We’re only a week away from the halfway point of the season on The Bachelorette, and I believe we’ve seen enough now to make it official: this is not a stellar year. Desiree Hartsock is pleasant enough and seems to be taking the process seriously, but is simply not too interesting. And I haven’t seen her sparking in any way with this collection of interchangeable bland boys. More than a couple of them come across as being more likely to marry each other than propose to the Bachelorette.
The show went on the road this week, which apparently means the end of the major eye candy of this season: that Bentley Desiree has been driving around SoCal. Instead, she and the final 13 headed on the road, with the first stop coming in Atlantic City: like The Bachelorette itself, a little bit past its prime but still capable of the occasional charming surprise.
This outing was apparently filmed sometime in early April, so it was a mite chilly on the Boardwalk. Kasey referred to Donald Trump’s favorite burg as “Las Vegas on the ocean,” which if you subtract 60 degrees and about 100,000 people is absolutely true. The men checked into the Revel, which seemed plush enough, and watched as Brad got the first date card of the week. Brad is someone who has not really been seen as a contender so far – the only real impression he has made was admitting he had a domestic violence charge in his past, though he tried to explain it away – so this looked like a potential setup for a date where someone goes home without a rose, since you have to have at least one of them every season to keep viewers on their toes.
The date is a bit threadbare by the usual standards of the show – Brad and Desiree play some Boardwalk games, eat off the assembly line in a chocolate factory, ride a carousel, and sample some taffy. There aren’t many tourists about, so the other men are able to spy on them doing their thing from their suite high above. Desiree claims that she is noticing how good looking he is, but all conversation between the two seems stilted, and Brad doesn’t help matters by stating that one of the things he looks for when dating is a woman’s potential to be a stepmom – granted, he has to think about that to some extent, but it’s a practical concern versus the pure romance the other guys can sell.
The yawns, Desiree’s and mine, grow stronger when the pair wander onto the beach to check out an ornate sand castle, and by the time both of them get to dinner at a local lighthouse, it’s apparent that Brad is going nowhere fast (even though the first date of the night is rarely the one where someone doesn’t get a rose). She leads him to the top of the lighthouse before lowering the boom, and he doesn’t seem all that surprised. Personally, I’d be pissed off that Desiree made me walk up all those stairs before dumping me, but I also hate exercise more than most people. Brad talks about seeing his son again as he climbs into the Cab of Rejection, so at least he has something to look forward to other than hoping Bachelor Pad comes back some day.
The group date involves all the remaining bachelors except James the Intense, and it’s a commercial of sorts for ABC’s annual telecast of the Chris Harrison-hosted Miss America pageant. At first I wondered why Atlantic City would want to be involved with this, since the pageant famously ditched it for Vegas several years ago, but apparently it is coming back this year! The reigning Miss America, Mallory Hagan, was on hand to sully her crown as Harrison explained that the guys would be putting on their own pageant, complete with talent competition, interview segment, and swimsuit strut. For most people, this would be the point where you’d really have to question if Desiree or any woman is really worth it, but all of them went through with the nonsense.
One of the quirks is that the guys don’t necessarily have their pick of “talents” or of swimsuits – it’s first come, first serve on the suits (few of which cover much), and the props for the talent are laid out on a table. So Ben grabs a ribbon to twirl like a gymnast, Juan Pablo has a baton, Drew grabs a book to practice a Shakespeare monologue, and Zak W. decides he can bang something out on the guitar a la creepy Wes. Chris puts on high heels, and at this point I was rethinking his status as my dark horse winner.
The pageant itself, which naturally takes place before a civilian audience, begins with the interviews: tough stuff like “In a relationship, are you a giver or a taker?” The news here was Juan Pablo mentioning that he has a daughter, information I do not believe we had heard before now. Mikey, who looks like a Neanderthal after a spa visit, complains that women don’t notice the inner life of men near enough. Whatever, dude. The talent competition goes about as badly as expected, though Kasey gets some kudos for his tap dancing, and Brooks ends his ukulele performance by smashing his instrument.
Kasey ended up winning the competition, though this doesn’t give him a rose or extra time with Desiree or anything tangible, so it’s exactly like Miss America without the scholarships. Thanks a whole lot, Bachelorette.
The cocktail party is headlined by more bitching about Ben, whose sin this time was that his “private time” with Desiree took place in the swimming pool where everyone could see them. Chris believed that the way to come across as more masculine after wearing heels in the pageant was to read some of his poetry to the Bachelorette. Hey, at least he reminded her he used to play baseball. Zak used his spare time to finish the verses of his pageant song, which my wife pointed out sounded exactly like “She Talks to Angels” with fewer heroin references. Desiree was impressed enough with the song to give Zak the rose, while mild-mannered Bryden grumbled about how she seemed to be giving the likes of Ben too much attention while ignoring the likes of him. Possible foreshadowing!
The James date featured a franchise staple – a helicopter – but it was employed in a very different way. The pair joined a Red Cross official in a tour of parts of the Jersey Shore that were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. James and Desiree are appropriately horrified, as they hover above a pulverized roller coaster in Seaside Heights. The devastation seems even worse once the chopper lands and the three of them begin wandering the neighborhood. The Red Cross lady introduces Desiree and James to an older couple, Jan and Manny, who were trapped in their home when the storm hit – and it happened to be their wedding anniversary. Desiree has the “spontaneous” idea of donating her planned Atlantic City date with James to Jan and Manny instead, giving them the anniversary night out they weren’t able to enjoy (though it’s possible Des just wanted to bail on the Darius Rucker private concert).
Seeing a couple married for 38 years out on a date was sweet, though it tended to act as a reminder that they made it work without any “help” from a show that has barely created any long engagements, much less lasting relationships. Jan and Manny were presented with a replica of their wedding album, presumed destroyed in the hurricane. Meanwhile, James and Desiree cool their heels at a diner, where he decides to drop a bomb, admitting that he had a previous long-term relationship that fell apart due to his infidelity. Desiree seems concerned, since she had dealt with this before herself. I’m not sure something that happened when he was a college freshman should be that big a deal now, though he seemed like a bit of a tool when he described the incident in terms of how heartbroken he was after he cheated. Still, he ended up getting the rose.
This very long date left little time for the cocktail party, though there was some drama in that Bryden was making noise about possibly bailing. It’s hard to know exactly what his problem is, unless it’s simply that he’s weirded out by the idea of dating a woman at the same time 11 other guys are dating her too. That would be understandable, but Desiree didn’t seem all that enthusiastic when it came time to “reassure” him. Bryden still came out of the party better than Michael G., whose seduction technique was a poem based on the letters of her name: D stands for down-to-earth, etc. He finished with the letter G, which is the first letter of his last name, because there’s a reason he’s single even though he’s a 33-year-old lawyer.
The cocktail party also presented a scene where Chris chatted with Des about her family, and then made a remark which he realized made it seem like he was putting himself in the “friend zone,” after which she gave him a serious-seeming kiss. “Friends don’t kiss!” she exclaimed. Chris had a suspicious level of comfort in those high heels, and has not yet had a solo date, but how long was it again before Sean had a date with Catherine? Chris is getting the exact same edit as Catherine, people.
The Rose Ceremony begins with Bryden still suggesting that he’s not sure he will accept a rose or not. The first seven roses go to Chris, Brooks. Juan Pablo, Drew, Michael G., Ben, and Kasey. Bryden gets the next rose, and there appears to be a strange delay before he heads forward to accept it. Mikey gets the final rose, which leaves Zack K. on the outs. I don’t believe we heard Zack speak on the entire show, so it sure couldn’t have been a surprise to any viewer that he was a goner, but he was bereft nonetheless. “It’s a hard thing to kind of grasp – that something that you think could have been so great is actually in fact not great,” he said as he headed down the Gigantic Revel Escalator of Rejection.
Next week: the final 11 head to Munich, home of great beer, which I may have to consume to get through the rest of this season.