As a fan of reality TV competition shows, I always, without fail, root for the villain. The villain is usually the smartest and most strategic, attributes that entertain and impress me far more than physical strength or niceness. Stick me in front of an episode of any reality TV show and I will be cheering for the Richard Hatch of the group, the person 10 steps ahead of the others who are too busy braiding each other’s hair to notice.
That’s why I am such a big fan of Courtney, the mean-spirited model on this season of “The Bachelor.” Because even though she ‘s fond of using dated catchphrases like “Winning!”, Courtney is the only one who seems to recognize that after 16 seasons (plus an additional eight of “The Bachelorette”) of final roses, failed engagements and broken hearts, “The Bachelor” is a competition and that winning very rarely results in finding true, lasting love. As a result, Courtney has played “The Bachelor” game with very little regard for the actual “prize” in the end, and watching her has been a master class in manipulating a man. Here’s how she’s done it.
1. Be beautiful, but seemingly low-maintenance. For the most part, the women cast on “The Bachelor” all fit a certain beautiful “mold.” Caucasian, long hair, thin/slightly curvy figure, and the ability to fill out a sexy cocktail dress. But some of them obviously “work harder” at it than others; we all saw what happened when the humidity was allowed to wreak havoc on Kacie B’s hair, Lindzi clearly has an intimate relationship with the spray-tan machine, and Blakeley singlehandedly keeps the lip gloss industry afloat. Courtney, on the other hand, is a model; her beauty is seemingly effortless, which has huge appeal to a guy like Ben, who wants a girl who can get down and dirty with him but isn’t, you know, ever ugly. Unfortunately, unless you are born this way, there’s not much you can do. Sowwy.
2. Don’t make friends, but don’t shit talk your enemies either. One of Courtney’s most brilliant moves was in alienating the women during her solo interactions with them, but putting on a sweet act in front of Ben. She had to know that the growing resentment towards her would eventually result in one or more of them complaining about her to Ben — and that they would look bad instead of her. What Emily et. al. seemed to forget is that dudes don’t like “drama” and “gossip” and if you’re bringing the drama and gossip to his front door — by complaining about Courtney being “mean” — the only person who’s going to benefit is Courtney. Courtney stirred the pot but never ever in front of Ben. As a result, she looked more like the bullied than the bully.
3. Be flirtatiously disinterested. Courtney’s major coup was in turning “The Bachelor” into “The Bachelorette,” in which Ben was fighting to win her affections rather than the other way around. From a strategic standpoint, this is what made me a Courtney fan. Courtney told Ben at one point, “I lost the spark,” and you could see the fear in his face. Courtney was the only woman on the show who made it clear to Ben that her affections were not guaranteed, which upped the excitement for him, while preying upon his fear of losing something that he shouldn’t even know for sure he wanted. This tactic would not have necessarily worked on just any guy and could have resulted in Courtney being sent home, if she hadn’t gotten the tone — a mixture of boredom and tease — just right. Brilliant!
4. Prey upon his weaknesses. Ben kind of went into this season at a disadvantage with a girl like Courtney, because she was able to watch his relationship with Ashley play out and learn some of his sore spots to use in her favor. The biggest being that he fell in love with Ashley, proposed to her, and was rejected. Courtney preyed upon his fear of being rejected again, but not to such an extreme that he protected his ego by rejecting her — there was always the carrot that she could be won dangling just out of reach.
5. Use your sexuality. Let’s face it, in terms of looks, Courtney is way out of Ben’s league. Half the time he’s around her, Ben looks like a 15-year-old boy who’s been given the chance to feel up a Victoria’s Secret model. Courtney’s seduction tactics have been almost, well, MILF-y. The lying in wait with a bottle of wine? The late-night skinny-dipping? The blasse bra-less-ness? Mrs. Robinson would be proud.
6. Placate his fears with an over-the-top reward. Courtney made it to the final four and was thus able to bring Ben home to meet her family, but he was still suspicious about her motives. This called for a reward of epic proportions that would further blind him to the glaring red flags. At first, when Courtney orchestrated that fake wedding in order to tell Ben she loved him, I was like, “Whoa, girl, this might be too much.” But then I remembered that Ben was dessssperate for reassurance that he had done the right thing by keeping her, and an over-the-top, crazy statement like a fake wedding not only successfully humanized her in his eyes, but actually made her seem vulnerable. (I can’t help but think that her “Sex and the City”-cribbed vows were a wink and a nod to the audience.) Courtney’s manipulation lies in alternating between making Ben feel like a man and making him fearful that he’s not man enough. After this, Ben felt back in the driver’s seat again. Conveniently, this stood in stark contrast to the way he felt around Kacie B’s dad, and she was sent home instead.
7. Rehab your image. Depending on what her actual end game is — just winning Ben’s heart on the show or actually winning him permanently — Courtney may have started this process a little too late. She not only has had to backtrack on her behavior in the present tense — so she can win the final rose — but also in the future, when Ben (and America) watches the show. I think Courtney has been successful in the former, but clearly not the latter; I believe Courtney easily beats Lindzi for Ben’s final rose in tonight’s finale, but I’m willing to bet her apologies came a little too late as he watched the season play out. If Courtney really, truly wanted Ben for keeps her biggest mistake was making him look like a damn fool for far too long. Guess we’ll find out during tonight’s finale and “After the Final Rose” special…