Welcome to The Bachelor, where the law of the jungle prevails, or at least the law of the storybook characters in some play that a bunch of grade school kids wrote.
What we learned, tots, is that you can be a good sport and play the part of the Weasel and be so awesome in your weaselness that the handsome prince kisses you a lot in the pool. But then the Gingerbread Man flashes her boobs and it's game over.
Yes, folks, a treasured Bachelor archetype is alive and well: the sexually aggressive contestant who manages to bamboozle the dude while inspiring loathing in virtually every other woman in the house.
Blakeley, come on down!
It just goes to show you what a difference a week makes. On last week's premiere, VIP cocktail waitress Blakeley (and what is that exactly? do you have to be important before she'll serve you a drink?) was snuggling with Monica to the point where men seemed to be the last thing on her mind.
Then whammo, Monday she was all about Ben and woe to the woman who got in her way.
Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if a little producer bird whispered in Ben's ear and told him to give Blakeley the rose on the group date. Given all the kvetching that went about how pissed off the other girls would be if Blakeley got the rose, it seems like too much of a coincidence that that's exactly what happened.
On the other hand, Ben, being of the male persuasion, may have been no match for Blakeley's turquoise bikini and her mad kissing skills. "I absolutely believe in my kissing skills 100 per cent," she confided to the camera before hopping into the pool with Ben and attempting to perform a tonsillectomy with her tongue.
Oddly, Ben said he was giving Blakeley the rose because she "made the most of her time with me in conversation." Guess they have a different way of talking down there in Sonoma, Calif.
That's where all the dates played out this week. The 18 bachelorettes were transplanted from L.A. to wine country so Ben could see how well they fit in on his home turf (although I'm a bit confused, because I thought he'd moved back to San Francisco, which is where he heads with the harem next week).
Anyway, we knew Ben was really comfortable in Sonoma because we got to see him in his casual clothes walking his adorable Jack Russell terrier. And he talked about his father again, who's been dead for five years, but it might as well have been last week for the purposes of the show.
The first one-on-one date went to Kacie B. There is a rule somewhere in the producers' handbook that all first dates have to be "magical," so Kacie and Ben strolled the picturesque streets of Sonoma, plinked at a piano together in the Ledson Hotel, bought a Kermit lunchbox at the toy store and twirled a baton together on the main street.
"Ben and I are having a parade in the middle of his hometown and we're having a blast.... It was perfect and this was only the beginning," enthused Kacie.
As Ben bestowed the date rose on Kacie, he told her, "I could see you in Sonoma and I want you to be here." Smooching followed, but it wasn't over yet.
It was time for Ben to be "open and honest and vulnerable," so he and Kacie visited an old movie theatre where they got a private showing of each other's home movies and Ben ended up wiping away tears after seeing his dad onscreen.
"Ben's reaction to the movie solidified that he is real and genuine and doesn't want to hold anything back," declared Kacie, "and that is exactly what I want."
Cue more smooching.
Of course, the downside of having the first date is that you then get to sit back and watch the Bachelor date lots of other women while you worry whether he's going to forget about you.
Next up for Ben was a group date with Brittney, Rachel, Jennifer, Blakeley, Emily, Jenna, Shawn, Monica, Samantha, Jamie, Nicki and Jaclyn.
No strolls through town or private screenings for them, though. They had to audition in front of a group of kid playwrights, which mainly involved making animal noises or doing goofy dances, then perform the play the children had written in front of a selection of Sonoma townsfolk at the community theatre.
The kids certainly wrote a lot of kissing into the play, in which Ben played a prince seeking his princess while encountering various animals, a gingerbread man, a hippie and a valley girl, and being threatened by a dragon. I must say, I'm surprised the kids wrote in a scene in which Ben, who had been turned into a sheep, stripped down to a pair of woolly boxers.
Children, they grow up so fast these days, don't they?
Anyway, it all worked out. Ben was reassured that none of the women were child haters, the women were touched that Ben was so kid-friendly and Ben declared, "It's gonna be something that I don't think Sonoma will forget for a while." To which I would say: Sonoma doesn't get out much, does it?
As we all know, the real fun was at the post-play pool party at the Sonoma Mission Inn, where Blakeley inspired such loathing that Samantha hid in the bathroom for a while and Blakeley was branded a cougar (at the ripe old age of 34), a candy-striped hooker (a reference to the striped jumper she wore on the date) and a slut. Jennifer felt sick to her stomach after seeing Blakeley and Ben in the pool, not long after she and Ben swapped spit of their own.
Blakeley had a very different reaction to being watched in the pool: it turned her on. "If she wants to watch us make out she can. It was making me excited just thinking about it. Oh, I love it, I love it. I'm getting excited just talking about it," Blakeley said in her confessional.
Well, okay then.
Blakeley was not the only villain on Monday's episode.
Model Courtney was also upping her bitch cred trying to psych the other girls out by bragging about the connection she had with Ben. She made it clear to Lindzi she thought it was the horse and not her who earned the first impression rose. And when Kacie read out Courtney's date card, "Courtney, let's spin the bottle," Courtney gloated, "How'd that taste coming out of your mouth?"
Of course, bitchy Courtney was nowhere in evidence on her date with Ben. Instead, we saw nature-loving Courtney, marvelling at the beauty of the redwood forest where she and Ben had their picnic lunch and gushing over Scotch, Ben's beloved Jack Russell. This Courtney begged to know more about Ben at dinner (oldest trick in the book, get him to talk about himself) and invited sympathy with her hints about the actors, photographers and other high flyers who'd broken her heart ("I found underwear in the bed, you name it"). She had trust issues, she confided.
Ben went for it hook, line and sinker. "I want you to trust me," he said as he proffered the date rose.
Oddly enough, Courtney did not talk about the two-carat diamond ring she's hoping to bag. Funny that.
I will give her credit for one thing: when it came time for the pre-rose ceremony cocktail party, Courtney sat back and let the roseless girls get some Ben time. That meant, for instance, that Ben and Lindzi got to compare notes about what kind of tractors they drive.
But Blakeley decided she needed more time with Ben and kept horning in when he took another woman aside for a private chat. The girls were getting angry. Even Blakeley's former girl crush, Monica, accused her of offending people.
"The Blakeley situation makes people more high strung. It brings out an environment where everyone's on edge," said Emily.
And that was true of no one more than Jenna. Yes, Jenna, the relationship blogger who spent most of last week's premiere either feuding with Monica or locked in the bathroom crying. This was her chance to make things right with Ben, but darned if there wasn't another battle going on in her head.
This is what Jenna told Ben when he took her aside for some private time. "I'm really grateful you gave me another chance after this first night. I just feel like, I feel like I'm a guy in how I act. I don't want you to think, I'm not, it might appear as if I'm not. It's hard, it's only you, waiting around for you. It's totally worth it, but I'm not, like, a girl if that makes any sense."
No Jenna, not a lick. And riddle me this: how is it that someone who writes for a living can't string two sentences together?
Jenna, realizing she'd blown it once again, ended up back in the bathroom crying and then went for a full-on jag, lying in bed in her cocktail dress with the covers over her head.
But Blakeley was not to be one-upped, not even when it came to crying.
After she overheard some of the other women making fun of her, she headed for the luggage room, where she crouched in a corner and cried some crocodile tears. Her makeup looked surprisingly streak-free when Ben came to find her, which I suspect was the point all along. Ben sympathetically clutched her hand and told her to take a moment to collect herself. It was tough seeing Blakeley "in a corner of the luggage room curled up into a ball," he said. Oh puhleeze.
Ben also found Jenna, a.k.a. the lump in the bed, and got her up.
"I had no idea things had gotten this bad this early," he said.
What better time to ratchet up the tension with a rose ceremony!
The roses were distributed, in order, to Jennifer, Emily, Elyse, Jaclyn, Erika, Rachel, Lindzi, Nicki, Casey S. (did she even speak during the episode?), Samantha, Monica, Jamie and, finally, Brittney.
Courtney, Blakeley and Kacie already had date roses, so that meant Jenna and Shawn were SOL.
I had forgotten who Shawn even was, but now I recall she was the single mom who played soccer with Ben last week, and seemed more like a buddy than a romantic partner, so I'm not surprised to see her go.
Jenna made a predictably dramatic exit, sobbing and clutching her chest while her nose got progressively redder and her hair stringier: "Are you kidding me? No, really, are you kidding me? I'm mortified."
Honey, treat it as blog fodder and just be glad they didn't expose even more of your neuroses on national TV.
As for the ladies who made it through to next week, they're heading to San Francisco. The promos showed Ben and Lindzi on a one-on-one date; Brittney making some kind of announcement that seems to shock her fellow bachelorettes; somebody passing out (is it Blakeley? please?) and Ben's ex-girlfriend showing up, inspiring outrage in the contestants.
In other words, good times for us.
I'll be watching and recapping next Monday at 8 p.m. on OMNI.2. Yes, you read that right. Citytv is apparently kicking The Bachelor off its schedule in favour of Alcatraz. Hey, I'm a J.J. Abrams fan, but that seems like a bit of a slap for faithful Bachelor fans. If you don't get OMNI, you can also catch the show on ABC.
And I would love to know what you think of the season so far. So comment here, tweet me @realityeo or visit my Facebook page.