Friends Like These

If morals are a luxury of the rich, as George Bernard Shaw claimed, then it’s a wonder I’m able to have them.

There’s a reason I don’t offer elimination odds week to week, and it’s episodes like this last one. This is one hell of a racket for Joes like me trying to turn an honest buck – and you better believe this house does everything it can to win, but I’m not trying to pull any fast ones, either. When people buy into a game they expect a certain set of rules to be upheld, just like Jordan and James Taylor; but that’s a discussion for another time.

Point is, nobody’ll stand for putting down their hard-earned money with the expectation that someone is getting sent home from a rose ceremony only to realize that The Bachelorette’s titular star gets to play by her own rules (once or twice per season, and only so long as the producers greenlight it). When it does happen, all hell breaks loose. It’s usually good news for the reality bookies when that day arrives, but it’s a mess for the suckers who’ve placed their bets. Between the poor saps crying about fairness and the cheap thugs threatening me with bodily harm as an alternative to payment, I folded on that hand long ago and decided to focus on the big picture.

Which, in the opinion of this bookmaker as it pertains to this season, is the same as it ever was.

Just because Jordan didn’t walk into the rose ceremony with petals in his lapel doesn’t mean he’s out of the driver’s seat. James Taylor took his best shot at the king, but against the apple of JoJo’s eye you’d best come correct. Hell, given past events he should be happy he’s still on the show. It was clear that Chad the Brochacho wasn’t long for this season, but when he threatened to blow up the Rodgers Express (running direct from here to “I-Love-JoJo-Ville”, much to James Taylor’s chagrin) Alex knew he had all the ammo necessary to go into his 2-on-1 guns-a-blazin’. There are only three things that are untouchable this season: JoJo’s girls (at least until the Fantasy Suite) and Jordan Rodgers.

But as far as 2-on-1s go, the second of the season wasn’t any more exciting than the first. Derek and Chase seemed to only be competing for the title of wettest blanket and somehow – unbelievably! – Chase was winning. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of money had moved on him as the next Bachelor and it would’ve been great to see him go, but a bookie’s odds are deemed just that when he can’t assess talent. But, miracle of miracles, Chase hit a desperation shot at the buzzer, living to fight another day and sending Derek, a poor man’s paunchy Jim Halpert, home for good.

The same can’t be said for Wells, who, upon having a half-naked JoJo literally throw herself at him (or float herself at him, whatever), made every effort humanly possible to stay safely tucked away in the friendzone. He proudly stated in his post-date interview that he’d made his move, but something tells me he’ll be retiring “freeze in terror while a beautiful woman puts her lips on mine” from his bag of tricks tout de suite.

And with that, we bid adieu to The Board’s two biggest underdogs. They didn’t net me a ton of cash, but at least it proves I still got it. The only real surprise of the week was Luke obliterating both the Turing and Voight-Kampff tests by looking like an honest to God, flesh and blood human being. It was a performance for the ages and I hope the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences was watching, though their stance on nominating machines is somewhat unclear. All the same, it was enough to increase Luke’s odds as the next Bachelor.

“You really think he has a chance?” Chris Harrison said when I called to review the numbers.

“As much as any of the guys with a pulse,” I replied. We’d been talking for about three minutes and I already felt long overdue for a drink. It was still shy of ten in the morning.

Any of the guys?” he asked coyly.

I sighed heavily and cracked open a bottle of cheap tequila. I was done wasting the good stuff on him, at least until he gave me a reason. “Are you asking me to give you odds…on you?

“Why not?” he asked. “I’m a guy on the show with a pulse. Sometimes people can get crazy ideas about a guy, especially when he’s got a pulse and there’s money to be made. Tell you what: if I’m not the next Bachelor – which I’m not saying I’m not – we split the take. And if I am the next Bachelor – which I’m not saying I am – I’ll give you my salary across all the shows next year to make up for it.”

I drained my glass and refilled it before speaking, just to keep myself from saying something I’d regret. He still had Kimmel in his pocket if it came down to it. I was hoping it wouldn’t.

“Chris. You know I run the cleanest game in town. You’re asking me to throw that away for what – a score of a few grand? How hard up are you guys?”

“Clint. It’s not always about you; I mean, it’s not just about you. You put up the odds, everyone else will follow suit. I’ll split the take with all of them – if I’m not the next Bachelor, that is. Then I’ll take that money – again, if I’m not the next Bachelor – and split that with you.”

“Uh-huh,” I said, somehow already polishing off my third drink. “And does your salary split that many ways?”

“My salary only goes to one person if I’m the next Bachelor, Clint – which I’m not saying I am. Though I must say, I’m somewhat shocked that you think so lightly of my scruples.”

I poured out a drink big enough to qualify for my fourth, fifth, and sixth. I was ready for my seventh when I said, “I went back to work as a favor. To you. Even if you were blackmailing me. I’ll do a lot to protect my hide, but I won’t let my name be dragged through the mud. Are we clear?”

“Crystal,” he said somewhat distantly. I could tell he was on speaker, already scrolling through his phonebook for the other bookies who’d play ball.

“Hey, Chris.”

“Yeah?”

“Buy a guy a drink next time you try to fuck him,” I said, then hung up. I grabbed what was left of the bottle by the neck and pulled the shades. I looked at my watch – 10:01.

With friends like these, right?

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