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The Bachelor Is Old Enough to Be a Backstreet Boy

Nick Viall is the same age as Nick Carter. Plus, more awards from Episode 3.

(ABC)
(ABC)

There are only two good sports in the world. One is that awesome handball thing from the Olympics. The other is The Bachelor, a show that features 30 women competing to gain as many Instagram followers as they can before they’re eliminated by a slightly above-average guy who once got dumped on national television. This year is the best yet, because the bachelor, Nick Viall, got dumped on The Bachelorette … twice! Every Tuesday we’ll be telling you who, uh, rose to the occasion on the previous night’s episode. So pop on the music of your 1990s boy band of choice and join us.

MVP: Corinne

For the second straight week, I have to say it’s Corinne — although for completely different reasons. On the second episode, Corinne was portrayed as a Machiavellian manipulator who used her cunning and sex appeal to obtain Nick’s favor while alienating all who crossed her path. On the third episode, she is portrayed as an overgrown woman-child who can’t survive without frequent, public sleep sessions and a live-in nanny who is the only person in the world that can adequately prepare dishes she refers to as “cheese pasta” and “lemon salad.”

Corinne starts the episode by approaching Nick in a trench coat and little else, a look fashion experts call “Street Pervert Chic.” She asks Nick to eat whipped cream off of her.

He happily does for about four minutes and then he leaves to talk to the other women, which causes her to cry and say that her hopes of marrying him are doomed.

Next, she must stand on stage at a Backstreet Boys concert while Nick makes out with Danielle, an event she describes as “the worst day of my entire life.” The death of a loved one, the end of a meaningful relationship, the termination of a great job — no personal loss compares with having a boy band encourage a guy you’ve known for three weeks to smooch somebody else.

She closes the episode by seducing Nick in a bouncy castle. I’m a little confused about the logistics of this: She keeps referring to the bouncy castle as a sneaky surprise, even though there’s nothing less secretive than having a 30-foot-tall, brightly colored carnival item inflated in your driveway. For some reason, nobody challenges her right to be alone with Nick in the bouncy castle, which is completely counterintuitive to the way most people treat bouncy castles: yelling “HOLY CRAP A BOUNCY CASTLE” and immediately running inside. But regardless, she gets nearly nude and straddles Nick.

(During this extremely sexual encounter, Nick’s comments are as follows: “this is kinda dope,” “this is great,” and “hi … how are you.” A true Casanova.)

With her perpetual drunkenness; addiction to napping; awkward, misconceived sexual encounters; firm belief that somebody she met less than a month ago is her new best friend for life; and professed inability to do laundry or make functional mac and cheese, I have realized that Corinne is actually just a blond version of me from freshman year of college. Earlier, I strongly disliked her. Now, I just hope she learns how to conjugate the past tense in Spanish before her midterm.

By the end of the episode, some of the other women have decided they’ve had enough of Corinne’s crap, and so they confront Nick about why he’s interested in such a bombastic fool. I mean, they’re right, but I have not had nearly enough of Corinne’s crap. Whether she is a sly, seductive power broker or a drunken doofus, she is worth her own TV show. Even if she won’t be on this one for much longer.

Most-Improved Player: Vanessa

Vanessa starts off the episode poorly. She goes on one of those reduced gravity planes with Nick — you know, the type from that OK Go video, or this Kate Upton photoshoot. These planes were invented in the 1950s to help astronauts train for weightlessness in space. Unlike actually being in space, reduced gravity planes shift back and forth between low-g and high-g sensations for passengers, an experience that led astronauts to nickname the planes “vomit comets.” I’d like to have a serious talk with the Bachelor producer who decided this was a romantic date idea. The comet does its job, and Vanessa vomits.

Somehow, Vanessa’s takeaway from the experience is that Nick was particularly caring because he stood by her after her puke party. This is the lowest possible bar to clear. This is like going on a date with somebody to the Have Piranhas Eat Your Left Leg Clean Off Experience and saying, “Well, getting my leg eaten clean off by the piranhas sucked, but the way my date comforted me after — swoon!” At this point I wasn’t feeling great about Vanessa, who seemed to hold Nick in high esteem for merely not being a jackass.

They continue with a dinner on top of the tallest building in Los Angeles, a date that I would have spent saying, “No, seriously — this is exactly where that girl went to welcome the aliens in Independence Day. Like, right here.” Nick is more tactful, though, and is deeply moved by the conversation. He cries, which shows he’s serious and emotional.

With the knowledge that Nick is somewhat invested in her relationship, Vanessa closes the episode by flipping the tables on him. She confronts him about Corinne’s over-the-top public displays of sexuality, wondering if he actually respected and wanted to be with the other women on the show. She asks, “Are you looking for a wife or are you looking for someone to fuck around with?” And she says that if it’s the latter, she doesn’t want his rose. At several points in the minute-long convo, Vanessa gives Nick opportunities to defend himself, but the only things he says are “I mean … fair” and “uh … I dunno.”

This is perhaps the most vicious sonning I’ve ever seen on this show. In his four stints on The Bachelor franchise, Nick has generally gotten by on his handsomeness and boyish charm, but it gives way quickly if anybody pushes on it. As a contestant he’d fume when things didn’t go his way, even if it was something as simple as a woman saying she liked another contestant more. As the Bachelor, he doesn’t have that leeway. He can’t throw a fit just because somebody disagrees with him. He just has to sit there and take it.

Best Celebrity Cameo: The Backstreet Boys

As an astute and extremely unpopular 8-year-old, I found it strange that the first Backstreet Boys song I ever heard was called “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and featured them singing, “Oh my god we’re back again.” I had never heard of them, and had no idea why I was supposed to be excited about them being back. But now we’re permanently excited by the prospect of their return. Whenever we see, hear, or think about them, we think, “Oh, Backstreet’s back? … All right!”

When the Backstreet Boys are revealed on Monday’s episode, every single contestant screams like it was 1998. While people on The Bachelor often have to fake enthusiasm for once-famous acts — I’ll never forget a character saying with a straight face that The Cranberries were his favorite band — nobody was faking Backstreet enthusiasm. I mean, hell, I was pretty pumped, and I was just watching in my living room. Backstreet was back, dammit. And everybody agreed that it was all right.

The gist was they were performing a show that night, and needed some women as backup dancers. (Just once, I want to be in the audience for a fake concert held to further the plotline of an episode of The Bachelor.) The Boys nail it, singing “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and “I Want It That Way” for the girls privately and then singing “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and “I Want It That Way” in the concert. This was a little bit disappointing, because they have at least five good songs in their catalog. (“Larger Than Life”: banger.) They get some applause and then introduce Nick to more applause — a situation they handle with the enthusiasm and grace of a band that’s performed bar mitzvahs on multiple occasions and has perfected the art of yelling, “And now everybody GIVE IT UP FOR ISAAAAAAAAAAAAAC.”

Their performance, though, serves a more important point. It’s clear that many contestants view the Backstreet Boys as sex symbols, one-time childhood crushes. Maybe they’re older and no longer look as cool when they wear sunglasses indoors, but the passion was still there. Some of the contestants are as young as 23, and they lose their minds for the guys in a band that peaked two decades ago. That’s good: Nick is 36, which just happens to be the same age as the youngest Backstreet Boy, Nick Carter.

Worst Performance: Jasmine

Jasmine has been a cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys and a dancer for the Golden State Warriors. Her job is dancing with people in unison. And yet when the Backstreet Boys — perhaps the world’s foremost experts in dancing in unison — have to choose who did the best job dancing in unison, they pick Danielle, who owns a nail salon.

I’m worried the Backstreet Boys are gonna log on today and tweet, “TODAY’S BEST BACHELOR RECAP IS BY GREG, A TELEMARKETER WHO IS BETTER AT BLOGGING THAN RODGER,” and then I’m gonna have to quit my job to spend the rest of my life training to defeat the Backstreet Boys in physical combat one by one.

Best Performance: Rachel

Following the Backstreet Boys was a track-and-field-themed date. As Nick explains, he ran track both in high school and college. Of course, he hasn’t been in college in 14 years and likely hasn’t been running track for most of the decade-plus since then, but whatever, just go with it. He has the women compete in some events (a high jump, long jump, and javelin toss) and is joined by three Olympians: nine-time gold medalist Carl Lewis, six-time gold medalist sprinter Allyson Felix, and Michelle Carter, who won the shot put at last year’s Olympics.

Lewis and Felix are relatively famous, and they should be angry at their agents for booking them on the same episode as the Backstreet Boys. Carter isn’t. She competes in a less glamorous event and has fewer medals. I covered last year’s Olympics in Rio and could not have picked Carter out of a lineup. But Rachel sees her and instantly screams, “MICHELLE.” My guess is it’s because Carter and Rachel are both from Dallas, but I like to imagine that Rachel is a track-and-field aficionado.

In the events, Rachel is clearly better than everybody, although Carter tells us the participants are graded on “distance, form, sportsmanship, and chemistry with Nick.” The three women who grade best then have a race to spend alone time with Nick on a hot tub. Rachel wins the sprint, but she was supposed to grab a ring off a table to present to Nick. Instead, she accidentally smacks the ring off the table and kicks it, smashing it to pieces and ensuring she doesn’t win the race. You might think this was an accident, but as we’ve already established, she’s a track-and-field aficionado: This was just an homage to Felix dropping the baton during the women’s 4-x-100 race in Rio.

Worst Story Line: Liz, Post-Exit

The first 10 or so minutes of the episode focus on a story line from last week: how Liz got kicked off the show after Nick thought long and hard about why a person who had rejected him now wanted to compete for his love on television. Technically, this was a cliff-hanger, as last week’s episode ended with a “To Be Continued” as Nick prepared to inform the women of his history with Liz.

The consensus was … nobody cared? These are 10 minutes we could’ve spent focusing on the logistics of Corinne acquiring a bouncy castle.

Saddest Exit: Dominique

Dominique confronts Nick about how she wasn’t asked on a date for almost three weeks and then felt ignored on the track-and-field date. In real life, a potential partner might talk this through. On a dating show where there are 20 other women, Nick just sends her home.

Also eliminated were Hailey, Lacey, and Elizabeth, who was different from Liz. All three were blond, which is a sea change from last year, when Ben eliminated 15 of the show’s 16 non-blondes to make a final 10 with nine blond women in it. An important reminder: For all the drama and stuff, much of the show comes down to whoever a particular guy thinks is hot.

Best Catchphrase: Alexis

Alexis has taken to adding “… bitches” to her statements. She’s like Jesse Pinkman with breast implants. It’s nice to see her come out of her shell, which, in this case, was an enormous shark costume she claimed was a dolphin costume.