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:
Kaitlyn Tiffany: Good morning and welcome back to The Bachelor, this week hosted in yet another Louisiana plantation and then a tacky art nouveau hotel on the island of St. Thomas. I hope everyone loaded up on carbs — maybe another Corrine-inspired snack? — because this was the darkest, most physically exhausting marathon of boredom and emotional anguish we have yet been faced with in the sport of love. If I had to design a mood board around this week’s episode of The Bachelor I would probably just glue a bunch of broken glass and dried-out limes to a Blue Valentine poster.
This week we’re gathered together to ask the question: can a TV program survive if it’s built around a rotting, pastel-swaddled core? Specifically, can a reality show about finding love deliver on its promise when no one at all thinks the star is there “for the right reasons?” More specifically, can this show survive if everyone really, really despises Nick Viall? We’ve been asking these questions all along, obviously, as Bachelor veterans who were familiar with Nick’s TV history. We’ve always had a smattering of allies in Twitter’s #BachelorNation, but this week marks the first time the vocal majority of live-tweeters and live-texters (shout out to my college roommate, who popped up to point out that Nick didn’t finish a single sentence this week) was on our side. At last: everyone’s on board, and everyone's pissed.
Also, so are all of Nick’s remaining girlfriends! Though there’s drama and second-guessing every season, it’s rare to see things get this far — not since the exceptionally despicable Juan Pablo has it been so clear that the women on the show are uninterested, if not disgusted with the man they’re there to maybe marry.
Lizzie Plaugic: There’s a bit of gossip floating around the Bachelor rumor mill that should appeal to anyone who loves a plot twist. According to a “source” who spoke to InTouch Magazine a few months ago, most of the women this season never even really liked Nick. According to the rumor, the show’s producers had to beg the women to stay and keep up appearances just so there’d be an entire season to air.
None of this has been confirmed, but there was a moment in last night’s episode that appeared to give the rumors some credibility. After the rose ceremony (bye Jaimi, bye Alexis, bye Josephine, -10 each), Nick, like an enthusiastic travel agent, tells the women they’ll be heading to St. Thomas, where they can relax on white beaches and forget that they’re currently in a nationally televised battle for love. Unfortunately, Nick’s idea of a low-key group date includes a series of daytime tequila shots followed by a competitive game of beach volleyball. Like a true drunk gym teacher, Nick partakes in the tequila shots but chooses to sit out the game, and instead just watches from the sidelines.
The women quickly get tired of performing for Coach Viall, and they all disperse to various sand patches to be alone and have a little cry. “C’mon buddy, bring it back around, focus in,” Danielle M. says, channeling her own gentle inner gym teacher. “I’m not going to fight for Nick’s attention,” Rachel says, forgetting that that is exactly the point of this show. “It was pretty much a disaster,” Nick says, staring longingly at the ocean and thinking only of his personal failures.
On Twitter, viewers seemed perplexed by the idea that these women were crying over a volleyball game. But the suggestion that these are sports tears neglects the entire history of The Bachelor: there always eventually comes a point when the isolation, jealousy, and competitive edge sets in, and the smallest indignities lead to major breakdowns.
KT: At this point you might ask “why film this horrible event?” or “why orchestrate this horrible event in the first place?” These are good questions, but not if you’ve been paying attention. This horrible event is designed specifically to push someone — anyone — to the breaking point. Unfortunately for Jasmine, that person is her. After six to eight hours of downing warm tequila (+5) in the St. Thomas sun in between bump-set-spikes, she’s ready to “strangle” Nick for ignoring her. At the group date cocktail party, she literally does it (in what is supposed to be a playful, hot way), which I respect. Whether or not fake-choking Nick is okay is an ethical question on par with “is it okay to punch Nazis?”
I give Jasmine an emphatic “go for it.” After watching this boy compel six women to prove their worth by torturing their own forearms with poor serving technique all day long, it seems like the only right answer.
Nick is absolutely repulsed by Jasmine’s suggestion that choking is sexy, and though I can’t say it’s something I personally find appealing, it is inarguable that Nick is being a ridiculous prude. It’s not like the girl suggested knife play or something! Chill out, Nick! Nick chills out hard and sends Jasmine home in the middle of the outing (-15). I’m sad to see her go, but I’m also relieved to see another lovely young woman escape the nightmare of Nick and his choices.
On her way out she spits his “I’m sorry” back at him: “There’s no reason to be sorry. Only say sorry if you really mean it.” This spot-on shutdown brings us to our next question: does Nick really care about anyone on this show? When Rachel expresses her disappointment that he didn’t utter a single word to her the entire day at the beach, he loudly interrupts her to tell the story of a panic attack that he had at a separate time in a totally unrelated situation, then smiles and says, “But please, I beg you, keep telling me whenever things upset you.” If I had to make a mood board based on this moment, it would just be a brick of ice with a photo of Ted Bundy tacked in the middle.
Later, on his two-on-one date with Whitney and Danielle L. (+7 to each of them for the world’s shortest and dumbest helicopter ride, where they tolerated Nick touching both of their thighs simultaneously), he gets rid of Whitney within minutes (-15) and then lets Danielle L. talk about how she’s in love with him (+10), before sending her packing (-15) in tears (+5). This week was a massacre, and a fantasy league drought, with even heavy hitters like Corrine netting barely any points. That’s because it’s hard to put a number on generalized despair!
Even the producers were on the fritz, forgetting to include any footage of Raven receiving the group date rose (she just magically has it later), and making the absolutely unbelievable decision to introduce a Caribbean maid named Lorna to wait on Corrine. “She’s adorable, I love her,” notes Corrine, who also worries that her nanny Raquel will be “jealous” if she sees her being served by “the St. Thomas equivalent of Raquel.” Just to recap: this is one week after the Bachelor fam toured three separate “historic” plantations in Louisiana.
LP: Nick’s date with Danielle L. really highlighted his inability to hold any sort of conversation, and I think he sent her home because he saw himself reflected in her stunted sentences and long, awkward pauses.
Nick doesn’t know how to achieve intimacy unless he sees you barf several times or you tell him a deeply personal anecdote. On Kristina’s one-on-one date, he shoots for the latter option, pressing her for details about her childhood in Russia (+5). Eventually she yields, and tells a very sincere and heartbreaking story about leaving her home at a young age and being separated from her younger sister. Nick, sweating and refusing to share any story of his own, looks like he’s Googling appropriate responses under the table.
Finally satisfied that Kristina is a real, complex person, Nick gives her a rose (+15).
But save for a few fleeting moments, love was largely missing from Bachelor World this week, ultimately sending delicate Nick into a spiral of existential despair. He shows up at the resort the women are staying in, plants himself on the couch, starts crying, and describes how his relationship with Danielle L., which he was once so “optimistic” about, fell flat. Hey Nick, that’s how things go sometimes after just one date, someone outside of this universe might say. But Nick takes it as a sign that all of his relationships might see the same fate, and wants the women to know that. It’s a bold move to tell five women fighting for your affection that you might not actually like any of them all that much, but most of the women respond with pity for Nick. His perfect storm of self-doubt and narcissism can read as profound when you’ve got nothing else to compare it to.
KT: Tune in next week when we find out if Nick is capable of love and if we are capable of caring! If anything, at least we are growing in camaraderie with the thousands of eagle-eyed love enthusiasts who watch this weird show with us every week, one of whom pointed out that Nick still wears a Livestrong bracelet.
Kaitlyn Tiffany: Corrine (+9), Danielle L (+22), Alexis (-5)
Week total: 26
League total: 227
Kara Verlaney: Danielle M. (+6), Danielle L. (+22), Whitney (+2)
Week total: 30
League total: 215
Loren Grush: Rachel (0), Raven (+25), Kristina (+27)
Week total: 52
League total: 204
Lizzie Plaugic: Rachel (0), Jasmine G. (+10), Vanessa (+16)
Week total: 26
League total: 194
Chris Plante: Vanessa (+16), Raven (+25), Danielle M. (+6)
Week total: 47
League total: 192
Jake Kastrenakes: Corrine (+9), Josephine (-10), Kristina (+27)
Week total: 26
League total: 146
NEW DRAFT PICKS
This week, everyone in BFL has to drop down to two players. We’re getting close to the end of this whole charade! When only four players remain we will all have to drop down to one player for hometown dates and beyond.
Loren Grush: Loren voluntarily axed Kristina from her team, citing the fact that she seems way too intelligent and emotionally developed to fall in love with Nick.
Lizzie Plaugic: Lizzie lost Jasmine this week, which made her decision for her.
Jake Kastrenakes: Jake lost Josephine this week, and thank goodness he doesn’t have to make decisions because I am 100 percent positive he is not watching this show.
Kara Verlaney: Kara lost Danielle L. and Whitney this week. Of the two draft picks available, she picked up Kristina by default because Danielle M. was already her only remaining contestant.
Kaitlyn Tiffany: I lost both Danielle L. and Alexis this week, and therefore picked up Chris Plante’s scraps, Danielle M., to fill out my two-person team.