RECAP: A Bachelor's Nights Of Wine And Roses

With introductions out of the way, we moved into the meat of the Bachelor season on Monday night. But I am alone in finding things a little … slow to this point?

Ben Flajnik still seems loose and funny – except for those times when it seems he reminds himself that he’s in a television show that’s supposed to be a serious search for love. He’s coming across as being something less than deeply emotionally invested in this. And as for the women, the in-house drama is badly lacking, despite the attempt to turn “VIP cocktail waitress” and self-aware camera hog Blakeley into a Villain for the Ages.

We saw something a little different this week, which was a trip en masse to Ben’s home base of Sonoma County. With 18 women to juggle, it’s not surprising that most appeared virtually ignored all night, by both the camera and the Bachelor (nurse/surrogate mom Jamie, who was a big part of the premiere, was only seen this week accepting her rose at the end). But the early solo dates give further indication of who is seriously on Ben’s radar early, and it wasn’t surprising that both of them went to women that we met at some length last week.

First up was Kacie (who Ben called Kacie B. since there’s also a “Casey”), the sweet young thing from Tennessee. She seems perfectly pleasant and attractive, but perhaps not the sort of woman one falls head over heels for in the space of a few hours. I’m sensing Ben feels the same way, as he said he chose Kacie because “she’s a really genuine woman.” Yawn. He also said “there’s something I want to show Kacie that’s extremely personal,” but no, this would not be the skinny-dipping date; that’s still in our future. He drove her to the town square of Sonoma, where the pair shared a quiet dinner.

Watching them at dinner, I never really got the feeling Ben was that enamored of Kacie. When she dropped the “bombshell” that she has a deep dark past as a baton twirler, he looked like he was going to need a baton to hold his eyelids apart. But the capper to the night was a visit to a theater where home movies of both Ben’s and Kacie’s childhood were exhibited on the big screen. Ben was predictably emotional upon seeing and hearing his father again, and Kacie got a rose. I don’t think anyone has ever not gotten a rose on the very first date of the season, so all in all there wasn’t much here to lead me to expect an optimistic future for Kacie.

Next up was the group date: 12 women and one overwhelmed Bachelor. These early group dates are always hilariously competitive, but the ladies had to be on their best behavior because they were being vetted by children, who were casting for a local stage production called Prince Pinot of Bachelorville. Ben would be playing (I think – like Beckett, this was a little hard to follow) the prince, a sheep, and then a naked sheep; while the women had roles as a weasel, a dragon, a hippie, a donkey, etc. Part of the test here was seeing how the bachelorettes would react to being asked to do embarrassing things on the stage.

Blakeley was a bit player in the premiere, but we started seeing a lot of her in this segment. Not realizing kids would be a part of this date, she showed up in a tight outfit that pushed her breasts up and out to a comical extent. One of the little girls evaluating the talent described Blakeley thus: “That girl with the …  (puts hands a good foot in front of her chest, the international symbol for ‘stacked’) uh, the like … I wasn’t a fan of her.” The play was predictably goofy, but Ben exhibited more personality here than he did at any other phase of the evening, which I guess says a lot about who he has to choose from. Still not sure why kids were putting on a play about a naked sheep.

The pool party gave us another production: a morality play. On one side was Jennifer, the demure redhead who everyone agreed totally nailed the performance. On the other was femme fatale Blakeley, who wanted that date rose and wasn’t shy about warning people. It’s a concern, if not a surprise, that this is the second straight Bachelor season where the oldest woman in the cast has been portrayed as inappropriately desperate. Samantha sneered that the 34-year-old Blakeley was “such a cougar,” as if the few years separating her and Ben makes her Mrs. Robinson. Bottom line is that while Jennifer got her kiss from Ben (who doesn’t seem to have many hesitations in that area, based on this week), his smooch from Blakeley was altogether more memorable. Blakeley ended up getting the rose based on Ben’s opinion that she “owned the day and the night.” Let’s keep this in mind about our boy: he’s going to be the hormones-first type all season long.

This might bode well for Courtney, who is probably the most conventionally “hot” woman in the cast, and was the recipient of the second solo date. Courtney is enough of a model-actress to realize that there’s a future in this franchise for anyone willing to play the bitch – but she’s also canny enough to know that if you restrict your catty moments to down times with the women or your interview segments, the Bachelor never needs to find out.

There wasn’t much to their date: a stroll through the redwoods to a picnic by a lake, and then a dinner in a vineyard (you knew we were going to see grapes on this night).  Ben was presumably looking to see how Courtney reacted to the presence of his dog Scotch, and she passed that test. Ben talks about having been a party animal after college, only getting serious about life after The Bachelorette (um, OK). He was curious about why Courtney was still single, and she responded vaguely about not being satisfied with the caliber of guy she’s met in Hollywood.  This was all pretty boring, and I say this as someone who watched every conversation Brad and Emily ever had on this show. But Ben looked completely smitten with Courtney in a way he never once appeared with the less “sexy” Kacie. She got a rose, and if she doesn’t make it at least to Fantasy Suite night, I’m a naked sheep.

At the climactic cocktail party, Ben wanted to make a point of checking in with the four women who didn’t go on dates this week, headlined by First Impression Rose winner Lindzi. But Blakeley insisted on stealing the show here too, even though she was already safe. She interrupted Samantha, who was already coming across as the most anti-Blakeley of the women, while she was trying to converse with the Bachelor. Samantha then led a group trashing of the “cougar” that Blakeley overheard, which prompted her to retreat to a corner of the bedroom until Ben appeared (sigh) to ask her what was wrong. Like every man in this show’s history, he professed to be shocked by how emotional everyone was getting.

We still needed to check in with Jenna, the cray-cray blogger who was the comic highlight of the premiere. Jenna had been on the group date, but knew she needed to do something to overcome her weak first impression. Mission not really accomplished! Her face time began when she tossed a blanket on top of a lit candle, and her talk with Ben featured this attempt to explain how she behaved last week: “I feel like I’m a guy in how I act, and so like, being around girls all the time, this is very abnormal for me … I might appear as if I am not … there’s only you,  it’s like, waiting around for you, and it’s totally worth it, but I just – I’m not like a girl, if that makes any sense.” Oh, sure. What could Ben say to this but “I appreciate that;” and what could Jenna do, after telling the Bachelor that she’s not a girl, but go to bed and cry some more.

I felt certain that even after this display, there was no way Ben could let Jenna go this early. There are only a few of these women who have exhibited any personality at all, and she’s one of them. But no: Jenna and the single mom Shawn were the unlucky rose-less this week. Shawn got an intro segment a week ago, but I don’t think she said a word Monday and didn’t even get a Limo of Rejection comment, since Jenna got all the facetime and teartime. Samuel Morse couldn’t have telegraphed her departure any more blatantly, but she still professed to be stunned: “I feel sick. These girls distracted him! Oh my God! Are you kidding me? Really, are you kidding me? I can’t believe this is happening! I’m mortified!” Well, I’m sure her blog is doing well now, so she has that.

Curiously, with the departure of Jenna and Shawn, only five of the nine women who had their own segments last week are still around: Courtney, Jamie, Lindzi, Nicki, and Kacie. It’s looking like that’s our final five.

Next week: everyone heads to San Francisco. That city is overdue for “the big one;” this would seem to be the ideal time.