I’ve been watching this show for a long time. I remember in my junior year of college, Monday nights were a ritual I would savour. I’d go to step class (yes, step class!), pick up a salad with buckwheat soba noodles from Gourmet Garage, and—in my jammies, of course—eat straight out of the plastic container while glued to my television screen. When I moved to Germany, since we were six hours ahead, I’d stream episodes the following Tuesday during lunch, in between morning and evening rehearsals. I’ve gotten countless friends, boyfriends and one sister (the other won’t budge) hooked on my strange addiction, if only for solidarity’s sake.
So, with at least a decade’s worth of history with this show, it’s hard for me to keep my wits about me, watch objectively and see things as they are, as opposed to how they seem within the confines of an alternate, polyamorous reality… except when it comes to Fantasy Suite week. It’s become a fun game of sorts to watch episode 9 imagining I’ve never seen the show before. Try it some time! It is hysterical. Better yet, PVR it so you can skip through the commercials for a seamless flow. One second Ben is blowing a kiss to Caila on the balcony of the suite in which they ostensibly just had sex. The next he’s kissing Lauren and telling her he loves her. (Is he even allowed to do that??) Then, seven minutes (I timed it) after making Lauren breakfast in bed, he’s making out with Jojo next to a waterfall and telling her that he loves her. Her breakfast in bed is unique only in that it involves her being fed watermelon balls. Within the context of The Bachelor universe, this is all perfectly normal; just requisite steps to “finding love.” But I’m tempted to start finding the last few remaining folks out there who have never seen an episode of this show, force them to sit through Fantasy Suite week, and film their reactions. Now that would be entertaining.
All joking aside, the “finding love” thing seems to be working a bit too well. There’s no question the feelings our final love triangle are experiencing seem to be real, but the lead isn’t usually allowed to utter those three little words until the finale. The believer in me thinks Ben really is in love with two women at the same time. (I personally can’t imagine it, but he wouldn’t be the first Bachelor to say it’s possible.) The analytical side of me wonders if he blurted it out in the moment to Lauren because he felt it, but then producers massaged those feelings (and words) out of him for Jojo to keep things a mystery for viewers. (Have I ever mentioned I’m a skeptic?) Either way, Ben sure is in a pickle now.
As for Caila, I was happy to see a tinge of anger emerge from her always “bubbly” (Ben’s word, not mine) veneer. Getting eliminated after the Fantasy Suite strikes me as the worst, most insulting time to get cut out of the whole show. First, odds are (based on the history of this show), you’ve just had sex with the lead. Second, this week would have provided the first and only chunk of unadulterated, camera-free, completely private time you’ll have shared. To me, the heartbreak may be deeper at Final 2, but the ego blow at Final 3 is worse. I thought Caila handled it extremely well and I was glad she reemerged from the limo to get some more answers. Her evident anger showed she knows her worth.
So, who do I think Ben will propose to? It’s here that I usually predict who I think the lead should pick versus who he will pick (they’re often one and the same). However, I don’t think I can do that this season. Ben has said he’s more himself with Jojo than anyone else, ever. But he’s also said he can’t imagine his life without Lauren in it. He’s always an affable, enthusiastic and well-mannered guy, so it’s hard to tell which woman brings out the best in him. He gets along with both effortlessly, seems super attracted to both, and has told both the “L” word. But by the same token, there’s also not enough differentiation in his feelings (or at least those shown) for me to say who is better for him. (And you know by now I’m usually very opinionated on such matters!) Whomever he doesn’t pick will really have had the rug pulled out from under her. It’s been established over 20 seasons that the lead is not allowed to say “I love you” until the very end. Both ladies knew that, hence their surprised (and touched) reactions. All I can say is, I hope the woman who Ben doesn’t pick pulls a Chantal O’Brien and slaps him, or at the very least holds him accountable. A tearful and too-understanding, “I just want you to be happy” won’t do!
For more on this season of The Bachelor from Sharleen Joynt, visit her blog, All the Pretty Pandas.
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