Heartland hunk Chris Soules's Arlington, Iowa, hometown has a population of 427. According to Bachelor host Chris Harrison, this basically means the previous dating pool of the ABC series' 18th leading man (Though there has been 19 seasons of the show, Brad Womack was the Bachelor twice.) is better described as a dating puddle.
"I never really thought about what a population of that size meant in terms of Chris's prospects until I saw how he reacted on night one. He was like a kid in a candy store," Harrison tells Yahoo TV. "Chris was so overwhelmed and blown away by the women that it was endearing. At first, I thought he was giving me lip service and being nice, but I realized he'd never really dated women as beautiful as this."
Prince Farming's rosy reaction as the beautiful bunch of women poured out of the limos was merely a sign of how Soules's season would play out. "He is one of the easiest Bachelors we've ever had because he's a regular dude who was always so appreciative of the opportunity and is used to long hours and working hard as a farmer," explains Harrison, who felt instant kinship with the Midwesterner. "I know it sounds silly, but no one really anticipates just how mentally and emotionally taxing and unbelievably physically grueling it is to be the Bachelor. But Chris was always genuine and fun to be around, and that was contagious. His enthusiasm carried over to the women as well as the crew. He is very serious about finding someone to share his life with."
Producers knew that Soules's farm life, in all its rural porcine glory, could be a hard sell for the ladies vying for Chris's hand, so the format was tweaked "to resemble and embrace who Chris is" and "to give the women a glimpse at what life would be like with him."
"Ninety percent of the women who come on are fans and were really excited it was him. But saying you'd move to Arlington, Iowa to be a farmer's wife is one thing; actually doing it is another," Harrison admits. "The further the women go and as the season moves along, that becomes more of an issue because pulling that trigger is no small decision for most of the women."
Gone, then, is the usual Bachelor globetrotting, at least until it was time for exotic dates, and a good portion of the show will take place in the Hawkeye State. "We kept it domestic for the most part, and we don't even necessarily hit the glamour spots like New York. Think Des Moines and Dubuque."
While there's bound to be at least one helicopter ride (what would a Bachelor season be without them?), many of the dates will be more outdoorsy, active, and simple. "He is a rough and tumble, flannel shirt-wearing working-class man, so the dates resemble that. There's camping and rafting, and some of these girls aren't quite equipped for his lifestyle. But it was important for him to see who didn't take to it so he could make better decisions about who to send home," says Harrison, who wouldn't confirm whether the gals will be asked to pitch(fork) in on Soules's farm. He adds, "Not that life would be all shucking corn if you ended up with Chris. It isn't like he doesn't have a ton of money. He wants to travel. He wants a spunky girl who will bring out the lighter side in him. He wants to have nice things and spoil his lady. It isn't like you are gonna move to the farm and never be heard from again."
Harrison also points out that despite very different backgrounds, some women made instant connections with the Bachelor and took to the simple life quite quickly. Harrison says the following five contestants are are the ones to watch:
Ashley Iaconetti, 26, nanny
"She's a good Italian girl from Jersey. She's drop-dead gorgeous but is also a very beautiful girl on the inside. She's a self-proclaimed virgin with a healthy libido. She got out of the limo, in a dress her grandmother bought, and Chris said under his breath, 'Are you kidding me?' She blew him away, but then she came out and told him that she's a virgin. It wasn't necessarily for religious reasons so much as she hasn't found the right guy. We'll have to see if that is weird for him."
Britt Nilsson, 27, waitress
"She is a stunningly good-looking waitress from Hollywood who is used to turning heads and of course has done some modeling. But she seems very sincere about trying to find somebody to settle down with. If he had to pick one straight out of the limo that first night, it was Britt, who I think is the first girl to get out of the limos. The best part was that she walked up, he told her she is beautiful, and then they hugged. And they kept hugging. And then the hug doesn't stop and it gets awkward. It is the longest hug I've ever seen during the arrivals. He then proceeded to tell her it was the best hug he'd had in a long time and then asked for her name. It was probably intimidating for the other four girls in that limo. Like, 'Well, should we just all go home?'"
Jade Roper, 28, cosmetic developer
"She is absolutely beautiful and Chris notices [her] right away, but she has a bit of a rebellious past. She has something in her past that we will all learn about eventually, but she held back from telling Chris about it for quite a long time, and that might sabotage her chances with him. Another cool thing about Jade is that she went to Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. She never used that professionally, but that definitely turned Chris on."
Kelsey Poe, 28, guidance counselor
"I'm a little biased because she's from Austin and I love Texas, but Kelsey also has a pretty amazing story. She was married and lost her husband when he passed away suddenly of heart failure. She met him when she was 19 and got married at 23. The loss sent her reeling and blew her life up, but she feels like she is finally ready to try again. She saw Chris on Andi's show, took a liking to him, and thought, 'This is fate. I'm going to meet him and he will be my new husband.' She knows she is a good wife. She loved being married and knows she wants that again. It is an emotional, tough moment when she talks to Chris. It's a bizarre double-edged sword. You don't get a ton of time, but it's important to share the important stuff. Do you blurt it out immediately, and will it be too much too soon? If you wait and drop a bomb late in the process, it can have a negative effect."
Whitney Bischoff, 29, fertility nurse
"Given her job, the jokes write themselves. [The Louisville native] literally spends her days making babies, and she's ready for her own. Whitney said she has watched the show since high school, which made me feel old, but Chris is the first bachelor that convinced her to come on the show. Plus she lives in Chicago, so moving to Iowa isn't that far for her. And Chicago is one of the places that Chris has said might be an option for him to move to. Whitney definitely gets his attention because geographically it could be a good move for him."
The Bachelor premieres Monday, Jan. 5 at 8 p.m. on ABC.