The question of the hour is: Who is Lauren B., and why has she suddenly captivated America? And by America, I mean Arie Luyendyk, Jr., our inscrutable Bachelor. At first, Arie seemed doofy, or perhaps a little dopey. (Jokes flew over his head during the show's premiere, and we cannot forget that he told Bekah M. that "excitement" made him excited.) Then, he seemed sleepy. Later, he seemed "chill," almost grounded. He was grandpa Bachelor. He liked cowl neck sweaters and eating on dates and he genuinely seemed alarmed when Bekah M. told him she was 22. ("I like to go to bed early," he explained, as if he were relaying news of a chronic illness.) Now, he's just plain confusing.
Episode seven is a turning point for The Bachelor. The week before hometown dates, this is the episode where the entertaining contestants — let's call them bonus buddies — get the boot. If you're on The Bachelor because you're telegenic, pre-hometowns is where you get off the train. The producers like you, but not enough to trek all the way out to your home. (The notable exception to this rule is Corinne in season 21, who made it to hometowns, where we met her heavily mythologized nanny, Raquel.) This, of course, means saying goodbye to Bekah M., Sienne, and Jacqueline, all women who had strong on-screen presences but weren't going to win Arie's heart. There is no rose ceremony, though. This episode, which takes place in Tuscany but isn't enough like Under the Tuscan Sun, is all about the intimate awkward goodbyes. Every girl goes home in an intimate and actually maybe very painful conversation at this point in the show.
Arie has a lot of tough decisions to make this episode, as he frequently reminds us during the episode. It's as if he's already asking for our sympathy — "This is very hard, y'all! Feel sorry for me as I make bad decisions!" he seems to be pleading.
His first date is with Becca K., a one-time strong contender for his heart. Becca opened the show with, "Let's do the damn thing," and she genuinely seemed interested in doing the damn thing! She wanted to fall in love on television, and she seemed comfortable with the idea of going to live in Scottsdale with a 36-year-old real estate agent. (I demand to see proof that Arie Luyendyk, Jr. writes "racecar driver" on his taxes.) On their date, they wander around Barga, Tuscany. Wandering is a big thing for the Bachelor franchise right now. Arie expresses some doubts about their relationship. Mainly, he's worried they're not as hot and heavy as they were in the beginning. And they're not, that much is evident. But Becca K. is a serviceable contender, and she gets a rose. Arie will be the first boyfriend she'll be "taking home to the parents," per se, which doesn't seem promising.
Post-Becca, Jacqueline makes her exit, a departure that becomes needlessly dramatic.
"Am I gonna need to drink more wine?" Arie asks her when she first enters, bleary-eyed. Arie would do wonderfully in a soap opera.
Jacqueline was never a frontrunner — some of us, i.e. many of us, didn't know she was a contestant until last episode. She says several times over during her ITMs that she's very attracted to Arie. But something just isn't clicking. She doesn't elaborate on what that is, exactly. Is it Scottsdale? Is it the fact that you'd have to get married? Is it your upcoming years before your PhD? Is it the fact that you'd have to tote this guy around your hometown and say, "I like this man! We're going to get married!" in front of cameras? All of these are very valid reasons to leave The Bachelor. Jacqueline just doesn't seem that strong in her conviction. During her goodbye, she repeatedly kisses Arie. Deeply. Passionately, as if by kissing his face, she might absorb a new enthusiasm for him. (To be fair, this strategy seems to work for him.) She gulps at her wine, apologises, and explains that her connection with Arie just isn't strong enough to take him home with her. Jacqueline, like a lot of people on this show, really needs a hug.
It's this point in The Bachelor that the stress of the show really becomes evident. Jacqueline's tears are a clear indicator that this environment is not normal. When she says goodbye to the girls — something we didn't see Sienne or Bekah M. do — she wails, as do a couple of the other girls. Kendall in particular weeps openly. They all look like they've marched up Mount Kilimanjaro only to discover there is no mountaintop, just some guy and a potential Instagram sponsorship. Later, when Bekah is on her three-on-one date, she confides in Tia that she just wants to go home so that she can be home.
The one person the stress doesn't seem to be affecting is Lauren B., cool as ice and boring as lice. (Lice are real dull, let me tell you!) Lauren is just as inscrutable as Arie. Based on the tightness of her lips and her overall demeanour, she seems desperately disinterested in Arie. Arie is desperately interested in her, though. On their one-on-one — another wander-through-the-city date — he says over and over again that he's very attracted to her. She says it's hard for her to open up. Arie's attraction grows. We are watching the beginning of an obsession. At the weirdest point during their date, Lauren says she's falling for Arie, and our Bachelor gets up and takes a lap. We are never given an explanation for this departure, so I am forced to assume Arie needed to poop.
"God, I am falling in love with that girl," he tells the camera later in an ITM. He doesn't tell her this to her face, but it seems like he'd like to. Perhaps that's why he took a respite.
In her own date, Sienne doesn't fare as well. But she got the better date than Lauren by far. She and Arie go truffle hunting with a puppy named Miga, who is better at everything than I will be at anything. Later, they stop at the home of an Italian family, where they cook pizza together. It's a stale recreation of Call Me By Your Name, but I'll take it.
"I do dig Sienne," Arie tells the camera, but he has some hesitations. Sorry, a lot of hesitations, the main one being they never had chemistry. Their demise feels inevitable, as it did from the very beginning. When Arie sends Sienne home, she emits some feeble protests — "I'm sorry you feel that way" kind of stuff — but otherwise seems totally cool with heading home.
These dull one-on-ones give way to the three-on-one, yet another sad gathering of women who really need a good night's rest. Kendall, Tia, and Bekah all seem to be good friends, and this date just feels like an unfortunate attempt at drama machination. In the only really "dramatic" part of the episode, Tia takes a swipe at Bekah for her age. Bekah, sleep-deprived and probably at wit's end, immediately starts blubbering.
"I don't like when I'm not seen for who I am. It hurts me," Bekah tells the camera in the episode's most gif-able moment. A single mascara'd tear falls down her cheeks. Again, I find myself wanting to give her a hug. Tia, too, for that matter. Tia's jab at her compatriot was half-hearted at best and maybe egged on by producers. And, in the end, she didn't need to do it. Bekah went home anyway, sobbing in the car. (As my co-worker pointed out on Twitter, it was at this point she was planning to go work on a cannabis farm in California without telling her mother about it.)
After her departure, Arie explains that he did like Bekah M.
"She made this fun," he says, speaking for us all. Farewell, Bekah M.
Next week, we'll go to LA with Kendall, Houston with Lauren B., Weiner, Arkansas with Tia, and Minneapolis with Becca K. And it will all be a little less festive without Bekah M.
Lauren Count: One Lauren remaining, although it feels as though we only have a shell of one
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