February 20, 2012
So, wait. We’re just going to jump right into the home visits without any sort of introduction or set up? We’re not going to visit Ben the Wine Dude as he packs his suitcase in a hotel in some random location while an inner monologue blathers on about how “serious” this is and how his dead father would be so proud of him and how he really, honest to God, he means it, he is falling in love? There are no contemplative stares off of balconies — preferably shirtless — as Ben the Wine Dude attempts to look like he is Remembering the Ladies and Taking this Very Seriously, but mostly just conveys constipation? No Ben the Wine Dude at his house going through his four pieces of mail and sipping coffee and dreamily monologing about great it is to be back in the States and how excited he is to meet everyone’s families? No overly-long montages of past dates? Not one single montage? What is this? Is this even The Bachelor? Did I change the channel? Well, I’m not sure that I will be able to follow this if you’re just going to abandon all storytelling and structure, Producers. WHAT IS HAPPENING? WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? WHERE AM I?
In Ocala, Florida, as it turns out. Lindzi and her family of horses are from Florida and not Nebraska, a mistake that I have spent the entire season believing because I had Lindzi the Horse Girl confused with that other girl who wore too much eyeliner and nude lipstick and was “outdoorsy.” Go figure. Lindzi the Horse Girl spends all her time in Florida riding horses and mooning over her ex-boyfriend who dumped her via text: “Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You.” That is still golden, y’all. Ben the Wine Dude arrives at a horse track where Lindzi is, SURPRISE! riding a horse. Lindzi explains that she has an exciting day of horseriding planned for them, which, hooray. To this end, they rig poor Devon the Horse up to a carriage while Lindzi the Horse Girl natters on and on and on about how important horses are to her and how she grew up with so many horses and how she rode a horse before she walked and how every important moment in her life involved horses and how if Ben the Wine Dude is going to be in her life he will be around a lot of horses and oh by the way, horses.
They arrive at a horse picnic where Lindzi the Horse Girl whinnies at Ben the Wine Dude that she is finally feeling vulnerable with him and putting her heart out there. She explains that he is only the second man she has ever introduced to her parents; the first being the man she lived with and believed she would marry. And it is unclear if this guy was Welcome to Dumpsville or not, but I think it speaks volumes about my misanthropy that I kind of hope it was, because that makes “Population: You” even more hilarious/awful/truly hilarious.
Lindzi and Ben the Wine Dude rig poor Devon the Horse back to the carriage and trot over to her parents’ house, which, wait, what? Is this horse track in their backyard? Do they have a backyard horse track? Are we watching Luck? Because, as I pointed out, THANKS TO NO INTRODUCTORY MONTAGES I’m really not sure what we’re watching. Where’s Dustin Hoffman? Instead of Nick Nolte, we meet Harry and Margy and their team of attack Jack Russells, which they unleash on poor Devon the Horse. After the Jack Russells subdue poor Devon the Horse, Harry plies Ben the Wine Dude and Lindzi the Horse Girl with chardonnay, while yelling that he and Margy, they got married in the San Francisco City Hall, the very one where Ben the Wine Dude and Lindzi the Horse Girl were forced to politely listen to a Matt Nathanson after they “broke in.” FATE.
Harry, who has clearly been drinking all afternoon, announces that Ben the Wine Dude has to carriage race him, and worse, so much worse, Ben the Wine Dude must “trash talk” while doing so. Ben the Wine Dude, he sighs heavily because there is not enough chardonnay in the world to make this alright, and poor Devon the Horse he wonders what he did to deserve any of this. They race, Harry and Margy win, poor Devon the Horse is not subjected to the Gregor Clegane special, fortunately for poor Devon the Horse. (If you love horses, or just animals in a general sort of way, do not google “Gregor Clegane horse,” please. And if you do, do not come crying to me, because I warned you.)
Back at the house, Lindzi the Horse Girl has a heart-to-heart with Margy, and I’m sure it’s all about how she is ready to love again after being text-banished to Dumpsville but I can’t listen to anything that is being said because all I want to do is take Lindzi into the bathroom with some Noxema and scrub those nine layers of eyeliner and nude lipstick OFF OF HER FACE. The horses might like that look, Lindzi, but no one else does. While we’re at it, get your hair off of your face, pleaseandthankyou.
Margy then speaks to Ben the Wine Dude alone and explains that she and Harry made horses a big part of Lindzi’s life so as to distract her from boys and proper makeup technique. Ben the Wine Dude, he’s more curious about this guy that Lindzi the Horse Girl lived with previously, Mr. Ed was it? Margy makes some negative noises about the previous boyfriend and how she knew he wasn’t right for Lindzi but what does she know, she’s only been married for 40 years. #humblebrag
Ben the Wine Dude goes to Harry and flat-out tells him that he’s not ready to propose, but Harry’s drunk and he doesn’t care. LET’S TOAST TO BEN THE WINE DUDE AND HIS TERRIBLE HAIR AND HIS BORING FACE AND HIS INABILITY TO RACE CARRIAGES! With that, Lindzi walks Ben the Wine Dude out to the waiting SUV and nickers goodbye. Goodbye, Harry and Margy! Goodbye, attack Jack Russells! Goodbye, chardonnay! Goodbye, Devon the Horse! Be free, Devon the Horse!
Next stop: The Buster Boguskie Stratford High School Football Stadium, Clarksville, Tennessee where a marching band and a baton-twirling Sparkle Pony is awaiting Ben the Wine Dude’s arrival. Sparkle Pony explains that the stadium was named for her grandfather, and then yammers on and on and on about her grandparents and how her grandfather was on the city council and how he owned a sporting goods store and how much her grandparents loved each other and Ben the Wine Dude, his eyes glaze over as he stares out over the empty football field and daydreams about Devon the Horse and glasses and glasses of chardonnay. “O HEY, ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT YOUR GRANDPARENTS? TELL ME MORE ABOUT SPORTING GOODS.”
Sparkle Pony then brings him to the Pony homestead to meet her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Pony. Mr. Pony, he doesn’t drink. Red flag number one. Mr. Pony, he is a probation officer. Red flag number two. Sparkle Pony wants Ben the Wine Dude to not be offended if she does not kiss him in front of her parents. And there it is! Red flag number three! Let’s just load up TrollopAir and fly everyone back to the Bachelor House because we are done here. I am fairly certain we are done.
Instead we press on, and have a stiff, alcohol-free dinner where Mr. and Mrs. Pony wish this long-haired California hippie weirdo OUT OF THEIR HOUSE as loudly as they possibly can, and Ben the Wine Dude, he can hear them. We all can.
Sparkle Pony takes Sister Pony into another room and gently informs her that her one-sleeved dress with that giant belt is an embarrassment to the entire Pony family calls Ben the Wine Dude her “future husband” before whining about how skeptical the Ponys are being and how she is doing something for herself for a change and Mr. and Mrs. Pony, they are just going to have to accept it. Sister Pony makes serious faces.
Ben the Wine Dude sits down with Mr. Pony who manages to contain his seething rage, but just barely. Mr. Pony, he does not approve of this Bachelor nonsense. He does not approve of his daughter dating a reality show gigolo, he does not approve of his daughter being in some kind of a harem like she were a veiled belly-dancing whore in a desert tent somewhere, he does not approve of the values OR LACK THEREOF this whole charade promotes, he does not approve of Ben the Wine Dude’s wine job, he does not approve of Ben the Wine Dude’s hair. Mr. Pony does not approve, and he would rather Ben the Wine Dude just go on ahead and break up with his daughter now, if he would be so kind as to oblige. Ben the Wine Dude, he senses that Mr. Pony does not like him.
Mr. Pony is my new hero.
Mrs. Pony, she is no easier a nut to crack, and though she may look as young as her daughters and is working that whole Sarah Palin MILF thing, she is not down with the newfangled California lifestyles with the living together and the sin. If Ben the Wine Dude is to choose Sparkle Pony, Mrs. Pony will not approve the two of them “shacking up” as the kids call it these days. Ben the Wine Dude tightens his mouth and fantasizes about the hotel minibar.
Mr. Pony takes his daughter aside to discuss this long-haired doofus and to make sure she understands that marriage to a California wine-making weirdo, or HEAVEN FORBID, moving in with a California wine-making weirdo, this is not acceptable. And if Ben the Wine Dude were to ask his permission to marry Sparkle Pony, Mr. Pony would not give it. Sparkle Pony feels like her parents are not trusting her judgment, and she’s right! They are not! Nor should they! Disapprove away, Mr. and Mrs. Pony! You are the only sensible ones here!
And with that, Ben the Wine Dude flees the Pony home and into the safety of the waiting SUV to go back to the bar at the Holiday Inn and drink and drink and drink. And drink some more. Mr. Pony neither flashes a gun or mutters, “Get your patchouli stink outta here, you sandal-wearing hippie!” But he thought about it. You know he thought about it.
Oh boy, Texas. Let’s see how many clichés we can cram into Ben the Wine Dude’s first five minutes in our proud state: Texas flag, cowboys on horses, the stockyards, longhorn cattle, plonky country music, Texas Nicki taking Ben the Wine Dude for a boot fitting, cowboy boots, cowboy boots, cowboy boots, clichés about boots and relationships and the “right fit,” cowboy hats, sequins, snap button shirt, belt buckles, people yee-hawing on the street, a saloon. WELL DONE, BACHELOR! THAT WAS A LOT OF CLICHÉS TO PACK INTO FIVE MINUTES!
Having picked out some boots and a cowboy hat, Texas Nicki blathers on and on about her previous marriage and her skeptical parents and how they are going to have questions for Ben the Wine Dude. Ben the Wine Dude is like, just answer me this, will there be booze? Because I can take it if there is booze.
Texas Nicki brings Ben the Wine Dude in his cowboy drag to her mother Nora’s house? (It’s unclear whose house this is since her parents are divorced, but I suppose it doesn’t matter, and I shouldn’t get hung up on things like this BUT I DO.) Her father Doug eyes Ben the Wine Dude’s hand on his daughter’s leg disapprovingly, but he’s no Mr. Pony and manages to not radiate his urge to punch Ben the Wine Dude square in his boring face.
Nora, on the other hand, immediately announces that she likes Ben the Wine Dude, and takes Texas Nicki into a bedroom to have a chat about how “special” and “cherished” Ben the Wine Dude makes Texas Nicki feel. DO NOT ENCOURAGE HER, NORA.
Texas Nicki then chats privately with her father, Doug, who worries that she might get hurt again. I am with Doug for most of this, until he starts going on and on about how he gave Texas Nicki’s hand in marriage too soon, and that somehow her divorce is his fault for not asking her ex-husband enough questions or something, and, excuse me, NO. NO, SIR. Texas Nicki is a GROWN WOMAN capable of MAKING HER OWN DECISIONS and RUINING HER OWN MARRIAGE. GAH. And not to get all personal up in here, but I am totally getting all personal up in here: while I am the type of woman who would never marry a man who asked my father’s permission to marry me BECAUSE IT’S NOT MY FATHER’S PERMISSION TO GIVE, I understand to a lot of people that this is a sign of familial approval and respect and tradition and YADDA YADDA PATRIARCHAL NONSENSE YADDA. But once a person is married, they are the only one who can mess it up! The child’s marriage is not the parent’s responsibility! Forgive yourself, Doug! There was nothing you could have done! It’s not your fault!
At dinner, Doug toasts Texas Nicki and Ben the Wine Dude and graciously gives his support and love and goes on about what a great guy Ben the Wine Dude is. I want to give Doug Mr. Pony’s phone number so the two can have a little chat.
After dinner, Texas Nicki takes Ben the Wine Dude aside and tells him that she loves him and Ben the Wine Dude just nods stupidly before kissing her goodbye. So long, pardner! /Texas clichés
Finally, Scottsdale, Arizona. But first let me go out of my way to congratulate The Bachelor producers for finally hiring a travel agent who has a map of the United States in their office. Well done, transporting Ben the Wine Dude in a completely sensical westwardly fashion this time around, rather than crisscrossing him over the country in some sort of experiment in jetlag! You do your job well, New Travel Agent!
Anyway, Scottsdale, Arizona, the Viper’s Pit. Courtney the Villainess is happy to be away from the other girls, and has had some time to reflect on how terrible she is, because she is very terrible! Courtney goes on about her trust issues for a while and how badly she wants to win just to show those other tramps Ben the Wine Dude is worth fighting for. Ben the Wine Dude arrives, flowers in hand, which, what? No one else got flowers, BEN. He yammers about how Courtney the Villainess, she’s different because he had some sort of “moment of clarity” on top of the Mayan temple in Belize because he is a WALKING CLICHÉ WITH A BAD HAIRCUT. Moment of clarity. Ugh, this guy.
Anyway, he heads inside Courtney’s house and meets SweaterVest Rick and Sherry and Courtney’s less-attractive sister, Rachel. They have what appears to be lunch out on the patio and Courtney announces that she “like loves him,” causing Sherry to clutch her pearls and Rachel to roll her eyes into the back of her head, because COME ON. The sisters head inside and giggle but I’m distracted by what looks like a magazine ad that is taped on the wall behind them, and trying to figure out if it is Courtney or not, because it doesn’t really look like her. But then why would SweaterVest Rick and Sherry hang up a picture of some other brunette model? MYSTERY.
SwaeterVest Rick gives Ben the Wine Dude some weird gambling-related relationship advice and now I am fully convinced that we are, in fact, watching Luck. Luck takes a turn for the supercreepy as SweaterVest Rick gets overeager with Ben the Wine Dude, basically demanding that Ben the Wine Dude impregnate his daughter immediately. TONE IT DOWN, SWEATERVEST.
Sherry, however, is our resident skeptic, who grits her overly white teeth and coos at Courtney almost-convincing noises about how much she likes Ben the Wine Dude.
As Ben the Wine Dude and Courtney say goodbye to her family, Courtney the Villainess tells the cameras that she hasn’t told Ben the Wine Dude that she loves him yet, and she is SOOO NERVOUS to tell him. Except for the part where she blurted it out in front of Ben the Wine Dude and her entire family at lunch. I can see why she’d be so scared to tell him, AGAIN.
Courtney the Villainess and Ben the Wine Dude head out for a picnic because they just ate lunch, so that makes perfect sense. There, Courtney hisses about her previous relationships and betrayals and how vulnerable she feels while Ben the Wine Dude stares, hypnotized. Courtney then explains that she did her first photo shoot here in this park, and that at the time there was a wedding taking place. In fact, she could see herself getting married here … WHY, is that a wedding being set up right over there? Courtney explains to the cameras that she thought the best way to tell Ben the Wine Dude that she loves him, besides blurting it out over lunch on her back patio with her family, duh, was to arrange a fake wedding, force him to write fake wedding vows and read them in front of a fake minister.
And this craziness? This “RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, BEN THE WINE DUDE! SHE IS CRAZY AND I BET THERE IS ROPE AND DUCT TAPE AND ASTRONAUT DIAPERS IN HER CAR TRUNK RIGHT NOW” moment? It happens! HE DOES THIS. Courtney the Villainess, she pulls out notepads and pens and a bowtie and she makes him write his vows to her as if they are actually getting married and WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? In front of a “minister,” Ben the Wine Dude reads his vows, some generic nonsense about her being a nice girl or something, and Courtney reads hers about how she is totally ready to marry him right here, right now, and that she is in love with him. They then exchange rings, are not pronounced man and wife and kiss and Ben the Wine Dude announces that the whole thing was “romantic” and not OH MY GOD SHE IS GOING TO MURDER ME, ISN’T SHE? crazy. Because, Kaa’d.
Back at the Bachelor house, we finally get our overly long montage sequence as Chris Harrison and Ben the Wine Dude sit down and remind us of the dates that we just saw 45 minutes ago. You know, in case we had forgotten them. Thanks, guys! I’d forgotten that Lindzi was “vulnerable” and that Mr. Pony hated Ben the Wine Dude and his hippie hair and that Texas Nicki got divorced and that Courtney is certifiable! Thanks for the reminder!
Ben the Wine Dude visits the Glamour Shot Alcove of Contemplation while jabbering about having the confidence that he will make the right decision. Well, let’s see if he’s right!
Rose #1: Courtney the Villainess
Rose #2: Lindzi the Horse Girl
Rose #3: Texas Nicki
SPARKLE PONY!!!!!! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
Sparkle Pony, don’t cry. Don’t crumple your sparkly face. Don’t let your voice get all squeaky and wail about how he doesn’t want you or ask why you’re not good enough for him or scream into the universe, demanding to know what just happened. Don’t do these things. Just remember, you will always have your baton. NOT LIKE THAT, YOU PERVERTS.
As for the rest of you ladies, pack your ski boots and bikinis, you’re going to Switzerland.
The Bachelor airs on ABC Mondays at 7 p.m.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com.