Before we start this journey together, some context: I did not pitch this to my discerning Scene editors as some sort of ironic adventure I would undertake on behalf of Country Life readers, in order to report back from the upside-down world of reality television. Rather, I told them I have just begun the third season of what started as a friendly agreement with my wife and has turned into a masochistic ritual in my home. This is not an experiment. This is my Monday night.
Obviously, we’re getting a belated start. To catch you up, our Bachelorette this season is Emily, a 26-year-old single mother living in Charlotte, N.C., with a rather flat personality and a daughter named Ricki. She was previously engaged to Ricki’s father, NASCAR driver and team owner Ricky Henderick, who died in a plane crash just before Emily found out she was pregnant. As she is a single parent, the show, which normally bounces around the globe, has been anchored in Charlotte — a better scenario for Emily’s daughter, no doubt, but a disappointing one for viewers, who will apparently not get the chance to see sweeping shots of Emily and a guy kissing on top of various mountain ranges in exotic foreign locales.
This is Emily’s second go-round in television dating, making her just one exhibit, amongst a heap of evidence, that this will not work out for her.
Emily won a proposal from Brad on the 15th season of The Bachelor, but they split before getting married. Now she’s back, with the tables turned so that she now has the chance to pick the guy who will not be The One. (After 23 combined seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, only three couples are still together.)
It is nice, though, that the show’s producers have chosen to recycle people in this way. If it is a sign that fewer people are willing to carry on like this on national television, it’s progress of a kind. And even if it is simply the decision of savvy TV execs who wish to capitalize on familiar names and faces, it’s no less heartening. A situation where only former reality-show people appear on reality shows is ideal. The most concerning scenario is one in which the networks continue to bring new people into this reality, until we reach the point where the people on earth who have taken part in a reality show of some kind outnumber those who haven’t — a critical mass which would certainly hasten The End.
The Guys this season are a mostly disappointing, but not wholly unrepresentative, sample of the sex at large. There are muscly jocks, muscly young professionals, muscly single dads, a few boyish outliers and one ingratiating rich guy. Efforts in diversity are noted, but after last night, only one of the three minority gentlemen — Alejandro (who has hardly been on camera, but is still advancing), Alessandro and Lerone — remains.
Most notable among them, for our purposes, is Charlie, a 32-year-old recruiter who lives in Nashville and comes with a crazy backstory. After falling 15 feet from a balcony at the home of Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla, Charlie sustained traumatic brain injuries and spinal fractures. Charlie seems like a great guy, but here that calls for further inspection. In this way, trying to make sense of The Bachelorette is not unlike working the state political beat. On the Hill, any statement or action that seems to match up with what would be a good and rational statement or action in the real world requires a second, third and fourth thought. The same applies here. You must always remember the sea you’re swimming in.
But I digress. This week’s show began with a date between Emily and Chris, a 25-year-old corporate sales director. They climbed the face of a building before eating dinner at the top, which, you know, is kind of like a relationship, when you think about it. Counting the metaphors acted out by couples on these shows is a bit like trying to do so at a Jack White concert — which is to say it’s impossible. Their night culminated in an awkward group slow dance with various Charlotte residents, as Luke Bryan sang about the girl who makes his speakers go boom boom.
This week’s group date included interviews for all of the guys with Emily’s best friends and time at the playground with a group of anonymous children, who came running out of nowhere right on cue. This was just another parental test for the guys, who in past weeks have been asked to join her on errands, make sandwiches, etc. The high point came when Ryan — a sports trainer and proud of it — interrupted some girl talk to tell Emily, in front of her best friends, that if she got fat after their marriage, he would still love her, but might not “love on her” quite as much.
The headliner, though, was Emily’s date with Arie, the son of racing legend Arie Luyendyk, who I predicted — after the season premiere — will win, or fall in love, or what have you. The two flew to Dollywood, where they played carnival games, rode a roller coaster, and danced to a surprise live performance from Dolly Parton, in all her bedazzled, busty Dolly-ness.
In the season’s first mercy killing, Tony was released by Emily to go home to his son, whom he had been tearfully thinking about and talking to for days. He wasn’t going to be there ‘til the end anyway, she said, so it would just be cruel to keep him any longer. Next was Alesandro, a Brazilian grain merchant and self-described gypsy who told Emily that marrying her would be a “compromise” because she and her kid would cramp his gypsy lifestyle. He was promptly placed in a black SUV headed for the airport. At the rose ceremony, Emily withheld a rose from Stevie, a goateed party MC from New Jersey who is exactly the goateed party MC from New Jersey you’d imagine.
It’s likely that millions of Americans were hoping Emily would put everything Kalon owns in a box to the left. The ingratiating luxury brand consultant, who arrived at the premiere on a helicopter, is a walking, talking trust fund, and is by far the most unlikeable person on the show — which is precisely why I suspect he will be staying around a while.