Arrrreee you ready for week three of “The Bachelor”? Yeah we aren’t either, but here we are.
It’s still too early to be able to tell the women apart, but never too early for petty, manufactured drama. (What are the beauty queens fighting about?) The episode begins with a group date at a pirate-themed Medieval Times where the women jabbed at one another with foam wands — but of course the words flung behind one another’s backs cut the deepest.
The best moment
Finally, an episode without near-constant reminders that Colton is a virgin! Those jokes (we counted dozens in the premiere alone) got old real quickly. Instead, references to what Colton hasn’t done have been replaced by shots of what his bare chest can do: See Colton flex as the women ogle. See Colton get oiled up at a pool party while the women ogle.
In fact, the first and only notable reference to Colton’s virginity was a comment one of the women made as he was helping Sydney stretch during the workout date. “He’s not a stretching virgin anymore,” which, as far as virginity references go, was a stretch. We’re pretty sure that a former professional football player is acquainted with stretching.
Now that the virgin references have let up a bit, will the cougar comments be next to get the boot? This show has always been weird about age, alternatingly questioning whether a 22-year-old is old enough to get married and casting a 32-year-old as if she’s missed her chance entirely. Predictably the 20-something contestants treat Elyse and Tracy, both 31, as if they are preying on a much younger man. (Colton is 26, not 16! Elyse and Tracy are decades too young to be branded as cougars.) Thankfully Colton isn’t playing into the age-shaming. Instead he says things like: “You have this confidence and this independence — and I want to know why.” But that snippet at the end of the episode, when the literal children kept “cutting in” on Colton’s time with Elyse? These girls are 5! It was one of “The Bachelor’s” creepier moments.
The worst moment
If we come to “The Bachelor” for drama, then it is drama of the most pedestrian kind. Watching, we bop along to flat rhythms of a story we’ve heard again and again. This episode’s worst moment emerges out of one those familiar beats: One of the contestants convinces another to speak ill of a third, thereby beginning the process of her own exit. Here, it is Heather who persuades erstwhile pageant queen Hannah B. to tell Colton that she doesn’t care for her fellow pageanteer (and former friend) Caelynn. Within the arc of the episode, the initial goading isn’t surprising, but neither is it unwelcome: One of our colleagues referred to it as the series’ Death Star, by which he meant that it shows up in virtually every episode — and, presumably, always ends in a satisfying explosion.
What follows, however, is a study in tedium, less fully operational battle station than lifeless moon. When Hannah first comes to Colton with her concerns, she has, we soon learn, little to offer. They were amicable, and now they’re not, but Hannah is hard-pressed to explain why, or, for that matter, why anyone who wasn’t involved should care. Confronted with these feckless facts, Colton leans his whole body back, as if shocked. But it’s difficult to escape the feeling that he’s really just tired, possibly even taking this opportunity to get in a quick nap before chatting with the next contestant.
Before long, we find Caelynn playing along, though she, too, is hard-pressed to explain why, exactly, her antagonist is so untrustworthy. Befuddled (is he ever otherwise?), Colton escapes to some backstage Purgatorio where host Chris Harrison hovers like a thirsty shadow. Confusing this shade for wise Virgil, Colton seeks counsel, and for once he is blameless. He has been told that these things matter, but neither women has told him why. This is imported drama, brought in from an event that “The Bachelor” cannot show us, and that the participants themselves are incapable of articulating. Here, Colton’s confusion is almost relatable, offering us a picture of an observer who looks a great deal like the show’s own viewer. For all his putative power, he is reduced to the role of passive watcher uncertain what he’s supposed to think or whether he should even care.
Ultimately, he keeps them both, of course, though he gives Hannah the last rose — manufactured and predictable drama, yes, but at least drama in the show’s wheelhouse. Even in this, he seems hapless and used, since we know that the producers are salivating to send the pair of pageant queens on a two-on-one date in an episode soon. It’s difficult to say why, though, since their story is unlikely to get any more interesting. “She kept trying to stab at our relationship,” one of the women says of the other near the episode’s end. Together, they will keep stabbing at our willingness to keep paying attention.
The weirdest moment
It’s episode three, which means it’s time for a Bachelor staple: The Fitness Date. Mostly, it’s just an excuse for Colton to take his shirt off. The ladies of this group date are met by Terry Crews and his wife, who give a genuinely sweet opening speech about how it is hard work to make a marriage last decades like theirs. Everyone pretend to be very into it, even though working out, as a date concept, is basically a nightmare.
But then there’s Nicole. She looks to be in very good shape, but the social media manager from Miami is not able to do a pullup, which forces the others to give her a boost. They heave and wheeze at the effort of lifting her probably-102-pound body which is about as cruel as calling the 31-year-olds “old.”
Nicole is all of us. Nicole for Bachelorette! She gets a rose later on.
Anyway, this all culminates in a CrossFit-like competition where the women have to flip tires, push heavy carts, and — here is the worst part — end up chained to the dang limo, which they must pull with their own body weight. These women weigh like, 100 pounds. It’s hard to know exactly how much that particular limo weighs, but they seem to be about 4,000 pounds on average. Which is heavier than all the women on this date plus Colton put together. It seems like a really good way to slip a disc? Somehow, no one seems to be sweating.
Tayshia attempts it and fails. But then Caitlin steps up to the pitch and — after everyone has just expressed their doubts that she will make that limo budge — she moves it in a display of athleticism never before seen on this terrible show. It is an amazing feat of “Bachelor” strength, making her truly the strong woman Colton deserv– wait, hold up, we need an instant replay. Are those a producer’s hands on the steering wheel?
Quite frankly, it’s a perfect metaphor for “The Bachelor” itself: The women might think they’re pulling the drama along, but a producer is not-so-secretly driving the whole thing. And while Caitlin is the only woman who can “pull” the limo, that proves to be the most interesting thing about her. She’s unceremoniously dumped for not being interesting enough — a.k.a. not having any childhood traumas to milk for the camera — later that evening.