I tend to be a bit of a Bachelor traditionalist in that I don’t love major format changes (doubling up on 2-on-1s and multiple episodes ending with “To Be Continued…” makes me crazy), but this season’s twists and turns are downright spellbinding. When Chris Harrison materialized to inform the women there’d be no Rose Ceremony this week but FOUR dates (again!), with roses “up for grabs” on every date (as opposed to the tradition of rose-less 1-on-1s before Hometowns), instead of feeling out of whack, this change made perfect sense. The Rose Ceremony is an unnecessary time suck in Week 7. That time is so much better used on an extra 1-on-1 date, or even better, a thrilling 3-on-1 turned 2-on-1 date.
Speaking of that Group Date, Bekah M‘s departure was one of the few this season that I found to be disproportionately glossed over considering the extent to which we saw her relationship with Arie develop. If you think about, almost every bit of 1-on-1 time between them was shown, yet when he sent her packing, we hardly saw more than a hug and a kiss. (Seriously, imagine she’d never had any airtime; that farewell wouldn’t have been out of place.) This quick goodbye made me suspect that, in their final conversation together, Arie had already suggested—perhaps just with his body language alone, because his body language certainly gave it away to me as the viewer—that she might not be getting that fourth rose.
As for the reason why Bekah M was sent home, while I’m on the fence over whether or not Tia should’ve mentioned it to Arie, I agreed with her concern about Bekah M. It sparks an interesting conversation over what “ready” really means, what it looks like and how people might project their own definition of “ready” onto others. For the record, I absolutely believe a 22-year old can be ready for marriage and starting a family, but I do feel a lot of that is circumstance-dependent. In what environment was he or she raised, in terms of everything from culture to family values? Within that environment, what’s the “normal” age to get married? Further, what kind of options does this person really have? As a person, is he or she ambitious, curious, do they have wanderlust, a bucket list? I absolutely believe Bekah M may well be ready for a serious, committed and possibly longterm relationship, but there is a difference between being ready for those things and being ready for marriage, settling down and starting a family. (Note how Bekah could say she was ready for the former but not the latter.) There are simply very different levels of commitment, and I say this having been in both situations. Age has nothing to do with it. It’s that Bekah M is so dynamic, charismatic, curious. The kind of person who possesses those traits and who does a crazy thing like go on The Bachelor in the first place, combined with being 22 years old, just isn’t likely (I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it is not likely) to be at the point of settling down. And frankly, that assessment is a compliment. It means it’d be a true loss for someone who has so many mistakes yet to make and so much curiosity yet to satiate, to rush to settling down. They still have way too much life to live.
I can admit it: I was one of probably 99.9% percent of people who was 99.9% certain Kendall would be the one going home. I’m sure the producers probably knew most of us felt this way and ensured she received that first rose in order to keep us on the edge of our seats. Well, it totally worked. It’s not that I don’t find Kendall and Arie convincing together (quite the opposite, actually), or even that her airtime hasn’t suggested major frontrunner (which it only partially has). My issue is with any contestant getting a Hometown date when he or she hadn’t even gotten a 1-on-1. This week, three women (Becca K, Lauren, and Seinne) received second 1-on-1s while Kendall had yet to receive her first. Just practically speaking, she is SO far behind the other three Hometown-ers that it’s downright unfair. The goal of this show is supposedly an engagement (presumably because you’ve gotten to know each other well enough to fall in love and propose.) If Arie had been sufficiently romantically interested in Kendall, enough to consider her as a potential future fiancée, why the hell wouldn’t she have gotten her own damn date??
In general, I’ve never felt more lost as to who might win a season. It feels like a true toss-up between Lauren, Tia and Becca K. I just don’t know, and I LOVE not knowing. The suspense is fantastic. Let’s analyze…
My predictions for next week are as follows…
1. Lauren B, 25: I literally rewound the evening portion of this 1-on-1 and rewatched it a few times, trying to make sense of Arie’s abrupt departure when Lauren confessed to falling in love with him. My sister‘s take was that Arie’d been leaning towards sending Lauren home, but when she opened up about falling for him, that put a wrench in previously laid plans and he immediately sought out a producer to say he was keeping her. Meanwhile, my take was that Arie REALLY wants it to be Lauren and that this was such a leap forward for them (made especially powerful by how closed off and hard to read she’s been) that her confession left him verklempt. Either way, what I liked about all this was that it felt earned. For once, her admitting to falling in love with him didn’t feel like a trope that was right on schedule (Week 7 is pretty standard for the “I’m falling in love with you” confession, after all). Rather, it felt like it had been building for awhile and that she finally expressed something that had been bottled up. Lauren is unquestionably the dark horse we thought she had potential to become, however, her airtime earlier in the season still doesn’t add up to a “winner’s” edit. (We didn’t see her limo exit—all we heard him say was “Another Lauren!”—or one second of their Night One 1-on-1 time!) Regardless, Arie’s excitement about Lauren feels palpably stronger than it does (or has) about any of the other women thus far, putting her in this week’s top spot.
2. Tia, 26: I felt for Tia this week and commend her for managing to express doubt about Bekah M without actually saying a single mean thing about her (AHEM, Krystal). It’s clear how intensely Tia feels about Arie and how seriously she’s taking everything. That level investment is appreciated when we, the viewers, are investing hours of our lives watching, anticipating a happy ending. (AHEM, Bachelor Canada 3!) After her Fort Lauderdale 1-on-1, I felt Tia might win this whole thing, but the fact that Arie didn’t give her a second 1-on-1 this week, nor the first Group Date rose, has given me pause. I understand the dramatic incentive to pit her against Bekah M, about whom she’d just expressed doubts to Arie, but I always second guess any woman’s chances of winning when her potential future fiancé puts her in—or allows her to be put in—a 2-on-1 situation. This is what drops Tia down to 2nd this week.
3. Becca K, 27: This was a beautiful, easy, natural 1-on-1 date. Their chemistry is through the roof and I love how Becca K always has a quiet confidence and elegance to her, even through watching Arie develop relationships with other women since her first 1-on-1 date. (This is IMPRESSIVE; it’s almost a given that the first 1-on-1 recipient becomes possessive and jealous while other relationships strengthen.) Becca K was an early pick for quite some time, and her airtime earlier in the season certainly ticked all the “winner” boxes. However, we’ve hardly seen any of her for the last several episodes, instead being shown Arie’s conversations with Bekah M and Seinne, both of whom have now gone home. I really buy Becca K’s connection with Arie and still think she could “win”, but it’s her inconsistent airtime that singlehandedly makes me second guess things. As I said two weeks ago, if Becca K wins, the airtime their love story has received is downright insulting. This is why I have her in third this week.
Going home next week…
4. Kendall, 26: Kendall’s situation is not dissimilar to Corinne’s last season. She, too, had only been on a 2-on-1 date, and was also officially lapped when other women began receiving their second 1-on-1s. The difference is, Corinne felt like a bit of a performance piece in the season, and none of us really bought her and Nick together. Her Hometown felt more like an excuse for us to meet Corinne’s family than because she was an actual, viable candidate for Nick. Meanwhile, I like Kendall, and I like her for Arie. As a ukulele-playing taxidermy enthusiast, she started out seeming more like a gimmick contestant who seemed more there for quirk factor than to be taken seriously. But over time she’s proven highly intelligent and compassionate in how she dealt with Krystal, and her time with Arie generally feels real and quite lovely to watch. Sadly, my issue remains: if Arie were so intrigued by Kendall, enough to put her in the running for a proposal at the end of all this, she would have gotten a 1-on-1 date prior to Hometown week. Period.