Like all great stories, The Bachelorette has only so much room for its protagonist to have fun. Which is maybe why Becca Kufrin, months after her stint on The Bachelor, seems zapped of her characteristic sparkle that made her a fan-favourite. All of a sudden, she’s in control. Instead of playing a chipper character who shows up occasionally, Becca is the main event. And things, predictably, are a little dour. This is the season of Becca’s heartbreak. Arie Luyendyk, Jr. looms over it like a Rachel Maddow-sized ghost — as much as she may try to escape him, Becca has to reckon with him. And we have to watch. (Mainly because we love her!)
To set the mood, the season kicks offs with the sounds of Becca sniffling. She’s sifting through Polaroid photos of herself with Arie. It seems vaguely staged, but I’ve seen enough romantic comedies to know that this is an important part of a breakup. In a more realistic story, she might be scrolling through Instagram or looking at old text messages. The Bachelorette doesn’t have this luxury, given the complete lack of technology. For the sake of the story, the episode dips back into the Arie waters, showing clips of the breakup. Upon a rewatch, it seems clear that Arie always intended to go back to Lauren Burnham. It was just a matter of time: Would he stay with Becca until After the Final Rose, or would he pull the plug beforehand, forcing Becca to live out a very public breakup?
That said, Becca insists she’s not heartbroken. “I'm just, like, your normal average girl,” she says. “All I did was get my heart broken on TV.” To demonstrate just how well she’s doing, the episode shows Becca doing aerial yoga. There’s a long shot of her walking through the snow. She visits a ceremony during which a state representative bans Arie from Minnesota. (Apparently, Arie was banned from the state of Minnesota, which actually isn’t legal, but, okay.) Her family — who really shone on The Bachelor — reemerges to say, basically, we knew Arie sucked. Thank goodness you’re going to find a new beau, they say.
The episode picks up when Becca consults with the last three Bachelorettes. The Bachelorette has had a run of happy couples. Jojo Fletcher, Katilyn Bristowe, and Rachel Lindsay are all happily engaged to the winners of their seasons. (None of them have set wedding dates, possibly because ABC owns the rights to their weddings for two years following the show.) These three women arrive at the Bachelor manse to dispense advice.
Their appearance proves that the Bachelorettes, in general, are better at this whole TV thing.
Rachel Lindsay says, “"Please don't edit this out: fuck him.” They discuss the trepidations they had on their own first nights. Rachel admits that she was far more skeptical than she seemed on camera, as did Jojo. The producers are leaning into the “woman” factor this season, asking the Bachelorettes if they think the Bachelorette does a better job picking a winner..
“"As women, we do a better a job of it,” Jojo tells the camera. "Women are more intuitive. They know what they want." Rachel, the supreme ruler of all the Bachelorettes and my favourite civil litigator, proceeds to sage the mansion. Jojo sages the corner of the mansion where all the “drunks” gathered on her first night as Bachelorette. Bristowe is confused by the saging. (She calls the sage a “big doobie,” proving that she’s still the most quotable Bachelorette.)
They also remind us of something important: All three women picked the men who got their first impression rose. So, [turns to camera] let’s pay attention to that first impression rose.
Now, as for these men. The intro packages have a predictable array of earnest “average Joes,” impressive athletes, and one source of “comic relief.” Clay fits into the athlete category. He’s a biracial football player who played in the NFL. He’s just about retired, and he says he doesn’t fit the average NFL player mold.
“I think there's a stereotype, and I don't think we fit into that stereotype,” he says.
Garrett is from Reno, Nevada. He likes to fish. He likes to have fun, which is to say that he likes to put on fake accents. (This is dangerously close to what I think is fun.) Jordan is a professional model, and he’s gunning for the role of “comic relief” this season.
“My brand is the pensive gentleman,” he tells the camera. He says he’ll eat chocolates with Becca. “A lot of models won't do that,” he adds. Later, Jordan will become the best Bachelor commentator.
Lincoln, whom we met on After the Final Rose, is from Nigeria, and he’s very good at ab exercises. Joe owns a grocery store in Chicago, and his line is, “The one thing I haven’t produced yet is love.” (This line would also work for, say, a producer.)
Jean-Blanc is obsessed with cologne but, more importantly, gives us the first Trump reference of the season. Trump has to come up in some way, right? Even as The Bachelor and its kin try to remain neutral, the president is omnipresent. Jean-Blanc was born in Haiti, which he says “is not a shithole country,” an obvious wink to Trump’s comments about Haiti in January. Jean-Blanc also offers to “blow [Becca’s] nose away,” which seems dangerous. (No one wants to date Voldemort!)
None of the intro packages scream “winner,” but, then again, the glut of suitors on the first night always makes it difficult to tell who’s going to become a fan-favourite. Jordan will clearly take a Chad-like role as pompous villain. Or, for my longtime Bachelor fans in the back, a JJ Lane. The limo entrances also don’t set very many of the men apart. But — deep breath, everyone — let’s go through them.
Colton is the first out of the limousine. He celebrates Becca with poppers. No, not that kind of poppers. Now, that would be a way to start The Bachelorette.
Grant, who looks like Matt Damon, doesn’t do anything of note besides look like Matt Damon.
Clay, our football friend, says, "I've caught a lot of passes in my life, but if I were to catch you, it would be the biggest catch of my life."
Jean-Blanc teaches Becca “Let's do the damn thing" in French. Good God.
Connor recreates Becca’s Bachelor entrance by getting on one knee and asking if she’ll "do the damn thing.” He has a small ring box with him, and it’s not clear what was in the box. What’s in the box?!
John, who later reveals himself to be the engineer who developed Venmo, tells Becca, “Love can happen over night. John, that’s what’s called “burying the lede.” Lead with Venmo! Becca has a history with Venmo!
Jordan says he’s having a great time and proceeds to focus on his attire. He’s wearing a pale blue suit, although I’m certain that’s not how he would describe it. He says he spent six hours “hand-selecting” his suit. I couldn’t help but wonder: how does one...not… hand-select one’s clothing?
Leo has very long hair, Rickey calls Becca sexy, and Alex is immediately forgettable. Nick, an attorney, wears a racecar driver’s outfit as a way of referencing Arie. He adds that this is “the hardest thing [he’s] ever done.” The Bachelorette thrives on hyperbole.
Mike brings a life-sized Arie cutout so that Arie can see Becca living her best life as the Bachelorette. Again, not a great move — why bring up the ex when you can leave him behind? Garrett brings a minivan to prove that he’ll someday be a great dad.
It is at this point Leo says, “"There's the old stench of competition in the air, and it's going to get stinkier as the night goes on." The first night competition is always a bit comical, thanks to the number of men present. The men puff up their chests and strut around the mansion while the Bachelorette, overwhelmed with her many hosting tasks, usually doesn’t have the time to notice any of them. Standing out is hardly a matter of preening or flaunting plumage. It’s just about whom Becca chooses to hone in on.
Blake, from ATFR, brings an ox this time, using the line, "My feelings are as strong as an ox."
Becca then asks the camera a very important question: "Where is he getting all these animals?"
Lincoln arrives, reminding us all of his great “Arie is a wanker” line. Chase says, "It's all about the chase." Darius tells Becca he's not nervous anymore. Ryan arrives sans banjo, and Becca seems crestfallen. Wills tells Becca he’s a closet nerd. The best thing Jason could think of was that he has a handshake with his best friends. Kamil, the social media participant, says that she needs to meet him halfway. He’ll do 40%, he says, and she can do 60%. She haggles, offering 50/50 instead. He ends up coming to her and pecking her on the cheek. Becca is perturbed: "He should’ve went past me the other way,” she says. She is not on The Bachelorette to work for your love.
Jake from Minneapolis knows Becca, or has met Becca before. Becca seems annoyed that he’s there. Trent gets out of a hearse to say, "I literally died." Christian, a banker, spins Becca. David is dressed as a chicken. Chris is a sales trainer, a funny portmanteau of Bachelor professions. He brings in a choir. Meanwhile, Jordan is blown away by how many people Chris could fit in the limo. He also compares Becca to “a tall glass of Champagne."
That concludes the limo entrances. All in all, Becca has 28 men, most of them fairly goofy, thankfully. For the first night, Jordan is effectively our narrator, snarking on every event as it occurs. As the men roll out their best tricks to get Becca to notice them, he pooh-poohs them for failing to meet his fashion standards. One thing he hates? Shoes without socks, which is something of a commonality here.
Grant is the first guy to take Becca away from the group, ushering her out of the room by the small of her back. He’s too early, though. In the words of Leo, also a favourite, “You don’t buy your first home.” Grant does, however, open Champagne with a sword.
Other activities include: playing with Clay (Clay), dunking a basketball over Becca’s head (Christon), revealing you’re the engineer behind Venmo (John), salsa dancing (Rickey), chatting about watermelon (Joe, the grocery store owner), and revealing an “expecto patronus” Harry Potter tattoo (Wills, the closet nerd).
All of this is overshadowed by perhaps the dumbest controversy to arrive at The Bachelorette. Chase, who appeared on After the Final Rose, is allegedly not there for “the right reasons.” Chris claims that Chase’s ex-girlfriend texted Chris the night of ATFR to say that, essentially, Chase sucks. Chase insists that he only dated her for two weeks and that she’s crazy.
“That's women,” he says, making a sweeping generalisation about an entire gender. Chris takes the controversy to Becca, who seems perplexed. Overall, though, she seems disinterested in it all. Likely, both Chris and Chase weren’t on her radar anyway. She keeps both of them around, but seems wary of Chase.
She does, however, send one guy home. Jake from Minneapolis, fare thee well. Jake met Becca a few times, Becca points out, and he never made a move. And, more importantly, Becca didn’t want him to make a move. Their disagreement becomes more and more tense as Jake fights to stay. He says he only recalls meeting her a couple of times. She says it was a few times. Jake insists he didn’t really notice her before. Jake digs a big old hole and leaps into it. Becca sends him home without ceremony. Good for Becca.
The last order of business is the First Impression Rose, which goes to minivan dad Garrett. He took Becca fishing in the pool for her activity, and, though we didn’t see much of it, it made an impression. She offers the first impression rose to him, much to the dismay of the men who made bigger statements. (I mean, Christon leapt over her head!) They kiss a little, and it’s time for the final rose ceremony.
Becca ultimately sends Chase home. Why bother with the drama? Becca means business.
The Dearly Departed: Darius, Joe, Chase, Grant, Christian, Kamil, and Jake
"Do The Damn Thing" Count: Two — in Jean-Blanc and Connor's entrances