If ever an episode of The Bachelor saved the major drama for the second half, it was this one, in which Ben took his week-three selection of women on strange, possibly sponsored jaunts around San Francisco. But then, in the second half, the much-teased Woman of Mystery showed up to try to hijack Ben's heart (or drain his blood, depending on your point of view), and everyone went completely batshit crazy. (Yes!)
Back in his beloved San Francisco after last week's trip to Sonoma, Ben meets with his cool sister Julia who has obviously not even tasted the show's Kool Aid, because she treats her brother's endeavor like the amusing lark that it is, even saying: "This [The show] will be a very funny story to talk about later in life." Ben protests that he "hopes it works out," but the message has been delivered: Nobody in Ben's life is actually taking this silliness seriously.
Next, Ben takes epidemiologist Emily climbing up the Bay Bridge — just your typical San Francisco outing. Emily, who has already conveniently declared her fear of heights to the women, freaks. But then Ben kisses her, and she's fine. It's funny how that worked out! By the way, in the recent excellent film Margin Call, a character says that when someone says they're afraid of heights, what they really mean is that they're afraid they'll jump. Which seems like a perfectly reasonable fear for a doctor who has found herself on a dating game show.
After Ben and Emily's climbing/bonding adventure, which was improbably witnessed by the other women back at the hotel from a serendipitously placed telescope, Emily gets the rose. But not before saying, "A bridge takes two things that are separate and brings them together." Just one more reminder: Emily is a doctor.
Next, Ben takes the group date women on another classic San Francisco touristy jaunt, under the guise of it being on his "leap list" (some list one makes before a milestone like marriage). Ben's leap list, suspiciously, includes "skiing down a San Francisco street in bathing suits in 85-degree weather on piped-in snow." Seriously. This strange stunt appeared to have been sponsored by the Honda CRV, so that might explain that. It was very funny to watch the old hippies staring at the bikini-clad skiing women with "WTF" looks on their faces, though.
Back at the hotel, one of the interchangeable blondes, this one named Brittany, gets a one-on-one date card from Ben, and starts crying because she feels "torn" and doesn't want to be on a reality dating game show anymore. So she interrupts Ben's group date to tell him she's leaving. Ben, who is understandably not keen on rejection, puts her into a car with the line, "Say hi to your Grandma!" a reference to Brittany's first-episode Grandma-introduction gambit, and, in voice-over, explains that he only gave her the coveted date card in the first place because he was "on the fence" with her. Riiiight.
Next, Ben takes Lindzi on the one-on-one date instead, where they see a guy named Matt Nathanson sing in City Hall and then play David Gray together on a piano in a piano store. Lindzi tells Ben the story of getting dumped by a guy she dated for a year and a half by a text message that just said "Welcome to dumpsville, population you," which really seems like a story to which there were two sides, you know?
While this is happening, the dreaded Mystery Woman drives through the dark night as music of doom plays, like some harbinger of death, coming for them all. We hear her talk to Chris Harrison on the phone (because there's a crew in the car with her, duh), who pretends to be surprised that she's coming. "You've talked to Ben, right?" he asks. She confirms that she's talked to Ben "a lot." Who could she be?
Ben and the next group of girls hang out at a "speakeasy" with sliding bookshelves, which seems to be the first San Francisco activity they've done that might actually be a San Francisco activity. Things get a bit awkward when Ben excitedly announces, "This is where JFK used to take Marilyn Monroe*" but only because it might be the first time in this franchise's history that a Bachelor has openly slandered a former President of the United States of America.
During the speakeasy date, Ben reunites with model Courtney, who so far in this episode has been content to just throw out insults to and about the other girls from a spot on the couch (on Brittany's departure: "It was time to trim the fat"). Courtney meets up with Ben on the roof of the speakeasy and tells him she can take being on the show because "I can handle the weight. I have big shoulders." She then tells him that she and Ben would make "cute babies together," and when Ben is like "Um, whoa," she backs off, laughing, "Sommmmeday. Someday. Heh heh heh."
Ben also has an assignation with beautiful redhead Jennifer (tied with Kacie B. for my fave), whom he confesses is "the best kisser in the house." This sends Jennifer over the moon, and they share a close-up, really tonguey kiss to solidify her Best Kisser standing. It is not a sexy thing.
And then it's time for the final cocktail party, where, like, a Burmese Python let loose in the Everglades, our Mystery Woman will wreak havoc on the delicate predator/prey ecosystem that is The Bachelor. And it turns out the invasive species is ... Shawntel, the funeral director, from Brad Womack's second season last year! She and Ben have met, most likely through one of those weird Bachelor/Bachelorette meet-ups former contestants are always having, and Shawntel is convinced that Ben WILL fall in love with her immediately, and says so, over and over.
Ben is out chatting with Elyse, whom we're going to just have to call "Jersey Shore," because that's the look she is clearly going for, when Shawntel makes her presence known. Ben says something that's bleeped, but I think it was "holy shitballs!"
The girls go totally apeshit over this interloper, calling Shawntel "a person who drains guys' blood for a living" and "a creeper" and pointing out, over and over, that she shouldn't be there because she's "from Brad's season!" and "three seasons ago!" Shawntel and Ben have a chat where Ben says, hilariously, "I hope these women are gracious and welcoming."
Nicki gets in a good one with "she just rides in on her high hearse, no pun intended," but Jaclyn wins line of the night with, "On a scale of one to ten, I feel like I'm gonna throw up." The women seem to have come together on a talking point for spinning their hatred of Shawntel into something that makes logical sense: They're not upset for themselves, they're upset for the other women who have gone home. It's just NOT FAIR to THEM!
So the cocktail party is cut short, and Ben begins the awkward process of rose-doling to his group of seething, drunken, short-fused firecrackers, one of whom, Erika, almost passes out (or at least says "I'm gonna pass out," causing the non-Shawntel women to try to get her orange juice or whatever). Courtney the Model calls Shawntel "what's-her-butt," Shawntel gets sent home, and in an unprecedented move, Ben decides not to give out the final rose at all, which I think is pretty clearly his childish way of righting the wrong that was Brittany leaving. (You see, even with the Shawntel drama, Ben's ego remembers it was bruised, and Someone Must Pay.)
The remaining girls enjoy an awkward toast, and a departing Shawntel says Ben just "wasn't man enough to accept the connection [they] had." Hey, does anyone else remember when Shawntel was normal and nice? Back on Brad's season? Either that was all editing, or this was, or maybe reality stardom does things to people's heads. (Ha!)
Next week: Kacie B.'s real hair comes out, and Courtney laughs a lot, and they're like "What are you laughing at?" and she's like "You!" And also they go to Utah so Ben can "show them the great outdoors."
*Corrected to show Ben did not say, "This is where JFK used to take his girls."