Fallen Soldiers

What a crazy past two weeks. What staggering lows. What dizzying highs. What devastating twists. I think I speak for everyone when I say: I can’t believe they didn’t air an episode on the Fourth of July.

Leaving out the fact that bookies don’t get federal holidays, it’s still downright un-American. What’s this country built on if not voyeurism, faux celebrity, and the right to gamble on it if we so choose? Our forefathers must be rolling in their graves.

And forget about our basic inalienable right to watch people make asses out of themselves on television while betting on it, what’s more American than taking an interest in those who’ve lived in service of our great nation? I’m talking, of course, about Alex (USMC), Luke (US Army), and James Taylor (Eagle and American Flag Tattoo – it’s not a great angle, but trust me, it’s glorious). Sadly, of these brave few, only one has lived to fight another week.

As Alex (who I’m assuming has seen Full Metal Jacket 15,000 times) can likely recite from memory, there are two distinct objectives in the media coverage surrounding any combat action: “Winning of Hearts and Minds” and “Winning the War.” Despite his assumed knowledge of these edicts, it took less than thirty seconds into his car ride with JoJo to prove him incapable of either.

It was almost the exact opposite of poor Wells’ campaign into the Friendzone; whereas everyone’s favorite radio DJ charged like the Light Brigade into the sad safety of “shoulder to cry on when Jordan ends up breaking JoJo’s heart” (you know you’re thinking it – I’m just here telling you it’s ok to do so), Alex found himself relentlessly buffeted back to the land of hugs and handshakes. His odds were never that great to win, but I thought he at least had an outside shot at Bachelorhood after ousting Chad. Weep not for the fallen, though – for they go to a better place.

I’m talking, of course, about Paradise. With those abs and tats, is there any question? Keeping his odds at -300 feels like I’m giving money away; grab ‘em while you can before I get my head examined.

The ol’ noggin has been kicked into touch when it comes to Chase, though. Across the board his stock is dropping faster than Bear Stearns’ in 2008 or Britt’s after visiting Arlington, Iowa. He charmed our collective pants off (JoJo included) over the course of his early yoga date, but since then he’s engaged in a steady, uninterrupted offensive of constant negging (not a typo) by picking the littlest fights he can to the greatest effect – all while displaying so little charisma that this bookie sometimes forgets Luke’s personality is made up entirely of 1’s and 0’s. Now Chase sits squarely in the Gambler’s Gray Area with odds that aren’t bad enough to ignore, but that clearly have no hope of success.

Meanwhile, as we’re forced to visit the mannequin factory that Chase calls home, James Taylor is going to The Great Open Mic Gig in the Sky. It really is a shame; apart from being the most fun of the group (who else in this history of this show would try to shove an entire plate of fries in his mouth to woo a member of the opposite sex?), we’re now forced to say goodbye to perhaps the most honest contestant this show has ever seen. He’s a big ol’ kid with self-esteem issues – but deep down whom among us isn’t?  The only solace to take away from his too-early departure is that all the things JoJo wished for him – the opportunity to find love, girls treating him the way he treats them, finally meeting his perfect match – are pretty much the promised rights of the next Bachelor.

I liked that notion. I liked it a lot. Maybe it was because the broken AC had finally fried my brain, maybe it was because I’d had one too many sips of tequila, but I thought it might be worth seeing if The Man liked it too.

“Call me crazy,” I said to Chris Harrison when he picked up the phone.

“You’re crazy,” he replied with the honest to goodness excitement of any straight-man getting to deliver a punchline, good or bad. I decided it’d be best for both of us if I just pretended it hadn’t happened.

“But James Taylor is still in this thing,” I said as I poured myself a victory shot. “Luke gets even odds as the next Bach because I know you assholes and your Disney overlords; you can’t resist parading a war hero in front of the public.”

“Tell me how you really feel, Clint.”

I kept steamrolling. I didn’t want him to think we were turning this into a touring act: “Robby’s barely smart enough to breathe and Chase might actually be a couple planks of wood you’ve nailed together. Jordan shouldn’t even be getting odds because I’ve got scruples, but some people can’t resist throwing their money away. It’s still a contest of two, Chris. And, just like I’m gonna be doing, you can take that to the bank.”

There was a noticeable pause on the line.

“My goodness, Clint. If I didn’t know any better I’d say you’re actually enjoying your work.”

The shot went down quickly and quietly. It brought things back to focus. “I’m just glad for one last score before I call it quits. You get your decent buildup to next year, I get to walk away with a few bucks in my pocket. And then next time you darken my doorstep I’m free to tell you to fuck off without worrying about you running to the Geek.”

That’s your biggest worry, Clint? I don’t know. Those are pretty enticing odds you’re offering. And like you said, it is a two man race. After seeing what happened with Kaitlin and Britt, aren’t you even a little nervous about two payouts?”

The busted AC suddenly wasn’t a concern. My blood ran cold. I reached for the bottle, pulled the cork, and tossed it into a corner.

“Do you know something I don’t, Harrison?”

“Clint,” he said with a chuckle. “I probably know a lot of things you don’t.” Then he hung up.

I looked from the board, to the empty glass on the table, and finally to the bottle in my hands. I raised it to my lips and drained the whole thing. The scary thing is he’s probably right.


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