Here’s your drinking game for this season, the 22nd, of The Bachelor: Drink whenever someone talks about Arie’s history as a race car driver. You won’t need any other rules.
The season opens with a montage of Arie sitting in his race car, dramatically whispering “this is the most important race of my life.” One contestant, Maquel, makes her entrance in an Indy car—albeit as a passenger, which, to be honest, I didn't know was an option in race cars. Another, Ashley, presents Arie with a checkered flag; another, Ali, forces Arie to smell her armpits and asks him if it was the best “pit stop” of his life. (Honestly? Great gag.) “I love all the race car jokes,” Arie muttered as Ashley walked away, a sentence that you last heard spoken by a 4-year-old.
One contestant, Brittane, challenges Arie to a race in those motorized children’s toy cars, betting a kiss on the result. As Arie lets her cruise ahead, she yells “INDY 500 WINNER,” apparently teasing Arie about his successful racing past. But really, it was his dad, Arie Luyendyk Sr., who won the Indy 500, twice. The only time Arie ever competed in the Indy 500, he finished 28th of 33.
There’s a reason the show is hyping up Arie’s history as a race car driver. It’s a sexy job! People race cars because they’re thrill-seekers who chase their need for speed. Or, in Arie’s case, because his dad was a race car driver, the least sexy reason for becoming a racer. A lot of racing sons become successful, but Fail Earnhardt Jr. here won just one race in his career: The 2008 SunRichGourmet.com 100, an event on the Indy Lights circuit, which is a minor league for the IndyCar series, which itself is significantly less popular than America’s NASCAR and Europe’s Formula One. According to his website, he has spent the past few seasons competing in Gunk, an off-road pickup truck racing circuit.
In a surprising twist, after hyping up his racing history, the show reveals that Arie is pursuing a career as a realtor. Surely moving real estate will replace the high-octane adrenaline rush of racing. However, no contestants plant a SOLD sign in front of Arie—they stick with the race cars, because the point is to remind us that Arie used to do something sexy.
This is not the only way The Bachelor attempts to remind us Arie used to do something sexy. The show insists on frequently discussing Arie’s kissing prowess. In case you’ve forgotten Arie’s stint on The Bachelorette—totally understandable, since Arie was on The Bachelorette five years ago—Chris Harrison introduces him as “the best kisser in Bachelor history.” (Quite a claim for somebody who has kissed zero Bachelor contestants!) He kissed Emily a lot when he was a contestant, so frequently and so passionately that somebody made a video about it. And after playing up his passionate kissing abilities, the first kiss of the season was a second-long mouth peck with Brittane, who claimed the kiss was one of the greatest of all time.
I don’t know if Arie is actually good at racing or kissing.
Greatest Drama: Laurengate
The best moment of the premiere was when four women named Lauren entered the house, and we got to watch each of them realize that they were amongst three other Laurens. On a night when every contestant is desperate to stand out, they realized even their name wasn’t unique.
As is Bachelor tradition, they are now Lauren B., Lauren G., Lauren J., and Lauren S., and will remain so for the rest of their lives. Season 20 winner Lauren Bushnell remained “Lauren B.” well after Lauren H., Lauren R., and Lauren Barr (who went by “LB” on the show) were eliminated. (I like to think that her engagement to Ben ended because he refused to stop calling her “Lauren B.” for the entirety of their relationship.)
Here is my show pitch: Take 30 Laurens. None of them know they’ve been selected to be on a Lauren-exclusive reality show. Put them in a house, tell them the man they’re competing for will show up soon, but he doesn’t need to. Twenty-nine Laurens will be dead by sunrise. Congrats to the survivor, the winner and One True Lauren.
Best Gimmick: N/A
In recent years, The Bachelor has become famous for a pair of separate but related tropes: Contestants who have outlandish “occupations”—chicken enthusiast, hipster, aspiring dolphin trainer, aspiring drummer, Bachelor superfan, amateur sex coach, tickle monster—and contestants with outlandish methods of introducing themselves to their potential romantic partner on the first night of the show. Both served the same purpose—providing some cheap laughs and giving a few contestants with no hope of actually surviving deep into the show’s run a memorable quirk.
But I guess the show’s producers feel these trends have jumped the shark—or, according to Alexis from last season, jumped the dolphin. All of this year’s contestants have legitimate job titles, and the entrances were tame—aside from the two contestants who drove up in cars, and the girl from Weiner, Arkansas, who presented Arie with a tiny wiener dog toy, and even those were mild. The only forced backstory was that Kendall, the contestant listed as a “creative director,” had an introductory segment where she explained that she loves taxidermy, but she was clearly filmed amongst somebody else’s taxidermy collection.
The whole episode was conventional: no weird jobs, no funny entrances, no contestants getting overly drunk, no unique story lines. The main drama of the show was that one contestant, Chelsea, talked to Arie twice before some of the girls talked to him once, a plotline you may recognize from every episode of The Bachelor and its spin-offs.
The fake job and absurd entrances reached a peak (or maybe a nadir) with the whaboom fiasco from Rachel’s season. In case you were lucky enough to miss it, last season featured a contestant whose job was listed as “whaboom” who introduced himself by yelling “whaboom,” and repeatedly yelled “whaboom” in hopes of boosting his comedy career selling “whaboom” merchandise. It was a low point for the show, when the attempts at humor were so obnoxious and heavy handed that they weren’t actually funny.
I don’t think I would be a Bachelor fan if the first episode I ever watched didn’t feature silly jobs and grandiose entrances. I had always mocked Bachelor viewers in my head—“how could anybody care about people falling in love on TV? Don’t they know everybody breaks up immediately?”—but in a few ridiculous moments, the show proved it was a dumb and beautiful spectacle that you could watch without caring about the romantic decisions of its contestants. It provided the validation I needed to watch the show routinely enough that I eventually did become a person who cared about the romantic decisions of its contestants. (RACHEL. SHOULD. HAVE. PICKED. PETER.)
The silly opening-night gags showed The Bachelor didn’t take itself too seriously. It became unfunny when the show tried too seriously to create absurdity, but there is a sweet spot, and The Bachelor will be poorer if it abandons its good gimmick.
Most Predictable Story Line: Also N/A, but in a Different Way This Time
Normally we get four pieces of information about each contestant: Name, occupation, hometown, and age.
But eagle-eyed viewers will note that for Bekah, the nanny who drives up to Arie in a muscle car, no age is listed. For a while, the show’s website even listed her age as “N/A.” Not applicable! You cannot apply your human concept of “age” to Bekah! She is the Highlander! We are born from dust and return to dust, but Bekah will outlast us all.
However, internet sleuths are on the case. Bekah is 22, which ties her for youngest contestant ever. You have to be at least 21 to apply—how else would the show legally justify its unofficial policy of handing every contestant 47 cocktails the instant they enter the house?
I believe there is a Chekhov quote about what happens when a Bachelor contestant’s age is not revealed in the first episode.
We’ve got three episodes, tops, until it is revealed that Bekah is too young for Arie, and everybody will cry.
Worst Gimmick: Annaliese
Annaliese shows up dressed as the “kissing bandit,” a reference to a nickname Arie had on his season. This costume involved wearing a bedazzled mask that one might wear to a masquerade ball while carrying around a tote bag with an enormous red-lip print on it. (To carry all the kisses she’s stolen.)
One thing this costume did not involve? Kissing Arie. In two masked conversations with Arie, she hugs him four times. If she’d been sneaky, repeatedly running up on Arie to sneak kisses, and running away without saying a word, this could have been a really good schtick. But while her costume said “sexy, mischevious thief,” her behavior said “nervous middle schooler.” There is a type of person whose excitement threshold tops out at giggling when somebody mentions a fun activity; a person who doesn’t actually have it in them to fulfill that fun activity. That’s Annaliese.
Second-Worst Gimmick: Lauren G.
Lauren asks Arie to close his eyes while she feeds him pineapples.
I would legit kick somebody off of my show if they force-fed me pineapple. Pineapple sucks.
MVP: Sean Lowe
After the episode’s refresher course on who Arie is, our leading man sits down with Sean Lowe, a fellow contestant on Emily’s season of The Bachelorette. Sean went on to be the eponymous Bachelor after being dumped by Emily, and met his wife, Catherine, on the show. They have a kid, and they’re expecting a second. So it’s reasonable for Sean to offer Arie advice.
Sean is getting good at this. After leading Season 17, Sean gave counsel to Juan Pablo on the premiere of Season 18, to Ben in the opening episode of Season 20, to Nick in the opening episode of Season 21, and now to Arie to open Season 22. He skipped Season 19, but did participate in a red carpet event during the show’s premiere.
After all, through 21 seasons of The Bachelor, he is the person who remains married to his season’s winner. (If you want to pad the show’s stats, you can include Jason from Season 13, who married his season’s runner-up, Molly.) And so, Sean is now the show’s designated advice man, and a reminder that people do get married on this show. Occasionally. Rarely.
Sean recently sent out one of the best tweets I’ve ever seen:
My dog Ellie is 11 years old. She’s been chasing squirrels for 11 years now. To date, she’s caught zero squirrels. But every day, she casts doubt aside and chases a new squirrel in hopes of fulfilling her lifelong dream of being a squirrel hunter. May we all be more like Ellie.— Sean Lowe (@SeanLowe09) December 28, 2017
And so, too, with The Bachelor. Men have been chasing marriage on this show since 2002. To date, with the exception of Sean, they have caught zero successful relationships. But every season, Sean casts aside doubt and advises doomed men on how to fulfill their “lifelong dream of finding love,” even though they probably just want to appear on reality television again. May we all be more like Sean.