Can’t Buy Me Love

It was The Knack who said, “You Can’t Put A Price On Love” (that is, when they weren’t trying to get the attention of a gal named Sharona), but JoJo Fletcher is here to tell America that you can certainly attach value to it.

On the off-chance you were gambling on some other reality-dating show Monday night, The Bachelorette had finally found its way to hometowns – a.k.a., every location scout’s worst goddamn nightmare. It’s the cost of doing business for the same lucky bastards that get to survey exotic locales across South America; the chickens always come home to roost, and when they do it’s in places like Highlands Ranch, CO, Chico, CA, St. Augustine, FL, and Burnet, TX. The challenges of finding engaging backdrops in these out of the way settings are the stuff of legend, akin to Native American vision quests that leave the poor location scouts in a trancelike, navel-gazing state until they’re snapped back to reality by impatient associate directors screaming, “Just call the stage crew to build something for God’s sake! We’ll never find anything decent in all this fucking nature!”

But I digress. It’s easy to crack-wise when it’s some other sucker that’s got to stack hay bales into a couch or dress the rusted-out seat of a chairlift they found by the side of the road.

In addition to the overly-produced set pieces, JoJo endured the torturous gauntlet of family-meeting and flower-giving separating her from the true reward of each visit: the romantically charged moment before she’d leave her man of the hour and he would pour out his heart and soul, pleading his case one last time why they should be together forever – or at least for one more week and that studio-sanctioned conjugal visit.

If the opinions of this bookie sound a little jaded, it’s because they are. Love has always been a weird currency that JoJo trades in and it looks as if it always will be. On the last season of The Bachelor when she told Ben she loved him and he replied the same, she took it to mean that she was the only object of his affection (and not the subject of producer orchestrated drama). Even if he had been in equally intense relationships with multiple women over the span of mere weeks, how could, “I love you,” be anything but anointing? Those words come with weight in JoJo’s world, but gravity is different on all planets. Its mere presence is the difference between keeping one’s feet on the ground and floating off into the ether, even if it is the by far the weakest of the fundamental forces.

Which is why it was unsurprising that, going into the rose ceremony, JoJo was seriously considering parting ways with Luke. Despite their Texas-sized connection and all of his sensitivity simulators operating at maximum capacity, the one thing he did differently in his hometown date was use vague language like, “I give you my heart,” instead of definitively saying, “I love you.”

It wasn’t until he took her aside before the action got underway and made his feelings known in no uncertain terms that she started considering saying goodbye to Chase (who spent most of this episode reminding me of Frosty the Snowman without his top-hat, only less warm) or maybe even Robby (who, after about five solid minutes of squirming over allegations of – something? – between him and his ex, said to JoJo, “I want to tell you right now…it is not true, by any means.” Sure, Robby).

To be clear: the thought of sending Jordan home has never crossed JoJo’s mind this season. And that’s certainly not what she was crying about on the tarmac while wearing the ever-living hell out of that blue dress (What do you want from me? Bookies are human, too), delaying the rose ceremony one more episode. The phone started ringing before the, “Next week on The Bachelorette,” teaser even began. I switched off the TV and took the call.

“Surprised?” Chris Harrison said from the opposite end of the line. He sounded pretty pleased with himself.

“Big Man,” I responded indifferently, “I think I’d only be surprised if there was a season where I wasn’t supposed to be ‘surprised.’”

“Don’t air-quote at me, Clint. I can feel your air-quotes.”

I sighed and laced my fingers behind my head like that’s where they were going all along. I wasn’t about to let him be right, even if he was missing out on the satisfaction anyway.

“On Kaitlyn’s season you guys were too cheap to even spring for hometowns. Now that they’re back I’m supposed to be shocked that we won’t get the results until the next episode? Something like this was bound to happen.”

“Fine, fine,” he said dismissively. “So what do you think?”

“Think?” I echoed back with a laugh. “Chris, buddy – I don’t gotta think. I can’t alter the boards until there’s a rose ceremony. You just gave me a week off.”

He stewed for a second before grumbling, “You can thank me later.”

“I will put off doing that, as a matter of fact. Because now, if you don’t mind, I just remembered there’s a bottle of gin and a pack of Dunhills I’ve been meaning to get acquainted with.”

I hung up the phone, turned the damn thing off, then pulled the blinds before making my way to the kitchen for a handful of ice. It clinked beautifully into a Collins glass, then crackled as I poured a healthy dose of Old Raj over it. My lighter cut through the darkness, bringing the cigarette between my lips to life. The booze and nicotine helped ease the fact that I’d gotten screwed out of having a full cast list for “The Men Tell All,” meaning I’ll have to scramble like hell to put together the odds for the prop bets on Monday night. But that’s a problem for future Clint to worry about. Until then, this has good week written all over it.


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