Cheap wisdom tells us that our attraction to these types of weekly displays boils down to a mix of voyeurism and the (supposedly) comforting feeling that we're better than the people onscreen. I'll cop to a bit of voyeurism — the legal type, that is. It's just one of the many sordid social habits — along with a penchant for gossip and eavesdropping — that propels one to become a member of the working press.
But I have to admit, I don't feel any better about myself after watching this awful show. The forthcoming bilious analysis of its current cast notwithstanding, I can't say that I would come off much better if cameras recorded me mixing it up in a room full of testosterone, in between clumsily seeking the affections of a woman whose affections are also being clumsily sought by 13 other dudes. Don't get me wrong: Whether it's narcissism or simply delusion that allows me to get out of bed the next morning (or are those the same thing?), I like myself a good deal more than most of these guys, individually. But I recognize each of my own flaws sprinkled among the group as a whole.
The most significant attribute separating me from them is that I have not yet consented to the exposure of those flaws on a weekly national broadcast. But in our time — when people tweet about going through their inboxes, "check in" at the grocery store, and jeopardize whatever journalistic credibility they might have by blogging about a dating show — that seems more and more like a distinction without much of a difference.
I was consumed by these tortuous thoughts as last night's two-hour episode of The Bachelorette began, in the throes my weekly existential crisis, when host Chris Harrison revealed the wonderful news that we were headed for Bermuda. My gloomy prediction last week that we would be anchored in Emily's hometown was wrong. The producers, it seems, have decided that even a show as contrived and vapid as The Bachelorette would get stale if it spent more than three weeks in Charlotte.
The first date this week went to Doug, a 33-year-old real estate agent and father, who seems to see himself as a kind of cabin counselor in this bizarre summer camp. At 33, and as a father, he has experience not yet attained by the lesser men around him, and he really cares about Emily. Did I mention he's a father? He's a father. We did begin to see the cracks in this Dad of the Year as he waited for his date, though. He was nervous — presumably because of how much he cares and because, I should have mentioned this before, he's a father. And, not surprisingly, The Guys took it upon themselves to point this out, repeatedly. Eventually, Doug was getting bleeped — this is a family show, you know — and at one point he even lost his grip on that fatherly maturity he's so humbly proud of, a stress-induced flashback to his days at the frat house, no doubt. A quote: "Seriously, can you just let it go, bro? Seriously?"
To her credit, Emily took note of his strenuous attempts to be too-good-to-be-true on their date. If one of his ex-girlfriends were there, she asked, what flaw might they point out? You can predict the Sunday-school answer: They'd probably say that he spent too much time with his son. What else should she know about him? He started a charity a few months ago. Why is he so great, she wonders? Another quote: "Well, Superman wasn't going to show up, so ... " Even Tim Tebow would enjoy finding a skeleton in this guy's closet. Nevertheless, he got a rose.
The next two dates aren't worth much discussion. The men on the group date were cut in half by way of a sailboat race, and I wouldn't feel right critiquing their sailing. The only time I've spent on a sail boat involved the help of several strangers whose boats had motors, and collisions with more than one dock. But more importantly, I don't know why exactly I'm watching this show, but I know it's not for athletic competition. The losing side included Nashville's own Charlie, who cried afterward and was just at the beginning of a tough couple of days.
The winners included Arie, who is getting more and more "face time" with Emily every week; Ryan, who spent the episode filling out his profile as the show's Supreme Douchebag; Kalon, who was thankfully ignored this week; and Jef, who won the rose. Two from this group, I believe, will be around for the show's final episodes. Jef will do well because he seems like a genuinely great guy, but will not ultimately win — I'm sorry, I meant "be the one" — because he's a bit too boyish for Emily, I think. I still believe Arie will be the last man standing, because he seems like the guy who would always have gotten the girl in high school. That is, the irresistible middle ground between "nice guy" and the aforementioned Supreme Douche.
After giving Emily a warning about getting fat after marriage last week, Ryan made a point this week to reprimand her for making out with Arie and thereby misusing her position as a role model for little American girls. I suppose Ryan has taken it upon himself to infiltrate this haven of lust and promiscuity, with the mission of purifying it from within. He has made it clear that he thinks God is calling him to succeed on the show, but I'm sure he will find, soon enough, that he is mistaken.
The last date of the night features two more seemingly good guys, who will be chewed up and spit out on a show like this, and are really better off being sent home as soon as possible.
The simmering tension between everyone and Doug boiled over during the pre-Rose Ceremony cocktail party with a confrontation between Chris, the 25-year-old corporate sales director, and Doug, the 33-year-old father and Superman stand-in. In short: Chris took offense to some comments about the wisdom one attains after 30 and an attempt to confront Doug about this led him to confess that he is basically offended by Doug as a person. Well, me too. But be advised, the show will get another three or four weeks out of this bro-down, at least.
The night ended on a sad note, as our Charlie was sent home. With a single tear, he mourned a would-be love lost, but took heart in the fact that the experience caused him to "open up," the holy grail for Bachelorette contestants.
Pour one out for Charlie, Nashville. The Morning After will now be forced to continue, without even the semblance of a local hook.