It is a testament to this season as a whole that, when Chris Harrison materialized in Paris to tell the women there would be FOUR dates this week, I wasn’t filled with a familiar dread of a too-long feeling episode I’d have to prop my eyelids open to get through. (Pretty much how I felt about every Bachelor in Paradise 3 episode.) It’s a testament to Arie that my friend Jasmine (Americans, she was our first and only Bachelorette Canada), who’s visiting me, had only heard unfavourable things about him—the word she said she’s heard come up over and over again was “boring.” Yet when she watched last night’s episode with me (she hasn’t been following the season), she said, “I love him! He’s funny!” (We laughed out loud when he pointed out the cherub “ripping on a ukulele” in that oil painting.) “He’s sweet and can make fun of himself. He listens! What doesn’t he have that people would want?” It’s a testament to this season’s women that Lucia, my non-Bachelor-watching opera singer friend who agreed to watch with us, called the women “cool, smart, and beautiful,” and regarding Kendall, “an insanely together 26-year old.” It’s a testament to the romantic relationships being built that there hasn’t been a peep about someone being around for “the wrong reasons;” the women seem genuinely VERY into Arie (as evidenced by a rattled Lauren’s conversation with a producer at the end of the episode), which unto itself should make anyone trashing him as the lead second-guess their judgment.
Above all, it’s a testament to just how compelling and almost addictive Krystal is to watch that I was legitimately sad to see her go. (I’m NEVER sad to see villains go!) I mean, that’s not to say I wish she’d stayed over Kendall, but rather I just wish I could continue to watch and analyze her behaviour for the sake of my entertainment. (When I put it like that it sounds kind of sick but you know what I mean!) Krystal brought a dimension to this show that I haven’t felt in years and that I honestly thought was lost. Perhaps this is why Arie’s season has, as many of you have expressed feeling in your tweets and comments, something of a “vintage”-feeling vibe. There’s a purity to it that I think hinges heavily on an exceptional villain. That sort of villain has to really grate on you, but that can’t be all—you have to feel for them, too. In a way, I felt like I understood Krystal, even if I didn’t agree with her and even when her actions drove me crazy. I could be way off-base and not understand her at all, but it’s that sense of understanding that captivated me. Kendall touched on this very well during their 2-on-1 date and managed to verbalize what I think many of us were thinking at home on our sofas (which, as a viewer, felt almost interactive). We don’t only love to hate-watch Krystal, but we feel feelings of sympathy for her, and those conflicting feelings make for an elevated (if not blood pressure-regulating) viewing experience.
To me, it’s imperative that this master villain cannot be too “in” on things. This is why I could never hop aboard the Corinne Olympios train; I’m not watching The Bachelor to watch one’s performance piece (I can watch actual television, with actual talent, for that). With Krystal, you could see her wheels turning, thinking she was outsmarting everyone and manipulating everything around her: Arie, the other women, her edit, us. That misguidedness is key, and by the same token, in the moments where Krystal became more of a traditional or textbook villain (meaning she became way too comfortable with her producer and began simply and openly talking shit about the other women—something she never would’ve done in the beginning), she actually became less entertaining to me. It’s not watching someone being bitchy, but rather someone who thinks they know better than you, who behaves in a way they think will result in them being perceived a certain way, that is interesting and entertaining. I’m not sure I’m in the majority with this, but Krystal, you will be missed.
1. Tia, 26: Despite the fact that Arie gave Bekah M this week’s Group Date rose (and the Moulin Rouge prize), Tia isn’t budging from my top spot. Tia received the exact right amount of post 1-on-1 date screen time, meaning we saw her conversation with Arie, she was a constant throughout the episode (girl chats, ITMs and the Group Date itself) but she wasn’t alarmingly omnipresent. One of the major things I think Tia has over some of the other women is that I think Arie finds her funny, which is a big deal. (I mean, who could be with someone they don’t find funny??) This relationship continues to truck along and grow with every step, which is how it should be both on this show and in life.
2. Bekah M, 22: Arie’s cautious optimism regarding Bekah M seems to be morphing into plain optimism. I can admit that I have a hard time viewing Bekah—in terms of her relationship with Arie—not through the lens of her age (to use her own words). That said, there were some truly beautiful moments between the two of them this week. When Arie gave her the Group Date rose, it really looked as though she might cry from happiness. It was very touching and broke my heart a little bit because I think Arie is a thinker and, under these circumstances, a careful one at that. (His fear about Jacqueline being “too smart” for him is a good example of this: “I wasn’t sure I’d know how to interest you.”) As I said last week, Bekah M is a risk, and he’s fully aware of it.
3. Kendall, 26: What a phenomenal showing on Kendall’s part this week. How many unfortunate 2-on-1-ers have we ever seen confront her nemesis (whom, as is tradition, has just thrown her under the bus) with anything but blind rage? Instead, she approached Krystal with (debatably undeserved) compassion and a sincere desire to connect. It was a beautiful moment that I found myself legitimately moved by. Arie said it well two weeks ago when he described Kendall as “analytical” and this is proving wonderfully true. I have my doubts about them being the last couple standing (I basically have doubts about any woman chosen for a 2-on-1; just seems like a cruel thing for the lead to do to his future fiancée) but I really appreciate her.
4. Lauren B, 25: Sigh. I finally had to bump Becca K and it’s giving me the sads:( We didn’t see a second of 1-on-1 time between her and Arie at the Group Date cocktail party! I actually groaned out loud when the show skipped from Seinne’s 1-on-1 time to the handing out of the Group Date rose (it was the sound of Becca K dropping off this Top 4 list). Meanwhile, official dark horse Lauren might have a hard time with trust and opening up, but Arie remains intrigued which, considering his huge selection of readily open women, says something. Despite the fact that I’m not sure Lauren can get to a point of getting engaged (or rather, opening up enough to get engaged) by the end of this process, the sweet credits clip of them dancing—which they DID NOT have to show—bumped her onto this list.