Record Review: The Bachelor Week 9

Hello my turtledoves. I’m sorry this week’s recap is late! I’ve fallen victim to the post-Parody plague, and every surface in my apartment is now covered with a film of cough drop wrappers, Saltine crumbs, and half-drunk mugs of tea. But Parody was so worth it! And really, all great art is about suffering.

Speaking of suffering, let’s jump into this past week’s episode. Much of the Internet found it super boring, but I actually thought there was a lot going on. The episode begins with a totally spontaneous and unexpected conversation with Andi Dorfman, who broke Nick’s heart three years ago (How was that only three years ago? It feels like so much longer).

“Andi is the last person I ever thought I would see,” Nick says, his eyes totally dead, his face registering none of the expressions human beings associate with surprise.

They appear to loathe each other, but that doesn’t stop them from discussing the impending Fantasy Suite Dates. For those unfamiliar with The Bachelor, the Fantasy Suite Dates are truly bizarre events that reveal some of The Bachelor’s most absurd complications and hypocrisies. Once only three contestants remain, each of them has the option to spend the night with the Bachelor, alone in a hotel suite, without the presence of cameras. This gives them a chance to get to know each other free of interference, and also to bang.

I’m going to go ahead and skate right past the implications of calling out a couple’s first sexual experience as a “fantasy.” There’s enough there for a dissertation, and I’m not touching it (pun intended). It does warrant a mention that these dates imply that no other sex is happening on the franchise, which we know isn’t true. The part I find most interesting, though, is that the show is basically acknowledging that couples interact differently when there isn’t a camera shoved in their faces, which kind of undermines the whole premise of The Bachelor, doesn’t it?

This conversation is especially loaded for Nick and Andi: when they appeared together on After the Final Rose (the live talk show that airs directly after the finale) after the end of Andi’s season, Nick asked Andi why she had sex with him in the Fantasy Suite if she didn’t love him. In a vacuum (or in a normal human relationship in the real world), there’s nothing wrong with this question, but in the context of the Fantasy Suite Dates which existed so that Andi could have sex with three different men, Nick’s question for Andi took a different tone. At the time, it seemed overly personal for live television, even by Bachelor standards. Now, knowing how free Nick Viall has been with his affections in the three years since, it smacks of slut-shaming: holding Andi to a sexual standard that Nick wouldn’t impose on himself or on other men.

It’s against the backdrop of all this that the two of them are sitting down to have this conversation about Nick’s Fantasy Suite Dates. They attempt to mimic normal human dialogue (“I have my insecurities about being the Bachelor. I have insecurities about this world,” he tells Andi, totally earnestly) and ultimately Andi advises Nick to go for it and have sex with all the remaining contestants. She describes this advice as a “feminist rant.”

I think if I try to fully go in on that one, my head will explode, so I’ll keep it simple: in what universe is it a feminist act to advise a man to have sex with multiple different women? Sexual empowerment of women is often seen as a feminist act because, throughout history, generally speaking, women have had less sexual freedom than men. But by all means, tell Nick Freaking Viall, the man who basically called you a slut on live television, to go get his jollies with three different women he’s not sure he wants to be involved with. (To be clear, I have no problem with consenting adults having fun in the Fantasy Suite. But for Andi to advise Nick to engage in sexual behavior he publicly shamed her for does not sound like feminism to me.)

Finally, this terrible conversation is over and we get to the Rose Ceremony, where (to my personal great surprise), CORINNE IS ELIMINATED. I’ve said from the beginning that I think Corinne is the best match for Nick on the show, and I’m a little disappointed that he didn’t see that, too. I know they wouldn’t have lasted, but I’m sad to see her go. Strangely, though, neither Nick nor Corinne seems that churned up about it. As she’s being driven away in the limo, Corinne gives a spectacular speech that has a lot less to do with Nick Viall than it does with how she feels about men, generally, and this is the feminist rant I was looking for:

Saying goodbye to Nick is like, I feel like my heart is like, it’s literally never going to be repaired. I just want to feel love the way it’s supposed to be, like, the normal way. Why can’t I just have a normal relationship. I’m trying to say things that men think are appropriate and you know what, I’m done! I’m done trying to show my men how much I worship them and love them and care for them and support them. I need that. So if someone feels that way about me they can come and tell me and they can bring a ring to go along with it. I’m done trying to impress these men. I’m going to be me, and whatever happens happens, but I will never kiss up to a man ever again in my life. I’m tired and I’m done. I’m done. I want to go to sleep.

I am so, so curious about how much of Corinne’s “not here to make friends” persona was about impressing Nick, about winning Nick over, or even just straight-up about winning. Was it ever really her? Is she actually a nasty person, or did she treat other women badly in an attempt to win the male validation that drives so much female behavior on this show (and possibly in the real world as well)?

I was going to write, “We might never know,” but it’s 2017 and the Internet exists. We’ll know. Queen Corn will find her way back to us. It’s only a matter of time.

Next, Nick and the remaining three ladies (Raven, Vanessa, and Rachel) go to Finland. I’m sorry to hear that Finland’s tourism industry is struggling so much that they’ve had to invite The Bachelor into their country. (Well, give it a couple years and I’m sure they’ll be tropical enough to pull beachgoers in no time. But it was a joy to see a pack of Lycra bodysuit-clad cross-country skiers in the background during someone’s confessional. No need for anyone to comment, just 15 willowy Scandinavians casually skiing uphill.)

Upon arriving in Finland, Nick notes that Rachel is the only one of the women who hasn’t “expressed any verbal words of affirmation, of love,” which is Bachelor code for being in last place. Love is currency, Rach, and the way to win is to loudly profess your “feelings.” This is Bachelor 101. Nick seems confident about Raven’s feelings, though, and there’s a note in one of my own damn recaps about Raven having told Nick she’s falling for him back on the slavery-erasing plantation date. It makes me wonder yet again why Raven keeps wringing her hands about not having spoken up about her feelings. YOU DID, GIRL. HE KNOWS.

Nick and Raven proceeds to have a super boring date of hanging out in a pub and playing darts. The most noteworthy element of this is Nick’s terrible turtleneck, which is, as they say, wearing him instead of the other way around. There are also some of those great bon mots we’ve all grown to love: “It’s like a relationship that is like a Choose Your Own Adventure book,” Nick says, “where every choice is an amazing experience with Raven.” Has Nick ever actually read a Choose Your Own Adventure book? Because, in the ones I read, like nine out of ten endings involved dying. But, as life is a long slow slog toward death, I guess he isn’t actually wrong? All experiences with Raven eventually end in death.

Anyway, shortly thereafter we reach the personal part of the evening: First, Raven tells Nick that she never told her previous boyfriend of two years that she loved him. She didn’t feel safe, and wasn’t sure he’d reciprocate. That makes me think it’s a bad idea to be saying it right now to someone who’s very unlikely to respond (even if he isn’t contractually obligated not to), but hey, follow your heart. And Raven goes all in. Nick manages to respond sweetly, without overstepping and saying something he can’t back up.

(It is REALLY unusual for the Bachelor or Bachelorette to say “I love you” to any of the contestants prior to the final proposal, and everyone collectively bust a gasket last season when Ben Higgins told two different women he loved them. But, to be fair, that’s a dick move whether you’re the Bachelor or not.)

Then, after that moving declaration, they get down to brass tacks: Raven accepts the offer of spending the night together in the Fantasy Suite without hesitation, then reveals to Nick that she’s only had sex with one person and has never had an orgasm before. It was unclear to me whether Raven meant she never had an orgasm with her partner, or never had one at all, but neither scenario is particularly uncommon.(I did a lot of Googling and couldn’t find consistent, conclusive statistics that I want associated with my name on the Internet, but Raven’s not the only one in either regrettable position; not by a long shot.)

My biggest question here: they’re like fifteen minutes away from the first alone time they’ve ever had. Why disclose super personal sex information when you’re within spitting distance of actual privacy? I’m all for more open conversations about female sexuality and meaningful communication with potential partners about sexual history and choice, but I’m not sure that’s what Raven was going for in disclosing it publicly. So what was the endgame?

Maybe next week’s three-hour episode will answer all our questions about life, relationships, sex, and the universe. I’m holding my breath! (That would be a great Choose Your Own Adventure book ending:

You hold your breath, determined to convince Chris Harrison to reveal all The Bachelor’s secrets. His eyes take on a demonic glow. You start to get worried. Chris approaches you slowly, and as your vision goes dark, he hisses, ‘You will never know the truth about this show. NEVER!’ His maniacal laughter is the last sound you hear…

The End

Laura Dismore is a 3L.