The Bachelorette Review: Eastern Promise
It’s Week Six on The Bachelorette, and there are eight remaining contestants vying for the prize heart. This episode, the pack arrives in Hong Kong, which Ashley inevitably says is “one of [her] favorite cities that [she’s] ever been to,” but she’s still “having a hard time forgetting about Bentley.” So are the rest of us. She goes on about him for a bit in a voiceover, but at this point, it sounds a bit rehearsed. Maybe she recorded the narration months after filming and was finally over him by then. It’s hard to tell with this one, since her voice naturally takes on the tone of narration, no matter the context. Ashley reminds us that she seeks closure from Bentley so that she can move on and become the best wife she can be.
In one of the more staged sequences we’ve seen so far this season, Chris Harrison enters Ashley’s hotel suite, in which a camera is already set up and awaiting his arrival. Ashley sits in silent contemplation and faint dread as Chris sits down with her and explains the deal. First, he claims that his “biggest fear” about this whole ordeal is that Ashley may have a man proposing to her in the end but be unable to answer because she’s still thinking about Bentley. I’d like to think that’s an irrational fear, but it’s just disingenuous, instead. Chris probably couldn’t care less, but I have found myself in the unfortunate position of being concerned for Ashley and hoping everything will work out in her favor. Chris reveals that Bentley himself is currently in the same hotel and waiting for Ashley to talk with him. He pitches it as if Bentley flew across the globe to spend time with her and have meaningful conversation, but I think the cameras and contract had a little more to do with it. Ashley cries and is overwhelmed by the prospect, while Chris really hammers it home that she must remember to press Bentley for details about his intentions. It’s the most shameless display of melodrama that I’ve seen in a long while, and I’m lapping it up like cream.
Ashley remains sitting in her suite for several minutes after Chris leaves, pretending as if she doesn’t know whether she’ll go through with the encounter or not. Eventually, she drags herself to Bentley’s room, a tiny girl with a linebacker gait- a minx in tight jeans and high heels and a ball of nerves in her stomach. She knocks on the idiot’s door, and he answers with a forced hug, accepting a awkward, wooden peck on the lips with reticence. They sit on the couch and try small talk for a half-second. Bentley asks Ashley if she’s okay, and of course, she isn’t. He’s naturally flirtatious, and I almost fall for it, too. This guy is charming; I’ll give him that. He just might be the actual devil for all we know. Ashley admits that her time since he left hasn’t been fun, and Bentley is glad to hear it. She divulges that the other guys never quite knew how difficult it was for her to let him go. Bentley commits the despicable act of pretending he’s had the same experience, saying phrases like “on the same page” and “we had something good going” and “hard to walk away.” Ashley reminds him that he once invited her to call him up and travel to Salt Lake City should she fail to find anyone on the show. That is disgusting.
Ashley explains her gut feeling that they were meant to meet for the purpose of teaching each other something or “maybe to be together,” and she can’t let it go until she hears from him. His response is to tell her that she already knows where he stands, in terms of having strong feelings for her, but it “doesn’t look good” for them, because she needs to appreciate what she has with the other guys. What a vile man. He wants her to think that he’s into her even as he advises her to give the other guys a chance. It lets him off the hook while keeping her mind on him. By the sheer grace of God, Ashley sees right through it. She challenges him to put a “period” on their relationship instead of leaving it with a “dot dot dot.” She tells him to be a man and cop to his disinterest so that she can move on. When asked why he flew all this way instead of calling her up, Bentley licks his lips seductively and says, “I wanted to see you.” What a monster. Ashley walks away narrating that she needed this time away from Bentley in order to see through him. “He knows exactly how to talk to a girl to make them believe what he wants them to believe,” she says. “He’s such a player.” “He disrespected me to the core.” And to Bentley watching at home, “F*** you; I’m done with you.” Now, that’s a platform I can get behind.
In the guys’ luxury Hong Kong suite, Chris is delivering the date cards. Ames reads the first one, alerting Lucas to the news that he has a one-on-one with the bachelorette. Ryan and Blake are upset, because neither of them has had a one-on-one thus far. Ashley drags Lucas through the neon streets of Kowloon, which she compares to New York City. Country Boy Lucas has never been to NYC, he explains, because he’s a simple man who likes to fish with his buddies and whittle on the porch, except he didn’t really say that last part. Lucas notices Ashley’s new “glow” and refreshed disposition, which he doesn’t know is due to her “closure” with Bentley. They keep walking around, try some pig intestines for lunch, and walk around some more. Ashley seems to be generally happy about her state of mind but also like she’s going through the motions on this particular date. She and Lucas board a boat for dinner and flirt a bit. Lucas is the tamest guy around; he’s calm and straight-forward and seemingly genuine, though my opinions of these men change from episode to episode, from moment to moment.
Dinner conversation is underwhelming, and I couldn’t be less interested, no matter how inoffensive and somewhat pleasant Lucas’s looks are. He tells the camera he wants a rose and a kiss, but I don’t know how into her he really is. He seems a bit nonplussed. Ashley asks him if she’s the type he would typically date, and he jokes that, no, he’s only here for the boat ride. That’s probably not her favorite type of joke in the world, but she laughs gamely. Then he says some stuff about his divorce and how God has a plan for him and everything. I think Ashley cares even less than I do. Still, she gives him the rose after faking him out, as she always does to these poor men. She pretends she’s leading up the devastating news that they aren’t receiving the rose and then goes for the big reveal. It’s her way of seeing how relieved they look when they realize they’re safe and she wants them to continue pursuing her. Boy, she’s insecure. Anyway, she and Lucas kiss on the boat, looking over at the Kowloon across the water, and Lucas tells us it’s the best first date he’s ever had. That’s what they all say.
The group date this week consists of dragon boat racing in teams, since this show is obsessed with competition among the men. Constantine and Ben F. make up the Blue Team and will race in their own boat, Blake and Ryan are the Red Team, and Ames and Mickey are the Black Bandits. Their task before competing is to round up random townspeople to row with them, since each boat requires at least eight rowers. Anyone who thought this scavenger hunt would be fun to watch was sorely mistaken. I don’t want to see the men round up people to go dragon boating with. It’s not enthralling in the least. Alas, they’ve got one hour to find their teams, and they’re off.
Ryan and Blake wisely seek a translator before they begin courting people. Ames and Mickey timidly ask folks to join them in the most unappealing manner, so their start is slow, but they eventually happen upon actual dragon boat competitors to join them. By far, Constantine and Ben are the most discouraged as they wander around being uncomfortable and looking uncomfortable and making everyone else uncomfortable by confrontationally asking strangers if they want to join in a cryptic experience that they can’t be bothered to explain very well at all. Ben and Constantine (the almost identical twins) pretty much give up on finding anyone, and become the dejected Red Team before finding some showy red robes in a street market and walking to the beach, where a team of misfits flocks to them. It was a nice idea, but it fails them in the end, as their teammates look like teenage stoners. There’s a drum on the front of each boat, and Ashley sits drumming on one of them, relieved as always to not be directly participating in the activity. Mickey and Ames win, which is no big shocker, since their crew consisted almost entirely of professionals. Ashley and the guys collapse on the sand and chat, but the background events are way more interesting. A couple has just gotten engaged on the sand behind them, and Ashley can’t believe her eyes. She hopes aloud that it’s a foreshadowing of what’s to come for her. Always the bridesmaid, she is.
At the cocktail party following the group date, Ashley toasts to making the most of their remaining time together. Ames pulls her aside for a surprise, and she’s charmed by his initiative. He takes her to the elevator for a makeout session. What a dork. He’s sort of adorable, anyway, so she’s delighted by his attention. They go to the roof of the hotel and look at the astoundingly gorgeous view of Hong Kong. When they return downstairs to join the group, Ashley promptly finds Ben the Winemaker for another round of kissing. He tells the camera he was the biggest skeptic in the world, but now he’s open to love. I don’t think the world’s biggest skeptic would step near this show, but whatever. Ben tells Ashley that while he wasn’t ready before, his walls are now down.
Now, we segue into the requisite weekly check-in with Ryan’s detractors. Blake is still out to get him, claiming that Ryan is too exhuberent, and it’s gone on long enough. Blake can’t stop scapegoating Ryan; maybe if he’d spend more time making himself vaguely interesting and maybe attractive in some way, he wouldn’t have to focus on Ryan so much, even though the guy is admittedly insane and annoying. Ashley sits down to tell Ryan that this whole thing is about more than just who wins the race. He flatters her and coyly asks for a one-on-one date next time. She brings him the date rose in order to reassure him. He is way too cute while accepting it, smiling and shrugging in an “aww, shucks” kinda way, and it makes me want to vomit just a little.
This week, J.P. has scored the last solo date, and Ashley couldn’t be smiling any bigger. She claims to be more excited for this date than any other since she’s been here. I can tell. The two have dinner at Chinese Zodiac Garden and look as comfortable around each other as is possible on a second date. I like his calm confidence. He tells her that this experience has been surreal and that he can see proposing to her a month from now. He says he feels like it’s meant to be. I think his intentions are pure, despite his devious good looks and obvious charm. I’ll take one of him, if they’re handing them out somewhere. Ashley voiceovers that she feels like J.P. is the total package, that she feels strongly for him, and that she’s afraid it might backfire. Now, Ashley starts to get a bit nervous. She clams up. She stutters and pauses and terrifies J.P. in hesitating to form sentences. He looks terrified. Is she terminally ill? Kicking him off the show? Nope! Just Bentley again. She reveals that she met with Bentley in the hotel and that they had a talk, since she never got closure from him and was very sad when he left. Ashley is clear about the fact that she really likes J.P. and felt compelled to tell him first, so that they could move ahead in their relationship without any regrets or unfinished business about Bentley. J.P. reacts like any real man should, thanking her for being honest and telling her that he’s glad for her closure. I can tell he’s still a bit peeved, but that’s understandable. He reassures Ashley that she can tell him anything, whatever is on her mind, because it means a lot to him. She offers him the rose, and they kiss, and it actually doesn’t gross me out in the least. J.P. tells us that things are perfect and he’s blown away. Swoon.
It’s time for the final cocktail party, to which Ashley rides on a boat in a sparkly silver dress, all optimistic and excited about her future with the guys. Her visions are spat upon the moment she stands before them and reveals the Bentley closure, at which point they all decide to act like she has just admitted to inseminating herself with Bentley’s child. She breaks the news in the most sensitive way possible, but the guys can’t see through their own indignation. Constantine feels lied to, he says, because she claimed that all of her past relationships were finished in her mind, but she apparently still had feelings for Bentley. Lucas asks her why her closure couldn’t have been achieved earlier. Blake is curious about what was said between the two of them in the hotel room. Ashley gets flustered and starts crying, not having expected such a reaction from the men. On one hand, I get their frustration and disappointment, and I get that they might be somewhat insulted by her interest in another player who’s not even in the game anymore, but their pride is too fragile. J.P. is the only real man in the room.
Ryan takes Ashley aside to comfort her and pretends to be completely unfazed by the news while emphasizing how shocked and appalled the other men are. What a snake. He claims to have been out there calming the men down, like a triage nurse after a 10-car pileup. Ryan assures her that he told the guys not to overreact. Cut to Lucas, who’s legitimately making too big a deal out of this, complaining that he’s been traveling and putting all of his effort into Ashley while she’s thinking about another guy all along. The others, minus J.P., whine about how Ashley’s been obsessed with Bentley, who got a free trip to Hong Kong just to score a one-on-one with her on-camera, even though he’s out of the running already and should be at home. Okay, they have a point, but still. Get over it, and move on. She’s not wearing anyone’s ring yet, and I assume they don’t want her daydreaming about Bentley on the honeymoon, so it had to be done.
Ames sits with Ash to pontificate about how life isn’t a fairy tale, but its beauty is in its complexity, or something of the sort. He wasn’t too pleased when he was dishing with the other guys, but she buys his line. Blake admits to Ashley that he’s disappointed, since he thought Bentley was a non-issue. He feels like he’s competing against eight other men now, instead of just seven. Did you not hear her talk about closure and moving on? What a child! He’s got a false, chauvinistic aura, and I have had it up to here with his scapegoating. It’s obvious to me now that Blake has nothing to offer, and I hope Ashley can see that very clearly. Blake piles on pounds and pounds of guilt. He tells her he’s feeling like they’re not in sync, and he feels hurt. She cries. I’m going to go ahead and diagnose him with full-blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He and Bentley should go grab some beers sometime. Blake brings Ashley in for a hug, which is a classic trick. Make her cry and then comfort her. He manipulatively tells her that he doesn’t even know if it’s worth it for him to stick around. Oh, he will. Guys like him never leave.
J.P. is confused about why all of the men are reacting so selfishly. He tells the camera that he doesn’t think they should be trying to make Ashley feel bad for a personal choice that she made. Where did this highly-evolved adult male come from? Are there more out there? The more primitive Mickey confronts Ashley and tells her he feels lied to, and so do the other guys, though no one will admit it. He tells her, “I just don’t see what the hell you saw in that guy,” and she cries some more. What a sadist. He asks to be sent home, and she rightly replies that he needs to take the initiative and leave, instead. He does. Mickey was almost invisible on the show, so I don’t care, and neither should anyone else, even though he was pretty handsome. Besides, if Ashley had been more into him, she wouldn’t have been so matter-of-fact about his exit. Ashley toasts the remaining guys and thanks them for sticking around. She explains how optimistic she was, that she had hoped her honesty would pay off. She was wrong. When she leaves, J.P. thinks it would be a good idea to reveal to the guys that he was told the news the night before on their one-on-one date. They’re all insulted and jealous. I’m sure he feels pretty good having a leg up on the others.
I’m going to stop paying attention to these sit-downs with Chris Harrison, because they’re useless. In this episode’s edition, Chris drums up the drama, tells Ashley that the guys feel second-best now, and tries to get her to understand that she’s in a tough spot and it’s only getting worse. She seems to realize that he’s only trying to get her to cry some more, and so she wisely stops.
At the rose ceremony, J.P., Lucas, and Ryan already have roses. Ashley calls Ben, Constantine, and Ames for theirs, leaving Blake to go home like the loser that he is. He complains about Bentley some more as he exits and talks about how he just wants a friend and someone he can respect and look up to, as if most people aren’t worthy of that honor. Ass.
Ashley and the guys are headed to Taiwan, she announces. The teaser for the rest of the season promises unimaginable drama and a trip to Fiji. “There’ll be plenty more cryin’,” ABC assures us, “and a whole lotta heartbreak!” The TV-lover in me can’t wait, even though I very earnestly want a happy ending for our dear, sweet Ashley.
Season 7, Episode 6 (original airdate June 27, 2011.)
The Bachelorette airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.
Images courtesy of Victor Fraile and ABC.