I can still hear Chris Harrison’s words as I handed him that bag of my hard-earned cash at the end of last season:
“Jimmy’s just better at this than you, Clint. Accept it.”
Most bookies would have trouble sleeping at night with a mark like that in their ledger, but I ain’t most bookies. Sure, I knocked back a few more drinks than usual that evening, but only after I got to work. I already had my next hustle lined up; all I needed was someone who had as big a beef with Kimmel as I did. Luckily that’s not tough to find in the reality-gambling circuit – or the talk show circuit.
Just as I suspected, Matt Damon was starring in his nightly one-man version of No Exit performed solely for the monitors of Jimmy Kimmel’s greenroom. Given their history, Mr. Damon wasn’t a tough sell. I promised that if he could work his way into The Geek’s weekly viewing parties, I’d feed him enough info to turn Kimmel from a player into a pigeon.
“So what do you get out of it?” Matt asked me over a glass of rye at The Rainbow on Sunset.
“Well, I wouldn’t object to you snapping a picture of him handing you what’s actually my money,” I said with a shrug. “But it’s about the setup. The Geek hates to end a season in the red. If you give him an early push in that direction, he’ll get careless. He’ll think, ‘How can I recoup my losses?’ He’ll give me a call. And I’ll clean house like a Roomba.”
Mr. Damon didn’t even care about putting his own money on the line. “Anything to get one over on The Geek,” he said. Music to my ears.
It was good to have some skin in the game so soon, especially because these early episodes have been historically unwatchable. The men are still mostly one homogeneous blob of testosterone with only a few standing apart as front-runners (Peter), gimmick guys (Lucas), and those so visibly annoyed by the gimmick guys that you find yourself quietly rooting for the gimmick guys because they’re going to be the cause of a complete and utter meltdown (Blake).
At least the producers have learned from their past mistakes and expedited the pending face-off. Last season we had to wait five weeks for Corinne and Taylor to have it out once and for all, and it took six weeks for Chad and Alex to finally square off during JoJo’s season. But Blake’s been encouraged to start his campaign tout de suite and has started using his one-on-one time with Rachel to throw as much shade as humanly possible at Lucas. Lucas may be deserving of it, but Blake still hasn’t learned the lesson that you can only throw shade from above; an “aspiring drummer” doesn’t have a ton of room to talk down to a “Whaboom” because neither of those are actual things. Even more embarrassing for Blake was his inability to form a coalition of the willing. Much like the European heads of state dealing with Trump, the other guys politely sat and listened to Blake’s impassioned plea to act like idiots and shake up the good thing they got going on before collectively looking at each other and saying, “Yeah…we’re not doing that.”
But sometimes a good thing gets ruined for you, as DeMario was forced to find out. Thankfully, one man’s complete and utter embarrassment is another man’s good fortune.
Every season we get the same thing; a tired tease that one of these gents might not be here for the capital-R Right Reasons (just one? Really, that’s it?) and likely has a girlfriend back home. Usually the stories are just that and we have to wait the majority of the season for the biggest non-event in Bachelorette history to finally play out. But when they started previewing the girlfriend experience early on in the episode it seemed that not only were the producers done making us wait, they might actually give us a real scene for a change.
I did some quick mental calculus: it couldn’t be someone on the first group date, nor could it be Peter, whose name is already written in ink on a Fantasy Suite invitation. That left everyone back at the mansion; most notably Don Juan DeMario who had already been flagged by one of Rachel’s squad as potential trouble. Given that he was all “wifey this” and “we’re getting married that,” it seemed only natural that he’d make for the biggest heel turn. Besides, what guy shows up to a first date with a pair of tickets to Vegas and a ring in his pocket unless he’s running like hell from something else? I texted Matt Damon and told him to put every cent in his pocket on pride coming before the fall.
Frankly I don’t know what was more rewarding: knowing that Kimmel got squeezed like a lemon or watching DeMario go through the eight stages of “oh shit, I got caught” grief in roughly three minutes. If you’re not familiar with that particular coping process, it starts with amnesia (“Oh, who’s this?”), goes to amateur psychology (“This chick is psycho.”), is followed by inane babbling (“I met her many, many times ago.”), proceeds to flop-sweated pleading (“Can we talk somewhere else? This is personal life stuff.”), which quickly turns to agreeing with whatever is said (“Yeah, yeah, definitely, 100%.”), veers off into lawyering-up (“All communication? Uhm, some communication.” “I don’t know the exact dates.” “That we had something? We had sexual intercourse.”), settles into acceptance (“Sorry, Rachel.”), and then has one last death-rattle of indignance (“That was crazy. My character’s assassinated. This is bogus.”).
And the whole thing isn’t even over! After ten ridiculous minutes in which the rest of the guys tried to convince us they’re upset over having a better shot with Rachel, the producers DeMario brought himself back to the mansion for a few more minutes of manufactured drama. I have no hope that the ensuing scene will be any good, but apart from being lucrative it just might be entertaining. And after the past few seasons, that’s a nice change of pace.