Rioj-nah

“I really appreciate you letting me get in on the action, Clint.”

“Don’t mention it, Matt.”

“It’s one thing to win big, it’s another to do it against Jimmy, you know?”

“You’re not the first to do it,” I said, signaling for two more drinks. “You know that, right?”

“Right,” Mr. Damon replied. “But it’s The Geek, you know?”

“Yeah,” I replied, knocking the filter-end of a cigarette against the top of the bar. “I know.”

Eric had just been sent home, locking in close to another hundred grand; it didn’t even bother me that Matt Damon was drinking Cadillac margaritas at El Coyote while I was opting for the usual – and cheaper – scratch version. I was flush. Everything was going according to plan. And I couldn’t have been more miserable.

I’d returned to the scene of last season’s crime to gain some sense of closure. Keith was long gone, taking his tenuous grasp of the Spanish language that was no firmer nor weaker than Bryan’s with him. Six months is a long time behind a bar in La Brea, Fairfax, or any part of Los Angeles, really. Can’t say I blame the bartenders for moving on considering the patrons all stay the same; I’d be looking for the exit as well.

It was a problem I understood, though. Looking at my phone and checking the notices of cash flowing in and out courtesy of my gal Friday, I saw the same familiar names that came through every season. Sure, some were down more than usual, others were finally up, and there were a familiar few that could always be counted on to part with their money, but it felt hollow. There’s usually a level of entertainment to the game, but I can’t remember the last week I enjoyed myself this season.

A buddy of mine – far too risk-averse to wager money on this endeavor, though he can call a sure thing when he sees it – articulated it best. After watching Rachel with her parents, it became clear that she’s still more child than adult, telling her parents that they just don’t understand and that she has everything figured out. In a group of other children (often referred to on this show as “contestants”) she seems like an adult; it’s only in the presence of maturity that her defenses start to show cracks.

And boy, light wasn’t just shining through, it’s like there were thousand watt bulbs being lit up. Looking back it feels as if day one of Nick’s season featured the producers gathering all the eager young kids around and telling them that they were playing a game, the winner of which would walk away engaged. It’s the only possible reason I’ll accept for Rachel insisting that this show has to end with a man who’s known her for six weeks (max) proposing to her.

Playing by those rules, Peter’s been on the ropes since sometime after their first date. Granted, he seems to be the only contestant in the history of production who’s come on the show with a laissez-faire attitude about getting down on one knee when all was said and done, but America was forged by pioneers; why should the future of the reality-industrial complex be any different?

Because the viewers don’t want uncharted territory. Neither does Rachel. That point was hammered home as the final date between Peter and Rachel unfolded, with both parties being absolutely intractable over the subject of how much they loved each other and unwavering in their opinions over when is the right time for a proposal. What caused me to start ordering doubles was when Peter acquiesced, said he’d propose to her in the morning out of fear of losing her, and Rachel essentially said, “No, you need to propose to me when you’re ready,” which is exactly what Peter had been saying for several weeks.

This is, of course, an oversimplification of the situation, but that’s pretty much a necessity when trying to summarize the conversation of two extremely emotional people that traveled a circuitous route over what was (likely) several alcohol-fueled hours. In the opinion of this bookie, the whole thing seemed to catch even the production crew off-guard. For a team that knew Bryan was winning this thing, they couldn’t find an edit for the guy that didn’t make him like a rake who’d committed The Game (the pickup artist book, not a self-titled album by the rapper) to memory. Meanwhile, Peter – who Rachel seems to now genuinely dislike – was given a narrative arc teeming with romance, previews of what a great dad he’ll be, and wearing the hell out of just about any piece of clothing you hang on him. In Bryan’s best moments he speaks limited Spanish, has mommy issues, and doesn’t look like a guy who’d hit on a widow at a funeral (but you have to be looking from the right angle).

Even though the whole situation cemented a win for Bryan and a half-million of The Geek’s dollars in my coffers, it was a hollow victory. You have to love what you do (and separating fools – especially late-night hosts – from their money will always occupy a special place in my heart), but there was no joy in it. Getting to the end of this season felt a lot like shutting down a bar because you’d already been there most of the night and didn’t have anywhere else to go. It was a relief to see it end, even if Rachel did use her time on the couch to sling mud at Peter’s Next Bachelor campaign. In what was perhaps the most painful part of the evening, her takedown of Peter’s presence on the show – and Chris Harrison smugly sitting there and letting it happen – seems to indicate that we’ll be watching literally any other jabroni try to find love in the early months of 2018. I’m just not ready for it. Neither is my liver.

Matt Damon took off to celebrate in more cheerful company while I continued to drown my sorrows. It turned out to be his third-best decision of the past six months. Thirty minutes after the credits rolled a large duffel bag thumped down on the bar, sending my margarita into a sideways sprawl.

“Clinton,” the bag’s owner said.

“James,” I replied, nodding at the empty seat beside me.

“You’re buying,” he said, tapping the bag of cash.

“Nah,” I said with a lazy grin. “You are.”

I was pushing my luck; most men and probably all bookies would have been introduced to the flat end of microphone stand by that point, but The Geek actually laughed.

“Whatever’s expensive,” he said to the bartender as he sat down on the stool. “Hell, make it the whole bottle.”

“It’s all there?” I asked.

“All of it,” he replied, pouring himself what looked like a triple of Don Julio 1942 and then knocking it back in one go like the classless bastard he is.

“Surprised you didn’t send Chris as a bagman,” I said, reaching for the bottle. “He’s been noticeably absent from my circles, which I assumed meant he was traveling in yours.”

The Geek grabbed the bottle back and shook his head. “He got cagey midway through the season. Told me he had a good angle on you then disappeared.”

“He spooks easy.”

We sipped in silence for a minute before Kimmel nodded toward the bag and said, “You feel good about that?”

“Can’t say I do,” I replied with a sigh. “This season was a grind. It stopped being entertaining weeks ago. What’s the point of winning money if you aren’t having fun?”

“Trying losing it and having a shitty time.”

“I did. It was called Nick’s season.”

The Geek laughed again, a courtesy more than anything. He got up from the stool, the neck of the bottle still in his hand as he headed toward the door. He stopped halfway, turned around, and said: “I know you were behind Matt Damon cleaning my clock, Jackson.”

I said nothing. I moved nothing. The amount of liquor I put back may indicate otherwise, but I do value my life.

“I’m not mad,” The Geek said. “Heck, I’m impressed. But there’s one thing I can’t get over. Sure, you were behind him…but who was behind you?”

“Nobody, James,” I said, knocking back my drink in case it was the last one I ever had. “I’m just better at this than you. Accept it.”

We remained rooted in place, like gunfighters sizing each other up. Nobody in the bar took cover, but only because they didn’t know who they were dealing with. The Geek has a reputation and he was still carrying the bottle. I was armed with a fetal position I could get into if I wanted to make the damage a little less severe.

“We’ll see about that,” he said, cracking into untapped depths of smarm as he took one last pull off the bottle and set it down on an unoccupied table. “Same time next season?”

“We’ll see about that,” I replied. “Chris needs to find someone worth watching. Life’s too short for this shit.”

Jimmy shrugged a shrug that could’ve meant anything or nothing at all, then walked out the door.

I settled up my bill and hoisted the bag over my shoulder, my legs taking on that newborn colt quality that comes with a day’s worth of drinking and five hundred G’s cold hard cash in your hands. Out in the hot LA sun I smoked my cigarette as I waited for my Lyft driver and pulled out my cell phone, punching in a number I knew by heart. It was straight to voicemail, but it usually did after The Final Rose.

“Chris,” I said, exhaling a thin stream of smoke as my car pulled up. “It’s Clint. Word on the street is you’ve fallen out of some good graces. Give me a call if you want to turn it to your advantage.”

I paused, about to hang up, then added, “But only if you can find someone for next season who isn’t a total Muppet.”

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Men Tell Null

Chris Harrison has never been one to shy away from hyperbole and while I’m usually loath to follow in his footsteps, I have no problem saying that this was the most boring “Tell All” episode ever.

This season’s “Men Tell All” was remarkable only in its lack of remarkability. What has typically been a forum for a Festivus-style Airing of the Grievances has mostly degenerated into a clip show with a few bouts of poorly engineered yelling and ham-fisted attempts at redemption stories, both of which the episode had in spades.

While it was nice to be reminded that Kenny has a daughter (have you heard?), Chris Harrison and company spent a great deal of time acknowledging the racist elephant in the room. It’s always odd to find that a reality dating show is being used as a moral compass, but this bookie will give praise where it’s due: a major television network took the opportunity to say, “Racism and misogyny are wrong. We don’t stand for it. You shouldn’t either. And if you do, you need to change your ways.”

That is the right message. Thank you, ABC. But don’t go breaking your arm patting yourself on the back.

The show’s after-the-fact attempts at taking a stand against Lee’s racist/misogynist attitude could have just as easily happened without Lee being present, and certainly without an attempt to redeem him in the process. While it was rewarding to see the rest of the contestants – many of whom are people of color – be able to speak their piece, it was uncomfortable to see Chris Harrison guiding Lee through an apology (and giving us the play by play on Lee’s body language to make it all seem genuine) that should have preceded all of the evidence against Lee’s character, not followed it. The main – and fair – point the rest of the men made is that it’s easy to apologize once you’ve been caught. Granted, maybe the show wasn’t set up in such a way to allow that, but Lee had many, many weeks after the revelations surfaced to make a public apology and he chose not to; it’s unclear what makes Lee so special that ABC believes his is the American life which deserves a second act.

Also troubling, at least from this bookie’s point of view, is that the show itself was taking a stand only once it had been caught, but without the on-air apology it wrung out of Lee. ABC claimed to have no knowledge of Lee’s Twitter history and the things he’d said on the platform – and if you’re continuing to buy that, I’ve still got that waterfront property in Deadwood you can grab on the cheap. The reality is one of two things happened: either the show’s producers knew about it and chose to ignore it, or they were negligent. Either way, they have their own apologies to make. Maybe highlighting the issue is their version of that. Maybe in my old age I’m becoming less capable of letting things slide. All I know is that a mea culpa from the people at the top never hurt anybody.

And that, unfortunately, is the big take away from “Men Tell All”. Sure, I had an honest, “Who’s that guy?” moment when Jamey spoke for the first time and it was great to see Kenny’s daughter clear the over on her prop bet by physically being there to remind us of her existence (in case anyone forgot), but for the most part so little happened that just about every bet hit the under. It may have lined my pockets, but it probably cost me a few customers. The goal isn’t to fleece people (except the Geek), it’s to turn a buck or two and have a good time in the process.

Which is probably why I’m still feeling salty: when all was said and done last night I didn’t walk away with any sense of entertainment or even completion, just an impression that there are fewer and fewer people in this world doing anything for the right reasons.

Trios and Tribulations

Never let it be said that Chris Harrison isn’t an evil genius, even when he can’t be bothered to appear on his own show.

Whereas the winner of the most recent seasons have been so obvious a blind man could see them, we’re now faced with an actual competition over which man Rachel will choose once she finally sends Eric home. Of course, we won’t be able to gamble on it in advance of the last episode because Bryan’s overnight (and the ensuing Rose Ceremony) is being held back until the final episode.

I mean, you can gamble on it, but it’d be ill-advised. Though it’s unlikely Rachel’s ever going to send Bryan home (which is extremely ill-advised), there’s some crucial information from that date that could go into setting the lines. And that brings us back to the evil genius of Chris Harrison.

If I can’t adjust the lines, I’m stuck with the odds I’ve offered. Bryan’s are already laughably miniscule, but it’s possible they could get even more ridiculous – like if Rachel somehow sent Peter home before Eric. At that point I’d take the whole damn board down because there’s no world in which Rachel thinks Eric is a suitable life partner.

Maybe I’m getting impatient in my old age, but I can’t continue watching Rachel lead Eric to the Lake of Language only for him consistently refusing to drink. I’ve yet to follow a single thought he’s uttered and, from what I can tell, his style of conversation involves listening for Rachel to say a specific word and then repeat that word back to her in incoherent sentences until she interrupts him. Somehow she – and her family – finds this less troubling than Bryan being capable of holding a conversation, even if he does sound like he’s trying to get all of them into bed.

I’d love to be here to bury Bryan, not to praise him, but the Lindsay family put him between a rock and a hard place. They asked him questions. He provided responses; weird responses that made him sound a little like Norman Bates, but responses nonetheless. Rachel’s sister then criticized him for having “an answer for everything.” I’ve been caught on the wrong end of the law from time to time so I have a little more experience the most, but you don’t need a Juris Doctor to know entrapment when it slaps you in the face. I almost felt bad for the guy. Then they went to Spain and it was revealed that Bryan kicks a soccer ball as well as he speaks Spanish. I felt a lot better about the world after that.

And then there’s Peter, who just wears the damn hell out of whatever piece of clothing he puts on and makes children fall in love with him with a simple smile. Rachel so desperately wants him to win, but he’s committed to remaining in actual reality – where you get to know someone through dating and then propose to them when you’re ready to marry them – while Rachel is perfectly content to remain in the heart of the Bachelorette-industrial complex where you get engaged to someone after knowing them for six weeks because how the hell else will you get to understand them as a person?

Different strokes, different folks – I know, I know. But considering Rachel’s choices are a 37 year old career pickup artist, the living embodiment of Nick Young face, and a man she genuinely likes whose only knock against him is that he wants to wait a bit to get engaged to a woman he’s falling in love with and wants to get to know a little better, maybe she should consider slightly compromising her desire to be engaged at the show’s end. More likely she’ll pick Bryan and see how that goes for her. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. At least it means ten more weeks of the Man from Madison in 2018.

While Harrison might have screwed me out of better odds for the last man standing, there’s nothing he can do to prevent me offering up prop bets for “The Men Tell All.” The man may be a monster, but even he wouldn’t stoop so low as to deprive a long-time bookie of his favorite time of year. Without further ado…

First in the Chair:

The standard-bearer of “The (Wo)Men Tell All” prop bets. One of these jabronies has to be the first to sit across from Chris Harrison – why not wager a few bucks on it?

DeMario: -185

Dean: -165

Kenny: -110

Lee: +150

Lucas: +200

Field: +110

Countdown to the Showdown:

Chris Harrison will let the undercard bout of Lucas/Blake develop as it needs to, but it’s all to hype the crowd up for the eventual Lee/Kenny showdown* that absolutely nobody cares about. But it will happen, make no mistake about that. The only question is when:

Over/Under: 30.5 minute mark (-170 under, +125 over)

*Criteria: Kenny and Lee trade barbs back and forth at least two times and either Chris Harrison or another jabroni cuts them off. Anything else is not the fight that was promised.

Number of WhaBooms:

Lucas has one last shot at free publicity. If you don’t think he’s going to capitalize on it, I don’t know what season of The Bachelorette you’ve been watching. Note that these must be live WhaBooms – prerecorded from earlier scenes/episodes don’t count.

Over/Under: 3.5 WhaBooms (+185 under, -200 over)

Book of Revelations:

Did you know Kenny has a daughter? I know, I’m as shocked as you are. It’s almost like he never mentioned her on the show at all. But now that we’re all aware of the situation, how many times will he mention her on ‘The Men Tell All”?

Over/Under: 5.5 (+155 under, -175 over)

Long Arm of the Law:

There’s a lot of testosterone in the atmosphere and a lot of unresolved issues between these gentlemen. How many obligatory cuts to the disinterested security guards will we see?

Over/Under: 2.5 (-250 under, +200 over)

The Correct Motives

I say this every season, but if you aren’t offering odds on how many times the phrase, “the right reasons,” is uttered during the “Tell All” episode, what kind of reality bookie are you?

Over/Under: 6.5 (even odds on both bets)

Another Country Heard From:

This happens every “Tell All” episode: someone talks and you find yourself going, “They were on the show?” The first one of these men to get his name flashed under him as he mansplains (or even regularsplains) a situation will get you a payout:

Mohit: -125

Jedidiah:-115

Brady:-115

Michael: -110

Matt: This is a joke, but I swear to God I didn’t recognize him when looking at the contestants

Blake K: +110

Rob: +110

Jamey: +120

Kyle: +120

Grant: +125

Milton: +150

Many Happy Returns:

As always, the question remains as to whether the next Bachelor will be announced. The smart money’s on no, as I can’t see it being anyone who isn’t in the final three, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be allowed to bet on it. This is America, after all.

Yes: +335

No: -525

Grin and Mama Bear It

At this stage in the game you’d think Rachel would be the only person still learning things about her ever-dwindling collection of jabronies, but somehow here we are, still being surprised at this late hour.

Let’s start with Bryan, who revealed that his command over the Spanish language is merely cursory at best, his guidebook to Miami is an exact replica of Lonely Planet’s, but that he understands the way this game is played. Despite all the red flags surrounding his mom (not the least of which being her threatening murder on national television), Bryan emerged from hometowns as the best-positioned beau largely because of his willingness to tell Rachel what she wants to hear by bluntly stating that he’s in love with her. That Bryan’s a pickup artist isn’t news; we’re just learning how far he’s willing to take it.

Next, there’s Peter, who revealed he isn’t above playing the “I have black friends” card. Granted, according to Rachel, he has ten close friends and eight of them are black. meaning that there was a 62% chance that we would see him a pair of exclusively African-American buddies, but it was tough to ignore the optics – especially given his awkward rapping incident. However, we also learned that any man’s embarrassing moment can be completely erased by him being precious with a little girl. Seriously, did you see the man with his niece? It made me want to have a baby with him.

Then there was Dean, who was just revelation after revelation. The first thing we found out about him is that he clearly didn’t think he was going to make it very far on this show. Going on The Bachelorette, you have to have some understanding that you might have to bring the show’s namesake home, but that kind of risk analysis was completely absent from Dean’s planning. Essentially Dean gambled ten-thousand Instagram followers against a 3% chance that he’d be forced to interact with his dad again, which seems to be the most painful prospect in his world. You can call this bookie risk-averse, but that doesn’t seem like a gamble worth taking.

We’ve also now concluded, without a shadow of a doubt, that Dean is incredibly insightful. As he and Rachel walked up to his father’s house, he whispered to her, “I’m suppressing every single emotion I’m trying to feel,” which is a pretty incredible statement considering it takes most people years of therapy to get to that point. And while we also learned that Rachel makes Dean breath from his navel chakra, my favorite new Dean fact is that he is ride or die for ABC properties, a fact plainly illustrated by his dad repping The Gong Show.

As for Eric, the only thing we learned is that the producers find the life and history of an inner-city black man far less compelling than an old white guy in a turban. That’s America for you, such as it is these days.

Still, we’ll be seeing Eric for fantasy suites, which is more than the betting public expected. I made a mint off the fools who thought they were going to cash in on Eric’s longer odds, but it was obvious there was only one person that was headed home this week and it played out as predicted.

But next week’s episode is anyone’s guess. The only person I feel confident in is Bryan, who will be there until the bitter end; between Eric and Peter, the big question is who gets sent packing first. If you were paying attention, Peter got the coveted “Bachelor Edit” as he talked about what he’s “really looking for” at the end of this process. He’s the front-runner in our hearts, but something tells me his future lies with thirty women, not one (a fact reflected in the “Next Bachelor” odds).

The Geek disagrees, though, and he put his big bet of the season on the Wisconsin Wonder. I can’t say I blame him – I would have made the same wager a few weeks ago – but given the state of things I would call it ill-advised. My only hope is that Chris Harrison doesn’t have another of his size 7’s waiting to drop.

 

Chairman of the Bored

There comes a week during every season of The Bachelorette (and The Bachelor for that matter) where you get a gentle reminder that the show isn’t ridiculous entertainment – it’s just downright ridiculous. And that week is the week before hometowns.

It’s good that this reminder comes before hometowns (which are also ridiculous), overnights (aka The Fantasy Suites, which are super ridiculous), and the final rose (which is when the show’s star informs one of the two suitors that they’ve been dating for a hilariously short amount of time that the ride is over and they’re not only choosing, but marrying, the other person. And if you need me to explain to you that this is the most ridiculous of all the scenarios, you might consider following some other bookie); otherwise you might actually get invested in this nonsense.

At the start of the episode, the six remaining contestants have essentially spent anywhere from zero to five days’ worth of real time with Rachel, depending on factors such as the number of one-on-one dates they’ve had, the amount of face to face time on group dates, and whether or not they’re completely forgettable people named Matt or Adam. And yet, to a man, each of them is treating the prospect of bringing a woman they’ve spent less than an actual week with – and who is dating five other men – home to meet their families as a potentially pivotal moment in their lives.

I understand that love comes in all forms; this bookie certainly can’t cast the first stone. But maybe expectations should be slightly tempered, especially when Rachel is still asking questions like, “Tell me about you…like, who are you?” during these late episodes.

While that inquiry was leveled at Bryan (and Dean to a lesser extent), I really would have appreciated Rachel directing it to Matt and Adam. Even as they were sent packing, I could still barely tell one jabroni from the other without a program. But she at least had the courtesy to use Matt’s name when sending him off first, giving me a little clarity in addition to forty large from The Geek. After looking at last week’s board Kimmel opted against chalk and put all his money on Adam. But I can’t blame him – he probably had no clue who he was actually betting on.

Next week’s departure is a little more straightforward in this bookmaker’s opinion. Dean had the good fortune of making it to hometowns based almost entirely on the fact that he was one of four contestants that Rachel could pick out of a lineup. Wistful for a spin class and a green juice, he was practically throwing the date by deflecting Rachel’s attempt to get to know the real Dean and asking her what sort of mythical home invaders she believed in. Either because she could recall Dean’s name without a hint, or because one of the producers knew that his dad is a white man who wears a turban, we have him for at least one more episode. The smart money says it’ll be far more entertaining than this one.

I’ll give the Son of a Yoga Man his due, though: the boy is insightful. After his perfect (and diplomatic) analysis of Lee, he followed it up with a master class on Bryan, stating: “He’s a 37 year old man – lives in Miami – who has spent the last 18-plus years of his life swooning and sweet-talking women on a daily basis, to the point he’s gotten good at it.” Just two weeks ago I speculated that Dean might be a pigeon for suggesting Bryan would get sent home from a one-on-one; now I’m curious if the kid would be interested in going into business together. Especially since it looks like he’ll have a ton of free time on his hands in about seven days.