Nick's Heart: Is it Even Real?
Nick seems most happy when scampering tipsy across the sand.
"I'm a drunk baby dinosaur," he yells with glee. Elbows pulled tight to chest, hands cupped forward in T-rex mode (one still clinging to his cocktail), head-bobbing velociraptor-style.
Give this man a stiff Mai-Tai and a shout-out game of "chocolate or vanilla" (with six bikini'd women) and he's content. But if you confront him with your feelings, whether about love or chokeys (more on those in a sec), he will send you home.
Nick was not built to withstand many female moods beyond the baseline of cheerful. He'd probably score around a zero on the Emotional Intelligence APGAR for grown males.
Which partly explains why last night's two-hour episode felt sick with its own dramatical weight: it was all about the conundrum that is Nick's Heart. Which has some kind of indeterminable relationship to his brains and his loins and his privilege.
The women loll across beds, turning their condo into a Think Tank on the problem of: "What is going on in Nick's head?"
"I don't know what he's thinking," someone utters, perplexed. Another engages in calculus involving the math of two-on-one dates. By the end of this epic episode, our self-proclaimed infant dino is threatening to walk out on this Quest for Real Love because he might not have any more loves to give. He's just being honest . . . or something.
Every season features at least one scene of a tear-stained march through the long hallway of some faraway Marriot. And this time, that journey is Nick's.
Lying is Not an Issue, Obvi
Most of us missed the memo about how lies are NBD. Taylor is also late to that party. They probably filmed her Nick Confrontation way before #AlternativeFacts swept the nation. Taylor is so behind the times. She seems to think that lying will disqualify you from competition.
That's so October 2016. Come on, Taylor! Lies rule! Lies are champions. The best!
Anyway, Taylor begins the episode, back after being sent home last week, ready to interrupt the one-on-one date between Corinne and Nick by dropping a truth bomb concerning the 24-year old blonde's less-than-honest tendencies.
She says to Corinne, "You lied today," and Corinne responds with: "Okay." (Even her shrug has an almost presidential refinement to it.) Nick's all "whatever." He's still got stuff he wants to explore with Corinne (like nude yoga with more cans of Reddi-wip) so thanks, Taylor, bye.
Next, Taylor is limo'd away and everybody else takes a horse and carriage ride to yet another plantation for the Rose Ceremony. "It's so old-fashioned," squeals Raven. Thank you, Miss Scarlett.
Chris Harrison swoops in with the heart-stabbing "No Cocktail Party" announcement. There will be no closing arguments before judgment and sentencing.
Jaimi, Josephine, and DolphinShark get the ax, which they take as rejection instead of the gift of freedom.
"You know you're incredible."
That flirty line was Nick's send-off to Alexis, our Aquatic Princess (the hybrid DolphinShark of well-oiled lore). She claims she never cries. As she turns from the camera to sob. Go back to the sea where you belong, sweet mermaid. Poseidon and the other dolphins need you. You know you're incredible.
Bye America, You're Not the Only Land with Plantations! Hello Virgin Islands!
"Nothing could go wrong when you're on an island like this," chirps Raven as they arrive on St. Thomas.
That's right, Raven. This island has an exciting history. First, the indigenous people died from colonial raids and diseases. Next, pirates pillaged until the land was annexed for glorious plantations operated through prison labor (the historic prison here is the perfect site for a date, btw!) Did you know that prisoners make awful workers? So, next The Slave Trade staffed the plantations. More and more slaves got brought over to beautiful St. Thomas while Europeans fought over the isle for centuries. Finally, the U.S. just bought the damn thing.
So yeah, nothing goes wrong here. Ever.
It's not so much that The Bachelor has a racism problem as that America does. The Bachelor does us a huge favor by laying that problem bare and opening it wide. What used to be subtle is getting more In Your Face, like everything else these days.
There is no way to avoid Nick Privilege. Let's Discuss!
In between scenes that dare to delve into the mysteries of Nick's Heart, we are treated to a segment of abject racism, and several others that point out the dizzying stamina of Nick's various privileges. On the one hand, that's just par for the course with all things white, male, and American. On the other hand, it's nice to see The Bachelor display the masterful oblivion of Nick with regard to his positions of power. Let's take a look:
Exhibit One: Lorna and Corinne.
Lorna arrives at the bachelorettes' St. Thomas condo. A black woman with a Caribbean accent offering to do whatever anybody wants or needs. Yes, this season started with an unparalleled number of women of color in Nick's selection database. But by this episode's end, only one black woman remains. So, why is it weird to have a black maid suddenly enter the scene?
Every bachelor condo probably has housekeepers. But this is the first time we've focused on The Help. Even the Bachelor in Paradise bartender Jorge got screen time and billing in the opening credits. We presume Lorna was hired, but it almost comes across as if she's doing some kind of cheery volunteer work.
Lorna mostly enables Corinne's gloating and leisure-time pleasures. Finally, a maid. Corinne revels as Lorna adjusts her towel and does her ironing.
But as we watch a question occurs: Are you horrified? Or are you Corinne? Who thinks it's awesome that her own nanny/maid, the infamous Raquel, would be jealous of Lorna. Because it's not just a job, it's a pleasure to serve. (All those slaves were always happy, right? "Fed and sheltered." And Frederick Douglass is doing a great job!)
What does any of this have to do with Mr. Viall? Nothing, except that Corinne still enjoys a special allotment within Nick's Heart. They share a privilege alliance that was further cemented when they conjoined at the Swamp — beyond Taylor and yet another of the show's collection of dancing black women.
Lorna: May you please have been paid the obscene amount of salary you deserve.
Exhibit Two: Kristina's childhood.
Kristina is an immigrant who ate lipstick as a child. Corinne probably still eats it, but not in the same way as Kristina. Because she ate it for food. Because there wasn't any. The cupboards were bare. And then her mom threw her out. "Good luck surviving." Then the orphanage. And oh yeah, this all happened in Russia. And she would have had to pursue a career in prostitution if she hadn't been adopted by a U.S. family. Her dad met her at the airport with balloons and flowers.
Meanwhile, Nick was making out in the library in Wausheka. How does a guy like this deal with Kristina's history? Well, he thinks she's got a pretty "mature grasp" at life.
Even with The Bachelor's signature exploitation rituals, Kristina comes across as an actual human. Even when they put her and Nick in a gazebo and make them dance inside a circle of women of color wearing 19th century-styled dresses — as if we're in the past or something. As another black band plays music.
All these brown people and this sad immigrant, all this spectacle to try to tell us that Nick is a nice guy with a Heart. Why should we be convinced?
Exhibit Three: Jasmine's "rage."
Is Jasmine really an angry black woman? Or do the producers just give her the Angry Black Woman Edit? Is Nick a jerk? Or is he right to avoid Jasmine and her humblebrags about chokeys?
Jasmine does not follow Raven's advice — which seems civil but is really just a lesson in docility. As if we're still on that Wisconsin farm date where Nick fondled cows. Raven advises Jasmine to just calm down and sit and wait. But this tactic really only works for white women like Raven who are willing to "pull 'em out [breasts] and show a little bit" while patiently exhibiting constant cheer and zero needs.
Uh... tell us again why Jasmine should settle for consistent overlooking by this white guy? Why shouldn't she get mad with "group date after group date?" No time alone. No special attention.
"Don't you dare overlook me," she says to the camera. And then she becomes the second black woman (after Dominique) to confront Nick about a lack of attention, after which said confrontation gets her sent home.
Granted, Jasmine does go for Nick's neck with her hands. More than once. (She also maybe says something about punching him.) But the neck grab is really a sex act that she'll teach him all about later. This move, The Hokey Chokey, is so underground that it's not even googleable. The urban dictionary defines "chokey" as "lousy weather." That doesn't seem to be what Jasmine meant.
Nonetheless, she's unfairly framed. Jasmine gets a final vignette where she feeds the other women some sort of "mud chocolate."
As far as race and ethnicity go, Rachel and Kristina remain as our non-white entrants. On the other side, we have Corinne and Raven who are very "Southern Belle" in both temperament and origin.
Round the remaining pack out with Vanessa and Danielle — two white women who were just as mad as Jasmine about Nick's lack of attention. But their whines are cast as more docile, more acceptable. They are edited with much more privilege than Jasmine and her Rose Rage and chokey.
Group Date after Group Date after Group Date after Group Date
Nick can't figure out why the six women on the group date don't want to play beach volleyball while he keeps score on a little chalkboard on the sidelines. This is fun, right?
Volleyball, like the luge and the swan dive, is one of those activities that looks like it would be easy, but actually takes skill and practice. It is the kind of thing you will suck at if you've never touched a volleyball before, and are then ordered to spike one after six shots of tequila and a catamaran ride on choppy waters.
The women don't want to play and they all end up furious. At Nick. And to make it worse, he cannot hide his preference for The Nightmare Known as Corinne. Why does he even notice when Corinne slinks over to the alcohol cabana to get more drunker?
Why eyeball that curvy blonde when he has five other women willing to leap about and swat volleyballs for his amusement? Because none of the other women wore bikini bottoms that required the ass part to get blurred out by ABC. You can feel the network salivating over its obligation to protect us from Corinne's cheek-slip.
One of the bachelorettes/reluctant volleyballer finally yells, "This is stupid!" Everyone skulks off to their own corner of the beach to pout and contemplate their hatred for The Right Reasons. And this whole annoying group date thing. Sad! And the fact that Nick is a total jerk, incapable of The Art of the Group Date. Which is to simultaneously make each woman feel like she is his clear favorite.
There is a moment in every season when the bachelorettes decide that this show is nothing but jive and drool and they are sick of it and also leaving. But no one ever leaves. They play along. At stupid volleyball and anything else thrown their way.
Maybe the Two-On-One equals Ménage à trois (Sorry, No.)
The producers have assembled a canopy bed, replete with fuchsia drapery and throw pillows galore. Right there on the beach, just inches from the shore. It looks like the scene of a Victoria's Secret photo shoot.
Nick is now out with the heretofore unknown Whitney, and Danielle, who he's liked since the Backstreet Boys dance date. It should have been the perfect get-a-long since we hear that Whitney and Danielle like each other, but also: who is Whitney? This date is just another rejection blood bath. After Whitney gets deserted via helicopter, Danielle thinks she has it made. Winner!
Something about her rubs Nick wrong. Perhaps their eerie traipse through the entrails of an ancient prison. Goodbye, Danielle.
Nick used to like you and feel "optimistic," but now that you've declared love he's having a mental breakdown.
Time to summon the shiny Black SUV reject-mobile. Nick stays behind and fondles the ungifted rose and makes the irrational decision to crash the brainstorm sesh currently happening at the Nick Viall Heart Institute for Research and Rehabilitation (the women's condo) and confront everyone with his turmoil and terror and teardrops.
"I don't know if I can keep doing this!"
YOU HAVE TO, NICK. (Your contract.)
It's not that Nick is breaking from reality — it seems he has finally crashed upon its shore. Adjusted to the full impact of his decisions. Embraced the fact that this show is one big Cray-Cray Excrement Fuzzball. Bonkersville. Just east of the Nut Canyons.
Nick is marooned on Jabberwock Island with six women who he's only ever encountered while on camera. And they all love him. Now suddenly, he's Jim Carrey in The Truman Show finally seeing the exit door painted on the horizon.
Of course, it's time to sob and get the hell outta Dodge. "Good luck, Dude," as Jasmine put it. Everyone should walk the hell out.
Producers, too! Drop the mics and hit the streets.
But we all know, Nick will be back on board next week. Ready to play and slay. Ready for some more Rose Rage and other sweet, desperate adventures in the land of the lies and the lost.
Rock on, Baby Dinosaur. It's not like you're a Russian orphan or something! You know you can do this!
You know you're incredible.
Image Credits: Instagram/colympios, kristinaschulman, jamsinegoode_