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The Bachelor fantasy league, week seven: it’s Valentine’s Day, try harder

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Why has this season been so boring and surreal?

Love’s a game and this year we’re playing. For the full rules and intellectual justification of The Verge Bachelor Fantasy League please see this explanatory post. For a little background on why this is poised to be the best-ever season of The Bachelor, see this essay by culture editor Chris Plante:

Lizzie Plaugic: It’s hard to believe we’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re not out of the woods yet. This week, Nick still can’t stop talking about his past, Chris Harrison can’t stop talking in vague truisms, and Corrine can’t stop talking about herself.

After last night’s episode, we’re down to just four women and one Nick Viall, who is somehow still around despite making empty threats that he might leave the show entirely. This week, however, he just shed a few tears, reminded us that he’s been hurt before, and continued on in his highly edited journey toward love.

Kaitlyn Tiffany: For an episode of television so heavy with lab-grown emotional weight and The Hometown Dates Are Approaching portent, this week’s The Bachelor was very light on plot. I spent the whole episode making Valentine’s cards for my fellow fantasy league competitors, practicing the emotional manipulation techniques that have been laid out for me by previous, more rewarding seasons of this show.

Nick took the women to a different tropical island this week, and I do not remember what it is called. [Ed. note: How do you forget a name like Bimini?] It absolutely doesn’t matter. He and Vanessa went on a snorkeling date, where she told him she loves him (+10) and he said “beep boop beep,” made a whirring noise, and shut down. Then he went on a second snorkeling date with Corrine, Kristina, and Raven but this one had sharks (+5 each for “extreme sports”). It was Corrine’s second hungry-water-beast-themed date, which is a fascinating choice on the part of the producers, who have never really been ones for subtlety but have generally stopped short of comparing women to prehistoric carnivorous monsters.

shark-the-bachelor

The drama on this group date was that Kristina is afraid of sharks (+5), and Nick said to her a couple of times “are you okay?” Corrine wasn’t into it and repeatedly pointed out that it was not fair that Kristina was the first to come up with the idea of being afraid of sharks. Raven snorkeled peacefully by herself, which impressed Nick enough to compel him to give her a rose (+15). Later he and Rachel went to a “locals-only” bar (+5) and drank beers wrapped in wicker because Bimini is second to none when it comes to Koozies. They made out. He went on a walk with Danielle M., realized they had never had a conversation before, and sent her home (-15). He also sent home Kristina (-15) in “the most private and respectful way possible,” which was on TV. The end!

Lizzie, we have been trying to put our finger on what is wrong with this season of The Bachelor for a few weeks now, and I have to admit, we might have been simplifying things when we said it was just that Nick is terrible. He is, of course, not cool or fun or nice, but I don’t think that can possibly be the only reason this feels so incredibly boring and staged.

LP: I think the reason that this season is, as many on Twitter have pointed out, so so so boring, is because of 1) heavy-handed producer intervention and 2) Nick’s own fed-up-ness with this whole charade. Where previous bachelors like Ben actually had the newborn-baby capacity to think things like “it’s very strange to date 20 women on television” and make uncomfortable, human mistakes with other people’s feelings, Nick is a rugged veteran, playing with a guidebook he was handed three seasons ago.

Nick knows that it’s not a good look to lead women on (he tells Vanessa it’s very important that he only says “I love you” to one woman), he knows that cocktail parties are mostly pointless and rose ceremonies are just a staged way to send someone home (that’s why there have been so few), and he knows that no matter how naked Corrine gets, he definitely cannot have sex with her.

Because of his inability to stray from the guidebook, Nick’s confessional camera time also feels scripted. He’s always “hopeful” or “optimistic,” despite the fact that he seems bored to the point of losing his ability to fully enunciate words. And when his one-on-one with Danielle comes crashing to a halt because they have nothing to talk about, he falls back on a monologue about the stress of hometown dates that feels like part of an unending loop of conversations Nick has already had. Because he has already had them! Nick’s unwavering need to be likable and avoid the mistakes of previous Bachelors have made him come off as cold and unrelatable.

Nick’s Bachelor run reminds me of that guy who says “I’m only gonna do this shitty job for one year,” and then three years later he’s still sitting at the same desk, going through the motions.

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Kaitlyn: You’re right, Nick is the beautiful, puka-shell-covered stand-in for all the ugly scheming taking place behind the scenes. While the tendrils of the production team have always been somewhat visible, there has generally been a sense that the Bachelor is straining against them or wriggling around within their constraints in a genuine attempt to fall in love. Previous Bachelors hem and haw every time they break convention — over-explaining why they would cancel a cocktail party or taking long minutes on a balcony asking Chris Harrison if they’re allowed to ditch both women on a two-on-one date, but Nick makes these moves with all the calm resolve of an orthopedic surgeon.

He’s just part of the team, and the team has a lot more power than they should this year. I’m saying this, of course, as a gullible young woman who wants to watch people fall in love before her eyes even if it’s a little bit fake, and as a grump with some standards who refuses to watch people pretend to fall in love. As our diligent editor has pointed out, the producers have turned this into a season of all sugar and no coffee. Give me the real stuff! The grit and disgusting after-taste of true love!

Take this week’s centerpiece: Corrine’s “platinum vagine.” (+10) In the lead-up to this episode, ABC heavily promoted Corrine’s ill-advised attempt to have sex with the man she is dating. Apart from the queasiness we should feel about ABC’s tradition of fake prudishness designed to rile up middle America’s real prudishness, the clip is bizarre. It positions Corrine’s seduction not as a last-ditch effort to save her relationship with Nick, but as a Hail Mary on behalf of the entire show. Last time we saw Nick he was about to walk, but this 24-year-old blonde is going to throw her trench coat at him and keep us all in the fight for another three weeks? It’s a bold way to frame this whole thing! At some point, we’re learning this season, too much “drama” morphs into romantic nihilism.

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When Corrine’s big moment finally came in last night’s episode, it was one of the more obviously staged things we’ve seen. The stilted dialogue when Corrine “just shows up” right before Nick was about to tuck himself in with a champagne nightcap (who does this?) makes it feel for a second like we actually are about to watch some porn, but instead we see Corrine and Nick go into his bedroom and close the door (this is network TV!). Coincidentally, Nick speaks directly into his mic when he says “this isn’t a good idea. It’s not respectful to the other women here.” Sidling back to her hotel room, Corrine absolutely demolishes the blogosphere theories that she’s an actress by putting on a terrible performance as a person who has just been humiliated and rejected on national television. “Oh my god that was terrible,” she says flatly, touching the corners of her eyes where there are no tears. The whole thing takes five minutes.

LP: Corrine, like Nick, is willing to play the game. Because of that, I sincerely think she might be the one who ends up with a ring on her finger at the end of all this, despite her early selection as this season’s villain. Nick’s ongoing willingness to stick with Corinne is our only miniscule piece of proof that the producers are not running this entire show. If Corinne, a woman 12 years younger than Nick who relies on her nanny for cucumber slices, wins this thing, it won’t fit into The Bachelor’s promise of everlasting devotion from a doting-but-still-independent lover who is both beautiful and age-appropriate.

Still, we’d be real fools to ignore the fact that the impressions we’re getting of all of these women, and not just Corinne, have been prescribed in advance, and pieced together by the producers. Reality Steve, the man behind one of the most popular (and accurate) Bachelor gossip blogs, recently shared a rumor about two contestants that never made it past the cutting room floor. Steve says that while the group was in Bimini this week, Rachel and Vanessa got into a big fight, presumably while Corrine, Kristina, and Raven were out on the group date. “Hearing it got very heated and most were on Rachel’s side as they weren’t fans of Vanessa,” he wrote. “Don’t know exact details of the fight other than it was the most talked about one of the season, had been building for a while, and these two slung barbs at each other pretty good.”

It’s hard to imagine Rachel and Vanessa “slinging barbs” at each other, but that’s the point. Obviously this fight hasn’t been confirmed, but it’s a useful reminder that there’s a team of people choosing what we see on the Bachelor, and they’ll put their constructed narrative ahead of any drama. Vanessa and Rachel are frontrunners in this show, and the frontrunners must always remain calm and sweet. (If they’re not calm, like JoJo during her bathroom breakdown in Ben’s season, their temporary loss of poise must be due to their overwhelming allegiance to the Bachelor.)

The contestants on The Bachelor are not allowed to be complex people, and so Vanessa will remain the soft-spoken special education teacher (and no one will mention her acting career). Rachel will stay on as the joyful young professional with not an unkind word to say about anyone — a quality that should prove useful as the producers prime her to be the next Bachelorette.

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Kaitlyn: On the bright side, it is Valentine’s Day, and in the real world there is hopefully not a team of deranged people manipulating all of your attempts to find love. Have you found it? Are you looking for it? Are you momentarily disinterested in it for reasons I don’t need to know but do sympathize with? All fine. Have a great holiday! Eat some chocolate, and don’t think about Nick any more today.

The Points

Loren Grush: Rachel (+7), Raven (+37)

Week total: 44

League total: 248

Kaitlyn Tiffany: Corrine (+26), Danielle M. (-5)

Week total: 21

League total: 248

Chris Plante: Vanessa (+13), Raven (+37)

Week total: 50

League total: 242

Kara Verlaney: Danielle M. (-5), Kristina (+7)

Week total: 2

League total: 217

Lizzie Plaugic: Rachel (+7), Vanessa (+13)

Week total: 20

League total: 214

I made Jake this messed-up Valentine to soften the blow of his point total.

Jake Kastrenakes: Corrine (+26), Kristina (+7)

Week total: 33

League total: 179

New Draft Picks

Going into hometown dates, everyone in the Bachelor Fantasy League must drop down to one final player. Here’s the setup going into the final dramatic weeks of the fakest quest for love of all time:

Loren Grush: Loren drops Rachel, concluding that because she has just been announced as the next Bachelorette on ABC it is unlikely that she will be marrying Nick. This leaves her with Raven.

Lizzie Plaugic: Lizzie also drops Rachel, leaving her with Vanessa.

Chris Plante: Chris drops Raven, which means his Vanessa and Lizzie’s Vanessa will, I guess, go head-to-head in the coming weeks.

Kaitlyn Tiffany: I lost Danielle M. this week, leaving Corrine as my choice to win this thing by default. Oh boy.

Jake Kastrenakes: Jake lost Kristina this week, leaving Corrine as his final choice though there’s absolutely no chance he knows who that is.

Kara Verlaney: Kara lost both of her remaining contestants this week, unfortunately, which means she has no choice but to pick up Raven, the only contestant who is still available and has not already been named ABC’s next Bachelorette.