What do you do when nothing very interesting is happening on your reality dating show? Hype the fact that two male contestants are falling in love with each other, of course! Never mind if it’s actually real.
In case you missed the breathless promos that aired over the last week, ABC was thrilled to imply that two of Kaitlyn Bristow’s suitors, Clint Arlis and JJ Lane, were more than friends. “There’s already love on ‘The Bachelorette’… but it’s not what you think!” the voiceover narrator said mischievously over footage of Clint and JJ together, promising that the twist would blow! your! mind! They dubbed it “Brokeback Bachelor.”
So, was Monday’s episode mind-blowing? Well, only in the sense that it was a mind-blowing use of edited footage that looked even more contrived and fake than it did in the promos. Not to mention that the story line was in fairly bad taste, as multiple publications have pointed out. TMZ reported that the guys were both playing up the “bromance” storyline for more camera attention, and purposely fed the producers the appropriate soundbites. (They’ve been playing it up on Twitter all week.)
“It was downright offensive for Clint and JJ to act like being gay is some hilarious joke,” a People magazine reporter wrote. “Is heterosexual masculinity really so fragile that close male friendships have to be laughed off as being ‘gay’? It’s 2015 – how is gay panic still a thing?” Time Magazine noted the irony of ABC News recently airing Diane Sawyer’s groundbreaking interview with Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner) and how this “Bachelorette” twist “suggests that the network’s entertainment division didn’t get the same sensitivity training.”
How did the episode actually go? First, the idea was subtle. “I’m coming to the realization that Kaitlyn’s probably not the right girl for me,” Clint said after a dud of a group date where he barely spoke to the bachelorette. “I’m under no false pretenses that this is working out. But there’s still some relationships with these guys that I’m really enjoying, and JJ in particular. He’s got a lot of levels and he is a sweetheart. He’s a good dude.”
With that seed planted, while Kaitlyn was on a group date with some of the other guys, Clint and JJ were left in the mansion. “There’s a bromance going on between Clint and JJ,” fellow contestant Justin confirmed during an on-camera interview.
“Clint and JJ are two peas in a pod. They’re chilling by the pool, cooking together and just eating or whatever, sitting on the couch,” Justin continued, as the camera showed Clint and JJ hanging out, including some brief arm wrestling on the couch. “Clint and JJ really just have this one-on-one vibe going. I mean, it’s like they’ve got a little pep in their step together.”
This was followed by a clip of the two guys joking about showering together. Justin summarized: “There’s some deep love going on between Clint and JJ.”
Later, the other contestants started talking about how much they disliked the duo, saying that they were egomaniacs who had secluded themselves from the rest of the house. Maybe they were a little too smug that Kaitlyn had shown both of them interest early on?
“I honestly think that they’re so into each other that they just honestly are blind, they don’t know what they’re doing,” Joe said. Cue footage of Clint and JJ in the hot tub together. “I think they’re just all about each other. Not Kaitlyn.”
How about we let Clint weigh in on this? Producers played swooning romantic music in the background as Clint serenaded JJ on the guitar.
“I feel like I’ve connected with JJ probably more than Kaitlyn right now because we’re just so similar. It’s actually absolutely insane, I never thought that I would meet someone like that here,” Clint said during an on-camera interview. “We’ve grown very close — almost too close I think, at times, in the room and stuff like that, and in the shower.”
No elaboration on that point. “The possibility of coming on to ‘The Bachelorette’ and falling in love with a man never crossed my mind,” he said. “But I believe in the process. And this point, I am a success story.”
That last line felt disjointed — actually, the whole speech felt like it had been spliced together from quotes not necessarily in the same order. The same thing happened at the pre-rose ceremony cocktail party, when Clint went to go find Kaitlyn to apologize for ignoring her earlier.
“This week, things didn’t go great,” Clint acknowledged. “I kinda back of my head knew that she wasn’t the right girl for me. I love JJ. He has made my time in the house insanely enjoyable. So I need to get a rose from Kaitlyn.”
We were treated to Clint apologizing to Kaitlyn and explaining that he didn’t talk to her because of his own securities. Then they started making out.
“I’m not really interested in Kaitlyn but I need a rose tonight,” Clint’s voiceover reiterated, over scenes of them kissing. Then, random pivot back to JJ once more: “I love JJ I feel like I’ve connected with JJ more than Kaitlyn and I want to stay here, so it absolutely made me want to fight for this more.”
That’s when things took a weird turn: Clint and JJ abruptly turned into villains, standing in a corner making fun of the other guys, particularly when they spotted Kaitlyn kissing Shawn. “He’s probably tasting my Jameson on the rocks right now,” Clint smirked. “And he’s wondering why, because she’s drinking white wine.”
JJ finally spoke up with this creepy line about his fellow contestants: “The crew of irrelevant characters in the house is tense and really, really nervous. Honestly, they’re just lemmings, and one by one, they fall right off the cliff. Cause I’m chasing them.”
Uh, okay. Then, just as suddenly as Kaitlyn and Clint were making out, there was backlash. A quick parade of contestants all told Kaitlyn that Clint and JJ were bad people (or, in “Bachelorette” speak, they “weren’t here for the right reasons”) and Kaitlyn suddenly decided that Clint was a jerk.
“Clint played me,” she said, furiously. “At this point, there are too many red flags. This is not someone I want to marry.”
So that came out of nowhere. She marched up to Clint, asked to talk to him privately; and that was the cliffhanger, as the show will pick up next week when she inevitably kicks him off the show. (Or he comes up with a really great excuse.)
Overall, the whole thing was a misleading mess, while it appears lots of editing was involved to make the “bromance” seem like something more. Surprised? If so, you must not be familiar with “The Bachelor” franchise.