Hello again, best friends! It took me a tick to watch this week’s episode because of the long weekend and unpacking after my move across the country. But then, our friend Andi had an exhausting weekend, too! We’re still at the point in the season where we find ourselves looking at a group of faces and kiiiinnda feeling baffled by who’s who. But don’t worry, it’s still just table setting; we’ll soon turn the corner and be down to a core group of knowable subjects who are also familiar enough with each other that they can make a lifelong commitment to one another after only 12 weeks.
Marshmallows over a volcano
So I had been avoiding doing this, because I don’t really know how to approach it, but with the first one-on-one date going to Eric I think I have to. At this point everyone knows that Eric died in a paragliding accident after production on the show completed. As a result, one of the leading bachelors in the season (or at least I suspect he’ll go far) is actually deceased as we watch him on air. (This is actually a morbid iteration of the time-travel game The Bachelor/Bachelorette plays every season when Chris Harrison has to tap dance around the fact that the results of the show are already decided while trying to build suspense for what might happen during live episodes like the “Men/Women Tell All.”).
The Bachelorette is objectionable and hilarious and campy and not at all suited to reflection on genuine human tragedy, so ABC has us trapped. How are we supposed to react here? To be honest, I’m fine with the distorted and retrograde depiction of idealized romance on this show because it’s so far from reality and so obviously filtered through the upfront cheesiness of ABC’s format that it doesn’t really touch what I know to be true of any of the subjects it purports to represent (gender, love, marriage, human interaction). But I don’t—and suspect most viewers also don’t—feel comfortable participating in how The Bachelor franchise handles actual, real life loss. Of course, rather than not watching I just cover my face with my hands and peek between my fingers, which isn’t really a viable long-term strategy for finishing the season, either. I guess they could have edited him out of the whole show, but that would have been spooky and weird. Keeping him in and acknowledging the accident is, I suppose, the only way to play it—but it makes me wonder whether his family was consulted at all, and how they might feel about this. Thank goodness Eric seems relatively uncontroversial (other than listing his job title as “Explorer,” fine) and, at least in this episode, comes off very polished and considerate.
Right, so back to their date (I DON’T KNOW HOW ELSE TO DO THIS). Andi arrives to pick him up and walks in to find the bachelors sitting around the mansion in their daywear. BTW, I just heard from a friend who knows someone who has been on the show that you can’t even bring a book to the mansion, did you guys know this? No phones, no entertainment, no distractions: just pure hang time, all the time. No wonder they are always sitting on large sectionals just staring at each other when she walks in. Andi and Eric depart for a day at the beach, and can I just say, how outraged would you be if you had to get into a convertible after doing your hair for TV? At the beach Andi acts completely unawkward in a bikini while doing a variety of physical activities, which is very cool for her and I’m not at all jealous. There’s no picnic blanket or elaborate food set-up on the beach, so it’s clear there’s more to come when Andi says, “he thinks we’re going to hang out at the beach all day, he has NO IDEA what’s going to happen!!” (a helicopter ride to an abandoned mountaintop and then a performance from a band that no one has ever heard of? I was half right). After a snowboarding lesson from Breckin Meyer, Andi and Eric enjoy some snuggly time and Eric talks about his adventures traveling the world. Again, I don’t know what to say here because the show has me totally cornered, so I’ll just let Andi have the final word on the fact that the last time Eric roasted a marshmallow was over a volcano in Guatemala: “you can’t make this sh*t up.”
Towels down the front of your pants
A gaggle of guys are herded to a male strip club where a very tan man in a tuxedo blazer introduces us to an even more literal performance of masculinity than we’ve already been treated to thus far on the show. Somehow, one of the guys in the firefighter stripper routine is an actual firefighter who is pretty cute and normal-seeming and has appeared out of nowhere. From whence, real cute firefighter?
During the strip tease, which concluded FAR too quickly, in my opinion, Kelli and Sharlene attend as guests to sit with Andi on a special couch (I have a theory that The Bachelorette has a dedicated set dresser who has to haul overstuffed couches, blankets and candelabras to all the locations). This is a great opportunity for Sharlene to indicate to us once again that she’s terribly uninterested in the show. Casual moments of sadness include the opera singer having his chest contoured via spray tan and Cody accepting dollar tips in his mouth.
Looking back, I see now that the seeds of Craig’s destruction were sown at the strip club. Notice here the nervous compliments about Josh’s body (“heeeee’s kinda the full package”); notice there the panicked stuffing of a towel into the front of his spandex briefs. At the cocktail party he gets the jump on the toast and begins a road to obliteration that ends not when he jumps in the pool fully clothed, but when a Producer appears in Producer drag and forcibly takes him home. Of course, all the guys spend the rest of the evening vocally and repetitively distancing themselves from his self-immolation. And I get it, the responsible thing to say is that you don’t need to be the drunkest person at the party to have fun, but in this case, at this party, you might need to be as drunk as you’ve ever been in your whole life.
On the race track of love
Does anyone else feel like Chris is compensating for being a farmer with hair that says “city” a little too loudly? The last one-on-one date is at the Santa Anita racetrack where Andi and Chris dress in costumes from the 1940s; everyone else at the track actually lived through the 1940s and is now wearing a UCLA track jacket. The Bachelorette loves to choose activities that provide access to easy metaphors, such as, “we’re sledding into a life together!” and “I’m on a race course towards my future husband!” Andi plays along by letting us know “all I have to do is bet on the right horse,” but Chris can’t quite cobble together anything more than “I won…I guess I won?” While watching the ponies, an old couple out of central casting appears to read lines about how to know when you've found "the one."
When Andi said the evening’s conclusion was the “perfect way to end a perfect date,” do you think she meant dancing on a weird, elevated platform surrounded by tiny stanchions to a song with no discernible beat by a band who has provided their music for little to no licensing fee? Maybe so: they made out.
Will you accept this rose?
Listen, I had already typed this sentence as I was watching the Rose Ceremony:
“The only thing the opera singer had to do was not sing and he blew it this week, so he had to go home WHAT HE STAYED??????”
Here’s who else stuck around:
Dylan, who looks a little like Ed Burns, but is in no other way remarkable so far; Nick, who’s looking a little pouty for my taste, but seems to be holding Andi’s attention so I'm OFFICIALLY putting my money on him for the whole thing. Others such as: Cody!!, Josh the almost credibly sincere former athlete, Marquel who still has my vote, Tasos, Marcus who performed the most joyless crotch hump ever witnessed in a male strip club, Eric (!!), Chris, and these other guys named Ron, JJ, Patrick, Andrew, Brian and Brett. Who are these guys, btw?
Get in the damn limo
Although he wore his hair-shirt admirably and even performed a dismal and hastily composed apology song for Andi, Craig ultimately had to go. Even Andi seemed a little sad. I will miss his Chris Farley voice as well, Andi.
Also booted: Nick, the pro-golfer, who was so drunk he staggered into the doorframe on his way to the limo and Carl, the cute firefighter who never got a chance.
See you next week for TWO EPISODES over TWO NIGHTS and BOYZ II MEN!