Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bachelorette Recap Episode 2: Limousines Hold The Faithful Departed

As a child, my favorite Beatle was Ringo. This was, in some part, due to my affinity for plucky underdogs. Watching A Hard Day's Night and seeing him mope from scene to scene, rifling through a paltry stack of fan letters, sent a swell of vicarious dismay through my young mind and I frowned disapprovingly as the three more popular cavalry of the British invasion bopped gaily from scene to scene.  But on a simpler level, I liked Ringo because he was the only one I could identify. His beaky nose, shaggier hair, and bloodhound eyes meant I could pick him out from John, Paul, and George, who to me were simply three identical mop tops.

And therefore, I cursed ABC in vain as episode 2 saw my north star, Brandon, winked out. No fanfare, neither bangs nor whimpers - he was a chill mist, evaporating in the dawn of reality television. How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me all the remaining candidates!

Rest easy, chill one. May your dreams be as deep as your V-neck.

Brandon is consummate Bachelorette chaff - easygoing, different enough to not blend in but not enough to generate producer interest. A self-described "hipster" (in 2016, a surefire sign of a boring human), his gawky frame, long hair, and permanent beanie were easy reference points amid a millieu of close-shaven gym rats. Brandon's screen time came primarily as he meandered cheerfully in the background, singing along to James' guitar licks, schmoozing with other houseguests, and generally enjoying the mansion experience. His lone highlight play came in episode one, when he delivered a flawless "Damn Daniel," savaging both the Canadian candidate's graceless pool entrance and clumsy "Damn, JoJo" introductory line. Brandon departed without so much as a talking head confessional, but it was vintage Brandon: his zen equanimity will be missed, and fondly remembered.

Returning to the action the showrunners cared to capture, the episode's action proceeds apace. Luke, the gallant Texan who bestowed a pair of boots on JoJo on opening night, turns surly and peevish. We get several talking heads where he lamented losing a group date challenge to Grant. The once-laconic cowboy became a sniveling Gollum, bemoaning his lost precious. He seemed remarkably surprised to have been bested in a firefighter competition to Grant, a real-life firefighter, whose gallantry goes largely unrewarded as JoJo directs her affection toward Wells instead.

Wells seems remarkably self-aware and good-natured, making several cracks at his own abortive attempts to lug firehoses over obstacle courses. JoJo gives him a rose for his dogged determination - Amy informs me that "participation trophies" are mainstays of early Bachelorette episodes. Wells admits as much to the camera, and is bemused by the quirks of the show's mechanisms. I begin to empathize with him, but warily - I know even this minor questioning of the Emperor's clothes will be his downfall sooner rather than later.

Derek, another erudite challenger, receives a one-on-one date. The theme is "choices," but talking openly about the agency of the show's contestants and protagonists is a particularly black bit of comedy in a show where the participants are on house arrest with no unregulated access to the outside world. We follow them as they elect to pursue the "air" over "sea", "north" instead of "south" and "Golden Gate Bridge" rather than "Lombard Street." Amy and I found ourselves more curious about the paths not taken, curious if any PAs were dispatched to alert the waiting crews that the plan was off, or if they merely stayed stuck in time, Rosencrantzes and Guildensterns left brimming with romance's Potential Energy.

One pilot only lies, and the other only tells the truth. Both flights are delayed.

Alas, these mysteries are left unsolved. Derek and JoJo enjoy a romantic picnic, and Derek receives a rose, which he says "validates" the experience of the day. The three-syllable word piques our interest and vaults Derek into the 99th percentile of all-time Bachelorette contestants.

The episode's second group date features a trip to ESPN and a "power ranking" of the dates, which is as arbitrary and pointless as their rankings of any other league. Rodger Rodgers says "quarterback" four times in one sentence. James Taylor, the unfortunately-named singer-songwriter, emerges victorious, and, in a bizarre bit of intimacy with JoJo, admits to being insecure about the looks of the other contestants and out of his depth. JoJo, starved for emotional honesty, loves it, but I imagine anything more than a small dose will prove grating in the long run. I look forward to finding out.

Also Chad got a rose.

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