The Bachelor 23.6: Three Dates, Three Walls, and Three Warnings

The end of the cocktail party and the subsequent rose ceremony were annoyingly predictable. Nicole and Onyeka took their final Baccalaureate breaths and used them to yell about each other. And then we left for Vietnam. (And I feel like I should quickly point out here that Donald Trump once said avoiding STDs was his personal Vietnam and perhaps that will also be Colton’s Vietnam.)

We’ve all been waiting with bated breath for Colton’s date with our favorite instagram influencer and the winner of the first impression rose, Hannah G. In the sixth week, we finally got it and it was truly the perfect date for her listed profession: a couple’s massage at a spa in the middle of the Vietnamese rainforest. A hot mud bath, a hot shower, a hot… I don’t know, sushi roll thing? It looked great. The pics were probs fire. And they were very cute together.

Caelynn and Cassie wondered back at the hotel whether Hannah had enough of a personality to really form a connection with Colton. They were trying to convince themselves that Colton wouldn’t keep her around if she didn’t have that sort of depth to her. And I am here to tell them that that is some bullshit. Colton has proved to us again and again that lack of personality is not a barrier to a relationship. He absolutely does not discriminate against people who have no substance to speak of. It’s admirable.

The crucible moment in Hannah G’s life was her parents’ divorce. And, to her credit, she colored the story of the divorce with an thoughtful anecdote. Anecdotes are vital to good storytelling. It was clear and it was personal and, if she was on a date with someone in her sophomore year of college, maybe they’d really hit it off. But like… he’s 26 and looking for a wife. Regardless, she received a rose and remains a frontrunner.

Thrice this episode we saw the walls come down with Demi. The first time it was unintentional. She and Katie were throwing gloves, fighting for Colton’s heart and she become overwhelmed by the fact that Katie was hitting her. Talk about not being able to take a punch! While everyone else laughed off their battles, Demi lost her cool for the first time all season. And then KATIE apologized to DEMI. Oh boy that ground my gears. Katie had nothing to apologize for, y’all.

In the interim between Demi’s first and second moments of vulnerability, Colton was served his first of three warnings. Sydney knew she was operating far behind the rest of the pack. At the end of the group date, she challenged him to disprove her hypothesis. When his answer was not up to her satisfaction, she left, but not before leaving him with these words: “There are some very wonderful people in that group. Find them. Figure out who they are. Don’t be distracted by shiny things. Especially now. Really figure out what you came here to find.”

Sydney was the second person this season to decide to quit the show. In the past five seasons of the Bachelor franchise, only one contestant has left and that was Jacqueline from Arie’s season. Though, despite the recent scarcity of quitters, it’s not as uncommon of a practice as you might think. From the 32 seasons that I could get data from, a contestant left in 53% of them. A season averages about 0.91 quits per season. Even though a slightly higher number of men contestants quit than women contestants (0.89 for The Bachelor and 0.93 for The Bachelorette), there have been zero dropouts in just 39% of Bachelor seasons and zero in 57% of Bachelorette seasons. In those few Bachelorette seasons when contestants left, they usually left in sizable groups. The Bachelorette has seen three seasons with three contestants quit while The Bachelor has never seen a season lose more than two. Anyway, Colton is already at two, making him the fifth Bachelor and sixth principal with two quitters. We have four weeks left, so Colton still has time to set the record.

The second time Demi revealed her vulnerability it was deliberate. She called her mother and introduced him to her over the phone for the first time since she had just left federal prison. It was a heartwarming moment. Well, as heartwarming as you can get with a person leaving federal prison. And, given her mother is white and a woman, you know she must have done something really bad to get locked up for it.

Demi manufactured this moment to try to get a date rose. But instead, Colton heeded Sydney’s advice. Sydney had told him not to be distracted by shiny things. Instead of giving the rose to Demi, the spark plug, he gave it to Tayshia, the intelligent, caring woman who grounds him in moments of stress. A woman who was clear about her feelings of anxiety with him in a way that none of the other frontrunners were able to express. A woman who is blowing away her competition.

Kirpa’s date with Colton came as a surprise. She is very charismatic and cute and fun to be around, but she lacked a tangible connection with Colton. Honestly, the date seemed destined to fail. But, at this point, Colton hasn’t sent anyone home on a one-on-one and it seems like he doesn’t even know he’s allowed to. Kirpa is lovely and Colton is lovey, but it just doesn’t seem like they are in the same places in their lives. He should have refrained from giving her the rose. But instead, she stays on our TV for another week, and I’m really happy about that.

Giving that rose to Kirpa took another rose off of the table and added additional weight to Demi’s anxiety. This leads us to Demi’s third act of vulnerability. She snuck away to Colton’s room while the rest of the women were getting in bed. She claimed that her intention in going over there was to take his virginity. Once she arrived, she confessed that she was falling in love with him. And he responded by finally dropping the charade that he was interested in her. By her challenging him, she forced his hand and he was able to be honest about not seeing a future in their relationship. And so, Demi at last falls. Though not before delivering to Colton his second of three warnings: “There are certain girls here who seem like a safe choice, but, at the end of that, it’s not actually gonna be safe, because you’re not going to end up happy in the long run.”

Finally, we entered the rose ceremony. None of the seven brackets had Katie making it to the Top 6. I was actually incredibly, incredibly close to switching Katie in for Demi in my bracket. (I instead swapped Heather in for Demi, which paid off.) Katie’s loss may have been expected, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. She is an intuitive, genuine person who I thought made an intimate connection with Colton during their one-on-one moments at group dates and cocktail parties. But, according to him, she hadn’t opened up enough even though that was exactly the thing she was trying to disprove when she talked to him last at the group date. Whatever, it’s his loss, fuck him. But, before she left, she became the messenger for the third and final warning Colton would hear this week: “You have a great group of girls. And you know who’s ready in there. And there are some that aren’t. Just be smart about those girls.”

Colton heard these warnings. “That’s the third person who’s said there are people still here who are not ready and that’s fucking terrifying,” he vented to a producer. “That’s my greatest fear in all this, that I’m going to end up with somebody who’s not here to be engaged at the end of this.” Then he got into the weeds. “I thought when Sydney said it she was talking about Demi. And then I don’t know who Demi was talking about. And then I said goodbye to Katie and I don’t know who she’s talking about.” And then with such concentration and yet such ease, he bored his eyes into the producer’s soul and interrogated, “Am I fuckin’ missing something?” In that moment, Colton magnetized sympathy from America in a way he hasn’t been able to do all season. This is the Bachelor who nobody wanted and he is finally turning public opinion as he falls into panic and desperation.

Of course he’s missing something. He’s missing a key point in all three of the warnings. The warnings were not about one girl deliberately ‘not here for the right reasons.’ They were all about multiple girls expressing a lack of maturity necessary to make the leap to a healthy, adult relationship and marriage. And he probably doesn’t see this because he is relatively naïve and inexperienced but genuine and hopeful. And all three of the women who left could sense that, so they each counseled him in a way that other principals weren’t.

Scoring

I am so sad and I am so in first place.

That’s right you fucking losers, Dougie P is back at it again and he only had to throw Katie under the bus to do it. Doug finished with a perfect 5th Rose Ceremony and a perfect 6th Rose Ceremony to vault himself way into first place. No other bracketeer had a perfect 5th Rose Ceremony or 6th Rose Ceremony. And you know what makes that even worse? Colton gave away 10 roses for the 5th ceremony and 7 for the 6th ceremony even though we filled out our Top 9 and 6, respectively, so he just gave us two free picks.

Bonnie, previously in first place, has now fallen to tied for second and 10 points behind Doug after picking Elyse and Onyeka in the 5th and Demi in the 6th. Caitlyn and Kristina round out the three-way tie for second with Bonnie after they both picked Elyse in the 5th and Demi in the 6th. Kelsey, still in fifth and now 12 points behind Doug, incorrectly selected Nicole for the Top 9 and Demi in the Top 6.

Jenny, now incalculably out of contention, dropped Caitlin and Bri (wtf?) in the 5th, then, remarkably, only Demi in the 6th. Justice was finally able to put this Week 5 behind her. She got four right and had to take the massive hits to her total due to Elyse, Angelique, Annie, Bri, and Caitlin. Fortunately, she saved five points by swapping Alex B out for Caelynn who did, in fact, get a rose. Her 6th ceremony faired shockingly well as she just dropped points for Alex B after switching Tayshia in for Caelynn.

Doug’s vital move that allowed him to create a ten-point lead between himself and the second-place brackets was getting rid of Demi. Of the six other brackets, only one didn’t have Demi in the Top 6 and that was Justice’s.

The Bachelor 23.5: The Best Episode

Season 23 Episode 5 of The Bachelor was maybe the best episode of the Bachelor franchise that I have ever seen. It had everything. It had exquisitely crafted suspense. It had profound moral conundrums. It had serious discussions about the viability of the show’s format. It had vicious backstabbing. It had risk-taking. It had human beings supporting each other and lifting each other up. It had achingly romantic trysts. And it had hot, hot people being really, really hot together on beaches. It was perfect.

Alright, it wasn’t perfect. ABC still fell into many of their normal annoying habits. One of my least favorites of these habits is their use of music and sound effects and cutting and zooming to indicate to the viewer how they are supposed to feel about the situation. It’s patronizing and cheesy and, frankly, mean. These contestants do enough on their own to dig themselves into holes. The audience doesn’t need to be bashed over the head with an editorializing hammer.

That is what they did over much of Heather’s date. When the camera pulled all the way up to Colton’s mouth to watch him lick his fingers, my eyes rolled so far they got stuck in the back of my head. Which didn’t make things much better either, because then I had to listen to a person who has never been kissed talk about what it would be like to have their first kiss.

Okay, that’s enough complaining for now. Apart from those two small notes, it was a beautifully orchestrated date. The views were stunning, the floating city was dynamic, and the two of them did look like they were having fun together. But the most impressive part was the suspense. The whole date, the audience was glued to the screen, breathlessly anticipating a potential kiss. And what made it so successful was the structure. Throughout the date they became more and more relaxed and physical with each other. About halfway through, a perfect opportunity presented itself with the dock and the sunset and the relative privacy. But the impulse didn’t arrive. Then they were at dinner where she opened up. I’m going to go ahead and gloss over how she dated someone for eight months without kissing, because that will assuredly garner enough attention without me jumping into the conversation. And, importantly, Colton gave Heather the rose before any kiss. He indicated to us and to her that it didn’t matter if they had kissed or not or maybe would soon, he liked her the way she was and wanted to continue a relationship with her. And then they walked out onto a dark, secluded beach with nothing but a campfire. Is that not one of the most romantic settings you can think of? No. It’s not. A dark, secluded beach with nothing but a campfire and FIREWORKS is one of the most romantic settings you can think of. But that whole post-dinner scene was enthralling. After a full day of anticipation, the suspense was at its astronomical peak. No music. No awkward zooming. Just two people and a beach and a bonfire and FIREWORKS and then… AND THEN… a first kiss. It was exquisite. A master class in structure and suspense.

And then Colton returned home. He returned to have one of the most authentic and adult conversations we’ve ever seen on this show. It’s jarring to think back to Elyse’s date with Colton after just watching his date with Heather. Elyse and Colton—especially Elyse—are two adults who have dealt with love and loss and the prospect of creating and raising little human beings (or at least hanging out with a few dozen of them in a theme park). Heather and Colton’s date was like watching a rom-com about two kids scared to start high school and exploring people of the opposite gender for the first time. Elyse is a real person who wanted a real relationship with a real partner. She said, “I want to know all the silly stupid things about you and how we are together. And I can’t call Chris Harrison and say I want every one-on-one for the next year. I want the time and attention that a relationship deserves to be able—if you get down on one knee—.” Colton tried to assuage her concerns by blaming the show, which is a fair critique that every contestant has to face. But she knows what she wants and she understands how absurd this show is and how improbable it is to create a real, solid relationship on five dates over 10 weeks. She said, “I wish I could say there was something off between us, but I’d be lying. There’s a big part of me that hoped that I’d walk in tonight you’d say like that you had better and bigger connections and that you were fine and we’d be great friends or whatever so it’d be easier, but… […] I can’t… I mean like literally can’t accept a proposal after a few months of sharing your time and attention with other people. I can’t do it.” And she left.

Not only did we get the first true, real, emotionally draining conversation of the season, but we got a clear, full-throated critique of the show itself. Elyse, who is probably the contestant with the most experience in the contours of a relationship, declared, on The Bachelor, that The Bachelor is an impossible way to healthily and comprehensively find a person to spend the rest of your life with. When I first started watching the Bachelor franchise a few years ago I wore my roommate’s ear off with the studies and the statistics of all the reasons why the show is bullshit. While I tried to hold on to the skepticism, I very obviously lost most of it over the past several seasons. Elyse’s departure is the slap in the face that we all needed to remind us how bullshit the concept of this show is. And yet I’m still here writing the rest of this episode’s recap and the recap for every other episode this season.

Forward to the group date! All of the remaining contestants are getting better and better at making their move, taking risks, and standing out. The group date of ‘living in the jungle’ illustrated this. Hannah B ate that bug. Tayshia expertly stole him away for a make-out sesh. And Demi went to the bar to order drinks and burgers instead of looking for sustenance in the wild. Everyone was as on-brand as ever and it was a treat to see.

Hannah B was the first person to tell Colton that she is falling in love with him this season. It secured her the group date rose, so good on her. The moment actually brought me back to Nick’s season when Raven was the first person to say she was falling in love with Nick. I don’t know what it is about these incompetent, mediocre Southern women, but the speed with which they fall in love with people perplexes me to no end. I think Raven’s early admission bought her a couple extra weeks of roses and, unfortunately, I think Hannah B will be rewarded with the same treatment.

Cut to Colton’s date with Cassie. Now this date was longgg anticipated. Remember, three of the seven brackets in our Bachelor Fantasy League have Cassie ending up with the final rose, despite her relatively quiet start to the season. And what did the producers do? They dropped them off on a “private island” that was a sand bar in the middle of the ocean with nothing but each other. The producers seemed to have really dropped the ball on this one. They could have brought a picnic. Picnics are lovely on a beach. They could have brought a Frisbee. Frisbees are endlessly fun instruments when you have partner and some open space. That’s it, those are my ideas. But the producers couldn’t even put that together. Yet, it didn’t seem like Colton and Cassie minded as they spent the next, I don’t know, hours(?) making out on this island/sandbar. They really did seem like they got along well in previous episodes and it seems like they have a foundation to work off of, so it seems less weird that they just spent the whole time making out with each other.

The intriguing part, though, came at dinner. Cassie said that while Colton had to pretend not to be a virgin, she had to spend much of her time with particular family and friends pretending to be a virgin. And, while I can respect trying to fool a conservative family’s skeptical eyes, let’s take a brief gander at the facts. Fact number 1: Cassie is 23 years old. Look, the odds at 23—especially 23 and on the bachelor—indicate the high probability of her not being a virgin. Fact number 2: Cassie is from Huntington Beach, CA. Do you know what Huntington Beach, CA is called? Surf City. It’s located in the heart of Orange County and, sure, it’s the birthplace of modern conservatism, but it’s still got all the liberal social aspects of Southern California. And fact number 3: Cassie looks like Cassie, which is to say a very good-looking human being. Now that doesn’t mean that she’s for sure not a virgin. After all, Colton is a virgin. But there’s a reason that we’re all shocked that Colton is a virgin. And I would be equally shocked if I found out that Cassie was a virgin. Anyway, all that to say, Cassie isn’t a virgin and that’s not surprising.

For those of you who still weren’t considering Tayshia a frontrunner this season, I present to you Exhibit Floating Lantern. If I hadn’t already fallen in love with Tayshia I would have fallen in love with Tayshia in that moment. And who wouldn’t?

And finally, to round out one of the best episodes in the history of the Bachelor franchise, we are graced with a catty, rumor-fueled brawl between Onyeka and Nicole. Is Nicole here for the right reasons? Onyeka doesn’t think so because she heard from someone who heard Nicole say something that could theoretically be misconstrued that way. Two notable moments amidst the showdown: First was Tayshia who came in halfway through as a witness on behalf of the defense. She had seen the alleged crime and could testify that the rumors were false. The genius of her move, though, was that she didn’t use her time to tell Colton about it. Sure, she could have jumped into the fray to back-up Nicole., but she’s too smart for that. Frontrunners don’t get lost in the fray, frontrunners transcend the fray. So she took Nicole away from the situation and let her breathe and talk things out like a friend would. The second notable moment was when Colton came over to Nicole and Onyeka yelling at each other and he just sat down and listened to them. It was one of the most extraordinary moments of television I’d ever seen. He just sat there and listened. He. Just. Listened. And they continued to litigate in circles. Once he had heard enough to realize it was all a bunch of bullshit, he left. It was beautiful. It was my favorite thing any principal has ever done in a situation like that.

And that’s how the perfect episode ended. We got early-season brawling, we got late-season emotion, we got mid-season character arc payoffs, we got serious introspection on behalf of the show itself, and, last but not least, we got hot people being hot. Truly, what more could you possibly ask for in an episode of The Bachelor? A rose ceremony. We could have had a rose ceremony. But other that… perfect!

 

Scoring

Four of the seven brackets had Elyse advancing to the Top 9, including the current first (Bonnie, 134), second (Caitlyn, 128), and third (Kristina, 128) place brackets. The other bracket with Elyse in the Top 9 was Justice’s. After this loss, Justice now has just three of her original Top 9 still in contention. Kristina was hit the hardest by Elyse leaving as she had her making it all the way to the final three.

My bold move after Week 3 to make a switch in Week 5 instead of Week 4 DID pay off in the end. I was 3 points ahead of Kristina and Caitlyn after Week 3 and I will be 4 points ahead of them after Week 5. So I only picked up a point, but whatever. (Caitlyn, Kristina, and my brackets are all similar enough, that our differences are all already set in stone following the fifth rose ceremony.) The move did help me gain ground on Bonnie, though. After being 6 points behind after Week 3, I may now only be 1 point behind or better after this rose ceremony.

Having no rose ceremony to end this week makes things much, much harder for all of us bracketeers. We all have to choose our Top 6 out of the twelve remaining contestants. This has the potential to throw the whole game into chaos and I couldn’t be more excited.

The Bachelor 23.4: The Expansion of Mrs. Right

Do you guys remember last week when I effusively recapped Tayshia’s extraordinary performance on the group date? Yeah, well, NOW YOU PEOPLE SEE WHY. Tayshia is a goddess. A divine light that we do not deserve in this world. Colton is but a mere mortal who she is humoring for these next weeks or months or years. But no matter. What is a few years to a goddess who measures time in eons? In three hundred years, when football is no longer a sport, she will scoff to herself about the time she was wooed by a boy who earned his wage playing a child’s game. Oh, the twenty-teens were a rare age.

So I like Tayshia. She and Colton had a thrilling date. Neither of them wanted to do that bungee jumping, but they both convinced themselves and each other that they would be game and they did it. Do you know how hard it is to just convince yourself to huck your body off the side of a building when you’re afraid of falling? I don’t know how hard it is, because I’ve never tried, but given I’m also afraid of falling, I imagine it would be excruciatingly difficult. But she didn’t break! She was totally positive the whole time and she did it! She threw herself off that building! She for sure should not have gone feet first—that was acutely frightening to watch—but she made it down and then they made out in the water and they’re both really, really hot and they seem to really like each other and you know what I’m happy for them I really am.

The bombshell of the date came during dinner. Tayshia revealed to Colton—and to all of us—that she was married and, in the last year-and-a-half, she had gotten a divorce. And Colton took it in stride. Not that he shouldn’t have, but maybe a few years ago a Bachelor wouldn’t have. Our society places an exorbitantly high price on “youth” and “purity” when valuing women. The man must be older and more mature in a relationship for it to “work.” And since The Bachelor forever strives for the pinnacle idea of a relationship in society, we are usually stuck with an older man and a younger woman.

And you don’t need to look too far to see this in action. Last season, the Bachelor was Arie Luyenduk Jr, a 37 year-old man. Do you want to know how many women in their thirties made it to the Top 9? Zero. Every single woman in his Top 9 was in her twenties. And, let’s not forget that this season, Demi, 23, is parading around the mansion talking about how she has the massive advantage of age on her side.

(Further reading: I highly, highly recommend data journalist Mona Chalabi’s opinion piece in the Sunday Times about the 2.3 years men have on women in the average relationship.)

So now, not only is the Bachelor a 26 year-old, but the Bachelor is a 26 year-old virgin, which makes it markedly harder to find a woman that he can be more “mature” than. But we are living in a new era! ABC is finally realizing that we are living in an age where personality and substance matter more and the baggage of one’s past matters less. And, because of that, we are BLESSED with the presence and glory of Tayshia.

Now, as we are finally nearing the end of candied first-half of the season, I’d like to acknowledge Demi’s contribution to our Bachelor year. Demi is a producer’s dream. I didn’t realize how deeply true that was until early this episode. The date card for the group date was read and everyone’s name was announced save for Caelynn. And it was Demi who jumped in and just said, “It is frustrating seeing even more time of his going to this whole situation.” She was the only one in the room willing to acknowledge the Miss USA throw down that has been the centerpiece of this season. Caelynn responded that she’d moved on from that drama. Demi nudged back, “But Colton, I feel like, hasn’t.” That is the journalistic interrogation that we all crave for in the room. Sure, maybe this journalist has a massive conflict of interest, but she’s out here asking the questions that need to be asked.

When Demi takes time off from being a freelance investigative journalist for the Buzzfeed News, she returns to her normal job of being Chaos. She has a brilliant knack for finding the most vulnerable and anxious contestants. She then takes these contestants and pokes them over the edge. To a casual observer, it would even seem like it was the other contestant who started the rift instead of Demi. But no, it was Demi. She took the time to investigate her target and locate the button needed to set them off.

When Demi told Colton that Courtney was a cancer in the house it was merely the final act of an O’Neill play. And by God it was brilliant. To follow it up, she openly admitted her accusation in front of the group. Every step Courtney took she landed on another trap that Demi had set. And, frankly, it was partially her fault. She spent the majority of the last two episodes trying to break Demi down instead of trying to build up her relationship with Colton. And surprise, surprise, she was sent home.

Lastly this episode, we have Caelynn who shared with Colton and with us the story of her sexual assault. She spent four minutes describing exactly what happened and how it happened and how it affected her life then and still affects her life now. She illustrated the fear and the disgust and the shame and the sadness that overcame her. And Colton listened. And ABC listened. And America listened.

It’s easy to imagine how just a few years ago, a woman with Caelynn’s story would have had her experience exploited by the show’s producers or she would have been cast aside for having too much baggage or “being broken.” But those things didn’t happened. She was treated with respect and she was listened to. And that is what all survivors deserve. In fact, that is the least of what they deserve. They deserve justice, which Caelynn sought. Despite her persistence, justice was not fully realized in her case, nor is it realized in millions of cases around the world. That fact has been ignored for too long. It is time to start listening to survivors like Caelynn.

After Colton listened and acknowledged her, he brought how his last partner was also a survivor. While he didn’t say it, Aly Raisman was likely the partner he was talking about. The decorated gymnast led the fight for justice for the girls of the USA women’s gymnastics team. Because her efforts and the efforts of more than 100 testifying survivors, Larry Nassar, the former doctor of the team, will be spending the rest of his life in prison for molesting at least 250 girls and women. The oldest allegation against Nassar dates back to 1992. He was fired in 2016.

Scoring

I just want to start this section by saying that I thought I made an awesome move this week, but instead it was not an awesome move. I had Caitlin, who was sent home in Week 3, making it all the way through Week 5 in my bracket. So I could have just swapped her name out in Week 4 for someone, but I chose instead to swap her name out of Week 5, because I was convinced that the Caelynn-Hannah feud would be resolved in Week 4 and one of the two would be sent home and, since I had both Caelynn and Hannah B in my Week 5 bracket, I wanted to plug the one Week 5 hole I had (Caitlin) and prepare to use my swap for the next week on whichever contestant was kicked off. But unfortunately, they’re both still here! And all of my Top 9 are still in the game! So I just lost 4 points for not using my swap for this week and now it won’t even help me next week. Did I make any sense in that last paragraph? Probably not. Alas, let’s get to scores.

Also, as a side note, there are 13 contestants left even though it should be the Top 12, so everyone got a freebee this week.

Bonnie the Oracle got two wrong, Courtney and Tracy, but she remains in first place with 134 points. Now tied for second place are Kristina and Caitlyn at 129 points. Both only got one wrong and they both also chose Courtney. At 128 and now in fourth is Doug who lost Caitlin and Courtney. Kelsey, 126, in fifth, only dropped one, Catherine.

Jenny has made no swaps so far this season and by God I admire that. Sure she’s hemorrhaging points, but she’s sticking to her guns. Maybe those contestants will come back? This week she got four wrong and all four had already been kicked off on previous weeks: Alex B, Bri, Caitlin, Annie. Somehow, somehow, she only has one incorrect in her Top 9 next week, so she can sort of get back on track if she makes a swap this week. Jenny has 104 points.

And just a hair behind her at 103 is our fearless bracketeer Justice. Justice got five wrong this week—six if you count her swap as getting one wrong as well. She incorrectly selected Angelique, Annie, Caitlin, Catherine, and Courtney, and she swapped Alex B out for Katie, which was her one good move. Fortunately, her Top 9 didn’t get any worse between last week and this week, so she still only has five of her Top 9 already eliminated.

The Bachelor 23.3: Strong Women

“Strong women empower other women,” Tayshia slyly notes to Colton after the group date. She then prods for the history of strong women in his life, which eventually leads him to conclude, “Finding a strong woman is important.” And she quips back, “Just like how it’s really important for me to find a strong man.” She beams at him with her unforgettable smile and he leans in to kiss her.

Yeah fine okay it’s true I’m in love with Tayshia you caught me so what?! I did my best last week hiding her as my favorite candidate, but given that I put her to finish second in my bracket, I can’t say I was all that secretive. Three of the seven brackets have her in the Top 6, but mine is the only bracket where she appears in the Finals.

Full disclosure, I was pretty stuck on what the theme should be for the blog this week and it was actually my roommate Jess who sparked the perfect thesis. The thesis is exactly what Tayshia said. Strong women empower other women.

Tayshia spent the whole group date lifting up and supporting the other women there. And then when it was her turn to spent time with Colton, she just focused on her own relationship with him. That is the quality you need in a Bachelor(ette) winner. You need someone who doesn’t get bogged down by the early season drama and can provide us with a respite amidst the crises. Tayshia is a rock star and she’s going to go far this season (and in my heart).

You know who got bogged down? The women who are trying to stop Demi. Look, Demi is utter chaos. And it obviously feels like Demi isn’t taking the process seriously. But what I can say is that Demi isn’t the one initiating drama with the other women. Sure she creates an atmosphere of whimsy that some may not appreciate, but she’s not going after anyone. She’s just playing her best game. Tracy and Courtney are the ones going after Demi. And you know what happens when you fight with chaos? I don’t think there’s an actual idiom or saying here about fighting with chaos, but I’m going to make one right now and the answer is that you lose. You’re going to lose every time you try to fight chaos.

Of course Demi’s not going to win—and thank God she’s not going to win—but it’s very fun to see Colton try to navigate these horrendously exciting situations she’s putting him in. She’s blindfolding him and the producers are giving her props? Genius! Let. Her. Live. Her. Wild. Wild. Life. And Tracy and Courtney? They are not empowering other women. Demi isn’t their enemy in this competition. Demi isn’t going to watch Colton bend down to his knee in front of her and propose marriage. Tracy and Courtney should ignore the chaos and empower other women.

You know who was on that same group date and didn’t bring the drama to Demi? Katie! Katie spent the date cheering on her fellow candidates, giving everyone high fives, being an all-round supportive and uplifting member of The Bachelor Season 23 Community. Then when she had her one-on-one time with Colton, she focused on their relationship. And goddammit, it felt real. It felt REAL between them! They look like they genuinely like each other. And isn’t that what we’re all here for, everybody?! That’s what I’m here for!

Before we get to the final, grand, Miss American bout of this episode, I just wanted to take a minute to reflect on Elyse’s one-on-one. It ties in with the thesis less, unless you count her lifting up all of the strong women five-year-olds, which is a valid argument, but regardless, her date with Colton was fabulous. The carnival with the kids and then the ballroom dinner was heartwarming and beautiful and they both took it all in in stride. I don’t know yet if they have the right chemistry to be a perfect match, but they are certainly a moral and intellectual match and for that I am excited for their relationship to grow.

Now to the great Hannah B vs. Caelynn saga. For most of this episode I couldn’t figure out who to root for. First Caelynn had what appeared to be an inauthentic interaction with Colton and I didn’t feel compelled to side with her. Then Hannah B cryptically threw Caelynn under the bus, which led Caelynn to break down in front of Colton. I followed Colton in immediately throwing my weight behind Caelynn. Then at the pool party, all Caelynn could talk about was Hannah B and her desperation for attention and how Colton was assuredly being lied to even though it still didn’t seem like any statement from either of them had been contradictory up to that point. Caelynn blew a massive opportunity to move on with her relationship with Colton and chose to instead drag Hannah down. Hannah then came right back and, instead of trying to pivot, returned to bashing Caelynn for being a bad roommate. How am I supposed to root for either of them when they are both spending all of their time with Colton complaining about the other person? They were not heeding Tayshia’s advice.

 

Scoring

Bonnie maintains her lead in the brackets by only missing two picks: Bri and Catherine. As it turned out for Bri, it’s not good for your first impression with a potential romantic partner to just be a bold-faced lie (see: Accent, Australian). And Catherine, it seems, only had enough in the tank to be the villain for Night One.

Doug is now the sole owner of second place after also missing two this week: Bri and Caitlin. Kristina and Kelsey both vault into third place by getting just two wrong as well. Kristina mistakenly picked Nina and Bri, and Kelsey picked Catherine and Bri. Caitlyn is now in fifth (falling from second) after missing three: Annie, Bri, and Catherine.

Justice is currently in sixth place and luckily out of last this week. She got five wrong: Angelique, Annie, Bri, Caitlin, and Catherine. But despite being not last in the official standings, she is dead last in the future projections. After this week, five of Justice’s Top 9 have been eliminated. Fortunately, none of her Top 4 have been sent home yet.

Jenny is in last place after she got seven wrong this week: Alex B, Annie, Erika, Catherine, Bri, and Caitlin. Oh, and Erika again, because Erika was written a second time. Incredibly, only two of Jenny’s Top 9 are eliminated and her Top 6 has been left completely untouched.

The Bachelor 23.2: The Institutions are Falling

Well, well, well. You thought you got rid of me, didn’t you. I thought I got rid of me too. But alas, here we are.

I was not excited about Colton being the bachelor. He is passionately boring. His muscles are very, very big and he looks very, very hot with them on his body, especially when he is wearing a tight shirt, but there is shockingly little substance to this man otherwise. So much so that I nearly didn’t watch this season at all. Yet here I am.

I’ve received two texts from two friends that perfectly sum up his Bachelorhood.

The first just read, “He’s a dumb bitch.” And frankly, we don’t need any more precision than that.

But, in case you were looking for more precision, my other friend declared, “Someone needs to tell Colton that being a virgin isn’t a personality.” And that I think hits the nail on the head. I don’t know how much of it is Colton just always talking about it or ABC forcing it onto us, but either way it’s too, too much. My New Years Resolution for this blog is to bring up Colton’s virginity as little as possible.

And that begins right after this next paragraph.

Look, we hemmed and hawed about Colton’s virginity for WEEKS last season, so I’m just going to make this one point. I think that there was reason to doubt Colton’s claim last season. He has a history—even before The Bachelor—of dating famous women (see: Aly Raisman (who also happens to be one of the women I am most in love with) and Tia Booth (before he was on The Bachelorette and after she was on The Bachelor (we know all this, all of you know this, I just wanted to recap (have I gone too deep into the parentheses? (Yes))))) because he is addicted to the spotlight or something, who knows. But I think I can firmly say that ABC wouldn’t commission a whole Bachelor season based on the sole premise of him being a virgin if they weren’t positive that he was a virgin.

The first episode is great in its own right, but it’s not great for this particular blog. It’s all candy and great little look-at-this-fucking-loser moments, which I don’t really like to harp on. This blog is much more oriented to the meat of the second half of the season.

And also I was busy last week.

So that’s why I didn’t do a recap for the first week.

There are only two things I want to bring up about the first week. The first is Adrianne, aka Jane. Jane was one of just two women (out of thirty) to whom I gave a perfect pre-episode score. I will not tell you the other woman I gave a perfect score to because my Fantasy Bachelor opponents are also reading this recap and I don’t want to share my strategy. But JANE! Jane’s perfect! She’s a social worker with an “infectious energy” who loves tacos and “would choose her checkered sneakers over stilettos any day!” And not to mention, she’s v, v gorgeous. Anyway, I gave her a perfect score, but also, all SEVEN bachelor brackets in our league this year had her moving on. There’s only an 8% chance of any given player moving on in all seven brackets. In short, Colton fucking goofed it. She’s better off without him anyway.

The second thing I want to bring up from Week 1 is also just another complaint about who Colton sent home. Colton. Sent. Home. THE SLOTH!!! How fucking dare he send home THE SLOTH. Was he not impressed by her job title, “Sloth,” because he has such a great job title of Failed Football Player? Was he not struck by her beauty like the rest of us/me? But, worst of all, does Colton Underwood think that he is too high and mighty to respect the Law of the Costume?!

The Law of the Costume is an essential Law to the physics of the first week of every Bachelor(ette) season. If someone decides to make a fool out of themselves by wearing a costume, they automatically get a rose. Of course they look like a fucking idiot, but how else are you going to feed the masses of Middle America? They live for that dumb bullshit. So, to encourage people to throw on a stupid costume every season, you HAVE to give a rose to those who take the risk. It’s an institution!

So now Colton’s just out here breaking the Law of the Costume and we’re supposed to be on his side for nine more weeks?!

Let’s just move on to this week’s episode. Until later in the season, I’m going to try to keep these short (editor’s note: I failed at keeping this short) and only point out moments I think are worth unpacking.

The first of these moments is Nick Offerman giving his “firsts” story and ABC playing music in the background in order to portray it as weird and dumb and also the women not giving it the credit it deserved. We only got bits and pieces of his story, but it was clearly fucking genius. Tracy’s recap was that Nick Offerman’s story was “very cryptic and unusual.” But I will not let his performance to be panned by the critics. Just because the live audience wasn’t appreciative of the art that was happening before their very eyes, doesn’t mean that the American viewer has to have the same take on it. So Tracy sucks.

Skip forward to the post-stand-up-special-group-date cocktail party when Demi returns and picks up the rose and waves it around. Tracy—already back again—gets pretty pissed about this. She makes a strong argument about how the rose shouldn’t be touched by anyone except for the principal until they give it away to the winner of the group date rose. And she’s right. It’s an institution that has long stood. It is a sacred (as sacred as The Bachelor can be) act in this universe.

And maybe in 2015 or earlier I would have had a similar outrage. I love institutions. Traditions, rituals, anthems, all of it, I love that shit so much. They humble us and they guide us. They bear the wisdom of generations. But our society’s institutions are crumbling around us. We are living through a time of immense uncertainty and we are all being forced to examine the institutions that we hold dear. We now must choose which are the most important to us and do everything we can to protect those institutions while letting those slightly less important institutions fall. That is the mindset I carry with me in the Year of our Lord 2019.

So when Demi went over to the table and picked up the rose and waved it around, I didn’t really feel the jolt I may have felt four years prior. Yes, it’s an institution, and yes, I think it is important in the world of The Bachelor to maintain the sanctity of the group date rose, but its difficult to work up the outrage when four of the justices on the Supreme Court were nominated by presidents who did not win the popular vote and two were confirmed despite having credible sexual harassment/assault allegations leveled against them.

I don’t have much to say about Hannah B, because Hannah B doesn’t have much to say about Hannah B. Did she deserve a rose? Well, I put her in the Top 6 in my bracket, so I guess I’m glad she did. But also, congratulations to the next person who gets a one-on-one because it is going to be a cake walk. Roll Tide!

Dear God, I love Billy Eichner. He totally made the camp trip.

I was shocked that Colton actually sent the losing team home. Usually the principal will just go “Well OKAY, I guess you can hang out with us too.” But no, Colton wanted the losers to get the fuck out.

I’m very excited for this Miss USA controversy to play out, but since the meat of it has yet to come, I’ll wait to dive into it in an upcoming week. The one thing I will point out is that Donald Trump used to own Miss USA and Jesus Christ come on why does he have to be in literally every aspect of our world.

Scoring

Bonnie the Oracle has returned to dominate for yet another season. She only got 4 wrong in Week 1 and got none wrong in Week 2. She now sits in first with 54 points. Behind her, both Caitlyn and Doug got six wrong in Week 1 and one wrong in Week 2 for a total of 49. Kelsey and Kristina are tied for fourth after both getting five wrong in Week 1 and two wrong in Week 2. Jenny is in sixth with six wrong then two wrong and Justice is currently placed last after getting six wrong then all three wrong in Week 2.

Unfortunately for Jenny and Justice, not only are they in last in actual points, but the future of their brackets are already in jeopardy. Jenny has both Alex B and Annie in her Top 12. Justice is in an even worse position as she has Alex B, Annie, and Angelique all in her Top 9! So a full third of her Top 9 has been eliminated after the first week of a full and solidified bracket. It is honestly difficult to pull off a feat that drastic that quickly. Fortunately for Justice, the only one of the three to make it to the Top 6 is Alex B and none make the Top 4.

And now is the time in the recap when our predications get a little bit sad. We have severe crowding again this season. I used to argue that public brackets were good and helped us all keep an eye on trends or hot takes, but now I am coming out firmly against it. Last season the bracket challenge was far less exciting because everyone’s Top 6 was nearly identical. This season, it has gotten even worse. Just four contestants appear in the Top 6 of at least six of the seven brackets. Three more appear in at least three Top 6s and four appear in just one Top 6.

Sure, only 27% of the 22 contestants remaining after Week 1 will reach the actual Top 6, but there’s only an 11% chance of not appearing in the Top 6 of any of the seven brackets. Yet half of the contestants make no appearance in any Top 6 of our brackets.

But that’s not even the worst of it. Cassie and Hannah G make all seven Top 6s, all seven Top 4s, and all seven Top 3s. Hannah G makes all seven Top 2s, while Cassie makes a measly four Top 2s (Caelyn, Heather, and Tayshia get one apiece). And the Final Rose? You want to know who gets the final rose in our seven brackets? Four final roses go to Hannah G and three go to Cassie. What a nightmare.

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The Bachelorette 14.10: Finale, or Boil

As we watched the final ninety minutes of the season finale of the Bachelorette, I embraced the feelings boiling within me. They were intense. I felt hot. I felt unable to shift a muscle fearing any movement could potentially deepen the pain. I felt powerless as I watched someone I profoundly care for make an unequivocally bad decision.

Then, suddenly, I recognized the heat that was paralyzing me. It was just a fraction of the strength of the last time I felt it, but it was the same feeling nonetheless. I was transported back two years to another time when I was watching an intimate friend make a decision that I knew would cause them gratuitous suffering, but I could do nothing to stop it. I just sat and stewed then as well.

That time was the night of November 8, 2016.

Commentary

This episode was littered with dichotomies. It truly looked like the final two were opposites. Let’s cast aside the fact that they are both straight, white men and they are both sales reps, and they are both from the American West, and they are both from rural towns, and they both don’t know how to shave, because, other than all of those things, they were opposites.

Becca began the week by saying her and Blake’s hearts recognize each other. Then she said that her growth was slower with Garrett. I think that could be because he is a shell of a functioning human being, but I don’t want to make presumptions. When asked about his two-month marriage, Garrett blamed his wife for not finding a way to connect with his family, even though it should have been his job to be the arbiter between his family and the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.

Blake, on the other hand, looked terrified to meet Becca’s family. He’s a nervous guy in general, so the stakes of the situation didn’t do him any favors. But he offered a clear alternative to Garrett. While Garrett kept talking about how he wanted Becca to be his wife and the mother of his children, Blake vowed to be an equal partner, a teammate, a cheerleader.

When Becca debriefed with her family she said that Garrett would be a good father, but Blake would challenge her and support her as a strong, independent woman.

Another clear dichotomy came during the two dates. Garrett literally pulled Becca down into the water and Blake literally lifted her up out of the water. It could not have been clearer.

And, of course, Blake survived a school shooting while Garrett liked an instagram post accusing the Parkland shooting survivors of being crisis actors.

ABC couldn’t find out that Garrett’s dad, David Yrigoyen, gave $300 to Brad Goehring, a tea party Republican running for Congress in 2010 who said on the campaign trail, “If I could issue hunting permits, I would officially declare today opening day for liberals. The season would extend through November 2 and have no limits on how many taken as we desperately need to ‘thin’ the herd.” Or, if they did find it out, they didn’t think that that might have been a flag for someone who is trying to marry Becca Kufrin, a lover of Joe Biden? 

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The first thing out of Blakes mouth after he found out he was rejected was, “I didn’t expect this.” That shattered me. None of us expected this. Becca didn’t expect this. It was the most honest thing he could have said in that moment. From “I didn’t expect this” to “I love you. Bye,” we saw a human being become as undisguised as could be.

Becca’s reasons for sending him home were senseless. Their relationship was too steady, so she needed to send him home? He might not be able to care for their child if their child became sick even though he survived his mother leaving his father for his football coach and a fucking school shooting?

But her hug as he turned to leave. That was real. That was genuine. She knew she couldn’t say anything to make it better, but she couldn’t stand to see him so upset. So she tried to hug him. And he didn’t move. That moment is the rawest moment. In that moment, there is nothing left to say; they are just two humans drowning in their emotions doing whatever they can to try and catch a breath.

Becca’s new fiancé apologized to the nation for his bigotry by saying, “I didn’t mean to offend anyone.” The photos he liked were intentionally offensive photos, so he’s either lying about not meaning to offend anyone or he doesn’t see immigrants, feminists, or survivors of mass shootings as human enough to be included in the population of “anyone.”

And he wrote his apology in the Notes app of his iPhone. I will never consider an apology if it is written in the Notes app of an iPhone. You write an apology in Microsoft Word or, at the very least, Google docs. And, preferably, you would convert it into a PDF as well.

Well. That’s it. For the fourth season in a row, the bachelorette gave the final rose to the same man she gave the first impression rose to. And for the fourth Bachelor Franchise season in a row, the principal picked the demonstrably worse person.

Scoring

Congratulations to Kristina Lew for taking home her first Bachelor Fantasy League title. She took an early lead and then held it down the stretch, getting only one pick wrong in the final four rose ceremonies (fifteen total picks).

Bonnie cruised to second by building the most accurate initial bracket we have ever seen. Unfortunately, she fell two picks behind Kristina in the early rounds and was unable to make up the difference.

Caitlyn, who took third, had an outstanding comeback. She was in seventh place after the fifth rose ceremony, but she picked fourteen of the final fifteen roses correctly to climb up to bronze.

But, before we give Bonnie and Caitlyn their medals I am here to say, Shame on you two! Both Bonnie and Caitlyn were within 30 points of the Kristina, meaning they were in striking distance of the championship title! All three of them had selected Garrett at the beginning of the season and Kristina made it clear that she was sticking by that pick, so at least one of them should have switched their winner to Blake. There’s no second prize here in Fantasy Bachelor—it’s win or go home! If either of them had picked Blake they could have won. Instead, they handed Kristina her win on a silver platter before the episode even began! S@D!

Now for some brief analysis. At the beginning of the season, eight of us picked who we thought were going to win the bracket. Five of us picked Garrett. One of us picked Jason. One of us picked Colton. None of us picked Blake.

And Danica picked “Willis.”

     Until next season,

          May we all continue to be sad because of the outcomes of the Bachelor Franchise,

                  And may we be delighted by what looks to be the best season of Bachelor In Paradise yet because a lot of the people on it are legitimately cool and genuine people so I’m excited to see what happens hello again Grocer Joe,

                            Roses without thorns,

                                       Douglas

The Bachelorette 14.9: Fantasy Suites or I'M SAD

Blake and Garrett’s dates were both objectively boring, so I will be spending the majority of this recap talking about the only thing that matters this week: JASON.

Commentary

Let’s begin with the date that the producers set up for Jason and Becca. Their date was just the two of them walking through town like a normal couple on vacation. You know why? Because the producers trusted that they were two people who could really get along with each other in any scenario. Becca got three walking-through-town dates with Arie, because they didn’t have to force it; they were good together. So the producers trusted Becca and Jason—the two logical choices for each other—to have a lovely time hanging around town and then Becca got in her head.

Becca got in her head and that was it.

Of course, Becca wasn’t totally sure she saw a future with Jason, because their first date was TWO WEEKS AGO. Our sweet, sweet boy was fighting an uphill battle this whole season and it came to a head tonight.

As she sent him home, he repeatedly put up credible rebuttals to her arguments. She couldn’t clearly see a future with him, but, as he pointed out, she could potentially see a future with him. He didn’t go down without a fight, but he was ceaselessly respectful amidst the whole ordeal.

My argument two weeks ago about her Wills vs. Jason choice was that she had three safe choices and could afford to pick Jason. Well, this week both Garrett and Blake were “safe” choices (as safe as Garrett the fascist can be) and she could have—should have—taken a risk on Jason another week.

When Becca says, “I just did to Arie what Arie did to me,” we assume she is saying that she blindsided Jason like Arie blindsided her. She may even believe that that is what she meant when she said that. But Becca saying, “I just did to Arie what Arie did to me,” is a true on a deeper level that she doesn’t want to explore. Arie let Becca go in favor of Lauren B. with the full knowledge that Becca was the better human being. He let her go even though he knew that Becca would have been a better partner, a better wife, a better mother, a better supporter, a better challenger, a better companion than Lauren B. could ever be. Becca did to Jason what Arie did to Becca, because she let go a truly kind, smart, mature, funny, insightful, caring, and good man that she knows neither Garrett nor Blake can match. But the heart wants what the heart wants.

And the-heart-wants-what-the-heart-wants leads me to the grandest leap I have ever made in my two-season, nineteen-entry career of writing recaps for The Bachelor franchise.

The Bachelor franchise is evidence that it is the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself. The scientific hypothesis essentially says that when a civilization becomes advanced enough it will invariably cause its own demise. The likeliest ways intelligent life could end itself are war, accidental environment contamination or damage, resource depletion, climate change, or poorly designed artificial intelligence. The crux of the argument is that said life forms are never able to act on what is best for them, whether they know what is best for them or not. Becca knew that Jason was the best man there. Arie knew that Becca was the best woman there. Rachel knew that Peter was the best man there. Nick knew that Rachel was the best woman there. That is four seasons in a row where the principal actively diverted away from their best path. No human is perfect. No life form is perfect. It is the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself.

Jason deserved to win.

I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD. I’M SAD.

But Jason is going to be the next bachelor. I was resistant last week to endorse him for that title, because I felt he was too pure, but the producers convinced me. And then they sent him back with a scrapbook and they convinced me even more.

Watching the rest of this season will be like watching a car crash in slow motion. Becca is going to pick Garrett. He is so clearly her type it is painful. Blake still looks like he is in high school, and, frankly, with the way he talks about the guys he’s competing against, he seems like he’s still in high school. Garrett is going to win and they are both going to be unhappy when they realize they forgot to ask each other the most important question you ask someone you’re considering dating in the latter half of the 2010 decade: who did you vote for in 2016?

This is something Garrett liked in Instagram: 

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This is Becca’s Twitter cover photo:

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How on earth are they going to survive together?

But aye, there’s the rub. This may be ABC’s great Response to the political climate we have found ourselves in. This is the most polarized America has been in over a century. ABC would love nothing more than to show America that love is still greater than politics. Even in these troubling times, two people can overcome the most immense of differences to be together.

And you know what?

I think that’s horseshit.

Scoring

Kristina (319) swapped out Jason in favor of Blake and Garrett was her other choice, so she had a perfect week and remained in first. Bonnie the Oracle didn’t change anything and had a perfect week to hold second, 11 points behind Kristina. Caitlyn (298) also didn’t change anything and had a perfect week, launching her ahead of Doug and into third place. Jenny (283) swapped Blake in for Colton to have a perfect week as well, also passing Doug.

Doug (280), on the other hand, was the only person in the league to make a play for first place as he took a chance of Jason, while everyone else in the league was totally okay with letting Kristina win the bracket this season. His risk dragged him down to fifth place.

Justice’s (272) final two was Colton and Wills, so even though she swapped in Blake, she was already out of contention.

Kelsey, who was eliminated last week, swapped Jason in for Colton, which failed and kept her in seventh.

In last, Danica finally eclipsed 200 points by having Blake in the final two along with… Willis.

Kristina has eliminated all but two of her opponents as we approach the final week of the season. With one thirty-point pick remaining, Kristina is 11 points ahead of Bonnie and 21 points ahead of Caitlyn. All three of them chose Garrett to win the final rose at the beginning of the season, but they are, of course, awarded a change if they so choose to use it. As 8:00 EDT on August 6, 2018 draws near, we will see the flips and flops in choices and the mind games creep in as the final three attempt to leverage their picks against their opponents’.

The Bachelorette 14.8: Hometowns or The Pre-Mortems

Hometowns are my favorite week of the season. There are two main theses of this blog. The first is that love is inherently political. There is no better way to understand a person’s political ideology than to visit their hometown. The second is that The Bachelor(ette) is better when you analyze everything with data. Choosing your Top 3 is the last time in the season that you can really make strategic choices about when to take a risk on a contestant or when to play it safe. This week was filled with all of that goodness.

Commentary

Let me tell you all a little bit about Manteca, CA. When I was 13 years old I played on a travel baseball team. For my very first travel tournament we drove down to Manteca, CA where they have a baseball complex called The Field of Dreams. There they replicate the dimensions of real major league stadiums and put up lights so that you can play through the night. In my first game, we played at the replica Tiger Stadium at night and I was the starting pitcher. My curveball was never better than it was that game. We were up against the third best travel team in the state and I pitched five innings and allowed just one run and I hit an RBI double in one of my at bats. We went on to get blown out in our other three games and we lost the tournament, but that first night will always be one of my most treasured memories.

The Field of Dreams is the only good thing about Manteca, CA. Manteca, CA is the American South of California. Manteca, CA is just flat fields of crops for as far as the eye can see. Where there are no crops there are cows. And where there are no cows, there are racist Central Californians. Now that I know that Garrett is from Manteca, CA, I am more confident than ever before that Garrett is a worthless pile of manure.

I am a little disappointed we didn’t get to see him in Reno though. God only knows what they would have done on their date in Reno.

Oh, so Garrett’s family owns a farm? And Garrett still hates immigrants? There’s a 104% that Garrett’s family has employed undocumented immigrants on their farm at one point or another and they have certainly accumulated a handsome sum of wealth because of it. One would think Garrett wouldn’t be such a xenophobic bag of shit, but, alas, he is.

The moment that probably best told the story of Garrett to me was when he genuinely said to his aunt, “Goodbye, I love you,” and hugged her, and then the uncle mocked him for it. It’s no wonder he doesn’t understand how to have a healthy relationship when his family doesn’t allow him to express basic compassion.

The editors did a beautiful job of finding motifs between the different towns in America. Garrett and Becca held each other as they rode on the front of the tractor and then Jason and Becca held each other as they rode on the front of a Zamboni.

That’s right: Jason. Jason, Jason, Jason. Jason has stolen my heart, let me tell you. He looked good in Buffalo. The Buffalo banker knows how to wear a winter city outfit. And if you didn’t tell me differently, I would have assumed that Jason was the chairman of the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce. He loves that city to death.

Jason is the only person who has ever made me think that hockey is hot. Watching him glide around the ice and dribbling the puck on his stick shook me to my core. And he calls her Bec-ster for Christ’s sake! The only other person I’ve met who adds –ster to the end of a name is my best friend from middle school’s dad who is a born and bred New Yorker.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Jason is the perfect foil for Garrett. Jason is smart while Garrett is not. Jason is a banker while Garrett is a farmer/medical sales rep. Jason has an openly gay older brother that he looks up to and takes advice from while Garrett is a homophobe. I mean, Jason’s brother and his husband met working at Apple for goodness sake, how anti-Garrett could that possibly be?

Jason’s family is full of straight shooters. There’s truly nothing more convincing than the confidence of a gay man, so when Jason’s brother said, “She’s amazing,” like it was the most obvious thing in the world, I felt like Becca and Jason were going to get married.

And then the advice Jason’s brother gave him was so necessary and so beautiful. “So, have you told her all of this? . . . Okay, and what are you waiting for? There isn’t a lot of runway left here. There’s a finite number of moments left to truly express how you’re feeling and you have to make sure you take advantage of that.” THAT is the reason we have hometowns at all, it’s for moments like that.

And then he did it. He told her exactly how he felt about her in the most truthful way he could. And it was snowing. It was SNOWINGGGuh.

Becca then brought that snow with her to Colorado. Thank you ABC for the continuity of the motifs.

One of the critiques of Blake is that he seems too young for Becca, so having him take her around his old high school and making out in a bunch of different classrooms didn’t help his image.

It’s easy to say that ABC bringing up the school shooting in Bailey was a political choice. In fact, as the children of the last few decades grow older, it will be more and more difficult to avoid having survivors of school shootings on reality shows like these. So instead of taking the easy route, I’m going to go against my brand and argue why this was an apolitical choice for ABC to make.

ABC has a very simple formula for how they produce a couple on The Bachelor(ette): they plan fun activities so two people can make memories and they encourage people to share their saddest moments to tighten their bonds. To ABC, the shooting was just a really good sad moment that they could tighten the bonds between Becca and Blake even more.

As Becca left Blake at the end of the night, you could see that she wanted so badly to say that she loved him back. And she thought about saying it—she really thought about it—but she was not going to do what Arie did.

Colton made a really good move to have their date be at the hospital. It was probably the best move he could make. Unfortunately for him, she had just had three amazing hometowns and had already made up her mind. She had to humor the inexperienced Colton and his litany of scandals.

Before the rose ceremony Becca got to share her week with the all-stars of Arie’s season. The best moment was delivered by our favorite Yale grad.

Becca: Jason is the best kisser.

Sienne: You’ve got to take him to the fantasy suite, girl.

Sage advise.

When the finish line draws near, Tia starts throwing elbows. She did it last season and threw Becca M. under the bus and she’s doing it this season by throwing Colton under. Any chance she had of becoming the bachelorette just slipped through her fingers.

Honestly, the rose ceremony decision was easy. I got really excited that Garrett was in the bottom two, but everyone knew he wasn’t going home.

Before we go to scoring, I’m going to do a pre-mortem on the three different ways the season could end. This season truly feels like a toss-up right now, but I’m sure as soon as Becca makes the final decision, we’re going to be talking about how obvious it was, so I’m going make a case for each one of the remaining contestants as if we just found out they had won.

Garrett: Of course Garrett won. The person who got the first impression rose went on to win the previous three Bachelorettes. She said from the very beginning that he reminded her of her dad and she clearly yearns to have him there as a sort of replacement. Plus Becca loves meatheads, we know this. Do you remember when her ex came down to Peru last season? I’m confident that he and Garrett would be great friends. It was the obvious choice from the beginning and it only makes sense that this is where it finished.

Blake: Of course Blake won. He had this thing sewn up before hometowns even started. Sure their relationship doesn’t make sense to anyone; she told us she was in love with him in Week 6. No one else stood a chance against Blake.

Jason: Of course Jason won. He was categorically the best man there. It doesn’t matter that he got a late start, he was the best possible choice out of the 28 she was given, so, of course, he deserved his win.

Scoring

Of our original eight brackets, Garrett, Colton, and Jason were all in five while Blake was in just three. After our allotted one-weekly-change, Blake was in seven of the eight, Garrett and Jason were in five, and Colton was in four.

Kristina (279) smartly swapped Colton out for Blake to get a perfect score and maintain her lead. Bonnie the Oracle (268) didn’t make a change this week, so she also got a perfect score because she’s blessed. Doug (260) swapped Blake in for Wills, but he also had Colton in the Top 3, so he fell back down to third place in the standings. Caitlyn (258) was perfect after swapping Jason in for Wills, which put her in front of Justice and brought her right up on the heels of Doug.

Justice (252) swapped Blake in for Wills, but still suffered from the loss of Colton to drop to fifth.

Jenny

Threw

Away

Her Shot.

AGAIN.

Jenny (243) swapped Jason out and Blake in, while Colton remained on her bracket untouched (both literally and metaphorically, am I right?). Limping into seventh place is Kelsey (234) who swapped Jason in for Wills while Colton got kicked off the show.

And lastly, our true hero, the leader of the losers, Danica Martino (191) got 15 points for Blake, but zero points for Lincoln and “Willis.”