All about competition for The Bachelor’s season 20

After watching The League last summer, I convinced myself that I would be good at fantasy football. And when I couldn’t convince any of my friends to start a league with me, I actually found a public league through ESPN, signed up, and competed against 19 Internet strangers for four months. Team Ya Gurl Gutie actually came in eighth place, mostly thanks to the research I did every week in order to write my column in the sports section. It was probably the fiercest challenge I’ve ever faced, and it was nothing at all like The League. It did, however, fill me with a certain competitive spirit.

With the adrenaline still pumping, The Bachelor gave me one of the best late Christmas gifts a girl could ask for: thebachelorbracket.com. I really wish that Chris Harrison and his army of minions had publicized this prior to the season’s premiere, but better late than never. I created a league very soon after and began my research. It was like draft day. I got online, reread everyone’s biographies, stalked Ben Higgins — this year’s bachelor — on social media to try to figure out his type, and wasted most of an afternoon trying to guess who would be going home. I thought I would have it nailed. The bracket is very simple: every week you select the group of girls that will be continuing, thereby purposefully not selecting girls that will be going home.

I feel that The Bachelor franchise is really pushing the competitive angle this season, with the creation of the brackets, but also with the dates. It’s bad enough that these women are risking severe heartbreak at the hands of Ben Higgins — dreamcake. Plus, you have frighteningly aggressive women like Olivia and Lace who already do enough to inspire a natural sense of competition. It seems as though it couldn’t get any more cut throat. But then they’ve been making these poor, helpless victims of The Bachelor literally compete for his attention.

In week two, he sent them back to high school. They had to pair up to compete in challenges like creating an erupting volcano in a science fair and actually running hurdles, and after each challenge one team would get eliminated until the winning pair competed against each other for the title of homecoming queen. Anything having to do with high school already makes me want to punch a hole in a wall, so this “challenge” really irritated me. At least the only thing on the line was a tiara. But then, this week the group date consisted of a soccer lesson with Kelley O’Hara and Alex Morgan (of the World Cup winning U.S. women’s team), which was followed by an actual match. They divided the girls into stars and stripes and made them face off. The winning team got to go on a date with Ben, and the losers had to go back to the mansion.

Unsurprisingly, these challenges are met with a good deal of intensity. So they really aren’t even competing for his affection; it’s just a chance to earn his affection. Twin Emily came out of nowhere to be an amazing goalie. My field hockey coach always used to yell at us, “sacrifice your body!” and boy, was she ever living that. She instantly went from being totally off my radar to being one of my favorites. I like her spirit.

Sidebar on the twins: it’s my understanding that this coming week Ben will be taking them for a two on one. This is my absolute least favorite date of every season. It always ends so painfully, like one person crying on a mountain while the other two take off in a helicopter. In this case, we really haven’t even gotten a chance to get to know them as individuals. But when we finally do, one of them has to leave! I think this is cruel. I want them to have a chance to be Emily and Haley, not just the twins. We’ll finally get to know them, but only when they’re pitted against each other. This situation is honestly an outrage. Shame on you, Chris Harrison. But honestly it’s just a matter of time before E! gives them a reality show. Check out blondesense702.com.

And finally, I am thoroughly loving the unraveling of Olivia, the epitome of competitiveness. I don’t have her making it through week four, but I love that she’s in denial. Her ego got so inflated so quickly that it popped for us all to enjoy on network television. The group date started with her interrupting Ben to take him away. She arranges to take him up to a room at hotel where the date is taking place, and then proceeds to howl “helloooo” from the balcony to the other girls, waving like a pageant queen. And when she didn’t get the date rose, she noted that when Ben stood up he touched her leg. That was his way of saying “Sorry, Olivia, you can’t win every time, but I’m still thinking about you.” This alone was spectacular.

But then right at the cocktail party, Ben announces that a couple very close to his family died in an airplane crash that morning. He expressed that the evening’s conversations would be really important to him understanding which women can be there for him when he’s feeling low. So naturally, Olivia interrupts him again at the beginning to take him away to talk. She comforts Ben in his time of need by complaining about her cankles, actually shedding tears. She received the final rose, which she interpreted as some other unfathomable unspoken communication. She insisted that they are meant to be, and she will be Mrs. Higgins. I expect her to go out in a blaze of glory in the very near future.

Week two, which is week one of bracketing, I only got one of the girls who did not receive a rose correct and that was a woman named Mandi. I knew she was just too unapologetically weird to make it that far. Definitely not Ben’s type. But I really didn’t expect the identical twins to make it through, an early judgment I now regret — not just because I lost points, but because I’m starting to like them. That said, how Lace got a rose was truly beyond me. In the end I wasn’t particularly upset about the other women leaving, but I hoped Jackie would make it further. Anyway, this left me two points back from first, an honor belonging to Lula Banker, the Tartan’s personnel manager.

In this week’s bracket I still only got one right, and that one was Lace. I really did expect to feel more joy in her departure. We all knew that she had some growing up to do, and it was comforting that she knew it too. The part of me that loves reality television for the drama did really enjoy the spice she added to things while she was there. I was also really disappointed to see Shushanna go. I feel like we as the Bachelor-viewers of the world were deprived of the opportunity to get to know a real gem. We didn’t even know that she could speak English until week two; there must be so many more layers to peel back. And finally, while I felt bad for Jami because she just seemed so jazzed to be there, I didn’t have any particular feelings about her departure. I truly thought Amber was going home after her dramatically passive week two, but then she came out and won the group date rose this week. I also thought he would say goodbye to Lauren H. because I just haven’t seen any spark yet. With a two for three success rate in week three, I still came out two points behind Lula.

Lula’s friend from home, Sarah Waldman, is also in our league. She didn’t compete in week two, so her points reflect that (that week’s number of points per correct guess, cumulatively). I still have a significant advantage, but she did very well this week. Hopefully she doesn’t get the chance to catch up. I feel like once we weed out the randoms and get down to ten girls I’ll have a better handle on how all the relationships look.

I predict that Olivia will be roseless alongside one of the twins — right now I say Haley — and also Amber. She confronted Ben and Jubilee and lost. She won’t recover from that. I feel confident in these picks, so hopefully I’ll slide into first.