It lies deep in the woods, dark and oozing algae. The only creature thriving in the pond’s stench is a slimy toad; large, warty and puffed up with venom. Living, breathing organisms never go near the pond knowing that death waits. But, on a bright moonlit night, a shaft of unearthly light catches the imagination of a young woman and she ventures toward the wood. She is a practical girl and though warned to stay out of dark places, the draw of the moonbeams falling like pearls is too much to resist.
For now she sits in a field of clover, soaking up the warm sun, full of joy, laughter and anticipation, unheeding of what will transpire. The stench rises on the breeze. Though faint, it wafts over the meadow…can you smell it?
Unaware of any murky background, the guys take their morning coffee into the living room where Chris Harrison announces that there will be two individual dates and one group date this week. He also reminds them that those with individual dates must pack their bags in case they go roseless. He flips the date card to the table and exits stage right. Ryan P picks it up and reads, “Ben C – Love strikes in a flash – Ashley.”
Ben is excited and throws in a bachelor platitude about journey to love blather. At the last Rose Party, Ben told Ashley that he wanted to be included in a dance date. Be careful what you wish for romantic Ben as this will be no waltz under the stars. William tries to mess with him by confiding that Ashley likes it when you are mean to her. William has been breathing deeply of pond fumes as we will discover later.
Masked Jeff and his phantom music drone on about revealing the upper part of his face the next time he sees Ashley; boring, been there been told that.
Ashley loves to ruminate when driving to pick up her dates. This week she tells us that she had such a great date with Mickey; she has a romantic connection with William; and Bentley literally sweeps her off her feet. (Reference last Rose Party when he carried her.) Um, Ashley, where does that leave dancing Ben? Do you have room for him on your way up the stepladder to perfection?
She takes him to a dance studio to learn a hip hop dance and he thinks it is so special that she would share her love of dance with him in this way. Actually, Ashley coordinated and choreographed this dance with Flash Mob America, though don’t tell Ben. The scene changes to a picnic blanket on a lawn area at the Americana at Brand Mall. The throngs of people on the walkways surrounding them bother Ben, especially when they stand still, stare and take pictures. He gets nervous when Ashley pulls him up from the blanket to practice the dance moves he learned in the studio. It isn’t long before music from Far*East Movement begins playing and one hundred of those on the walkways charge the grass, filling in behind them performing the dance with them.
Ashley: Ben got flashed!
A flabbergasted Ben loses a step, but gallantly regains it and plays along with the mob scene. Once the mob disperses, Far*East Movement arrives to sing for them and the crowd once more surrounds them.
What could be better after prancing about on grass with a hundred other people than a dinner complete with fairy lights on the rooftop of the downtown LA Hilton Checkers? Nothing.
Ashley: Tonight I need to find out if I am someone he could fall in love with.
It turns out that romantic Ben fanaticizes about love and wants to live in a bubble with the woman of his heart. Ashley agrees that a fairytale life is what she wants and gives him the rose. Oh, and they kiss. Watch out for bursting bubbles blowing up in your face, Ashley.
Comedy? Not So Much
Chris D brings in the group date card which reads, “Ames, Ben F, Blake, Chris, Jeff, Lucas, Nick, Ryan, William and Bentley – Make me laugh – Ashley.”
In a PI (personal interview) Bentley tells us that he is going to beat out every guy for a rose; that it is fun and games for him. He says that Ashley is digging what he is putting out (stench!) and he is going in for the kill.
As the stretch limo arrives with Ashley to pick them up for their date, Phantom music cues masked Jeff standing on a Juliet balcony surveying his kingdom of the hawk and the ground squirrel. Well, not really his kingdom, but it is dramatic. He drills the bore hole deeper by declaring (once again) that he is going to talk to Ashley now and make his reveal. Oh, I can’t wait! Not. I’ve decided that I don’t want to see the rest of his face, but this is Ashley and how she will react. From the silent thud, she could care less. Actually she thinks he is older than she originally thought. Poor Jeff, even his subjects the hawk and the squirrel show disdain.
On the limo ride to the Comedy Store, everyone sets up William as the funniest guy in the house, and he concurs. Jeff, in his newly revealed form, is happy they are going to a comedy club as he attends them all the time. In a dead-pan voice and popped open eyes, he declares that he has a gutsy kind of humor.
Ashley introduces Jeffrey Ross, the Roast-Master General, to the guys and they learn from him that roasting someone comes from a place of love and affection. They also find out that they will be roasting Ashley. Oh, boy, this is a lane filled with potholes as they all figure out when they sit down to write their jokes. William, thinking he knows the ropes of a roast, tells whoever will listen that they have to go hard and not hold back because it’s Ashley. He is hoping that this national debut as a comedian will lead to roasts of big celebrities. Crunch, William, crunch as the giant boot of bad karma comes stomping down.
However, before William meets his fate, others give it a go – mostly with lame jokes before a packed house, which are directed at their fellow contestants, and more often than not, the un-masked Jeff.
There are a few jabs at Ashley’s womanly attributes which she takes in good humor, but then William takes the podium. Laughing at his own brilliance, he turns to her and says, “I mean I thought I signed up to be with Emily or Chantal, but then Ashley was there; really, who gives a *bleep*."
The audience groans and Ashley falls back in her roast throne with a frown and hurt in her eyes. She had been looking forward to William’s jokes because they became close on their date, but he ripped open her deepest fear about doing the show. Jeffrey Ross closes the show by putting down William saying that he had never been funnier. On that downer, the crowd goes home and the guys search for booze. Ashley – oh, she finds a dark space and lets the tears flow.
Guess who crawls out of his pond to pat her on the back and chuckle sweet nothings? Yes, the stench grows stronger as the slimy toad of a liar, Bentley, takes advantage in his quest for the date rose, oh, and to mess with her head.
Ashley: I love the way he thinks. He’s a real guy and that’s just what I’m looking for.
The after party is held at the Kress Hotel and the guys are bummed that the roast went off the rails. Ashley joins them and speaks of her hurt.
Ryan: When she exposed how much she had been hurt, people realized how much damage had been done.
William takes her aside to tell her he was thinking about the audience and not her. With sad puppy eyes, he says that the only way he can make it up to her is to go home. Man-child William sends her back to the group while he makes a dash for the exit. Calling himself an idiot, he walks around in the fresh air, but eventually returns. He does not catch a ride back to the mansion to pack his bags as producers probably talked him out of it, but he displays a remorseful demeanor the remainder of the party.
On his advice, Ashley does talk to the others with special time with Ryan highlighted. He does TRY to comfort her, though she isn’t feeling it, but he gets a kiss and the date rose for his attempt.
Uh, oh, some toady thing is not happy. That sweet smelling rose should have been his.
Since she is already having a crappy day, she decides to confront Bentley with the warning she received from Michelle Money about him. After a blink or two, he gets back on track downplaying the information about being there for reasons other than finding love and, like any good con man or slimy toad in disguise, shifts the conversation to assuring her he is there for her. With the anger over not receiving the rose and the disclosure slapping him in the face, he begins to map out his exit strategy. All the while Ashley feels like she can trust him forever.
Ben C runs to answer the doorbell at the mansion and brings in the final date card of the week. He reads, “J.P. – there’s no place like home – Love – Ashley.” After a double fist pump, JP goes, “Huh?” But after some ribbing about her sending him to his home, he decides, “Who cares? I’m going on a date!” He is juiced to be going on a one on one with Ashley. (Breath of air to cleanse the foul odors, don’t you think?)
The Unbearable Stench
Grab your gas masks! The maiden has discovered the toad pond and drunk from its water.
Walking in the garden of the Bachelorette residence, Ashley gives us her thoughts.
Ashley: I fell completely in love with Bentley last night. There is something about him that is so sincere; I just know that he’s my guy. If it was up to me, I would grab Bentley and take off for Salt Lake City. Today marks the first day of my love story.
At the mansion packing a suitcase, Bentley also has thoughts.
Bentley (in a PI): I don’t think Michelle’s sabotage was successful, but I don’t want to stay here anymore. She’s just not my type. I’m not feeling it and it’s just better to walk away to the point where I want to be on the first plane back. ASAP.
His bunkmate, Jeff, has difficulty understanding why Bentley would want to leave because Bentley gets the most time with her and she likes him the most.
Back to PI: I really miss my daughter, but I’m not leaving because of my daughter.
However, he does use that as an excuse when saying goodbye to the guys – keeping his non-feelings for Ashley under his hat. The guys commend him for being a good dad and he snidely chides them in a PI for it, calling them idiots.
Bentley (reveling in the fact): I had the opportunity and I played everyone.
A car takes him to the Bachelorette residence and during the walk down to the door, a rumpled Bentley tries to consolidate his strategy…but, says he will just have to p**p it out.
An enchanted Ashley opens the door and holds on for a hug. She senses something is off and invites him in. He stumbles for words and she begins to tear up. After pats and hugs and much lingering, Bentley unloads the excuse that he misses his daughter too much to stay. After Ashley expresses her dismay by climbing on him and wrapping her legs around his waist, he sort of gets turned on and thinks there might be a quickie before he departs; but, no…he just isn’t feeling it. Ashley understands why he needs to leave and wishes she could bring his daughter out to LA. The slimy toad jumps at the chance to mess with her head one more time and uses that wish as an open door for a possible return. He phrases it with …like a sentence to be finished. She holds onto those dots and his poison sinks deeper. When he finally leaves under rain drenched skies, her non-stop tears fall and she dives under the bed covers to cry her heart out; wondering why even go on with the show.
Ah dear reader, fear not. Somehow (or with much producer prodding) Ashley recovers enough to shower and dress in a casual outfit to greet her next visitor, JP, who arrives with a bouquet of flowers, a smile and concern that won’t allow her to dwell on the past, but to be in the moment with him, with them. With soft guitar music playing, JP tells us that there is chemistry between them, and the guitar plays throughout their date. After food and a fireside chat about taking a leap of faith, she decides they should get even more comfortable and put on their jammies. It is as cute as it can be with Ashley in glasses and pjs, and JP in the same, but without the glasses. She tells him there will be a better date next time and pulls the rose from behind her back, much to his delight. They lean in for kisses which Ashley later describes as better than Bentley’s. Score one for JP – and perhaps for saving the franchise from an early shut down.
Pity Party of One
Drinks in hand, the guys sit around glancing nervously over their shoulders for a very late Ashley to arrive. They all look for more time with her before the Rose Ceremony, but the hours tick by and no Ashley.
She does arrive, but unseen as she is ushered immediately into the deliberation room. Her eyes find Bentley’s photo sitting front and center on the shelf and she is drawn to it. She picks it up and stares at it for a long time before setting it back upside down. At that propitious moment, Chris Harrison arrives like a courtier nervous to approach his queen. He invites her, in his Bachfather manner, to sit and talk about it. Somewhere between nudging and consoling, he gets her to say she doesn’t want a party, only the Ceremony. So Be It.
Chris leaves to explain the situation to the crowd in the living room and Ashley contemplates the photos, wondering if any of them are there for her.
And those granted roses are:
Ben C – date rose
Ryan – group date rose
JP – date rose
William (Who whispers, “I’m so sorry.”)
Chris is stunned that she kept William instead of him. Un-masked Jeff thinks the mask backfired. On his way to the curb, he dramatically drops the mask in the patio fireplace to burn, baby, burn.
Preview: The twelve plus Ashley and too numerous to name crew will head to Phuket, Thailand next week. There are shots of elephants, rubber canoes, rainy streets and drama raising its ugly head once again in the form of the group not trusting Ryan, who is getting on their nerves. Sigh. Can’t leave the drama alone, can you, producers?
Out-Take: One last chance to hear the Phantom of the Opera organ music as bunkmates Bentley and Jeff (masked) share time in the bathroom…Bentley shaping his hair in front of the mirror while Jeff sits on the toilet reading car ads in the paper to him. I guess the slimy toad seeks out stench wherever he can find it. Goodbye, Bentley! Oh, and Jeff.