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The ‘Bachelorette’ Premiere Recap: “Two Women Dating One Group of Men—How’s That Gonna Work?”

In an unprecedented dual-Bachelorette season, Gabby and Rachel are left to … figure out a system on their own

ABC/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

If you came into the Season 19 premiere of The Bachelorette—the first to feature two coleads for the duration of the season, or at least until one of them absconds into international waters with a general contractor from Central Florida—wondering how this new co-Bachelorette format could possibly work, well, that makes five of us. You, me, Gabby, Rachel, and the entire production staff of The Bachelorette are all quite curious to find out how the two-Bachelorette season will go. While I’ve spent the past few months of this one wild and precious Bachelor hiatus considering how The Bachelorette might create a healthy environment for Rachel and Gabby to co-date the same men and crunching the numbers on how 32 dudes could possibly be enough to get two women through 10 weeks of high-stakes-no-holds-barred-rapid-elimination dating …

It seems that the Bachelorette producers were simply like, “These things usually work themselves out in the wash, I’m sure Gabby and Rachel can handle it, we absolutely have a history of treating women’s feelings with care, now what on earth did I do with that bulk order form for pedestals, pampas grass, and big-ass candles?”

Of all the ways I thought The Bachelorette might systematize Gabby and Rachel’s unprecedented dual-Bachelorette season, I simply never could have imagined that they would just … let it ride. As it turns out, they weren’t withholding the details of some highly considered plan to navigate this joint season in order to keep us on the edge of our seats so that we might actually tune into the premiere, as we’d all assumed. No, they just … never came up with anything!

Allow me to transcribe host Jesse Palmer’s actual explanation of this season, with a few notes of my own interspersed in italics:

“So, two women dating one group of men—how’s that gonna work?” I’ll tell ya: Probably not well, bitch! “Which woman gets to date which guy? Who chooses? And what happens if both women fall in love with the same man?” All great questions, my guy! “Honestly I’m not really sure.” Exsqueeze me? “But I am confident that Rachel and Gabby can figure it out.” I’m sorry, Rachel the flight instructor and Gabby the ICU nurse are supposed to figure out how to organize what a group of paid Bachelorette professionals apparently could not?! “The most important thing is the women come in with a plan of their own.” That is NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT TRUE!

Season 19 of The Bachelorette is like a party where everyone else thought the other person was bringing ice, and now all the mezcal margaritas are lukewarm, and everyone is crying because they accidentally fell in love with the same Zak. The Bachelorette producers looked the audience’s skepticism about two Bachelorettes dead in the eyes and said, “Bet.” They looked the very same two Bachelorettes in the eyes (framed by their newly adhered lash extensions and freshly laminated eyebrows), and said, “You’re in charge.” But Gabby and Rachel are not the Bachelorette experts here—the Bachelorette producers are! Let’s not forget that the entirety of Gabby’s and Rachel’s Bachelor franchise experience comes from watching Clayton as the person in charge. They’re like horses who were raised by a turtle: They simply do not have a good example of how to navigate this Bachelorette life, let alone blaze an uncharted trail through a decades-old love-game show.

Now, I don’t want to suggest that Gabby and Rachel can’t handle their tricky roles as co-Bachelorettes. Given their professions, I would quite literally trust either of them with my life, and given their emotional literacy in times of duress, I would happily date any number of men alongside them if they wanted to up this ante to three Bachelorettes ...

It’s just that I think they shouldn’t have to be the sole drivers of this co-Bachelorette ship given that they’re surrounded by the highest per-capita population of Bachelorette experts in the world. And then, on the other hand, I do love mess. Asking two women to date the same group of men, stay friends, make up the rules as they go along, and do it all in 4-to-6-inch heels practically guarantees the rapid appearance of said mess; I only hope that Gabby and Rachel aren’t being put in a terrible situation to get it. So, before we get to the co-boyfriends, the Meatballs, and Leelee Sobieski’s brother, let’s go over the pros and cons of a Very Special Two-Bachelorette season that were immediately revealed in the premiere:

Pro: Rachel and Gabby have someone to jump around and shout, “We’re the Bachelorettes!” with, as opposed to just shouting it directly into the Santa Monica Mountains like a solo Bachelorette would!
Con: Rachel and Gabby have the potential to uncover bone-deep insecurities they never knew existed until they started dating the same pool of men as their pretty best friend …
Pro: Rachel and Gabby have someone with whom to commiserate over the specific hell of sequin-chafing!
Con: Rachel and Gabby could not feel chosen in the one environment where, historically, the Bachelorette has always been able to do all the choosing …
Pro: Rachel and Gabby can debrief first kisses with their best friend in the middle of dates!
Con: Rachel and Gabby have to kiss the same men as their best friend while on the same shared dates …
Pro: Rachel and Gabby could participate in ABC-mandated polyamory!
Con: Rachel and Gabby could participate in ABC-mandated polyamory …

The entire point of being the lead on The Bachelor(ette) is that it eliminates the numbers game that is modern dating. Instead of scrolling through a million accounts to go on a bunch of dates to meet one person you like, ABC just presents you with a bunch of hotties who have arrived at this dilapidated mansion to date no one but you—until you break up with them. In Season 19 of The Bachelorette, Gabby and Rachel get those 32 instant boyfriends, but not only are they vying for the sliver of that man’s attention span that isn’t taken up with TikTok dances, calculating the right time to drink pre-workout, and finding a way to work Mark Cuban into the conversation—they’re also splitting that attention with a whole other woman.

The stakes are higher, the numeric potential to find a match is lower, and Rachel and Gabby have to wonder whether the men aren’t kissing them because they don’t want to, because they’re not ready to commit to a particular Bachelorette just yet, or because they’ve all been gnawing on a communal meatball sub all night. So what, exactly, is the upside of two Bachelorettes? Well …

Two Pretty Best Friends

As Bachelorettes, Gabby and Rachel seem great! Gabby remains so pleasantly weird, funny, and adventurous; Rachel is confident, comforting, and grounded. They’re a perfect pair, and I wish they would just kiss and tell all the Justins and Jordans to go home. But thus far, that doesn’t seem to be the most likely outcome of this season, and for some reason, Gabby and Rachel seem totally fine with being forced to navigate an incredibly complicated social gulag. Besides introducing two coleads, this premiere is pushing two foundational lies upon us that we have to just agree to ignore in order to enjoy our two excellent Bachelorettes and their eclectic group of Business Executive Ken Dolls:

  1. That this is an abnormally large group of brotestants, which it absolutely is not. At 32 brotestants, Gabby and Rachel’s group is just two men larger than Hannah Brown’s season—and she was just one lonesome Bachelorette who didn’t even have to share Tyler C with anyone else! (Could you imagine the wars that could have been waged over Tyler C? We’re talking Helen of Troy.) This is simply not enough men to go around, even though Gabby expresses multiple times that she would be perfectly happy to date upward of 60 men.
  2. That Gabby and Rachel are best friends. Now, let’s be clear: Gabby and Rachel are definitely friends. And they’re coworkers like the Real Housewives are coworkers, in that their livelihood depends on one another. But these two met six months ago! They do not have a catalog of inside jokes or an intimate understanding of what makes the other one tick. What they have is a trauma bond, forged by the sheer idiocy of Clayton, cemented by a genuine moment of woman-to-woman kindness in a cavernous Icelandic lobby where kindness so easily could have remained absent … and it’s all soon to be tested by the idiocy of 32 more itty-bitty Claytons.

Gabby and Rachel really seem dedicated to supporting each other as co-Bachelorettes, not stepping on each other’s toes, and frantically holding hands anytime they’re within arm’s length of each other.

But they’re also dating the same 32 men. And whether they’re doing it intentionally or not, they both occasionally exclaim, “Oh, he’s my type!” after they meet a new guy in a way that presents remarkably like a steady stream of urine. Because you know what they say: Communication is key in any relationship, including when you’re dating the same group of men on a televised game show with no infrastructural guidelines offered as to when you’ll stop dating the same group of men, so you need to find a way to establish some way to communicate that you’d please like your co-girlfriend not to sniff that particular pair of leisure executives chinos …

The Lim(tr)o-ductions

I don’t know if it’s because they added that two brotestants to bring this two-Bachelorette roster up to 32, or if it’s because we needed more time to get to know our two leads, but these limo introductions not only seemed to take up less screen time than normal, but they were also tame enough that I barely even had to bite down on a leather belt and scream once. But perhaps the producers knew that it would already be awkward enough watching Gabby and Rachel’s future fiancés waffle between who to hug first when they met them as a duo, so we really didn’t need anyone to, like, come in a hot dog suit and make a wiener joke or whatever.

For the most part, the bros hug classic left-to-right, which means Gabby gets hugged first, then Rachel, and then the men attempt to give a greeting that will please two very different women. Logan arrives with a pair of chicks, which were cute, but not so cute that Gabby didn’t scream because she thought they were rats. James, who allegedly goes by “Meatball,” brings a meatball sub that’s longer than Rachel is tall, which is a big hit with all parties involved. Not a big hit for Rachel or Gabby are all the men who reference their previous co-boyfriend Clayton over and over (although I do think that Alec bringing a little glee club to sing an original song called “Clayton Sucks” is kind of fun).

My favorite gimmick goes to Jordan H, who brings a pair of noise-canceling headphones so he can speak to each woman individually while the other sort of … loiters around, pretending like the noise-canceling headphones are working (spring for Bose next time, my guy!). The hottest introduction is Tino arriving on a forklift, and the wannabe hottest introduction is Jacob arriving shirtless on a horse (unfortunately the horse does go on to take a no. 2 all over the sparkling mansion driveway). And certainly the most uncomfortable is Quincey, who announces that he hasn’t had sex in the past 18 months within 12 seconds of meeting his new girlfriends. But Quincey’s awkward intro ultimately makes for the best moment altogether once he heads inside, when Gabby follows up his 18-month no-sex admission with, “Well, that makes one of us,” prompting Rachel to bellow, “Do you know who you’re talking to?!”

I had not considered that two Bachelorettes would mean more opportunities to talk openly about sex, but now … consider it considered.

The First Impression Bros

But given that these gals can barely even get Frenched on night one, there shall be no sex talk just yet. Because, as it turns out, it’s kind of difficult to navigate a two-on-32 date and keep the romance alive. First, Gabby and Rachel attempt to talk to their co-boyfriends together, which goes so horribly that I wondered whether Jesse Palmer might finally step in and establish some ground rules like when the Capitol people in the Hunger Games are all, Oh wait, when you’re about to blow up the entire ecosystem that keeps us in power, we actually CAN help you.

Alas, after Roby (ahem, Leelee Sobieski’s brother) does his second round of close-up magic for the women—which involves rubbing his pants—and the 24-year-old twins (occupations: Twin and Other Twin) have a four-way conversation so dull and unnatural that Gabby literally cannot keep her face in check or even pretend to be interested for more than five seconds …

The women must finally decide to split up. Rachel and Gabby have such different communication styles that it would be almost impossible for them to speak to these guys together and both get much out of it. And by that, I mean that Rachel is going to ask the twins what their hobbies are, Gabby is going to ask if they can read each other’s minds, and neither of them will have anything in common with two 24-year-olds who have the same medical sales job. Watching Rachel and Gabby attempt to entertain the men together creates a far too realistic simulation of the IRL bar experience wherein you and your friend meet two doughnut-heads, and you put up with it because you think she’s into it, only to find out later that she was putting up with it because she thought you were into it, and now everyone is disgruntled and bored.

Y’know, just what you want from the romantic fairy-tale experience promised by the American Broadcasting Company! Gabby and Rachel take matters into their own hands, split up, and immediately start vibing with some brotestants. Gabby has an antagonistic run-in with Ryan from Boston in which they both make fun of each other a lot, and she loves it. Meanwhile, Rachel’s more “dressed by cartoon birds” energy comes out ever-so-endearingly in her conversation with Extremely Southern Hayden, who’s brought her a handmade birthday card. Rachel is also charmed by Avan, who cashes in the ol’ “it’s hard for me to be vulnerable, but for you, I’ll try” ticket that’s been so popular in recent seasons. And Jordan V shows Rachel his race car (not a euphemism) and cashes in the ol’ “I’m here for only you,” that hasn’t really been necessary since Kaitlyn and Brit’s semi-dual-Bachelorette season.

Gabby gets slightly more serious than usual for her conversation with Mario, who tells her, “I think there’s a stigma that men are just closed off, but I’m willing to be vulnerable and present-minded with you.” And after staring half of these men in the eyes for upward of 20 seconds, willing them to kiss her already, Mario finally goes for it … and Gabby really goes for it in return. And then she goes for it again … and again. Please rest assured that our girl will be leaving no physical-chemistry stone unturned.

Rachel gets her first kiss with Tino, who takes her to the Bachelor Mansion steps in order to give her a little staircase redemption (coming to HBO Max next fall). Hot Erich With the Mullet and Videographer Logan With the Chickens both have very charming back-to-back conversations with Rachel and Gabby, which makes them two of the few brotestants who get to speak with both women. And it’s at this point that the editors start seeding the idea that Gabby and Rachel might give their first-impression roses to the same guy, and wouldn’t that just be shocking. Not shocking at all, however, is the immediacy with which these brotestants start to entertain the idea themselves. “I was thinking about this,” says Shirtless Jacob: “If I’m gonna talk to Gabby, and she’s gonna offer me a rose, but then I talk to Rachel, is there gonna be jealousy involved?”

JACOB, BE SERIOUS! It really is incredible to watch these men start considering what many of them feel is the very likely circumstance that they’ll have to choose between these two women, rather than the other way around (which is a scenario I would personally sell any number of organs to prevent from ever happening on this show). I simply do not want to hear some dude named Jacob thinking he has the power to make the Bachelorettes feel jealous.

On The Bachelorette, the Bachelorette(s) hold the power! Just as the reality TV gods intended when they shaped Trisha Sutter out of clay, and Neil Lane breathed life into her. And y’know what? I trust that Rachel and Gabby are keeping that power dynamic in mind. Because even though the editors don’t show it, I believe that they discussed who their first-impression roses would go to in order to prevent any such suggestion that they’re competing with each other. Rachel gives her first-impression rose to Tino, and they make out some more, and then Gabby gives hers to Mario, and they make out some more, while the other bros do a lot of blinking and wonder how they didn’t get a single first-impression rose when they were all semi-expecting to get two. And then, the wildest thing happens:

The All-Hands Breakup

After suffering through multiple group breakups at the hands of Clayton, Rachel and Gabby decide that the most humane thing they can do for this supersized group of men is … take the stragglers outside into dawn’s early light and break up with them in a group?! I mean, no, Rachel and Gabby haven’t told the Twins or Roby that they love them at this point, but it still seems an oddly ironic choice. But I guess the most important thing is that it is Rachel and Gabby’s choice; they come up with the idea together because they haven’t been able to speak with most of the men yet, so they don’t want to have a full rose ceremony and eliminate men whom they haven’t given an equal chance.

They just really want Roby and the Twins to understand that they don’t have to go home, but they certainly have to get the heck out of here. And with that, we’re down to two Bachelorettes, 29 brotestants, and endless opportunities to ruin lives, weep in stairwells, and forge friendships to last a lifetime—or at least a season of The Bachelorette.