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That’s One Way to Win a Rose

Alexis wants to be a dolphin trainer, but she wore a shark suit. Josephine made Nick eat a cold hot dog. And Lacey rode in on a camel. They’ve all earned a second episode of ‘The Bachelor.’

(ABC)
(ABC)

On this year’s Bachelor, our hero is Nick Viall. If you watched either of The Bachelor’s sister shows, you probably already know Nick. He was a contestant on The Bachelorette, but finished in second when Andi picked Josh instead. He finagled his way onto a second season of The Bachelorette, but finished in second again. Then, this summer, he showed up again on Bachelor in Paradise, only to have Josh, already years removed from breaking up with Andi, show up once again and begin loudly making out with the person Nick was interested in.

But I’ve long argued that it’s better to finish in second place than it is to win on The Bachelor. The winners have to pretend to be happy in relationships manufactured by a TV show. This is the first year in forever that the couple from the previous season of The Bachelor hasn’t already broken up by the time the new season begins to air. Ben and Lauren are still engaged, although they did call off their wedding during their spin-off TV show about their life after the show. Meanwhile, the losers are more famous than they’ve ever been, and often get to be on TV again, acquiring even more fame.

With that in mind, Nick may be the show’s biggest winner, even if he’s nationally famous for losing over and over again. He’s a 35-year-old “software sales executive.” His season opens with some images of him showering (including one shot where a square censored his dong), working out, and then walking with a messenger bag along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

(ABC)
(ABC)

It’s neat how his walk to work happens to be through the prettiest, most famous part of Chicago, sort of like how I walk to the top of the Statue of Liberty and through Central Park on the way to The Ringer’s workspace in Brooklyn.

Nick, of course, isn’t walking to work. On the season premiere, many of the girls acknowledge being starstruck when they see him. “I feel like I’m meeting a celebrity,” gushes Christen upon meeting him. “I’ve seen you on my TV for three years!” He is a Professional Reality TV Contestant now.

On several occasions throughout the show, people describe Nick’s character arc. At first, he was kind of a jerk, but “redeemed himself” on Bachelor in Paradise. It frames his fourth appearance on a reality TV show as a symbol of his deep, earnest desire to find love, even though, I don’t know, three romantic failures on the Bachelor franchise might be a sign that it’s time to give up on reality TV and download some freakin’ dating apps.

All things told, though, Nick should be good in this role. The Bachelor isn’t actually about the bachelor being pursued by the 30 women, it’s about the 30 women pursuing him. So long as Nick can be reasonably handsome (check), make jokes and laugh at jokes (check), make fun of people acting outrageously (check), and act melodramatically on occasion (yes, I have seen Nick on television before, he can do this), he’ll be great.

And the 30 women pursuing him definitely are great. Monday night’s show wasn’t particularly dramatic — in a true tragedy, nobody got too drunk on the premiere of The Bachelor, which has to be a first — but the contestants still gave us plenty to talk about.

MVP: Alexis (the Girl in the “Dolphin” Suit)

Alexis’s job is listed as an “aspiring dolphin trainer.” I relate to her a lot. I’m an aspiring wombat tamer. It seems like a great gig: Wombats are adorable, and they’re tame as hell already, so I basically wouldn’t have to do anything. That’s why I kinda doubt I’ll ever get hired as a wombat tamer, but Alexis and I both know that it’s important to aspire to things.

Anyway, she shows up in a dolphin suit. Of course, it’s actually a shark costume, the kind Katy Perry’s backup dancers wore during the Super Bowl, but no matter how many people tell her it’s a shark costume, she won’t be swayed from her belief that it’s a dolphin suit.

Everybody else is right. Dolphins have roundish snouts, and sharks have pointy ones, and while sharks have gills, dolphins have blowholes. This could have been avoided. While the Left Shark costume is well-known, she shouldn’t have had any trouble buying a dolphin costume. Look, here are dozens! I fear that Alexis’s knowledge of marine mammals is woefully insufficient for her to be a dolphin trainer. If you run an aquarium in the greater Secaucus, New Jersey, area, I have two pieces of advice: (1) Advertise better. I can’t find any evidence that there are any aquariums near Alexis’s hometown of Secaucus, New Jersey. And (2): Do not hire Alexis. She will try to feed your dolphins shark food, like live sea lions, and then about a week later you’ll have a pool full of starving dolphins and sea lions.

Either way, Alexis’s strategy works. She gets a rose, having diverted any actual investigation of her true self by hiding behind her poor knowledge of marine life.

Runner-up: Liz

Liz shows up on the show with a secret: She’s already had sex with Nick. She met him at the televised wedding of previous contestants Jade and Tanner, where she served as the maid of honor to her childhood friend. Apparently after the cameras stopped rolling, they had a one-night stand, Nick asked for her number, and Liz declined. She didn’t talk to him for nine months and then appeared on a television show to try to start a relationship with him.

Nick calls her out on this. He even gives us this season’s first utterance of the phrase “right reasons” as he questions why she’s fighting for him with cameras rolling when she wouldn’t in private. If anybody could spot somebody attempting to parlay a brief spark of real-life chemistry into a more prolific reality television career, it’s Nick. He had interacted with Kaitlyn on social media before she was The Bachelorette, then crashed the show, turning up in New York while she was filming and joining the show midseason.

My favorite part of reality TV is trying to look past the veneer of what’s presented on camera and attempting to glean glimpses of the maybe-not-so-glamorous lives of its contestants: What are their lives actually like? Why are they here?

Perhaps nothing reveals that dilemma like Nick and Liz: Both of them could’ve tried to start a relationship with someone off-camera, where relationships actually work, but instead they tried to do it on a television show where the winners typically break up. Is it a little creepy that the show’s producers sought out somebody Nick was privately intimate with to create a public story line? Yeah, of course. It’s still great television.

Biggest Power Move: Josephine

Josephine told Nick that he was “a wiener in my book” and pulled out a book with a hot dog inside of it and made him eat it.

Please, everyone, start doing this on dates. Stuff pre-cooked pig parts inside your favorite novel and demand that your potential lover scarf it down upon arrival. If he turns it down, he won’t fight for you and isn’t worth your time. If he eats it, it means he’s a pushover who just ate unprepared food at the whim of a person he just met. You own him now. Stand over him as he vomits. Whisper in his ear, “You’re mine, Ham Boy.”

Runner-up: Taylor

Taylor starts out by letting Nick know her friends hate him.

“Nice to meet you! Just letting you know that everybody else on the planet thinks you’re trash. I am your lone defender. Cling to me or die.”

Worst Pickup Line: Lacey

Lacey has a camel.

“I hear you like a good hump, and so do I.” For starters, “humping” is the least-sexy way to describe sex. If somebody tries to begin a sexual encounter with the phrase “let’s hump,” they are weird. If somebody tries to begin a sexual encounter with the phrase “let’s hump — it’ll be moist,” you should call the police. The song “My Humps” by the Black Eyed Peas is a war crime. (According to the Wikipedia page for “My Humps”: “‘My Humps’ is regarded by multiple critics as the single worst song of all time.”)

Mainly, though, I’m just mad that for all the logistics of getting a camel to an L.A. driveway, the best she could do was a pickup line. I never know who organizes these entrances — does the contestant come up with the idea to ride in on a camel? Do the producers ask a room full of women “So, uh, we have a camel … which one of you wants to be Camel Girl?” — but regardless, a lot went into this. Somebody had to call a Southern California camel owner, somebody had to prepare a trailer for camel transport and tend to a camel for hours … and the best you could do is “I hear you like a good hump?” I can’t say that I have a better camel-related pickup line — I’ve been sitting here for 15 minutes and the best I could come up with was “I drome-dare-y-ou to give me a rose!” — but I’m still mad.

Runner-up: Astrid

Astrid’s gimmick is that she talks to Nick in German. She makes a few mistakes. The first is hoping this would be original. It’s not — Vanessa, who is trilingual, shows up later and talks to Nick in French.

The second is assuming talking to somebody in German would be romantic. The Spanish word for butterfly is “mariposa,” the French word is “papillon.” No matter the language, it is beautiful and flowing. In German it is “schmetterling.” Every German word could also be the name for an anti-aircraft gun.

Third is what she actually says to him.

(ABC)
(ABC)

I can’t imagine that a fluent speaker of any language couldn’t come up with a better phrase than “have you seen the breasts.” This is the work of a fifth-grade class clown trying to get a laugh out of everybody by asking the foreign language teacher how to say the only dirty words fifth graders understand enough to ask about. But maybe she just doesn’t have a lot of material to work with, and this is the sexiest possible phrase in German.

Runner-runner-up: Lauren

Lauren tells Nick that since her last name is Hussey and his last name is Viall together they’re “a disgusting slut.” It doesn’t work, and she gets eliminated. Don’t weep, Lauren. Start a Twitter account. All we do on there is make awful jokes about people’s names. You will make friends.

Celebrity Appearance Rating

On Monday’s debut, one of the two contestants named Jasmine brought celebrity jeweler Neil Lane, or as one contestant calls him, The Ring Guy.

Neil’s got a pretty sweet gig. I’m pretty sure he’s the world’s only celebrity jeweler. I don’t know what makes him so good at jeweling. (Jewelers do jeweling, right?) He shows up every season on the Bachelor franchise to tell guys which ring best symbolizes their specific relationship, and he must absolutely suck at it, because like 90 percent of the couples on this show break up, presumably because the rings weren’t meaningful enough.

I approve of Neil’s strategy of using The Bachelor to cement his fame for doing a job that doesn’t make people famous. He showed up, and everybody gasped “IT’S THE RING GUY.” It told people Jasmine was serious about her relationship, because The Ring Guy normally shows up when things are getting serious.

The most important thing about a celebrity cameo on The Bachelor is that everybody has to act like the person is important. This gets an 9.3 out of 10.

Most Important Thing I Wanted to Talk About That Doesn’t Fit Into Any Category Neatly: Corinne

Corinne is a 24-year-old who has a nanny and eats plain, sliced cucumbers for a snack. OK, just wanted to talk about that for a second. Bye.

Saddest Exit: Ida Marie

Ida Marie opens up by telling Nick that trust is important to her and does a trust fall. Nick catches her and then promptly dumps her within a few hours. Poor Ida Marie. I guess she really can’t trust anybody.

Runner-up: Angela

This is not a comment on Angela’s appearance whatsoever, but her profession is listed as “model,” and yet she was eliminated on the first night of The Bachelor, when Nick essentially had nothing to decide on besides the contestants’ looks. These girls are lawyers and business owners and nurses and, uh, aspiring dolphin trainers. Meanwhile, her job is just looking good, and she lost the hotness competition in Nick’s eyes. That’s like an NBA player showing up to a one-on-one tournament and getting dunked on by an accountant.