It was down to the final four couples on "Bachelor Pad," and after a stressful elimination that last week broke up this season's only remaining alliance, it was anybody's game.
Chris and Sarah, Blakeley and Tony, and Ed and Jaclyn all had strong partnerships due to love connections and chemistry (some more convincing than others), but Nick and Rachel were at a disadvantage, having been thrown together by default after Michael, Rachel's partner and lover, was eliminated two weeks ago. Will "widowed" Rachel be able to stop pining for Michael long enough to take out the competition with Nick? Now that Kalon is gone, will Chris fill his shoes as the show's No. 1 villain?
"Hanging by a Thread"
Chris Harrison delivered one of his delicious twists right before this week's challenge: The winning couple would not receive immunity but would be given the power to vote off another couple of their choice from the pool of challenge losers. The chosen couple would return home immediately -- surprise!
The anxious contestants stepped into their yard to discover a bizarre contraption suspended over the pool: four platforms hanging by ropes. Each couple picked one person to sit on the platform and one to answer a series of trivia questions about "Bachelor Pad" (because, as last week's spelling bee revealed, it's best to stick to what they know).
As Chris Harrison pointed out, it was a challenge of both brains and brawn: With each incorrect answer to a trivia question, the contestant's partner on the platform would have one rope cut -- eventually forced to hang on for dear life to a handlebar above his or her head.
Rachel was the only woman who wanted to be "brawn," leaving Nick and his massive biceps a little miffed. It didn't end up mattering -- nobody could hang on to that bar for long. Sarah, with her seemingly endless supply of "Bachelor Pad" trivia knowledge, was the star of the day, answering almost every question correctly and preventing partner Chris from even having to break a sweat. They won the challenge effortlessly.
Chris and Sarah withdrew to gloat and deliberate over their decision. "I have the opportunity to shatter someone's dreams," Chris said, licking his lips in anticipation. They pretended to go back and forth for a while, but then made the decision we knew they would: voting off Blakeley, Chris' former partner and No. 1 enemy, and by proxy, her partner, Tony.
With his usual pettiness, Chris led off his announcement with a little dig for each of the contestants, while Sarah stood obligingly by. There were plenty of tears as Blakeley and Tony took their leave, even from the usually stoic Ed.
Tony joined Blakeley in her limo and patted her leg reassuringly as she sobbed. Here's a silver lining, at least -- these two seem to really like each other, and it's hard not to root for them despite the dubiousness of Blakeley as a mother figure to Tony's son. Oh, well. Good luck, guys.
Sister Christian…something something…
Chris Harrison is usually allotted only one major twist per episode, but this time he was back before the contestants could take a breath, with another game-changing announcement: The episode had an extra challenge, and it started right away!
The contestants arrived via limo at the Hollywood Palladium and were thrilled to discover the band Night Ranger playing its hit "Sister Christian," seemingly for the couples' personal enjoyment. But pretty soon, another bomb was dropped: The three remaining couples all had to put together a performance of the song in the next 24 hours – as couples, with a real band, in front of a live audience! Not only that, but their judge would be none other than the band Night Ranger, which, lead vocalist Jack Blades pointed out, has performed this song at least "16 thousand million times."
The couples were given vocal coaches but would also be judged on stage presence, choreography and chemistry. They had a full day to accomplish what most musicians spend years practicing and were all hampered by spectacular tone-deafness. Seriously, they were terrible, Sarah especially. "There's bad, and then there's Sarah," observed Chris.
Their day of suffering ended when the couples were once again dropped off at the Palladium, where they were greeted by a line of screaming fans who had apparently gotten lost on their way to Madame Tussaud's. The couples climbed into their '80s-inspired costumes and makeup (even the boys) and prepared to take the stage.
Rachel and Nick were up first, and, to everyone's surprise, actually rocked it. Rachel's not a great singer but used the sultry raspiness in her voice to cover up her missed notes. The usually subdued Nick stole the show by coming out of nowhere as an incredibly energetic performer, hopping around the stage and thrusting his hips into the audience and playing off of Rachel's choreography. Eyeliner -- it does wonders. Night Ranger gave them the seal of approval with a standing ovation.
Jaclyn and Ed were up next. Within the first few seconds, they had both forgotten the lyrics and asked for a do-over – but the band couldn't hear them and played on. They tried to recover, but no amount of stripping and dry humping could save their sloppy, tone-deaf performance. No standing ovation, or dignity, for them.
Chris and Sarah closed the challenge with a performance that Night Ranger could only sum up as "entertaining." It was a bizarre, disjointed, insanely energetic rendition. Ed compared Sarah's dance moves to those of "an electrocuted monkey," which was pretty accurate.
The judges loved Rachel and Nick's "showmanship and chemistry" and even gave a thumbs-up to Rachel's voice. They dismissed Jaclyn and Ed, calling their performance "all over the place," and expressed incredulity that the couple had managed to forget the lyrics with so much money at stake (uh, yeah.) Sarah and Chris' performance had them stunned into near-speechlessness but still very "entertained."
And the winner was: Rachel and Nick! Well deservedly. Nick, who had never won a rose in his life, not even on "The Bachelorette," was especially excited.
Chris Harrison announced his third or fourth twist of the episode by revealing that Rachel and Nick would now get to choose which couple would go to the finale with them and which would be booted off. Tensions soared as the duo realized the gravity of their decision, and the other two couples bemoaned their powerlessness.
And wait just a minute here -- is Nick a secret genius? Until this week, he had laid so low that nobody chalked him up as a threat, and all of a sudden he's wielding all the power. Who is this guy?
The unpopularity contest
Poor Rachel and Nick, who have zero attraction or attachment to each other, had to sit down and make one hell of a hard decision together. Who to send home -- Chris and Sarah or Ed and Jaclyn?
Rachel wanted to keep Ed and Jaclyn around because she was best friends with Jaclyn, but Nick had a really good point: In past seasons of "Bachelor Pad," former contestants have had the final say in who gets the money. And Chris and Sarah, because of Chris' drama-inducing sexual shenanigans, were definitely the least popular couple of the two.
Nick once again showed some balls by insisting convincingly that they pick Chris and Sarah. He was really quite manipulative. "You're here for the money, right?" he demanded of Rachel. "So am I." Where did you come from, Nick?!
Rachel was initially unconvinced. "I can't even imagine the look on Jaclyn's face," she said, weeping. "Friendships mean so much more than money."
Nick prevailed in the end, and they begrudgingly awarded the rose to Chris and Sarah on account of how unlikable they are. More gloating from Chris and Sarah.
And yes, Jaclyn, who had considered Rachel a close friend, was crushed. Well, she was crushed for about five seconds, before channeling her devastation into catty rage. She blew off Rachel's apology and goodbye (reducing Rachel to tears) and seethed the whole limo ride home. "I want nothing to do with her, ever again," Jaclyn spat. "She's dead to me."
Back at the Pad, Rachel immediately regretted her decision. "I feel like I got really backed into that one, really badly," she said. "Money is ugly. It's not worth losing friendships over, it's not worth feeling like this."
Oh yes, it is ugly. And judging by next week's previews, it's going to get even uglier. See you there?