Last night's Bachelor, episode two, was the usual cavalcade of humiliations: jealousy, accusations of envy, preening, grand pronouncements of evil plans turned successful, illicit kissing, and, of course, lots and lots of drunken crying. (Do they never have any happy drunks on this show? Are lab tests involved?) But the damned thing, like all of these things, was two hours, so this recap will focus on the most meaningful and important of last night's human encounters. That, and Ben Flajnik's hair, about which it is time to produce some theories.
Meaningful Encounter No. 1: Kacie B. and Ben go to the Emotionally Manipulative Movies
Kacie B., the sweetie from Clarksville, Tennessee, and owner of one of the best examples of good "Southern Face" since Miss Reese Witherspoon herself, won the first one-on-one date, which granted her the privilege of an evening stroll around the eerily empty (or more accurately: cleared-out-by-production-assistants) streets of Ben's hometown of Sonoma. The two conveniently pop in to a local curio shop, where Kacie "secretly" finds a cheerleader's baton, which she somehow purchases with her own money, even though I'm pretty sure the contestants on this show are not allowed to own currency or property.
Walking the scary Sonoma streets, Kacie demonstrates her twirling abilities to impress Ben, who, in the grand tradition of this show, speaks aloud the good qualities he is exhibiting: "I don't think a lot of guys would walk down the street and twirl a baton with a woman in his hometown!" Yes, Ben, you are a very nice guy. We know that, because of your hair, but more on that later.
Kacie and Ben then go to dinner, where Kacie not-so-subtly makes it clear that she would willingly move to Sonoma for Ben in a brilliantly succinct sentence: ("Wherever I need to go I'll go and do it, that's just the way I was raised in the South?"). Check! She gets the date rose and it's on to the movies, about which the less said the better, since "the movie" consists of old home videos of Kacie with her still-alive family ("Look at those curls!" "They're natch-rull!") and Ben with his deceased father. If the goal was to make Ben cry in front of Kacie in order to force a premature bond with her, there was no cheaper way to do it. As if to drive this home, Kacie's post-date summation was: "That was a moment I got to share with him that nobody else will have." Even Kacie, arguably one of the most genuine of the women, doesn't forget that this is a competition and she just won some kind of Crying Totem.
Meaningful Encounter No. 2: Contestant Infantilization by Way of Horrible Sixth Grade Play
The (seemingly 200) women on the first group date are taken to Sonoma and told that they will be putting on a play written by "the town's best playwrights." Though they probably can't name a living playwright between them, the women are still excited by promised proximity to any kind of celebrity whatsoever. But when it's time to meet the playwrights, they turn out to be a bunch of middle-school kids. (Middle-school kids who will no doubt be eternally confused about socially acceptable mating rituals after this experience.) In a sequence reminiscent of low-level sorority hazing ("Make a pig noise!"), the women are made to "audition," at which time we learn one of the least memorable tan blonde ones doesn't know what a hippie is. Then, that night, dressed in calculatedly unsexy animal and wizard costumes, they "perform" the stupid play (about "Prince Pinot," who is trying to find his princess. Get it, because Ben owns a winery? You get it).
The whole thing seems like it literally lasted sixteen hours, and by the end of the play the tiny Sonoma community playhouse, half-empty with exhausted-looking children and parents, empty folding chairs in disarray, finally gets their curtain call and, presumably, a hundred bucks, and the gang heads back to frolic in a series of hotel hot tubs and pools.
Meaningful Encounter No. 3: Post-Play Pool Cast Party
— Everyone hates Blakeley the 34-year-old "VIP Cocktail Waitress" from Charlotte, but Samantha, whose single-minded hatred of Blakeley eventually drives her into self-exile in the handicapped stall of a very public, very unsanitary-looking poolside bathroom, gets the best zinger: "I feel sad for people like Blakeley. She's such like, a ... cougar." (She also calls her "horsey" and a "slut." Samantha no like Blakeley, is what I'm sayin'.)
— Ben has a sweet pool make-out session with sweetie redhead Jennifer, but then ruins it by making out with Blakeley five minutes later while Jennifer watches from the bushes.
— Back at the house, where the remaining women hang around in either bikinis or sweats, Courtney the Model still thinks it's cool to quote Charlie Sheen: "I'm very competitive and I usually win. Winning. Winning!" She then finds out she gets the one-on-one date when Kacie B. reads the date card aloud. This is the exchange:
Kacie B.: Courtney!
Courtney, smiling: "How'd that taste coming out of your mouth?"
Kacie B., face falling: "What?"
Courtney: "HOW'D THAT TASTE COMING OUT OF YOUR MOUTH?"
So we're dealing with, um, that.
Meaningful Encounter No. 4: Ben Falls Straight-Up in Stupid Love With That F-ing Model
Ben drives Courtney to Sonoma to see how she can handle small-town life or whatever, and they end up in what appears to be the redwood clearing where James Franco let his ape-son go in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. But not before this actually happens:
Courtney the High Fashion Model, on Ben's Jack Russell Terrier, Scotch: "How big is he?"
Ben: "About twenty pounds, but when he stays at Grandma's house he puts on a few ell bees." Grandma's house! Ell bees! Ben is Wilford Brimley in a younger body! (Maybe that explains the hair?)
So the woodland date progresses, if you consider Courtney's perfection of the art of active not-listening a progression. "My cheeks hurt from laughing," she says disinterestedly, sounding sarcastic. "You have a winning personality," she mutters, using the only adjective in her vocabulary. At one point, Courtney musters all of the energy and charm in her frail little puffy-lipped body to recite the phrase, "But what about YOU? Tell me about YOU." Ben lights up and proceeds to tell her his life-story elevator pitch: After graduating from the University of Arizona, he got caught up in the go-go party lifestyle of Internet advertising (?) until he finally found himself again through his time being totally humiliated on The Bachelorette. Courtney, who VERY CLEARLY stopped listening at the word "graduated," mumbles something about how she "dated an actor, dated a photographer" (cue loud snicker), and "found underwear in the bed." (?! More on that, please!)
Despite all evidence that she is there for all the wrong reasons, Ben falls head over heels for Courtney, declaring her "too good to be true" at least three times, and gives her the rose. And why shouldn't he? Courtney is arguably the most commercially attractive contestant ever to appear on this endless franchise (though I'm more of a Chantal girl, myself). She's a real model, too, not a onetime local JC Penney weekly flyer "model" like other women who've declared that occupation on the show. See, she's even in a national commercial for Caesar's Palace, playing the unattainable dream model!
Prediction: Courtney is so out of Ben's league that she'll be sticking around for a long, long, lonnng time. But at least we might find out more about that actor (Sheen??) and "the underwear in the bed"!
Meaningful Encounter No. 5: The Cocktail Party/Rose Ceremony
All you need to know/remember about the cocktail party is that everyone continued to call Blakeley names, most notably "horse face," "slut," and "a stage five clinger," and that at one point Ben himself had to go on a surreal scavenger hunt through the house, where he uncovered "rewards" like Blakeley (who already had a rose) cowering in the fetal position behind some luggage, and Jenna the Blogger doing the same under a blanket in one of the beds. (The same blanket, it should be noted, that was earlier dragged into the stall of the hotel public bathroom! Oh, the germs!)
Then Ben sits down with Jenna the Blogger, who says these words in this order:
Jenna: "I might wanna be honest a little bit and I feel like I'm a guy in how I act, and so like, being around girls all the time — this is very abnormal for me in what people say, and I don't want you to think that I'm not because I don't want to appear as if I'm not. I mean, it's not — it's hard like, there's only you, so it's like waiting around for you, and it's totally worth it, but I'm not — I'm not like, a girl at all, if that makes any sense."
Ben: "I appreciate that."
Then the rose ceremony happens, and the people one would expect stay, most notably the girl who rode in on a horse and told Ben at the cocktail party that she loves to "play in the dirt" and that she "wears dirt for makeup," and, to the Internet's frustration, the blogger leaves, which, to be human for a second, is probably the best thing she can do for her mental health.
Ben's Hair Theory of the Week: Ben's hair, which resembles a flapper's graduated bob that has been hosed down with a pressure washer, is meant to remind us at all times of his Bachelorette humiliation, creating tension between his current status as chooser and past life as loser.
Next week: The women go skiing on the street on fake snow in San Francisco, one of the interchangeable tan blondes walks out on the show, and a mysterious interloper shows up and makes everyone cry.