Bachelorella Recap Week 5: Kelsey & the 4th wall (whose TV show is this?)

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Hilarious graphic courtesy of the official Bachelor twitter account.

So tonight I was live-tweeting the new episode of The Bachelor as always, minding my own business, when one of the women said something smart. Wow, I thought to myself. What a great remark! Why is the name of this woman escaping me? I Googled a few of the names to see if I could match a name to a face, when I… spoiled myself. I know who wins this season of The Bachelor according to Reality Steve, via Google.

Yeah. Fuck my life, right? Thanks for that, Google.

I was crushed at first—the finale is so much more fun when you honestly don’t know whom the bachelor or bachelorette is going to pick. I’ll never forget screaming bloody murder when Clare rejected lothario asswipe Juan Pablo’s pity hug, or when Andi jilted frontrunner Nick for meathead Josh. I have never once known how a season would end, and my theories have always been disproven. And I love that about this franchise, how it is edited to leave you grasping at straws, and yet how clear things look in retrospect once you know for sure who the leading man or woman has been falling in love with all along. It is shocking, exhilarating experience. By the final two contestants, you really do care. You are invested in their happiness, even if the couple’s odds of lasting are hilariously low.

That being said, I have discovered there is a weird level of relief that comes with knowing the winner. Don’t worry, kind readers, I will not spoil the winner for you. You deserve to make that decision on your own, to stay pure or to Google her identity yourself. I’ll try to keep it a mystery in my recaps, even though I’m sure it will shape my investment in certain women. I originally planned on writing this week about Carly and her sweet admission that she struggles with physical intimacy, an insecurity about her desirability as a woman rooted in a previous relationship with someone who never wanted to touch her. Watching her open up to Chris was awkward, sweet, and eventually incredibly hot. Their one-on-one, although deeply weird as it involved being contorted into sexual positions by a “love guru,” ended well and was deeply human.

But now that I know who wins, I find myself with a newfound calm, making the foibles of dramatic asshats like Britt, Ashley I., and Kelsey entertaining and sad. This was the week when the machinations of contestants became very clear, to each other and to us, the audience. Chris, unfortunately, will remain the last to know who he is actually dating. But he’s a big boy, he’ll be fine. Let’s dissect, shall we?

First up, a romantic hot air balloon one-on-one went to Britt, also known as the sort of maybe front runner who is convinced she is The Front Runner. While she was sailing in the clouds, the other women got real, dismissing Chris and Britt’s connection as largely “sexual.” This was confirmed when the producers showed Chris and Britt making out under the covers in Chris’s hotel room before filming the door to his room shut entirely. Steamy. Ashley I., fresh off of bitching about both Jordan and Whitney, set in on Britt, repeating a conversation they’d had in which Britt said she loved being single and wasn’t in any rush to have kids. The other women are scandalized and angry, feeling that Britt has been telling Chris one thing and them another. Cut to: Britt telling Chris she wants to have hundreds of babies.

Look, I don’t trust Ashley I. and her purity complex. But Britt is also a waitress from LA, aka a washed up actress looking to get famous. Do I think she’s on the show for the right reasons? I have no fucking clue. Either way, I do think she knows the right answer to the question “How many kids do you want to have,” and that she, as a pretty woman working in LA, would enjoy being single. Hell, I enjoy being single. I totally get it. What the fuck is she going to do in Iowa? And Chris is charming and cute and what the hell, I think she’s along for this ride as long as she can be on it. She’ll figure out the marriage part later. I think she’s telling the truth, to both Ashley and Chris. Only problem is you can’t have multiple truths on reality television.

In a funny parallel, Britt nearly cried describing her fear of heights in a confessional, and then had a perfectly lovely time in a hot air balloon with Chris because he gave her strength. Yeah, okay Britt. Sure.

And then… Kelsey. Oh, Kelsey. You seemed like you were going to be the sane one of the season. You were the only woman I liked during the premier. You carried yourself with grace, talked about starting over after the sudden loss of your first husband without self-pity or frivolous detail. Where did that Kelsey go? Where did this attention-obsessed, jealous, borderline psychotic woman come from? It is so, so tempting to rip into Kelsey the way the rest of America no doubt will, but I know trauma does weird shit to people. The loss of a partner can seriously mess you up, and there’s a chance her behavior on this show is the result of some serious pain and a possible mental break. Is she really having a violent panic attack at the end of the episode, or is she faking it, knowing there is a real chance she is about to get sent home? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

But I need to talk about the stuff she said, even if it makes me look like an insensitive jerk in retrospect. Let me back up a sec. Kelsey, after seeing Britt return victorious from her one-on-one, goes to Chris’s hotel room to talk to him. She tells him about her late husband and how losing him so suddenly made her a stronger person. She kisses him, and apparently cannot tell how uncomfortable he is because she gushes over how great a first kiss it is later on. All of this seems pretty straightforward and believable, but the narration… Sweet baby Jesus, her narration from a confessional later on….

Kelsey effectively  gloats. About how tragic her life is. About how tragically beautiful her life is. “Isn’t my story amazing?” she asks rhetorically, “It’s tragic, but amazing. I love my story.” Like being a widow is this romantic fairytale. Like this is her redemption story. Except to Kelsey it is. That is exactly what this is. “I know this show is about Chris, but this is my story too,” she says.

Ladies and gents, we have a live one. Either all of this confessional footage was shot after the series completed, or it was shot earlier in the season when Kelsey probably didn’t give a fuck, or we have a real, genuine crazy-pants on our hands. I get making fun of a bad situation. I get using humor as a way to cope with trauma. I even get creating a narrative of your life and imagining having your own TV show. I totally get that. We all do it! It’s human nature! But you are on an actual television show right now. To potentially marry someone. Someone she doesn’t actually seem interested in compared to getting attention and writing her own redemption tale. “This is the unfolding of somebody who’s been through something so tragic, and you get to watch her pick up the pieces,” Kelsey says, like she’s writing her own fucking casting page.

It gets worse. “Stay tuned! Monday nights at 8 — the love story unveiled,” she chirps, looking like brunette psycho Barbie. Chills, guys. I got chills. She fucking scares me.

And then there’s the other women and how they understand Kelsey. Let’s take Ashley I., whose virgin shtick has effectively lost its novelty now that we’re in week five. “Now she has a story that is so much more traumatizing than me,” Ashley says in a confessional. “My story is obviously nothing compared to hers.” Yeah, being a virgin doesn’t have the same cache as being a widow. That’s the sick, twisted world of women competing for camera time and a man’s affection. That’s the perfect distillation of this program right there. The virgin and the widow competing for whose story is more tragic.

This is why you don’t try to find a life partner on reality television.

Newly Zen and spoiled Ella is less disturbed by this episode’s antics than I would have been—I have faith that the women-as-packages will sort themselves out. Chris is a genuine guy and he wants a genuine ladylove. The women who take up too much screen time at the beginning never seal the deal. But it’s an interesting lesson in how building a narrative of self can become toxic. In a world saturated with presentation (largely through social media for most of us who will not look for a husband or wife on ABC), it’s worth wondering how much we are living our lives, and how much we’re writing them.

This is Bachelorella, signing off. Tune in next week for more of Ashley I. crying and the conclusion of tonight’s rose ceremony. Find me as always on twitter during the show for live-tweeted gems like this:

 

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Ella Dawson is a rowdy millennial who cares too much about The Bachelor. Her passions include sexual health and education, feminist erotica and social media.

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