Last season on The Bachelor, ABC auctioned off a beefcake’s virginity on national television. On the menu, right next to Colton Underwood’s V-card, was a season’s worth of bad jokes about boning, and slow-pans over the Bachelor’s abs. It was both a peak and a nadir for The Bachelor franchise, simultaneously painful to watch and impossible to top. So it’s hardly shocking that season 15 of The Bachelorette, which premiered on Monday night, failed to impress.
Helmed by Hannah Brown, one of the pageant queens who failed to pop Colton’s cherry, this premiere episode was a real return to form. Brown is the ultimate everywoman—the made-for-TV kind, who looks like a supermodel and talks exclusively about football, Alabama, and finding her future husband.
The Bachelor and Bachelorette producers have experimented with black Bachelorettes, #Resistance Bachelorettes, and the aforementioned virgin Bachelor. But why have opinions or diversity when you could have a gorgeous woman endlessly repeating “roll tide” all the way to a proposal? This isn’t to say that fans didn’t express their doubts about Brown’s Bachelorette casting. Not only did Brown not make it to hometown dates, her nervous onscreen energy made Colton Underwood look like a gifted conversationalist. Brown is quite possibly loquacious and at ease in person, but on TV she’s stilted as hell. Her Hail Mary approach to the premiere relied on saying “I like that” to everything the guys did, nervous giggling, and, when all else failed, prayer. If Hannah can barely manage to get through the “biggest night of her life,” than how much hope is there for the rest of us?
That being said, like a contestant with a fledging career as an Instagram influencer or a fiancé back home, Hannah B. isn’t really why we’re here. No, we’re here to witness male mediocrity at its finest. The lineup of Bachelorette suitors is reality TV’s answer to the circus sideshow. Step right up and see these hypermasculine specimens: two Tylers, two Lukes, and an endless supply of dick-measuring contests and repressed emotion. There’s Matteo who, per his ABC cast bio, is a “sperm donor who has helped create 114 children for all types of families.” Then there are recreational wankers like Tyler, the general contractor from Florida who was just two classes away from earning a dance minor at Wake Forest. As I watched Tyler erotically hump a wooden beam on a construction site, I couldn’t help but google the class requirements that he failed to meet (it’s just 19 hours, dude).
Fortunately, Brown has a bunch of other duds to choose from. There’s the self-proclaimed “Box King,” who sells boxes and can only talk about boxes, as well as two pilots whose conversation topics are entirely limited to aviation. If Hannah wants to take a break from talking to men about their careers, she can always turn to Grant, who is unemployed and a “real life ‘The Dude.’” At first I thought that Matt Donald, who grew up in a deaf household and signed in his video introduction, seemed like a cool guy. But then he rolled into the Bachelorette mansion on a tractor and sang a personalized rendition of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”
And then there’s Luke. If one man can fill the cheesy content vacuum created by Colton’s absence, it’s this guy. After some footage of a very sensual workout session, we learn that women are constantly throwing themselves at Luke. This has led to a feeling of “emptiness”—presumably, the emptiness one feels when they are having lots of sex with people who aren’t their ABC-appointed life partner. Luckily, a chance “encounter” with God in the shower brought Luke back into the light. “I realized I wasn’t the man that I wanted to be,” he intones. Now he’s working on being a good husband for his future wife. Luckily for Luke, Hannah is a woman whose family home is full of crucifixes. We learn this during an initial FaceTime between Brown and Chris Harrison, which we’re supposed to believe is actual footage of Hannah receiving her Bachelorette offer for the very first time.
Next, the show reintroduces us to Hannah Brown and her home town of Tuscaloosa. It’s incredibly awkward, with Brown running her hands through a field of grain and then flailing her arms around nervously, unsure of how to best fondle the crops and why she’s doing it in the first place. Despite her apparent discomfort, Hannah insists that being the Bachelorette is a dream come true. But she’s worried, as she was with Colton, that her deep-seated desire to be perfect will undermine her efforts. This is the highly unbelievable narrative at the heart of Hannah B.’s emotional arc. We’re meant to buy that she’s a “real girl” who’s “so much to handle,” but that she’s afraid to trust a guy with all of herself. Sorry Miss Alabama, but you’re not a “hot mess.” Besides, who could possibly enter a room of semi-professional sperm donors and software salesmen and feel pressured to exude perfection?
Luckily for viewers, the Bachelorette producers have called in some other ex-contestants from Colton’s season to bring real personalities on air. The hilariously and unashamedly horny Demi is back to give Hannah a pep talk before the suitors arrive. Hannah admits that Southern men are “comfortable” for her, but Chris Harrison recommends that she “try a few different flavors.” Naturally, the first guy out of the limo is from Birmingham. Throughout these first meetings, Hannah provides true bad dater representation. When someone says she’s pretty, she replies, “I’m so glad that you think I’m pretty.” She does awkward little dance moves. At one point, she describes her favorite kitchen aesthetic (modern, with “rustic undertones”) and it’s the most personality we’ve seen from her all night. Everyone proceeds to do the most and be the worst, from the Box King arriving in a box to The Dude who tells Hannah that he “can’t wait to get to know [her] heart.” White rapping, full pilot costumes, and acoustic guitar playing quickly follow.
“Can you imagine waking up every morning next to Hannah?” one guy asks the room full of Matts. “That would be sick,” another halfheartedly replies.
After a brief pool-side prayer, Hannah manages to toast all the contestants, telling them, “It’s been hard to feel like I deserve all of this and all of you guys.” That’s so, so sad. Just in time, Demi rolls back up in a surveillance van to monitor the slow-motion catastrophe. We soon learn that an informant reached out to Demi on social media and revealed that one of Hannah’s new boyfriends is already in a relationship. As Scott pulls Hannah aside for a one-on-one, Demi squeals “oh my God, that’s him,” quickly followed by “oh my God, what a douche.” Soon enough, Hannah has been tipped off about the Scott situation. After Demi’s driveway intervention, Hannah storms back into the house to call Scott out.
During the painful conversation that ensues, Hannah laudably stands her ground. Scotts cracks under very little pressure, because he is stupid, and quickly finds himself admitting that he was in a relationship as recently as Monday (presumably, the last Monday before filming). He tries to justify this by explaining that he doesn’t see a long-term future with that girlfriend, which obviously doesn’t go over well. He also tries to argue that Hannah was recently in love with/dating Colton, which is “pretty similar.” Hannah disagrees and calls Scott a jerk, so he hits her with the classic “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Hannah kicks him out of the house and goes to cry by the pool.
Meanwhile, the suitors exchange their expert analyses of the thorny situation; they feel sad because Hannah was happy before, and now she’s upset. They task themselves with restoring her faith in men, which goes about as well as expected. Popular strategies include hugging the visibly-freezing Bachelorette instead of just offering her a jacket and maintaining a lot of serious eye contact. As the night draws to a close, Hannah marches her first impression rose over to Luke, the guy who found Jesus in the shower. She tells him she’s looking forward to getting to know him better, he says “amen,” and they commence a long, slow, tongue-heavy make out session. A round of hearty frenching makes Luke more sure than ever that he’s found his future wife. Demi, please, just run us over with your van.