FINALLY! We’ve exhausted the glamour of Iowa and at last are going on a real exotic date…to Bali! (I guess they needed to scrimp a little in order to cover airfare…) Farmer Chris bestrides the land, admiring temples, frolicking monkeys and beautiful ocean vistas as he tells us that “any one of these women, I could see myself spending the rest of my life with.” Tortured syntax aside, this speech is made every season, and every season it smashes the fourth wall as we contemplate a bachelor equally prepared to marry three different women. Time for the TLC Sister Wives crossover, perhaps?

But no, because FC is a wholesome small-town boy with only a brief history of alcohol-related misdemeanors and vehicular carelessness. Nothing out of the ordinary here! So how many of the lovely ladies left will he try to take for a test drive? I can’t wait to find out in what will surely be the Most! Shocking! Rose ceremony! Ever!

First, though, it’s time for the obligatory product-placed review of the gorgeous hotel. We pan over an infinity pool as Farmer Chris stands with his luggage admiring the gorgeous ocean view. We swoop closer to our fair hero, spinning over the beautiful hotel pool to reveal him standing on a patio…overlooking some ventilators on the roof next door. Ah, well, can’t win ’em all.

Date 1: Kaitlyn

The next day, he and Kaitlyn begin their date when Kaitlyn runs to greet him, leaping into his arms wearing short shorts I’m guessing Jillian left behind. They go to a local temple, and FC explains that they can’t kiss there (and they have to wrap themselves in sarongs). Women in beautiful colors are walking around delivering offerings(?) carried in baskets on their head. Kaitlin and FC try to do it themselves, and then join them in a prayer (Kaitlyn has lost the sarong covering her shoulders, but no one seems particularly concerned). As we watch, Kaitlyn VOs that she’s worried Chris still believes she has a guard up.

After this, they wander around the town, stop at a bodega for sodas (or beer?), laugh with the locals, and then try to pet a monkey, which instantly screams and hisses at FC. Then they wind up at the Monkey Jungle Experience, where you can buy a bunch of bananas and wait for the monkeys to leap on your shoulders, which takes about 30 seconds. Kaitlyn is laughing, but also scared (as am I–I think monkeys are creepy). Kaitlyn recognizes that the monkeys don’t give a crap about the humans except as banana delivery devices. FC gets peed on, and I am not fully clear on what stops “feeding the monkey a banana” from becoming “feeding the monkey your face.”

Speaking of face-eating, now Kaitlyn and FC are making out on a bench and entering the “serious talk” portion of the date. Chris asks her how she feels after the hometown visits, and she launches into an enthusiastic speech about how comfortable her whole family was with him and how easily he fit in. Chris is his usual articulate self, responding, “It was fun.” [pause long enough to drive a tuk-tuk through] “It’s crazy…we finally get…the whole day together.” This does not fill me with hope for Kaitlin. Will FC buy her a billboard that says, “I [heart] you like a friend”?

Night falls and it’s time for dinner on a gorgeous patio surrounded by flowering trees and luminaries. As they sit, Kaitlyn says, “This is sew…kyewwwt” and Chris agrees: “Wow.” Can’t imagine why they’re concerned they haven’t opened up to each other! FC accuses Kaitlyn of “pulling back” on the last three dates and then reassures her that he “totally understands.” Then why bring it up, dude? You know what it’s like to be on the other side of this. Chris tells her that she seems [appropriately] vulnerable now, and that it’s OK. He’s “extreeeeemely excited about…what we have going.” I am not getting proposal vibes from this conversation!

But enough talk…may we have the envelope, please? Kaitlyn reads the usual invitation and tells Chris that she would love to head to the Fantasy Suite with him. Unsurprisingly, he’s all for it, saying, “We deserve this.” Um, because you’ve both been suffering through years of hard labor until now? Because you had to pretend that Deadwood, SD is exciting? (No offense to any of our Deadwood readers.) Who cares! Time for a tour of the suite!

They enter a cute little house with a giant bed that feels a little like Bella and Edward’s honeymoon cabin (look, I saw “Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 on a bet! And I was drunk! Shuddup) except done in Balinese hardwoods. A French door leads to a patio on which sits a huge soaking tub full of rose petals (from all the fallen bachelorettes, maybe? Kaitlyn’s fantasy might have a kind of Elizabeth Bathory vibe!). Ooh, the petals are in different colors, so a two-toned heart floats on a background of dark purple–well done, fancy hotel people!

Kaitlyn is going in for the hard sell now, saying she has “zero questions” and has opened up to FC more than she’s ever opened up to anyone. Chris receives this intel as his due, kind of peering down his nose in silence with a strained smile on his face. I can’t tell if this is nerves, lack of imagination, or if he’s just trying to look engaged while his brain thinks “Gonna have sex…gonna have sex…wait, did she ask me a question? Just nod and smile…”

And with that, it’s lights out in the suite. Namaste to all of us.

Date 2: Whitney

Morning in Bali, and FC is cleaned and pressed and returned to his uptight and locked position. He heads to the ocean today, where a cool wooden yacht is docked by a pier. The requisite picnic is all laid out on the deck as Whit also does the old leap-and-hug with leg wraparound. It’s sweeping Bachelor Nation, apparently. Her shorts are a little more tactful, though still short. Whitney is worried that her sister didn’t give FC her full-throated blessing at last week’s hometown visit, so she feels she has some ground to make up.

They have some smooching and wine before Chris signals to the captain that they’re ready to head out to sea, and Captain fires up the engines…and promptly runs into the dock. But it’s a momentary setback, and soon they’re off to open water. (Not this Open Water, I presume. Although I would watch the crap out of a dating show where you had to accept your rose surrounded by sharks.) It does look beautiful (though also like they’re heading into a storm?), and provides a lovely background for smooching and baby-voiced protestations of love.

Whitney seems to be talking a LOT, and Chris looks alternately bored and perplexed. She’s ratting out Kimberly but also kind of apologizing for her to FC, and finally tells him that she worries she’s at “a disadvantage.” He promises her she shouldn’t worry, and then he leans in to give her some more of those awful peck-kisses that he seems so fond of. Is there some sort of watershed rule, no tongue before 9pm?

The boat drops anchor, and our couple leaps into the water in the requisite “carefree Bachelor water date with ‘spontaneous’ swimming” scene. No one is eaten by a shark, or even has trouble getting back into the boat. They seem to scramble back in quickly, probably because that’s where the wine is. (That would be my motivation, anyway.) More weird kissing, but now in swimsuits.

Cut to that evening, and it’s time for dinner! They’re at a different beautiful patio, and FC VOs that tonight it’s important that he discuss The Arlington Question with Whitney, because he knows she has a career elsewhere and may have concerns. I would love to actually see a meaningful conversation in this context, but I’m not holding my breath.

FC has boarded the Straight Talk Express to tell Whitney, seriously, there’s nothing to do in Arlington and Des Moines and Chicago are both 3 hours away. But Arlington itself begs to differ, as its website indicates:

Recreational opportunities are numerous. Arlington maintains three parks, including a tennis court. The surrounding area is known for its trout fishing; turkey, deer, and pheasant hunting; Barrett Hollow Campground; J and J Hideaway; and other outdoor activities. Also nearby are Brush Creek Reserve, Backbone State Park, Volga Lake, and Osborne Nature Center. Several golf courses and swimming pools are within 20 miles of Arlington. 

Said website also points out that Cedar Rapids, a perfectly lovely college town, is only an hour away, so while Arlington is tiny, it’s not exactly Ulaanbataar

Whitney is ready (too ready?) to chuck her career and enter her new role as mom, telling FC that if he picks her, she’d move to Arlington, quit her job, and “start having babies, and that would be my career.” That makes me kind of sad, since she seemed so proud and happy showing him around her workplace in the hometown dates…but she says that “life takes you places, and it’s not about where you go, it’s who you’re with.” So who am I to gainsay her?

Apparently this was the right answer, because it’s time for more smooching, and out comes the Fantasy Suite invitation. It has the exact same wording as Kaitlyn’s, and I can’t decide if that’s fair or tacky. Whitney hems and haws and says, “I’ve thought a lot about this, and…” as though she might say no. But of course she doesn’t–she thinks it would be great, and what does he think? If you guessed that he thinks sharing a suite is an important “next step” of their “journey,” you get all the leftover wine from FC and Whit’s date! Just kidding, there are no leftovers. Let’s check out the suite!

Upon first entering, it seems a little generic-nice-hotel to me, but they were saving the money shot: a private pool with a full-sized lounging bed on a secluded patio! And look, the champagne is already poured and open. And there’s a sort of indoor/outdoor tub here, too…FC is going to be so clean after three rose-petal baths in a row!

Date 3: Becca

We’ve seen the city and the ocean, so it’s time for the jungle on Becca’s date! We admire burbling brooks, lush green hills, and…GIANT, TERRIFYING SPIDERS. Aaaaaagh spiderWhy would you throw that in there, editors? That spider is clearly not here for the Right Reasons. Becca’s shorts are of the tap pant variety, and she merely walks to Chris and gives him a big hug, but no leggy wraparound, because She’s A Virgin!!!! Did you hear?

They walk through the hills and fields and watch the farmers harvesting…tea? Something on tiered rows of hillsides. They stroll hand in hand and walk across a rickety scenic bridge before “stumbling upon” a convenient group of photogenic local children for playful interaction. Chris plays around with the kids while Becca snaps photos, but it feels staged (especially because they play the Balinese music and Becca’s VO, but no kid sounds). She also worries about how she’s going to break the news to Chris that She’s A Virgin!

Then it’s on to  a temple to meet a friendly shaman, who upon learning that they are “dating,” offers to tell them their future. He says that they are a “good couple” and will be “good parents.” When Chris asks the shaman what Becca’s biggest weakness is, the seer tells him that she’s “hard to control.” Aha ha ha ha so funny HARRUMPH. Becca, in turn, tells him that they have a big date that night and does he have any advice? “Making love!” the translator tells them with a grin. No pressure. Chris is all “Ya, dood!” and giving the shaman the thumbs-up, while Becca giggles awkwardly.

In his VO, Chris tells us that he has a great time with Becca, and it “never ceases to amaze me” how excited he is to see her. Yes, he is registering the same excitement he no doubt feels while watching his corn grow (a spectator sport in Arlington). However, we have been on this date for hours and have seen nary a creepy pursed-lip kiss, so how are we to believe him? Even FC has his doubts, it seems, because he tells us how important it is that he be convinced that Becca is starting to fall in love with him.

[Brief aside: the sound and video both seem kind of crappy on this date! The charming stream is super loud, as are the crickets or locusts or whatever hellspawned insects live there, so it’s hard to hear their murmured exchanges, and the footage looks kind of dim and grainy. Did they drop a camera on the boat date or something?]

Ah, finally, some creepy kissing, this time standing gingerly in a rocky stream. That’s apparently enough to transition us to the evening date, which again is set at the lovely The Mulia, Bali. Still another scenic patio, this one in front of a modern-looking glass wall on a sort of runway. I feel like this could be the set of an America’s Next Top Model fashion show.

Becca VOs again about how She’s A Virgin, and Farmer Chris doesn’t know She’s A Virgin, but tonight’s the night she’s going to tell him She’s A Virgin. (I should just have called this recap She’s a Virgin, shouldn’t I?) She’s just trying to enjoy the evening without losing her mind. She speaks at length about how she was worried that their attraction might have faded after their parting, but spending the day together just reaffirmed her feelings for Chris. FC, in turn, tells us that he thinks Becca is very special and he loves her family. Really? That family? The one in which every single person wanted to tell him that Becca was some sort of soulless, asexual robot? Hey, to each his own, I guess.

[ed. note: I’ve just caught a glimpse of Becca’s wedges, which are terrifyingly high.]

Becca is reciting the usual “I’ve been closed off and I want to find the person I’m going to marry” speech, but she’s just staring straight into Chris’s eyes without any flirtation or come-hither-ness about it. Her directness is almost uncomfortable to watch. She also speaks frankly about her initial reaction to Arlington, and tells Chris that she would have to be “really, really sure of us” before she moved. This seems perfectly reasonable to me, but Chris looks perturbed at the notion that she hasn’t already arranged to have her mail forwarded.

FC asks, “Where do you think you’re at with [being sure of us]?” and Becca just full-on turns into an alien. “I’ve been experiencing this overwhelming feeling of missing you and wanting to be with you that I’ve never experienced, and I think that’s what falling in love is?” Oh, lord, girl. She asks him the same thing, and he says, without a hint of eagerness or passion, that “I’m crazy about you, I’m falling in love with you, you’re someone that I can see spending the rest of my life with.” If this conversation were a food, it would be cottage cheese.

Just get to the Virgin Fantasy Card already! (Wouldn’t it be funny if he led her to a suite done up like the Red Room of Pain first? “Just kidding! This is for a cross-promotion with 50 Shades. The real suite has a bathtub full of roses.”)

Becca reads the card and knows it’s time to fish or cut bait–she feels like she could go and make out more in the suite but still say “no further,” but then again, “there’s temptation.” She accepts the invitation, but says she wants to “spend more time alone getting to know each other.” I have a feeling that means something very different for Becca than for Chris. So up to the suite we go!

Boo! It’s just a regular hotel suite, with a love seat at the foot of the bed! I mean, it’s still nicer than any hotel rooms I stay in, but…oh, OK, it’s another one where the beauty’s all on the patio. Their terrace overlooks a series of infinity pools, a hot tub, and the ocean. FC hopes that they’ll have a wonderful time “getting to know each other,” but I’m betting he can’t guess what he’s about to learn!

At last, Becca is ready to reveal that She’s A Virgin! She asks FC to be “very honest about his feelings” for what she’s going to say, but she’s taking so long to lead into it that I bet he’s thinking, “Did they seriously hook me up with two Playboy models on this show?” Finally, ramble ramble, she actually says the words, and Chris’s eyebrows visibly shoot up before he schools his features into a rictus that approximates acceptance. Becca waits on tenterhooks while he sighs and sighs and says nothing. Cruel, Chris! He could at least make a joke that he thought she was going to tell him she was an axe murderer.

When he finally regains the power of speech, he tells her that “It’s never easy to know how to respond to that,” but he respects it “in a lot of ways.” He’s surprised (and I feel like part of his brain is occupied with shouting to his genitalia, “Stand down! Stand down! She’s A Virgin!”), but he closes the gauzy drapes and smooches in silhouette for the cameras, so I suppose he’s not totally turned off.

When we return from commercials, it’s the next day, and we follow Becca as she walks along the shore. FC tells us in VO that the overnight date “went great, and…I’m absolutely falling in love with Becca.” But…after waking up with her, they had another serious conversation that has left him even more confused.  And now I’m confused, because it’s not clear what’s more serious than She’s! A! Virgin! Ah, it’s that Becca expressed honestly that she had reservations about moving to his podunk little town. Could Becca be being groomed as the next Bachelorette?

In a talking head, Chris declares that he wants all three girls to meet his family, and then he gets all teary-eyed. What’s the problem, FC? This is the season of No Rules, remember? Why not just tell Chris Harrison you want to bring them all back to Arlington? No need to cry about it.

We get a brief transitional montage of gorgeous Balinese scenery (including comedy monkey closeup!) as we prepare for the Most! Balinese! Rose ceremony! Ever! at a place called Nusa Dua. Chris Harrison shows up to debrief FC, but our hero is disturbed because he doesn’t yet have “clarity.” He fears having “regrets” about who he sends home, and Chris H. feigns shock at FC having strong, wanna-get-married feelings for all three women. (He also claims that he can see FC’s “emotional turmoil,” so I can only assume that Harrison has been training with the future-reading shaman we met earlier.)

Harrison leads FC through his paces, and like the good little show pony he is, Farmer Chris runs down the ways in which he “loves” each woman equally but differently. His function fulfilled, Harrison abandons his iced tea and leaves FC to enjoy the Synthesizer of Deep Thought.

Let’s get to it!

Our three contestants are attractively arranged in front of a temple, clad in “traditional” garb of coordinating sherbet colors. It’s a beautiful picture, and a lovely setting in which to break someone’s heart. Also, Whitney is fricking tall, yo.

This costume choice is not necessarily the American Crime mentioned in the banner.
This costume choice is not necessarily the American Crime mentioned in the banner.

The Chris-es are also traditionally attired in white pants and shirts with wide colored belts. Harrison tells Chris (by way of instructing the viewer) that this is one of the most sacred temples in all of Bali (so I’m glad we’re desecrating it with American reality TV) and it has strict rules about expressing affection. Nothing more demonstrative than holding hands (Becca should feel right at home!). He asks FC how he’s doing, and our poor farmer is “Not good.” But he thinks he knows what he’s going to do. Go get ’em, cowboy!

There are marigolds(?) all over the grounds, just scattered on the lawn, and the old stone temple has tons of statues and totems around. It’s quite lovely. Each of our three finalists expresses the traditional mixture of hope and doubt. Chris takes a deep breath and launches into his speech about how this choice is going to be “nothing but excruciating.” He’s sighing like he’s preparing to break a board with his forehead, and then he calls Becca out of line and asks to speak to her privately.

Whitney tells us in a talking head that Becca told Whit she thinks she’s going home, and when she sits down in a private corner with FC, Becca tells him that “the way we left things…is not how I wanted it to leave off.” I don’t understand what she means, but she takes the opportunity to say “I’m crazy about you” and then finally tells us something interesting! “When you asked me did I think it was the show that was the reason for us having these feelings and falling in love, I hesitated…but the only thing I can credit this for is introducing us, everything else is because of what I feel for you.” I love the idea that they actually had a meaningful conversation about the fakeness of the show, and wish sometimes we could eavesdrop on the fantasy suite convos.

Somehow this segues into Arlington, and Becca’s trying to perhaps amend her earlier reluctance? She tells him she hasn’t taken it off the table at all, and will do “whatever it takes” to get to the place where she’d consider moving. FC responds with a lot of blah blah blah about the journey and his goal and how difficult the decision is, and MOVE IT ALONG, PEOPLE.

Back to Kaitlyn and Whitney. Kaitlyn says her gut tells her he’s saying goodbye, which makes me immediately assume the opposite. But with the talking heads over, we cut to real time and Kaitlyn glimpses FC walking back WITH BECCA. “Oh, shoot!” she exclaims. Heh. (I’m struck by how fast they’re walking, something I noticed with both other girls when FC was escorting them. I think he walks too fast for women in fancy shoes. Inconsiderate!)

Finally, FC picks up a rose and gets the show on the road. Whitney, to no one’s surprise, is first. I actually think she’s the best match for him, and could probably find work in a hospital within a decent commute of Arlington. But who shall get the next rose? Both Kaitlyn and Becca look worried, but he finally offers it to…Becca! Kaitlyn is trying to keep her game face on, but her eyes look pissed. Becca extends a hand in farewell, but the camera cuts away to suggest that Kaitlyn gives her the cold shoulder.

Chris walks her out, stroking her shoulders and hugging her–she looks annoyed and won’t meet his eyes. “What happened?” she asks, but he can’t give her an answer. “Nothing happened,” he whispers, and then goes through the “it’s so harrrrrd” speech they all do. (That said, Kaitlyn would clearly be miserable in Arlington and the two of them seem completely ill-matched.) Hilariously, in the middle of his “touching” speech there’s a loud rooster crow. Kaitlyn is squinching her face up like she’s trying to stop the tears…but no tears are coming, no matter how much she stares into the sun. She and I are both bored with his apologies now. One last hug before he tucks her into the Minivan of Singledom and sends her on her way.

Now here come the tears. Even sobbing, Kaitlyn is careful to put on her seatbelt–good for you, Kaitlyn! “That was the most humiliating moment of my whole life,” she says in the car. (Wait till you find out Becca’s a virgin!) She’s “confused,” which in this context means “furious.” Also, why do they never have Kleenex in this car? It’s not cool to make the poor discarded bachelorettes wipe their noses on their sleeves. But she’s an attractive crier, so she’s got that going for her.

Farmer Chris is recovering himself on the steps outside the temple, and that means it’s time for the “coming next week” Montage of Sobbing–the Women Tell All show, otherwise known as “ABC’s Bitches Be Crazy.” Plus, sneak peeks at the home visits, and it sure looks like they don’t go well! (I do appreciate, as we enter our 37th month of winter, that they had to visit Chris’s family during winter when the charms of such a small town are presumably at their least attractive.)

See you all in Iowa!