This show is driving me to eat. Remember Ashley H. from Bachelor 15? The one who, in her use of words, retracted from Brad when her emotions began to get the best of her? Well, they hired her to be the Bachelorette and she is in full retraction mode this episode. So, while she is pulling back from every guy who may or may not be attracted to her, I’m clearing out the carb shelf in my pantry. Stop me now. Stop her then…guess we can’t do that, but the producers sure could have. As many have asked, why didn’t they show Ashley the raw footage of You Know Who’s comments regarding his lack of interest and rude remarks expressing the same. That act of kindness may have been outside their guidelines, but it would have saved Ashley the heartache, her suitors the confusion about what is going on in her head and me the calories.
As you may have guessed, even with a change of location to Chiang Mai in central Thailand, Ashley still pines over You Know Who and mourns what could have been. She whines that her obsession blocks her focus on finding a husband from within the group of eleven men who accompany her to the historic, mystical, colorful and romantic city. As depressing as this episode may be, the travelogue perfect city is worth the two hour view. Along with spotting elephants and ancient temples, I’m going to put down the sticky bun long enough to look for some bright spots, maybe even a laugh or two.
Climb aboard the rickety raft and let us pole down this jungle river of miasma.
I’m not going to write about Ashley’s wandering rumination this week as it is the same old thing…You Know Who…blah, blah, blah. Instead I’ll begin with Ames description, “Chiang Mai is the perfect place to fall in love with Ashley. It’s known for having thousands of monks in saffron robes wandering around; ancient temples literally over a millennium old; and as for being romantic; there is no city I would rather go on a date in.” As long as we stick with the travelogue aspect, we’ll be all right, but this is a dating show, not the Travel Channel, so let’s get to the heart of it.
No, No Kissing
Chris welcomes the contestants to The Mandarin Oriental Dhar Dhevi Hotel where they will stay in a private villa. After Lucas and Nick express their hopes for the week, J.P. tells us that if you can’t find romance in this setting you’re hopeless. Hmm. Chris then details the date set-up for the week – a one on one, a group date and a two on one date. Constantine picks up the card dropped by a quickly departing Chris and reads, “Ben F. – let’s fall in love in Chiang Mai – Love – Ashley.” Ben F. does a fist pump and gets ready to fall in love.
Ben F.: There is a 100% chance that Ashley will get kissed today.
Twinges of jealousy ping when Ashley arrives to pick up Ben F. for the date. Blake admits to it and Ames says that Ben F. and Ashley have visible chemistry and that is tough for a lot of them to handle.
Unlike Constantine’s unplanned walk about town last week, this walk through the colorful streets of Chiang Mai is planned. As they walk, Ben F. tells us that he has been taking it slow with Ashley, and Ashley tells us that as of the Orphanage date, there has been a mutual attraction between them.
Ashley: I just don’t know if he is at a point where he is ready to allow somebody in.
They hit a street market and Ashley tests whether he is adaptable. He proves he is by ambling around the market, tasting food, offering to buy her a wrap, joining in with the rhythm/flute band and painting designs on parasols.
Ben F.: I love everything about being here – the people, the culture. It feels like I’m on vacation with my girlfriend.
Ashley finds that the more she gets to know him, the hotter he becomes. It just feels right.
Ben F. (with a quizzical expression) I’m beginning to see her as a potential fiancée?
They find a bench at the base of an ancient temple and play finger strokes. He wants to kiss her, but she tells him that kissing is against the rules, and they are very serious about them. To solve that problem they bring us the cutest cheese moment of this episode when they mentally kiss. This is sort of like phone sex only telepathic. Heee
Ashley: There is so much tension building up in this moment, I just want to jump on him – growl.
As she prepares for the dinner portion of the date Ashley says that her date is going better than she could have ever thought. Everything about Ben is so comfortable. She feels like he’s been her boyfriend for a long time.
To get to their table, they walk through doors which open to a grassy stadium with flower bowers in intricate shapes surrounding the table. After marveling at the romantic setting, Ben F. says that feelings are starting to develop. They talk about Ben’s background and the blocks with his previous relationships and he discloses that since his father died about five years ago, he hasn’t been emotionally available. However a year ago, he decided to grow up and be closer to his family and count his blessings, for which he credits his father’s teachings and example.
Back at the villa, Nick brings in the group date card. Everyone realizes that if their name isn’t on the card, they will be going on the dreaded two on one date. Nick reads off the names – Constantine, Ames, Nick, Blake, Lucas, Ryan, J.P. and Mickey - but doesn’t read the message. This is because the focus is on William and Ben C. who have the two on one. William is not happy and goes into competition mode.
Meanwhile Ashley and Ben F. sip wine and Ashley questions his relationship agenda. After wondering at her choice of word, he says he would make his significant other his priority.
Ashley: Ben was saying everything I wanted to hear; and after our date tonight, I could see a life with him.
She offers the rose saying she is happy he is ready to be here; and he accepts with a kiss. A string orchestra and ceremonial dancers twirling fire sticks join them symbolizing a romance that is heating up. Obvious with the symbolism, much?
But…what about You Know Who? Has Ben F. made her finally forget about him?
Concussions Not Included in Your Travel Package
Blake informs us that the group date message read – Love is worth fighting for – but he is not sure if it means hand fighting in a literal sense. Well, yes, along with feet, knees and elbows because the producers have set them up to train in Muay Thai Boxing and then to fight each other in a ring put up in a public square.
Ashley thinks the guys will have fun with this date, but I wonder if she is really thinking about their hot, sweaty bodies instead.
World class trainers put the group through an intense instruction and work-out session for three hours then throw them to the wolves (each other) but not before there is a schoolyard scramble for colorful boxing shorts and matching equipment. Kind, polite Ames, who has seen this type of boxing on TV, hangs back and is left to be garbed in pink – bare chest excepted.
Once they are paired up to fight, Ashley doesn’t think it is fun anymore. (Tough…complain where it will do some good.)
Before his fight against Mickey, J.P tells us that he is the smallest, but he’ll get in the ring and take his beating like a man. There is no crying in Muay Thai. After winning the bout, he just wants it noted that the Jew from Long Island beat the Irishman from Cleveland.
The ever chipper Ryan is matched against pink Ames, who has never been in a fight in his life. The exuberant Ryan wants to earn Ashley’s regard so he goes after Ames hard, landing a blow to the head that takes Ames to the hospital with a concussion. Keep smiling, Ryan.
The idea for this date might have seemed exiting to the male producers (I’m looking at you, Fleissmeister) but for some of your female audience, it was disgusting. Along with Roasting, could we rule this out for future episodes?
Enough with the sweating testosterone, let’s get to the after-party shall we, where more than one suitor shows off his scrapes and bruises.
Ashley regrets that the date turned bloody. Ames has not returned from the hospital and the guys’ mood has turned down. With Ames not present, she has a hard time focusing on her relationship building. But, then, a bit shaky on his pins, and with a foggy brain, Ames does make an appearance and the party revives.
The two on one date card shows up at the villa and Ben F. reads, “Ben C. and William – guide me to love – Ashley.” He pulls out a second card where Chris Harrison has written, “Two men, one rose, one stays, one goes.” This brings out the playfully evil grin on boy-man William's face as he tells us the only guide will be him.
Blake pulls Ashley aside to find the romance beyond the conversations. He tells her that love is a marathon, not a sprint; and in his experience, the relationships that are instantly passionate seem to burn out more quickly. Ashley actually listened to him. Yay. He wonders if she finds him attractive and she thinks he needs positive re-enforcement so she grants him the group rose; much to Ryan’s chagrin. (Have I said that about Ryan before? Hmm)
Lucas teaches her a golf swing at her request which, with the embracing stance, turns her on. But, then, he goes on to tell her he thinks her type is like You Know Who. Why did you do that, Lucas? Now we’re back to sad Ashley when she was doing so well. She does tell him, however, that initially she was attracted, but for a long term relationship, she needs to explore a little bit more. (All right – now there’s hope we’re done with him!)
Ashley ends the evening with a toast to Ames for being such a great sport. Poor Ames kept apologizing throughout the party for being out of it; but it is everyone who should apologize to you, Ames, for putting you in danger.
A Rickety Raft, Elephants and a Spent Woman
As the two men arrive at Elephant Life Experience, Ashley hopes they can be themselves so she can figure out which relationship would work.
William promises us that the date is going to get ruthless and Ben C. is going home. He also complains that he is doing all the work poling the raft down the river.
The raft takes them past elephants blowing water from their trunks and then, with the help of a Thai river guide, it is docked at a picnic area.
William: Ben C. is so irritating to me that it is time to turn him off and make a move. Ben C. has gotta go and it’s not going to be a pretty sight.
To implement his get rid of Ben C. plan, William pulls Ashley aside to tell her that Ben C. is ready to go home – not that he is throwing him under the bus – but…Ben C. can’t wait to get on the dating websites after he leaves.
This, of course, upsets insecure Ashley. Once again, who is here for her and who is not? She decides to not take a chance and sends Ben C. home on the spot. A delighted William can hardly contain his smile. Ben C. feels betrayed because he tells her he was joking around about the online dating sites and the guys knew it.
Ashley: I know it was the right time to send Ben C. home, especially after what William said.
Ben C. (in his departure speech as he is being poled on a raft back up the river) I’m really upset that William sabotaged me. I don’t think he will end up being Ashley’s husband. What a terrible way for things to end. It’s a shame.
This speech overlaid shots of William laughing his way across the river riding on an elephant.
The evening portion of the date is now a one on one with William. She hopes that the sparks from the Vegas date re-ignite, but they don’t and the only thing to burn is the rose she throws on the fire.
During William’s departure speech, he beats himself up for being an idiot once again. No filter William needs to climb out of that dark hole he has commissioned for himself and take a long look in the mirror at the 30 year old boy who needs to grow up.
Insecurity, Thy Name is Ashley
Sending both men home on the two on one date ramps up Ashley’s insecurities about whether anyone left is there for her.
Ashley: I’m very in touch with how I feel, and I feel that something is off tonight.
She starts off the Rose Party with a request that they be true to themselves and that she knows they are not necessarily going to fall in love with her; but she’s looking for someone to be really honest with how they feel.
With this theme of honesty, Constantine admits he feels closer to the guys than to her, but it is different.
Constantine: (to the guys) I want to know before hometowns where I stand with her, how I feel about her. It’s a big deal to take a girl home to meet my parents.
Ashley: I don’t know if I can make anyone here happy now. I don’t feel like myself.
She sits legs over leg with J.P. and asks if he can see a future for them. He puts a smile on her face when he tells her, “This is so real, this is what I want.” However, she then goes into thoughtful mode when he says he really doesn’t see anybody else for her but him. Uh, oh, J.P. you opened a can of toad slime with that confident remark. Now You Know Who has leapt from the back of her mind to the front.
Ashley: I do need closure with Bentley if I’m going to move forward with any of the guys.
In her pre-Rose Ceremony chat with Chris, she succumbs to her own bout of honesty and tells him she can’t get Bentley out of her mind – the what-if with him.
Ashley: I need to find a way to close this Bentley thing off because in the back of my head, it sits there. I try to repress it, but when I need comfort, my heart goes back there. That’s not normal.
Ashley: The truth is I’m not being honest with the guys and being a hypocrite kills me. I feel guilty like I’m cheating on somebody right now. It’s not fair to them.
Chris: This is not going to have a happy ending with two steps forward and one step back. You’re not going to fall in love like that. So, what do you want to do?
Ashley: The only way I can be 100% with these guys is to release myself from what’s holding me back. I just want a clean break so I can start a real, honest relationship. I just want to talk with him and ask him a few simple questions.
Chris: I’m going to do everything I can to make something happen for you. Now, you have to focus on the Rose Ceremony. There is one more to send home.
Order of the Roses
Ben – date rose
Blake – group date rose
A devastated Nick says it is really hard to say goodbye to love.
Preview: Hong Kong and the return of a slimy toad. (This was a fake-out preview for this week’s episode. Congratulations on the continuation of the drama hype, editors.)
Outtake: William’s irritation with Ben C. playing piano. He self records with a mini-cam and tries to be funny in his remarks – especially about dying from same chord pounding. He did “die” on the show, so I guess his recording was self-fulfilling.