TONYA & NANCY: THE ROCK OPERA coverage coming on WGBH & FOX25…
Sarah Kowalski and Tigh Rickman are recent graduates of Stonecoast MFA. Both longtime fans of reality televison, they are both relative newcomers to ABC’s The Bachelor. However, much like crack cocaine, it only took a small hit to hook them both, and now both watch religiously with their fiction writers’ eyes.
The Bachelor Deconstructed: Black Eyed Pleas
In the weeks since last we checked in on Brad and his band of lovelies, much has happened. Our hero felt a true connection with dentist Ashley H. on his first one-on-one date, which was a Scooby Doo-esque outing to an empty amusement park in the woods. Together they sat in the electric glow of the midway’s flashing lights and they bonded over each other’s stories of paternal abandonment, and sealing their connection with a kiss.
Brad also went on a one-on-one date with Jackie; this date was a Pretty Woman affair in which Brad lavished her with expensive clothes and baubles and then took her to a private concert by Train. She told him of her extremely limited dating experience and he nodded understandingly. Swaying slowly under the stars to that top-forty song that sounds pretty much like every other Train song, they sealed their connection with a kiss.
Brad also attended a one-on-one date with Ashley S., in which they recorded ‘Kiss from a Rose’ together at the Capitol Records studio in Los Angeles. It was a touching moment for Ashley, as the song was reminiscent of her late father and the times they had together. She and Brad bonded over stories of what it was like to be without a father, and then sealed their bond with a kiss.
Brad’s one-on-one date with Emily, the NASCAR widow and young mother, saw them winging their way to wine country where Brad knocked down Emily’s emotional walls with the brute force you’d expect from a man of his luberjackian features, and she told him of her late husband and his tragic passing (a story so moving it forced Madison the vampire to leave the Bachelor Mansion in tears, feeling unworthy of Brad’s love). They bonded over loss, both paternal and romantic, and sealed their bond with a kiss.
There were also group dates: a PSA film shoot for the American Red Cross and another to the set of an action movie, in which Brahd-nold played out action sequences with fifteen of the bachelorettes, including Michelle, the slightly scary stylist from Salt Lake. Even the on set, explosions could not drown out the sound of the newly thirty-something’s biological clock, and as she pulled Brad aside, strong-arming him into some one-on-one time, we got our first real look at who just might end up being the most polarizing character of the season.
Which brings us to this week, which opened with Michelle waking up with a black eye as mysterious as the pyramids. How it came to pass, no one, not even Michelle, knows, but she did know that such a wound made her more worthy of a one-on one date with The Bachelor. Brad had two one-on-one dates, the first with Chantal O. After walking on the ocean floor off the coast of Catalina Island, they had a romantic dinner on the beach in which Chantal discussed her first husband. She and Brad spoke of romantic abandonment and sealed their bond with a kiss.
His second date this week was with Michelle. They repelled down the side of an office building, conquering their mutual fear of heights, and had a romantic poolside dinner. While there was no talk of absent and/or dead fathers or husbands, they decided to seal their bond with a kiss anyway.
With so many compelling and sympathetic women all vying for Brad’s love and affection, who will Tigh and Sarah want to see get the Final Rose? How will they choose from among numbers as worthy as these?
Tigh: Honestly, who cares about any of these people?
Sarah: I know, right? I have a hard time bringing myself to care much about anyone this season. I haven’t seen a spark I’m genuinely excited about, and sure, Michelle’s psycho, but… not in as amusing a way as Kasey was or anything.
Tigh: Well, she’s definitely not as comical as our dear old Krazey, but I find her oddly compelling. The way her crazy light eyes just kind of go blank when she starts talking about pummeling the other girls. Stone cold, man. She’s seriously unhinged. I know I use that phrase here a lot, but it’s never been more appropriate than with Michelle.
Sarah: True. I will say, this week’s black eye? I fully believe she gave it to herself on purpose, though whether through makeup or actual violence I’m not sure. The other thing, though, is that I somehow also have in the back of my mind that this girl can only be a producer plant: that that’s the only possible explanation for how bitch-ass-insane she’s acting and how she keeps sticking around. The constant performing for the cameras? It’s like she’s either on payroll or wants to be.
Tigh: I agree about the wound being self inflicted. And I think it was real (although she is a stylist and it stands to reason pretty handy with a make-up brush). I kept having visions of Marky Mark in ‘Fear’, pounding on his own chest to create that bruise he used to convince Reese Witherspoon her dad had kicked the crap out of him. It’s on the same level as that. I can see her storming up to the Bachelor’s house (AKA The Bachelor Eagle’s Nest) and screaming “LEMMEINYOURFUCKINGHOUSE!!!” into the door camera.
Sarah: Ha. Yes, I too can picture that. So – whether she’s acting (or at least playing herself up) or not, what do we think of Michelle’s connection with Brad? What does he see in her?
Tigh: I was at a total loss on that one until their one-on-one date this week. We have to keep in mind that Brad only sees ‘Date Michelle’, which is a far less intense version of her than we see in the side interviews. What he sees is a woman who speaks her mind and is forward, and he equates this with being engaged in the process and ‘there for the right reasons’. In their time together she is exactly as he feels he should be, given the way his last season ended: open, honest and ready to move things forward quickly.
Sarah: Right. He also seems to have a fixation on the women who have kids. It’s like he sees the two mothers (Emily and Michelle) as further down the path he wants to get on: a way to automatically lock himself into a family, hence FULLY convincing everyone that not only is he ready for commitment to a wife, he is daddy material, baby. Given the daddy issues, that makes some sense. Did you notice that he complimented Michelle on being a good mother? At least from what we’ve seen, he has no reason to assume she’s a good mother — unlike Emily, who told him all about the little daily gifts and notes for her daughter and the phone calls, we viewers haven’t seen any evidence of Michelle’s mommy skills.
Tigh: In fact, the only time Michelle’s daughter came up was when she used her as leverage to get some alone time with Brad on the Action-Adventure Group Date. I mean, that’s low. And she wants to have more kids! I can only imagine what that household is like. And do you think she even has custody of her kid? After her Bachelor tirades, if I were her ex I’d sue for full custody (assuming he doesn’t already have it).
Sarah: Good point. I did appreciate how Chantal called Michelle out for her Action-Adventure neediness drama this week, rightly pointing out that it is exactly the same as Ashley H.’s neediness this episode. Chantal — the rebounding divorcee who’s only ever had one (10-year-long) relationship — was one of the ones we initially pegged as probably not the greatest choice in the mental health department, but she’s turning out to seem comparatively sane so far.
Tigh: It’s interesting to see that transition. The producers have loaded the boat with women with fathers who are either missing or dead and pretty much all the rest have long-term exes who are likewise. Men and commitment issues galore. So given all this, I think Chantal is going to look a little more normal by comparison. But that said, I think there’s a really interesting dynamic developing between her and Michelle. As I continued to watch this week I found myself seeing more and more similarities between the two of them (topped off by Chantal’s breakdown at the Cocktail Party). They’re shaping up to be each other’s foils, almost like a Holmes-Moriarty kind of thing.
Sarah: So with that dynamic, do they both wind up losing out? Taking each other out and clearing the way for Emily or Ashley H. or someone else?
Tigh: Let’s just say I wouldn’t be surprised if this season comes down to them as the final two, and ends with them falling down Reichenbach Falls, fighting for the Final Rose. Seriously though, I think Ashley H. kind of punched her own ticket with her meltdown on the group date. And watching her explanation to Brad about it when he preempted his date with Michelle to have a heart to heart with her, was like Chris Farley’s ‘Pretty, naughty little pet’ speech from ‘Tommy Boy’. She’s self destructing big time, and I don’t see it getting any better for her as the competition really heats up. The more you try to explain yourself, no matter how valid your explanation, the more you alienate yourself. Just ask John Kerry.
Sarah: Probably true, given the weird way this show works — in that you only get one chance for one-on-one time for weeks on end. This week, more than ever, I almost had to laugh at what a sick proposition the entire format of Bachelorland entails. If this were seriously a show about watching someone find their soulmate, the women would live separately, in their own homes, and Brad would get flown around the country to meet them and take each one off for a fabulous one-on-one getaway, after which he’d decide whether to keep them in the running. The poor ladies wouldn’t have to watch him kiss other women, and he’d actually have the chance to get to know each one before he sent her packing. But of course, that’s not the point. The point is drama, baby, DRAMA, at any cost.
Tigh: TREASON! Kowalski, what are you saying?! Somebody call the Bachlelorland firing squad! But of course, you’re right.
Sarah: Clearly, I am not here for the right reasons.
Tigh: So that said, what do you make Emily’s odds? Frankly, given what you’ve said, I think she has the best chance. While she is the sweetest of all the bachelorettes, she’s also the least complex. Not to belittle the tragedy that she went through with the loss of her husband, but she seems the easiest to please out of the bunch in terms of what kind of man would make her happy.
Sarah: Well, so far. I do also get the sense that she’s very shy and guarded and is still probably holding a lot back. So only time will tell whether she and Brad have anything resembling a genuine connection. I barely believe he’s capable of such a thing. I still really don’t like the guy.
Tigh: And who knows what next week’s group date at the NASCAR track will dredge up for her.
Sarah: Ugh – that looks horrendous.
Tigh: Much like you were saying about the producers planting Michelle, I think this is kind of a cheap gimmick that was definitely premeditated by the producers to bring some drama to the surface.
Sarah: Yep. Has that feel about it. This season is honestly just making me feel dirty all over. I hope these women are getting paid for this travesty.
Tigh: Between the torturous dates (including the above as well as Michelle and Brad’s ‘Fear Factor’-esque wall repelling date)…
Sarah: And don’t forget putting Emily (whose fiance died in a plane crash) in a tiny prop plane!
Tigh: Yes, that as well! But between all those dates and Brad’s utter lack of personality, I’m starting to think that the producers of this show were the guys in high school who got shot down by the prom queen for a date and this whole show is just their passive-aggressive revenge. It’s their way of saying, “Hey look, we can make any of these hot women who wouldn’t touch us with a ten foot pole fall in love with a total drip (albeit a good looking drip) by doing things we set up for him. And not only that, we’ll put them in compromising positions which, in the real world, would send them heading for the hills” just to prove their point. They’re a bunch of sadistic Cyranos.
Sarah: Yes! You’ve just nailed it. For some reason, in the other seasons I’ve watched, there has been enough going on between the bachelor/ettes that, while I could see all the twisted psychological manipulations for what they were, I could also on some level get past them. I mean, Ali and Roberto and Jill and Ed had their own daredevil high-wire adventures (as did Jake and Vienna, come to think of it — apparently conquering a fear of heights leads to a proposal), but in their cases the connection seemed a little more genuine. Or maybe I have just watched one season too many.
Tigh: No, I think you’re right. If it were Ali and Roberto repelling down the side of that building this week, I’d buy it as a bonding experience (a’la their first high wire date last season). But with Michelle and Brad, I just don’t think they have the emotional depth for such an experience to be as emotionally impactful.
Sarah: Right. It’s not just Brad, right? These ladies so far are kind of stinkers. Maybe that’s Brad’s fault too, though — if he were a more worthy, open person, maybe he’d bring out something better in them?
Tigh: As we’ve said, all these women have been, in one form or another, abandoned by the men in their lives, so I’m guessing that was a more important criteria for casting than personality. And rightly so! I think that given Brad’s own history as both an abandoner and an abandonee, these are the only kind of women with whom he could be compatible–women who have an emotional hole in their psyche which Brad can fill with his broad chest and chiseled jaw. And, at least according to Freud, since all women are drawn to men and relationships which somehow remind them of their relationships with their fathers, Brad can slip right in there and fill that space.
Sarah: Yeah. I guess that makes sense — he can only be with someone who’ll be compatible with him, and you’ve done a good job laying out the ways in which he’s an abandonment-issue-beset (but well muscled!) drip. So — what do we think this means about the other women on the scene? Little Ashley S., Jackie, Shawntel-the-funeral-director, Britt, etc.? Are they damaged in the right way for our Brad? Or is it too soon to tell?
Tigh: Too soon, I think. Jackie’s abnormally sparse dating history leads one to believe there’s something going on there, too.
Sarah: My theory about her is that she’s a virgin for some sort of religious reasons, hence she has to break up with someone before sex is on the table.
Tigh: Someone named Jesus.
Sarah: Unless she’s super Jewish? I can’t tell.
Tigh: In either case I agree with you, which made her Pretty Woman date with Brad all the more ironically hilarious.
Sarah: Yup. “I’m going to treat you like a WHORE! And you’re going to LOVE IT!” How romantic.
Tigh: C’mon, Sarah. A call girl is a CLASSY whore.
Sarah: No disparagement to sex workers intended.
Tigh: Yes, this feature fully supports the sex workers of America, no matter their vocation. Well, next week will show us more of Brad I think. As we said, there’s no way that NASCAR date with Emily turns out well. He’s going to have to face up to some real issues that will call for more than his standard “Really?”, “That’s so interesting” and “There’s a real connection here”s.
Sarah: Have you noticed that he says, “Come here to me, please?” in exactly the same tone of voice to every lady?
Tigh: Yeah, and he also does the whole, “Please tell me you’ll accept this rose, for the love of God” line. Really? You think they’ll say no?
Sarah: Ugh. I’m with the bachelorettes on this one — if it’s honestly genuine, I don’t think you behave exactly the same way with every single girl. Now, I totally think it’s possible to have real feelings for more than one person at a time, but the fact that he plays the same exact “aw, shucks” game with each of them… it’s just kind of gross.
Tigh: I think it’s a lack of personality rather than a sincere effort at douchey-ness. He just doesn’t know how else to act.
Sarah: Right. I buy that too.
Tigh: So we foresee a serious bump in the road for Emily and Brad, the continued mental deterioration of Ashley H. and Chantal, and Michelle being bat-shit crazier than an insane asylum in a guano factory?
Sarah: Indeed. Champagne toasts all around! Until next week…
Tigh: To the hot tub!