Maclean’s Bachelor panel: Week three

What we learned about life and love in this week’s episode

Sonya Bell, Colin Horgan and Aaron Wherry
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Our Maclean’s Bachelor panel reconvenes to consider what they’ve learned from another hour and a half of The Bachelor Canada. Find all of their panels here.

From: Sonya
To: Colin, Aaron

It’s week three, and Brad and his bachelorettes have settled into a nice little routine of planning dates, going on dates, or if all else fails, lying around the mansion talking about dates.

Fair enough – they’ve been pretty spectacular events. Brad took a second girl (Kara) up in a helicopter this week to go cow wrangling in Alberta, and showed off his baby daddy potential when he flew five girls to Mexico and bequeathed soccer equipment onto underprivileged kids. Brad also convinced six bachelorettes to compete in some sort of lumberjack Olympics that gave Whitney the chance to flex her bicep and drop jaws across the nation. Mitt Romney, don’t put this woman in a binder.

By the end of the episode, I’d reached the following two conclusions, which I will defend until the end of my days.*

1) Brad “The Bachelor” Smith is actually a pretty great guy, even with the v-neck t-shirts.**

2) But, there is more going on in the bachelorette mansion than meets the eye, and herein lies Canada’s great opportunity.

Let me elaborate. Like Bianka, Brad is starting to grow on me. What’s not to like about a guy who declares every day the best day of his life? If there was a breed of puppy who knew how to use superlatives, he would be that puppy. I also like that he’s a man with a plan. Furrowing his brow, he announced this week that he is sending home four bachelorettes – not just two – because he needs to get to know the remaining girls on the deepest possible level. Tune in next week, when he compares favourite colours with them for the chance at a one-on-one date.

What Brad doesn’t know is that the real party seems to be going on without him back at the bachelorette mansion. This week, we saw Nicole and Chantelle take a bubble bath together and commiserate about the emotionally draining week. Last week, it was Chantelle and Melissa Marie who shared a moment, remembering how they clicked on day one. We’ve also seen a gaggle of giggling bachelorettes cover Ana in Saran Wrap and draw a mustache on her. Consider what a truly Canadian edition of The Bachelor we would have if two of the girls departed the mansion to get legally wed to each other. The ultimate would be getting Jill Barber to return to sing their first dance.

Aaron, Colin, is the show still holding your attention in week three? Did you learn anything about life and/or love at the deepest possible level?

*Or at least until the next episode proves me wrong

** One could also mention the chest tattoo. I did a quick Google search and learned it’s in memory of his two close friends who died. So I am not mentioning the chest tattoo.

From: Aaron
To: Sonya, Colin

Sonya, I fear you are underestimating matters. What you see as merely “dates,” are in fact very serious tests of love and commitment. Playing soccer with underprivileged Mexican children, for instance, is a test of how well the women handle children—a test, no less, of how they would fare as the mother of Brad’s children. Likewise, the champagne-soaked pool party that followed was a test of how the women look in a bikini. (True story: A champagne-soaked pool party in Mexico is also how Mitt Romney auditioned his VP candidates. Luckily for Paul Ryan, he looks better with his shirt off than Tim Pawlenty.)

The entire show, meanwhile, is a test of reality. Or at least “reality.”

“I get to see the normal side of him and he gets to see the normal side of me,” Kara announced at the outset of her one-on-one date with Brad. The pair then boarded a helicopter and flew to a ranch in another province where they spent the afternoon herding cattle and then retired to a candlelit barn filled with hay (the prettiest fire hazard I’ve ever seen) to have dinner. “I want to be true to you on this journey,” Chantelle said, moments before confessing her virginity on national television to a man she barely knows.

Oh, for truth and normalcy within this entirely bizarre and unreal situation. Even as everyone involved seems, at least implicitly, conscious of how weird this whole thing is, there is a constant search for that which is real. Which brings us to the curious case of Bianka. The poor girl was identified as an oddity this week, Brad struggling profoundly to wrap his head around the enigma in front of him. The problem? Bianka did not seem to be immediately and entirely in love with everything about our obviously desirable bachelor. This perplexed Brad, who confessed that he didn’t think she liked him. And this outraged Gabrielle, who pronounced Bianka a phony after Bianka displayed excitement after winning a one-on-one date with Brad. You see, despite having never previously encountered him, all of the women are expected to automatically desire the bachelor as soon as they set eyes on him. But Bianka took a wait-and-see approach. This makes her both the most realistic individual on the show and least suited for this particular kind of reality television.

What’s most curious about all this is that, of all the people involved, Bianka is the only one known to have any previous link to reality television. She recently dated a basketball player (Kris Humphries), whose subsequent relationship with a popular reality TV character (Kim Kardashian) played out entirely before the cameras of a popular reality TV show (Keeping Up With the Kardashians). Now, either because of very real heartbreak or very near exposure to the world of reality television, she seems to be trying to keep one foot in reality while dipping her toe in “reality.”

Of course, that’s not how it works. Or at least how it’s supposed to work. You’re supposed to commit fully and entirely to the reality of the show. At least so long as you’re within that reality. (Afterwards, you’re free to dump the person and go back to your real life.) By the end of this week’s episode, Bianka seemed to have convinced herself that falling in love with Brad was a distinct, and attractive, possibility. But if she gets kicked off in the next few weeks it will almost definitely be because she wasn’t willing to unabashedly dive into the champagne-soaked Mexican pool party that is The Bachelor.

From: Colin
To: Aaron, Sonya

Perhaps it’s the spirit of the thing, but in keeping with the theme of revealing too much of oneself to a large audience, I will answer Sonya’s final question by saying that I definitely have much to learn about life and love at the deepest level. But I’m not sure what I might learn about either from this week’s installment, apart from perhaps – like Brad apparently did while in Alberta – how to savagely cull a herd of relatively docile, glass-eyed creatures. Not that I’ve had many chances to do that, though, even being from the place.

Anyway, speaking of learning things, and given how I think we all now accept that television is largely a reflection of how we wish to see ourselves, projected back to us in a warming glow that we, the sponges that we are, will happily soak up in gobs as long as it reinforces that vision, I wonder – as Sonya alluded to – about this week’s inherent message of love. And, more importantly than how to attain it or keep it (climbing a 20-foot wooden pole to ring a cow bell works, apparently), I wonder what we learned about the proper way to express it.

As much as both Bianka’s experience of both “reality” and reality, along with her motivations, were more overtly noted this week, I found – perhaps finally, given how much attention I’d personally paid to Bianka in the first two weeks, wondering also about said motivation – Laura B to be more interesting this time around.

This week, Laura B’s primary motive was to convince Brad that her breakdown from the previous episode ain’t no big thang, and that she is by all measures a completely terrific girl who only had a small lapse. Brad’s own motivation with Laura B mirrored that, as he told the camera that the fear was that Laura B’s actions “would repeat themselves.” Apparently, he’d seen this kind of thing before in past relationships, and if she couldn’t get it together, he’d have to say “see you later.”

So, let’s ask ourselves: what actions were those, exactly, that Brad was talking about? Crying? Having self-doubt? Expressing a fairly serious bout of alcohol-fueled introspection? Showing emotion? Questioning the nature of the task you’ve undertaken? Babbling about repressed existential angst?

Again, not to be too revealing of my own past, but who among us hasn’t done at least one of these at some point – and perhaps felt all the better for it? And, by extension, who hasn’t hoped that the individual either at the receiving end of it, or at the heart of the whole matter, would not judge us for it, but accept it as what it was? Or even accept that it might happen again from time to time? That, I think, might qualify as some kind of real expression of love. But maybe that’s just me.