The Bachelor fantasy league, week five: love and violence

Love’s a game and this year we’re playing. For the full rules and intellectual justification of The Verge Bachelor Fantasy League please see this explanatory post. For a little background on why this is poised to be the best-ever season of The Bachelor, see this essay by culture editor Chris Plante:

Lizzie Plaugic: Welcome to the fifth round of The Bachelor fantasy league, a cruel echo of the previous four rounds. Corrine and Taylor once again hijacked the spotlight by bickering and bickering and bickering some more. Earlier in this series, we maintained that Corrine was this season’s villain, but Taylor made a real case for her own villainy this week.

This season has felt a bit backwards, no? The producers continue to put the rose ceremony at the beginning of each episode instead of at the end, as if to invert the very skeleton of the show.

Last night was no different than previous nights for Bachelor Nation, except it took place in Wisconsin instead of Los Angeles, and the women’s icy breath hanging in the air diminished some of the polished perfection of reality TV cinematography. Whitney got the first rose (+10), to which everyone replied, “Who?” while Sarah and Astrid were sent home (-10 each, although Astrid remained teamless for her duration in this league).

Tears were shed over the loss, but The Bachelor contestants have the memory of a goldfish and the women had already moved on when Nick told them they’d be traveling to New Orleans.

Kaitlyn Tiffany: Before we really get into this week’s Corrine and Taylor showdown in the bayou, I would just like to address an unsettling trend I’ve been noticing in the #BachelorNation Twittersphere. Every single week, a chorus of fans tweet that they’re eating cucumber slices in honor of Corrine’s nanny. (Corrine’s nanny slices her cucumbers for her.) This is a terrible snack. I don’t think it’s worth it to inflict a bad snack on yourself just to earn a spot in a cacophony of identical meme tweets. That’s my stance on the issue and I won’t budge. I ate pinto beans and watermelon Sour Patch Kids last night. Was it a playful riff on The Bachelor? No. Did it alarm and possibly annoy my roommate, who is on day 29 of the Whole 30 diet? Yes. Was it the only food I had in my apartment? Also yes.

Moving on. Based on the advertising that ABC did around this episode, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought that the crew was headed to New Orleans specifically so that Corrine and Taylor could fight to the death in a shallow swamp full of alligators. All of the promotions were menacing montages of two young villainesses and dozens of hungry water beasts. Oddly enough, this is not the first time ABC has enlisted the help of the animal kingdom to make its participants look like unhinged sociopaths, though usually they use birds. A real step up, stakes wise, and a real step down, decency wise.

The showdown can’t fill an entire episode though, so first we get 90 minutes of Nick doing an awkward tour guide schtick. He escorts Rachel around to various jazz clubs where young white pop singers are performing serendipitously in the middle of the afternoon. They eat beignets! (+5) They dance! (+5) Nick pays for everything with a roll of cash that he definitely did not bring from home! They smooch (+7), they talk about death (+5). The rest of the contestants — many of whom were excited to visit a city they had never been to before — watch from their Marriott suites above, where they’re entombed for all but 20 minutes of this episode.

Later Nick takes most of the women on a group date to a haunted house built in 1828 by some of the richest people in the country at the time. Huh. I wonder what sort of affordable labor they used to amass their wealth. Nick calls this “the perfect place to fall in love.” Sorry Nick, but America’s antebellum plantations should be dismantled and so should your reality TV career.

A tour guide named Boo tells the women there are ghosts in the house, and the main one is a little girl named Mae who is mean. She died of yellow fever at eight years old. Jaimi gets mad at Jasmine for touching the ghost’s hat. The whole event becomes a fun excursion into the paranoias of the contestants, in addition to a gross little white-washed history lesson.

The women also “experience local culture” by asking a Hasbro-brand Ouija board which one of them will get the group rose. It lands on “D,” and then stops working… later Danielle M. gets the rose (+15) and admits that she now believes in ghosts. In case you were wondering, everything I have described so far is called “building suspense.” It felt as if an entire season of Mad Men happened in the first 90 minutes of this episode.

Lizzie: I wonder if people with high emotional intelligence believe in ghosts. We should ask Taylor, who, throughout this season, has used the idea of emotional intelligence as a crutch for her argument that Corrine and Nick don’t belong together. Taylor has a master’s degree, which she mentions any chance she gets, and seems to equate emotional intelligence with book learning, while Corrine seems to equate it to her ability to win.

Taylor and Corrine, at 23 and 24, are the youngest contestants left on the show. Nick picks them both for a 2-on-1 date, a supremely juicy (and producer-friendly) decision. The cheery trio take a speedboat to an island where a woman is waiting to teach them about voodoo. The producers milk this for all its worth; you can practically hear them whispering into Nick’s ear as he asks, “Can voodoo be used to hurt other people?” Corrine and Taylor dutifully smirk.

Nick takes Corrine aside first. They sit on a lovely log 15 feet from where Taylor is getting her tarot cards read. Corrine says Taylor is a bully (+5) and Nick nods solemnly. Then it’s Taylor’s turn, and she says she’s not a bully. Riveting stuff. Taylor says she’s “going to freak” if Nick sends her home, and Nick sends her home (-15). Or rather, he and Corrine (+15) abandon her on the island. Taylor earns herself a catchphrase when she says Nick and Corrine’s relationship will be built on “whipped cream and lies.”

But if you thought that was the end of Taylor, hooo boy, guess again, because our mental health expert extraordinare and emotional intelligence sorceress is all about closure. (“I am the water sign,” she says.) Closure here means performing in a voodoo cleansing ritual, clawing her way back to land and interrupting Corrine and Nick’s dinner date with the classic “Hey guys…” And that’s when a big fat “to be continued’ screen pops up, because they gotta keep you comin’ back somehow.

Kaitlyn: The Bachelor producers are really in hot water this season. Their villain arc reached its peak this week and then went beyond it, in a stirring and unsettling reenactment of the injustices of every day on planet Earth. Corrine was not supposed to last this long, and yet she has. Why? As some Bachelor fans pointed out on the web last night, and as you and I have been trying to make clear week after week, it’s because Nick himself has a multi-season villain arc in this franchise and no matter how much ABC markets this go-round as his redemption, there’s nothing about being on TV yet again that’s going to compel him to be a better person.

If anything, Nick’s arc goes like this:

  • First Bachelorette appearance: Evil
  • Second Bachelorette appearance: Less evil
  • Bachelor in Paradise appearance: Almost good
  • Bachelor appearance: Return to evil

It’s a perfect inverted arc. This isn’t a season of Mad Men; it’s the entire life of Don Draper.

On top of everything about Nick that makes me think he might be a bad person, there’s also a lot about Nick that makes me confident that he’s a boring person. While canoodling with Danielle L. at the haunted mansion in this episode, he misquotes a Pinterest post to her and says “absence makes the heart grow stronger.” (Though maybe this is something he genuinely believes. A true romantic supervillain, he gains physical strength from breaking off relationships.)

He’s also really good at making these women believe he is thoughtful, mainly because almost every sentence out of his mouth is “I’m sorry” or “how are you feeling?” He is excellent at bringing up his failed marriage proposals over and over to appear sensitive and deserving of tons of slack, and has an unsettling habit of doing so directly after one of the women he’s dating describes the death of a close relative. This is not true emotional intimacy, nor is it the mark of a good conversationalist. It’s the go-to move of a man who has spent his entire public life treating relationships like a chess match that his superior dude intellect will win for him. This is a show about finding a wife in eight weeks, not a show about personal growth, but I honestly believe that The Bachelor’s roughly 7 million weekly viewers would prefer it to be both.

Lizzie: At least some of the women seem to be falling for Nick’s wiles. Raven spills her heart beans and tells Nick she fell in love with him when she saw him flap his way around a roller rink, on their first date ever. A winning combo of romantic and neurologically unsound. But who can blame her, on this show where every heart flutter could be a palpitation from too much champagne and every dreamy thought of Nick could just be cabin fever. You’d have to have some real primo emotional intelligence to sort all that out.

THE POINTS

Kaitlyn Tiffany: Corrine (+52), Danielle L (+17), Alexis (+10)

Week total: 79

League total: 201

Kara Verlaney: Danielle M. (+32), Danielle L. (+17), Whitney (+10)

Week total: 59

League total: 185

Lizzie Plaugic: Rachel (+37), Jasmine G. (+11), Taylor (+10)

Week total: 58

League total: 168

Loren Grush: Rachel (+37), Raven (+10), Kristina (0)

Week total: 47

League total: 152

Chris Plante: Vanessa (+10), Raven (+10), Jaimi (+10)

Week total: 30

League total: 145

Jake Kastrenakes: Corrine (+52), Josephine (+10), Taylor (+10)

Week total: 72

League total: 120

NEW DRAFT PICKS

Lizzie Plaugic: Lizzie lost Taylor this week and picked up Vanessa.

Jake Kastrenakes: Jake also lost Taylor this week and picked up Kristina.

Chris Plante: As the lowest scoring team this week, Team Chris was awarded a free swap. He ditched Jaimi and picked up Danielle M.

As of this week Corrine, Danielle L., Danielle M., Kristina, Rachel, Raven, and Vanessa are on two teams and cannot be drafted again.