Nothing is more emblematic of the tried and true Bachelorette formula than the moment at the beginning of Episode 4 when Chris Harrison confronts the Gentlemen and announces that, wait for it, they will be leaving the mansion. What??? Jaws drop. Eyes go wide. Dudes faint. You mean the Journey to find love continues in some exotic locale? You have got to be f—ing kidding me, Harrison! This has never happened before. We’re all incredulous. Yes, our host reveals, we will be heading to Phuket, Thailand. “Wheels up” in two hours.
|“Goose. Iceman. Final Rose Tonight.”|
Cut to Ashley, riding the rocky Phuket-ian waters and walking the idyllic Phuket-ian beaches. She’s thinking. We know this because we can hear her thoughts, in voice-over. And you may find this difficult to believe, but she is thinking about Bentley. Their whirlwind, several hour-long romance, marked by three or four conversations during which he mumbled noncommital and often incoherent sweet nothings while massaging Ashley’s scalp, left an indelible mark on her heart. He’s unforgettable. She hopes she can dig out of this dark hole. How will she do it?
I have three syllables for you, Ash: Con. Stan. Tine. Yes, after our heroine “plans” her Phuket dates with a nice Thai lady named Annie, to the forefront steps Constantine, the…hang on….checking my notes from the season premiere…ah, here it is…the restaurant owner who gave Ashley a pink dental floss bracelet when he stepped out of the limousine, for the first one-on-one date of the evening. If you were wondering why we haven’t heard Constantine utter more than a word or two since that initial meeting, wonder no longer. I’ll explain in a minute. But first, Contantine must face a test that’s challenged many a Gentleman in seasons past: the date rain-out. When you’re scheduled to go out on a sailboat, but then the native fisherman comes over tells you it might not be a good idea on account of the weather. Con – may I call you Con? – go to the Bachelorette playbook, man! Your forefathers established that at times like this, you a) immediately say you wouldn’t have it any other way; b) frolic in the rain; and c) move in for the kiss.
What does Con do? Whither Ames? Read on, if you dare…
Con does none of these things. Instead, he walks Ashley into town – where she pronounces everything she sees, including but not limited to impoverished children and mongrels, “cute” – and he says to her, appropos of nothing, “You know what helps a lot at times like these? Locals.” Next thing you know, an elderly Thai gentleman is telling them about his marriage. You see what Con did there? He did go to the playbook, but he skipped directly to the part where you seek out a wise old man to give you advice on love. Well played.
|“Only thing that would make this better is more destitute locals to stare at.”|
“Honestly, you have to have strength,” Ashley says later as she dines with noble Constantine on a bed next to the Phuket-side sea. “Because not everyone likes me and wants to be with me.” At which point Constantine says to himself, in voiceover, “I’m able to separate the excitement of the day from the excitement of the situation.” Excellent. Now bring it home. Tell her what she needs to hear. “I’m literally having a good time,” he says. Bang, he gets a rose. Suddenly, thanks to Constantine, a hopeless Ashley is feeling hopeful again. That, as Ashley explains to us, is what you call “chemistry.”
Meanwhile, the other Gentlemen prepare for the Group Date. Blake the Dentist marvels at the nature of the whole Journey, where everyone is “going after the same piece of fruit.”* But far from pursuing Ashley, these Gentlemen spend the next, I don’t know, it felt like 7 hours, painting and generally rehabilitating an orphanage damaged by the tsunami. J.P. notes that the Bachelorette is “so selfless” to forego a more traditional date to be here. You’re right J.P. Ashley really pulled out all the stops to make this happen. Ryan, AKA Apollo, works feverishly to bring joy back to the orphans, annoying all of the other Gentleman in the process. Ashley kisses Ben F. and J.P. in rapid succession, while thinking about orphans. Apollo steals Ashley from the group, further enraging the other Gentlemen, and reminds her, with what is beginning to sound like some measure of desperation, that they have a Connection. Ben F. gets the date rose, and everyone jumps in the pool.
All of which brings us to Ames. Ames, participant in 39 triathalons. Ames, traveler of 70 countries. Ames, the only Bachelorette contestant ever to follow the word “Wow” with the word “indeed.” This guy has been flying below the radar, but no longer. Ames is to conversations what Ashley is to inexplicably emotional breakdowns on national television: he’s more than capable of having them. If only Ashley could respond in kind. Upon hearing Ames’s tale of a spontaneous trip to cooking school in Thailand, our heroine replies, “You’re cracking me up right now.” Yes, Ames really snuck up on Ashley. His immense forehead and Nazi-like attire aside, she never saw him coming. She loves their ride through the Phuket caves, she loves his intelligence, and when he says something profound, she says, “I agree with that, but what are you, like, looking for in a woman?” And Ames, bless him, can actually articulate an answer. The date rose is a foregone conclusion, but Ames’s instincts fail him when it’s time to move in for the kiss. The encounter ends with this awkward sendoff from Ashley: “All right, Ames. Yaaaaay.” Yay, indeed.
Back at the Phuket hotel, Ashley looks to tie up some loose ends. Obviously, a series of three-minute conversations are what she needs to determine if she could potentially ever get hurt again. First up, alleged murderer West**. Ashley is “really scared to open myself up to a guy that could become another Bentley.” Um, how about another West? I mean, you could get hurt again, or you could get hurt again. Just saying. Of course, West only ends up having to try to persuade Ashley that she’s not in a competition with his late wife. Next up, Lucas. He is forced to persuade Ashley that she’s not in a competition with his ex-wife. Lucas seems to fair pretty well at this, on account of the fact that he has a southern accent, and he also points out that “I’m not the kind of guy that gives up on anything. Ever.”***
As Ashley seeks reassurance, Ryan endures a full frontal assault by Blake, who pointedly questions his reasons for being so happy all the time. In essence, Apollo is asked, why do you need to shine so bright? Ryan is outraged. Why the hell shouldn’t he be happy? “Think about the soldiers,” he says, his irritation growing. “How can you not be so stoked to be here?” By the time Ashley herself asks him what’s up with the Mr. Sunshine routine, Apollo is showing the first signs that he may crack. “I’m bursting with a lot of love in my chest,” he barks.
|Never trust a man who says “stoked.”|
Finally, it’s time for the Harrison pre-ceremony sit-down. Ashley reveals that the “dot, dot, dot” thing with Bentley is still there. She can’t shake that damn ellipsis. And then the Bachelorette says two things that, taken together, tell you everything you need to know: 1) She can definitely see 11 out of the 12 remaining Gentlemen as her husband, so she would prefer to only send one person home; and 2) She has no idea who she should send home. This makes almost as much sense as purposely breaking a woman’s heart in order to promote your Family Fun Center. Ultimately, it’s West who gets the boot. We’ll miss you, gentle alleged killer. Until next week then, when previews suggest Bentley will rear his shaggy head in Thailand. I hope he brings Cozy.
* If Ashley were a piece of fruit, what kind of fruit would she be? A lemon?
*** Except his first marriage.