Disclaimer: with many friends and some family in Northeast Ohio, all jokes about Cleveland, its weather, its people, its cityscape and its football team – especially its weather – are delivered in with all due appreciation and affection for a frequently unfairly maligned and even more frequently misunderstood place. On the other hand, when the roads are like minefields year-round and February temperatures flatline at 10 deg with an icy cold wind off the lake for an entire month the city is deserving of some good-natured opprobrium. And mocking the hapless football team would be like bringing sand to the beach.
Deandra delivers the daily Mental State Of The Bachelor address before a joint session of, er, cameramen and sound technicians. It seems this duty falls to a different female each week and for some it’s the only camera time the poor dears are granted. Deandra sounds level-headed and observant, prompting the question: what the hell is she doing here? She speaks of the previous night’s activities ‘bleeding’ into others and into today. Thanks to her for unknowingly extending the metaphor of long knives, most of them wielded by Sydney (Sadney?) who has learned to juggle them in order to carry her wine glass as well.
Good old Chris is hard at it trying to apply a coat of shiny new paint to the still-smoking train wreck of this season. A roomful of girls who were sold on Making A Connection™, Finding Love™ and My Wife Is In This Room™ instead express their anxiety and Chris offers the cold comfort of with ‘I don’t want you to think Peter’s giving up on this.’ Morale remains low despite the pep talk.
But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East and Juliet Ohio is the sun! Conductor, cue the staccato strings! Signal the tubular bells to be rung! They’re going to…where? Mexico? Argentina? Bora Bora? Bakersfield? Nothing so predictable or cliched, ladies. You’re going to – it’s hard to get the words out – Cleveland! For anyone unclear on the definition of ‘nonplussed’ (a great word by the way) you need only look at the girls' faces. They’re waiting on a punchline that never comes. A beat passes, then two. Hello? Is this mic on? A somewhat less-than-giddy reaction finally comes. They have one hour to pack. Do they need a passport? How about snow boots and parkas – two items they likely didn’t bring?
Deandra, still sensible, declares that Ohio and romance aren’t often found in the same sentence. She’s right, you know, unless you’re an Allstate agent from Van Wert watching the Buckeyes on a Saturday. Savannah, you’ve got a cheek mocking Cleveland when you hail from Houston, which is one large oil depot surrounded by hurricane fencing, barbed wire and gravel roads. Hell even Gilley’s was torched long ago.
Like patient filmmakers painstakingly waiting for sea turtle eggs to hatch in the middle of the night to capture the miracle of nature, an advance video crew have been sent to Cleveland and instructed to wait for a clear sunny day. After keeping a vigil for six long months, a freak upper atmospheric pattern never before observed in the region allows the sun to peek through for 15 minutes. Residents puzzle over the strange ball of fire in the sky. The crew springs into action, getting beauty shots of, uh, the Cuyahoga River and a rusty railroad drawbridge. Meanwhile, the first-unit video crew are with Peter in the Flats – and he’s leaning on a railing! Drink! Apparently all railings shown onscreen have magnetic properties that cause the leaner’s brows to knit together, making the individual appear deep in thought.
The girls do their level best to praise the city and pose on its landmark(s). Obligatory jumping on hotel bed follows. It may be the first and only time the empty football stadium and murky Lake Erie have been described as ‘beautiful.’ Suitcase Kiarra speaks of seeing her boyfriend. Who would that be then? Do the others know about him?
Score a point for your humble scribe who predicted (without benefit of spoilers) that Victoria F would get a single date, putting her dark horse credentials into serious doubt. She’s worried it will be a skydiving date but when the choices for landing spots are the open waters of one of the Great Lakes or possibly downtown Akron she needn’t fret.
Vic F has worn her best bandanna tied off at the waist – a meager amount of material means the shy (*ahem*) Vic has plenty of cleavage on display and don’t think our vision-tested pilot doesn’t notice. Brenda Lee's title of Little Miss Dynamite has been appropriated by Victoria F who also does the catch-in-the-voice thing. Pete loves his flying but even he may notice that the producers are taking the mickey in getting his services for free. Either that or only pilots – or possibly astronauts - may be eligible to become The Bachelor in future. Quarterbacks and racing drivers are SO last decade. A flight from the lakefront to Sandusky might take all of 10 minutes. Viewers may note that the gray cap (to use Scott Turow’s phrase) has descended on the region again and that it’s been raining at Cedar Point. Vic has her act very well-rehearsed, frequently covering her face and batting her obsidian eyes. We’re calling him Petting Zoo Pete on this date because she’s got him absolutely eating out of her hand.
Despite the park being closed, a gaggle of females with mobile phones surgically attached to their hands have been bused in. An equal number of lawyers have their own bus where they force the fans to sign non-disclosure agreements and prevent any photos from being posted on social media. Someone named Chase Rice (me neither) has been booked to perform. Chase is a lanky bloke who nevertheless opts for what we in the biz call a parlor guitar which looks like a toy in his hands. Not since Tiny Tim and his ukulele has there been such a size mismatch between player and instrument. In a cosmic coincidence, Chase is the ex-boyfriend of Vic – or this is a carefully-planned stitch-up. Bet on the latter.
Chase gamely plays his part but his green eyes are made greener with envy. Green is also the color of the bass played by his sideman who sports a mohawk. The band serves up the appalling but familiar mishmash of boyband melody, hip-hop cadence and put-on twangy accent that is bewilderingly still referred to as country music when it’s about as country as Central Park. Petting Zoo Pete is oblivious as to how and why Vic knows all the lyrics – it ain’t from Googling them.
And what lyrics they are. We’ve descended from the iconic:
I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die
to this insipid banal doggerel:
It could be AM, PM/It could be middle of the week or the weekend
It might be time to buy a Chase Rice album so we can hear all about his trip to the supermarket to buy a gallon of milk.
The gamine Victoria continues to economize on clothing with a pink dress covering only her top half. Peter, who is understandably conditioned to think that the world’s female population is infatuated with him, is gobsmacked to hear he’s got competition and that his rival just played a gig in front of him while he frugged away in the dark. A good rule of Bachelor thumb is if she walks away from the table she will be pursued, comforted and given a rose. If she stays it’s 50/50. So keep the shoes on, girls!
A brief interlude for the group date announcement includes Madison’s hope that there won’t be drama among the big group tomorrow. Has she been sleeping through her own Bachelor season?
Vic has Pete sit up, beg, roll over and speak – all in the confines of a darkened utility room. Not since Kubrick filmed Barry Lyndon strictly by candle have we had such extended scenes in such low light. A random cellist in a suit is playing on the sidewalk. Who said Cleveland wasn’t classy? Most cities just have bums in fatigue coats beating mindlessly on five-gallon buckets for tips. So there.
Next day, the football date is overseen by Hanford Dixon. The Bach and the girls are probably not up on their NFL history but Dixon is the very individual who coined the term Dawgs and gave rise to the Dawg Pound and in turn to an entire fan subculture and a brand identity that a thousand marketing agencies working for a thousand years couldn’t devise. When you’re the Browns there is a kind of sad urgency about finding a more interesting nickname to replace the less-interesting nickname of Browns.
Speaking of the Browns, they’re in the Browns’ stadium with the Browns’ colors all round, working with ex-Browns players. ABC/ESPN have rights to NFL games including the Browns' own. Why, then, are all the Browns’ logos blurred out – even those on clothing? Either that is some insanely strict and/or expensive licensing or the legal department are just paranoid.
The football-firing device is known as a Jugs Gun. Insert anatomical Bachelorette joke here. 40-watt bulb Victoria P declares she will be on injured reserve for this game – which conveniently puts her full-time on the sideline alongside Peter. Maybe she isn’t that dim after all. Just kidding.
The evening date begins with a shark swimming amongst a school of fish. Also, there’s an aquarium in the building. They aren’t remoras in that tank but Pete has his own suckerfish attached to him in the form of Victoria P who desperately continues spinning her fantasy by talking about her kids playing football. We kid ol’ Pete and the other Bachelors but if he opts for Vic P and her Crayola-sized box of 64 different neuroses he will get exactly what he deserves. Sin in haste, repent at leisure and all that.
Penance arrives unexpectedly in the form of Alayah. Who just happens to be in…Cleveland? Any debate about of who-goes-next is cut off immediately. Between Vic F’s chequered past and Alayah’s sudden reappearance any rational person might start to suspect producer high jinks. But Pete’s head is spinning like a Cessna prop and he has no time for contemplation.
Vic is SPRUNG and the sights and sounds are delightful. The voice breaking. The sniffling. The pleas for sympathy. Peter, finally fed up, says to hell with that. Let’s have a cage match. Alayah is the clear money line favorite – biker jacket trumps spaghetti-strap cocktail dress. Vic repeats the phrase ‘my truth’ – which, of course, means no truth at all. Alayah displays remarkable self-control by not biting Vic’s finger off. She can wipe her own tears, thanks. Alayah has played this like an old pro. When Peter inevitably offers her a place in the harem again it’s all she can do not to grin like a jack o’lantern. Instead, she offers a demure downcast look. Victory achieved. With high heel now squarely on throat, she wants some concessions: her record expunged and future blanket exemption from The Drama™. The vast roomful of bored Bachelorettes are now a vast roomful of glum ones. Alayah has parachuted in and taken their rose. Victoria involuntarily shakes her head as she watches her plan and her man sublimate from solid to wisps of vapor all in the course of an evening. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh.
And yes, that’s Alayah actually smelling the rose as she delivers a Sanctioned Spoiler and reveals the Victoria F/Chase Rice news which she knows will spread rapidly throughout the hotel suite. Symbolism anyone? Apparently drama cards are just fine with Alayah as long as she’s dealing. A sly one to be sure. Alayah’s pageant personal statement is: ‘If you’re going to play the game make sure you win.’ OK, I made that part up. But I’m probably not wrong.
Duty compels the chronicling of the Kelsey date even if she’s dull as ditchwater. They walk past Cleveland’s Fountain Of Eternal Life – in this context it refers to the never-ending cattiness among the girls and to Peter’s inability to see through the fog of negative emotions that surround his season. Cut to a tandem railing shot! Drink! Actually, do two shots because we’re going to get another tearjerker – this time from Kelsey who is a child of divorce, which means she is one of approximately 30 million persons in the same predicament. Quite rare then. Alarmingly, she claims ‘a lot of [her] character traits come from [her] parents’ divorce.’ Uh oh, that doesn’t sound promising to Pete. It wasn’t fun for most of us either, Kels, but we got on with it.
Peter is now convinced that The Mistake By The Lake refers not to Cleveland, OH but to his decision to take this band of grumpy mopes and misfits on the road. Anywhere. They would probably pout at a party on the beach pavilion at Papeete. The wind on the river must be quite brisk as Pete cries tears that magically evaporate seconds later. A rose is offered – perhaps because he fears being chucked into the frigid Cuyahoga by an enraged Kelsey. And then they’re back to the railing! Drink! Oh wait the bottle’s empty. It's been a long night.
Fireworks are launched from the shore. Baffled locals reach for the calendar. Is it July 4? It’s only 40 degrees out there. ‘That doesn’t mean much to us’ reply the locals. Fair one.
Victoria F has cast the unconvincing shrinking violet routine aside to angrily confront Alayah about the Life & Times Of Chase Rice. ‘You’re fake and I’m not!’ shouts Vic, who conveniently forgets that just yesterday she managed to fake her way through an entire concert performed by her recent ex-boyfriend while dancing with her prospective new boyfriend without telling him. Oh yes – she is genuine. Emphasis on wine.
The episode is bookended by still-sensible Deandra who delivers a lecture on being underrecognized. We’re not sure what that word means but she’s got the hump so we’re staying out of the way. The perpetually angry Mykenna juts her jaw and nods along as she envisions punting Peter in his privates as punishment.
Lord deliver us as we flee another tantrum from Victoria P. Hey that rhymes! And it’s a hell of lot better than It could be AM, PM/It could be middle of the week or the weekend.
The brushing-hair-from-face moves are getting very tiresome as are the quivering voice and tears. ‘You wanna take a seat?’ asks Peter. ‘I can’t sit,’ says Vic, who promptly sits down. One suspects that Vic is one of those people who writes her banking password on a Post-It Note attached to her monitor. Vic’s been vulnerable. It seems to be her favorite word. But doesn’t that apply to the rest of them as well? Vic’s been ‘nothing but honest’ – but didn’t she confess to lies of omission and commission when Alayah returned? Is her memory that short or her morality that malleable?
It’s only episode 4 but the first suspended Rose Ceremony arrives as 12 angry (wo)men, justifiably sick of being cooped up for days on end while living out of suitcases, hurl angry accusations and allegations. Episode 5 looks to be comprised of a Lord Of The Flies group date and the appearance of a Bachelor staple as familiar as roses and champagne – an ambulance. ‘I’m so tired and so exhausted!’ wails Mykenna. Sigh...we feel the same, diddums.