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Friday, February 24, 2012

Are We There Yet?

Every year when I was a kid, I would leave the burgeoning metropolis (cough, cough) of Columbia, South Carolina, and return to my hometown of Walhalla to spend the summer with my grandfather. At the time, I thought it was my reward for getting through the school year--I got to spend June through August on the farm doing manly things like peeing off the front porch and drinking RC straight from the bottle. Of course, it occurs to me now that it might have also had something to do with my single mom wanting some time to herself to act like a normal girl in her mid-twenties. 


I was always so excited to go back to my hometown. Days at the city pool, nights catching fireflies, doing absolutely EVERYTHING with no shoes on. What’s not to love? But an hour into the car ride up there, I was also impatient. “Are we there, yet?” was my refrain, said so many times over the years that the mere mention of the words could probably give several of my relatives PTSD.

I tell you all this for two reasons: 1) It’s kind of where I’m at with this show, now in it’s 8th week. Are we there yet? Don’t get me wrong--I’ve had a pretty good time. We trekked through crazy valley, hiked the scandalous peaks, and waded through the dreaded river of bitchiness…all really fun places to visit. But I’ve reached a point where I’m bored with all that and ready to board the final train in hopes of reaching a happy ending.  Thankfully, we’re getting close. And 2) this week brought us the hometown dates. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only person anxiously waiting to find out what sort of family wrought Courtney upon the world.

Vulnerable Is A Big Word For Me (and don’t even get me started on Onomatopoeia) 

Our first stop takes us to Ocala, Florida, where our Bachelor finds the beautiful Lindzi atop a majestic steed named Devon. Hmm, that actually kind of sounds like the beginning of one of Zalman’s Red Shoe Diaries when you think about it. David Duchovny wouldn’t be a bad choice to play Ben, either. But I digress. 

After they exchange pleasantries, Lindzi informs Ben that horses have been a part of her life since before she was born. Wait, what? The only thing that’s been a part of my life since before I was born is mooching off my parents. I robbed my mom of all her nutrients from the womb, and over the next couple of decades I upgraded my thievery to free lodging, an education, and several thousand dollars in credit card charges. Hell, I STILL hit them up for a free meal every now and then (I can’t cook. It’s sad).

The happy couple goes on to have a conversation about tearing down walls, and just when I’m starting to have flashbacks of 1989, Lindzi drops this bomb: “Vulnerable is a big word for me.” I’ve often (only half-jokingly) said that I tend to lose interest when people use words larger than three syllables, so I can’t really say much here. But I’m guessing Lindzi isn’t much of a sesquipedalian.

The two hook Devon up to a carriage and begin making their way back to Lindzi’s parents’ place. Initially Ben takes the lead, but when the horse starts trotting in circles, she demands that Ben hand over the whip. I’ve heard that same phrase many times, but never in that setting.

When they arrive, we meet Lindzi’s dad: Harry Cox. Yep. You heard me.

Lindzi’s family actually seems really nice, and it turns out they were married at the same city hall where Ben took Lindzi on their first date. It would probably feel more like kismet if that date hadn’t originally been intended for Sheryl’s grandaughter, whatever her name was, but it’s still a pretty neat coincidence.
There was a chariot race, some pretty cool looking wine glasses and a strange conversation in which Ben said he wasn’t ready to propose but would like her dad’s permission if he ever was ready. I didn’t really follow, and I’m not sure Harry did either. But all in all, I liked this date. 

Grade: B+ (bumped up to an A- when you factor in Lindzi’s cowboy boots. They really “spurred” a reaction in me. Hooray for stupid puns!)

Meet My Father, Elliot Ness

Our next stop takes us to Clarksville, Tennessee. I haven’t exactly kept it a secret that Kacie B. is my favorite, so I was really excited for this date. The Marching Band thing was admittedly a little cheesy, but whatever--she pulls it off. I actually think it’s the first time I’ve ever found marching band sexy. 

(Side note: I’ve decided that upon the birth of my first child, I’m hiring a collegiate drum line to sit in the waiting room so when I bring the baby out they can announce his or her entrance into the world with style. Thank you, Scrubs).

After her performance, Kacie and Ben have a picnic in the bleachers, where she tells him her father doesn’t drink and is a federal probation officer. Ben admits that he’s nervous. I can’t imagine why. He sounds like a barrel of wine fun. 

Basically, as soon as they get to the house things start going downhill. First, Ben give the family a bottle of wine as a gift (cue the cartoon waah waaaaaaah sound). Then, Dad says he won’t give his blessing, and mom says she’d be VERY disappointed if Ben and Kacie moved in together before marriage. It’s almost as if, by walking through the front door, the two were magically transported back in time to Pleasantville. Only, you know, before everything was in color. Or pleasant.

I felt terrible for Kacie, because in my mind she was a frontrunner before this date. But it seems like every year there’s one family that ruins it for someone. This year, that honor goes to the Boguskies. I admire them for staying true to their beliefs, but it seemed to me that Kacie had genuine feelings for Ben, and it sucks that they got in the way of that. As soon as the date was over, I was all but certain she was going home. Sad face.

(Side Note #2: I don’t know whether it’s true that all girls eventually end up looking like their mom, but if it is, Kacie has a very, very bright future. Tinkerbell hair notwithstanding.)

Grade: D. It would’ve been an F, but she’s adorable. 

Ribs and Baked Beans?!? 
Date #3 takes us to Nicki’s hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. Ben tells us that he loves everything about Texas. I’ve never been, so I can’t speak too intelligently on the subject, but I do know this: In Texas, the blind are legally allowed to hunt (at least according to David Sedaris). Michigan too. The only difference is that in Michigan, the blind are required to have a ‘spotter’ (read: person who can see) to assist them. In Texas, they’re allowed to go it alone. Which begs the question, how do they know what they just shot? How do they find their way to the forest? How do they get out? I don’t think I could ever go camping in Texas, in only out of fear that a blind man with a shotgun would mistake me for a deer and blow a hole the size of a softball through my stomach. 

If Kacie’s family ruined her chances, Nicki’s family did the exact opposite. The only word I have to describe them is solid. The brother seemed cool; the parents were down to earth; the whole vibe was awesome. Of course, the thing that really sent it over the top for me was the ribs and baked beans. If I were the Bachelor, I think I’d have proposed right then. What can I say? The way to my heart is truly through my stomach.

Grade: B+ (upgraded to an A-, because of the food)

And Down In Whoville, the Grinches Heart Grew Three Sizes That Day

Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for--Date #4 takes us to Courtney’s hometown of…Scottsdale, Arizona? Hmmm. I guess Scottsdale could be hell. It is really hot. 

I know I’ll probably get some flack for this, but Courtney really grew on me this week. When she started off by talking about how she felt bad for how she treated the other ladies, I wasn’t convinced. But as she began talking about her feelings for Ben, I felt like she was actually being sincere and, amazingly, I found myself smiling through most of their date.

I know. Weird, right? 

Their time with Courtney’s family was entertaining, to say the least. We found out where Courtney’s lip biting comes from; her mom may have overdone it on the tanning bed getting ready to be on the show; and Courtney’s sister looks like a cross between Chantal O. and Chloe Kardashian. But the best part was when her dad dropped this little knowledge bomb on the world:

“Marriage is life’s biggest gamble. Are you ready to take that risk?”

Now, I understand the point he’s making. Marriage is a big commitment, and statistically the success rate is 50% or less. MUCH less if you’re looking only at the success rate of the Bachelor franchise. So yeah, I get it. But come on, Dad…really? Even knowing that the house usually wins, when I get married I want to believe I’m going to beat the odds--that our love is special, and lasting. I DON’T want to look at my future wife as two pair and say ‘eh, why not? I’m feeling lucky.”
After family time, Ben and Courtney head to a local park, where she had planned to surprise him by telling him she loves him during a fake marriage ceremony she’s planned. Ben Stein played the role of officiant (I’d been wondering what he’s up to these days), and she made Ben write his vows right there on the spot. 

I’ll admit, I would have been nervous trying to write my vows in such a short period of time, but Ben pulled it off masterfully. You could tell through his words that he has very genuine feelings for Courtney, and his sincerity left me with a big smile on my face. Hers? Eh…so it was stolen directly from Sex and the City. But hey, it is a GREAT line, and some people have problems putting their feelings into words, so I’ll let it slide. I still liked it.

I KNOW. I don’t know what’s happened to me. I think I’ve been brainwashed.

I originally thought this was going to be my favorite date, just because of the entertainment value I thought Courtney and what I expected to be her dysfunctional family would provide, but it ended up being my favorite because it was actually pretty awesome. Well done.

Grade: A

What the **** just happened?!?

I felt awful for Kacie. Just awful. She was so certain of her feelings for Ben, but I’m not sure his feelings for her ever got too far past friendly affection. Sure, they kissed, but it always seemed to be closed-mouthed (thanks, Ashley Spivey), and I always got the feeling that Ben was two seconds away from slugging her on the arm and calling her ‘kiddo.’ Regardless, Kacie’s going to be just fine. She’s beautiful, sweet, and real. She’s probably had over a hundred marriage proposals since Monday alone.

Well, that’s all for now folks. Sorry my blog was so late this week! I know, I’m a slacker. But next week I’ll be better! Promise. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Enter The Thunderdome

So much has been made of the Courtney saga this season--she dominates every episode; she’s all anyone talks about around the water-cooler the next day; and I’m starting to feel like she’s all I’ve been writing about too. So for this edition of my blog, I’m only going to say one thing I noticed about her and then wash my hands of it until next week:

A lot of people look at Courtney as evil. I don’t think that’s true. Sure, I’m just as guilty of making jokes about her villainous ways as anyone. But deep down, I don’t think she’s a bad person. I think she likes attention, is a good judge of what gets people going (in good ways AND bad), and capitalizes on that to satisfy her desire for the spotlight. But based on what I saw in this week’s episode, I don’t think she’s all that happy with that aspect of herself. 

Let me put it another way. All dogs have this basic desire to please their owners and receive attention from them. It’s innate. If you train them properly and they can find productive outlets through which to receive that recognition, they will be (for the most part) well-behaved. But if they don’t receive the attention they need through behaving, they will act out in order to make you take notice. Maybe it’s chewing your shoes. Maybe it’s peeing on your floor. Regardless, it’s all designed to get a reaction out of you. Often, people will blame the dog, but it’s not usually the dog’s fault. Again, they just want to please. Most of the time, it’s because they don’t know another way to get the attention they want.

When Courtney said in this week’s episode that she’s afraid Ben will lose interest in her because most of the men in her life have done so after a while, it was easy to say ‘well yeah, maybe you shouldn’t give up the goods so quickly,’ and to a degree it’s true. But maybe the more important question is why does she act that way? Why does she intentionally set the other women off? Why does she play to Ben’s libido? Perhaps it’s because it’s the only way she knows how to get attention. Maybe when she was younger she didn’t get the attention she needed through normal interaction, so she developed these tendencies as a way of compensating. In turn, maybe all she needs to change her ways is for someone to appreciate her for who she is and not what she looks like naked.

Of course you can get into the whole chicken vs. the egg argument from there, but it’s something to consider. Maybe she’s not that bad. She’s definitely funny, and I’m sure she has other good qualities as well. Anyway, food for thought. Moving on.

“Let’s See If Our Love Can Survive”
My personal favorite, Kacie B., gets the first date card, making her the only girl to receive a second one-on-one date thus far. I’m happy for her. It was hard to see her in pain as she watched Ben’s relationship grow with other ladies while hers sort-of stagnated after her initial date in Sonoma. It’s also usually a pretty good sign, as it indicates that the lead has a strong interest in you and wants to pursue things further. 

The date card reads ‘let’s see if our love can survive,’ and gives the vague instruction that Kacie should pack three things. Ben arrives to pick her up, and a short helicopter ride later (4!) we find out that the two are set to spend a day together on a deserted island. Kacie says she’s nervous because she and Ben will be all alone. Well, aside from the camera crew. And the sound guys. And a producer or two. But other than THAT, no one.

When they get to the island, they each empty their bags. Kacie brought a Swiss Army Knife (not a bad choice, assuming there are some really small vines to cut or Ben wants to clip his toe nails), some Gummy Bears (perfect for the stranded diabetic), and a stuffed Monkey (wait, what? Unless the monkey’s name is Wilson, I’m not really sure where she’s going with that one). Ben’s bag was a little more practical, containing a machete, a fishing net, and a box of matches. So between the two of them, they might actually be able to survive a night in the wilderness. Well done.

Not that it matters, because by sundown they’re back on the streets of Panama City heading to a quaint little bistro for dinner. It’s here that Kacie decides to reveal that she once had a pretty severe eating disorder that came to a head at a Super Bowl party hosted by her parents. WOW. I was kind of expecting a Super Bowl tie-in since the show aired the night after the same, but that was NOT how I expected it to play out. But it’s endearing that she manages to turn such a negative period in her life into a positive, and Ben appreciates that about her. She gets the rose.

Group Date

Not going to spend a lot of time talking about this one (see earlier comment re: Courtney). What I will say is that while I was VERY pleased to see Lindzi get the rose, I wish we would see more of her from week to week. I feel like she’s had maybe 45 seconds of airtime in the last month. 

The THUNDERDOME Date (thanks, William)

Ever since Will from my season called the two-on-one date the thunderdome date, I can’t get it out of my head. TWO WILL ENTER! ONE WILL LEAVE! I don’t know; it just fits.

Rachel is rightfully a bit nervous, while Blakely seems extremely confident (insert overplayed joke about threesome here). I can see the logic behind both girls’ feelings. I was never big into competing for attention during my season, and as a result I just kind of faded into the background. So I can understand Rachel’s not wanting to have to deal with it, especially knowing that she may very well be going home that night. But I also appreciate Blakely’s view, because I think we should always be appreciative of opportunity when it comes our way, no matter what the obstacles are that come with it. Make the most of every chance, as it were.

The dance portion of the date was pretty boring, to be honest. In my opinion, Blakely may have taken her attempts to be sexy a bit too far--he’s a person, chica, not a pole. But nothing really stood out to me as being too noteworthy.

Dinner is where I think Rachel really separated herself from Blakely and made it apparent that she was the one that should be kept around. During her conversation with Ben, Rachel was very level headed, stating her case without coming across as overly desperate, and making it clear that she understood and sympathized with Ben having to make a tough decision. Blakely, on the other hand, came across as extremely desperate by busting out a scrapbook and having a mini-breakdown over never getting a one-on-one. I don’t have a problem with the scrapbook in theory. For example, I thought it was really sweet when JP did something similar for Ashley. But the difference is they were getting down to the end and some very real feelings had developed, whereas Blakely had only spent limited time with Ben. I don’t know; it just felt very 9th grade to me.

Casey S. 
When Chris first mentioned Casey S’s ex to her, I thought it was going to be another Justin Rego situation, which had me a little angry. But after it came out that Casey was really trying to move on because, although she loved her ex very much, she didn’t think he would ever really commit to her, my point of view changed completely. In a way, I went on the Bachelorette with a similar mindset. Yes, my wife had died almost four years prior, but since then I’d fallen for another girl--my best friend. But for one reason or another things had never quite worked out for us for be more than friends, and I had reached a point where I thought it was time to move on.  So it wasn’t completely like Casey’s situation, but I was still trying to get over someone, and I thought the best way to do that was to put myself back out there. We've all been there at one time or another. Could we both have done that without going on national television? Maybe; but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, the point is--I can definitely relate.

That being said, I’d just like to say this to Casey: you deserve fulfillment, and someone who wants to make you happy just as much as you want to make them happy. If you haven’t already, I’m sure you’ll find it soon. I’m sorry things worked out for you the way they did on the show. Seeing you in pain like that, realizing that for all your best efforts you still weren’t over your ex, broke my heart. But maybe it was for the best because hopefully it gave you some time to reflect and realize what you’re really worth. I wish you nothing but the best going forward.

Rose Ceremony:
Jamie. Good lord, girl. Watching you try to turn Ben on was like watching the first season of the Office, or that scene in Swingers where he leaves like 8 messages on the girl's answering machine. I literally had to pause the show and walk away on not one, not two, but THREE occasions. Brutal. 

That being said, you seem like a very smart, sweet girl, and I applaud you for all you’ve done to take care of your family in a bad situation growing up. I wish you all the best going forward as well.

Well that’s all for now, folks. Apologies for the somewhat serious tone of this week’s blog, but sometimes things just strike a chord and you have to go with it. Hope you all have a great week, and I’ll see you next time.