This is based on Joseph Campbell's monomyth. Keep this in mind as we go.
This week's episode opens in Santa Fe, New Mexico and actually marks the halfway point of the season. As our bachelor Chris Soules describes the city, "It's the perfect place to fall in love." Having never been to Santa Fe myself, I can't defend or decry this claim, but it certainly seems like an "insert-city-name-here" type of statement. The women involved are all wildly excited about the change of venue though, so maybe there's something to it.
Carly, who's date card read "let's come together" gets her first one-on-one date with Chris. From the message, I assumed the two were either going to be attending a tantric workshop or a Beatles cover band, and unfortunately I was not that far off as Carly and Chris visit a "Love Guru" in order to improve their intimacy. Now keep in mind, this is their first date. Intimacy isn't something to be expected or needed, by any stretch of the imagination. In my opinion, first dates are more about trying not to call the other person by the wrong name or audibly fart. In my experience, the former is much easier than the latter.
The date in its entirety wasn't just dumb; it was downright painful. The "guru's" advice seemed to consist primarily of telling the couple to remain silent while violating each other's personal space. Some of the intimacy building exercises included but were not limited to: the "guru" waving burning sage around, Carly blindfolding Chris and mashing chocolate covered strawberries into his mouth, the couple being told to disrobe each other, and Carly sitting on Chris' lap while breathing on his face. How the pair avoided saying "Fuck you guru, lets go get day drunk," is beyond me.
Love Gurus: Not even once.
Eventually, Carly and Chris sit down and actually open up to each other, away from the "guru." Carly tells Chris about her difficulties feeling attractive after being in a long term relationship with a man who refused to be physically intimate with her. Chris then tells Carly about his own problems in opening up to past girlfriends and his concerns in finding a woman who is willing to move to Iowa with him. It was actually a really nice moment that was immediately undercut by Chris "The Human Aphorism" Soules saying, "She's not only beautiful on the outside, but on the inside too." In a pinch, this guy could be replaced by a sack of potatoes and a hypothetical recording of the 20 most overused cliches in the English language. God, I want so much more from this show.
Back at the house, a card arrives for the group date which includes Ashley, Becca, Jade, Kaitlyn, Kelsey, Mackenzie, Meghan, Samantha, and Whitney. Of course, every woman on this list was infuriated that they did not receive a solo date with Chris and made sure to speak directly to the camera about how their relationship with Chris was the only legitimate one. Frankly, I am not convinced that any of the women would have changed their views even after presented with the thoughts of the others. There is a level of delusion here that is depressingly unsurprising.
How the world must look to Chris Soules.
The group date itself was unfamiliar territory for me, as it saw the women on a legitimate date activity, white water rafting down the Rio Grande. Only Meghan seemed to have any reservations about the date saying "There could be alligators or dead bodies in there." Just off the top of my head, I can tell you there are no alligators in the Rio Grande and there are absolutely dead bodies. I would be surprised if there were any less than five dead bodies in that river at any given time. It runs along one of the most highly guarded borders in the world and is a hot bed of drug and arms smuggling, they'd be lucky if there were only five bodies in the Rio Grande.
During the date, Jade fell out of the raft and into the river. She was quickly saved by a badass crew member who was able to pull a grown woman out of the rapids in a matter of seconds. Apparently her temporary submersion in the water was a cause for concern as Jade claims to suffer from a condition where her body can become hypothermic for little to no reason. I, like the women of The Bachelor, am skeptical about this as a legitimate medical condition. Unlike the women of The Bachelor, however, I am not going to make shitty comments about it
How I imagine the producers wanted us to see Jade.
The final segment of the group date was a small cocktail party back at the hotel, which saw the reemergence of Jordan, a contestant voted off three weeks prior. She has shown up at the hotel in an attempt to get a second chance with Chris. After talking with him for several minutes in the hotel lobby (which as we all know must be cleared round about 4) Jordan was allowed to join their date. The remaining women are put off by this, and generally seem to feel a little betrayed at the possibility of the format being broken in such a blatant manner. Reactions vary from Whitney saying that she was happy to see Jordan again, just not at this time, to Ashley suggesting that everyone in the group be mean to Jordan for showing up like this. At this point I was convinced that Ashley was The Bachelor's ultimate villain, and began to adapt my notes for the show to reflect this. I should have realized that we were only half-way through the show, and there was no chance of this holding until the end.
After consulting with the women of the group date, Chris decides to send Jordan back home. He seemed to handle this as well as he could, given the awkwardness of the situation. By the end of the date, Whitney recieves a rose and Ashley is in tears as a result. Again, the basic argument behind her distress was that Ashley knew she was the one who deserved it because she wanted it. essentially it's the logic of a five year old.
Ashley probably thinks Veruca Salt is a tragic hero.
The final date of the night has Britt nervous before it actually begins. When she receives the date card, it implies that the date will involve heights, and Britt claims to be acrophobic. The mere idea of skydiving or simply being off the ground fills her with such a panic that she bursts into tears. Of course, as you are about to see, this proves to be a load of shit.
Chris sneaks into the house at 4:30 AM to wake Britt up for their date, a gesture which rides the line between cute and creepy so perfectly I still haven't made up my mind yet. The two did make out a little in front of other contestants though, so either way it's definitely a little bit shitty.
After riding through the early morning darkness, Chris and Britt pull up to a field with a hot air balloon that will take them on a tour of the Rio Grand at sunrise. Contrary to everything she just said, Britt is excitedly bouncing around at the thought of this romantic gesture. In fact, she was so excited before, during, and after the balloon ride, that I don't think she's so much acrophobic as she just didn't want to go skydiving. That or she's a liar, as is the general consensus of every other woman at the house.
The height of romance!
After fearlessly riding in the hot air balloon, Chris and Britt return to his hotel room for dessert and coffee. Of course they didn't so much have dessert and coffee as they made out in his bed and then shut the producers out while they "took a nap." This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I for one do think the pair actually did take a nap. They left for the balloon ride before 5 AM, and by that point I'm sure it was at least 3 PM, which as we all know, is the napping hour.
Eventually, Britt returns to the house and regales the women with an account of her date. Minutes into her story, Kelsey leaves and heads to Chris' room in order to steal some alone time. Finally, we get what we want, in some non-Ashley based drama. As she puts it "There's a risk that I could go home without Chris knowing that I'm a widow." In case you were wondering, I can point to this sentence as the exact moment Kelsey broke the mold of a standard reality TV villain and became a legitimate super villain.
I swear, she's Hannibal Lecter in a dress.
Kelsey recounts the story of her husband's sudden and untimely death to Chris, who plays the perfect gentleman throughout. The camera then cuts to Kelsey holding a wry smile as she looks directly into it saying, "Isn't my story amazing? It's tragic... but amazing." If you don't get chills reading that, then you're probably Kelsey. She's doing something I've never seen on a show like this before. Kelsey is literally looking at the audience and telling them her evil plan. It's the sort of thing only seen in superhero movies after the nemesis has captured the hero and plans to execute them.
As Chris comforts Kelsey, she performs one final, true act of evil. Kelsey wipes the tears from her doe eyes and kisses Chris passionately. Ladies and gentlemen, our hero has fallen. While the two lock lips, a voice of of Kelsey plays. "This is my story. This is the story of someone who lost everything, only to make a triumphant comeback." As an audience, we wanted high drama and we got it. We have paid the price.
Let us remember a great man, lost.
At the cocktail party, Kelsey feigns sympathy for the group and resumes her normally unassuming demeanor. Chris informs everyone of their conversation, but becomes emotional and abruptly leaves. While he is gone, Kelsey explains her actions to the overwhelming skepticism from the women, especially Whitney. Before any real discussion can be had, Chris Harrison enters to inform the women that there will be no cocktail party tonight, as Chris Soules has already made up his mind about who will stay. All are asked to prepare for the rose ceremony, until Kelsey, perhaps seeing a crack in her plan, seems to suffer a sudden panic attack. Meanwhile, several women appear in succession to discuss Kelsey's tragic story, and how none of their stories can even touch hers.
To be continued...
The end of this episode.
Now here we are, back at a familiar situation, with me wrapping up the show.
Without a doubt, this episode was the most meta two hours of my life. Most notably, there were contestants discussing their own story lines as part of the over arching story line. The blatant self-awareness of The Bachelor contestants this week, has me sincerely confused about what kind of show this is trying to be. It maintains the pomp and overdone sentimentalism for which it is best known, but now brings the added layer of fourth wall breaking. The contestants are now speaking directly to the audience about how they will be perceived because of their own actions.
Kelsey, of course, is the primary culprit of this behavior. Because Kelsey is shown speaking so frankly about how she will be portrayed on the show, she betrays its very format. Essentially, Kelsey is not only playing the villain to Chris Soules, but the structure of the show itself. Like any great villain, she's not just trying to corrupt the hero, she's trying to destroy the very system that the hero resides within.
She's the Joker, Agent Smith, and Tyler Durden rolled into one. She's changed the way we view this show. She's a true villain in every sense of the word.