The premiere of a new season of The Bachelor—two hours of being waterboarded by workout montages and wannabe influencers professing their love for a man they haven’t even met yet—is always a little bit of a mindfuck. Our new bachelor is Zach Shallcross, and the recurring line of the contestants’ gushing intros was that he has “kind eyes.” Several of the women also refer to themselves as “the future Mrs. Shallcross,” which does not exactly roll off the tongue.
“Some people are saying, ‘Why me?’” Zach admits in his voiceover. It’s a fair question, one that I have asked. Host Jesse Palmer says they chose him because “he’s just a genuine guy who came here looking for love and love alone.” Sure, Jan. Zach is as bland and generic as most of the men who have filled the Bachelor shoes before him—the kind of guy who says “freakin’”—but he does have one wrinkle of interest (at least, of interest to me): He’s related to David Puddy.
If you don’t remember this from Zach’s unremarkable run in that last season of The Bachelorette, I’ll refresh your memory. On his hometown date, his Uncle Pat spoke in strikingly deep voice that made me look up from my phone and say, “Is that David Puddy?” Yes! Zach’s uncle is Patrick Warburton, who played Elaine’s on-again-off-again boyfriend on Seinfeld. This was never addressed in the show but lives rent-free in my mind. I was hoping for a full segment with Uncle Pat in the premiere. Alas, he does not show up.
We do get an advice session from Sean Lowe, literally the one man in the history of the show who is still with his selected winner. I will admit I am a sucker for Sean Lowe and the blank way he smiles like a human golden retriever. His season (all the way back in 2013, yikes) was the first time I watched The Bachelor, and you never forget your first. Why isn’t he hosting this show now?
The producers clearly want us to connect Zach with Sean. He’s ready to settle down! He wants a family! He’s a Good Guy™! Five minutes into the episode, my three-year-old got out of bed to go to the bathroom and then called down that he had pooped and needed me to come wipe his butt. Are you really ready to settle down, Zach? Are you ready to be responsible for wiping someone else’s butt?
The final line from Zach before we transition to meet the women: “Do I deserve this? I don’t know.” Perfect. No notes.
We then meet a lot of nurses and content creators and medical sales reps in their mid-twenties. Zach has already met five of them on After The Final Rose, a detail I didn’t remember because my brain refuses to retain information about The Bachelor for longer than three months. One of them, Briana, already has a rose (referred to as “America’s rose”), so she’s safe. Another, Bailey, tried to get him to remember her name by rhyming Bailey with daily, and he then called her Bailen. For the rest of the episode, my husband referred to her as either Balon Greyjoy (Game Of Thrones) or Balin (The Hobbit).
There’s also Christina, who has a five-year-old and seems like a potential villain; rodeo girl Brooklyn; and family therapist Charity. It’s hard to come off great in an intro video unless you’ve survived a tragedy or work with children. Onto the limo entrances!
The first car pulls up and the girls all scream “Zach!” at the top of their lungs before chanting, “I am beautiful. I am confident. I am strong.” in unison like they’re holding a séance. First out is Jess, who is so adorable she looks like she could play a 15-year-old in a CW show. Her lack of hair extensions and severe contouring makes me want to root for her, which is how the producers want me to feel. “Great smile, very pretty,” Zach says to himself as she walks into the house. I know they make him do this for narration purposes, but it still feels extremely weird.
There are some normal entrances, but then we suffer through the usual gimmicks. Someone makes him drink maple syrup. Another looks at his crotch and says she knows everything is bigger in Texas. One girl brings a pig; Christina arrives on a party bus; Vanessa walks out to New Orleans trumpets. They all blend together. Bailey (Balon/Balin) reminds him about that time he forgot her name, and it gets worse because they suffer through one of the most awkward first kisses I had ever seen on this show. He promises to remember her name, but how funny would it have been if he had yelled, “See you later, Brenda!” as she walked in?
Briana is the last to arrive, and she’s wearing a stunning red dress covered in roses to match the rose she already has. Good branding, Briana. Zach says he likes her confidence, not understanding how easy it is for a woman to project confidence when she feels secure. Once she’s inside, Jesse pops up to ask Zach if he feels like he just met his wife. He says, “No, actually, do you have any more?” Just kidding. He actually says, “My gut is telling me…I might have.”
Zach enters the mansion to address his group of 30 women and begins with, “I’m just a dude who loves family, football, and frozen pizzas.” It’s made so much worse by the fact that he clearly rehearsed this speech and determined that was a winning opening line. The rest could have been cut and pasted from any other opening Bachelor toast, and then the night is a blur of awkward get-to-know-you gimmicks and first kisses. Zach and Katherine bond over how they’re both “weird,” and is there anything worse than two hot people insisting that they’re actually huge weirdos? Christina lures him onto the party bus for a game of compatibility questions, including the critical “dinosaurs or dragons?” (Zach prefers dragons, which disappoints Christina.) One woman makes him demonstrate his future dad bona fides by changing the diaper on a baby doll, which looks possessed. Get that thing in the M3GAN sequel.
His first impression rose goes to Greer, who made the incredible play of talking about how much she wants to settle down in Austin, the city in which he resides. Their kiss evolves into a make out session that prompts the funniest moment of the night. “Who is it?” someone asks as they try to get a look at who Zach is kissing. “It’s that girl!” another woman yells.
Because this episode has to follow the same beats of every premiere, someone must fill the crazy role, and that someone is Madison. They have a normal conversation, but her obsession with getting the first impression rose causes her to pull him a second time and go in for a kiss they both instantly recognize as horrible. “I’ll let you go,” Zach says to end their conversation in the same way I do when I’m on the phone with someone I no longer wish to speak to. Madison spends the rest of the night spiraling until confronting Zach right before the rose ceremony, forcing him to dump her minutes earlier than he would have anyway. “I cannot believe I gave up my life for him!” she sobs to the producers in the driveway. Girl.
It’s finally time for the rose ceremony and it is fully noon the next day. The sun is high in the sky as he hands out the roses. The people who go home are ones we are not invested in, surprise! Once they’ve gone, Zach says he’s here to find his best friend, which is clearly going to be the mantra of the season. I hope Zach’s actual best friend—probably some dude named Mike he’s known since high school—is mildly annoyed every time it comes up.
I’m going to need them to stop calling him “Zach the Snack.”
In his intro, Jesse says, “Of course, the driveway has been hosed down.” Is that what they do? Is that a thing people do?
As I prepared to make the point that the Bachelor is always forgettable, it took me at least 30 seconds to remember who the last Bachelor actually was. Remember Clayton?
“What are you drinking?” someone asks Madison after her bad kiss with Zach. “Not enough.” No, it’s definitely enough! Someone cut her off!
Kimberly tries to comfort Madison by saying her makeup is on fleek, a term I haven’t heard someone use since 2015.
Jesse tells Zach, “A lot went down tonight.” Did it? No one revealed a boyfriend back home. No one brought a playbook. No one even got in a fight! It was an extremely normal, uneventful night, Jesse!
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