As the world continues to descend into chaos and we mentally prepare to pledge fealty to our new overlord, this glowing orb, there’s only one thing all Americans seem to agree on: that we have no idea what the hell is going on. Given all of this mayhem and confusion, viewers are naturally turning to the one thing in this world that still makes sense—the idea of finding true love on national television. The U.S. might be divided, but Bachelor Nation has never been more excited or in sync. That’s because The Bachelorette is finally back to distract us for two hours every Monday. More importantly, this season will be helmed by an honest-to-god heroine, Rachel Lindsay, a woman who has surmounted racism and Nick Viall to become The Bachelor franchise’s first ever black bride-to-be.
If it feels like only months ago when we first met Rachel Lindsay, that’s because it was. The 31-year-old Texan attorney debuted on Nick Viall’s otherwise atrocious season and immediately stood out. Rachel had it all: shiny hair, a beautiful smile, and a real job that wasn’t made up by a random word generator. In fact, her only flaw was that she appeared to be genuinely interested in Nick Viall, an unemployed software engineer with all of the charisma and charm of an unemployed software engineer. Nick’s season was almost universally deemed underwhelming—so underwhelming that, in an unprecedented move, ABC started hyping Rachel’s upcoming stint in the bachelor mansion before she was even kicked off the show. In other words, the network spoiled its own show. Even more unexpectedly, host Chris Harrison decided to spring an early surprise on Rachel during Nick’s “After the Final Rose” special, bringing out four of her would-be boos. It was all very rude.
Luckily, ABC eventually smartened up and gave Rachel the lavish two-hour Bachelorette premiere that she, and we, so desperately need and deserve. As always, we know that this season will end in an engagement. But unlike last season, in which we plumbed the emotional depths of a relatively uninteresting white Wisconsinite for two hours every week, it seems like Rachel is actually going to have fun on her way to the finish line. Chris Harrison, a man who has witnessed more mismatched couples and messy breakups than your average divorce attorney, introduces Rachel’s season by describing the new Bachelorette as a “skeptical woman” who “questioned everything” when she first started out in the competition. Harrison seems visibly irked that someone who had the audacity to question a two-time Bachelorette contestant’s romantic intentions will now be starring on her own season. Either that, or Harrison is justifiably terrified of being caught on camera next to someone who’s innately likable.
Just how likable is Rachel Lindsay? In her pre-competition montage, the Bachelorette even manages to make playing basketball in full makeup look relatable. Viewers will doubtlessly find themselves thinking, “Wow, now that’s a girl I could really see myself putting on a full face of makeup to fake exercise with.” Even at her corniest, like when Rachel professes, “It’s hard to take off the lawyer hat and put on the love one,” it’s almost impossible to make fun of this woman. Watching her give a fake opening statement in a fake courtroom is already 100,000 times more entertaining than watching Nick Viall start to tear up in a series of increasingly chunky sweaters.
While this episode is technically an ode to Rachel Lindsay and whichever former world-class figure skater is in charge of her wardrobe, it’s really about the contestants. The Bachelorette is, at its best, a parade of hunky dudes in fancy suits. This season, the bros come in all different colors, and Rachel and I are not complaining. Harrison introduces this rainbow of suitors by explaining that they are “some of America’s most eligible bachelors.” The video introductions that follow are a fascinating window into the heart of American mediocrity. Our eligible bachelors include a professional wrestler, a man who thinks that he is funny, and a guy who must be smart because he owns a Rubik’s cube. There’s also a sneaker head, a startup founder, and a personal trainer who makes a great first impression by insisting, “Many women have told me about the amazingness of my penis.”
Of course, with so many dicks and so little time, there’s nothing like a good edit to help us separate the men from the boys. It’s immediately clear that Josiah, an Assistant State Attorney, is being highlighted as a potential frontrunner. In under two minutes, we learn that Josiah witnessed his brother’s suicide when he was just seven years old, and was arrested for a burglary at 12. He turned his life around in order to work in the very same courthouse where that judge gave him a second chance. We know that Josiah is good at his job, or at the very least good at memorizing and delivering lawyer-type phrases into what is doubtlessly a disconnected telephone. We also see him with his shirt off. Say what you will about The Bachelorette production team (they are geniuses and artists), but who else can take you from Lifetime movie to Playgirl cover shoot in just under three minutes?
Rachel arrives at the mansion to prepare for her big night. Surprise! Her fellow contestants from Nick’s season are already there to greet her, and, don’t you know it, they’ve been drinking. Corinne and co. are an important reminder that while only one Bachelor loser gets to be the next Bachelorette, every single contestant wins a lifetime supply of floral rompers. When some of the ladies try to warn Rachel about a potentially shady contestant, she counters that she doesn’t want to discriminate based on people’s “different reasons” for coming on the show—all that matters is whether or not they’re open to love.
Rachel’s maturity and sweetness is quickly rewarded when she’s introduced to her first batch of suitors. There are, and I do not say this lightly, some serious sparks. Lindsay’s diverse season might be a bit of a departure for the uber-white franchise, but if this episode proves anything, it’s that protein shakes are prevalent in many cultures. While some of the contestants seem content to make Lindsay blush or smile, others can’t resist making a big entrance. Blake, the guy who thinks his dick is big, bursts onto the scene with an entire marching band, like someone who definitely isn’t overcompensating. A man named Adam brings his ventriloquist dummy, who is named Adam Jr. Later on in the episode, Adam Jr.—a doll—is given his own plot line in which he pines over Rachel in a language that appears to be French, which is the kind of surreal weirdness that’s usually reserved for Bachelor in Paradise.
In fact, this entire premiere is a little funnier, a little raunchier and a little ballsier than your average Bachelorette episode—it’s not on the level of a Bachelor in Paradise pants-shitting, but it’s still seriously entertaining. A man in a penguin costume says, “Rachel makes me feel dignified.” A man who says his personal catchphrase more than ten times over the course of this episode is confronted by a man named Blake, who insists he is on The Bachelorette for all the right reasons. During one particularly strange outburst by catchphrase man, we hear an off-camera contestant exclaim, “What the fuck is happening right now?!”
While Rachel takes one-on-one meetings with her aspiring husbands, the boys amuse themselves by talking about how gorgeous, smart, and nice she is. When that gets old, they revert to everybody’s favorite activity: shitting on Nick Viall. While many of these introductory conversations are adorable, a contestant named Bryan—sorry, Dr. Bryan Abasolo—quickly pulls away from the rest of the pack by speaking in Spanish and telling Lindsay that he’s “good with my hands.” The level of sexual energy between Lindsay and Abasolo is one missing bikini top short of Nick and Corinne in the bouncy castle. Unsurprisingly, Bryan walks away with the first impression rose, and manages to make out with Rachel not once, but twice—and these are some steamy make out sessions. Good for you, Rachel Lindsay, and better luck next week, Assistant State Attorney, big dick guy, and ventriloquist doll.