There are two things you must keep in mind in order to make Season 27 of The Bachelor bearable. First, our newest lead, Zach Shallcross, is almost certainly an AI bot, who, two episodes into this season, is still working on tweaking its settings in order to mimic human emotions. Second, this is a throwback season of The Bachelor, for better or worse. If not for the high-definition cameras and somewhat diverse group of women cast to be Zach’s co-girlfriends, you’d think this season was taking place in 2003—body glitter and all.
While most reality dating shows are boldly moving forward in 2023 and testing new formats—MILFs! Catfish! Ultimatums! Builders from Swansea!—The Bachelor is actively in retrograde. There is some comfort in the familiar framing of this season—group dates, a one-on-one, date roses, and an actual rose ceremony to tie up each episode—after a relatively chaotic period for the franchise, but The Bachelor is gambling that a show initially created for Gen X and elder millennials can survive in a Gen-Z world. Part of the fun for a longtime viewer is recognizing all of the old tropes—hey look, there’s another helicopter—but what of the people who haven’t devoted decades of service to Bachelor nation? At some point, the show could just end up feeling tired.
Here in Episode 2, The Bachelor is going all in to make Zach happen, to try to make us believe that he’s the dynamic, handsome, and charming lead up for carrying an entire season. They’re trying so hard to convince us that he’s sexy—he’s already delivering on the shirtless shower scene Sean Lowe foretold last week, and multiple contestants go out of their way to emphasize that Zach is a man. “He’s confident,” says Charity, the child and family therapist. “That’s what separates a man from a boy.” (If you’re interested in watching women dating boys, may we direct you to MILF Manor?) And what better way to prove Zach is a super-desirable man than to … pair him with rapper Latto to try to teach the women about “bad-bitch energy”? Or to fly him and a girl he just met to his childhood home in Anaheim to look at baby photos? Let’s just get into it.
Winner: Bad-Bitch Energy
Many thanks to my lovely Ringer colleague Nora Princiotti for answering my panicked Slack message upon viewing this episode. “Who is Latto,” I asked, “and what do I need to know about her?”
Latto, the first celebrity on Season 27, is a rapper, Nora explained, mostly known for her song “Big Energy,” which went viral on TikTok last year. Here, Latto joined Zach for the first group date of the season to measure and judge the women’s “bad-bitch energy,” which apparently just means being confident inside and out. Latto herself, per her most notable song, is a bad bitch with the sorts of talents that I neither understand nor feel comfortable quoting, and she has a blueprint for becoming one like her. (And this is something Zach apparently wants? Sure, let’s just roll with it.) The method is as follows:
Lesson 1: “A Bad Bitch Knows How to Dance”
Latto instructs the women to show Zach their best, sexiest, and most confident moves. We get twerking and twirling. We get gyrating and swaying. We get way too many shots of Zach’s awkward underbite as the women shake themselves around him.
Lesson 2: “Bad Bitches Never Get Nervous”
This date is not just silly dancing, as Latto tells the women that they’re not the only ones here for this date. Enter: Bachelor alumna Tahzjuan from Colton Underwood’s season (and perhaps better known for two appearances on Bachelor in Paradise), Victoria F. from Peter Weber’s season (and the most recent season of BiP), and Courtney Robertson, who actually won Ben Flajnik’s season all the way back in 2012. These women were portrayed as villains on their respective seasons—and no one was more iconic in playing the role than Robertson—but now they’re being presented as, to quote Latto, “baddies.” Says contestant Davia, “These girls embody exactly what Latto is trying to pull out of us.”
It’s unclear exactly why they’ve been brought in, because while this is framed as some sort of competition, there does not seem to be any judging taking place. The contestants are instructed to “Strut the catwalk” to show off their personalities and confidence in hopes of impressing Zach. We get Cat wearing cat ears and Kylee wearing angel wings and kissing Zach after an aggressively choreographed dance. Genevie wears a crown and (accidentally?) chokes Zach with a ribbon. Brianna makes it rain with a handheld device that shoots out dollar bills and makes all the other girls super jealous. I must repeat: There were no winners; this was basically just a game of sexy(ish) dress-up.
Lesson 3: “A Bad Bitch Will Grab the Attention of Everyone in the Room”
Finally, Latto orders the women to tell Zach a story about a time in their lives when they were a “real bad bitch.” Zach, the worst user to ever comment on Rap Genius, says this means he’s looking for the women to describe a time they “stood their ground” and said, “No, I’m going to be me.” Do we learn anything substantial about the majority of the women? Of course we do not! We do, however, get to see Brooklyn, the rodeo racer, and Zach take a shot of tequila, and we learn Brianna started a makeup company. The nugget that comes close to being substantial is from Kylee, who described the time she competed in and won a beauty pageant while wearing her natural curly hair after her mother was told Kylee’s hair must be relaxed.
And that was pretty much it! At no point were any judgments rendered; at no point did Courtney Robertson explain that the easiest way to win over the Bachelor is to jump into the ocean naked with him; at no point did Victoria give us Greg Grippo gossip. Ultimately, this group date/seminar ended without any winners, unless you count all of us, who know now what it means to have “bad-bitch energy.”
Loser: Date Crashing
This brings us to the fourth lesson: “Sometimes bad bitches cry.”
Victoria F. and Courtney disappear as soon as the first part of the group date ends, but Tahzjuan is not done. No, no, no—she came here for screen time (and maybe love, but mostly the screen time).
Zach and his girlfriends are going through the motions of a group date after-party—cocktails and kisses in a furniture outlet; you know the drill—when Tahzjuan makes her grand return, interrupting Zach’s one-on-one time with Cat and causing Zach’s brain to short-circuit.
“What is this?” he asks, as if it’s not so clearly evident what’s about to happen: Tahzjuan wants to join the season and move into the house with the rest of Zach’s girlfriends.
The other women are as confused as Zach, despite this being a Bachelor trope as old as time. Former contestants are constantly showing up on new seasons, begging for another shot at getting cast on Bachelor in Para—I mean … love. Have these women never watched this show before? Do they not remember Nick Viall crashing a group date to land a spot on Kaitlyn Bristowe’s season, or Heather Martin literally driving up to the Greenbriar to beg for a chance with Matt James, or Blake Moynes showing up to Katie Thurston’s season with a boom box claiming she was “the one”? No, Genevie, Tahzjuan didn’t simply have a question; she was here for chaos. Only Katherine truly grasps what’s happening. “She’s trying to move in!”
And with that, the women are off to confront Tahzjuan. “You cannot have my man,” says Kylee, “and I’m not sharing my bunk.” What transpired next was one of the most honest conversations ever shown on this franchise: Tahzjuan couldn’t make a compelling case to the other women that she was actually there with pure intentions to win the heart of our tall, dull Bachelor. But she tells the truth about what was to come. “It’s a competition,” she says. “Unless you guys want a participation trophy, obviously someone has to come out on top. There are going to be losers at the end of the day. You’re not all going to marry Zach. You know that, right? It’s going to get a lot harder from here.” It is pretty weird to hear Tahz say this, considering she was dumped on the first night of her season and most recently self-eliminated from BiP, but she’s not wrong. She must be an avid watcher.
But before things get tough for the new girls, they have to get harder for Tahzjuan. Viall and Moynes are date-crashing success stories—they didn’t just get a spot in the house to compete for the lead’s affections; they were the runner-up and winner, respectively, of their seasons. But as it much more typically happens for date crashers, Tahzjuan was swiftly sent home. Producers didn’t actually show Zach sending her home—instead they just gave us a brief cliff-hanger before showing Tahzjuan crying to a producer, who left us with the true lesson of the episode:
This is the first and only time you’ll see those above two words together. Somehow, Christina Mandrell, the single mom and content creator from Nashville, one of the only contestants in franchise history to get her first and last name in her chyron, and the woman who showed up to Episode 1 in a party bus, doesn’t recoil in horror after Zach confesses to her—and not even sheepishly, I must add—that the first concert he attended was Nickelback. She acts surprised but quickly recovers and tells Zach that she, too, likes Nickelback, and now I have to question if she, too, is a bot who has never heard actual music.
Alas, this is a bonding moment between the two on the first one-on-one date of the season—a classic Bachelor combo of a helicopter ride over Los Angeles (with flyovers of the Bachelor mansion and the Hollywood sign, of course) and a surprise introduction to the Bachelor’s family, during which a cousin shows Christina Mandrell photos of a teenage Zach—in short shorts and aviator sunglasses. “I think you’re literally wearing a red flag in this picture,” Christina Mandrell says. (That’s your gut talking, Christina Mandrell. Run!)
That’s followed by another Bachelor staple: the intimate dinner during which the woman must reveal her deepest secret. In Christina Mandrell’s case, that secret is her 5-year-old daughter, Blakely May. The news that the woman he just introduced to his mother and dozens of family friends is a mother herself has Zach shook. “It’s a lot to take in,” Zach says, admitting that he’s “scared shitless” and unsure about speeding up the time line to fatherhood. He nearly breaks down in an interview with producers. “Sometimes,” he says, “you have to be selfish.”
But this is just tricky editing: Even a bot Bachelor knows he can’t send the single mom home after the first date. He gives Christina Mandrell the rose and makes her a promise to “figure out this whole thing,” which is not exactly the most flattering way to refer to a human child, but it’s the best this android can manage.
The second group date is, largely, a snooze. It’s what I’ll consider a front-runner date: filler time for women Zach simply wants to kiss before the perfunctory handing out of the roses. This group includes Jess, she of the night-one body glitter; Greer, who won the first-impression rose last week; Kaity, the Austinite; Charity, the therapist; and Ariel, with her big New York energy. The only drama comes from Brianna, who is agonizing over the fact that she’s the only woman in the group who didn’t receive a rose directly from Zach because she was picked by “America” to receive the fan-favorite award when Zach was introduced as Bachelor on “After the Final Rose,” and Gabi from Vermont, who is all nervous energy and word vomits. In the end, both of them get roses, sapping this installment of any potential tension. (The only notable departure this week is Cat, who stuffed her face with meatballs in Episode 1 and was this week’s winner of the Justin Glaze Award for Facial Expressions. We’ll miss you, Cat. See you in paradise.)
Mostly, the second date was all about kissing. Way too much kissing. Earlier in the episode, we hear the women discussing how much tongue they kiss with and how much tongue Zach seems to like. Clearly, the answer is a lot. While I continue to be impressed with Zach’s commitment to seeking consent before his make-out sessions, I’d like to humbly request fewer make outs, or at least fewer close-up shots of Zach’s tongue. If they insist on all the smooching, can they at least bring back 2003’s less-HD cameras?