it.” Arie, I hate to break it to you, but telling someone you don’t want to disrespect them by doing a thing and then actually doing that thing is even more disrespectful than just doing it in the first place.

But none of that sits as poorly with this bookie as when Tia – God bless her heart for all the feigned enthusiasm upon seeing the airboat – told Arie she was falling in love with him only for him to respond with, “You have to look at me when you say that.” Even a patented “That’s awesome” would have been a better response. Tia – and pretty much everyone but Krystal – I’m sorry; you deserve better.

And yet Arie has not said anything overtly racist, misogynist, or otherwise bigoted in any way. He is employed, owns a dog, and has a healthy (albeit potentially codependent) relationship with his parents. As I said: not terrible. This is what passes for a catch in the current state of things, at least on national TV.

As far as the gambling’s concerned, I’m willing to give odds on a case by case basis to anyone who thinks they know who’ll be joining Krystal on the 2-on-1 because it’s anyone’s guess at this point. I’ll also accept bets on pairings that don’t involve Krystal, but you might as well just take whatever dollars you were going to wager and light them on fire; the 2-on-1 exists to either feed or extinguish the flame of a contestant’s villainy – nothing more. It would make for great drama if they pitted friends like Tia and Caroline (gone and basically already forgotten) against each other, but there’s no point in messing with the formula. The system works. We haven’t stopped watching yet.

I’m still holding out hope it’ll be Chelsea squaring off with Krystal when the times comes, especially after what Tia went through this week to get her rose. Some girls get yachts and champagne – others get airboats and deep fried corn on the cob. A little karma wouldn’t hurt anyone.

Keep On Survivin’

This week quickly turned into an episode of Survivor; not because the ladies were out in the wilderness washing down bugs with champagne in order to sustain themselves, rather they all collectively realized that if they have any chance of being on The Bachelorette, they’ll have to make it through several grueling weeks of pretending to be interested in Arie.

I gave up hope on that endeavor during Arie’s intro reel, and that was without having to actually engage with the guy. These poor women will only be able to sit through him repeating “you know” and “that’s awesome” so many times before they go insane from a complete lack of real human interaction.

Seinne’s moment of clarity (defined in Bachelor terms as realizing, “I’m way smarter than this goober”) could have happened at any point on her date but was most obvious during dinner when her eyes were bigger than the plates themselves. Even Bekah – who in the past astutely observed that she doesn’t need Arie – found herself having to mount a defense against Arie’s inane “You’re so young!” argument, despite the fact there are only two women remaining that are closer in age to Arie than to her. Of course, she wasn’t on the defensive for very long considering it took Arie five seconds to transition from, “You’re so young!” to “So have you ever dated anyone my age?” Men: give us an opportunity to look as skeezy as possible, and we will pounce on it.

And somehow, the rest of the women were willing to go to extremes for Arie’s attention. Some ate bugs. Some contemplated drinking their own urine. After watching Arie seemingly drink his own urine, Jacqueline (the first and last time we’ll probably ever focus on her) went so far as to attempt the act until Arie screamed out that it was only apple juice. But if those ladies are thinking along the lines of Bekah and Seinne their actions don’t seem so desperate; hell, there are days when I’d eat a bug or two just for the chance of free champagne and hanging out in a hot tub all day – even if there is a total jabroni wandering around who tries to talk to me every so often.

But the good times can’t last forever and there are indeed departures on the horizon. While I was convinced that a Chelsea/Krystal 2-on-1 was a stone cold lock, Chelsea has managed to reign in her special brand of crazy in the interest of letting Krystal self-destruct. Now the producers are setting us up for a Tia/Krystal showdown that will be much more rewarding; pure loathing is always more entertaining than insanity because it’s rooted in reality where there are actual stakes. I’m still offering 3-1 on Chelsea/Krystal, but I’m also putting Tia/Krystal on the board at 2-1. And though this isn’t tied to exits, if anyone wants an over/under, I’m setting the number of times Arie drops “you know” in conversation at 32.5 with -$110 on either side of the line.

I’ll give the season this: it’s nice to be getting odds out there so early. In the words of Arie: “That’s awesome.”

Dog Days of Bummer

Fate – or more likely The Bachelor production team – is a cruel mistress, especially when you consider how many things are out of the hands of mere mortals like you and me. If not for Annalise having to face her two (presumably) biggest fears in as many weeks, it’s possible she’d still be kicking around the mansion. If only Lauren S. had received a better wine list, it’s plausible that she wouldn’t have needed the Chekhov’s suitcase edit. And if Rachel had never publicly trashed Peter on After the Final Rose we might have him as our Bachelor instead of the human equivalent of a glass of room-temperature skim milk, Arie Luyendyk Jr.

I’m not trying to be cruel to Arie (even if every bone in this bookie’s body is telling him to be), it’s just that he’s so damn boring. His OS clearly hasn’t been upgraded since the last episode as he’s still interacting with the women by repeating back exactly what they say to him and framing it as an opinion (“Yes, breakups can be hard”). Apart from parroting, the only other mode Arie Bot 3000 seems to possess is making out with whatever woman he has two minutes alone with (provided they aren’t named Annalise, Bibiana, or Lauren S.).

Bibiana’s departure was a tough pill to swallow, if only because she was the leading member of the Anyone But Krystal Coalition, soon to be the leading political party on this season of The Bachelor. I’m not sure how the next phase of this mandate from the masses is going to begin, but I’ve got a fairly good idea of how it’s going to end.

Let’s not forget that Chelsea was the front-runner for this seasons’ villain until Bibiana started having words with Krystal. Chelsea continued to low-key vil, but it was hard to really consider her for the role with the other ladies getting swept up in Bibiana’s proselytizing. Now that the producers have been robbed of their Krystal vs. Bibiana showdown (further proof that Arie is the blandest Bachelor to ever Bach), they need a new powerhouse for the inevitable two-on-one.

While the two-on-one is always the cleanest way to dispose of a villain (except for Nick keeping Corinne around so he could eventually score that practical $1,400 sweat-suit that never goes out of fashion), the stakes are always highest when the rest of the contestants believe the star is, at best, choosing between the lesser of two evils. And if you don’t think Chelsea’s primed to become one half of that dynamic duo, then welcome to your first season of The Bachelor.

One’ll get you three that when the showdown comes, it’ll be Chelsea and Krystal squaring off. I could give odds on them each individually arriving at that end, but I’m practically giving away money as it is. Once the matchup is confirmed I’ll set the lines on who makes it out of Thunderdome unscathed; until then, I’ll consider myself a winner if I can keep from dozing off  anytime Arie does his best impression of a real live human.

Formula Fun

I’ve never been as hopeful during a second episode of The Bachelor as I was on Monday night. With Becca K. getting showered with lavish gifts and Krystal being treated to an impromptu meeting with Arie’s parents, it seemed like Chris Harrison might spare us a full season of this mess and get it all out of the way in two nights. I wouldn’t blame the guy if he wanted to sit a few hands out. Between the last few lackluster seasons, a disaster in Paradise, and our ongoing dances with Jimmy Kimmel, things haven’t exactly been coming up Harrison. But something strange seems to be happening this time around. People seem to be having…what’s that word…oh yeah: fun.

Granted, not everyone can make that claim: Bibiana was only kept around because the producers expect her to murder Krystal somebody, Brittany was confined to concussion protocol longer than most NFL players, Annaliese has some sort of weird, bumper-car induced PTSD, and Jenny is really going to miss her new friends – but aside from that, these girls are downright jovial.

Even Arie seems relatively pleased to be back in Bachelor Nation, but he also strikes me as a guy who’s happy to be anywhere. By his own admission, he’s someone who barely finished high school (but spent enough time there to know that art nerds are an easy target) and is now surrounded by beautiful women with credentials ranging from Yale economics degree to taxidermy enthusiast. It’s a refreshing turn of events that the show’s titular character comes off as intimidated by the contestants rather than demanding their awe and obsession – even if some of the girls are giving it to him freely.

Freely may be a bit of a stretch, though; Arie may not be the one footing the bill, but someone’s paying for all the goodwill he got with Becca K. Their day together was less a date than it was a prolonged series of gifts meant to overshadow the fact that they have zero chemistry together. It’s unclear whether Arie is actually human or just a first-gen chatbot in humanoid form (“You’re close with your family? That’s good. Family is important.”), but there are ATMs out there with more personality. But personality doesn’t seem to matter much when you’re dispensing Louboutins, Rachel Zoe dresses, and Neil Lane bling.

The same trick was used on poor Krystal, whose only real want in life seems to be human connection. Instead of giving her low-end offerings from premium luxury brands, she was whisked away on a private jet (with an extremely low-end meat and cheese plate) to bond with Arie’s family and see the incredible sights of Scottsdale, Arizona, like Arie’s condo and the Pizza Hut where he worked in high school.

The producers have mastered the fine art of selling the experience, not the product. Both women walked away feeling “so confident” in their connection with Arie, a man they’d probably spent 12-16 hours with. They clearly weren’t dazzled with brilliance, but they didn’t seem to mind being baffled with bullshit. Something tells me there’s a new formula for keeping contestants engaged this season and we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg. I can’t wait until the show crashes into it head-on.

 

The (Un)Amazing Race

I was ready to sit this one out. I really was. Things had gotten so desperate in Bach Nation that they couldn’t even convince recent losers to give things another go and had to go back half a decade to find their next eponymous “star.” It might as well have been half a century – I’ve yet to find anyone who was actually interested in once again watching Arie Luyendeyk Jr for any stretch of time. But less than two hours after this debacle of a season’s premiere, Jef (not a typo) Holm, a guy I happily forgot existed until today, took to Twitter in order to place some kind of non-wager bet against Arie to the tune of five G’s. How can I pass up on action like that?

It would be fairly easy if it weren’t for people already throwing money around like it’s going out of fashion. We’ve arrived at a place in Trump’s America where winning the love of a real estate agent who used to drive race cars has become a measure of success; I for one wanted no part of it. Hell, even The Geek and I have buried the hatchet, what with him being a hero in our times and all.

But I couldn’t help watching, just out of sick curiosity. It also meant I couldn’t help hearing Arie say that this was, “The most important race of my life.” And that’s how I got suckered in; he was so earnest in that statement that I thought maybe they’d changed the rules – that instead of actually trying to find love he had to outrun it…or something.

Of course that isn’t the case. The show’s the same as it always was – which was apparently news to the contestants as one of them announced, “There are more girls than I expected!” But this understanding of the situation isn’t a new phenomenon either. That statement, or something similar, inevitably gets uttered every first night in the mansion. I’m always left wondering if this means they were expecting some men to be in the mix or if they’ve never seen the show before, which always features a cast of somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-30 women.

And of course this season will run out the same tired story lines we always get: the Token Single Mom who claims she can’t be petty because she’s a mother, the one girl everyone says is just too young for America’s Most Eligible despite the fact that they’re all mentally pre-teens and mostly closer in age to her than they are to him, and several successful small-business owners crying into the camera because even though they’re their own boss, they didn’t get proposed to by a G-list celebrity.

Even though much has stayed the same, there are a few things that have changed – you just have to look into the numbers to find them:

Racing Jokes Made During Entrances:  7

Laurens:  4

Social Media Managers:  2

Contestants on Molly:  1

Fucks I Give:  0

Fine – maybe nothing’s changed.