Royals these days are lucky. Long ago, being king or queen was basically like wearing a big sign saying “MURDER ME” at all times; now royals just get to be rich and happy for decades on end with very little threat of being murdered. You know how many seasons of The Crown they could’ve made about kings in the 1400s? Two episodes, tops. Then murder.
Unfortunately, we are getting at least three episodes of Victoria, the self-appointed Queen of Bachelor Nation. (Bachelor Kingdom?) Even Matt isn’t particularly interested in deposing her. “There’s a reason why you’re still here,” he tells her, without quite explaining what that reason is. That’s always a good sign, when it’s a week into the show and someone is so clearly out of place that the Bachelor needs to publicly affirm that he does have a secret reason for keeping them around. Everybody thinks she’s a Producer Pick, but I can’t figure out why the producers would pick her.
Victoria’s second episode is even more turbulent than her first, as she rapidly tires of her gestures. (Oh, yeah—one sign Victoria isn’t “literally a queen,” as she says, is that she can’t pronounce the word “jester.” What a finasco.) She starts the episode by telling the women she has known for about three days that she is “so sick” of being around them. She specifies that she’s here for Matt, while everyone else is too chummy. “I hate this girl power shit,” she says. “I’m not here to be in a sorority.” (As we all know, sororities are famous for how every girl in the sorority is friends with each other.) Victoria goes on a date where everybody takes wedding pictures with Matt, but hijacks the process by saying it’s time for “Las Royal Wedding” and asking Matt to take her garter off. The rest of the contestants cringe and try not to look, as has often happened with Victoria. “I have sympathy for her on one hand,” Alana tells the camera. “On the other hand, stop being so stupid.”
However, Victoria’s general animosity toward the rest of the contestants soon turns into specific animosity directed at Marylynn, her roommate. Victoria calls Marylynn “psychologically disturbed,” “toxic,” and “manipulative”—though it’s worth noting that Marylynn seems to be the quietest contestant in Bachelor history, and is not really shown saying anything on camera before Victoria’s accusations. Matt seems to like Marylynn, even remembering to bring her an orchid, her favorite flower. (I think this is the first instance in Bachelor history of extracurricular flower distribution outside of the mandatory roses.) But then Victoria tells Matt about Marylynn’s unspecified crimes. This confuses Matt—and all the other women, who all agree that Marylynn doesn’t seem like a manipulative toxic psycho. Marylynn tries to reconcile with Victoria, apologizing (for what?) and saying that she wants to get along with Victoria. Victoria replies, “We’re like oil and vinegar,” apparently getting three-quarters of the way through a common saying before thinking about salad. Victoria concludes that Marylynn is bullying her, adding that she is “straight-up crazy” and “fake as shit.”
There are two ways you can succeed in this show: By winning over the Bachelor, or by winning over viewers. Going after someone inoffensive like Marylynn for no apparent reason will accomplish neither of those. It’s villainy without strategy. Bachelor fans can rally around a character we love to hate, but Victoria is too dumb to be compelling and too straight-up mean to be entertaining. Get her out of here!
Best Change: Nemacolin
On the most recent season of The Bachelorette, contestants simply said that they were in Palm Springs rather than specifying the name of the desert resort where they were staying. But on this season of The Bachelor, the contestants are specific: Every time, they make sure to say that they’re staying at Nemacolin, the palatial resort where this season is being filmed. I think there are a few factors in this shift. For one, I bet Nemacolin paid well. Secondly, the glamorous resort from The Bachelorette was called the La Quinta, which happens to share its name with an unglamorous motel chain, so it would’ve sounded like they were bragging about staying at Exit 38 off the 84. But I think the biggest thing is that “Palm Springs” has name cachet. People know of Palm Springs and aspire to be there. Meanwhile, Nemacolin is in Western Pennsylvania. The contestants aren’t going to say, “Wow, it’s so beautiful here in Farmington, Pennsylvania” or “There’s nothing like fall in the greater Morgantown, West Virginia, metropolitan area” or “I’ve always wanted to fall in love in the general vicinity of Pittsburgh.”
At first, I was confused by the choice to stage this season here. The Bachelor has some history at Nemacolin—it was a stop in the 2016 season of The Bachelorette, for an episode in which Ben Roethlisberger made a cameo and meat-eating Chad got left in the woods. But why make this change? Why did The Bachelorette film in Palm Springs in July and August—when the 110-degree heat made every outdoor scene look miserable—before transferring to Pennsylvania during cold season?
But two episodes in, I now think it was a great decision. The La Quinta did a good job of mimicking the Southern California architecture of the Bachelor mansion, but before too long, the show developed a Palm Springs (the movie) vibe. Every episode looked the same, highlighting the fact that unlike every other season, the show was stuck in one place. Yes, it felt like the mansion, but typically the show leaves the mansion. In Pennsylvania, we’re going to see the seasons change; we’re going to see the contestants put on different outfits. Right now we’re in “leaves changing and vests”; when Matt is making his toughest decisions, we’ll be at “barren trees and jackets.” It’s going to be a huge opportunity for Matt to get off chilly fits, instead of three straight months of “cacti and bathing suits.” Plus, the show is going to be able to pull off more outdoor activities—like we saw in the second episode; hello middle-of-the-woods hot tub—because going outside won’t feel like stepping into a furnace.
I don’t love the Nemacolin aesthetic. The place looks sorta like a casino, and it seems weirdly surrounded by a golf course. But I think the optics are going to lead to my brain convincing me we’re getting a travel-filled season, even when everything is staying in place.
Most Disturbing Motif: Group Death
Matt goes on two one-on-one dates. First, he takes Bri on an ATV ride through the Pennsylvania woods. (Kit gets jealous seeing Bri hop on the ATV, claiming it would be her “ideal date.” Which, come on, Kit, let’s not play games here. You grew up, went to high school, and went to college in the same 10-block radius in Manhattan. You’ve never even driven a car.) Afterward, the two relax in a wood-fired hot tub, basically a setup to force Matt to take his shirt off and chop wood. (I’m starting to get the sense Matt is going to take his shirt off a lot this season.)
Later, he takes Sarah up in a biplane for a scenic tour of the region. When he asks her whether she’s ever flown in a biplane, Sarah replies, “Not one that small!” It’s probable she misheard Matt, but I’m going to choose to believe that Sarah routinely flies in very large biplanes, perhaps to spray pesticides on her crops.
Eventually, both dates come to the exact same troubling conversation topic. After spending some time riding separate ATVs, Bri hops on Matt’s ride and the two do some donuts in the mud, at which point Matt flips the ATV. This is actually a really worrisome thing to happen—hundreds of people die flipping ATVs every year! But The Bachelor plays it off like everything was OK, as Matt and Bri somehow wind up cuddled with each other on the ground after the crash. Bri says that some of the girls asked her how she would feel if she died on the date. Her response: “Well, if we die, at least we’re going to die together.” Matt briefly jokes about how he’s happy that the fall brought them closer together, and the date moves on.
Later, biplane expert Sarah is clearly uncomfortable with the small biplane. There’s no crash this time, but still, Sarah thinks about the worst-case scenario. “If we’re going down,” she says, “at least we’re going down together.”
“I can live with that,” Matt replies.
So, long story short, Matt has been on two dates … and on both dates, the girls have briefly giggled and mentioned that they wouldn’t mind dying on the date because at least Matt would also be dying with them. Cute! Love to slip in a casual “haha no biggie but I would gladly welcome death if it were by your side” on a first date. Romantics really took the wrong lessons from Romeo and Juliet.
But two is just a coincidence—three is a trend. If a third girl turns to Matt in a hot air balloon and says “OUR TIME IS UPON US! MAY THE BALLOON CARRY US TOGETHER THROUGH THE PORTAL!” I’m going to start getting really worried about the Nemacolin’s Gate cult.
Biggest Winner: Tangential Bachelor Characters Branching Out
The episode’s group date is a date so strange I can’t believe The Bachelor has done it multiple times at this point: Dozens of women are asked to put on wedding dresses to take pictures with Matt. There to help document the scene is Franco, an over-the-top photographer who has become typecast on this show. On Nick’s season of The Bachelor, he was there … for a date in which dozens of women put on wedding dresses and took photos with Nick. On the most recent season of The Bachelorette, he was there … for a date in which contestants put on wedding outfits and took photos with each other.
A few minutes into the date, Chris Harrison shows up to tell everybody they’re done taking wedding pics—they’re actually going to play an extremely convoluted game of Capture the Flag in the woods while wearing wedding dresses. (The women were given paint and slingshots, although I’m not sure how they related to the competitive nature of the game.) But Franco wasn’t sent home—he was brought on to comment on the game, and sprinted into the middle of the playing field to take pictures. Finally, the show let him take pictures of something besides people who are clearly not getting married in wedding garb. He’s not just a wedding photographer—he’s a sports photographer, too.
Also branching out was Big Paulie, one of the show’s behind-the-scenes staff who has been given a few on-screen appearances lately. Paulie played a referee, even though the game explicitly did not have rules. (You can see him just looking at his phone at one point.) This is a big step for the franchise: With fewer people coming in and out of the Bachelor bubble, the show is giving larger roles to the random people who appear on set.
And quite frankly, I welcome the emergence of the show’s tertiary characters in broader roles. For too long, we’ve let Bachelor leads monopolize airtime and become hot marketing commodities. (Have you noticed that Matt is always riding a Peloton?) It’s time for everybody else to get a cut. Let’s get Big Paulie a Revolve partnership.