Farewell to the Coolest and Most Collected ‘Golden Bachelor’ Contestants

With Susan and Sandra out this week, I'm going to miss the levity and composure they brought to the competition.

Farewell to the Coolest and Most Collected ‘Golden Bachelor’ Contestants
Photo:Disney/John Fleenor

And then there were three… We’ve officially made it into the second half of the inaugural Golden Bachelor season, where our Cabbage Patch doll of a senior citizen, widowed Gerry Turner, is looking for a second chance at love within a group of women who all live hundreds if not thousands of miles away from where he lives in Indiana. As we suspended our disbelief over grown-ass adults finding true love with a dozen cameras in their faces, to enjoy an hour of derivative romance, my two favorite contestants, Susan and Sandra, were unfortunately sent home in Thursday night’s fifth episode.

Sandra and Susan were a respite amongst the remaining gaggle of contestants who often seemed on the verge of tears over Gerry, a man they met nary a month earlier. It’s the sort of behavior I can almost forgive for younger, naive women whose main experiences with courtship involved being invited to prom. But with older women who’ve been married, divorced, perhaps lost their spouses, have had children, and ought to be more familiar with the tumults of life, it’s sort of cringey. While I would have loved Susan or Sandra to hang around more, I also respected their incredibly even-keeled, mature approach to casually getting to know this dude. It felt wildly normal. I’ll miss Susan and Sandra’s composure on this show and the levity they brought to a premise that deserves only that.

In this episode, the promise of hometown dates hung in front of the remaining six women like a carrot taunting a horse. For some—Leslie, Theresa, and Ellen—this looked excruciating. The image of Gerry meeting their grandchildren and friends danced in their minds like sugar plum fairies. When Gerry and Faith hovered above the Bachelor mansion in their romantic helicopter ride, a staple of the franchise, Leslie gritted her teeth in emotional agony. It was like she was having war flashbacks and in a way she was.

Faith eventually explained to Gerry while on the Santa Monica boardwalk that this whole premise of the Golden Bachelor—with him snogging half a dozen gals—was bruising old wounds of being cheated on. She cried. They hugged. He called her “my girl,” a shockingly intimate response compared to his typical go-to when a woman opens up to him, which is “Wow! Thank you for telling me that.” It was the first time Gerry’s flirting didn’t fit neatly within an HR handbook of how to interact with your colleagues.

Ellen and Theresa, without the security of a coveted rose going into the group date, separately decided it was imperative to let Gerry know they were falling in love with him. In their confessionals, they admitted that the tactic in some ways felt like a last-ditch effort to make this whole experience worth it, both cresting on a mania that all reality shows seem to lure out of the best of folks.

Seeing older women this twisted around a man whose most intriguing quality is a lion tattooed on his outer bicep is disheartening. Not because Gerry isn’t worth it but because one wants to hope that at a certain age, the sort of desperation they’re exuding fades. Though of course, it doesn’t! And my want for that neat and easy narrative for older folks is 100% about my own fears of future loneliness. I commend them for their vulnerability and I’m embarrassed by it. I wish I weren’t for the latter!

Perhaps the discomfort I have watching Leslie, Theresa, and Ellen (who was sadly sent home) throw themselves at Gerry is why I was so fond of Susan and Sandra, also both sent home this week. Those two certainly seemed to enjoy Gerry. Sandra, as you remember, was invested enough to miss her daughter’s wedding last week. But she also was conspicuously missing from a lot of scenes of the contestants hanging around the house, presumably and understandably because she was napping—a normal thing for a 75-year-old retired woman to do.

Susan and Gerry smooched a couple of times but never once had a one-on-one or really much solo time at all. It seemed Susan found exactly what she was looking for—a three-week poolside California vacation with some new gal pals. Cheers to her.

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