Speaking from my own experience, the week before hometown dates was really tough. Contrary to what you might think, the traveling really can take its toll on your mind and body as you start to really miss the everyday comforts you’ve become accustomed to but typically take for granted. Now throw in six women who’ve all fallen for the same man and we’ve got a ticking time bomb on our hands. Anyone fancy a game of hot potato?

“Two halves make a whole”

It seems that Ben is determined to once again force everyone in his harem to overcome their fear of just about everything. It’s as if the time he spent in Fiji at Tony Robbin’s Namale resort transformed him into the ultimate life coach determined to wreak havoc on our Bachelorettes’ bucket lists which probably include typical female goals like getting married and starting a family but are short on activities like shark diving and bridge climbing.

After a day spent jumping from helicopters and into blue holes the couple retreats to a romantic dockside dinner date to discuss their progress. The only thing I found worth noting was the underlying confidence Ben had when discussing whether or not Lindzi was ready to take him home to meet her family. I just feel Ben already knew the answer to his question but was simply entertaining Lindzi at this point.

“Do You Belize In Love?”

I’ll have to check with the records department but I believe that Ben now holds the Bachelor record for “number of total dates in beach attire.” True to his laid back style the first half of Emily’s date with Ben was all flip flops and board shorts as the couple explore the small seaside village together.

Later in the evening as they sit and dine, Ben as he did prior with Lindzi, asks Emily’s thoughts on bringing him home to meet her family in a very direct fashion. Ben did not seem too concerned with either Lindzi’s or Emily’s answers to these questions (which contrasts sharply with his demeanor during the same conversation with Courtney later in the episode).

“Let’s Talk About The Next Step In Our Relationship”

Just like previous episodes, Courtney finds her way to the center stage and never exits. We are privy to Courtney’s thoughts on how she’s “lost the spark” between her and Ben as she not so patiently waits for the Date Card. Courtney continues on with the poor me attitude claiming “I don’t feel as connected to him as I used to and that’s making it harder to be around these girls.” I want to make a quick reference to Ashley’s season of The Bachelorette and remind everyone that J.P. also started to find the entire process of open competition mentally taxing and emotionally frustrating. I’m not going to go as far and say that he took the same measures Courtney has in distancing herself from the group but there were times when J.P. didn’t want anything to do with the process or the group. The point here is that once the heart works its way into the brain we all know that rational thought is the first and most important personal trait to be shown the door. Everyone has their own threshold of pain and everyone’s breaking point is different and it’s truly unfortunate when good people reach their breaking point in the front of millions of viewers. Let’s keep that in mind as we discuss the dynamics of Courtney and Ben’s date.

Courtney leaves the house for her date with Ben in a demanding mood uttering more of her clichéd, pop culture phrases to the camera. Channeling her inner Phil Jackson, Courtney tells the viewing world that: “Ben needs to step his game up with me. I need more and he knows that.” We can look at this as an example of your standard high maintenance human being but I feel that this is a deeper example of someone who isn’t near the level of personal confidence that she portrays herself to have. After watching Courtney for weeks it is obvious that the Ice Princess act is just an act to protect her from life outside of Los Angeles. This hardened exterior and the “make no friends/take no prisoners” battle plan has no doubt contributed to the off-putting behavior Courtney has exhibited thus far in the show.

As Courtney’s plane arrives to meet Ben, he expresses how grateful he is to have Courtney on this particular date saying: “I wanted you on this date today because these are the things I like to do and I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get you on another one of these.” This statement shows me that Ben was aware of Courtney’s insecurities within their “relationship” but also proof that he doesn’t yet see the toll she’s taken upon the rest of the group. Ben barely settles into the date before Courtney starts throwing strong hints in his direction about her desire to see Emily go “bye, bye”. At this point we see Courtney’s titanium exterior crack a little when she tells us: “I’m a little confused by his feelings for her; he knows how badly she has treated me. If she gets to hometowns it’s going to be really unattractive to me.” Again, we can look back to The Bachelorette when Ben, Mickey and I came to our journey’s crossroads and felt that Ashley’s lack of coherent decision making adversely affected us and could in fact make the entire process a complete waste of time for some guys that were truly looking for love. The last weeks of our season are where our friendships really strengthened regardless of the competition and any feelings we had for Ashley. Ultimately, it was the ability to lean on one another that allowed us to organize and process our feelings which helped to rationalize a somewhat irrational process.

This close knit couple finds themselves sitting at a sacrificial altar of Mayan descent while ironically discussing just how treacherous this “love” journey has been. Courtney starts in on what we will soon recognize as another one of her Recon missions as she describes the complete disdain she feels for any moment that Ben spends with Emily. Courtney goes on to describe how she feels betrayed by his time spent with Emily because Emily was: “the person who said nasty things to me.” At this juncture, it is obvious that Ben is placing more emphasis into what Courtney says and does in comparison to his attention level with the other Bachelorettes. This point is clearly made by the latitude Courtney is given to discuss the problems she is having with the other girls when Emily was brushed off repeatedly by Ben when she tried to voice the concerns she had about Courtney. A timeless quote certainly rings true here that “the heart wants what the heart wants.”

Ben and Courtney’s conversation during dinner was dramatically deeper than what we’ve witnessed so far in this episode. For a brief moment, guards were down, wavelengths were straight and the two love lookers sat starry-eyed discussing their potential future together. It’s moments like these that make me wonder if these two had met in passing (away from the circus that we call The Bachelor) would their relationship have played out with fewer pimples. I’d lean towards “yes” but feel that Ben would still have to address Courtney’s insecurities from past relationships and whatever other failures seem to play into her odd personality away from him.

This moment of normalcy is quickly MBM (Murdered by Model) as the scene shifts to a private interview where Courtney raises her guard and attempts to be “Ha Ha funny” by uttering more of her tired, pop culture blather including: “Snap girls, the shows over” and: “You can all go home; pack your bags” and lest we forget the classic: “Kill shot”. It’s baffling to me as to why Courtney feels the need to act this way if her “spark” with Ben is so bright and if she truly feels that she is a confident woman on a show surrounded by little girls.

As dinner ends the conversations shifts when Ben begins to questions Courtney about her journey up until this point on the show. Courtney’s answer leaves me at a loss as she begins to describe how the other girls from the onset haven’t given her much of a chance. She even goes so far as to call them “vanilla” while emphasizing that these aren’t women she would make friends with in real life.

The key to this conversation was Courtney’s complete lack of honesty in regards to how she generally behaves when Ben is not present. Courtney’s dishonesty is clear to me because the girl with the dead-eye stare (when she thinks she’s in-charge) could barely look into Ben’s eyes as he asked her pointed questions. Ben on the other hand is visibly struggling to figure out just why this process has been so tough on Courtney and which “camp” is telling a more accurate version of the truth. Ben responds to her charges with: “It’s a bit concerning to me that when I bring this stuff up you get defensive”. I really feel for Ben at this moment because it has got to be extremely difficult to sort through so many emotions coming from so many directions completely on his own. In the end he takes a hard swallow and accepts his conversation with Courtney as some sort of progress.

“Let’s Sea Whose Family I Will Meet”

Ben goes for another Bachelor bucket list date and chooses to go swimming with sharks. With Rachel, Nicki and Kacie B. on this date the dynamics of the group would surely lend to a low drama afternoon. The girls for the most part embraced the idea and conquered their fears of nature’s second greatest Man-eater right behind Courtney.

Although all the girls expressed a willingness to take Ben home it was Kacie B. who took the greatest leap of faith in her conversation with Ben stating: “It’s because I’m falling in love with you. I want them to know you and know this part of my life”. Her words seemed so heartfelt and true that Ben gave her the rose proving that he was feeling much of the same emotions about her. The “group” date doesn’t end without a stern “group” warning for Ben to “tread lightly” in his future dealings with Courtney and we are left to believe that Ben has begun to put some weight behind these continued warnings.

“Delaying the Inevitable”?

So much goes on behind the scenes during the deliberation process that Ben is going through at this point in the season. Ben has obviously taken into account the warnings from the rest of the house about Courtney and puts her in the hot seat one last time before giving out the roses. Ben and Courtney’s exchange was more of a slap on her wrist than the water boarding treatment that the viewing masses have been calling for. As the night ends, Rachel and Emily are sent home while Courtney, Kacie B., Lindzi and Nicki are rewarded with hometown dates.

In Defense of the Process

It’s not easy for me to see so many people rip into a good friend over the decisions that he is making every Monday. I mentioned earlier that Courtney put herself into solitary confinement as a result of her negative attitude but for Ben, this process is actually designed to be somewhat of a solitary confinement. Last season, Ben could bounce his fears and thoughts off of a bunch mostly like-minded dudes completely unlike this year where he is surrounded by a bevy of attractive women, not to mention, an entire production crew, yet he can confide and seek direction from NO one. The criticism of Ben to this point has been pretty harsh which I feel is unfounded because a lot of the viewers are seemingly failing to realize that the show was filmed many months ago and all of his decisions to this point have been based on about 90% LESS information than we are getting every Monday in the broadcast.

I have also heard from viewers that are angry that Ben hasn’t listened to the advice and warnings of the other girls on the show. Let’s take a different angle on this for a few minutes……

The “Courtney” that Ben has spent his time with is beautiful, confident, honest and sweet. He also has told us that she displayed just enough of a “weirdness” and “edge” that he is typically attracted to in a woman.

“and god help you if you are an ugly girl

course too pretty is also your doom

cause everyone harbors a secret hatred

for the prettiest girl in the room”

It was obvious to the viewers and to the other Bachelorettes that Ben and Courtney had a mutual attraction from the start of the show. Based on the above lyrics from Ani Di Franco and the repeated warnings about Courtney, what if Ben thought that all of the other girls (knowing that they saw how he and Courtney acted around each other) conspired to get the strongest girl off of the show first (ala Survivor) by making her out to be a terrible person?

My point is that we all have made mistakes, missed signs and ignored red flags in our own personal relationships. Imagine if every week, ten million people got to watch a tape of your highs and lows. I’m sure we would all have some horribly unflattering moments that would make us want to jump off of a cliff if any of our closest friends saw them much less strangers who would never fail to remind you of your least finest moments every time you tried to venture out of your house. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, no one is above criticism and everyone makes mistakes. How many times have your friends told you that they hated your girlfriend/boyfriend but you ignored them only to find out much later (and at a greater personal cost) that this person was indeed horrible and you wasted so much time on someone that your friends knew was bad news all along? True, Ben signed up for this process so he will get what he gets but if you are a viewer who REALLY has some true concerns about Ben’s decision making abilities then I feel it is important for you to play devil’s advocate on a show like this because I can honestly say that until you’ve been in front of the camera, it is almost impossible to describe the actual disconnect from reality.