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‘The Bachelor’ Recap: A DJ, a Sloth, and a Virgin Walk Into a Mansion

The Season 23 premiere had everything: a girl dressed as an arboreal mammal, a fake accent, multiple dogs, someone who’s “not here to make friends,” and a LOT of references to Colton Underwood’s virginity

ABC

I was curious how heavy-handed this season of The Bachelor would be concerning Colton Underwood’s virginity. I feel so dumb for having been curious. The answer, of course, is extremely heavy-handed. Like, they put their hands in cinder blocks. I should’ve known better. On Colton’s season of The Bachelorette last year, they made sure to point out when he drove a car over the Virgin Riverof course they’re not skimping on the innuendo this time around. During The Bachelor premiere on Monday night, they stopped just short of putting a giant red arrow on screen that read STILL HAS NOT BONED that pointed at Colton at all times.

As anybody who watched the last season of The Bachelorette or Bachelor in Paradise knows, Colton is a former NFL player—well, kind of a former NFL player—who has never banged. Not once! There have been plenty of female contestants on The Bachelor who have discussed their virginity over the course of their run on the show, but few guys, and none who have gone on to be the Bachelor. Colton describes himself as “the first virgin Bachelor” like it’s on par with being the first black president.

During the premiere, Erika, a contestant who apparently did not watch the last season of The Bachelorette or Bachelor in Paradise, helpfully asked Colton why he’s never had sex. For what felt like the millionth time (even though this was literally the premiere episode of his season), Colton explained his stance: His virginity is not a religious stipulation nor is it due to lack of opportunity. He just never had sex (he was “focusing on his professional career,” which makes sense because everybody knows that no athletes ever have sex) and eventually, it got to a point where he realized “Oh, if I’m a 23-year-old virgin, I might as well make sure my first sex is meaningful and important.” It’s not exactly the speech Steve Carell gives in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but it’s pretty close.

I think there were a solid 10 virgin puns in the premiere. One contestant handed Colton a card with the letter V on it, immediately took it from him, and said, “I just took your V card!” Another, Caitlin, handed him a red balloon, popped it, and said, “I just popped your cherry!” (I’m getting good vibes from Caitlin—The Bachelor has a strong history with Canadian Caitlins.)

This all seems like a weird choice for Colton. He seems pretty reticent to discuss his virginity, and yet he has chosen to be a part of a reality show that gleefully and repeatedly makes him talk about his virginity. (He had to talk to his parents about his lack of sex-having last year! It was weird!) This show gamifies sex—there is literally an episode where the lead character is expected to have sex with the three remaining contestants! Colton’s virginity is not the B plot this year. We’re about to see an entire season of “Will this guy get to bang?” It’s uncomfortable, but oddly compelling—and of course, entertaining. I’d feel worse about Colton’s significant and well-reasoned personal choice being discussed so widely and crudely, but the jokes are too good and too easy.

Biggest Red Flag: Colton’s Dog Blindness

This was a dog-heavy episode of The Bachelor, and therefore a good episode of The Bachelor. One contestant runs a dog rescue. Another went into great detail about her parents’ pomapoo. Catherine, the show’s insta-villain, actually brought her pomeranian and asked Colton to take care of it for as long as she’s on the show, which is admittedly a tad presumptuous. (Chris Harrison seems to be taking the on-camera role of caring for the pom, although I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume that some anonymous PA is actually picking up the dog shit instead of the guy making $60,000 an episode.) Catherine referred to her dog as her daughter, forcing me to rewind and ask, “Wait, did she say dog or daughter?” and then vomit everywhere when she turned out to be a person who pretends having a dog is in any way comparable to having a child.

But somehow, that was not the biggest dog-related red flag of the night. Because Jane walked out of the limo with a picture of her dog, Bella, photoshopped next to Colton’s dog, Sniper. (Good dog, weird dog name.) It was a cute little gag—both George Costanza and Michael Scott have attempted it in some form in the past! But somehow, Colton looked at the framed picture and said, “Are these your dogs?”

HE LOOKED AT A PICTURE OF HIS OWN DOG AND SAID, “ARE THESE YOUR DOGS?”

I cannot trust a man who fails to recognize his own dog. Even if it was just for a split second, even if it was a low-resolution, weirdly photoshopped picture. If I see any picture of my dog, or even a dog that closely resembles my dog, my heart instantly leaps and I start beaming and thinking about the unbelievably perfect animal who lives in my house. It’s called love, and it’s hypothetically a concept the guy who is on The Bachelor should understand. I don’t trust Colton. Get him outta here.

Biggest Misfire: Cinderella

I take it as a rule of thumb that if a Bachelor contestant has an elaborate entrance, they’re probably going to be a significant part of the season. If you see somebody ride up to the Bachelor mansion on a zebra and say some cute catchphrase like “I just think we’re from the same stripes!,” it’s not because she googled “L.A. zebra rental” and ponied up thousands of dollars for a zebra to arrive at the Bachelor house at the same time as everybody else. It’s because a producer arranged for that person to have a zebra. The producers want the most memorable entrances to be by the contestants whom they want us to remember. It’s hard to keep track of all 30 women, and if a contestant gets into a huge fight Week 3, it’s easier for viewers to feel connected to the situation by saying, “Oh—she’s the zebra girl!”

So when Erin rode up in a rose-strewn horse and carriage dressed in Cinderella’s blue dress, I assumed she was somebody the producers had tapped as a major contender. “This would look good in a season-ending flashback if he proposes to this girl,” I thought. It was the most grandiose entrance of the evening.

So I was stunned when instead, Erin was one of the three women sent home on the first night. I genuinely think this was a mistake by the show’s producers. They obviously would have preferred for the person with the most over-the-top entrance to be someone who stuck around, but for whatever reason, Colton instantly bailed on his would-be Disney princess.

Biggest Rivalry: Miss USA

The Bachelor has two contestants who have already been contestants—and no, this isn’t like when the Whaboom Guy started beefing with Blake and then people realized that the Whaboom Guy had already been on a different reality show with Blake. Caelynn was Miss North Carolina 2018, and walked in wearing a sash that says “MISS NORTH CAROLINA” on one side and “MISS UNDERWOOD” on the other. (Shouldn’t it have said “Mrs. Underwood”? Why would she take his last name in a situation where she remains unmarried? Is he legally adopting her as his daughter?) Hannah B. (we have multiple Hannahs from Alabama) was Miss Alabama 2018, and says “Roll Tide” a lot. They both competed together in the Miss USA pageant: Caelynn took second place, and, uh, they only rank the top 15, so all I can say about Hannah B. is that she finished somewhere between 16th and 51st. You have to presume that there will be some sort of drama manufactured around this pre-existing semi-rivalry.

But honestly, the bigger rivalry here involves the fact two Miss USA contestants are on the show at all. The Bachelor’s beauty pageant of choice is Miss America—Chris Harrison has hosted Miss America since 2011, and executive producer Mike Fleiss judged the pageant in 2012 before marrying the winner. (Last season, he got her song on the show.)

I don’t know much about beauty pageants, but I feel like Miss USA vs. Miss America is a real Crips-Bloods situation. There have absolutely been multiple “How could you?!” phone calls to Harrison and Fleiss from Miss America executives for crossing sides of the beauty rivalry. But The Bachelor really cares about only one beauty pageant, and that beauty pageant is The Bachelor. If these girls’ pre-existing beef can make this show shine, that’s all that matters.

Worst Gag: The Sloth

The Bachelor’s opening night costume is a time-honored tradition. We have had contestants emerge dressed as dolphins and penguins and Santas. It’s a great icebreaker and, I suspect, a way for contestants who don’t think they’re as attractive as the other contestants to survive on the most superficial show known to mankind.

Monday night, we got Alex the Sloth:

The joke here was that because Colton has taken things slowly in love—reminder: the guy’s never boned—and Alex was letting Colton know she was willing to take things slowly too.

But the gag got tired rather fast. By the end of Alex’s first slow-mo sentence, I was already yelling “OK, WE GET THE JOKE.” Every sentence of hers until she removed the costume took an eternity, and one thing Bachelor contestants should try to avoid is seeming tedious on a night when they all get a maximum of two minutes to interact with the guy they’re chasing.

Second-Worst Gag: Foreign Languages

Three contestants introduced themselves in foreign languages. Nina spoke to Colton in her native Croatian, Revian busted out her parents’ Mandarin, and Nicole quoted Camila Cabello in Spanish to celebrate her Cuban heritage. I just want to point out that this is the second straight season of The Bachelor in which there has been a Cuban contestant. As a proud half-Cuban man, I must say that we are an extremely sexy people. Cubans are so hot that people wear T-shirts with the face of our most famous murderer, the one who enjoyed personally executing people at point-blank range with a pistol. (Che’s Argentine; whatever, point stands.)

The idea of being approached by a hot person speaking a foreign language is extremely sexy, so I get what these contestants were going for. But you gotta know your audience. Colton Underwood looks like a guy who describes Chipotle as “ethnic food.” He’s not gonna be big on foreign languages. He straight up couldn’t pronounce Onyeka’s name, despite the fact that it’s only three simple syllables. Having to think about other countries is probably a real turnoff for Colton, so I think these women blew it.

Worst Move: Colton

The immediate villain of this season is Catherine, a DJ who achieved her villainy in the most stereotypical Bachelor way—by repeatedly pulling Colton out of conversations with her fellow contestants so she could talk to him again. This happens literally every season, but Catherine was notable due to the sheer scale of her conversation-stealing. Normally a brouhaha breaks out if a contestant has two conversations with the guy they’re chasing on the same night; Catherine grabbed Colton four times.

But it takes two people to start a conversation. Colton was complicit here, and more importantly, in charge. He could’ve politely told Catherine to wait and continued his conversations with other women, but every time she approached, he immediately said yes. He seemed mildly perturbed—he dropped a sarcastic “Fourth time’s the charm!” when she borrowed him for a fourth time—but actual action would’ve been better than performative disappointment.

Catherine didn’t steal Colton at gunpoint. (Although, hey, an armed kidnapping would be a great plot point for future seasons, Bachelor producers.) He had the opportunity to stand up for his women, and he passed.

Biggest Missed Opportunity: The Accent

The season premiere of The Bachelor went viral before it even aired, thanks to this astounding clip of Bri introducing herself to Colton:

What Bri did here is truly awe-inspiring. First of all, faking an accent to stand out is a brilliant move. Second of all, she is so slick with her semantics by saying “The accent is Australian” instead of “I am Australian.” Third of all, the accent is good! Look at the replies to that tweet! Her accent is Australian approved.

I entered Monday night’s premiere genuinely curious about what would come next for Bri. This is a case of Chekhov’s fake Australian accent—if a character reveals they’re pretending to do an accent in Act 1, by Act 3 they must have their accent revealed as a sham, as we all know from Friends. Would she fess up to Colton later that night, hoping the accent was just a great icebreaker? Would she keep the gag going for the entire first night? Would she be forced to live out her lie? What if she made it all the way to hometowns? Would she pretend her hometown is Canberra and drag Colton to the opposite side of the globe and rent a fake Australian family to trick him?

Sadly, The Bachelor disappointed on this front. When Colton gave Bri a rose at the end of the first episode, she responded to him with her normal, non-Australian accent. He didn’t seem particularly surprised by that, which surprised me, because if somebody spoke to me in an Australian accent and then later in an American accent, I’d be a little bit confused.

One of two things happened here:

1. Bri and Colton had a conversation about how she’d faked the accent, and for some reason, The Bachelor failed to air this conversation. I would be genuinely upset if this were the case.

2. Colton straight-up did not notice that Bri’s background moved half a globe in a few hours, because he is a big dummy and couldn’t keep track of all the women he met.

I’m going with no. 2, which means two other things:

1. I can’t wait for Bri’s deceit to be realized.

2. “Colton is a big dummy” is going to become a theme this season.