Man, was I wrong about Juan Pablo. And even wronger about Andi.
At the beginning of this season, I had illusions about the concepts of masculinity that Juan Pablo had been complicating in this season. I talked about the man of listening over the man of talking, the rave-wave hair do over Marlboro machismo, the spontaneity over the rigid focus. And I think it was because that was what we saw in first few episodes–we found JP sidling the stall of the helpless, drunk girl; we found him championing honesty; we watched him placate the worries of his niñas. Ay, mis niñas.
But then something happened–and it wasn’t just the excessive string of hookups and face-touching. We began to see that these genuine-and-concerned-confidant moments were repeating themselves at an accelerating rate. One of the “niñas” would be upset about having to share her time with other girls, to which Juan Pablo would respond, “You are one of my special ones. It’s okay.” Another “niña” confides that she is so stressed out and worried that she will not be given a rose, to continue on the show, that maybe he doesn’t like her anymore. He simply smiles, says, “I don’t want you to cry.” He brushes the hair away from her face. Kisses her. “You are one of my special ones. It’s okay. Don’t worry.” Both girls leave the talk feeling restored, rejuvenated–only one of them ends up staying on to the next round. Juan Pablo’s panache for sympathy and comfort begins to look more like the operative motivators of a gigolo. His staple reply to “What do you think of (Clare)?”: “Ay, Clare. Clare is beautiful. And so sexy. And honest. I love her honesty. I really like Clare. We always talk about great stuff.”
Well, it all came to a head last night, now that we’ve reached the cameras-off, spend-the-night portion of the show. Three “fantasy suites” for three different ladies, and Andi is number 2. After accepting the invitation, Andi remarks the next morning that it had been “a disaster,” that she “saw a side of Juan Pablo that I frankly did not like.” Juan Pablo says it was a great night, that “we laughed all night, talked all night.” Rather than make a personal video to help her chances for the next round, Andi says she would like to speak to him in person. Cue angry walk montage.
Andi’s slam lasts two whole segments, nearly twenty minutes of the show. The gist: she felt disrespected, having been the second girl to have chosen to “forgo their individual room” (uh, really?), but also because JP called her a “default” pick (fair to be upset about). JP denies it coyly, then retreats, “If you say that’s what I said, I’m sorry you think that.”
More importantly, though, Andi points out that Juan Pablo doesn’t even know her. She asks, “Do you have any idea what religion I practice? What my political views are? Views on social issues? Things that matter? Do you have idea how I want to raise my kids?” Juan Pablo retorts, “What is my religion?” to which she replies, deadpan, “Catholic.” He is silenced. She tells the camera, the Bachelor faithful, you cannot be loved if you are not known. The show’s structure of progression towards marriage (something Andi was waffling on at the time anyway) precludes this kind of intimate knowledge, and yet its punchdrunk pathos excludes the need for serious investigation of those “things that matter.” Again, ol’ JP sidesteps the accusation: “You did not tell me you wanted to know these things about me. You should have said them, and not waited until now.” We begin to see the mask falling from the sensitive partner, and the blamer behind. Juan Pablo running out of moves. He says, “If this is the way you feel, it’s okay. It’s not meant to be, it’s okay.” (“Essss oh-kay”)
And, just like that, another move revealed. Andi says, “That’s the thing. It shouldn’t just be okay. It’s not okay. You can’t just say ‘It’s okay’ and make it okay. That’s not how it works.” She points out Juan Pablo’s allergy for conflict, his disdain for relationships in the midst of hardship, anxiety, overwhelming roadblocks. (Another–even creepier–move of Juan Pablo’s with crying women: the “Look at me” command. “Shh…Shh…No crying. No crying.”) Andi records, with District Attorney clarity, the moments in which she’s been distressed, where Juan Pablo could have been a listener, and in fact wasn’t. “He either said ‘It’s okay’ or ‘Besitos, besitos’ (little kisses).” Again, Juan Pablo balks at the accusations, this time blaming it on English being his second language, saying his way of viewing it has gotten lost in translation. Andi has a different opinion: “It’s not a language barrier, it’s about him. He will never understand what I just told him.” For those with ears to hear…
Watching this episode, two things came clearly to mind. The first was the quick jolt of righteous justice this episode delivered, and the unsettling feeling of sameness that accompanied it. I began to feel simultaneously the moral rectitude of a courtroom reckoning, the guilty bastard getting what he deserved, and also the feeling of not being too different from Johnny P. Who doesn’t have those moves they make, first date after first date, over and over, the only ones they know–the ones that get them in trouble all the time–those lazy relationship defaults. Ugh. And who is ever in his position? To be watched by the world as he cycles pathetically through them all, with each of the “niñas” he’s certainly supposed to know by now, on some rickety Vietnamese fishing boat with three camera crews? Not to pity to Juan Pablo, but at center stage in the Stadium of Modern Love, it’s like getting famous for singing a capella, and being asked to lead oboe. None of us would fair well.
Secondly, I was impressed that The Bachelor positioned El Bachelor the way it did. I mean, Juan Pablo looked bad at the end. Even Chris Harrison asked him pointedly, “You say you ‘like’ these girls. What does that mean? I would hope you’d be close to falling in love with at least one of these girls. Where do you stand?” Surely, conflict drives ratings. That’s the nature of reality television. But is the conflict worth it, at the expense of putting your lead figure, even your show’s method and premise under the light of reality’s scrutiny? Was it to throw a bone to the viewer? Was it to pave the way for The Bachelorette? It was clear, watching Andi ride out of St. Lucia alone, that the fourth wall had been broken for just a moment, that something real had entered the stage and was now making it’s way back home to the rest of us.