SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the Jan. 1 2018 season premiere of “The Bachelor.”
“The Bachelor,” now in it’s 22nd season, is back! And with the return of the hit ABC reality dating competition series comes a familiar face in the man handing out roses: Arie Luyendyk Jr., who last appeared on the show five years ago, as runner-up to Bachelorette Emily Maynard.
In the premiere’s intro, ABC refreshed fans on Luyendyk, a professional race car driver-turned-real estate agent, and his story, as he claims he hasn’t been in love since he was dumped on TV in 2012. The Arizona resident promised “he was ready for this” and declared his immediate desire to get married and start a family.
The show then moved on to the real reason we watch: the women who will be vying for his final rose. Coming off of Rachel Lindsay’s season, with the most diverse cast in the show’s history, this season returns to a largely white group of contestants — most of whom are also considerably younger than 36-year-old Luyendyk.
The intro packages, made for only a select few women, ranged from Chelsea, a single mom, to Nysha, a nurse whose motto is “the more blood the better,” to Tia, a friend of Raven’s (a fan favorite from Nick’s season of the “The Bachelor”). There was also a classic “Bachelor” heart-warmer with Krystal, a fitness coach who has a homeless brother and spends her free time taking care of other homeless people since he refuses her family’s help. The clear highlight, though, was Kendall, a taxidermist, from Los Angeles. She got two minutes of time to introduce herself to America, and she spent it sitting in a tree, playing the ukulele, singing to taxidermy seal.
Then came the premiere staple: the 29 girls arriving by limo in front of the Bachelor mansion to the awaiting Luyendyk. Among plenty of cringey jokes, awkward hugs and nervous smiles, some girls pulled out all the stops to make an impression on the new Bachelor.
Bekah, a nanny from Los Angeles, rolled up in a classic red Mustang and quickly earned the ire of her competitors. Annaliese took on Luyendyk’s nickname “the kissing bandit” and became the one sad soul who instantly regrets having to spend her whole night in costume, donning her own bandit mask. In a sea of race car jokes, Maquel took Luyendyk’s job to the next level, arriving in a race car and sensually pulling off her helmet to meet him with a level of drama only this show can produce — and making everyone wonder how many times she had to practice that move. Another little twist on the show was having four contestants by the name of Lauren, which should make rose ceremonies interesting from now on.
After the arrivals came the first real conversations between the women and the Bachelor, with Luyendyk promising he’s a changed man since his last time on the show and is ready to settle down. “Last time I was more of a boy, now I’m more of a man,” he told one contestant.
The show also waded carefully into racial discussions, as it has hesitantly touched on Lindsay’s season and “Bachelor in Paradise,” with a group of the season’s few women of color sitting together and discussing dating the white Luyendyk. “We live in a world where there could be potential with this handsome white man,” one said.
Luyendyk seems to have established himself as a safe choice for the franchise, and a return to the show’s premise of actually looking for love instead of Instagram followers. He has good ole boy charm and was game for all the shenanigans that the women threw at him throughout the night. He could be bland in further episodes, but so far he at least appears more real than most of the Bachelors in recent memory.
After a cocktail party full of foot massages, first kisses and cat fights over how much time each woman got with Luyendyk, it was time for the coveted impression rose. Chelsea, who established herself as an early villain when she got two one-on-one conversations with him, received the rose, along with some jealous comments from her competition. The first cuts of the season were made at the premiere’s rose ceremony with Olivia, Bri, Ali, Brittane, Amber, Jessica, Nysha and Lauren J. going home.
It’s a new year, it’s a new season — will it be one the most dramatic one yet? The premiere already came with drama and promised lots of tears, but subsequent episodes may just take things to a whole new level when one contestant’s ex crashes the set to try to win her back!
“The Bachelor” airs on Mondays at 8pm on ABC.