And, after five years of never having been on television, Arie Luyendyk, Jr. is back! He's off to the races. (That's my first racing pun! There will be more!) There's a lot of hesitation surrounding Arie as the Bachelor, given his history. He was last seen on television five years ago. In pop culture years, that's basically a decade. He's just not all that relevant to Bachelor nation. But Arie's alright. He's a racecar driver and a part-time realtor and, with that salt-and-pepper hair, he's got a sort of Dermot Mulroney appeal.
Thankfully, the premiere of The Bachelor proves what we already knew to be true: The Bachelor himself doesn't matter all that much. This show is made by its contestants, and Arie has an impressive lineup.
Before we get to the contestants, though, there must be backstory. Every Bachelor premiere must begin with an montage explaining how, oh how, this person could possibly be single.
For his case, Arie makes the bold claim that Emily Maynard (the Bachelorette of season 8) left him emotionally damaged. Reality television gave him true love, then cruelly took it away. After that taste of television romance, Arie just couldn't fall in love again. For the sake of drama, the show replays Emily and Arie's breakup which, all things considered, was one of the calmer splits in Bachelor history. Emily cried, Arie furrowed his brow, and there was a lot of heavy breathing. (I like the part of The Bachelorette when men breathe heavily and try not to cry. Or try to cry, actually, depending on the guy. This flashback just reminded me that I prefer The Bachelorette.)
His intro package conveniently glazes over the relationships that occurred in the intervening five years — remember, he couldn't fall in love again, okay? — and moves us swiftly to present day. These days, Arie is racing a little and working as a realtor. Somewhere in there, he implies that his breakup with Emily made him start racing too much. So, the low-key lifestyle is proof that his heart is healed and he's ready to fall in love again.
As far as advice goes, ABC trots out Sean Lowe, a noted Arie advocate and one of the last successful Bachelors. Sean and Catherine bring their son Samuel, which isn't fair because Samuel is very cute and honestly, this show should be about Samuel. Sean and Catherine, for their part, also seem a little nervous about Arie's prospects. They wield Samuel like "this is your brain on drugs" propaganda: Look, Arie, you could come out of all of this with a kid. (And let's hope he does. Let's hope the show ends with a toddler entering and yelling, "Daddy!")
In Arie's words, though, he's "beyond ready," at which point, I am also beyond ready to get to know his potential future wives.
The intro packages — video intros that only a few contestants receive — thankfully don't trot out anyone "crazy." There are no Whabooms or chicken enthusiasts to be found this season. There's Chelsea, a single mom from Maine, who reminds us that it is not "glamorous" to be a single mom. Next up, we have Caroline, a realtor who tells us that she's very good at her job. Also, she likes race cars because she "grew up around cars." Then, there's Maquel, 23, who makes the mistake of saying she watched Arie on Emily's season. This means she watched Arie on TV when she was about 17. Fun stuff! Nysha is a nurse who loves blood — "The more blood, the better for me," she says. Hot take: Nysha is a vampire. Tia is from Weiner, Arkansas, and she's a friend of Raven Gates. Kendall collects taxidermy and has never been in a relationship over a year. Bekah is 22 years old and will henceforth be known as the 22-year-old contestant. (Fine, she's also a nanny and she likes rock climbing.) Marikh owns a restaurant with her mom and likes to work out at the park. Krystal, a fitness coach, brings it home with some pathos: She frequently makes meals for the homeless in her spare time.
None of the women really make an impression until the limo entrances, the real bread and butter of the Bachelor premieres. An intro package is manicured and slick; an entrance is almost always awkward. Not one, but two women enter with a car: Bekah, the 22-year-old contestant, rides in a '65 Mustang. And Maquel, the 23-year-old, arrives in a noisy Dragster.
Two women decide to go with jokes about genitalia. Tia, Raven's friend from Weiner, Arkansas, brings a tiny wiener. She jokes that she hopes he doesn't already have a tiny weiner, which is just deliciously awkward. Amber tells Arie that she owns a spray-tanning company, which means she's seen a lot of genitalia. Both dick jokes don't really rise to the occasion (heh), but at least things are getting silly.
This year's best entrance award is a tie between Brittane J., and Becca, a publicist. (Not 22-year-old Bekah.) Brittane slaps a bumper sticker on Arie's buttocks that reads: "Nice butt." Simple, but effective. Becca instructs Arie to get down on one knee. She then makes him say, "Are you ready to do the damn thing?" Both entrances are saved by pure charm. Becca especially seems oddly at ease for the show — unlike the rest of the women, Becca is maybe having a good time.
The Bachelor is self-aware enough at this point to address the Lauren issue. You may have noticed in this year's cast list that there are four Laurens. They are: Lauren B., Lauren G., Lauren J., and Lauren S. They all arrive in the same limousine, one right after another. As the Laurens enter, the other contestants start to comment on it. Even sleepy Arie looks surprised when yet another Lauren steps out of the limo. This gag is silly and fun, but, alas, doesn't bode well for the Laurens, who are now a package deal.
The action of the cocktail party amounts to the same old business. There are 29 girls. There is one Bachelor. Time is money. Chelsea, single mom, grabs the title of "villain" early on by stealing Arie twice. She's also — what's that phrase? — not there to make friends. There is love on the line, people! No time to be friendly here.
Another emerging villain is Bekah, the 22-year-old who, were it not for her age, would be a frontrunner. Bekah is cool. She has a short haircut. Amid the hair clones of The Bachelor, this is pretty remarkable. She seems skeptical of Arie, too. She admits she knows very little about him. When he tells her that "excitement" is what makes him excited about life, she looks rightfully concerned. Bekah is going to be a villain for the same reason Corinne was a villain: She doesn't seem to care all that much. She gossips about both Chelsea and Maquel — two contestants who get into a scuffle over time with Arie — to two separate groups of women, stirring up resentment across the party. She's also 22, so there's that.
Naturally, who gets the first impression rose? Why, Chelsea, the single mother hellbent on marrying Arie. Arie chalks it up to mystery — Chelsea won't disclose that much about herself. (She doesn't mention the fact that she's a mom.) And that makes Arie more interested in her. Chelsea also received the second kiss of the night, a slobbery doozy of a kiss that looked like it should have happened in a dorm room. The Kissing Bandit does not abide, apparently.
This is all very sad, seeing as Brittany T., the tech recruiter, deserved that rose. Or Jacqueline, the contestant who used the word "therapizing" in a fireside discussion with Arie. Or even Annaliese, who wore a bandit mask the whole night in honor of the Kissing Bandit. Or, you know, I'd love to see it go to Jenna, the social media manager who asks Arie, "Are you scared?" Those are the women to whom my first impression rose goes. Ladies, here's to you.
The rose ceremony is a relief when it arrives. There's only so much action that can happen at these massive cocktail parties. And poor Arie looks a little piqued, as if he still can't really comprehend the situation. All these women? For him? And he has to remember names and faces? (Hot take: Arie didn't remember a single name.) Maybe he's tired. Kissing Bandit, you okay?
He'd better be, because according to his final, post-ceremony toast, he's in the driver's seat next week. Which means he's driving the girls around Los Angeles, I hope!
The Dearly Departed: Olivia, Brittane J., Jessica, Nysha, Amber, Lauren J., Bri, and Ali
Lauren Count: One down, three left.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article misstated how many women left the show Monday, January 2nd. Eight women did not receive a rose, not five.
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