Wednesday, May 21, 2014

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Juan Pablo #11: Red Flag Roundup

Doctors AdviceHome, I've heard, is the place where if you show up, they have to let you in. I have a sneaking suspicion that when Juan Pablo shows up at home, you close the door, turn around and mouth "What do I DO?!?" to the people behind, they all shake their heads, and then you open the door with a big fake smile.

  • RED FLAG: When your family warns a girl on the meet-the-parents date about your flaws, those are some serious flaws.

I'm going to call out all the red flags through this week's episode of The Bachelor because all indications are that the girls aren't picking them up themselves. Shall we help them?

  • RED FLAG: When people who have none of the distractions of "feelings" all see Your Devoted the same way, and you're the only one who doesn't, that's a red flag. And when those "people" are "the entire American public" including "the dude's family," yeah, that's trouble.

Witness, at the opening of the show, Chris asking the live audience seated in the Bachelor Beatdown Bowl whether Juan Pablo is here to find love and whether they think he'll marry one of these girls. A still shot, of course, doesn't catch it, but the sentient creature on the back row, marked with the arrow, started shaking her head before he was done speaking.
As Chris told us later in the show, these people "represent America." I'll say that one was my personal delegate.

Tonight Juan Pablo introduced his final two candidates for what, I don't know, to his family, spent a little more time telling them each how cute and pretty they were, and then was tasked with picking one. Just one. Just pick one, for heaven's sake. We don't care which. He wrestled with this choice, on television, trying to comfort the lucky rejectee at the end by telling her how late he made his decision. Footage which the Chosen One is sure to see. 
  • RED FLAG: If Your Devoted has a really terrible time deciding whether he wants you or somebody else, you're probably not going to get all you hoped and dreamed out of that relationship. And if he thinks this is perfectly fine thing for people to know, that counts as double flags spelling "RUN" in semaphore.
Clare got the lucky first chance to meet the family and picked up all their red flags, sewed them together, and made her own. Let's replay this super-crimson conversation, giving everyone good reason to stay well away from both Juan Pablo and Clare:
JP's mom: He can be very rude.
Clare (nodding): He made me cry.
Mom: Me too.
Clare: But I understand he's being honest.
Mom: Yeah, and that can be really rude.
Clare's response? To declare herself "happy and comforted" to learn she WASN'T THE ONLY ONE. Oh, she said. So he's self-centered and insensitive with everyone? What a relief! Those loud voices in my head weren't telling me something untrue! They're RIGHT ON! So LET'S GO!!!

  • RED FLAG: When people are looking at you like that, try to restate your reasoning in other words and see if it still makes sense.
Conversation with Mom safely dispensed with, Clare moved on to the brother, who asked what she would do "when he walks away."
  • RED FLAG: Oh, good grief. Do I even need to say it?
Clare, clearly suffering from red-tone color-blindness, misses it completely and blithely declares that she'll just gut it out and hang in there harder. She's not going anywhere, baby, no matter how crazy things get.

Nikki attended the next day's Red Flag Fiesta, and Dad laid the whole stack of them out on the table right at the beginning. (After JP dazzled Nikki with his parenting skills by telling Camilla that she was "so pretty.") "Juan Pablo is not an easy guy," he says. The details? He always thinks he knows the truth. Everything is all about what he wants. He's stubborn. "Yup!" Nikki chirpped with a cheery nod. He told me he was stubborn at the beginning! I'm right on track!
  • RED FLAG: When your inner voice is telling you bad things about a person that end up being true, get the toxic person out of your life BEFORE you get all busy congratulating the inner voice. 
Mom carried on the family color theme in her conversation with Nikki. Their conversation went thusly:
Mom: Juan Pablo will watch TV on the weekends, by himself, with Camilla, with the family. Is this the kind of guy you want?
Nikki: Oh, yes.
Mom: Are you sure?
Nikki (nodding)
Mom: Do you love him?
Nikki: I do.
Mom (this face):
 Then some silence. Then this face:
Nikki: Do you think he's ready?
Mom: I'm pretty sure.
  •  RED FLAG: Oh, for heaven's sake. LOOK when you're talking to somebody.
In case the audience is as dense as Nikki was, Mom went on to say in the confessional, "He's not easy, but Nikki is strong, and she's in love, which is important, so I think if he proposes..." Yes? What's the insight? If he proposes they'll make this work? They'll be able to weather the difficulties? They'll have what they need to build a family? Nope. "I think if he proposes she'll accept."


Oh, and in case that wasn't enough, we have Brother Dearest, who is still waving his same flag madly, hoping somebody will notice:
Brother: How much fighting can you take? There's a lot of that in relationships. When things get rough, he walks. Can you deal with that?
Nikki: If there's no fighting, there's no passion.
  • RED FLAG: Oooh, TV has a lot to answer for. To those misled by the movies, let's clarify: Disagreeing is healthy; fighting is not. Anger is not a trademark of healthy relationships. Yelling, punishing silences, walking away. These are symptoms of poor coping skills and/or bad family habits, not passion. Being "passionate" does not give you a pass on hurting or frightening the people you love. Disagree? Go check with your neighborhood therapist. Nuff said.
Nikki came away from her day with Juan Pablo's family (surprise!) strengthened in her confidence and commitment. You go, girl! Down with the ship!

And Juan Pablo--bless his avaricious, licentious heart--wrapped it all up with a bow, asking the universe "Can I just keep them both?"
  • RED FLAG: Haven't we done this one already? And hasn't it been waving through the whole season while he iy-yiy-yiys to all the women about how hot they are, as a group, and announces in front of the keepers how hard it was to decide on them? If you want just one man, make sure he wants just you. Sheesh.
Finally, they each had solitary dates, and Clare's was defined by JP taking a precious moment to whisper something vulgar and insulting in his Beloved's (she thought) ear.
  • RED FLAG: If he's not treating you like you're beloved, you're not.
But Clare was somehow talked out of her concern when they got together at the end of the evening. I'm not clear how. I really wasn't able to follow the thread of their conversation and find anything remotely comforting in it. But she spoon fed him the reassurances she wanted ("See, that's what I need to hear"), which he dutifully caught onto and repeated, and...done deal. A few besitos and all was well.
  • RED FLAG: Perhaps a good exercise at this point in the relationship would be to look back and say, "If this whole thing goes down in flames, what will I look back on and tell myself I shouldn't have whitewashed over?" Yeah, that stuff. And right about now would've been a good time.
And Clare had plenty of time for that exercise because he had a date with the Other Woman the next day. Nikki, for her part, was desperate to hear him tell her he loved her, which struck me odd. You do know how this show works, right? He can't say it. It's in The Rules. But beyond that, he doesn't want to. Remember? He still wants both of them. Perhaps these simultaneous pictures tell the whole story of the relationship (as it appears from the After show to still be):
Figure 1: Nikki, all in.
Figure 2: Juan Pablo, sauntering along with one hand in his pocket.
Probably whistling.
And at last, the moment we've all been waiting for: THE END. It began with Juan Pablo, AquaMan, emerging from the sea:
Not quite sure why he had to take that route to the inland proposal site, but there he is. That was followed by Clare, walking the Path of Doom to her rejection, and then the moment that got the biggest cheer of the night:
No. We are not going to hug it out. And this:

No, you are not the kind of man I would want to be the father of my children. Another cheer. He might've rejected her, but she DUMPED him, baby. Her speech was terrific, and I have a sneaking suspicion she might've rehearsed it some during her day on ice. You know, just in case. Either way, it was perfect. Not that he got it--his comment about "Glad I didn't pick that one" as she walked away got the biggest gasp of the night. But as his dad already said, he thinks he's always right, right?

I want to elevate my opinion of Clare. Yes, she's got those Tierra habits, but she's fixable. Get her some counseling. Teach her how to take herself seriously and demand what she wants rather than plead and wheedle and flirt for it and she'll end up with a good life. Taking ownership of that breakup, then standing firm by her awareness that she was satisfied with how she handled herself is a solid beginning. I'm proud of her. Go far, doll. You've got the stuff you need.

Nikki, then, got...nothing? The understanding that he wasn't ready to dump her yet? Clearly, she wasn't happy with that, but she wasn't going to throw it back, either. Juan Pablo was going to permit her to hang around, and she was satisfied with that. So they've been, talking, I guess, over the last four months. Nikki had ownership body language all over the snuggling they were doing on the after-couch, but I didn't see the relaxation, the peaceful joy you see in a solid relationship.
  • RED FLAG: If you're unequal in your feelings for each other, the clock is ticking. Don't quit your job and move out of your apartment just yet.
  • RED FLAG: Oh, and another thing. "Honest" is not an excuse for being "a jerk."

Juan Pablo, for his part, continued to believe he was on some seriously high ground in his handling of the relationship and management of the public face he put on things. I got annoyed with Chris Harrison pushing so hard to get JP to say "love" (Chris, he's not saying he loves her because he DOESN'T LOVE HER), but did cheer for him after JP expressed frustration with the lack of privacy in the relationship and he said "You do know you're on television, right?" Ditto to Catherine, who said "Don't bite the hand that feeds you." I'll look forward to all of you telling me when you see the first "They've broken up" headlines in the tabloids over there. I have to confess that I'm not going to follow either of them on Instagram for updates. I'm with Chris in his closing comment as well: "Well, let's shower that one off. Another season of The Bachelor has come to an end. Not gonna lie. I'm okay moving on."

I found myself whistling an Ingrid Michaelson tune through the afternoon:
Oh, what a day is today.
Nothing can stand in my way.
Now that you've shipped out from under my skin
I think I'm ready to win.

Oh, what a night is tonight.
I think I'm ready to fight.
Now that my broken bones all have been healed
I think I'm starting to feel

Something good, something good
Now that you're gone, well I can roll on to
Something good.
I'll call it the Clare Victory Anthem. Or the We're All Free of Juan Pablo Anthem. And what's the Something Good that's coming? That's right, baby. Bachelorette Andi. Just when I was ready to call the whole thing off, here she comes. A Bachelorette to get behind. Well, then. Turns out my summer is spoken for.

P.S. Okay, just a few production notes. #1: Who is this woman? On the left. I saw her (and screen captured her) in the Women Tell All episode and decided not to make a catty comment about the collagen. And now she's back. This audience makeup puzzles and disturbs me. Every time.

Then there's this woman, who is unclear on when it's the right time to put a garter on your head:
And in the Bachelor All-Star gallery I caught who the men in the back were just at the end:
Eek! Arie is getting his Andi hug, and then there's that intense lawyer guy whose heart Des broke, then Brooks, who broke HER heart, then Des and the guy she DID end up with. Yeah. Bachelor participants have to be ready to handle a lot of weird stuff. Good luck with that, Juan Pablo.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Juan Pablo #10: The Women Tell More Than Usual

If the Make-A-Wish foundation ever decides to reach out to middle-aged adults in reasonably good health who just some have some cool things they'd like to do and can't arrange for themselves, pick me! My wish is television related, obviously. It actually comes in two parts that are arguably unrelated, but they're both REALLY easy to set up and don't require anybody to make any special accommodations. I mean, seriously--if a whole city can shut down to give a kid a Batman fantasy, surely I can just hang on the fringes of stuff that's already happening, right? So here's what I want:
  1. A chance to sit in the writer's room of a really smart-funny show and watch the whole thing get thought of and put together. The Daily Show, New Girl, Parks and Recreation, Modern Family. Time travel, if available, would be even better, because then I could get Arrested Development and 30 Rock, and maybe even select favorite episodes WITHIN the series. Not that I'm choosy. Two Broke Girls or Two and a Half Men, okay?
  2. A chance to hang out and observe production for a reality series and learn how it REALLY comes together. Survivor, Amazing Race, Project Runway. How much time do people really have to do things? How much setup is involved? Who thinks things up and makes arrangements for them? When do those confessionals happen? What's going on off-camera and how are editing decisions made? 
Given the competition, The Bachelor would be at the bottom of my list, but oh, I'd take it. I do want to know how the women spend their time in the house, how long some of those dates really go, what's going on among the uninvolved women during cocktail parties and group dates... Oh, and the screening process! I think it's the same impulse that makes me want to be a fly on the wall figuring out the behind-the-scenes interactions in some family that acts really weird in a restaurant.

The women-tell-all episode gets us as close to that action as we're gonna get. (And we're know they're going to "tell all" because of the conversational body language expressed by sitting with their hands clasped over their knees.) What we saw this time, for the first time, is that the women had a LOT to say that never showed up in the confessionals. But my unanswered question is this: Did the complainers feels as badly used by Juan Pablo while they were there as they did AFTER they were dumped, and then saw Andi lay it all out on TV? Was that the moment when a whole squad of ex-girlfriends ran into each other at a bar and started to say "Yeah! He was like that around me, too!"

Quite a few bitter babies, there, eh? We heard lots of complaints about Juan Pablo being exactly as Andi described--awfully into himself, uninterested in learning anything about these women. But then we had Renee and Sharleen who had different experiences. Sharleen in particular said he had lots of questions about her life and what it was like and what she cared about. An emerging but rather obvious theory: Perhaps Juan Pablo was more interested in the women he was, well, more interested in. He was crazy about Sharleen, and therefore wanted to know everything about her. With the others, uh, sorry to say it, but if he's more interested in himself than he is in you, well, he's just not that into you.

THAT SAID, people who have a hard time finding people more interesting than themselves usually end up pretty lonely. People who are less pretty usually figure it out quicker, but pretty gets you enough attention that a hollow core goes unnoticed for a long time. Thus:
Super-appealing, right? Those chocolate bunny people know what they're doing. Lots of people are going to pick up something that looks like it's sweet and satisfying, but when things start getting serious, look what happens:
Granted, some are less hollow than others:
Either way, in the end you're left with nothing but air.

Ah, but the perfect combination is a PAIR of hollow bunnies
Yes, these two are both so into themselves that the pretty one beside you just magnifies and confirms your own prettiness, and all the self-talk is just an expression of how AMAZING the relationship is because you're so OPEN with each other, and you can go a really long time before either one busts into the hollow interior of the other.

By that measure, we're down to the right final two.

I wonder whether Bachelor producers might steer away from smart women for a while, given the self-elimination that two of them took this time. As we, laughing on the outside, can tell anyone on the inside, the premise of this show is RIDICULOUS, and anybody who expects to find True Love here is not on solid mental footing. Your best candidates have more of the attitude of a Lucy ("free spirit") who wanted Juan Pablo to understand that "this is a relationship, not a game." Her free spirit is so free of touch with reality that she's lost track of who she signed her contract with. ABC. That's an entertainment company. But she also seemed to think she had a relationship with Chris Harrison:
And her housemates:
And oh, golly, just everybody.

Maybe her threshold for "relationship" is just kind of low.

Not that awareness of the ridiculousness kept Chris from setting Andi up for her "journey" as the next Bachelorette! "So do you believe in true love?" "Do you think there's someone out there for you?" "Do you think you can fall in love?" WE GET IT. I had my worries as he referred to Renee as "fan favorite." That's usually the way we get told who we want as the next contestant. But no--Renee is in a "situation" that she's very happy with. Phew. And at last we have a bachelorette with some brains and sass and edge. Just when I told myself I was checking out after this season. Okay. One more. But bachelorettes only. No more skeezy bachelors.

Because that's pretty much how it works out, right? Bachelorettes go through the process a bit more thoughtfully than bachelors have. The dudes get caught up in the crowd of hot women, get dizzy, and pick the wrong one. Juan Pablo lost sight of what he was after--if he ever really was--the first night. I think Andi nailed it when she said Juan Pablo probably thought he'd been a great bachelor. Excuse me--The Bachelor. The proper name makes a difference. All his onscreen behavior suggests he took the role upon himself as a role. Girls he wasn't interested in (in the long term) he flirted with and made out with and made eye rolls over because he perceived it was his job. I mean--he got first class tickets while the girls went coach, right? So yet another Bachelor season is headed for a breakup, whether it happens on the show or after.

Yes, previews were meant to suggest that Juan Pablo takes up his spot at the Proposal Station and then breaks and runs, leaving two girls in tears. I tried to read the tea leaves, and I'm fairly confident it's a fakeout. The girls are crying in their underoos, yet we also see them dressed up and ready to head to the proposal. If they got told afterward that he's gone, they'd have been wearing their dresses while crying, right? No, I think they're just being emotional at some prior point. My prediction is that he'll pick one interchangeable fake blonde self-absorbed reality-bender or the other, with the breakup in the tabloids by mid-April. (I'm at a distinct forecasting disadvantage living in a place without a checkout-stand newsstand where I can see which way the tabloid winds are blowing. Call me a sucker and laugh it off if you already know differently.)

So I'll end with my favorite blooper shot of the night. No, not the water-car going literally dead in the water (too easy):
Nor Juan Pablo getting up from telling the camera he was ready for the next rose ceremony and walking away without pants:
Nope, my favorite was this one, in which one of the rose bushes in front of the elaborately and meticulously landscaped Bachelor Mansion tipped over, revealing its plastic bottom:
There, ladies and gentlemen, is your says-everything shot for the whole show. NOTHING IS REAL. Which should do all of our hearts good. Those women's bodies? Nah, don't even think about having a goal like that. The dates? Come on, who does those things? The relationships themselves? Pff, hardly. And your front yard? No amount of Miracle Gro can ever do that. Take comfort. Be happy. And pop some popcorn for next week.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Juan Pablo #8-9: The Art of Argument

There are a lot of cats where I live. In Riyadh, unlike my home in Denver, there are no predators, so the cats roam freely. They climb the trees and hop the fences, hunt, lie in the sun, passing from one property to another with nobody batting an eye about it. It's a good life for a cat. Sadly, however, people tend to live here for a lot fewer years than you find in the lifespan of a cat. The cats that get left behind without being neutered make new cats, which then turn into a "cat problem." The resources start getting slim, the turf starts getting too small, and then the fights start. I'm new to cats, and the term "catfight," used to be only an expression to me. (And I'm not alone--my image search on "catfight" brought up only pictures of women fighting. I had to switch to "cats fighting" to get actual cats.) Anyway, whether you call it a catfight or cats fighting, zowie. I'll show you serious up in here.

Nevertheless, the terms of engagement are clear, and both sides understand the vocabulary, no matter whether they came from English-speaking, Afrikanns-speaking, or Turkish-speaking houses. So the fights are fairly straightforward, and when they're over, they're over. (Even when the "end" involves me going outside and shoeing the perps away.)

Not so The Bachelor! Fussin' and feudin' can happen in ALL sorts of ways, the victor is not always clear, and what, exactly, somebody was doing in the first place can remain a puzzle long after the tussle is over. We humans could learn a lot from the cats about how to disagree productively.

I usually like the hometown dates. Like cats, the girls have less to fight over when there are fewer of them and they can spread out over their turf a little more comfortably, so the drama starts to sag at this point in the show. But then--genius!--we get a whole fresh batch of characters trotted across the stage to answer the questions that have been plaguing us about how some of these girls got to be the way they are.

This shot, for example, did a lot to help me understand Princess Nikki:
And interiors to match. No, it may not be Versailles, but that's a 1% upbringing right there, folks. Brings a certain sense of privilege, I'm sure. Add a slammin' bod, a pretty smile, a bottle of peroxide, and a flare for just the right combination of negativity and well-timed theatrics to make people feel grateful you're paying attention to them, and bam. You have a Nikki. Next!

On to visit Andi, who picked up a bit of an accent I hadn't heard before in her hometown of Atlanta. That's not all she picked up, though. Question: If Renee didn't have time to reunite with her son before JP got there (a top priority, one must assume), how did Andi have time to do that over-the-top ombre haircolor? But I digress. Mostly, I need to talk about my deep and abiding love for Andi's dad. Despite the pre-show hype, he didn't come out on the attack against Juan Pablo, but took the very reasonable stance of saying that Juan Pablo was asking the wrong question at the wrong time. The blessing he sought should come later, "after you're done with this thing you're doin'." A serious gift should only be given when it's asked for, well, seriously. And the Final Four Bachelor Hometown Dates is not a serious moment. I mean, come on. How seriously are any of us taking them? Next!

Oh, dear doomed Renee. The cut after the hometown date is always the unkindest cut of all. It says "I liked you until I saw you in a real setting." Which was dead true, and probably a mercy. I suspect the reason Renee got sent home was because her son made everything way too real for Juan Pablo. He had at least enough decency to realize that whatever fun he was having and hoped to continue having should not involve a kid who's not only ADORABLE (Norman Rockwell, anyone?) but the best ball player on his team. (If you've never been around youth baseball, tip: The kid who plays pitcher, catcher, and shortstop is your best athlete. By a mile.)

When Juan Pablo said to Clare that he "can't wait to see why you are the way you are," I don't think he appreciated all that he was saying. Perhaps what he wanted to learn was "why you have that Cupid's bow lip, and whether your figure is genetic and will stay that way forever." No, the surprise bonus discovery (one hoped) would be why Clare is cray-cray. Answer: The doted-upon beautiful orphan baby in a crowd of girls learned early that she was the center of the world and that she "deserved" all kinda of good things, including not having HER evening upended by her bafflingly awkward older sister. Deserved? No, honey. If this is your family, that's gonna happen. Sister Laura is one weird cat, who can't seem to interact with other cats in a way the cats themselves can understand. Speaking for Mom while Mom just sat there? Getting annoyed when she got called on it, to the point that she took that Drastic! Alarming! Threatening! step of standing there with her arms folded? "I have no choice, Clare. If you're going to act like that, you leave me no choice but to do THIS."
And then, from a bigger distance, to do THIS."
I'm guessing Kitty Laura spends a lot of time lurking around in the bushes by herself. This is a cat that doesn't know how to fight, just how to convince all the other cats she's really weird. This is not the way to conduct productive arguments, people. But clearly, we have a family with widespread communication problems. There's a whole web family dynamics at work here that we got only the tiniest tease about. I'm frustrated and intrigued. And I REALLY wanted the camera to follow Clare inside after Juan Pablo left and she had free rein to freak out on her sister.

After some final lip-biting and eye-rolling from Juan Pablo about how HOT all these women are to him TO THEIR FACES, IN FRONT OF EACH OTHER, and Renee's merciful dispatch (classy to the end), we got a 24-hour breather before the final dates in Saint Lucia. I needed it. The full week would've been better.

First up, Clare the Entitled, who told us it's "finally time for MY love story." Overall, their date just made me uncomfortable. We got the creepy exchange of her making sure she was being noticed enough by asking him whether he liked her dress and then him making a show of checking her out. Don't get me wrong--this is an entirely normal exchange between two people flirting with each other, and there would be nothing disturbing about it at all without the context of him being equally involved with two other women. But both he and Clare seem oblivious to this context, which is a job requirement for the show. Do what makes you happy, but I don't want to watch. Thank goodness the cameras had to leave.

Andi and Juan Pablo wound up having two very different dates, we learned later. What we saw of the date itself seemed routine enough, but by morning, he was delighted and she was disgusted. And HERE'S where I got really enthusiastic about Andi. Does she leave? NO! She's in St. Lucia, for heaven's sake! No emotional jumping on a float plane and disappearing over the horizon crying! Not for this girl, no sir. She's going to claim her full extra day on the beach, under the palms, enjoying little drinks with umbrellas, make her final video, save the big scene for the final moment, and then catch the plane she would've been on anyway. Cost-effective for the show, more fun for her. That's some savvy resource management there, folks.

But while Andi was stewing over the events of the previous night (at great length, it appears), Princess Nikki claimed her final date. And claim it she did.
WHO WEARS THAT? Well, a girl who's used to manipulating people, that's who. She said she hoped he "hasn't forgotten about me." Oh, that'll remind him, all right, but only of the same stuff everybody else has, and which you just want to make sure he knows are available to him. I don't ever want to hear her say "I just want to be taken seriously" or "Why can't I ever find a GOOD guy?" Juan Pablo (remember? the guy with the daughter? the one who wants to set a good example of what kind of man she should seek?) went on at great length about how sexy she is. ON TELEVISION. So I think these two are really well suited to each other.

At last, we came to the final argument. Andi and JP, one cat wandering blithely across the patio while the other was already bristled up and ready to pounce. This whole interaction was fascinating, and the kind of psycho-study I wait for in reality TV. Just guessing here, but seeing how things have played out I'm imagining that Juan Pablo's final four of choice would've been Sharleen, Andi, Nikki, and Clare. Two dark, cerebral, serious women; two blonde (let's not quibble about roots), emotional, dramatic women. Do we notice the coincidence that the two thinkers left under their own power? (Do we see the connection between Andi and her level-headed dad?) Looks as if Juan Pablo has found his level and wound up with two of the same model he's probably always gone for.

But, back to the argument. Andi started out very graciously, saying she appreciated all she'd learned and experienced, said she was leaving as a person who knew herself better. Then her calm-and-rational switch flipped when JP took her announcement of departure as nonchalantly as if she was a friend of his daughter saying she didn't like what you were serving for dinner and wanted to go home now. HERE is where the two cats start misunderstanding each other. I believe when he says "That's okay," he thinks he's saying, "It's right for you to do what you need to do. I'm not angry. I understand." When she hears "that's okay," she's hearing "I don't care. Doesn't bother me a bit. I'm just having fun, here." And so ALL the stuff she's been ruminating over for the past day, all the sins he committed over the night they spent together--the talking about himself, the name-dropping, the other-woman-mentioning--now she can't let that go. She genuinely cared! Her sacrifices, her investment are wasted! So now she has to prove him WRONG.

And he may be. (Evidence suggests yes.) But that doesn't matter. What she wants now is to MAKE him see how wrong he was, and how much that hurt her. But here's the thing: You can't make somebody see things your way. And when you're reduced to arguing facts ("You said default!" "I don't know that word!") you're clawing at a lot of fur and not getting anything done. She wanted her wounds miraculously wiped away, which was always impossible, no matter how much he might have groveled and apologized. The fantasy suite evening was reality, and no amount of fighting over what actually happened was going to remake it. She had to forgive herself for being there, stop trying to remake the night better in her own mind, and realize that the only story she had to tell was this: "I saw over the night that we don't connect well. When you talked about Clare that hurt my feelings so badly I had a hard time getting past it. That you don't get that means we just don't function on the same page. I'm leaving now." THE END. Here's what I'm doing, here's why I'm doing it, and here I go to do it.

I have to credit JP with maintaining a calm demeanor through the whole thing. Yes, they're both right. And both wrong. And both totally unsuited to each other. That they got this far is evidence of how bad this show is at enabling people to find genuine relationships. Let's remember--whoever he picks has to listen to an entire season of him lip-smacking over how hot the other women are before stepping onto the After the Final Rose stage to say how Wonderful Everything Is.

So we are left now with mirror image drama queens who, predictably, HATE each other. You don't need to know which one he picks to go ahead and choose your breakup date. It'll all be the same. But if you enjoy a lot of cats bristling up at each other, stay tuned for the Reunion show next week. Should be a doozy.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Juan Pablo #7: Are We Done, Here?

I've been a little distracted. I have to confess that nobody on The Bachelor has ever done much for me, up to and including Juan Pablo. I don't go for the types who try too hard, as you have to if you're going to get a toe in the water of the Bachelor pool. If your shirt fits too well, if you're rockin' the of-the-moment euro-cut eye is gonna stray elsewhere. No, I'm afraid my heart right now belongs to the Norwegian curling team.
Now THAT is gonna get my attention. It says "I have a playful side, and don't take myself too seriously." But there's some real goods there, too, ladies:
Okay, so Blondie is a little young for me, and that shot doesn't do justice to a very well built upper body. I can still recommend him highly to somebody else. But this one:
Ah, this one is all mine. Thomas Ulsrud. Not even the coach can tempt me:
So I found myself feeling a bit impatient with Juan Pablo the Foolish and his harem. And the whole premise of the show sticking everybody in a really foolish situation. Give me SERIOUS. Like curling.

How is it not disturbing for a man to give six girls bikinis as his welcome-to-Miami gift?

Read: I'm giving you a gift for me! And I'll be really offended if you don't give me what I want! Ew. This is not the producers' fault. JP had a chance to say, "No, I can't put my name on that. It's creepy. I'd like to give them some flowers." And he didn't. Ladies of America, you can do better. Let your love affair with Juan Pablo be over.

Sharleen looks justifiably conflicted as she's looking at Nikki's teeny bikini bottoms:
"Hmm...I appreciate the thought, but...maybe not that thought." Her ambivalence continued through the first date. The voice in that solid head on her shoulders, the one that's been nagging at her the whole time, finally started screaming, "Deadline! Deadline!" Her conflict is a million years old: "Is this guy I'm crazy attracted to actually any good for me?" A question, perhaps, she should have asked about that puzzling underarm strap in her dress:
In the normal world, dating is supposed to give you time to have that conversation rationally. But in the Bachelor world, all the pressure is placed on the heart in a deliberate effort to shut out the brain. Don't think! Just feel! But, oh, if you really DO need to think, well, we'll give you some time to gaze thoughtfully over a balcony railing when you supposedly have only ten minutes to get ready and no earthly reason to otherwise happen upon the balcony:
Note to people who want successful relationships in the normal world: This is why you want to put off the physical relationship until the conversation with the voices in your head is settled. All the candlelight and making out drowns out the conversation. And producers certainly gave us no reason to doubt what the problem was: We viewers were subjected to just as much too much messy kissing as the (un)happy couple were. I'm surrounded by a lot of arranged marriages here in Saudi Arabia, and societal norms that are very uncomfortable with any public displays of affection. Couples walk near each other, but never touch. That made especially memorable a couple I saw walking out of IKEA recently. Even under all the robes it was clear that both were overweight, with that rolling gait I've come to associate with diabetic feet, certainly in their 60s, with fingertips linked. That's a very different kind of romance than ABC is insinuating into the public consciousness, folks. And a good sight more real.

Anyway, after giving herself a day to clear her head, Sharleen decided to go home in the company of a weird gerbil sachet.
(Does it smell like cage litter? Or a gerbil? Or some perfume version of a gerbil?) Juan Pablo didn't seem inordinately grieved by the departure of someone he professed having really strong feelings for, supporting the perception that he really is just in it for the fun. Nevertheless, it wouldn't surprise me to see this nag at him as something else to chase, helping to tank whatever "relationship" does come out of the show's finale. I give a 65% chance we'll see Juan Pablo and Sharleen caught together in the tabloids six months from now.

Nikki had the next solo date, which found fresh ways to make me squirm. Please explain to me the scenario in the normal world in which a single dad shows up at his daughter's dance recital, where his parents and the daughter's mother are already seated, plops down just before curtain time with one of the girls he's been dating in a whole flurry of dating that has the whole family talking, and it isn't horrifying. I quite liked this face from the ex:
Yeah, I'm sure she's TOTALLY fine with it.
Not uncomfortable one bit. She's not going to talk about this with her girlfriends AT ALL. When she's out with them on her BIRTHDAY. Which is TOMORROW.

Plus I'm getting increasingly uncomfortable with the daughter's role in this show, and with the entire family's willing participation in her commercial use. "I'm going to surprise her," JP said upon his return to Miami. Really? With cameras already in the house for no particular reason, watching her play with her grandparents? "Hey look! It's Daddy!" Yeah, no foolin'. And I can promise you that she's going to HATE that her six-year-old dance recital was on television, preserved for anybody to call up on YouTube, when she's twelve, or fourteen, or sixteen...or anything up to about forty, without her having any power to control it.

Nikki gushes quite a bit about what a great dad Juan Pablo is. Note to girls everywhere: There's a lot more to judging whether a guy will be a great dad than whether he interacts well with children. A guy can be playful and still completely irresponsible, shallow, shiftless, unfaithful, abusive, undisciplined...  Easy, now. I'm not saying Juan Pablo is any of those things, but just because a guy doesn't automatically know how to clown around with a four-year old doesn't mean he won't be kind, wise, and put the child before himself. Separate skill sets. Y'all be careful out there.

The group date with the remaining four girls devolved into a solo date with Andie that assured her of a hometown date. I'm pleased to still see Andie around, but with Sharleen's departure only one other would leave, and that put Chelsie clearly in the back seat. A nice girl with a bright future--despite feeling overlooked at 24--but without the intensity each of the others seemed to have. However, I do wonder whether Juan Pablo has any idea of how demeaning of every other relationship it is for him to talk about how hard it is to decide which one to cut. Silly. Of course not. What he's saying is that what he can "no be happy" if doesn't get to have ALL of them.

Question, though:
Who stuck that glass in her hand when they shoved her into the Breakup Limousine? Is this the kind of help Bachelor producers offer?

The net result is that Juan Pablo has assembled a puzzling final four: Two high-maintenance girls and two low-maintenance girls. Unsurprisingly, the two high-maintenance girls finally blew up at each other. This time I can't put the blame squarely on Clare. Nikki's decision to just walk out of the room when she didn't like a fairly innocuous comment of Clare's (though we can't know the whole context) was as much of an attention-grab as anything prior, showier divas have pulled. Ah, but then Clare's move to FOLLOW her and CONFRONT her, because she's "not going to let her get away with it" sets up a classic Battle of the Drama Queens. Cue finger pointing. Cue eye-rolls. Cue folded arms and pointed chins. In one corner, Clare the Entitled, who came home hurt from the group date because she "deserved" the rose. In the other, Nikki Snotty, who loves to crow about all the roses she's gotten in the past and can't wait to get away from all these beneath-her girls. The outcome? A REALLY silent cocktail party, in which Juan Pablo the Cad seemed oblivious to what might cause all that tension. They ought to put magazines on the table so the girls have something to do when they're not speaking to each other.

I have reason to hope for some just desserts next week on the hometown visits. I enjoyed seeing a woman I inferred to be Clare's sister saying, "I'm not going to let you manipulate Mom." What? Clare has a known history of manipulation? And might we be seeing Andie turn on Juan Pablo? Given those teasers, and the fact that the Norwegian curling team just got knocked out of the medal round, maybe I'll be sticking around a little longer after all.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Juan Pablo #6: Who's in Charge, Here?

Where I live, I am only one hour away from Sochi time, and am watching my Olympics live, on a generic English-language Olympic channel. Much as I enjoyed my familiar NBC coverage, I really appreciate these announcers, who (a) understand that I don't need to know who they are, and that I'm not watching to see them, (b) are enthusiastic about all outstanding performances, without regard to the nationality of the competitors, and (c) know what "penultimate" means. I particularly admire the restraint with which I was served a half hour of Olympic speed-skating ice, with no commentary and no one on it. Eventually a band came out and entertained the crowd until competitors appeared and started warming up. Only then did the announcers pipe back up. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is called "trusting your audience." Or "nobody in the booth."

Not so The Bachelor! Any show that brings out a host to say "This is the final rose" when everyone can see a single rose in a chrome tray (or count backward from three) does not lack for production leadership. There's certainly a lot of the story we're not seeing, but we're not in charge, here. All we can do is sit back and swallow what they serve.

Or, more accurately, what they're trying to serve. Above the producers, I'll tell you who's in charge of my television experience: space people. Satellites, in particular, and don't kid yourself that they're mere machines. I watch The Bachelor through a DVR in the U.S., first thing in my Tuesday morning, which is only an hour or two after it airs there. This morning, however, I was the victim of a thing called "bitrate."
40 Kbps is bad. I watched that cat for a long time.
And that's my blue screen of death. I can only conclude that the space people made a fully conscious decision to mess with my morning. Jerks. Through the halts and breakdowns I got the gist of it in spite of them. I missed some screenshots, but I don't think I missed anything life altering. And who's kidding who? I wouldn't have missed anything life-altering if I'd missed the whole season.

So let's play Who's In Charge! For me, the space people. For U.S. viewers, the producers. For Juan's complicated.

The first New Zealand date went to Andi, who has been at the bottom of the power rankings for some time. I think Juan Pablo is genuinely interested in Andi, despite the curse of the last one-on-one date, but it seemed that producers were out to tank her chances. The speedboating was fun but passive, the wading through cold water was not what I'd dream of, and dinner beside a geyser was a disaster. You ever been to a hot spring? Unless you have a thing for rotten eggs, you don't want to eat or drink anywhere nearby. Add the cold wet spray from the geyser itself for a bonus. On the plus side, the wading led to a warm waterfall where they enjoyed some nice bonding time, and Andi went home with a rose. Safe for the time being, at least, but that date didn't appear to go nearly as well as I need for Andi to make it all the way to the end. I mean, come on. She's smart, she's fun, and she was rockin' a black one-piece. (Though I'm not sure how she got away with it under the white pants.) Props for the self-respect, and a little gratitude from everybody who wants the world to think you're wearing one because you have self-respect too, rather than just lumpy things to hide.

Who's in charge? The date-planning producer. Certainly not poor Andi, who came into the date "hoping for a breakthrough." I'm afraid wanting romance super-bad doesn't put one in a good position to take control at a critical moment. I will vote for Andi as the next Bachelorette, though.

I wanted to be on this week's group date. Well, after it got going, anyway. Things got a little weird at the beginning when Chelsie called Juan Pablo away from the opening picnic to sit a short distance away and blow on grass blades. What? But the interruption was mercifully brief, and then it was time to let the good times roll! (Sorry.)

We even got to see Sharleen Serious dive in like a kid, so it MUST have been fun. Then dinner in Hobbiton? Are you kidding? Frankly, Hobbiton was wasted on stumpy little folk with hairy feet. No, it's made for romance. You know, real romance. The kind where there's lots of candles and expensive dresses and beautiful people. Not ordinary romance for regular people or hobbits.

Or for Cassandra, it turned out. The birthday girl...Look! 21:
And now 22:
...admitted to missing her son, which helped Juan Pablo to see he was just messin' around and send her home straight from Hobbiton. Talk about your tough fantasy-to-reality transition. I must credit Juan Pablo with being a master break-upper, though. Somehow the "it's not you," didn't become the predictable "it's me," but instead "it's not you, because you're one of the most special ones, and I'm so grateful I got to know your specialness and be part of making you even MORE special and ready to be with someone not as special as me but more appropriate for you." Head still spinning, there was nothing left for her to say but "Thank you," and then a tearful limousine trip wondering what just happened. Dudes who want to escape a breakup unscatched, study up.

Who was in charge? JP, all the way. Poor Cassandra may only just now be figuring out what hit her. And getting kinda mad about it.

Want to challenge my scoring? Think back on his one-on-one time that same evening with Sharleen. Conversation? Not for him. No, Juan Pablo went straight for the action, leaving Sharleen to pull back and ask whether they know, talk a little. Hoping to test him a little and put some of her unease to rest, Sharleen asked whether he could guess what she was feeling. His answer: "Great but scared." That's an exact, unredacted quote. And her reaction? Angel choir! He knows me! Every time I'm nervous he finds a way to put my mind at ease! All I can say is that I want to be the fortune teller that gets her in a tent when she's got a pocketful of cash. Yeah, Juan Pablo's definitely in charge.

The final one-on-one date went to Clare. Crazy Clare. Clare Cray-Cray. Clare, winner of the Tierra Tiara, and she wore it masterfully this week. She's more in control of herself than Tierra was. Although she doesn't have any friends in the house, she hasn't gone to war and created show-stopping drama, hasn't given the other girls reason to let JP know that she's a problem, and she's kept her theatrics at just the right level around him. Who's in charge? Clare. By a mile. By the end of their date, I'd put my vote in the sealed box. She's going to end up with the final rose, folks. Mark my words.

The situation was clear before the date even started, with Juan Pablo's narration that "Last week I got in big trouble with Clare. I made her upset." His sin? Telling her that he'd been uncomfortable. Events got fed into the Clare Grinder, came out as Clare Tears, and suddenly he's at fault in his own mind. For confirmation? Listen to Clare herself: "He hurt my feelings. He's welcome to say I'm sorry." As I recall, she was remorseful when events were fresh, but the Clare Grinder reforms things in her own mind, too. He made a good start with his apology early in the date, yet somehow that wasn't quite enough. Power had not yet fully come into her hands. So she pushed for more and got this:
Juan Pablo: "Promise you won't ever cry because of me."
Clare Cray Cray: "Just don't make me sad."
Game, set, match. Add that to finishing the evening by lounging around his room being adorable in sweats and the deed is done. Ladies and gentlemen, your winner. I'm taking dates right now for the final breakup. I've got July 1.

The final power rankings? Bottom to top, I have Girls, Producers, Juan Pablo, Clare. Then the space people.

We had nothing much to see after that, other than watching Kat take a big, slow-motion, third-strike swing at the cocktail party by going back to her alcoholic dad for meaningful conversation material. Juan Pablo, to his credit, is a kind listener, but her exit was known well before the first rose was awarded. Who's next? Will Sharleen eliminate herself? If not, I'd say the wind is blowing at Chelsie's back. I only hope the space people will let me find out when the time comes.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Juan Pablo #5: And the Award Goes To...

It is customary to name prizes after the person who serves as a model of the thing the award recognizes. Just this week the NFL awarded its Walter Payton award. Baseball gives us the Cy Young, Roberto Clemente, and Hank Aaron awards  (as well as the Rolaids Relief Man, asking us to never forget the qualities and accomplishments of...oh, dear). Hockey has the grandest heritage of them all, with SIXTEEN of them. (Doubt me? Check here.) For The Bachelor, I believe we need only one, however. Ladies and gentlemen, may I propose the Tierra Memorial Tiara:

I was rather shocked to discover I couldn't find a picture of her wearing an actual tiara, so the sunglasses will have to do. We can make our own additions. First it should sparkle, obviously.
(Note the desperation to be at the center of somebody's world shown by the tattoo on her ring finger.)

Second, the tiara should have a liquid reservoir to pump tears out at any necessary moment.
And finally, it should have a pinch mechanism to pull one eye up in a coy sideways glance.

(Care should be taken with the placement of the eye-pull mechanism, or you'll give the wearer a reason to claim that she can't control her eyebrows.)

Unlike the sports awards, we can't wait to give the Tierra Tiara until the end of the season because the winning moment usually comes at the midpoint. No, the Tierra Tiara is more like a prize at a flower show, in which you wait until a bloom has reached its peak of blossom before submitting the entry. For this season of The Bachelor, the time is now. And the winner is...

Clare. In a runaway.

There are certain markers in a Tierra Tiara award recipient, and these are the same markers you find in the people who wreak social havoc in your own world.  If Bachelors were wise to the markers they'd avoid a lot of emotional torment and we'd miss a lot of classic programming. (This award could very easily also be called the Michelle Money Memorial or the Courtney Cup or the Vienna Vase.) So we'll keep them to ourselves, ladies, right? You, me, and the producers are the only ones who need to know:

1. Trouble making women friends. Yeah, there's always that woman in the house that nobody else likes. This is NOT because the other women are all mean/snobby/catty or whatever she claims. No, it's because the female sense about these crazies is magnified by the company of other women. The award nominee might manipulate one person away from another in normal life, but throw her into a pool of strangers at once and she's done for. The moment when Juan Pablo told the girls on the group date to pair up and Clare couldn't manage that? Yeah. Red flag, buddy.

2. Romances marked by intense instantaneous bonding. Award recipients usually haven't been single for very long when they come on the show. Whether they've gone through one boyfriend after another or just recently ended a tortured relationship, they know how to hook a man in a flash but not how to keep him in the boat, so to speak. (Though Clare did a fine job of GETTING him in the boat and then making sure he enjoyed his stay.) But ugh--the hair touches, the head tilts, the lip purses, the little sideways looks...sickening to women. Crack cocaine to men out lookin' fer love.

3. Narcissism. This one is tougher to diagnose, given the competition. However, it usually shows up in a heightened sense of entitlement, of thinking everything about the show exists to support her. The one who sneaks off to the Bachelor's room for some time nobody else gets? Or causes scenes that require the Bachelor to take time away from everybody else to tend to her? Yup. There's your girl. Tierra to a T.

4. Altered reality. There was a beautiful moment this week where JP tried to gently tell Clare that the private get-together, where she'd snuck off to his room to invite him out for a midnight swim, was no good. "I was just trying to do what I would if there was nobody else here and no cameras," she explained. He gently pointed out that they were not in that situation. Her response was complete shock and puzzlement. The real world had priority over the one she'd constructed to justify her actions? Not possible!

Now, with the award requirements in mind, let's review this week's show and see whether you agree with my nomination.

The group traveled to Vietnam by cartoon insta-plane and gave us a good Lesson for Ladies: Be judicious in sharing your scarf-tying tips:

Thought you were mortified by the girl who showed up at prom wearing your same dress? How about the FIVE who showed up on television wearing your same prominent accessory, styled the same way?
Giving them time to change, the first solo date was with Renee. What man doesn't want to date Jennifer Anniston? This is as close as you're gonna get, JP, and this one is actually your age. These no-adventure dates (shopping, taking in the culture) are great for travel shows but tend to be kinda boring. It's a shame, because I REALLY like Renee. Him saying that he kinda sees himself when he looks at her could be bad, but if he loves himself enough, could be good. Fingers crossed that the girl whose "palms hurt" (how adorable is that?) is there at the end.

The group date was the Cultural Experience tour. Clare, as mentioned earlier, failed to come up with a friend to paddle her wee Vietnamese boat with, and wound up with JP as her partner, backed into the weeds, making out, while the other girls had super-fun dates with each other. Chelsie exposed herself as a complete sucker by thinking that JP had actually scored lunch for all them at a Vietnamese home by asking a random stranger whether they could eat somewhere nearby. Not to be outdone in the d'oh department, however, was Cassandra. On discovering this close-knit community where the people worked the fields together and shared everything they owned, she revealed herself as a communist: "We should do this in America!" Clare, obviously, drew attention to herself by not touching the strange food and sustained herself by sucking on a few green beans. But she refused to be ridiculed, and confessed to the camera that she was "not going to change who I am for them!" Gonna keep her sparkle, that one.

For the Fancy Dress portion of the date, JP and Clare slipped away first, where they wound up in swimsuits in the "hot" tub together and she complained about being cold ("I need you! Take care of me!"). How long are these evenings, anyway? There were nine girls involved, and spending that much time with one wasn't unusual? I would have LOVED seeing the girls do as Kelly suggested, just marching over to the pool and handing Clare the rose. Oh, the curse of the funny girl. If Kelly had known she was on the way out, would she have been more willing to go with a splash?

We did get a clue about group date duration, and why the girls talked about being tired, when Clare showed up at JP's door at 4:00 a.m., presumably not long after the date's end, to request a private audience. She's never swum in the ocean! Stuck her toe in, she admitted, but never more than that. Oh, brother. So off they went, got a little more than wild in the waves, and JP was left at the edge of a regret whirlpool. I was a little surprised, given Juan Pablo's history of not allowing passion to drive the important things out of his mind:
Yup, that's our man, last season, one hand still in the popcorn while getting to know Des a little better.

The final solo date went to Nikki, much to Andi's disappointment (though previews for next week suggest she's going to end up just fine about it). Where he and Renee went ordinary, he and Nikki went extreme, rappelling down a chute into a cavern referred to and decorated as "Hell." Nikki was afraid to dance last week, and was now afraid to descend. Unfortunately, though probably not unassisted, she got stuck stating the Metaphor from Hell as she resisted stepping out over the darkness: "This is a lot like falling in love, trusting the other person, and also having very little control." What she failed to do, however, was see the metaphor all the way through to its end: "Slowly descending beyond all hope of rescue, becoming acclimated to more and more discomfort, and eventually ending up in hell, with your entire self and soul consumed."
She made up for it, though, by giving me what might be my favorite takeaway from this otherwise inarguably worthless show. In explaining why she's a pediatric nurse, she said "There's hope that comes with sick kids." No matter what else she does or where she ends up, that one insight has earned her my admiration. But then she put things back in their proper place by describing the way she feels around JP as being as if she's stuck her finger in a light socket. Clearly she's never stuck her finger in a light socket. I hope she doesn't end up caring for a kid who has, or she might not hit the right note of empathy. ("Oh, you must feel WONDERFUL!")

Finally, the cocktail party delivered the promised drama by giving us JP expressing his regret about their rendezvous to Clare, who had just slyly toasted "Finding love, falling in love, and making love" in front of the whole group. Oops! Here's where the Tierra Tiara is won.
  • Trouble making women friends? Check. Everybody comments on her crying without doing anything to comfort her.
  • Intense romantic bonding? Check. Let's remember this is still the same woman who got mauled by him immediately after saying she'd thrown up in her mouth.
  • Narcissism? Check. That "making love" part of the toast was downright creepy.
  • Altered reality? This is the moment where she gives us that utter, shattered-world bewilderment at being told that they're not, actually, alone together on this little adventure.
We have our winner! With her rose already in hand (granted BEFORE the wild-waves adventure), three others took the fall tonight. I will miss Kelly's wisecracks, but the funny girl never makes it to the end. Her dog and her job (one and the same, one must conclude) will be glad to have her back. Danielle, of the No Camera Time and Nothing to Say, stated the obvious when she said she could tell there wasn't a connection there. Alli, however, threw me, perhaps because I didn't know she and Andi were different people:
(Sorry, Andi, for the awkward moment I caught.) Yeah, the two of them showed up next to each other in the rose lineup and I thought, "That's Andi on the right and...Li'l Andi?" I like Andi, and hope JP likes her, too, so I'll hope her chances go up with the elimination of any identity confusion.

Previews for next week promise Clare parading her Tierra Tiara in all its glory. Juan Pablo and the human carnage all around may suffer, but I, for one, can't wait.