The Bachelor: Second time's not the charm (spoiler alert)
Other reality competitions have had success with returning players. After all, Boston Rob won his fourth time playing Survivor and Coach was runnerup his third time around. Rachel won Big Brother on her second try. Even The Bachelor brought back Brad Womack for another season.
But I'm not so sure any of them would survive walking through a roomful of hyper-competitive women and asking Ben Flajnik for a second shot at reality TV love as the other girls seethed.
Shawntel Newton, the funeral director from Brad's season (his second, not his first) did just that, ostensibly because she'd gotten to know Ben and felt a connection with him.
Was it a stretch to expect Ben to throw over some woman he'd just spent several weeks with because Shawntel horned in on the party? Hell, yeah. Was it the most interesting part of Monday's episode? Yeah, duh.
Up until that last half-hour, the episode had been a drama-free zone.
Oh sure, Brittney left rather than face a one-on-one date with Ben, but nobody seemed to care much, including Ben (bet Grandma will be disappointed, though). We heard nothing from Blakeley and even Courtney was well-behaved for most of the show. The most biting insult she could summon in the early going was that Ben's date with PhD epidemiology student Emily would be boring because Emily was "book smart." Yawn.
And then, just as Lindzi rhapsodized, "I don't think there's anything that can ruin tonight" after a romantic one-on-one with Ben, we saw a mystery woman driving to San Francisco and talking to Chris Harrison on speakerphone: "I really feel like this could be meant to be. I'm looking forward to seeing you and, most of all, to seeing Ben.... He's gonna totally fall in love with me."
Those of you who read the spoilers already knew the woman was Shawntel, who had one of the most memorable hometown dates ever when she took Brad on a tour of her family's funeral home, including a tryout of the embalming table.
The bigger mystery here is what kind of connection Shawntel had with Ben. On Monday, she mentioned that they'd talked before and Ben said he'd enjoyed the conversations, but a post on the website Wetpaint.com suggests they'd never met face to face and that Shawntel didn't seem particularly keen on Ben when asked to rate the guys from Ashley's season of The Bachelorette.
And yet, there she was, striding across the room in an off-the-shoulder, tangerine minidress to bust up Ben's conversation with Elyse and confessing to the camera that Ben might be "someone I want to be with for the rest of my life."
Once the other women figured out who she was and that she was staying for the rose ceremony, they were up in arms.
"The only thing I know about her is guys that she dates go on a bed where she drains people's blood. I think that's creepy," said Rachel. "We don't reuse Brad's dumpster trash," added Jaclyn. Courtney threatened not to accept a rose from Ben if he offered one to Shawntel. Nicki was in tears.
I'm sure ABC couldn't have been happier.
Ben, accommodating fellow that he is, went along with the fiction that he might give Shawntel a rose, calling her "exactly the kind of woman I think I would date."
Trouble is, Ben wouldn't have been the kind of guy some of those women wanted to date if he'd given the last rose to Shawntel, so of course it was never going to happen.
But Ben went one better: not only did he withhold the final rose from Shawntel, he refused to give it to Erika or Jaclyn either. I half thought law student Erika might get it out of sympathy since she sort of fainted during the rose ceremony (Kacie and Courtney blamed Shawntel for that), but once she'd recovered enough to stand, Ben told her it had been an "absolute pleasure" getting to know her and that was that.
Erika sat back down on some steps and hyperventilated a bit. Jaclyn ran sobbing to the bathroom with Emily in tow. Shawntel said a cordial goodbye to Ben then complained that he "wasn't being man enough" to accept his connection with her. Whatever.
Ben was too busy earlier in the episode making connections with women who had been there since the beginning.
First up was Emily. She was the recipient of the "if we can get through this really scary thing, we can get through anything" one-on-one date (which doesn't really mean squat: Chantal O. endured an underwater date with Brad despite her fear of water and ended up roseless in the finale).
Emily's fear was of heights, so the sadistic producers made her and Ben climb the Bay Bridge. When they got about 250 feet up the 535-foot climb, Emily stopped dead. Ben had the bright idea to kiss her and, magically, Emily was able to go on.
"That's how it is with relationships," Emily philosophized. "You're scared of all the damage that heartbreak causes. You have to move forward or else you don't get to experience the great things that another person has to offer you."
Yeah, Courtney was right. That is kind of boring.
More smooching ensued when Ben and Emily made it to the top of the bridge. And then at dinner, Emily's example of an "abysmal dating experience" was having a website try to match her with her own brother. After more earnest conversation about dating and families, Ben handed over the date rose with the preamble that "My father loved my mother because he thought that she was smarter than he was and, in fact, I think you're probably smarter than me."
And then there were fireworks and champagne and more kissing, and Ben saying he might be able to spend the rest of his life with Emily.
Or not, since there were still plenty of other women to kiss and connect with.
Ben took 11 of the women on a group date that involved skiing in bikinis down one of San Francisco's famously steep streets on artificial snow as amused residents looked on. It's not exactly climbing up a bridge, but Kacie B. managed to turn her lack of ski experience into a chance for a shirtless Ben to admire her derriere as she came down the hill backwards and bent over. "Butt skiing backwards is on my leap list," said Ben appreciatively.
Kacie, who had the very first one-on-one date, wasn't feeling so appreciated later at the Tonga Room restaurant when she spied Ben locking lips with Rachel and holding hands with Elyse. A walk outside with Ben and some smooching restored her spirits, which were promptly dashed again when Rachel got the date rose on the grounds that she had opened up to Ben (besides telling Ben he was "chill" and funny, I'm not sure what she said that was so enlightening).
In the meantime, Brittney had crashed the party to tell Ben not to waste a one-on-one date on her when her heart wasn't in the process. "Say hi to your grandma," were Ben's parting words.
Brittney's loss was Lindzi's gain as the horsewoman, who'd been feeling neglected since gaining the first impression rose, scored the last San Francisco one-on-one.
It looked like a fun one. They started on a private trolley car tour of the city, stopped at Swensen's for mocha chip ice cream, got a private Matt Nathanson concert in a deserted city hall (he played "Faster"), visited 1920s-style speakeasy Bourbon & Branch and played a lipstick-red grand piano together in a music store. (Ben's sensitive, don't forget. He can play "This Year's Love.")
Lindzi, who looked smashing in her little black dress, said she doesn't normally kiss on a first date, but of course she and Ben were smooching up a storm by the end of it and sharing war stories about past relationships (Lindzi's "Welcome to Dumpsville" text from her ex vs. Ben's proposal being rejected on national TV, which seems uneven to me).
You already know how the pre-rose ceremony cocktail party turned out. Before Shawntel busted in, Ben got some alone time with Jennifer and Courtney, which included lots of kissing.
Contrary to Blakeley's pretensions, Ben told Jennifer she was the best kisser in the house and then tested out his theory (and yes, there was tongue involved).
He also spirited Courtney away for some canoodling and to tell her he'd been thinking about her. Courtney decided to push her luck by telling him, "We could make cute babies." Presumably after she gets the two-carat diamond ring.
Earlier, Courtney was back to her usual standard of bitchiness.
"Most of these girls are the kind of girls I wouldn't ever be friends with," she said. "They're very naive and very juvenile." In particular, she said Nicki was sweet but looked like an idiot for playing a Q&A game with Ben that involved writing answers on cards. She called Blakeley "the kind of girl your boyfriend cheats on you with." And she accused Lindzi of giving Elyse the stinkeye, which didn't sit well with Emily, who called Courtney a bleeped-out swear word.
The Emily-Courtney drama will continue on next week's episode, according to the promos, when Ben and the remaining 13 women move on to Park City, Utah. The ladies who got roses Monday, besides Emily, Rachel and Lindzi on the dates, were Courtney, Kacie, Elyse, Jamie, Jennifer, Casey, Blakeley, Monica, Nicki and Samantha.
Note that although Courtney backed down from her threat to not accept a rose, she did hesitate before grabbing it, telling Ben, "I saw you talking to what's-her-butt (Shawntel). It was not easy."
It's The Bachelor, Courtney, so it's not supposed to be. You can watch next Monday at 8 p.m. on Omni.2 or ABC, and catch the recap here.
And although things have been quiet here on the blog, I still love to read your comments. Don't forget, you can always tweet me @realityeo or visit my Facebook page.