Welcome to Ben Flajnik's worst nightmare. This week on "The Bachelor," the show's most memorable women came back to confront Ben -- and one another -- about every hissy fit, scandal, and catty Courtney quip this season. In an unusual twist, the queen of controversy herself was invited onto Chris Harrison's hot seat to stage her defense, complete with an unexpectedly good grip on our heartstrings. The episode left us eagerly awaiting the season finale, if still unsure whether or not Courtney is for real. Here are the top five highlights:
5. Blakeley Defends Her "Blessings"
Blakeley's unforgettable, if brief, turn on "The Bachelor" was characterized by a collection of low-cut outfits and steamrolling competitiveness, both of which riled the other women. She was an early contender for the season's villain, but was quickly surpassed by Courtney, who pegged Blakeley as "the girl your boyfriend cheats on you with." Ouch.
Ben had eventually picked bland Rachel over Blakeley during the excruciatingly awkward two-on-one salsa dancing date, but not before the buxom cocktail waitress made a few enemies. Pint-sized pageant queen Samantha seized this opportunity to call Blakeley out for being a bully, an assault that Blakeley handled with a surprising amount of class, blaming her own behavior on a tendency to keep her guard up.
Blakeley also stuck to her guns when it came to what she calls her "blessings," and claimed that she didn't regret flaunting her cleavage for the camera. It's not hard to see why she had trouble making friends on the show, but her honesty is endearing.
4. Shawntel Fights Back
Shawntel Newton, the California funeral director who was dumped by Brad last season, resurfaced again this week after her scandalous and utterly unsuccessful bid for Ben's heart in San Francisco. Shawntel made the unpopular choice of barging in on a cocktail party to vie for one of the evening's roses. The result was an unprecedented outpouring of vitriol from the other women, and name-calling that was so bad it apparently couldn't be aired on national television.
Shawntel was back this week to defend her decision and chastise the contestants for their nastiness, especially Erika, who had made disparaging comments about Shawntel's body. Most of the women seem genuinely regretful for their rudeness, and a few stumbled over themselves to assure Shawntel that she is "drop-dead gorgeous" and "stunning." She seemed appeased.
3. Emily Bashes Ben
Emily, whose pit bull-like tendencies were on full display this week, became the first woman to say anything bad about Ben this season -- always a taboo move on "The Bachelor." The brainy blonde revisited her ill-conceived attempts to warn Ben about Courtney, which Ben had reacted to by scolding her and telling her to "tread lightly." Emily criticized him for this reaction, and said, "I wouldn't have wanted to have been with somebody who would have fallen for what Courtney was putting forth."
She called his scandalous skinny-dipping adventure "disrespectful," which elicited a frenzy of nods in agreement from the other women. Finally, she declared, "If he does choose her, he's made his bed and he can lie in it." More nods. Emily's pugnaciousness is usually insufferable, but in this case she was the only one telling it like it is.
2. Kacie B. and Nicki Relive Their Rejection
Kacie B. and Nicki both scored hometown dates with Ben only to be sent home in tears. The pair took turns getting quizzed by Chris Harrison about their experiences of love and rejection with the Bachelor.
Nicki, who had made it to the top three, revealed that she was blindsided when she didn't receive a rose in Switzerland. The divorcee had had her heart broken before and took the fall hard. She seemed back to her bubbly self, though, and had a healthy outlook on the experience. "I was myself. There's nothing I could have done differently," she said.
Kacie B., one of the youngest contestants and also the first to declare her love for Ben, also seemed hopeful for the future, despite having had one of the most heartbreaking exits the show has ever seen. She's confident that she'll find the man of her dreams, and we're just hoping that she won't try to do it on "Bachelor Pad."
1. Courtney Faces the Firing Squad
All of America loves to hate Courtney, and Ben's discarded women, goaded by Chris Harrison, led the pack this week. Even Nicki, who had previously reserved judgment, had bad things to say about the show's duplicitous "black widow." Once again, Casey S. was Courtney's sole defender and attributed Courtney's behavior to an inability to let her guard down.
Courtney, who had been waiting backstage in oblivion, nervously took her seat as complete silence filled the room. She was immediately hit by a firing squad of accusations and an outstanding display of hostility, especially from Emily, who was in her element. It was hard not to feel sorry for Courtney, who stuck to her "change of heart" story and repeatedly deflected the jabs by admitting she "should have handled things differently." Most of the women refused to accept her apology and continued to try to rip her apart. She eventually started to cry and said, "I'm not a mean-spirited person. It brought out the worst in me." She even mentioned the toll that the controversy had taken on her family and said, "This is the hardest thing I've ever had to go through."
In their ugly attempts to make Courtney look bad, the women actually made her more sympathetic. It's still hard to tell whether Courtney's love for Ben is genuine, but it's also hard to care in the face of so much animosity.
Ben was also welcomed to the stage, but his appearance was an anticlimactic finale to the tense episode. Jennifer, Emily, and a few other women asked him what went wrong, and he responded with platitudes and generalizations. Nobody confronted him about Courtney, and Emily didn't whip out any of her criticisms. He will move into the finale unscathed, but that's his only guarantee -- with Courtney involved, anything is possible.
"The Bachelor" airs Mondays at 8 PM on ABC.
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