Today, I am here for one reason and one reason only, and that is to say I’m sorry and from this day forward, I pledge to straighten up and fly right*. My attitude has been all wrong and it must change. And it will change. I promise. You’ll see.
See here: with eleven dudes – the most manageable number so far! – remaining committed to the prospect of falling in love with Ashley by the end of the season, why should it matter to me that she, and not someone better, is this season’s Bachelorette? The answer is, it shouldn’t. Ashley’s comparative undesirability to Emily, for instance, or second-placer Chantal, doesn’t appear to matter one tiny little bit to winemaker Ben F. As they wander through a Chiang Mai marketplace, eating street food, poking through tables of knick knacks and painting umbrellas, he does a perfectly admirable job of keeping his discontent to himself and coming across as a guy who could really and truly go through the motions of falling in love with her.
And it’s not just in the daytime, either. Even as he’s forced to spend more time with her into the night, trapped in a flower petal mandala with nothing to talk about but how his dad died but he’s totally ready to open himself up to love now**, Ben’s desire to hang around a little longer seems convincing enough to get him a rose and cue the musicians, dancers and fire breathers, so who am I to say anything about anything, right? So I’m sorry.
You might ask, as we ramp up to a kickboxing group date that’s been promised via the previews to deliver someone to the hospital, do I regret my anti-Ashley behaviour up to this point? Well, it’s a little acknowledged fact of The Bachelorette franchise that in their language, there is no actual word for ‘regret’. So even if you feel that under circumstances where, for example, the dudes are given a crash course in Muay Thai and then hustled into a ring in a public square in order to spar with one another, and there are enough black eyes and bruised joints to go around, but Ames actually winds up going to the hospital with a concussion, which is made worse by the fact that the show did not have so much as one first-aid type around to identify the symptoms of that concussion so that it falls to the rest of them to say, ‘Huh, there’s something really not right with Ames ever since he took those punches to the head’ and then finally do something about it, that the first half of this date was pretty regrettable, there’s no word for that in the language they speak on The Bachelorette. So if they don’t bother, then neither will I.
Poor Ames. They take him to the hospital and then everybody fucks off on him because they’ve still got a date to be on, and while there’s a bit of a cloud hanging over the little cocktail party and the occasional muttering of ‘Poor Ames’, he’s mostly regarded as having made a conscious decision not to attend this portion of it, which is made out to be his problem and nobody else’s. Ames manages to show up all the same, dressed all dapper with his brain still half-scrambled, but by then The Dentist has already not so subtly whined that he needs a little encouragement, a little positive reinforcement in this game, which Ashley has already correctly identified as a close approximation of herself last season*** and rewarded with the date rose for that reason. I got no love for that guy. This date was entirely unsatisfying.
Last date’s a two-on-one featuring William and Ben C. on a raft with Ashley, heading in the direction of a picnic. As we’re to understand it, William’s been a sullen prick since he made so stupid at the Ashley roast a couple of episodes back. He’s looking to redeem himself somehow, which he does by behaving like a sullen prick until they get to their picnic site and then jumping at the chance to take her aside and lie, saying that Ben’s been talking about how he can’t wait to get out of there and go home and clean up on the dating sites. This being high school and all, Ashley immediately sends Ben home after he fails to adequately defend or explain himself – this guy’s a lawyer? This is an unwise decision rooted entirely in the insecurity Ashley feels during every waking moment on this show****, but seeing as there’s so very little at stake here, we mostly just shrug and wait to see what happens when she and William get some alone time.
And what happens? In what should go down in The Bachelorette history as one of the all-time setups, Ashley reminds William about the time he told her he was basically a 30 year old boy. He takes the bait, acts all pleased that she remembered and then says all of the stupid things that a 30 year old boy, that is, a supposedly grown man with the intellectual and emotional capacity of a 13 year old, would say if he wanted to (or didn’t know he didn’t want to) own the line, “I am the world’s biggest fucking jackass.” And so he does, and alone he shall be for the rest of his life.
Needless to say, as enjoyable as we all find a date where both fellows get sent packing, Ashley finds a way to let it cast a pall over the evening’s closing party/rose ceremony. She just can’t get Bentley out of her head, she tells Chris Harrison. “Is that normal?” she asks Chris Harrison.
“No,” he answers with a bemused half-smile before half-lecturing her, half-narrating to us that she can’t fully move forward with any of the remaining guys while she’s living half-in the past with her only half-accurate memories***** of Bentley. He promises to see what he can do, but in the meantime, she’s got business to attend to. So Ashley goes out and doesn’t give Nick, the personal trainer, a rose. While he makes claims of personal devastation, now that I am fully on Ashley’s side, if she has given Nick no rose and he is no longer in the mix, then I cannot care about this. Nick will simply have to find love somewhere else.
*Dubbed reasons 1a and 1b respectively, so as not to wreck the whole ‘one reason only’ thing
**Even if it’s only with Ashley
***Yes, and this one, too.
****Gillian, my wife, made that call.
*****He doesn’t quite manage to reveal this, due to the fact that he and the people he works with are lying pricks. I’m not saying it would totally set her straight if he did, but fucking hell! How can he know what he knows and not reveal it at this moment?