Should we start by getting up to speed? How up to speed? We’re three episodes in, but this goes farther back than that...
In grand Bachelor franchise fashion, they plucked their current Bachelorette, JoJo, from the finalists of last season’s The Bachelor. She was majorly rebuffed by the Bachelor and is now expected to turn that unrequited love into real love with one of these 28 new guys. Yes, her name is JoJo, and she’s from Dallas, but actually much cooler than what those two things sound like put together.
One of the contestants is a handsomely coiffed former football player and younger brother of NFL superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers. There are other contestants, too. Good luck to them. The DJ from Tennessee, Wells, might have a decent chance. He made his first impression by hiring ’90s R&B quartet All-4-One to sing. That’s a strong move. There’s also a mysterious and chiseled war vet from Texas with puppy dog eyes behind that thousand-yard stare. And singer-songwriter James Taylor. Sadly, not the one who’s seen fire and seen rain. But close—he’s an “old soul” and basically aw-shucks personified. Then there’s Chad. He’s Chad personified.
Najib Benouar: First, I have to admit that I’m a bit of a Bachelor franchise neophyte. I somehow managed to avoid the first 20-some-odd combined seasons of Bachelor and Bachelorette either by indifference or flat-out thinking I was “too cool.” But it was only a matter of time before its schmaltzy tentacles wrapped around me in a death/believing-in-true-love grip. Now I can confidently say I’m here for the long haul and definitely here for the right reasons. I know you’re the resident Bachelor Nation academic—you wrote a goddamn college thesis on it—so please guide me, sage guru, on this journey.
Sam Eichner: Thank you. It feels good to know that someone out there appreciates my devoted expertise to a show that routinely hosts private concerts from D-rated musicians, created an actual place called the “Fantasy Suite” and has a spin-off show where thirtysomethings casually talk to raccoons.
But in all seriousness (yes, I was being sarcastic up there), I’m happy to find an astute neophyte such as yourself so willing to discuss the minutiae of a television program whose contribution to popular culture can only be matched by the likes of, I don’t know, I Love Lucy. Or Cheers. (Totally serious.)
I’m so happy, in fact, that even when I woke up this morning in Prague (I’m in Prague), even as I looked out my front window of my sixth-floor apartment at the old beautiful buildings with the highly detailed storybook facades, even as I considered the options of, say, touring an art museum, or visiting a historic castle, or taking a leisurely jog to the peak of a stunningly scenic vista, I still opted to open my laptop, download the third episode of The Bachelorette on iTunes and spend the next hour and a half in front of my computer screen.
And you know what? I’m glad I did. Because there’s a lot to talk about.
NB: Indeed. Right off the bat: in your learned opinion, is Chad the greatest Bachelor Nation heel of all time? If not, where is he on the grand scale? There are moments where you almost want to side with him—like, hey, we’ve all acknowledged the fake spell cast by this show and how it’s not “real” life. Sure, you’d never propose to a woman after just meeting her. But then there’s the part where you think, “Hey, remember that thing where you signed up to be on reality television?” and “Have you never seen The Bachelor?” Did no one tell you about how this works? The magic only happens when you make believe, too. This brutally honest routine he’s got going is rooted in some sense of reality (sans -television suffix), but it’s overwrought and ultimately misguided. Marcellus Wiley pretty much sums up Chad’s entire existence on this show during the ESPN-proposal challenge: when keeping it real goes wrong.
Also, the whole subplot around Chad chowing down untold amounts of deli meats during the last rose ceremony was inspired. I just wonder whether he went into it thinking he’d get real weird with a plate of roast beef in front of a fireplace, or the thing evolved out of the fact that he didn’t really want to talk to anyone and vice versa so he just wandered back and forth from the buffet all night while stuffing his mouth with cold cuts.
SE: Chad is, without a doubt, the Best Bachelor Villain of All Time. Clueless and knowing, soft and harder-than-rock-hard, bully and victim—we are in the presence, Najib, of a once-in-a-generation-type reality TV psychopath.
The greatest part: ABC knows it. Hell, they’ve devoted this entire two-night special just to Chad. Because there’s no way he’s surviving this—producer intervention can only carry these guys so far. The guy has security guards, for crying out loud. He was stress-eating beef skewers during the rose ceremony. His way of lurking around seemingly every corner, with a wry smile on his face and a whiskey-induced crinkle-eyed stupor, is downright Shakespearean. He attempted to subvert the bully-victim dynamic with a wimpy erectile dysfunction specialist, affectionately nicknamed “E-Money.” The stuff of legend this makes, but the stuff of a winner it does not.
I will say this, too: past villains have been vilified, for the most part, because they are not “here for the right reasons.” What makes Chad singular is that he is here for the right reasons. Here’s a man who will do anything to win the game but cannot, for the life of him, figure out the rules. It’s sad.
Never in my storied years of watching this show have I seen a contestant care so much about winning a Bachelorette’s love while trying so hard to come off as if he does not care. The dissonance would be tragic if it weren’t so absurd.
NB: Chad is obviously the breakout star. A star that’s burning bright fast and going to flame out soon enough. But there’s also the curious case of his self-appointed sidekick, the Canadian. A) Is this bromance thing a total rip-off of JJ and Clint from last season or is there a precedent for this sort of thing over the years? B) Anyone who’s familiar with the machinations of the franchise knows they like to have recurring contestants and stretch storylines—which basically makes any show you appear on an audition for later shows to potentially appear on, most notably the more salacious and drama-bait-y Bachelor in Paradise. Do you think the Canadian dude is just angling for another gig?
SE: The bromance between villain and sidekick is a relatively new phenomenon. Though you can see Chad’s position weakening when he begins to isolate Daniel, who, in an ill-fated analogy, relates him to Hitler, and subsequently pleads with him to “just be Mussolini.”
Hear that, Chad? All you have to do to win the ongoing affection of Canadian Daniel (sweet, simple-minded, pacifistic Daniel, who really just wants to get drunk and jump in pools and lift weights and ride this thing out for, yes, a Paradise bid) is not be the most evil person in the history of mankind. Heck, Chad, it’s not like he’s saying you can’t be the fascist dictator of a totalitarian state and terrorize your people. Daniel will accept that in this scenario. But he draws a hard line at Hitler.
Also, Trump-Chad 2016, anybody? They’d be a perfect pair. Think about it: they’re both luxury real estate agents. They’re both reality TV villains. They both care about their personal appearance to the point of profligate overcompensation. They both have an incredibly bloated sense of self and their charm. They both speak their minds in a dick-ish, blowhard-y way under the guise of “changing the system.” They’ve both called women “nagging” a time or two. And they both really love cold cuts. (Hey, Trump’s got to love cold cuts, right?)
NB: I love this idea. But is there any way we can make it Chad-Trump 2016? I think they should have a raw yam eating contest to see who gets top billing in the bid. Moving on...
That moment when the one guy who obviously has no chance of winning decides to “take the high road” and fall on the sword for the greater good of love finally happened. Evan, the erectile dysfunction expert (he might also have a job), seems to have found his purpose on the show and taken it upon himself to play the role of spoiler. This never ends well for the tattler or the “bad apple,” but it seems to be de rigueur—usually a bit later in the season, though, right?
SE: Yeah, being the tattler never works. It puts you in the position of looking like you care more about someone else’s relationship than yours, which is a death wish on this show. Props to Wells for staying under the radar and above the fray: that and a legitimate sense of humor are going to carry him through to at least the top six.
NB: Since the powers that be won’t let us do a running recap, I think we might as well do a precap on the rest of the season as of now and call some winners and losers and such.
SE: Okay, a few other thoughts on this episode I’d like to discuss before we get to a precap on the rest of the season:
1) There was a moment a few minutes in, where we see Chris Harrison cleaning up toilet paper strewn through the trees in front of the house. What the fuck was that? Who TPs people’s houses anymore? What is this, my second-grade Halloween party? And is Harrison actually cleaning that shit up? They don’t have a cleaning crew? That was a strange and pointless and staged peek behind the curtain.
2) The hot yoga date. It seems like in the past few seasons, the show has ditched more veiled methods of forging intimacy (like overcoming a fear of heights, for example) and decided instead to go straight for the sexual jugular. I mean, does straddling Chase and making out in a hot room count as “doing hot yoga”? Was Hemalayaa even a licensed instructor, or just a producer-trained, out-of-work improv teacher of Indian descent? Most importantly, do I care?
3) Chad, to Jordan: “You’ve done nothing with your life except throw a piece of leather.” Jordan nonchalantly laughs it off. But on the inside he’s got to be thinking Chad’s not wrong, though—right?
4) Shirt-Gate. Yes, it’s officially a gate. Did Chad really just want to get by Evan and accidentally sink his talons into his shirt (Chad, evidently, has talons), or did he do it on purpose because he was angry at Evan for suggesting he had erectile issues? We’ll never know. Kidding. We definitely know. It was the latter.
5) James confesses that he used to get made fun of when he was little, and kids called him “Luke Long-neck.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think they were referring to ’90s Chicago Bulls center Luc Longley. In which case, I’m very impressed.
NB: 1) I chuckled at that part. Chris Harrison will take every chance he gets to drive home his persona of the ultimate den mom. 2) Yeah, why does every date have to start off as a nightmare date scenario. Just one episode featured simulated “angergasms,” some weird doo-wop dancing with an old lady and public speaking. 3) Luckily that also means Jordan’s been around enough meatheads to know how to play the situation. 4) Stop bullying Chad, everyone, ugh. 5) I hope these kids are still hanging around dropping sick burns when we go back to James’s hometown. Which brings us to the precap.
These guys are going home. As in hometowns. As in the top four guys still standing:
1) Little Rodgers. He was NFL material. His brother is a multimillionaire football star. And you’d get to hang out with Olivia Munn on double dates. Everyone else might as well just pack it up and go home now, right?
2) Wells the DJ. He’s got some solid down-to-earth-guy street cred and looks the most like JoJo’s former beau, Ben Higgins. That’s got to count for something.
3) James Taylor. He’s a crowd favorite, within the crew of guys, and JoJo seems to like his overly sappy poems and love songs. There’s always the deep guy who she keeps around to get emo with.
4) Derek. The guy she took on her first one-on-one “choose your own adventure” date. Did you notice how they first had the choice of sky versus sand and chose sky, which led them to a private plane to SF, where they ultimately ended up picnicking on a beach of... you guessed it: sand. Did the producers only plan one date in the first place? Note to self: always pick sky.
Guy who ends up being the next bachelor:
Chad. Kidding. Has to be Lil Rodgers, right? There’s no way the Bachelluminati don’t make that happen if he doesn’t win—which I’m sure they can arrange...
Bachelors who will be in Paradise:
Chad. Serious this time. Plus his Canadian buddy rides those coattails. And I’m thinking that one guy who dropped trou to lure JoJo into a bubble bath but only got her to dip her toes.
SE: You’ve made some good picks here.
Here are my top four:
1) Little Rodgers. No way ABC has him on the show without getting a cameo from big bro and Olivia Munn.
2) Smiley James Taylor. Guys who play melancholic guitar tunes and have self-esteem issues have a 245% chance of getting to hometowns. That’s a fact.
3) Grant. He’s a firefighter. Enough said.
4) Luke, the impossibly good-looking war veteran, whose brooding eyes say “I’ve seen some shit” but whose face says “I’ve done some underwear modeling.”
Guy who ends up being the next Bachelor:
If Little Rodgers loses, it will have to be him. But if he wins, it’s got to be James Taylor. He’s the Taylor Swift of this season of The Bachelorette. Plus, he’s humble and pure of heart, and he’s just attractive enough to make those qualities work for him.
Bachelors who will be in Paradise:
Chad, Evan, Daniel, Vinny, Robby, all of them, none of them—who cares. I can’t wait for Paradise.