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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Where can this Bachelor season go after last night’s drama-filled premiere?

Illustration for article titled Where can this iBachelor/i season go after last night’s drama-filled premiere?
Photo: John Fleenor (ABC)
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Never let it be said that the Bachelor franchise isn’t filled with drama. Who among us can forget Arie’s onscreen breakup with Becca, or Hannah B. finally booting the toxic Luke P. to the curb? Usually, though, the drama is teased out (seemingly endlessly) for later in the season, to keep us tuning in. Colton wasn’t going to jump the fence in episode one, after all.

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Last night’s episode started out like any other Bachelor premiere, albeit one with a mega-ton of flight references during the introductions to make sure nobody missed the fact that new Bachelor Peter is a pilot. Paper airplanes, angel wings, three flight attendant contestants, a comment about the mile-high club, one woman gives Peter a barf bag. Someone even arrives packed into luggage. Then last Bachelorette Hannah Brown shows up to give Peter back the wings he gave her on her first night, and to wish him luck, causing everyone to wonder whether she’s coming back to the house. Some of the women just start screaming immediately, while one wonders, “Is that even legal?”, like there’s an actual Bachelor rulebook somewhere. But Hannah gives Peter her regards and departs… for now.

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Then we’re off to the first cocktail party, wherein “Can I steal him for a sec?” has gone from a Saturday Night Live cliche to a straight-up epidemic. It also makes Peter seem less like a person and more like the last lip gloss kit on sale that the ladies are grappling over at the Sephora.

Look, I don’t make the rules, and like I said, it doesn’t look like they exist anyway. But a supremely frustrating thing is that on The Bachelorette, when someone tries to muscle in on someone else’s time, that person just says no. Last night, only Natasha was bold enough to respond to Mykenna’s attempt to horn in by responding, “Are you asking me? No.” Even then, she eventually caved on the third attempt, leading to a ridiculous paper airplane back-and-forth. But everyone else lets the other woman just step in, then snipes behind her back. Sometimes, this leads to a confrontation with complaints about time-hoarding, a conversation we’ve seen in the Bachelor franchise repeatedly since the beginning. Boring. Ladies! Stand up for yourselves!

Unsurprisingly, the first challenge is a Top Gun-themed obstacle course, and I don’t even want to now what all that gross stuff was on the tarp in front of the wind machines (praying for mud). Far and away the highlight (Bachelor editors: we salute you) was Victoria P. having a horrific flashback to the Disney teacup ride before getting on the gyroscope, then throwing up immediately afterward. Peter proves that he is a sincerely nice guy by bringing her some water and ditching the other girls to check to make sure she’s okay. And yet, somehow Kelley gets the date rose, what? Victoria P. vomited for you, guy! At least he later goes to the garden to get her flowers after she says no one’s ever given her any, further cementing Peter’s swoonworthy status.

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Victoria P. seems destined for the final four, an extremely nice person who has overcome childhood adversity to become a professional caretaker as a nurse, even daring to wear her adorable glasses on a date, not just in pajamas in the mansion. Another frontrunner: Madison, who has another generous job (foster parent recruiter), is a former basketball champ, and lands the first solo date with Peter. Granted, that date is to his parents’ vow renewal, which seems a bit over the top, but Madison takes it in stride, and even (surprise) catches the bouquet. But at the end of the night, she says words almost never heard in the Bachelor world, that even if Peter doesn’t wind up with her, “I would want you to be with the person that’s the best fit for you.”

But until this point, all pretty par-for-the-course. The most likely candidates emerge (Madison, Virginia P., and Kelley, who previously met Peter about a month ago at a Four Seasons), the troublemakers start stirring stuff up (keep your eye on Hannah Ann and Tammy), the whiners are gonna whine (Victoria F. and Shiann). But this Bachelor season has a major twist in store, involving recent Bachelorette Hannah B. After having a successful first group date and a one-on-one, Peter is hoping for “three-for-three” on his next group date, and those hopes are about to die in a heap of crushed mascara-streaked dreams.

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Somehow Hannah B. (she’s back!) is in charge of the next group date, in a theater where she chooses to make the contestants write and then tell their favorite sex story onstage. Hers, of course, involves having sex with Peter four times in a windmill in Crete last season (the poor guy is going to have to duck windmills for the rest of his life), which she tells the crowd, and it’s more cringey than when she does her “Hannah The Beast” noise, which is saying something.

But even that pales to Hannah’s breakdown backstage, in which the pageant queen somehow neglected waterproof mascara while finally talking to Peter about her ill-advised decisions last season. (She sent Peter home in third place in favor of the admittedly dreamy Tyler C. and ultimately picked Jed, who as it turned out had a girlfriend back home and presumably just appeared to be on the show to help promote his fledgling music career past dog-food commercials.) On the season finale, she asked out the runner-up Tyler, but he soon started dating one of the Hadids. So after the whole season, Hannah wound up with no one, but did go on to win the mirror ball on the ensuing season of Dancing With The Stars.

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With this overdue confrontation, this Bachelor episode shifts from its typical pattern to an intimate relationship conversation, although one that’s trying to work itself out on an extremely public playing field. Hannah and Peter acknowledge that the spark between them is still there, although the timing couldn’t be more awkward: For example, he has several women waiting for him in a theater at the moment probably wondering what in the hell is going on. But at least he finally gets the chance to ask her, “Do you regret sending me home at all in Crete?” She says, “Yeah Peter, I question it all the time.” Both accuse the other of not reaching out, but the tie the two shared in the previous season is undeniable. Peter even asks her if she wants to come back and be a contestant in the house and she says, “Maybe?” (Granted, I haven’t seen every single Bachelor season: Has anyone but Nick Viall ever returned to the show like this?)

It’s a fascinating, uncomfortably intimate segment that shows a seldom-seen reality show aftermath. Feelings don’t end just because the season’s over, after all, and navigating an actual relationship must be nearly impossible in the midst of group dates and fantasy suites, even if the perfect person is actually right in front of you in a sea of suitors. Peter tears up when he ends the episode by saying about Hannah, “I can’t help how my my heart feels. And I look at her and I just don’t want to stop looking at her and I just want to kiss her and to have had this all work out.” In classic Bachelor fashion, the show ends on a cliffhanger, with Peter torn between his many new so-far-conflict-free prospects, or Hannah, who he readily admitted to being in love with last season. It certainly sets up some reality romance suspense: Will Hannah join the house? If she does, how can any of the other women compete with the strong bond she and Peter already have? If she doesn’t, will the shadow of Hannah B. hang over the entire season as Peter tries to recreate the love he lost?

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Well played, The Bachelor: No doubt many of us who saw that tantalizing “To Be Continued” screen will be tuning back in. Even though from the looks of things, next week everyone just cries. A lot.

Stray observations

  • Who else thinks Peter gave Hannah Ann the correct answer for how many feet are in a mile?
  • Everyone is playing with their hair way too much. Knock it off.
  • Can’t believe how much money Chris Harrison gets just to come out and announce that one rose is left every week, but his dad jokes were funny.
  • More genius from the Bachelor editors: “I’m a flight attendant, so I’m different, you know?” [Show cuts immediately to two more flight attendants, one with an intercom mic.]
  • What do you think: Did Hannah already have her chance (over several weeks!), and blow it? Or should she and Peter try to figure this out?
  • This is just a check-in on what looks like an exceptionally volatile Bachelor season. We’ll be back mid-season and for the finale. Keep the rosé flowing in the meantime.
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Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.

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