Ben, hi. Thanks for coming. Now: Do you think you see your wife in this room? Huh? You’re not sure yet? Just find her already, dammit! We’ve only got 10 weeks! Welcome back to ABC’s nicely aged, white wine-flavored marriage machine, The Bachelor. Meet this season’s warrior: the brave, the blank-eyed, and tenderly unlovable, Ben Higgins. We can overlook his weird hair and watered-down vanilla flavoring because he’s super tall and VERY SENSITIVE due in part to Kaitlyn rejecting him last season. Ben has small town values, as he reminds us again and again. He’s nice. Maybe too nice? The guy’s already a natural at dealing with irrational reality TV contestants, even going out of his way — twice! — to console the girl he surely wishes he’d never started a conversation with: Lace. That’s right: I know this is hard to believe, but someone’s name is Lace and she looooooves attention. She needs it. Attention and champagne make up her complete diet. Classic Lace. The Sarah Silverman lookalike loosens up on her fifth drink or so and starts crankily judging her competition out loud as all the other “young ladies” (Ben’s words) sit agape, thrilled that someone else will be the night’s biggest embarrassment. Lace kisses Ben twice — what does she think this is, Episode 2? — then scurries away in a huff after another heinous weirdo interrupts their time together. And Ben follows her! “You guys seen Lace?” he somewhat absently asks his herd of hopefuls. Suddenly they’ve all been downgraded to guys instead of young ladies. I told you things were moving too fast. Ben reassures Lace that he does think she’s gorgeous; he just prefers to talk to everyone before swapping more spit with her. And he doesn’t want pretty little Lace tossing this nonsense around in her netted-material noggin all night. “It kind of was, like, laying on my heart,” he opens up. And that’s pretty much all he’ll need to say all season, right? I mean, there are 28 ladies and a horse here, and they all want to talk. Oh, but wait: Lace isn’t finished. Even after she gets the final rose of the night, she pulls Ben aside to inform him she’s upset because he didn’t make eye contact with her during the rose ceremony at which he’d rejected seven women and kept 20 others besides her. Thank God Ben’s head nearly explodes in his next confessional, because if kept catering to this hose beast I’d have written him off entirely. Now that he understands Lace is waste, I’m kind of into him. He’s, like, laying on my heart.
Enough about that one. Let’s focus on another, who doesn't even need to drink to will everyone to hate her on the spot: Mandi, the Portland dentist who's pinned a giant paper rose on her bobble head for premiere night. After she whisks Ben away from his boring opening speech to give him a hard flossing — not a euphemism — we notice a brownish spot on his left front tooth. So maybe our Bachelor does have a dark side. Only time and Chris Harrison will tell. Ben’s gums swell with fear and longing as Rose Head squishes her boobs against his cheek (part of the procedure). It dawns on him: He’ll never need to generate small talk around this particular sadistic monster. That seals it. He’s in. But don’t think the blossoming dentist and the lacy underthing were the only masterminds pulling stunts on night one. We’ve also got a trickster in a unicorn mask, a woman-child in pajamas, a nutritional therapist smashing baguettes against the rocks (“gluten is Satan, let’s be frank here”), a Russian speaker, twins, and Huey the mini-horse. The greatest gift this season could possibly deliver — greater even than more aspirational long shots of war veteran Jubilee’s magnificent under-butt — would be if the producers rented Huey for the whole season so Chris Harrison could romance him all alone in the foyer at the end of each episode. But Huey’s probably headed home with his owner, Maegan. Her lone delicious turd of temporary one-upmanship should last a lifetime: “How can you compete with twins? With a fucking mini-horse, that’s how!” Fresh meat! Suddenly season 19 rejects Becca the virgin and Amber the bartender waltz in uninvited by Lace, but she’ll just have to deal with it because according to Chris Harrison, they’re “both worthy of being here and both genuine,” whatever that means. Anything Sir Harrison says is ironclad; it’s like he’s spouting Bachelor scripture in real time and we get to watch. These are exciting times for all of us. Well, except Lace. “Who wants a fucking virgin?” she wonders, her yapper a tired-out flesh-colored blur onscreen. I notice she doesn’t make eye contact with the camera as she says this. Why? Lace, do you even notice us? Do you know we’re here? Hello… The first impression rose goes to Olivia, the Dallas news anchor who chose to ditch her fabulous job and make a laser-eyed beeline towards The Bachelor. “I was living a life and I didn’t have any zest,” she claims. Oh you dear sweet orange. You’re 23? JUST WAIT. It gets worse, especially if you consistently struggle to select a plot line. According to Olivia, she’s a world traveler who loves giving back and having access to a community. I can’t figure out her real story, but according to the extended “scenes from this season” montage, Olivia might be the craziest of them all. She socks another blonde in the face and continuously plays the victim. What fun that will be for Ben to maybe never figure out! Among Ben’s other most promising rose-winners are small business owner Jennifer, law school grad Samantha (drawback: sounds like a dying Muppet), and Lauren H. and Jackie, who toss him a wedding bouquet and print up a Save the Date for their engagement, respectively. Ben is so down to get married ASAP that he doesn’t even flinch; only unlovable weirdos would find those moves crazy. Software sales rep Caila is charming and upbeat, but Ben better watch out for her — she claims to have broken up with her boyfriend just for him, but in her intro package, she’s spotted painting a sunflower that far exceeds its surrounding roses in both size and quality, so she might not be here for the right reasons. Divorced mom Amanda has a baby voice that rivals those of her two young daughters, but what do I know? Maybe that’s hot. Then there’s flight attendant and Hayden Panettiere lookalike Lauren B., who’s so cookie-cutter and relatable it almost hurts, so of course she’s my pick to win — and if she doesn’t, mark my words she will be the next Bachelorette because true Olympians never quit! The night’s biggest losses were a pretty math teacher, Laura the Emma Stone doppelgänger, and Chicken Enthusiast Tiara (and her coquettish little clucker Sheila, too). How do you pick planted bimbo twins over a thoroughbred Chicken Enthusiast, Ben? Have you no sense?! Oh well. Most of the ladies exit seamlessly, but Breanne the anti-baguette crusader is so drunk that when she wants to tell us what “hurts the most,” I have to rewind four times to be sure she’s not saying “samosas.” We’re in for a sloshy season, wine-chuggers. See you next week!