New decade, same The Bachelor. The television institution (it's been on since 2002!) has returned for a 24th season, with pilot Peter Weber in the lead. The premiere was structured unlike any previous premiere. It was three hours long and combined what would typically be the first and second episodes of a season. We got all the first-night festivities, with limo intros, the marathon cocktail party, and the first rose ceremony, out of the way in an hour and a half, and then it quickly moved on to the first group date, first one-on-one, and second group date, which turned into Peter and his Bachelorette ex-girlfriend Hannah Brown doing a post-mortem on their relationship. It was kind of a jarring change, but not an unwelcome one. The premiere didn't get too bogged down in meaningless first-night drama.
The season began with a cold open flash-forward to what's coming at the end of the season: Peter getting some bad news about the woman he's about to propose to not showing up, and he starts to cry, followed by some other season preview scenes, like Peter's camera-loving mother crying "Don't let her go, don't let her go." The pre-show preview was another formal innovation in this episode, and something to look forward to as the season progresses.
Then, it was on to the usual reflect on the past, look forward to the future intro package for the lead. Peter said he fell in love with Hannah and had his heart broken, but he's ready to find love again. He ate ropa vieja with his family and walked through the airport in his pilot uniform and took pictures with everyone who asked. Bing bang boom, on to the girls' intro packages.
Seven women got into intro videos. I would love to know how they select who gets to do intro videos, because it always seems so random. One of the women, Maurissa, wouldn't make it to the end of the episode. These were actually maybe a little less random than usual, though, as Tammy and Hannah Ann have camera-ready personalities, Maurissa and Victoria P. have compelling personal stories, Kelley has a connection to Peter, Maddie has a connection to a Division I basketball coach, and Alexa has an interesting job that allowed for some comedy.
Then it was on to the limo entrances. First up was Alayah, who was alphabetically first. It's interesting that the show sent her out first, since the first entrance is known as the "wifey slot," and very often is used to signal to the audience that this person will be a frontrunner or even the winner. Alayah might be, but she doesn't seem like more of a frontrunner at this point than Hannah Ann or Kelley. I actually think she went first in order to not give away the frontrunners too early. She did have a cute intro, giving Peter a letter her grandmother wrote him.
Next up was Sydney, from Alabama, who said, "Not every girl from 'Bama makes bad decisions," a dig at Hannah choosing Jed Wyatt over Peter. Later, Kelsey would say almost the same thing. ("I think Hannah made a mistake.") Next up was Hannah Ann, who didn't do anything gimmicky. She let her looks do the talking. Hannah Ann just has the petite, Instagrammy look of someone who will go far on The Bachelor, right?
There were a handful of cute intros that told you something about the girl, like Sarah saying, "Hello, hubba hubba" and Victoria P. doing a "happy dance" with Peter to keep the nerves away, before they moved into a string of intros that were all aviation jokes, starting with Eunice, who wore angel wings ("I figured I would just wing it") and told him that she was a flight attendant ("I'm here for the flight reasons").
Then, it became an absolute barrage of flight attendants and plane jokes. Jade and Megan were both flight attendants. Madison flew in on a giant paper airplane. Tammy waved a TSA wand over Peter's crotch. Shiann gave him a barf bag because he was about to have a lot of "nauseating conversations." Courtney rolled up on a toy plane. A guy rolled a luggage cart up the driveway, and Kiarra popped out of a suitcase, which was honestly impressive.
Lexi arrived in a red convertible, providing a break from everybody doing the same gimmick, and then the next gimmick started. The two things about Peter are that he's a pilot and he likes to have sex. He went four rounds with Hannah in a windmill, and Hannah found condoms in his car. So the next crop of girls went risqué. Deandra wore windmill blades like angel wings and asked "Are you ready for round five?" Payton came out going, "Four times?" like she couldn't believe it. Jasmine said, "I heard you did it four times in a windmill" in Vietnamese. Kylie waved a string of condoms around.
Then they stopped being specific to Peter's sex life and just got sexual. Katrina said, "You're gonna love my hairless...pussy...cat." She has a hairless cat, get it? And Victoria F. said, "I have a very dry sense of humor." She started to laugh, struggling to say the next line, and managed to get out "but that's about the only thing..." before Peter cut her off, saying "I knew that was coming." Classy way to introduce to yourself to your potential future husband, right? Within moments after going inside the mansion, Victoria F. was upset because she wasn't the only Victoria. Inside the mansion, she got upset when Peter didn't remember what she said right away. Victoria F. is going to be the season's primary villain.
Jenna brought an "emotional support cow," and Savannah blindfolded him and kissed him, the first kiss of the season. Then Kelley arrived, and Peter immediately recognized her and remembered her name from when they met a month ago. He was happy to see her. "I was hoping she'd come by," he said.
There were a few more inconsequential intros, and then one last limo pulled up. Out stepped Hannah Brown. The girls watching the arrivals from behind a gate in the mansion SCREAMED IN ANGUISH. Hannah gave Peter back the pilot's wings he gave her on the first night of her season, because it was time for him to find his own co-pilot.
The cocktail party went by in a blur of making out. Hannah Ann gave him a painting she and her dad did of some very vaginal flowers in the Great Smoky Mountains. It was kind of an odd gift, but Peter kissed her. Everything she said, he was like "I love that," to borrow another Bachelor's catchphrase. Peter is very into Hannah Ann. He also kissed Tammy, Mykenna, Kelley, and Hannah Ann again. Hannah Ann triple-dipped in taking time with Peter, which marked her as a public enemy in the house. Shiann, the last woman she interrupted, tried to confront her about it, and Hannah Ann gave her a smiling brick wall routine. She very graciously refused to acknowledge that she did anything that might have upset Shiann. It was a masterclass in not acknowledging someone else's feelings. A very polite gaslight.
Hannah Ann is going to be the player to watch this season. Peter gave her the first impression rose, which historically means that she won't win but will make it to at least Week 6, and I have a feeling she's going to go much further. It doesn't often happen that someone who's this obviously a frontrunner has villainous tendencies of the kind Hannah Ann is showing so far. And Hannah Ann is a friend of Hannah Godwin's, so she knows how the game is played. She's not like Olivia Caridi, who was unfamiliar with how The Bachelor worked and was therefore easily manipulated. There's something kinda off about her, though, isn't there?
Then -- with about an hour and a half of show left -- it was time for the rose ceremony. Victoria P., Madison, Kelley, Lexi, Savannah, Lauren, Tammy, Alayah, Jasmine, Sydney, Natasha, Mykenna, "Deandria," Sarah, Alexa, Kelsey, Payton, Kiarra, Courtney, Shiann, and Victoria F. got roses. Maurissa, Jade, Kylie, Katrina, Eunice, Avonlea, Jenna, Kelsey, and Megan did not. All three flight attendants are already gone. I wonder if that was intentional.
Normally on The Bachelor, the premiere would end there, but this time it kept going right into the first group date. Peter looked really hot washing that plane, didn't he? He took a group of girls to the airfield where he learned to fly and gave them their own flight school, with the help of a the first female Blue Angel and a female Marine pilot. The girls were bad at math; then they did a gyroscope, which made Victoria P. throw up. The final challenge was an obstacle course, which Kelley won by cheating (accidentally, because she couldn't steer her tricycle).
Kelley obviously cheated, but she was still allowed to win because the show needed to give her some alone time with Peter to talk about when they met by chance the previous month. At the same hotel where the cocktail party portion of the date took place, funnily enough, which Peter casually let slip to the other women. Obviously, there was no way Kelley wasn't gonna get the group date rose, but now she has a target on her back from women who think she has an unfair advantage.
The first one-on-one date of the season went to Madison, the basketball coach's daughter. Peter took her to watch his parents renew their vows, which is too much pressure for a first date. She caught the bouquet when Peter's mother threw it. Unplanned, I'm sure. If Madison gets eliminated in Week 6, she's gonna have such a resentment against Peter. After he gave the rose, they had a private concert featuring Tenille Arts, a country singer from Saskatchewan who made her third appearance on a Bachelor franchise show. I don't remember her previous two performances at all, but they happened!
Then..."The Beast is back, bitches." Hannah Brown made her second appearance in the episode. She was the celebrity guest -- on her birthday! -- for the second group date, which was to be sex stories told in front of an audience. (This date has been done before, on JoJo's season of The Bachelorette. Daniel the Canadian told a story about tying a girl up and cutting off a lock of her hair). But before they got to the date itself, Hannah and Peter sat down to talk about their still-present feelings for each other.
Peter went into Hannah's green room and found her crying so much her mascara was running down her face. "My heart was confused," Hannah said of her choice to choose Jed over Peter and Tyler. "I don't know what I did. I'm really f---ed up. I question what I should have done. I question a lot." Peter asked her if she thought about asking him out at After the Final Rose instead of Tyler, which is kind of a fair question, though Hannah asking Tyler out was clearly done under pressure. "I don't want to be someone's third option," Peter said. He thought he was over Hannah, but now, being in her presence again, his own heart was confused.
"What would you say if I asked you to come be part of the house?" he asked, recklessly.
"Maybe?" she answered.
"Do you regret sending me home on Crete?" he asked.
"Yeah, Peter," she said. "I question it all the time." She told him that in her heart, it was between him and Jed, which Peter didn't know. He said his heart sank when he watched her ask Tyler out on TV. She said she didn't reach out to him because she thought he wanted to move on and be the Bachelor. The longer the scene went on, the more emotionally distraught Peter became.
"I can't help how my heart feels," he said. "I look at her, and I don't want to stop looking at her. I want to just kiss her and just have had all this work out. And it didn't." And he felt guilty to be going through this with her with a roomful of girls outside who were all there for him. Oh, right, them! TO BE CONTINUED!
Look, we all know how this is going to turn out. Peter and Hannah are going to agree that they have feelings for each other still, but they're going to move on. Hannah obviously is not going to join the cast of The Bachelor, because this was filmed during her winning run on Dancing with the Stars. It already didn't happen. But maybe they'll come to some sort of healthy-enough resolution that Peter can move on with the season without thoughts of Hannah hanging over him.
The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC. It's available to stream on Hulu.
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)