"Fellas, good morning," says reality-show host and perpetual Chess King clothing model "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like" Chris Harrison from his bully pulpit at the front of the guys' house living room. This week, we learn, there will be "three dates: a special one-on-one date, and then something we've never done before." A new mysterious burnt sienna-colored rose? Elimination by Russian Roulette? The shocking reveal that all ten remaining guys are actually made of candy? Let the almost tangible bounds of suspense release me from their actually decidedly metaphorically iron grip, Chris! "Two men..." -- I like where this is going so faaa-ar -- "...one lady." That's it? Are they that afraid of messing with the formula that that really constitutes "something we've never done before"? Again, y'all, no one's suggesting that you scrap the old recipe entirely and end up marketing New Bachelor and Crystal Bachelor to an audience whose tastes haven't evolved enough to enjoy it. But this right here is nothing more than changing the can design and expecting us to swallow the same flat beverage for years until the audience one day just puts that thing down and retches, "What the hell is this, Tab?" Is that really what you want, you guys? Reality programming in an ugly pink can?
Why yes, thanks, I can frame literally any debate within the parameters of the 1980s cola wars. Ask me sometime about how the Axis Powers of World War II were the collective "Shasta" of the warring 1940s.
Back in the living room, Chris lays out the rest of the week for the guys: "As for the third date, seven of you on one date." Guys throw looks around the living room that would erupt over into the verbal realm of "ruzzah" and "ruzzah" if they were allowed so much as one more second of "It was one of you who poisoned Mr. Body, in the living room, with the group date!" Agatha-Christie-esque suspicious glaring ensues.
Chris (is he still there? He's become so innocuous I tend to forget who he is in between instances of typing his name) continues on, explaining that the dates have been split up: "You guys remember before the show, you all underwent personality tests." And not only do we not get to see them taking the tests, but we also don't get to know anything about the tests or what was on them. Therefore, the activity which basically serves from here forward as the catalyst on which all future action in this episode is based is relegated to the level of the technical awards they hand out before they give the real awards in front of an actual viewing audience. Anyway, we're told, Meredith has taken the exact same test, which in that case apparently consisted of the singular question, "Do you like boys?" And the person who is deemed most compatible with Meredith by a hasty and arbitrary decision from a cabal of producers desperately trying to inject some drama into this dying season (er, sorry. I meant "by a highly regarded and clinically proven personality test") will be revealed by a video invitation. Guaranteed to be there or it's free, Chris fishes the unlabeled VHS tape off the mantel, and throws it at some guy sitting close to Chris, whose position next to a potted palm frond makes me continually mistake one for the other. Let's say that the results of his personality are, "He doesn't have one." No, wait, it's Ryan R. Man, if only he would do something memorable to set himself apart from the rest of the contestants. And, hi. Couldn't they fancy up the tapes a bit? It looks like they're going to pop it in the VCR, become mesmerized by a grainy black & white house on a cliff and a girl staring into a well, and then they'll all die in seven days.