Welcome back, Bachelor Nation. Welcome back, Chris Harrison. And welcome back to you especially, dear reader. Welcome back—or just welcome—to this very strange column. Back when Peter the Pilot (did you know he’s a pilot?) was our Bachelor, it was a different world. Remember this?
That was March. Of this year.* The powers that be at ABC had already announced that Clare Crowley—have they mentioned she’s 39? Because she’s 39—would become the oldest Bachelorette in franchise history when the first major wave of COVID-19-related shutdowns in the United States began, halting production on what would have been an insanely dangerous season for what you might call the right reasons. Fast forward
16 years seven months and somehow The Bachelorette has returned with a season that, for once, can accurately rather than hyperbolically be described as “the most shocking in Bachelor Nation history.” No more declarations of “We’re going to the most romantic city on earth—Boise!” met with woo-hooing. No more hometown visits in homes that were definitely rented by production. No more long solitary-plus-two-cameras walks across the ivory beaches of remote tropical islands. No more “chance” encounters with “locals” and “street vendors.” It’s not the old Bachelorette, but nevertheless, it’s back.
So this absurd column has come back too, and you know what? If I may say so, it may be the most appropriately surreal take on an even-more-surreal-than-usual series that one might find, unless there’s someone out there recapping only what socks the men of this season do or do not wear. So let’s get to it.
I mean, presumably. But not that we saw—and frankly, of the many implausible elements of this premiere, the fact that we never witnessed Clare staring forlornly at a sourdough starter is the one that really pushes things past the point of feasibility.
That said, she did, of course, drink some champagne and chew on other people’s faces.
That is the face of a woman looking at 30+ men who all quarantined to date her. That is the face of a woman who is absolutely only interested in one of them because she temporarily blacked out. That is the face of a woman who will be tired of reality show drama before this, the first episode in her season-long journey to find love, has ended. Her champagne glass stays mostly full.
She also did some smooching.
Here’s the thing: This is a spoiler-free recap, so I will not address the rumors floating around about this season, though the show itself does seem to confirm a few of them throughout the course of the premiere. I’ll just say that it is very, very obvious that Clare could maybe sort of be interested in some of these dudes only if Dale weren’t there, because Clare is definitely picking Dale, and if and when there’s suddenly a new Bachelorette as teased here, the dynamic will obviously change a lot.
As for the smooching, it’s hard not to see why Clare would want to get a lot of hugging and kissing done. She got to hug and kiss other humans! Safely! What a novelty. How surreal. (And if I’m totally honest, it was also a little moving? But just a little.)
No jokes here. Clare baked these cookies to take to her mother, who lives in a care center because she has Alzheimer’s and dementia. She brings her the cookies but can’t actually see her or hug her or anything. Please wear a mask!
This was just the beginning of a long, long montage of first Clare and then all her prospective dudes quarantining at home, then quarantining at a fancy resort in Palm Springs while they awaited the results of multiple tests for COVID-19. You know when you’re bored and scrolling through Instagram stories or TikTok or something similar, and you find yourself watching people just, like, eat chips and jump on the bed and stuff, and it’s incredibly boring but you sort of can’t stop? That’s what this segment was like. That’s really what this episode was like overall: Guys jumping on beds, then guys wearing straitjackets (okay, just the one guy in the one straitjacket), and then one bout of drama and one bold declaration that the star of the show has already met her future husband and not in a Peter Weber “the nebulous idea of my wife is in this hangar because we’re in a hangar because I’m a pilot” kind of way.
Anyway, the cookies looked like they were probably pretty great.
Usually, there’s kind of a lot of food that the various participants in these shows don’t eat; every time they go on a “date,” plates of mysterious entrees will just sit there, untouched. A particularly memorable episode of Bachelor In Paradise involved reliable weirdo John Paul Jones eating the date food to his date’s horror; he later puked in a pool. But there’s no date this week, just a lot of introductions, so a few of the dudes brought food with them. Now, here’s my question: Didn’t they quarantine for weeks? How old were these moon pies? I love a moon pie, but if he really brought them from home, wouldn’t they be stale? Or were these mass-market moon pies of some kind?
There was also popcorn.
She didn’t eat the popcorn either, but the guy who brought it did. (At this stage, I refuse to learn their names unless their name is Dale or they look and/or behave like a supervillain. Yosef brought the moon pies. He’s maybe a supervillain.) As cheesy props go, popcorn > a giant sign that says YOUR FUTURE HUSBAND, a red stethoscope with a cheery little heart on it, the suit of armor, the giant inflatable ball, the parachute, and of course the straitjacket. (That said, straitjacket >>>>>>>>>>>>> farting ring box with tiny plastic buttcheeks inside.)
The advantage of the popcorn is this: When the silly drama about whether or not Moon Pie Yosef sent DMs to ladies on Instagram at some point over the last seven months came about, Popcorn Guy said “where’s my popcorn” and then ate popcorn. A+.
You know the producers were bummed that they won’t get any footage of Clare and her chef date cooking in some hotel kitchen and then he’d make something and it would either be suggestive or a huge flop.
Honestly, Clare should have just stood back, watched to see which dudes stopped to give her dogs lots of pets and belly rubs, and sent literally everyone else home.
That would be Mike, from Canada.
He brought her shoes. He brought her a really cute pair of sparkly flat sandals because her feet were going to hurt. And they fit. That should have gotten him through to the next episode alone, to say nothing of the fact that being engaged to someone from Canada might be nice right around now. He seems so friendly! He could only have done better if he’d also brought her a dress with pockets! Clare, what were you thinking?
Gonna be a strange season, reader. See you next week.
* 2020 has been so long that Peter is now on his third committed relationship of the year, this one also with a woman from his season, and it’s lasted wayyyyyyy longer than any of the others.