Once upon a time, a very jaded reality TV producer realized that the choice between love or money is one that fully 2 percent of the population faces at least once in their lives. The other 98 percent of us are lucky to choose between loveable middle-class accountants. But the producer recognized a lot of us would watch a show about a choice we’ll never have to make. And he is probably now comfortably living the high life in L.A., using his money to buy love, which is probably the best thing he could do with it.
Anyway, the result was “For Love or Money,” an accurate but unwieldy title now handily shortened to “FLOM.” We’ve had two of these bad boys already, and now we’re at the second week of the third installment. New bachelor – with a brain cell, which totally trumps the attributes of the original FLOM bachelor – new bachelorettes, new twists. Same old breathless hype from the network, but we’re all old hands at this, and we realize a shot of a hyperventilating girl usually means she has asthma, not that her heart’s getting broken.
I’m Lucy, and no, I’m not going to be your regularly scheduled recapper this season. Next week I will embark on the classy, quality family programming that is “Who Wants to Marry My Dad.” So let’s make the most of the time we have together, shall we? After all, on a group date like this, we’ve got to move quick. You all need to show me how interested you are, lest I eliminate you. Although those attempting to caress my thigh will be quickly given the smackdown. Unless you do it well.
More Twists Than an Appalachian Highway
Last week, in a marathon two-hour episode that taxed the attention span of even the most stoned couch potato, our bachelor, Preston, whittled his field of 16 women down to six. As before, all the women have checks with their names on them, but this time – twist alert! – the value of those checks range from a measly $1 to the $1 million prize. Preston knows how much each woman’s check is worth. But they do not.
I’m going to take this moment to introduce the final six, for anyone who’s been skipping class.
PJ is tall, blonde, sincere, and has a check worth $50,000.
Rebekah is short, dark, quiet, sweet, talks like she’s breathing helium, and has a check worth only $1.
Ali is dark, quiet, isn’t very confident about whether Preston is attracted to her, and holds the $1 million check.
Andrea is blonde, brazen, flirty and opinionated. Her check is for $500,000.
Jamie is a tiny lingerie buyer who is quiet but wears revealing dresses and Preston’s way attracted to her. Her check is for $250,000.
And Rachel. Ah, Rachel. She’s emotional, overconfident, and has not made friends in the house. She also seems to think about the $1 million. A lot. Unfortunately for her, her check is worth $1.
We begin the action after the last elimination. As the six remaining ladies toast their good fortune, host-of-the-month Jordan comes in for a chat. It’s twist time again (this show is starting to feel like a curvy mountain road, with all the twists. Lucky for me, I don’t get carsick. And if I’m driving, I take the curves fast. Because I’m a mountain girl, and I like to show off. Men love a girl who can gun a stick shift past a coal truck on a hairpin curve. Don’t they?) Anyway, Jordan tells the women that – guess what? – Preston knows how much each of their checks is worth. He dragged out that sentence, and I honestly thought he was going to say that Preston knew how much THEY were worth. My lightning-quick mind was already gearing up to say something about how they should at least pretend these girls are worth more than the dollar figure on their checks, blah, blah blah. I’m glad I didn’t have to make such a sappy point.
The women are floored. Because usually, these dating shows play straight, right? You know, it no longer surprises me that they can find people willing to be one of 20 trying to win a man on TV. What surprises me is that they can find people who seem to have no clue how these shows work. Yeah, maybe I’m just watching too much reality tv. But hey, I don’t have cable.
Anyway, it dawns on the ladies that Preston could like them just for their money. Jordan helps plant this seed in their heads by sinisterly suggesting they review their previous dates with Preston in light of this new information. They do, and are not happy. The guy they thought they were playing could be playing them.
You Were My Best Friend Last Week, But Now I Hate You
You’ve got to love a show that blatantly sows dissension and resentment, instead of just letting those fester on their own. The ladies are called downstairs to participate in a “game.” This game will play out much like a middle-school cafeteria, where seating is based on popularity. They’re all given little medallions with a heart and a dollar sign on them. They’re to put the heart on the portrait of the girl they think is there for love, and the dollar sign on the portrait of the girl who’s there for money. And they can’t all just go up and put the heart medallions on their own pictures. Because you know they wanted to.
Obviously, there’s no way for anyone to come out of this smelling like a rose. PJ gets stuck going first, putting her luv symbol on Rebekah, and tarring the unpopular Rachel as the golddigger, because she joked about pawning the ring Preston gave her, and because she goes on and on about the possible value of her check.
To make a boring game short, everyone pegs Rachel as the money-grubber, except of course Rachel, who puts her dollar sign on Jamie. PJ is voted most likely to be there for love.
Of course, it’s twist time! Turns out both the “winners” get a one-on-one date with Preston. That makes the second time Rachel gets a one-on-one simply by being unpopular with the other girls, and I can see Andrea muttering angrily. Plus – twist again! Those tricksey producers – Rachel and PJ get a chance to see the value of their check. A coin toss of the “For Love or Money coin,” a cheesy medallion with a heart on one side and a dollar sign on the other, comes up hearts. PJ gets to see her check, whether she wants to or not. And, whether she wants it or not, Jordan announces the value -- $50,000 – to all the other women. PJ has the opportunity to trade it out for someone else’s check, but – realizing that looks a bit money-hungry, and also that she might inadvertently trade down – she keeps her own.
“You want to keep that crappy check, you keep it,” says Rachel, with much eye-rolling. She’s good at that, by the way. She gets lots of practice. Rachel also seems to have completely managed to erase from her mind the possibility – which is reality – that her check is the crappiest of the lot.
You’re a Handsome Fellow. Can I Rub Your Thigh?
With the reindeer games over with, the losing women head off for another group date. In the limo, nice-girls Rebekah and Ali declare that they should all agree to let each other have alone-time with Preston. Meanwhile, not-so-nice-girl Andrea rolls her eyes. She came to win, not step aside so the other girls can get some face time. She vows to do whatever she has to do to win the game.
The ladies arrive at a Japanese garden, where Preston is waiting, and they all go off to sit in the floor and have tea. In a voice-over, Preston muses that three of the women are worth a fair amount of money. Has he got these check values memorized, do you think?
With teatime over, Preston takes Jamie off for alone time. “If I could get her alone, I would completely try to put the moves on her,” Preston says, confessing to a bit of a crush on little miss lingerie buyer. His statement is followed by Jamie innocently saying he seems like a good guy. They chat. It’s nice.
Preston then takes Andrea off alone. Not one to waste any time with that “get to know you by talking” crap, Andrea is all hands, rubbing his wrist, his cuff, his inner thigh. She’s like an octopus. Preston is unable to form a coherent sentence.
Andrea’s still being touchy-feely as they walk back toward the other women, who eye her clinginess with distaste. Jamie suspects that Andrea initiated it, but adds that Preston’s not the type to pull away. Not the type to pull away from a girl he barely knows caressing his leg on national TV? Maybe I’ve just done too much of my dating one-on-one, but that would tend to make a guy a bit less attractive to me.
And that’s it for the group date; the ladies head back to the mansion without any one-on-one time for Rebekah and Ali. They’re disappointed, and Ali says she’s pretty much given up. Which is lucky, as Preston says there’s no connection between him and her. The fact that there’s been no opportunity for connection does not get mentioned. But remember, Ali’s check is for $1 million. Surely Preston can connect with that.
Back at the house, Rachel critiques the hugs Preston gives the four women as they leave the limo. She pronounces them all “fake” except for Rebekah’s. Rachel then proceeds to pepper the women with questions about their date. It’s not enough for them to say it was a good time; she wants to know details. “Did he laugh or was he serious?” I’ll give her credit for doggedness, but Rachel could use a few lessons in subtlety. Her insistence on specifics annoys the other women; Andrea says Rachel can’t manipulate her, and isn’t her friend. Thank you, Captain Obvious.
Fun, Fun, FUN at the Belmont Village Retirement Community
The next morning, the girls hope Rachel shows her true colors – various shades of green -- on her one-on-one date. I’ll tell you right now, it doesn’t happen. What she lacks in subtlety, she makes up for in acting. Preston arrives in a limo and Rachel trots out, happy that this time alone with him gives her an edge over her competition. They start smooching in the limo, and Rachel muses that perhaps his interest in her means she has a fat check.
I don’t know whose bright idea this was. But their date is – at a retirement home. During the 62nd wedding anniversary party for Bob and Kay, who are known to neither Preston nor Rachel. Now, I like old people. My grandfather remarried at 81, and he’s a firecracker. But c’mon. A date? With unknown senior citizens? Who are trying to give advice for a successful relationship? This is cheating. You know the producers were just hoping Rachel would snurl up her nose at the whole thing, thus making herself look stupid and making good TV. It was a good try.
Unfortunately for them, Rachel glides through just fine. She dances with the elderly folk, she laughs, she talks, she works it. Preston’s impressed. He says Rachel’s paltry dollar is not a factor compared to how he feels. But think about this, Preston – is she the kind of girl you want to spend your retirement with? She might be cute now, but I’m thinking she won’t want to change your Depends in 50 years.
He’s more impressed back in the limo, where he and Rachel cuddle. And by “cuddle” I mean, she drapes herself full-length atop him. I don’t think Bob and Kay would approve, really. Nor would they like Rachel’s promise to move to Denver – I think that’s where Preston lives – if needed. She says she’s trying to show her interest. If she shows it any more, we’re going to be seeing Fuzzy Blob Man again. And he’s still vacationing after Survivor All-Stars.
Preston notes ruefully that “the girls I’ve made a connection with just happen to be worth nothing.” Um, might want to clarify that, Preston. They’re not worth a lot of money.
Back at the mansion, Rachel raves to the other women about how “fun” her date was. Because it was fun! Very fun. Lots of fun! Evidently, Rachel is thesaurusically challenged. And yeah, I made word that up. And I had fun doing it.
Rachel also claims not to have kissed Preston. Why even bother lying about that? No one believes her, nor do they really care.
Let Me Show You How I Feel. Put Out Your Hand.
It’s PJ’s turn. Did anyone else notice that Preston didn’t even get out of the limo to greet her? I thought that was rude. He might as well have just honked the horn and expected her to run out. Yes, I expect men to walk the five steps to my door if they want me to go on a date with them. Then again, I usually need them to give me a boost into the cab of their truck. So, you know, they have to get out anyway.
Undaunted, PJ again refers to “precious Preston,” which irks me to no end. If she’s just looking for “p” words, I could think of a few other ones. “Pretentious Preston” comes to mind. Just to name one.
Anyway, he thinks PJ is natural and would probably choose him over the money. And it’s no Belmont Village Assisted Living for PJ. No, they’re going to some fancy theater, where they sit in a loveseat, which rises up to the stage, so they can watch a private ballet performance. PJ calls it magical.
Preston says she’s so genuine he questions it, but her consistency is convincing. They kiss, while voiceover PJ tells us he’s what she’s looking for and she hates lying to him. She tells Preston she can’t read him, and so he offers a more physical expression of his feelings. She backs off, saying he’s moving too fast. Evidently Preston can’t read her, either.
He tells us, “if she wants the chance to win, she should throw herself out there a little bit more.” In other words, make out or get kicked out. Gee, he’s a real gem, isn’t he? Such a gentleman.
Master of Her Domain
Back at the house, the women are at dinner. Evidently someone brought herbal pills that supposedly increase one’s libido. Not sure how effective, or useful, that would be in this one-man situation. Anyway, Rachel notes that more libido is the last thing she needs. Evidently she can’t find the privacy to – in the words of the other girls – “indulge herself,” “satisfy herself,” or find “private time for her needs.” Yes, friends and neighbors, we’re talking about masturbation. Although I wish we weren’t. I’m not sure why Rachel felt the need to share that – Andrea thinks it was for attention – but I would think the girl could at least get five minutes to herself in the shower. She just needs to decide whether it’s more important to shave her armpits or take care of business.
Whatever. The other girls are appalled. Rachel thinks they’re hypocrites, since – and she has a point here – they were just talking about sex pills. It’s not like Rachel dropped that tidbit into a conversation about gardening. Andrea fumes that Rachel’s comment “just crossed that fine line.” Yes, it’s such a fine line between sex and masturbation. (well, ok, it is.) But please. Sex talk is sex talk. Get over it.
Rachel finally storms off, perhaps in hopes of having some of that private time. Unluckily for her, the other women follow her. Most seem to come to make peace; Andrea comes to continue the argument. “Seriously, I just don’t even want to look at your face,” Rachel says. What a witty retort.
And in a brief foray back to the land of uncomfortable physical contact (with other people), PJ seems to have relaxed enough to make out with Preston in the limo. Predatory Preston says PJ seems to have opened up and her intentions may be the purest of all the girls.
The Chopping Block
It’s elimination time and the women are nervous. Except, of course, for Rachel, who is supremely confident. Preston only has to cut one woman tonight, though, so most of them can be fairly sure of staying.
It goes down like this:
Rebekah: Preston says she’s warm and makes him smile. She stays.
Andrea: She’s forthright, and Preston wants a one-on-one. So she can eat him alive. She stays, and promises to try to stir things up. I guess she means, “more.”
Rachel: Preston had an awesome time with her and was proud to be at the retirement home with her. She stays, and says if things keep going the way they’ve been going, she might choose the man over the money. Which would be a smart move, dollar-girl.
PJ: Opened up some more, so she gets to stay. She plans to be more forward in the future, and I glare at the TV. She shouldn’t feel like she has to do things she doesn’t want to do just to make him like her! She should have got that out of her system in high school. Ok, end rant.
Jamie: As always, Preston compliments her appearance. And I’d point out she’s the only one he seems to do that for. He says she’s beautiful and intelligent, BUT: he doesn’t know if he’s the type of guy she’d choose. She’s OUT! I was surprised, myself. He really had a thing for her.
Ali: Last girl standing. As she’s never had a one-on-one date, nor even much alone time with Preston, I’d say it’s no coincidence that she’s holding a $1 million check.
We see Jamie burn her $250,000 check with composure, saying she might not be the girl for him. Cut to Preston saying sappy things about how his future wife might be among the remaining five. Which would melt any girl’s heart.
Rachel shows her true, sweet nature. Heh. Just kidding. She’s still a beyatch. Andrea is on Preston like a fly on manure, and the producers promise us a date steamy enough to burn up our TVs. Yeah, I’ll believe that when I see it. More likely, something actually catches on fire. Hm, someone’s vibrator, maybe?
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