Rick Rowell / ABC

Did The Bachelor Just Jump The Shark?

The new season begins with 29 well-dressed ladies, and one who never takes off her shark costume.

Well, I couldn't be more thrilled to be breaking down this season of The Bachelor for you. Mainly because this season marks the return, for the fourth time to this franchise, of Nick Viall, the two-time Bachelorette runner-up who also took a chance at love (of sorts) on Bachelor In Paradise. Going in, I have no belief at all that Nick will actually find love. He's probably emotionally incapable of such a thing. Which of course…makes him the PERFECT Bachelor, maybe the best (worst) one yet!

But the first episode really isn't about Nick. It's never about the Bachelor. The first episode is about the ladies, in this case thirty of them. God bless you, producers, for upping the quantity to ensure maximum crazy. Even though it does make my job of telling them apart that much more impossible. I can't wait to meet them all. How many Ashleys will there be? Three? Four? More than that? I can't wait to see which lovely lady tonight will sing to him, which will have written him an embarrassing poem (redundant!), which will get spectacularly drunk, which will proudly show off how flexible she is (wink!), and which will show up in a shark costume. That last wish is a joke, of course. Or is it?

It isn't.

A lady shows up in a shark costume.

Fuck yeah, let's get this party started!

Meet Nick!

Before the show even begins, we're treated to an amazing press photo of Nick shot in profile, looking meaningfully at a rose. He holds the rose in his right hand and his left hand is awkwardly posed on his neck, similar to how someone might try to stanch the flow of blood from a neck wound. Also, he's looking at the rose like he might barf on it. "Yes," I think, "this is perfect already. Nick is trying to choke himself to death, and the very sight of a red rose makes him sick to his stomach." It's a message from the producers to us: "This is what true love looks like."

Chris Harrison reminds us that Nick is "the most controversial Bachelor in history." In all of recorded history! Even if you go all the way back to the pharaohs, there has never been a Bachelor more weighed down with controversy than this guy who basically just hung around the offices long enough that someone finally said, "Jeez! Okay, you can be The Bachelor! Just stop breathing down my neck for one fucking minute." We are promised that something about this season, some as yet undefined characteristic, will make it an "unprecedented season," although I find that difficult, if not impossible, to believe.

Nick practices saying "I'm the Bachelor" to the producers in a (likely staged) confessional moment, but he pronounces it "BASH-ler," repeatedly. Why didn't I ever notice the weird way he talks? Is this a new affectation? Or an affliction? We've hardly begun and I'm already brimming with questions. Nick breaks down his strengths and weaknesses for us. Among his weaknesses, a tendency to mumble and a habit of putting his hand on the side of his face, "you don't say"-style. Nick blames this last bit on his ability to sit properly. "I don't know how to sit sideways on a couch," he says. "It's hard." I'm sorry to pass this along to Nick, but there are ZERO ways of sitting on a couch that are "hard."

"I'm going to give America a happy ending," Nick promises.

Advice From The Triumvirate

Before Nick can begin, he must sit down with the wise men who have walked this path before him. Failing that, having drinks with Sean Lowe, Chris Soules, and Ben Higgins will do just fine. While nobody else seems the slightest bit hot, Chris is already fully pitted out. The four of them laugh a lot as if they're having a great time, but are they really? The trio offer up the standard advice: Be yourself. And then Nick gives us the traditional spiel about opening himself up to love and wanting to find love at the end of this journey. Then Nick departs and the producers pack Chris Soules in dry ice and put him in a storage shed until the next season of The Bachelor. Don't worry about him. He LOVES it in the storage shed.

Meet (Some Of) The Women

Chris Harrison introduces the "incredible group of accomplished, interesting women." We begin with Rachel, an attorney from Dallas, who dances with her vacuum cleaner to cut loose. Danielle L. owns three nail salons and is definitely not on this show just to promote those three nail salons that she owns. That would be a ridiculous assumption to make, about Danielle and her three nail salons, so just don't even make it. Vanessa hails from Montreal and speaks French and Italian in addition to English. "I'm 100% Italian," she says, ignoring the part of her that's totally Canadian. She's a special needs teacher and therefore an early favorite to make at least the final three. Raven comes from a small town in Alabama where "for fun, you go mudding, you shoot guns, you read your Bible." Of course, for the most fun you could shoot a muddy Bible. She doesn't say that, but it's totally implied. Raven has a somewhat inspecific career. "I always wanted to do my own boutique," she says. "So I became a business owner." The phrasing of both sentences seems to be hiding something. Who says "do my own boutique"?

Corinne seems like a monster from the jump. "Corinne's world is glamorous," Corinne says, without even barfing, which I would have thought impossible. She talks about the multi-million dollar company she runs with her family whom she also lives with. "Then of course," she says, "there's my nanny, Raquel. She does everything for me." This is a thing an actual 24-year-old human person says, without shame. Horrifying and magnificent. This show is made for people just like her!

Taylor recently graduated from Johns Hopkins and is a mental health counselor. She says she works with clients on their vulnerability, but I swear she says "bonerability." Alexis is obsessed with dolphins and is from New Jersey. Josephine and Danielle M. are nurses. And Liz from Las Vegas met Nick before, you know, at Jade and Tanner's wedding. If those names don't ring a bell, don't worry. They didn't with me either. But Jade and Tanner were a couple who got engaged on Bachelor In Paradise. Liz was the maid of honor and she and Nick totally hooked up. She dodges that question, but in that way where she's totally saying, "Yes, we boned." But Nick asked for her phone number after and she didn't give it to him. What a twist! Wheels within wheels!

By the end of this segment, I wonder if the producers are trying to tell us that most of these women are suicidal? Danielle L. stares forlornly at the ocean, as if ready to take her last swim. Vanessa walks to the bank of a river or pond with a blank expression on her face. Danielle M. stands on a bridge, contemplating the water. And Raven says she's lonely, then walks down railroad tracks. It's clear that coming on this show may be the only thing keeping these women alive.

The Limos Arrive

The first limo arrives with the sound of squealing tires. Oh crap, it is out of control? Will Nick be crushed under its wheels? No. Sadly, no. It's not tires that are causing that noise but the ladies inside the limo. First out is Danielle the nail-salon lady, wearing a dress open down to her navel practically. For everyone wondering what most of Danielle's boobs look like, there they are. Taylor the mental health counselor wastes no time before telling Nick that all her girlfriends think Nick is a "complete piece of shit." That goes over about as well as you'd expect. Pretty smart move by a mental health counselor. Corinne gives Nick a hug token and encourages him to redeem it inside. Danielle M. brings a bottle of homemade maple syrup. She dips an obviously shaking finger into it and lets him try it off her finger, then she has some too. It's a weird moment. But not as weird as when Josephine says Nick is "a wiener in her book," and opens up a book she's holding to reveal a giant hot dog. "Should we Lady-and-the-Tramp it?" she asks. And they each take an end of the hot dog in their mouths. Both are disgusted by it. "That goes down hard," Josephine says.

Shockingly, there are no Ashleys this season. But there are two Jasmines, and a Kristina and a Christen. A couple more nurses arrive, as does a food truck owner and a restaurant server. A grade school teacher named Sarah runs in "because she thought he'd enjoy another runner-up." One woman does a trust fall into Nick's arms. Another woman gives an eskimo kiss. And a third gives Nick a beard massage. One of the Jasmines brings Neil Lane along, so she can show Nick what her ideal engagement ring looks like.

Some of the women take a saucier approach, like Hailey, who tells a joke. "Do you know what a girl wearing underwear says?" Nick says he doesn't. "Neither do I," she replies. Jaimi opens with "my hands are sweaty," then moves to, "You have some balls, and so do I." Disappointingly, she does not show him her testicles, but instead the balls at either end of the nose piercing she was hiding until then. Astrid, who is an office manager for a plastic surgeon, says to Nick, "I know you are very in touch with your sex life." And also: "Have you seen the breasts? They are real." Of course, she says these things to him in German for no good reason. About a dozen or so of the women arrive in red dresses, but only one of them, Lacey, distinguishes herself by arriving on a camel and saying, "I hear you like a good hump, and so do I." So many ladies in the mansion lament not coming up with that idea.

As Liz from Las Vegas gets out of the limo, she says in her confessional that she "actually met Nick at Jade and Tanner's wedding." Right. Yes. We haven't forgotten. It's only been like fifteen minutes since you last told us that. This time, she flat-out admits that they had sex. She's curious to see if he remembers her and what went down that night. (Or who did. ZING!) He doesn't seem to remember her, which she likes, she says, because she likes a little mystery. But Nick talks to Chris and says he recognizes Liz. So much for the mystery.

Alexis, the aspiring dolphin trainer from New Jersey, arrives in a shark costume, but keeps insisting that it's a dolphin costume. "There's a debate whether she's a shark or a dolphin," Rachel the attorney says. All of the women seem to be in agreement that it's definitely a shark costume, which it is. "No, it's a dolphin costume," the lady in the shark costume says. But she does get in the final bit of comedy, admitting that she almost wore a red dress. "Thank god I didn't," she says.

Booze-Adding Time

Okay. All thirty women have been introduced. They're all in the mansion. Now, it's time to add a magical potion I like to call Too Much Alcohol. But before that happens, several of the women remark about how manly Nick is, which I find perplexing. It's not an adjective I would associate with him. Liz takes another moment to remind us of the obvious chemistry she has with Nick. "When I first met Nick," she says. "At Jade and Tanner's wedding…" Yes. YES. We get it. You went to Jade and Tanner's wedding. Give it a rest already.

Nick comes in to welcome the women and says, during his toast, "I want you all to feel as empowered as impossible." Smooth start, so far. Nick starts his rounds by talking to Rachel, and they seem to hit it off pretty well. But I start wondering if he's practicing to be a ventriloquist. He hardly moves his mouth at all when he speaks. When the First Impression Rose comes out, all the ladies begin freaking out. Why, some of them haven't even gotten a chance to talk with him yet! Taylor says, "It's scary. My heart is in my ass now." Yes. That's totally a thing people say.

Corinne gives Nick a cartoon money bag, the kind with a dollar sign on the outside, filled with more tokens. Are they all hug tokens? No, she explains, you can pick what you want to do. She refuses to explain where the fuck she hid that giant bag on her way into the mansion. One can only assume it was in her butt. She gets bumped off the couch by Vanessa, and immediately regrets not trying to kiss Nick. Nick compliments Vanessa's dress, which is his way of complimenting her boobs. Corinne immediately returns, bumps Vanessa out of her spot and makes a move on Nick. She kisses him and the ladies freak out. Now they're all on high alert. Time is running out and Nick's only talked to about a third of the ladies.

Jasmine G. tries to bump someone off Nick's couch, but there's someone ahead of her. And that's how Jasmine G. becomes the first to cry. Lady Shark-Dolphin makes her rounds, entertaining the other ladies in the house, with the exception of Corinne, who is concerned what kind of body Alexis might be hiding with that costume. And if she isn't hiding a "trainwreck" of a body, what's the point of wearing the costume. Nick joins Alexis at the pool, where she is half in and half out of the water. She still insists her costume is a dolphin, but Nick won't have it. It's a shark. And she has to wear it all night or he might send her home. He says he's kidding, but it seems like an honest threat.

"I didn't tell anyone that I've met Nick before," Liz says. "AT JADE AND TANNER'S WEDDING." Thank you for clarifying that point. Up until this very moment, I was sure you had no connection to Nick at all. Liz's plan totally backfires because it really does shine a light on the "why is she here" question. Nick quickly puts Liz on the defensive, wondering, if she didn't want his number or to contact him at all after JADE AND TANNER'S WEDDING, why did she want to come on the show. I hate to say this, but I'm on his side. It seems shady.

Amanda shows Nick a picture frame with a quote from Carrie Bradshaw written on it. He doesn't recognize the name, so she has to tell him it's from Sex In The City, which I can only imagine is the cheap knockoff of Sex & The City. No idea where that picture frame came from, so again I'll assume she tucked it into her butt.

Nick gives the First Impression Rose to Rachel, the first woman he talked to. So I guess he's a literalist. It's great that he gave it to her, because Corinne really thought she locked that shit down with her awkward kiss.

Rose Ceremony

Before going in, Chris asks Nick about Liz from Jade and Tanner's wedding, as if we forgot that bit. She's on shaky ground, Nick says. Rather, he says, "shaky grounds." Vanessa gets the first rose, then Nail Salon Danielle, then Christen, then Astrid. Corinne's not taking it well that she hasn't gotten a rose yet. "I'm shaking, out of control shaking," Corinne says. "I can't breathe. I'm losing eyesight. I'm sweating." She might be overreacting. The suspense is ended as Corinne gets the fifth rose. A bunch of other ladies get roses too: Raven, Jaimi Nose Balls, Lacey the Camel Humper, Taylor Whose Friends Think Nick's A Piece Of Shit, Crying Jasmine G, some girl named Brittany (whose job is a Travel Nurse? ["might not be this thing, but...is a thing" - ed.]), Liz From Jade And Tanner's Wedding, and most importantly Alexis the Dolphin-Shark. Dawn is breaking as the eight women who didn't make the cut leave, adding further shame to their televised walk of shame. As the remaining women toast with their breakfast champagnes, Corinne says, "I know what I need to do. No one will get in my way." And the preview of the season highlights reinforce that, as she claims to have top-notch sex abilities" and "a platinum vagine."

Verdict

Watching The Bachelor should be like watching football in reverse. We should begin the season, essentially, with the Super Bowl and then progress through increasingly less interesting installments. This is how it has always been done. But this first episode was disappointing. The ladies didn't get nearly drunk enough. No one sang or danced. And the lady in the shark outfit ended up being kind of charming. But I still have high hopes for the season, based on how terrible (amazing) Nick is. And I have confidence that Corinne will continue to be horrible. Those two things alone might make this season all worthwhile.

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