The Bachelorette Review: To The Wire
It’s the ninth week, and Savusavu, Fiji is the last stop in our Bachelorette voyage. We’re greeted by clear blue skies and sparkling ocean; Ashley calls it “the ultimate place to fall in love [and] hopefully get engaged.” That is also my sincere hope for her, though I stop short of dreaming up a wild scenario in which an actual wedding occurs and somehow results in a happy marriage. There is no one more deserving, since this woman has put in more work than I could ever be bothered to invest when it comes to the hunt for a life partner. Ashley is weary, restless, anxious, and ready to be swept away into a home made of her lifelong dreams and aspirations. “The beginning of this journey seems like years ago,” she says. You ain’t kiddin’.
Ash begins by recapping her hometown dates with the three remaining men. They all went well, in her estimation, and she left with a much better understanding of each potential mate after interacting with their families. Ben, she says, “is everything that I’ve been looking for, and there’s never a dull moment with him.” He can be goofy and silly but sincere and honest at the same time, while allowing Ashley to be herself with no pretense. She thinks of Constantine as mature, smart, thoughtful, and honest. Though she can see their partnership “lasting a very long time,” she acknowledges, “My relationship with Constantine is moving very slow.” JP looked like a model right out of the limo, and Ash had no idea how she got so lucky. She describes him as a grown man who’s very sincere and reveals that she “knew after the first date.” “Sometimes you don’t need 20 dates to find out how you feel about somebody,” she explains. I think the instant chemistry and ease between JP and Ashley sets them apart as a couple; all of the men may very well be mature and honest indeed, but which of them actually excites her?
Too suddenly, we go from a pensive Ashley writing in a prop journal in her Fiji villa next to the water to a shot of an unwanted visitor approaching with a determined stare soaked in delusions and impotent self-importance. Of course, it’s Ryan, accompanied by ominous tones on the soundtrack. Cowering, we watch him approach the decadent seaside villa while his voiceover informs us of his intent. Apparently, he thinks there are things left “unexplored” with Ashley. “What if she’s regretting sending me home?” She isn’t. This is such a silly piece of plotting, and I don’t think anything happens on this show without the hands of the producers meddling at some point in the process. If ABC didn’t hold a conference call to convince Ryan to creepily impose himself on Ashley in Fiji, they at least purchased his plane ticket when he brought up the idea.
Ryan surprises Ashley at her door, and she looks surprised and a bit weirded out. Calling him “Ry,” she wears the same pasted-on grin that can be seen on the faces of cult members at dinnertime and recites twice that it’s good to see him. They sit down so that Ryan can explain himself. He had a whole plane ride to prepare a speech, but all he can say is that their one-on-one date wasn’t “conducive to passion” or something, and they weren’t able to “see things through.” He speaks frantically, hoping he can provoke self-doubt and confusion (the way to a woman’s heart). Acting as if Chris Harrison simply lifted his eyes from a book and nodded toward the right direction, Ryan says, “Like, wow, like, I really feel that we didn’t get to see things through. So I called Chris, [who said], ‘alright, she’s in Fiji.’” He’s brimming over with anxiety and entitlement, telling Ashley that he wants to spend time with her “so bad” but doesn’t want her to rush a response. “I’m here for a couple days,” he says, urging her to wait and think before providing an answer. This is his way of ensuring she thinks about him while on dates with the other men, but I hope she’s too smart to fall for that. Ashley doesn’t really speak before they say goodbye, so I look for signs of life and hope she’ll come to the right decision (much like the one she already made before it was disrespected and discarded by yet another camera-whoring prick).
I am so tired of this wine-making bore that I don’t know what to do with myself. Ben and Ashley meet on the sand somewhere and hug and kiss before boarding a boat for their date. He tells viewers that his connection with the bachelorette is “effortless,” which I think means he’s her safe bet in case JP gets cold feet. Ashley tells Ben how nervous she was to meet his mother. “I wanted her to like me,” she admits in a small voice, to which Ben can only answer, “I got a really good feeling from my mom and my sister.” Ashley calls their relationship “easy and comfortable.” At least one of us is at ease, because I’m crawling out of my skin as they smear sunblock on each other, Ashley straddling him under the white clouds. “It’s like we’re on a honeymoon or something,” she gushes to the camera before they dive in to snorkel alongside swarms of gorgeous, colorful fish. “I feel protected,” Ashley reports. “Today was perfect,” says Ben.
The two wild and crazy kids head over to dinner atop picturesque sand. “It’s been a long time since I felt this way for someone, since I’ve been in love,” Ben tells us, adding that he’s nervously awaiting his opportunity to say ‘I love you’ to Ashley and mean it tonight. As they eat and recap their day, both marveling at their comfort level, Ashley asks Ben what would need to happen in order to push their relationship further. “One of us would have to come forward and commit,” replies Ben, who then implies that he’s available and willing to spend the rest of his life with Ashley. “My feelings are growing, and I’m on my way to the whole ‘I love you’ thing,” he tells her. While that was a bit less direct than one might have hoped, Ash goes for it, kisses him, and reveals in a talking head that she’s so excited for the two of them to demonstrate their love to one another in private. Ashley hands Ben the fantasy suite invitation from Chris, which offers them the option of forgoing their individual rooms for a shared suite tonight. To Ben, it’s a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card; he accepts the invite for a nightcap and tells the camera, “I don’t think I’m gonna tell Ashley that I love her tonight,” insisting they can look at each other and “get it.” How convenient. Beautiful private quarters await, complete with a bed covered in rose petals, sitting in a large room which opens up to a pool. Ben and Ashley take a quick dip before he carries her out of the water toward the bedroom. They kiss some more. “I can see myself with Ben, and I can say that I’m really falling in love with him,” says Ash.
Constantine takes his turn next; he meets up with his date the next morning and boards a helicopter with the excitement of a child. He’s never been on one before, and he’s super stoked or something. Since there is no way in hell that Constantine will make it through this episode, this is an epic waste of time. I hate to keep threatening self-harm, but if I see one more helicopter take off on this show, I can’t promise I won’t stab myself in the corneas. I get that flying over crystal blue ocean is romantic and special, but it’s not as interesting to watch as ABC thinks it is. Ashley calls Constantine a “Greek god” and says “I could not picture a more perfect date.” What about all those other ones that you already designated as “purrr-fehkt,” or what about the arguably more perfect scenario in which you’re with a man you actually like? Constantine is a kid on a field trip, excited to be flying in a helicopter over Fiji but apathetic about the company.
Ashley walks her hopeless case to a waterfall on Taveuni Island so that she can resurrect some tired metaphors for the audience before jumping off the rocks. In love, she explains, “both people have to let go; both people have to fall.” Of course, it must be mentioned that love is a “leap of faith” just like this leap they’re taking into the water together. Since there’s not really any love to be had here, it seems sort of cheap and unnecessary. Still, they proceed, sitting on a blanket in front of the waterfall while Ashley gives Constantine the third degree. She wants to know how many houses he had to look at before buying one (108) so that she can shame him for over-thinking before making a serious decision. “You take time, and you put in effort,” she complains. “Here, we do have time, but we don’t have a lot of it.” She’s hoping things will “take off” tonight, that she’ll be reassured of his interest in her. I think by this point, she should be glad to trim the fat. Constantine looks at her sort of blankly, but there’s just the faintest bit of desperation coded into his gaze. “Send me home,” he seems to be begging. They’re not touching or holding hands, and neither looks very comfortable. Ashley is nervous that he needs more time, which they don’t have.
Constantine and Ashley return to Savusavu for the evening, now holding hands as they sit to dine. He says “okay” as timidly as possible when she toasts to “hopefully having a lot of time together,” and they resort to talking about the fruity taste of the wine. Naturally, this reminds them of winemaker Ben, and Ashley cuts to the chase by asking Constantine how he feels about having a friend date the same girl he’s dating. “If it were somebody I didn’t respect, it’d be a lot harder,” he answers, offering that he couldn’t do anything to stop it if she and Ben really fell in love in the end. Neither would he want to, he says, since no one should stand in the way of true love. Ashley pretends to admire that quality, calling it strong-mindedness and an ability to resist being consumed by emotion. He’s just not that into you, my dear. Putting two and two together, she says, “I don’t feel like you wanna hold my hand or be around me all the time…I have nothing to feed off of.” Constantine replies that he’s usually affectionate instinctively, but he hasn’t been able to be that way with her. She asks if the problem is her personally or if it’s “the process,” meaning the cameras and the time crunch and the competition and staged dates.
Things get sort of uncomfortable when it becomes clear that Constantine has no interest in pursuing something serious with Ashley. It’s been hard for him to admit that he’s not feeling it, but he subtly lets her know that the “process” is not the issue here. Saying that he can’t approach her father to ask for his blessing when he doesn’t really mean it, Constantine states, “I respect you too much as a person to make this any harder than it needs to be.” Ashley is holding out until the bitter end, refusing to give up on the guy until he explicitly rejects her. When she asks where this revelation leaves them as a couple, he answers, “If we’re gonna be honest about it, this means the end of the road for me.” She thanks him for being “real” and not forcing feelings like other men might in his situation. Tearing up a bit, she hugs him goodbye. Even though we saw this coming many miles away, it’s still an abrupt end for Constantine. They didn’t even touch their food! There’s no way I’d let a perfectly good plate of gourmet dinner in Fiji sit and get cold in front of me while some guy who never showed any interest takes his sweet time cutting me loose. Ashley sits alone at the table, staring at the fantasy suite card and key, wondering what it would have been like to spend the night with him. It’s obvious that she would have axed him at the rose ceremony, anyway, but I guess she wanted to give him a test drive, anyhow. Oh, Ash. You knew what you were doing all along. How could I have doubted you? Ashley claims to be shocked that Constantine didn’t want to stick it out a bit longer and see what could happen between them, but we all know it’s way too late for a wait-and-see attitude. Now, in order to inject a bit of suspense and play up her insecurity for the viewers at home, Ash pretends to be super worried about JP and Ben abandoning her, as well: “What if I end up alone, and all of this was for nothing?” Didn’t that Bentley guy say you could give him a call if this thing didn’t work out? It’s worth a shot.
The next morning, it’s finally time to confront Ryan, who’s been waiting impatiently for days to hear Ashley’s verdict. She goes into their meeting telling us that Ryan is successful, gorgeous, and “the sweetest guy,” and that it means so much to her that he would fly out to see her. Why do these people keep forgetting the millions of other factors which influence contestant behavior on this show? He would have flown out to Fiji for literally any other woman on Earth if it meant he’d get more chances to ham it up for the cameras. He’s hoping some impressionable young filly is watching at home, scrambling to find out how to get in touch with him and heal his broken heart.
Ashley knocks on his door as her voiceover assures us that she knows exactly what she has to do. Ryan greets her with his heart beating out of his chest, and they have a few laughs outside on the balcony. For a few moments, I’m nervous about what Ashley will say to him, thinking maybe he’s brainwashed her enough to secure himself a spot in the running. But she does the right thing, telling him that while rejecting him the first time was difficult, and while he’s everything she’s looking for “on paper,” she knows she made the right decision the first time. “I didn’t feel, like, that passion,” she admits, adding that she has found it with the two other men. Ouch. It’s a good thing that Ryan’s disappointment and self-pity are entirely manufactured, because I might be tempted to feel bad for him. He tells her that he’s happy for her and says that he’ll never hold back in matters of love again. He whines that he’s got a great life and is just “missing someone to hold hands with through it all.” Then he repeats “It’ll happen” to himself four times in a row. Geez, is this man unstable. Have at him, ladies.
Finally, Ashley gets to share a date with her true love JP. She leaps into his arms and kisses him, threatening to never let go. He tells her he’s been anxious and dying to see her. My bitter, man-hating heart really melts when they’re onscreen. They board one of those dreaded helicopters, but I honestly don’t mind this time, since they’re so adorable as they sit and hold hands, quietly canoodling. Ashley’s talking head marvels at the fact that they can sit and enjoy the view “without having to talk,” but it’s kind of hard to converse when your lips are pressed against another’s, so I can’t give them too much credit. They land on some small island with a hammock, where JP tells Ash that his father said she’d be a welcome addition to the family. “I feel pretty good about us,” he says. “I’m ready for the end.” I’m surprised at how confident he is with the bachelorette; he is demure when asked what he’s been thinking about lately and talks about living “in the moment” rather than being paranoid about the other guys. They swim and hug while JP voiceovers, “When I look at Ashley, I see the woman I want to spend my life with.” She says their bond “could last a lifetime.” In his estimation, the only thing that could improve his day is seeing Ashley stop everything and declare him The One. Let’s compare that sentiment to Constantine not being able to make it all the way through dinner or even stomach a fantasy suite date before going home.
In the middle of the Savusavu jungle, JP and Ashley dine and talk about how perfect everything is. He tells her, “You get me, and I get you.” To reassure him about not feeling intimidated by his own feelings, Ashley delivers a misleadingly-worded message, saying she “said goodbye to two guys” already this week. Like a teaser for the next episode, she hints that “someone came back,” of course leaving JP with a terrified expression; he’s relieved and happy to hear that Constantine was cut while Ryan came back and was rejected. She tells him not to be hung up on her other relationships, because she doesn’t want this to be a masculine competition that’s all about winning. Is that why the guys have been boxing and racing each other in direct competitions on group dates? JP tells Ashley that he wants to be the last guy standing but only because he wants to end up with her in the end, not because he wants to beat the other guy. I actually believe him, and I hope she does, too. In a voiceover, JP declares, “I want Ashley to be my wife.”
Next, JP is super, super cute while he nervously reads the fantasy suite card. “Uh, yeah, I think I’m into that,” he says before they kiss and head to the room. As if on an actual honeymoon, JP waits on the bed while Ashley changes into something more comfortable (which looks like a men’s button-down white shirt) in the bathroom, emerging to have him pin her down and kiss her until it becomes uncomfortable and I wonder when the cameras will leave. If she doesn’t pick him in the end, it’ll be an unspeakable crime.
Chris Harrison sits the bachelorette down to recap her dates. Ashley doesn’t add any insight except to say that she was really fighting for Constantine, but the lack of romance made her efforts fruitless and that she had a hard time saying goodbye to “good guy” Ryan. Even though both remaining men will get roses tonight, she somehow thinks it’s important to hold the ceremony so that she can hear and see Ben and JP accept their roses with full consent. “As hard as it would be to see someone leave at this point, I just have to know,” she tells us, as if ABC would allow one of the men to bail out before she has her family fly out and help her choose a husband. “I’m ready to be engaged, but are they?” she wonders. The good news is that only one of them has to be ready, and I think she knows by now who she wants. I can’t allow myself to accept that Ashley is so insecure as to believe that out of 25 men, there couldn’t possibly be two who’d fall in love and be willing to win her hand in marriage, so I consider all of this nonsense a ratings grab. At the rose ceremony, the guys accept their roses without complaint, of course, but Ashley thanks them profusely for sticking around. This woman is not a pathetic, sniveling, self-doubting, fearful little girl. She just plays one on TV.
Season 7, Episode 9 (original airdate July 25, 2011.)
The Bachelorette airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.
Images courtesy of Lou Rocca and ABC.