“Family is super important to me,” Ben ‘Alfalfa’ Flajnik says right at the start of tonight’s episode of The Bachelor. And his timing could not be better, because this is the episode during which he flits from town to town across the United States of America, meeting his four girlfriends’ families. As custodians of the unwritten, selectively enforced rules of heterosexual interaction that Americans may or may not follow*, The Bachelor will have you believe that these dates are quite important, because, as we all know, a fellow doesn’t meet his gal’s family until they know their relationship has crossed a certain seriousness threshold, and okay, fine, for the sake of getting on with it we’ll say we can buy that. But what’s the seriousness threshold? In this case, it’s Benny’s decision about the next person to whom he could absolutely not bear to nearly marry.
And by the by, Ben repeats that line at least once more in the episode, for emphasis probably, but also because in case you’ve forgotten, he is looking for love, on TV.
As much as we can sometimes be led to believe that the search for love, with television cameras, is a solitary sport, this could not be further from the truth. We should put aside for the time being Ben and his occasional references to his deceased father and, uh, the other significant people in his life, and instead focus on these ladies, one of whom might one day be a significant person in his life for up to several weeks or even months.
These ladies have teams of people who have made major contributions to where they find themselves today – families, we call them. They’ve got parents who raised them so wrong in ways numerous enough that their daughters would wind up on this glorified Dating Game in the first place, and of course, siblings who have in the past exposed them to enough embarrassment and humiliation in front of boys they’ve liked that the heaping helpings of it served up by this show can only seem like comfort now being forced down their gullets.
But enough with the background junk. The rules are pretty simple for this episode. Dude shows up in town, meets up with Chick. They hang out for a bit, then go meet her family. The Bachelor makes a half-assed effort in each house at pretending that he’s asking that woman’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Earnest conversations about the loveliness of love, and also dinner, are had. Concern is expressed for the emotional wellbeing of that house’s loved one who, they can’t help but feel, is currently doing something kind of stupid**. Smiles are permitted, but at a ratio of a maximum of one for every three sober and/or serious expressions. At one point, Ben will be deemed ‘a great guy’ or some such. And finally, the contestant with the hardest-ass family does not continue on, because who needs to take shit like that from people whose daughter you’re not likely to marry, even if she ‘wins’ the contest?
First up: Lindzi, in Ocala FLA. Lindzi’s only ever brought home one other guy to meet her family, we should know, and he broke her heart. Otherwise, horses, horses, horses, love is like horses in that, “If you fall off, you get back on.” Also, horses, horses, horses, Lindzi’s feeling vulnerable, horses, horses. For their parts, Lindzi’s parents quite clearly enjoy their wine and would be honoured to have Ben as a son-in-law***. And Ben thinks he may be falling in love with Lindzi, though he says that to a camera, not a person.
As we move it along to Clarksville TN where Kacie B. welcomes Ben to town with a marching band and some spiffy baton twirling, to be fair, she gets right down to warning him about her family. Her dad’s a parole officer and he’s highly skeptical of this entire thing she’s doing. And he doesn’t drink, which doesn’t stop Ben from bringing a bottle of wine as a gift. Hmmm.
Kacie’s family is a drag. Her mom starts right in with how, if Ben and Kacie wind up together, she doesn’t want them living together before they marry. Her dad echoes the demand, and then later says, “If he was to ask me if he could marry you, I would probably say, at this point, ‘no’.” This is as cheery as they get, but the most telling conversation from the visit takes place between Kacie and her sister, Allison****. Kacie clearly wants to fall in love with Ben and move to California*****, so that she can get the hell out of Clarksville TN and have a life worth living. Which makes it a crying shame that her family are such a bunch of hardasses (foreshadow, foreshadow).
Now then – Nicki. She’s been a bore on this show from the very beginning. Every week, I’ve been waiting for her to get the ol’ heave ho, and every week, she defies my wishes. But being at home in her hometown does something for Nicki. She’s still not exactly exciting yet, but she’s not quite as boring as she’s been. She gets Ben a pair of cowboy boots and a hat and she wears a sparkly shirt and then they go and drink in a bar and then they talk about how, the last time she brought a man home under these circumstances, she married him******.
Nicki’s dad is sorry he gave his permission for marriage so easily the first time around. He gets bonus points for almost crying as he apologizes to her for this, but if we can get a quick show of hands – how many think that experience would make him a little more cautious the next time around? Yeah, I don’t think so, either. Anyway, she pulls Ben aside for a quick minute to tell him, “I’m actually in love with you.”
Ben answers this with a highly committed, “Mm-hmm,” then later tells the camera, “I’ve got a great gut feeling that she’ll be able to make me happy for the rest of my life.” So, a quick question, Ben. What do you think you’ll be able to do for her?
Oh, never mind. It’s time to move on to Scottsdale AZ, where Courtney’s family is. It should be noted that Courtney seems a lot better, like, nearly enjoyable, when removed from the company of her housemates and placed in the context of people who don’t despise her. She still talks a lot about her happiness depending on the behaviour of others, but she pulls way fewer ridiculous faces here, and occasionally makes a funny joke. It’s true!
Courtney’s dad says to Ben, “Marriage is life’s greatest gamble. Are you ready to make that bet, Ben?” Ben manages to dodge that one, but next thing we know, she’s got him wearing a little bow tie in a park, writing vows, putting on fake rings and getting fake-married, and he goes right along with it. And as for Courtney, well, she manages to tell Ben she loves him, even as it looks like he’s wearing a hair net. Dear rest of the girls: Game over. Dear Ben: do something about your hair already!
A quick sit-down with Chris Harrison later*******, and Kacie, the one who could clearly use a rose more than any of the others, is first soothing Ben, “No, I don’t want you to be brokenhearted,” and then she’s sitting in the back of a limo, shouting, “What the fuck happened?” We think you already know, sweety, and if you’re going to insist on using un-Southern ladylike language like that, you’ll find your mouth getting washed out with soap.
*Sexual interactions shall be limited to tongue kissing and maybe a little bit of stripper-type stuff, e.g. Jamie’s awkward attempt at a lap dance or whatever that was; interactions ranging from moderate petting to sexual intercourse, occurring outside the bonds of marriage as they do, will be treated as though they do not exist.
**and which may bear a certain resemblance to something stupid she did in the past
***For obvious reasons?
****who appears to be anticipating getting called away for the evening gown portion of a beauty pageant at any moment. Except where’s the beauty? Oh, snap!
*****A word her father can barely bring himself to say
******She’s divorced now.
*******who apparently can’t be bothered to watch the tapes of the dates because if he did, we wouldn’t have to sit through the recaps of them right after they happened. Good work if you can get it, eh Harrison?