“He who contemplates the depths of Paris is seized with vertigo. Nothing is more fantastic. Nothing is more tragic. Nothing is more sublime.” — Victor Hugo
“Paris is … very sexy and very cool!” — Arie Luyendyk Jr.
On Monday night, The Bachelor entered the home stretch of its 22nd season with a visit to one of the few cities as sexy and cool as Fort Lauderdale: Paris. Making the most of his visit to the place that he repeatedly reminded us is known as “The City of Love,” Arie “aww”-ed and “if you’re in France do they still call it French kiss”–ed his way through no fewer than four dates, including a group trip to the Moulin Rouge, two nail-biter one-on-ones, and a dreaded two-on-one.
I’ve been preparing for a Paris 2 on 1 since the 8th grade dance. pic.twitter.com/BbHxQdkLKf— Arie Luyendyk Jr. (@ariejr) February 2, 2018
For once, Arie proved unpredictable. Not with words — by my count, he added 12 more “amazings” to his lifetime total this week, and has now used the phrase “sexy and cool” four times in two episodes — but with actions. First, he kept would-consider-cannibalism Kendall over Krystal, much to the surprise of the hotel-boat-bound contestants back on the Seinne Seine. Next, he gave a rose to Jacqueline, after faking us (and her) out with what seemed like multiple preludes to a dismissal: a resigned-sounding “I feel like I have to go with my heart” and a self-aware soliloquy about how he wouldn’t want his lack of personality to destroy her dreams. And lastly, he bid goodbye to Chelsea, a fast starter who fizzled after receiving the first-impression rose, which for most recipients has historically prefigured a finish in the final four.
It’s fitting that Chelsea’s Week 1 rose wilted so soon, because the first impression she made was misleading. For a fleeting time, it was Chelsea who looked like the villain, sequestering Arie at every opportunity and unapologetically locking lip-pillows while other girls politely/passively pouted about not having had time. (Somewhere in Vermont, Bibiana is still waiting her turn.) Although Chelsea tried to cultivate an aura of intrigue, the most mysterious thing about her was why she turned into Miss Manners as the season progressed. Maybe she spontaneously developed scruples; maybe she missed her son; maybe she got complacent; or maybe Krystal psyched her out. Whatever the reason, Chelsea lasted only a few minutes longer than this season’s least-liked contestant. At least she rehabilitated her brand before she bowed out.
Krystal’s overconfidence against Kendall stemmed from what she took to be a foolproof two-part plan for her alone time with Arie. First, she would contort her features into some semblance of the alignment that typically conveys remorse. That part went well: Krystal appeared to pass Arie’s emotional Turing test. Arie still doesn’t seem sold on Kendall, so had Krystal stopped there, she might have made it one more week. Instead, she employed the one tactic that has a proven zero percent success rate: using her time with the Bachelor to bad-mouth another opponent. It predictably backfired, and after a few fruitless therapy sessions with her attempted target, Krystal was left alone with the “amazing” Eiffel Tower, exclaiming “This is bullshit!” before shedding a few tears that almost made her seem worthy of sympathy for a few moments.
Krystal’s departure leaves the season without an obvious villain heading into Hometowns, but judging by the turmoil on the teaser for next week — featuring the money shot of a single tear spilling from Arie’s baby blues — the drama is about to ramp up, not die down.
Theme of the Week: Blasé Reactions
By Week 6, The Bachelor’s battle lines have been drawn, and rivals who’ve built up bad blood no longer try to feign politeness. As a final farewell to Krystal, I present this week’s top-five Krystal-related interactions in which someone reacted to an earnest statement with the absolute minimum amount of concern.
Jacqueline, Kendall, and Krystal, Post–Date Card
Kendall and Krystal’s Psychiatric Session
Kendall and Krystal at Dinner
Kendall, Krystal, and Arie at Dinner
Krystal and Arie on the Two-on-One
Speaking of not speaking…
Worst Small Talk: Lauren B.
“I feel like on a one-on-one, you don’t have any pressure of other girls trying to interrupt, so I can actually get the things out that I’ve been wanting to tell him,” Lauren B. said before her big date with Arie. “So I’m hoping that he opens up with me as much as I plan to open up with him.”
Moments later, we learned what was on Lauren’s mind. It was actually only one word: “Wow.” After motoring off in a skiff that — contrary to one contestant’s comment — definitely didn’t look like a gondola, Arie and Lauren held hands, stared at the scenery, and basted themselves in uncomfortable quiet. In fairness to Lauren, I’m not sure that I would have a witty comeback prepared if a date were to draw my attention to a big wheel of cheese, but the ability to say something, however insubstantial, is a valuable Bachelor ability. (Just ask Arie.) It’s one thing to have trouble opening up about one’s innermost feelings, and another not to exhibit basic conversational skills. Lauren may have a tendency to friend-zone her suitors for six months — so much for the Fantasy Suite! — but friends are typically expected to talk. These weren’t words of affirmation:
Arie: I obviously would love more than anything for you to like me, you know?
Arie: I’m searching for, I guess, reassurance as much as you are.
Although both were probably the products of nerves, Lauren B.’s Coolidge-like day date was the polar opposite of Lauren S.’s babbling dinner date, in which she wouldn’t let Arie get in an “I love that” edgewise. Even so, Arie pronounced the silent outing a success, raving about “a really great day” and “a really amazing day” and, in case there was any confusion, adding, “I couldn’t have pictured a better day.” In a possible attempt to be chivalrous, he even offered Lauren B. a flimsy excuse for her reticence. “It was so busy out today, too,” Arie suggested. “It was like, really busy. Almost like, insane.” Happy to have an excuse, Lauren agreed, “I know, that kind of freaked me out a little bit.” I hope their next stroll is through Tuscany’s Times Square equivalent.
Most Misguided Attempt to Garner Sympathy: Arie
To her credit, Lauren did let her guard down at dinner. To get semi-serious for a second: There comes a time in every emotionally closed-off contestant’s Bachelor(ette) run when he or she has to explain why it’s hard for him or her to be vulnerable or to trust a partner. Most contestants trace their reluctance to open up back to a traumatic event (or series of events) that they’ve had a hard time putting behind them. At their one-on-one dinner, Lauren disclosed a sad story about a difficult upbringing that made her feel like a pawn in her parents’ power struggles. To make matters worse, her former fiancé — whom she’d once intended to wed only two months before filming for this season began — started to mistreat her as soon as they’d gotten engaged, which destroyed the relationship.
But before Lauren shared, Arie had broken the ice by relating his own history. As he explained, his most serious relationship — which he’d previously discussed on Emily’s season — was with a woman who had two kids. The woman, he now revealed, was also pregnant with his child. (“What?” Lauren asked, echoing all of us.) According to Arie, his travel for racing had become a point of contention between him and his girlfriend, and he’d tried to cut back. But while he was away during the busiest section of his racing schedule, his girlfriend had a miscarriage. When she called to tell him, she also informed him that she was ending their relationship. “I thought, ‘OK, this is just, she’s overreacting because I wasn’t there,’ but she just, that was it,” Arie said. After Lauren’s reaction — “That’s terrible” — he continued, “So that definitely hit me hard, and I can understand how it’s hard to trust somebody.”
Arie reportedly tried to tell the same story on Emily’s season, but the footage was edited out. At the time, Arie’s ex, Cassie Harshman, said, “If that happened, I’m mortified that Arie would share such painfully intimate details of our relationship while the cameras were rolling. What happened is one of the hardest things a woman can go through. I’ve moved on, but Arie using that to try and elicit sympathy from Emily is horrible.”
It’s similarly off-putting now. We may not have the full picture, but as Arie and his ex have presented it, he doesn’t come off as the wronged or most traumatized party, and in the edited, cut, Arie doesn’t evince a lot of empathy for his ex’s frame of mind. If anything, Arie sounds more like the one who wasn’t worthy of trust.
Least Clutch Moment: Also Arie
Because Arie is a race-car driver who last week described himself as a “car, motor guy” while leering at a large engine, this week’s convertible breakdown was so perfectly suited to his strengths that it seemed almost orchestrated. The cherry-red Triumph that he used to pick up Jacqueline just happened to stall 10 feet from where it started, in full view of all of his would-be wives. All season long, the producers have been pushing Arie’s race-car cred, and here was his chance to back up the hype by whipping off his jacket, popping the hood, and revving up the engines of his ride and his date. As Jacqueline put it, “It is hot when guys who know things about things do things about things.”
Arie ostensibly knows things about things — he certainly said “fuel injection” as if he knew what it was — but when the rubber met the road, he had to call a cab. Admittedly, he might normally have a pit crew to take care of problems like this, but by failing to fix the car, he fumbled at an opportune time to demonstrate value.
(Side note: “Pit Crew” would be perfect for Arie’s next armpit tattoo.)
Most Unexpected Political Reference: Bekah M.
Whether because The Bachelor’s producers are afraid of alienating the show’s bipartisan audience or because Bachelor(ette) contestants are not among our nation’s most politically plugged-in people — let’s be honest, it’s probably both — the Bachelor franchise has historically been a largely apolitical property. On Nick’s season, which was still filming in November 2016, there was no indication that an election had occurred at all, let alone that its outcome was a surprise or that some of the contestants may have been bummed about it.
Until this week, then, The Bachelor was a rare refuge, the one place where we could feel fairly sure that we wouldn’t hear about politics (aside from those inside the group). Not to “stick to sports” The Bachelor, but when Bekah broke precedent by citing Donald Trump’s presidential win to explain why Krystal losing the two-on-one wasn’t far-fetched, it felt like the collapse of the last fragile dam between our idle entertainment and the terrors we turn to TV to forget.
Bekah — whose name always makes me think of the chicken from Bojack — won this week’s group-date rose, and she also earns a mention for the episode’s best background reaction, thanks to her open-mouthed shock about Becca K. beating out Chelsea:
In real life, Bekah was briefly believed to be missing, but on screen, she’s unavoidable.
Most Quotable: Jacqueline
Jacqueline, who until this week had been buried on a deep bench, was the episode’s most improved player. The Jacqueline moment I admired the most was when, out of courtesy to Kendall, she kept her face completely expressionless after finding out that she would be going on the one-on-one date and that Kendall would be doomed to duke it out with Krystal. That’s exemplary sportsmanship. But shortly after that admirable gesture, Jacqueline gave the audience an even greater gift: a reason for genuine, un-ironic laughter, a reality-TV rarity. “When I got the date card, it felt like I was given a pony for Christmas,” Jacqueline said. “But it’s also like, if you don’t learn to ride this pony correctly by the end of the day, it’ll be shot.”
MVP: The Suitcase
Just once, I want to burst into the door of a hotel suite with the unbridled joy of a Bachelor(ette) contestant starting his or her stay, shrieking with wonder as I flop onto a bed or step onto a balcony. But The Bachelor has burnished the reputation of an even more mundane institution than the hotel: the suitcase. Since I discovered the Bachelor franchise, I’ve never looked at suitcases the same way. In real life, suitcases are drab receptacles into which we stuff socks. On The Bachelor, they’re transformed into portents of doom and deliverance, treated with the reverence that the ancients used to accord comets and eclipses. When Krystal finally fell, it was an unassuming suitcase that resolved the suspense and gave the survivors permission to pop corks.
Forget white smoke at the Sistine Chapel or a newscaster citing X percent of precincts and making a call in stentorian tones; this is how we should pick popes and presidents. Make all the cardinals and presidential candidates stuff their belongings into something that says “Samsonite” and leave the aspiring suitcases in a central, public place. We’ll know who the winner is after we’ve watched all but one wheeled away.