The Bachelor 23.7: A Defense of Cognitive Dissonance

The first date of the week went to Tayshia and she got the classic Let’s Just Walk Around Town Like A Normal Couple date and it went fabulously as per always. Then they went back to his apartment and made a meal together like a normal couple. It is these late season dates when you find out who the producers believe the right person is. They know they can let Colton and Tayshia out to do whatever in town and still have a good time.

And then he brought her to his bedroom that he called “The place where the magic doesn’t happen,” which is actually incredibly funny. And then she put on his Underwood football jersey and he told the audience that maybe that was foreshadowing and that maybe he was falling in love with her.

And I mean really…

Who wouldn’t be falling in love with her?

She’s perfect.

Colton did, though, ask her who she thought wasn’t there for the right reasons. Tayshia has stayed pointedly above the fray over the course of the whole season—as a frontrunner is advised to do—but when asked point blank who she thought people were talking about, she gave an honest answer: Cassie and Caelynn.

As soon as Tayshia says this battle lines are drawn. The two clearly playing defense are Cassie and Caelynn. Swinging away on offense are Tayshia and Kirpa. And those left on tentatively neutral ground are Hannah B, Hannah G, and Heather.

Before we move on with the rest of the episode, I want to provide a sort of a defense for Caelynn and Cassie. The charges being leveled against them are that they were discussing becoming the next Bachelorette, and how they might not be ready to get engaged at the end of this. And to that I ask, what else are they going to fucking talk about? When you’re with your friends, you talk about the future. What do two contestants on the Bachelor have to talk about? How they are both going to marry the same guy? No, no, no, there aren’t multiple winners here. This isn’t a show about polygamists. And Cassie and Caelynn aren’t stupid, they know the odds of them winning aren’t high. If we assume that this conversation happened in the Top 10 round, then they each had just a 10% chance of winning at that point. So, what, are they just going to sit around all day talking about how they are going to live the rest of their lives happily with the other persons’ boyfriend? That’s insane. So they both engaged in talk about the very likely future where they don’t end up with the final rose and that is a totally normal, healthy way to cope with the fact that your partner is dating nine other people, including the people you spend your whole days with, and, in four weeks time, one of the ten will be ENGAGED TO THIS MAN. In order to survive in this space, you have to engage in this level of cognitive dissonance. You have to believe that what you are feeling with the principal is real, but you also have to be okay with a litany of other people dating your partner and forming strong(er) connections with him or her and you have to be okay with the face that you probably won’t be the one to finish with the rose.

And maybe I’m being naïve, but I feel like if either Caelynn or Cassie was just honest with Colton about that cognitive dissonance instead of trying to flatly deny the existence of those doubts, he would understand and deeply appreciate the honesty that they were bringing to the relationship.

While I would advise that route for Caelynn/Cassie, there is another route that I would also suggest when faced with accusations of just wanting to be the principal of the next season. I call it the Dick Cheney Pledge [note: I have not seen the movie Vice yet about Dick Cheney, but its mere existence in the current lexicon likely sparked the idea I am about to present.] When Dick Cheney was running for Vice President he had one thing he clearly and repeatedly bashed over the heads of his opponents: he did not want to be president. What other candidate for Vice President could say the same? Not Joe Lieberman in 2000 and certainly not John Edwards in 2004. Dick Cheney had seen the presidency up close and personal, first as Chief of Staff then as Secretary of Defense and he knew he didn’t want to be the one in the hot seat. Dick Cheney was a content multi-millionaire of a major oil company who was asked to serve his country as Vice President and, gosh darn it, he did it even though he didn’t really want to.

If Cassie/Caelynn was confronted about wanting to be the next Bachelorette and they didn’t want to tell the truth as I advised above, then they could take a page out of Dick Cheney’s book. They could say, “I know that that accusation is a lie I don’t want to be the Bachelorette. Believe me, I couldn’t possibly imagine being the Bachelorette. The immense pressure to eliminate people I’m creating real connections with week by week? The constant gnawing feeling that I was making the wrong decision? Please. I do not envy you for a minute.” And then, when Cassie/Caelynn finishes in second and third and the masses begin to call for the person they want to be their next principal, they will call for the honest one, the one who doesn’t want the crown, but deserves it. Because, after all, doesn’t Cassie/Caelynn deserve to find love?

But they did not take my advice. Both of them simply denied the accusations and called them baseless. It turned into a classic he-said-she-said as so many arguments on this show do.

Caelynn had her date. They went snowboarding. She denied the accusations and she got a rose.

Hannah B met Colton’s family. She provided her classic bland, Alabamian charm that failed to woo the Underwoods. And Colton knew it all along. I’m still surprised she made it this far after her disastrous first date. Colton sent her home, but not before she counseled, “Man like, just… listen to people, about things, and people’s intentions.” Hannah B has heard what every other departing woman said and, instead of coming up with a new way to say it, she just made it clear to Colton that she agrees with everything that has been said to him up to this point.

And with that move, our battle lines become slightly clearer: Caelynn and Cassie on one side, Tayshia and Kirpa and Hannah B on the other side, and Hannah G and Heather in the middle.

Which brings us to the group date. Two roses for four contestants: Cassie, Hannah G, Heather, and Kirpa.

Heather begins by shocking and delighting Bachelor nation. She decides to leave the show! She’s not blind, she can see that the other girls have better relationships with him. And she also knows that it would look bad on Colton to send her home after being her first kiss. So she saves us all a painful goodbye. Also, by being the third contestant to leave without being sent home by the principal, Colton has officially become the most quit-upon Bachelor in Bachelor history and tied with three Bachelorettes as the most quit-upon principal.

That’s not because Colton is a bad Bachelor. It’s because Colton is not a normal principal in The Bachelor franchise. He does not transcend his contestants the way most others do. He is flawed and naïve and inexperienced. He knows this. And the contestants know this. And it creates a dynamic that we haven’t really seen before. The contestants are more willing to use their agency. If they don’t feel like the relationship is right, they aren’t going to wait to be kicked off. And they aren’t going to pretend the principal knows everything. This principal was specifically chosen because he does not know everything! And the contestants feel more comfortable giving him advice on how to proceed. See: Sydney, Demi, Katie, Tayshia, Hannah B, and now, Kirpa’s advice.

Kirpa was the hero of this group date. She knows exactly where she stands with Colton. She is leagues behind Cassie and Hannah G, but she is still technically in the race and she has a say in how things can finish. Kirpa made it clear to Colton that the house agreed Cassie and Caelynn weren’t there for the right reasons. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind to Colton and she wasn’t afraid to confront Cassie about it, which she did repeatedly. Cassie could only respond with hurtful attacks that the audience had not seen nor expected from the frontrunner.

And then over the course of the group date, Hannah G made it clear that she also believed Caelynn and Cassie were not there for the right reasons. That puts Tayshia, Kirpa, Hannah B, and Hannah G on one side and Caelynn and Cassie on the other. (Heather dipped before she could choose a side, which is fine.) Hannah G was the only person not to take a side in front of Colton, though. While that is the standard frontrunner playbook, the normal rules seemed to have been suspended as all of the frontrunners and runners-up jumped into this civil war.

Caelynn faced one accusation of impropriety before her date, so she had to do very basic maneuvering to get her rose. Cassie, on the other hand, arrived at a group date facing multiple accusations. And this is where we saw her power on full display.

If the accusations are true, and we have little reason to believe they aren’t, then she has become the final villain of the season. And if you see her as this disingenuous person, then her next few moves appear acutely manipulative. Cassie has somehow found the center of Colton’s nervous system and can maneuver his thoughts and feelings at will. If you believe what Tayshia and Kirpa and Hannah G have to say, then it is hard to view Cassie as anything other than an evil ice queen playing Colton like a pawn.

The storytelling done in the editor’s room for this episode was a masterpiece for ABC. I first noticed it when the group arrived in Denver and they played a mood-specific and location-specific song instead of pulling from their usual bank of generic Bachelor songs. But the brilliance came during dinner on the group date. Colton took Hannah G outside and, instead of following the conversation outside, the editors kept the moment inside in the silent dining hall where Kirpa and Cassie sat waiting. After a few moments, Colton walked back in and wordlessly picked up a rose and left again, leaving just one rose on the table. The tension could be cut with a knife. And then Caelynn arrived to set “the story” “straight” with Colton. And the editors cut away from the action AGAIN back to the silent dining hall. Was Caelynn there to defend herself and Cassie? Was Colton going to take her rose away? Was Caelynn going to just throw Cassie under the bus? The possibilities were endless. And then she left without a word. It was one of the most extraordinary series of moments in Bachelor history.

Kirpa did everything she could to warn Colton of Caelynn and Cassie. But Cassie is too powerful. And Caelynn provided the final, necessary reassurance that Colton needed.

Of course, this feud could all be a big misunderstanding. You could ignore how many other contestants agree they aren’t here for the right reasons, you could ignore how defensive Cassie and Caelynn got when the integrity of the unnamed figures were questioned, and you could ignore their vicious attacks on their accusers when they were finally named. Maybe they really are here only for Colton.  

The civil war began the week with Cassie and Caelynn on one side and Tayshia, Kirpa, Hannah B and Hannah G on the other. Over the course of the week, all of the accusations were catalogued in the public record and the accused clearly took the most hits. But when the dust settled, Cassie and Caelynn were still on one side and Tayshia and Hannah G were the only ones left on the other.

 

Scoring

I called this out at the beginning of the season. Everyone’s Top 4 and down are nearly identical, so whoever is in the lead after the Top 6 is pretty much smooth sailing. And that just happened to be me. So I swapped my Top 4 Demi pick out for Hannah B, because all of my closest opponents had Hannah B in their Top 4s and I could just block them all out. I am still 10 points in first place and now I have only two people behind me tied for second instead of three. It goes

Doug 239

Bonnie 229

Caitlyn 229

Kristina 219

Kelsey 216

Jenny 204

And our savior Justice at 183.

Believe it or not, though, the Sleeper Pick of the Week Award goes to Justice! She was the only one of us to put Caelynn in the Top 4 and she did it in her initial bracket, not from a change, which makes it even more impressive.