You know what they say: New Year, new Bachelor... Kind of. The Season 21 premiere of America's favorite dating reality show hit the same beats every season premiere has hit, but with its own special twists.
The biggest one? The presence of two-time Bachelorette runner-up Nick Viall as the star, and new girls with new quirks for him -- and us, the viewers -- to get to know. The season premiere, with its outrageous entrances, is always one of the most fun episodes of the season, and this week's episode was another solid entry. It had drama, laughs and what we're most interested in: awkward moments.
But before we get to those, let's run down the non-awkward stuff that has to be addressed. Every season premiere of The Bachelor follows the same formula. It starts with an intro to the star's story with obligatory workout montage and shower scene. Nick Viall's story is well-trodden at this point: he's a two-time Bachelorette runner-up who was disliked for his perceived untrustworthiness and for slut-shaming Bachelorette Andi Dorfman; but he came back last summer on Bachelor in Paradise as a mellower, wiser (and way more ripped) guy who's been humbled by his romantic misfortunes. He really does just want to find love against the odds.
"My single biggest fear is having my heart broken again. It's very possible," Nick says with an ironic smile. "It's arguably likely."
We meet his family, and his little sister instructs him to not mumble. Bachelors past give him advice on how to handle the role. Last year's Bachelor Ben Higgins tells Nick to be himself, which is of course good advice that's so trite and obvious as to not be helpful. Good looking out, Ben. A select few of the contestants -- ones that are going to go far and/or particularly funny ones -- get intro videos.
Then it's off to Bachelor Mansion to meet the girls as they roll up in their limos. They greet Nick in the driveway and try to make an impression. They all go inside and have a cocktail party. Somebody gets the first impression rose that grants them immunity from elimination and marks them as a frontrunner for the season. There's the rose ceremony where the first 30 women are whittled down to 22.
Basically: If you've watched The Bachelor before, you know the drill. If you haven't, it's the funniest, craziest thing you've ever seen on TV. Just don't go back and watch other premieres, or you'll have an intense sense of déja vu.
Most of the standout women didn't do anything that earned them a spot on the awkward moments list -- congratulations to them -- but they still should be discussed.
Danielle L. is the first one out of the limo, which automatically makes her one to watch, since that's the "wifey" spot -- the previous two Bachelor and Bachelorette winners, Lauren Bushnell and Jordan Rodgers, were both the first ones to make an entrance on their seasons.
Rachel, an attorney from Dallas, got the first impression rose for her rapport with Nick. They seemed to get along easily and feel pretty comfortable with each other quickly. Rachel seems very likable. She's also the first black contestant on either The Bachelor or The Bachelorette to get the first impression rose, which is pretty crazy. It's confirmed that Rachel's going to go far.
Vanessa is from Quebec, so of course the show makes a big deal about her ability to speak French (she also speaks Italian. English is her third language), which she does right off the bat in her intro video. When she gets out of the limo, the first thing she says to Nick is "you are even better looking in person" in English right when she steps out -- which she maybe didn't plan to say? -- and then gets back on-script with French like her character demands once she's within touching distance. Nick's clearly into her, too.
Danielle M. gives Nick a bottle of maple syrup that her father made, which is actually a very significant gift. My brother's ex-girlfriend's father makes maple syrup, and he never gives it away as a gift because it's so expensive and labor-intensive to make. So if Danielle M.'s dad actually sells his maple syrup, this gift required some financial sacrifice. Danielle M. seems really lovely.
Now on to the awkward moments countdown!
9. Taylor doesn't know Nick like that.
Taylor made sure she wasn't going to get the first impression rose when, trying to make a point about being here for Nick, she said that her friends think Nick is a "piece of s---." Obviously she thought Nick would find this funnier than he did, because he just said "okay" and looked uncomfortable. She made the mistake of being overly familiar with someone she knows but who doesn't know her. When she walked away, Nick said "I cannot wait to meet her friends." But it's a relatively minor sin, and she'll be back next week.
8. Hailey's underwear -- or lack thereof.
Hailey tried to appeal to Nick's sexual side by coming out of the limo swinging for the fences with this riddle: "Do you know what a girl wearing underwear says?" "I don't," said Nick. "Neither do I," Hailey purred. "Good for you," said Nick, wanting this conversation to be over. Now's not the time, Hailey. That's not how the game is played. Sexual aggression can be a winning strategy, as Courtney Robertson could tell you, but not when it's deployed on the first night. But she'll get another chance, too.
7. Jaimi's balls.
Curly-haired chef Jaimi's first impression technique was slightly baffling. She complimented Nick's "balls" for coming on the show so many times, and then said that she has "balls" too, which prompted a record scratch sound effect on the soundtrack and a nervous "figuratively?" from Nick. Then she stuck her fingers in her nose and flipped down a horseshoe-shaped septum piercing that ended in two little balls. Not like testicles, just little silver spheres. It's a pretty normal piercing for a woman to have and the balls are not a remarkable part. It was an extremely anticlimactic reveal. I have no idea why Jaimi led with this, as surely there are much more interesting things about her than her nose piercing? Maybe?
6. Lacey's camel.
Every season somebody has to enter on some kind of "wacky" vehicle. This time it was Lacey, who rode up the driveway on a camel. "I heard you like a good hump and so do I," she said to Nick, to which I said out loud "Oh nooooo." "Everyone likes a good hump, Nick," she repeated, in case he didn't get it the first time. This franchise needs to move away from its love of terrible puns, as puns are the lowest form of humor. [Editor's Note: in this case, they're the hel-lowest form of humor.]
5. Josephine's wiener.
Josephine -- whose zaniness was established in her intro video when she pet her cat for too long -- made the silliest first impression. She told Nick that despite his runner-up status, "you're a wiener in my book" as she produced a hollowed-out book with a hot dog in the secret compartment. Get it? There's a wiener in her book! BOO/YAY! She suggested they "Lady & the Tramp it," so they started munching on it from either end. But it was an uncooked hot dog and who knows how long it had been in that book. So it was gross. But Nick appreciated the effort, and he gave her a rose.
4. The Red Sea.
About half of the contestants wore red dresses. Hard to make an impression when you look just like everyone else. One of the contestants called it "the Red Sea," which is the perfect way to describe it.
3. Corinne is not here to make friends.
Corinne became the season's villain as soon as she said she's a grown woman with a "nanny" who she tells her mom to order to bring her snacks. She was the first to kiss Nick and first to "double dip" -- that is, interrupt another woman's one-on-one time to talk to Nick, after she had already talked to Nick. It's bad manners, but it's allowed. She started to get an attitude with the other girls, too. And as we see in the sneak peek first shown during the "Countdown to Nick" special, Corinne's behavior is going to escalate. It's a good thing she runs her family's business, because non-familial employers wouldn't be thrilled about this.
2. Alexis the Shark, excuse me, Dolphin.
Alexis made it very clear why her job title is "aspiring dolphin trainer:" the girl loves dolphins. She showed up at the mansion dressed as a dolphin and told Nick "I dolphinately can't wait to talk to you inside," which is a pun I approve of because it's not even trying to be clever. It's just transparently stupid nonsense and it's very specific to her character.
Here's the thing, though: she wasn't wearing a dolphin costume. It was a shark costume. More specifically, it's a Left Shark costume, a viral moment from 2015 that you forgot about. This raises the question: does Alexis not know what a dolphin looks like? Can she not tell the difference between a dolphin and a shark, something most four-year-olds are able to do? Does she... It pains me to say... Does she not actually like dolphins as much as she says she does and she's not taking being on The Bachelor seriously?! She's either a really good comedic actress who convincingly sold that she was dressed as a dolphin, or she really didn't know she was a shark. If it's the latter, that's some hall-of-fame awkwardness right there.
1. Liz and Nick's history.
I don't like the way the Bachelor franchise treats its stars some of the time (okay, a lot of the time). The producers knew that they were sending in Liz, who slept with Nick at Bachelor in Paradise alumni Jade and Tanner's wedding in January, to blindside Nick. Their reunion was truly cringeworthy, with Nick clearly recognizing her but neither of them saying anything because they didn't know how to handle it.
And I truly hated Chris Harrison coming over and playing dumb like "I noticed you gave her a funny look. Do you know her?" when he knows damn well that he's forcing Nick into dredging up some stuff that Nick would much rather keep private, and understandably so. Because the angle Liz was pushing was that Nick got blackout drunk and hooked up with her; and then when he asked for her number she said no. She thinks he's a player and doesn't want to get involved with him. She didn't think he even remembered her, which is really giving Nick no credit.
When he talks to her about why she waited until they were on TV to get in touch with him, she says she had a "stereotype" about him that was dispelled when she watched him on Bachelor in Paradise, which is a pretty insane thing to say. That's basically saying that reality TV is more real than real life. She also kept saying in confessional interviews that she was kind of glad that Nick didn't remember that he had sex with her in a blackout and forgot about her, because now they have a fresh start; which is either a lie or the saddest thing I've ever heard. Have some self-respect, Liz! You're a beautiful woman who delivers babies and you deserve to be treated with kindness!
Nick doesn't like anything Liz has to say, and points out that if she really wanted to see him, she could have gotten his number. The situation makes Liz look opportunistic and Nick look douchey. "This is the most uncomfortable situation that I've ever been in in my life," she says later through tears. She shouldn't be there. It's one thing for an awkward situation to come up naturally. It's another for the producers to force it so maliciously, especially on the face of the franchise for this round.
This happened to JoJo last season, too, when she was forced to address tabloid rumors for no good reason. Everyone is on the show to create entertainment, sure. But they're still real people with feelings, and the show ignores that. It frequently goes too far in manipulating its participants for the cameras in a way that's just not fun to watch. Nick kept Liz around, which will only prolong the agony. Next week there has to be a reckoning, and it's going to be brutal.
In the end, there was a rose ceremony, and Olivia, Angela, Lauren, Briana, Ida Marie, Jasmine B., Michelle and Susannah were sent out into the breaking dawn. Curiously, only the first four on that list even got reaction shots. The other four may as well have not ever existed.
And that concludes night one of The Bachelor, America's greatest early January tradition.
The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.