The more you give to The Bachelorette, the more apparent it becomes that you’re not getting much out of the deal. The high-water mark for most reality/competition shows, I think, is the point you reach when you’ve traded the minimum amount of your valuable time for the maximum amount of whatever junky pleasure the show has to offer. Around the middle of a season of American Idol, for instance, you’ve reveled in the schadenfreude of the early auditions, but you've also seen a few impressive performances of songs you might actually like in real life. But as the finale nears, and the drama is supposedly heating up, I begin to lose interest, realizing that I have no intention of intentionally listening to any of these people again.
The Bachelorette is somewhat different in that there are no admirable talents on display here (Arie’s kissing abilities notwithstanding). But there is a point, a few weeks into the show, where you’ve exchanged relatively few hours for the admittedly rotten fun of watching fools make fools of themselves. That ended for me last night, when I realized what I already know every minute that I’m not watching The Bachelorette: I hope all of these people live long lives and die natural, relatively pain-free deaths, but that I don’t care who they end up with. It’d be a better investment to bet on the romance between two actors who play lovers in a romantic comedy and fall in love on the set. They probably have a higher success rate than the winners of television dating shows.
So now, all that’s left for me is the small, shameful satisfaction I’ll feel if my prediction that Arie will be the last man standing ends up coming to fruition. And right now things are looking good on that front. Particularly after the show’s puppet masters failed to derail their relationship last night in Prague.
The ginned-up drama surrounded the revelation that, unbeknownst to Emily, Arie had dated one of the show’s current producers. The producer in question decided to tell Emily about this once it became clear that she was developing strong feelings for Arie. In other words, she withheld a dramatic element until later in the show, when the stakes were higher between the two protagonists, like a writer might do if the show were scripted, which is, you know, not the case here.
But despite multiple musical crescendos and repeated interruptions from host Chris Harrison to share the details of the situation “in the interest of full disclosure,” the three involved parties all agreed that it wasn’t a big deal. And then Arie told Emily he was in love with her. Huh.
After the first sighting on this love safari turned out to be a paper tiger, it was hard to muster much interest in the rest of the episode. (All the drama on the show feels manufactured, but they usually take it all the way, at least.) Doug’s harmless dad act came to an end in the middle of a three-on-one date, leaving Sean and Chris to vie for the rose. Sean got the rose and Chris’ emotional crack-up began. He spent the rest of the episode with wet eyes and a quivering bottom lip. (Note: I would cry if I were a contestant on The Bachelorette. I have the emotional sensitivity of a three-year-old running on 30 minutes of sleep. But I return to the original, and only, point in my defense: I have not agreed to do this on television. So suck it up, Chris.)
The final date went to Jef, who is, in my estimation, the only guy remaining with a chance to unseat Arie. And yet, as if to punish me for my growing admiration of him, just as I told my wife that I might be starting to fall for Jef (she took the news in stride), he agreed with Emily to act out their relationship with a set of marionettes. I just. I don’t. I mean, give Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams a pair of puppets and you might be onto something, but this is unbearable.
With her mind made up, Emily canceled the traditional cocktail party before the final rose ceremony and assembled the guys to reveal whose families she would be visiting next week. Still trembling, Chris interrupted her just before she handed out the final rose, pulled her aside and saved his ass with a heart-to-heart. Good for him. All’s fair in love and war and whatever this is. As a result, John was sent home, though he does deserve some credit for giving the most reasonable exit interview yet.
Next week, we get to meet the folks who spawned these guys: