Bachelor 20, Episode 8 Microwave Fame

Ah, the Hometown Dates. That critical step in a relationship when you say, “Let’s ask my family if we should have sex next week.” Ben has narrowed it down to his top four fiancées (to cry in front of), starting with (m)Amanda. She always has tissues. They meet on a beach and (m)Amanda elongates her petite frame by pulling her pirate shirt halfway down.

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They are joined by her two adorable daughters, who chase seagulls with a teary Ben while (m)Amanda preps a craft for the girls involving pictures of her ex, photos of Ben’s face, and glue. After a sweet game of Give The Single Mom Hope, everyone piles into a van to drive Ben back to reality. The girls fuss for water and a nap, way more responsibility than Ben bargained for. He is done playing stepdad, and will end things just as soon as he can fly (m)Amanda away from her support network.

Cut to uncomplicated Lauren B. in Portland, Somewhere: City of Roses. There are no actual roses to be seen, but that’s because Lauren sent them all to JoJo. COOL GIRL WITH A FOOTBALL got eliminated weeks ago, so Lauren B. takes over the one-of-the-boys routine by eating butter out of a food truck and surprising Ben with a magnificent whiskey library. His eyes light up and even Cogsworth admits it’s progress.

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Little does NEW COOL GIRL know, Ben is coming from the toddler date, so all she has to do is not crap herself. This may prove challenging after all, since lunch is Ben feeding the low maintenance flight attendant spoonfuls of clotted dairy “airplane style” (get it?). She does not slap him.

Back at Lauren’s house, her parents call her LoLo. Note that on JoJo’s date, her family calls her Joelle. Is it nothing, or is the dumb nickname switcheroo a brilliant and subtle move by the producers to bump up Lauren B. to front runner? Note how the clip of her little brothers asking Ben for a peek in his Fantasy Suite Playbook was mercifully pushed to after the credits. In any case, Lauren’s sister takes Ben aside to find out why she should trust him. She even pushes Lauren’s case as the next Bachelorette, but Ben shuts down all her doubts (and the casting suggestion) with his second cry of the show, followed by an impressive cry threepeat with Lauren’s father. They approve. A man who can cry is a man with unimpeachable intentions.

At some point after feeling his youth with (m)Amanda and crying in front of Lauren’s family, Ben wished on an unplugged Zoltar to be Big. He woke up to a date with Caila, a sexy panther whose dad runs a toy factory. Together they build their dream (toy) house, which they’ll send to Amanda’s daughters when the show wraps. The date is a success, and the factory staff applaud as Ben kisses their boss’s daughter. Back at her house, Caila’s parents are warm and welcoming and her brother stays quiet, which makes him my favorite sibling. Ben might cry again; I can’t remember.

Immediately before JoJo’s date, she receives a bouquet of red roses and a love letter from her ex of 39 days, Chad. A lot of work went into this moment. Yes, the Bachelor trademark red grocery store roses had to be shipped overnight from Portland. First, though, you have to go back a year when an insider (the sister?) introduces a level-headed girl named Joelle to Intern Chad, an emotionally unavailable Adonis who convinces her to go by JoJo. Also on-board with the pirate theme, JoJo’s black lace up shirt perfectly represents a heart torn in indecision. Just kidding, the camera guys are right there. She’s clearly going to pick Ben.

The date continues at her family’s Dallas mansion, where we meet her parents, her two brothers, both named Vinnie, and her sister, who mysteriously disappears soon after this.  Vinnie tells us that they are really really really into JoJo, and Vinnie kisses around her mouth a lot. I’ll leave it at that. They leave the lush velvet drapery and mahogany wood of the foyer for the lush velvet drapery and mahogany wood of the dining room. I didn’t spot a crucifix in this house (there was one in every other), but they make up for it by living in a Jesuit church. We see the back of the sister’s head, and then the brothers take Ben aside and ask if he cares about JoJo. He basically says, “You’ll find out soon!” The only thing the brothers hate more than Ben are traditional collars.

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JoJo’s mom takes her aside to assure her that she’s too beautiful to fail, but maybe she should show a lot of cleavage at the Rose Ceremony, just in case. The Vinnies get very aggressive with Ben, JoJo continues to characterize their relationship as terrifying, and sister hasn’t been seen since the salad course.

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I feel how you feel, JoJo’s mom.

At the Rose Ceremony, Lauren B. joins Amanda’s “The armpit is the new shoulder” campaign in her 90’s dress, and JoJo sagely takes her mom’s advice with the cleave. In vino veritas. (m)Amanda goes home. Ben cries, (m)Amanda cries, and after a light scolding for not dumping her when she was home, he’s finally left with women he can dump without compunction.

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Bachelor 20, Episode 7 Average At Everything

Welcome to Warsaw, Indiana, another notch on the ole’ Corn Belt! Ben visits his parents in his childhood home and briefs them on the coming cloud of Elnett hairspray. He shares his handy nicknames for the women: Becca “From Last Season,” “Shockingly Beautiful” (m)Amanda, “Unbelievably Beautiful” JoJo, “Young Twin” Emily, possible sperm-related hair product dig “There’s Something About” Lauren B., and “Beautiful, Scared Sex Panther” Caila. On the way to their apartment, the women pose for a stock photo that would suit anything from a living with herpes campaign to a cautionary brochure on fall leaves and syringes.

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Ben meets the women at their place, not far from where his parents live. He asks them to avoid peeping through windows on his mom and dad, not because it’s a crime, but because they are always screwing. So. Ben asks “Cum Hair” Lauren out in front of the other women, a more intimate gesture than a card, according to intimacy expert Becca “From Last Season.” “Unbelievable” JoJo recognizes that “Semen Bangs” Lauren is her chief competition, and decides to play her Guard Is Up card. A player with the Guard Is Up card may play this at the beginning of her turn, costing her one trust card but earning her two Cat-And-Mouse Boner points. Player must play a “Guard Down” card to complete her turn.

On the informal One On One Date (there’s no rose to win), Ben takes “Stiff Side Part” Lauren to the theater where he had his first kiss-and-judge, a theater that is now a hotel. How’s that for a subtle nudge? They reenact his 7th grade rejection, but do not get a room. Instead, Ben takes her to make out at Baker’s Youth Center. Ben worked here a few years earlier while he was in high school. All the kids Ben knew have been cryogenically frozen since he worked there, so their fond memories of him are fresh. The happy couple play ball, smile to prove they love kids, and Half Court Ronnie makes an impressive shot that compels them to kiss.

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I hope they bring this girl back for Fantasy Suite commentary. Pacers players Paul George and George Hill show up, then Ben cheers up a crying child. I wonder if the same intern who unfroze all the kids also made little Eric cry for this scene. What do you think she said? “Hey kid, your parents are divorcing because of you. Now stand by this wall and let me get a light meter reading.” Whatever she said, it worked. Ben and “Knob Bob” Lauren leave the Youth Center for his apartment so he can tell her he trusts her, and they drink at a dive bar with his unidentified friends. Lauren tells us she’s in love.

“Not To Be Believed” JoJo gets a One On One with Ben in my sweet hometown, Chicago! ABC/Disney is going to be disappointed when they find out why it’s actually called The White City. Ben and JoJo’s date is a marriage of two iconic institutions, The Bachelor and Wrigley Field. This is the Cubs’s biggest win in 107 years. They run the bases, Ben fiddles with her score box, and “Do Not Trust Her, Ben” JoJo puts her guard up and takes it down before the lights go out.

(m)Amanda, Becca, and the Frightened Tigress look grim on the way to their group date. Their limo pulls up to a farm, and they pair off for paddle boat rides. Ben and the Horny Snow Leopard are in one boat, and (m)Amanda and Becca share another. They look on, understandably uncomfortable, and compare it to a scene from The Notebook. I’m of the Bridget Jones’ Diary generation, however, so, “Fuck me, I love Keats.” Ben takes (m)Amanda aside and reassures her that he likes her children and shitty past. Then he takes Becca aside. They do some weird splicing but essentially she confides that she doesn’t feel like her feelings are reciprocated. He says nothing. She then asks him not to blindside her, a deal JoJo also made and sealed with a high-five. Ben takes the Sultry Caracal aside and she tells him she’d like to be the moss on his tree. Tempting, but Ben gives the date rose to (m)Amanda. The other women are left to execute that clever tear wipe/eyeliner fix move, and Becca asks what more she needs to do to get a little validation. Mouth stuff?

The date rose allows (m)Amanda and Ben to answer, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Ben takes (m)Amanda to dine and work at McDonald’s, and even forces her to say she takes her kids there. The grease washes off, but the desperation remains. They clock out and head to a carnival filled with extras from “Sperm Perm” Lauren B.’s date. Even sad Eric is there, cotton candy in hand and at peace with his parents’ impending divorce. Ben stresses to the crowd that (m)Amanda is a different woman than Lauren, but they’re not buying it. Ben squeals in terror on a park ride, and then raises an excellent point. “Fair rides scare me. They get set up in like a day.” These are the kind of street smarts that only develop in people from towns like Warsaw, Indiana.

“It Twin” Emily (have some fun and anagram it) gets a One On One boat ride to Dumpsville, conveniently located in Ben’s parents’ house. From the get-go this date felt like a hit job. It starts when Ben’s mom and dad take a fiver from boning to welcome them. Twin barely gets out a compliment on the local duck population before Ben’s mom takes her for a walk. Is this when it happens? Emily confesses to a complete lack of character, depth, and life experience, but somehow returns alive. She confides to Ben’s father that she would stay in and watch movies for the rest of her life if she could, which is something we all want for her. Meanwhile Ben’s poor mom takes him aside so she can burst into tears at the prospect of this self-confessed “so average at everything in life” daughter-in-law. Let’s hope her husband sexes her good after this. The doomed duo hop back on their boat, and Vegas’s luck finally runs out. Ben drops her, putting a .22 in the heart of a 23, and sails away to the sounds of wind rushing and loon calls. Back at Twin’s wake, “Blow Out” Lauren B. is the gangster that throttles the corpse to make sure she’s good and dead.

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At the Rose Ceremony, Ben doesn’t want to eliminate anyone. Voice of reason (and smooth molasses) Chris Harrison asks Ben if he could really marry all of the five of the remaining girls. Really? Ben sees his point and cuts Becca “From Last Season.” She calls him out for blindsiding her after she specifically asked him not to, but he points out they never high-fived on it. Sorry, star-crossed lover, that’s what happens when you miss your palm to palm line and only use your lips in prayer.

Bachelor 20, Episode 6 Talk Smart Things

The women have bonded over their common enemy, integrity Olivia. She compared Amanda’s childcare arrangements to Teen Mom a second ago, which made righteous their more bullshit complaints that she’s “selfish” and “disrespectful” (because she’s the first to pull aside Ben each cocktail party). Of course, the other women could do this too, but as JoJo articulates later in the episode, none of them have ever had to work for attention before and they resent having to now. Ben asks each girl independently to say something mean about Olivia, and still nothing solid materializes. After the women fail to incriminate her before the Rose Ceremony, Ben pulls Olivia aside so she can incriminate herself. She tells him between tearless sobs that unlike the other women, she prefers reading books in her room to nail polish and social grooming. Talk smart to me, Ben.

The producers won’t let Ben cut Olivia until the rejection can be deeply personal, so she stays and the women lament that a more deserving woman will go home. It is widely understood that Ben liking someone is unrelated to her being “deserving.” A brunette gets cut, and now I’m not sure if Ben can even see “Still Here” Leah. He can’t cut her if he can’t see her. What if she’s Bruce Willis and I’m Haley Joel Osment?

After the Rose ceremony, they relocate to the Bahamas, and Becca’s never seen anything like it. This is because on her last season, Bachelor Chris Soules took her to…South Dakota! Caila gets the One On One Date, because other than politely laughing and being exoticized, Caila hasn’t really distinguished herself. Ben stops by the house to pick her up, shirt tantalizingly unbuttoned (Ben, not Caila), and narrowly avoids sitting on Bruce Willis/Leah, who he still doesn’t notice.

Ben and the Sex Panther go deep sea fishing, which involves this absolutely necessary equipment:

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They’re both facing the wrong way, but they still have fun. Over dinner, Ben tells us Caila is too smiley for him. She’ll have to counter that smile with either a sob story or admission of love. She asks if she can maybe skip the personal essay since she’s a pretty happy person and doubts that she loves him? Ben insists that she provide an authentic, unscripted moment. Cornered, Caila releases a barrage of statements that start with “I feel” and end in stream of consciousness ramblings, like she’s reading us Johnny Got His Gun. I feel like I love you. I’m not ready. I can’t totally fall in love. My greatest fear is breaking your heart. I’m going to hurt you. You understand me. I feel like you want other people to be loved, and that resonated with me. And that’s what I’m looking for in life. I feel like I love you. I feel like I want you in my life. I feel happy. This is real happiness. This is real. Ben declares this the best date he’s ever been on. Rose.

Lauren B., Becca, Amanda, JoJo, Lauren H., and Bruce Willis get the group date. They play a rousing game of Bachelor In Paradise, protecting themselves from aggressive pigs while gripping hot dogs and glaring jealously at each other. Everyone pouts. When Ben was a contestant on The Bachelorette, he politely let Kaitlyn and Poor Man’s Ryan Gosling hook up in his room while he showered. Why can’t these contestants show the same courtesy?

Ben interviews the women one by one to address their irritation. His obvious interest in Lauren B. bothers everyone. Becca tells him he did nothing wrong. She’s in. Amanda tells Ben he’s doing a good job. She’s in. You can judge the couples by how much of Ben’s leg ends up on the woman. Bruce Willis/Leah says Lauren B. is fake, though the poor editing betrays that she didn’t actually name names. No Ben leg for Leah. Because it would pass right through her. Ben tells Lauren B. she’s been called out, and she confides a coping mechanism, “Honestly when I’m with you I don’t think about anything.” She’s in, but the Group Date rose goes to safe choice (m)Amanda.

That night, Bruce Willis/Leah sneaks over to Ben’s house on the off chance that she’ll take corporeal form by moonlight. Ben’s just hanging out with his camera crew, and welcomes this late night ghost booty call. Unfortunately, Leah uses her mouth to talk. Eventually Ben finds an opportunity to interrupt and shows her the door (with a red handle). It must be nice to break up with someone and know a crew is on hand to immediately deport her.

Olivia and Emily get the 2 on 1 Date the next day, a classic maneuver to ensure one crazy person stays. The women primp in the customary way – they pack their luggage and dress in honor of their home districts. Introducing Gemini, the tribute from Vegas:

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They boat out to an isolated beach, a preferred franchise dumping locale. Olivia keeps her mutant feet buried in the sand at all times and tells Ben deep intellectual things are her jam. Also, she’s in love. Gemini sticks to the kink appeal and asks him to be her babysitter. Nice read, Twin. Ben does her hair, dumps Olivia and keeps Alpha Twin Emily, who makes no pretense of intellectualism. Ben puts off the ride back with Emily by Instagramming pics of himself working up the courage to jump.

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Back at the hotel, Ben cancels the Rose Ceremony Cocktail Party. He’s dumping this next woman for sure. Amanda, Twin, and Caila are already safe, and JoJo, Becca, Lauren B. make it through, too. We bid goodbye to Blond Juliette Lewis, Casual Racist, Hopeful Soccer Mom in a Chicken Suit, Lauren H.

Bachelor 20, Episode 5 The Spatulor

Down to a horny dozen in Mexico City, the introduction promises us an aggressive twin, an introverted Jubilee, and several carefully arranged clips of Olivia speaking words. These auditory ransom notes say things like, “Amanda two kids yuck,” and “Ben is my husband!” Foolish Twin Emily is glad her sister isn’t around to hold her back anymore. That is a strategic miscalculation. Without her genetic gimmickry she doesn’t have any distinguishing features. She, Lauren H., and Leah wander a blond ghostworld, an episode or two shy of final elimination and the friendly services of Charon, the limo driver.

Squeaky-voiced (m)Amanda gets the One-On-One Date. The card reads, “All our eggs in one basket,” because everyone loves a fecundity-themed date. At 4AM the next morning, Ben breaks into their hotel room with a flashlight to see the women in their “natural habitat.” The natural habitat of a Bachelor contestant is, by the way, 11 women sharing beds in a single room. We get a quick tour of embarrassed women and their loose hairpieces before identifying Amanda, tussled and lovely, hair and makeup done. She did not come here to mess around.

Ben and Amanda tour Teotihuacan while posing for a Highlights Magazine cover.

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They land to have a boring picnic, which they eventually just up and abandon Mad Men-style before changing into evening clothes for dinner in the Department of Mysteries.

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They drink wine and she tells Ben about the time she found her husband’s burner phone. Ben hands over a rose. They stand together ankle-deep in a pool, and he kisses her the way he’s always wanted to kiss his own mom.

On the Group Date, Ben enrolls Jubilee, Becca, JoJo, Caila, Emily, Lauren B., Jennifer, Leah, and Olivia in a Spanish class. The women line up to tell Ben they’re in love with him, except for Jubilee, who’s not crazy about her position on the lineup. Deep sigh. There is a minimum amount of gratitude you have to display on each date, Jubilee, like flair on a TGI Fridays uniform. Ben notes Jubilee’s reticence, tries the word “engross” again, then leads the women to the cooking portion of their date at restaurant Carbon. They divide into teams of two, and there is a brief dispute between Jubilee and Olivia over teaming with Ben. Olivia wins and feeds him crickets and liquor. Finding the high road a little dull, Twin Emily goes on another tirade about Olivia’s breath.

The teams present their dishes for judgement, and some clever handler gets a lot of soundbites from JoJo about her taco. After fighting to be Ben’s cooking partner, Jubilee works really hard on her dish to win the competition (which she does). This signals to Ben that she is pulling back from him. Jubilee is actually really proud and wants to steal Ben away first at the cocktail party, but Olivia beats her to it, again. Olivia tries out a positive reinforcement technique, alternately kissing Ben and repeating “Best Date Ever.” We see him kiss one woman after another while Jubilee interviews about her frustration with sharing him.

If that’s not enough, Ben and “liking you is terrifying” Lauren B. walk the neighborhood making out and modeling Hot Topic’s new bridal line.

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When Ben comes back to offer Jubilee her turn with his mouth, she doesn’t want to hold his hand for fear of inciting the other women to attack. This incites the other women to attack. JoJo is especially thrilled to point it out (twice), changing her tone to a more sympathetic, “she hasn’t been the really outgoing, fun, bubbly Jubilee that we all know,” when talking directly to a camera. Ben asks why Jubilee would shame him in front of his other girlfriends, and she can’t figure out a way to save herself. Honestly, I’m a little relieved because that means she’s out of personal tragedies.

He says, tell me that you want to be here, and she says no no, tell me that you want me to be here. I can’t wait to try this at a job interview. He sends her home and she handles it graciously. Ben returns to the cocktail party and gets five seconds into Jubilee’s eulogy before ambulance chaser JoJo takes Ben aside to tell him how good he is at dumping people. They kiss, but when they get back Ben gives Olivia the date rose, saying they reconnected. The women cannot understand why Ben likes her, this confident, beautiful woman who fights to spend time with him.

On the next One-On-One, some quick-thinking intern conjures up a fashion date ASAP to rescue Blond Juliette Lewis/Lauren H. from her mullet shirt. Ben and Lauren try on every brightly patterned item they can in fashion house Pineda Covalin, then try to look like they weren’t just mocking the clothes when the designer shows up.

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They are told they’ll be walking the runway at Mexico’s Fashion Week, and Lauren H. laments her limited walking experience. Ben has the time of his life, smokes the runway, and even throws Lauren a little mid-strut wink.

Over dinner, Ben is back to business. He tells us that Lauren H. better have a good sob story or she goes home. Over dinner, Ben opens with a trademark Bachelor toast. I’ll never forget a day like today, but the best part was spending it with you. That’s her cue, and Lauren promptly says her road to this One-On-One Date hasn’t been an easy one. I really want her to say she was in a gang. Instead, she tells Ben her long-term boyfriend cheated on her with three other women, and that despite this betrayal, she made the conscious decision to be happy. Did Blond Juliette Lewis just tell Ben that she could share him and like it? Nailed it. She gets the rose and they kiss in front of a street harpist.

At the Rose Ceremony Cocktail Party, Cheated On Kids and Cheated On No Kids both have roses. Olivia does, too, and the jealous rage of the roseless is palpable. JoJo high fives Ben when he promises to warn her before he dumps her. Lauren B. can see having a life life with him beyond the initial annulment window of the marriage.

While Ben is away, Amanda discusses her stress dreams around her ex-husband’s inconsistent custody of their children, and Olivia says it is like watching Teen Mom. A hush falls over the group. This is their chance. Olivia tries to force tears, but it’s too little too late. Amanda takes an unnecessary swing at Snooki, and then Twin Emily dashes off to tell Ben, “We’ve got her! Olivia is a bad guy!!” I love Ben for asking her why. This is more follow up than Emily was expecting, and she mumbles something about being fake and then runs away. See, the twins are identical, so it’s understandable how the producers could have accidentally cut Schwarzenegger and kept DeVito.

Olivia drops by to give Ben an “I’m not crazy” ring, and he is confused again, or as I like to put it, Chris Soules-ed. He needs to get to the bottom of things, so the producers deliver (m)Amanda. Ben asks what’s up, and she says Olivia has been targeting her from week 1. Then Brunette shows up and tells Ben that Olivia hides that she doesn’t get along with the other women. If this sounds like a whole lot of made up bullshit, that’s because it is.

Ben asks to see Olivia in private. I hope it’s to propose right then and there, but it’s probably not. The women are gleeful. “She did this to herself,” says Emily, who did this to her.