Saturday, June 25, 2016

Bachelorette Recap Episode 4: The Arc of the Show is Long, But It Bends Toward Being OK, I Guess

(here you can read the recaps for:
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3)

Apologies readers. This series skipped over the second half of the Chad saga. In short, two vascular sybarites accompanied JoJo into the woods and only one came back - Alex, the diminutive Marine, prevailed over the show’s archvillian. The episode suggested that Chad might worm his way back into our Bachelorette’s good graces, but the beginning of episode 4 proves this to be yet another well-edited deke. Chad indeed returns to confront the rest of the men, and, following much grimacing and grunting, departs without resulting to the violence his pulsing neck veins intimate. The boys celebrate his vanquishment with streamers and toasts, smashing the conquering hero Alex’s face into a large cake - the significance of these meathead rituals is uncertain but the relief is not. While they are freed of Chad's psychotic reign, we the audience are not - a commercial break reveals he will appear on Bachelor In Paradise, a grim reminder that ABC, like every other network, holds ratings uber alles.

The post-Chad joy fades rapidly as the men each begin to realize the vacuum Chad left. Wells, the least-imposing and most-insightful of the contestants, nails the implications: without Chad as a focal point for the group’s animosity, the remaining men will begin to turn on one another. While Wells does not mention it outright, the parallels to Saddam Hussein’s downfall and the subsequent rise of ISIS are too stark to ignore. Ousting Chad was satisfying, but has already begun to foment instability in the region. JoJo returns to the Pennsylvania lodging and the men clamor for time alone with her. In short order, she smooches Robby, Alex, and Rodger Rodgers, as the others wallow in anxiety. The night ends with the rose ceremony we were denied last week. Among the evictees are James F, whose primary contribution to the show was forcing people to clarify that they were referring to James T, and, most disappointingly, the resident Canadian, Justin. His confessional, however, makes it worthwhile - he attempts to indict JoJo by suggesting she was interested in more than just the candidate’s looks; if it were a strict aesthetic meritocracy, Justin fumes, no one would hold a candle to his physique. He reasons that with so many people in the world, it’s extremely unlikely that he and JoJo were meant for each other. Casting about for an adequate comparison proves too much, though, and he ends up falling down the staircase of his own analogy: “it’s more likely that I’d…get…hit by lightning……while…..shaving” he manages.

Daniel stares way off in the distance at his original point. Photo from ABC.

After a commercial break (which all seem to feature blandly handsome actors that could easily be switched into contestant roles with no one the wiser), JoJo and the fellas pack up and depart Pittsburgh for Uruguay. The guys’ cheers are low key as they struggle to remember to which continent this unfamiliar country belongs, then swell as they realize it’s South America. Given that they spend 90 percent of their time idling around lavish hotels, it seems a bit extravagant to fly them so far for the few cultural experiences they’ll encounter - surely holing them up in an LA Hilton and occasionally screening Planet Earth episodes would suffice.

Rodger Rodgers win’s the new locale’s first one-on-one date, and his run of success with JoJo inspires some jealousy in the other candidates. He and JoJo embark on a date that the producers must have hoped would be jaw-dropping, but comes across unremarkable. The two take a yacht to an isolated cove and frolic with Seals, but there are diminishing returns on seeing two genetically flawless beings strip to their skivvies and embrace in a secluded Xanadu. The show starts to feel stale as we are subjected to so much of the same thing and I hope to see more of the oddball contestants in the future - the Wells’, Evans, and James Taylors provide a refreshing honesty about the human condition just by slouching there.

Great. Another two perfect human specimens delighting in the grandeur of nature. Awesome.
Photo from ABC.

The next day features a group date that, for once, is not tailored to one of the men’s skill set. It turns out to be sand-surfing, and the group’s collective haplessness is a light moment in the episode. Unfortunately for those of us who would happily watch another hour of smarmy raconteurs falling downhill, a thunderstorm cuts the activity short. The extended hangout time gives the candidates time to make strides in their individual areas of weakness. Luke, painted as emotionally distant, listens as hard as he can to JoJo, fixing her with such an intense stare I was nervous she’d catch fire. James Taylor (now the only remaining “James”), nervous about romantic compatibility, attempts to up his sexual magnetism by cradling JoJo’s head like a rare vase as he smooches her. And Derek feels as though he has faded into the background since his strong start in Episode 2, so he tries the most straightforward approach and lays out his insecurities to JoJo directly.

At this point I must remind you that these recaps do not maintain any objectivity. Derek has been my pick as the show’s eventual winner since his erudite turn on the “choices” date, and so I view his actions with rose-colored glasses. I like Derek and Wells and I make no promise that I will not lavish them with undue praise and editorial favoritism.

Derek’s "Crisis of Confidence" speech wins JoJo’s approval, and she bestows the group date’s rose on him. The other candidates, however, see his admissions as a calculated, phony display. The chief dissenter is once again Alex, who may be looking to recapture his moment of glory by rooting out yet another malcontent from the show. This time, however, the marine goes a bridge too far. Derek is no Chad, and Alex’s scorn feels misplaced. As he mocks Derek for needing reassurance, Amy rightfully points out that our little leatherneck is displaying quite a bit of insecurity himself by jumping so quickly to criticism.

Though the tension between Derek and the jocks is palpable, ABC shunts us over to yet another tepid date - this time with Robby. In a cadre of mannequins, Robby somehow is indisputably the most Ken Doll motherfucker of the bunch. He and JoJo jump in the water and walk in the street and he holds forth on his emotional hardship over dinner. The needle has run over this track so many times that it begins to distort reality: our TV starts emitting a tinny whine during Robby’s sob story, making it even more unlistenable. Then they smooch with fireworks in the background. Amy and I sprain our wrists doing dismissive jackoff motions.

photo from ABC

When we finally return to the meat of the show, Derek decides to confront the schoolyard bullies, and tells them he sees them forming a clique. The clique scoffs at the accusation, as cliques do. Rodger Rodgers’ pencil head quivers with indignation. Thankfully, Wells, ever the voice of reason, steps in and plays peacemaker, defusing things as the men are lined up for yet another elimination ceremony. As the usual suspects are granted their roses, I find myself roped in by the mounting anxiety - with one rose left, Evan, Wells, Grant, and Vinny remain. I cross my fingers and shrink back in nervous anticipation as the music bores in mercilessly. But JoJo hears my silent prayer and grants the last flower to Wells. Amy looks on bemused as I celebrate as raucously as I had the previous night, when the Cavaliers clinched Cleveland’s first championship in over 50 years. While I was exultant to see my favorite contestants survive another week, this episode saw one of the immutable Bachelorette laws come to pass - this round of cuts bleached the remaining color out of the contestant’s racial tapestry. Congrats to JoJo, as she continues her now unfettered search for Mr. White.

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