Maybe it’s the months of quarantine, or maybe it’s the fact that Matt James is, if we’re being honest, the first genuinely swoon-worthy Bachelor we’ve had in years—but whatever the reason, this season of the dating franchise is already off to a very promising (and sexually-charged) start.
This season transports us from Palm Springs—the site of Clare Crawley and Tayshia Adams’ recently closed joint Bachelorette season—to Pennsylvania’s Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. (So at the very least, we can look forward to less back sweat this season.) But that doesn’t mean things aren’t set to heat up. In fact, it looks like some contestants are pretty hot and bothered already.
Two contestants—including one who calls herself “Queen Victoria”—literally tripped over themselves at the sight of this season’s Bachelor. One woman, Katie, showed up with her vibrator—which producers dutifully blurred out with a black censor box—and left it resting on the coffee table during Matt’s impromptu prayer. Another asked to put her “balls” in his mouth before feeding him meatballs. And another, Kaili, showed up in nothing but lingerie and a robe so that she could ask James which dress she should wear. The Bachelor is back in action, baby!
But pent-up horniness aside, Matt’s season is a long-overdue landmark for the franchise with its first Black male lead—a mantle that comes with serious pressures of its own. This franchise has struggled with race since its inception, and a Black Bachelor alone is not enough to fix that legacy—although it is a start. Matt was candid with franchise host and designated paternal figure-slash-love guru Chris Harrison as the two discussed the pressures James feels in the position.
“People want you to end up with a certain type of person,” the 29-year-old real estate broker said, reflecting on his upbringing as the child of a white mother and Black father. “That’s something that kept me up at night. It’s like, ‘I don’t want to piss off Black people; I don’t want to piss off white people. But I’m both of those! How do I please everybody?”
Matt also copped to having struggled with intimacy in the past, noting that in the past he’s pulled away when things got too serious. Now, he says, “I’m done running.” So let’s bring on the ladies!
As always, this season has pulled together a menagerie of women whose tactics to win the Bachelor’s affection range from normal, sincere conversation to, in Katie’s case, interrupting a fellow contestant named Mari’s conversation with Matt—about worrying for her family in Puerto Rico—by tapping out her competitor with her vibrator. (Like, literally tapping; Katie later gushed about being able to “boop a pageant queen on the shoulder with a dildo,” which she swears she washed. Let’s hope!)
This season features some genuinely interesting women—like Magi, a pharmacist from Ethiopia, and Abigail, who is making franchise history in her own right as the first deaf contestant. But as always, there are also pot-stirrers like “Queen Victoria,” who, in grand Bachelor tradition, “stole” Matt away from two conversations, much to the chagrin of her fellow contestants, while encouraging others to embrace her fervor for chaos as well. (Also, Cynthia Rowley’s daughter is here?!)
Matt evidently saw through the theatrics, bestowing his first impression rose on a visibly delighted Abigail. Naturally, some contestants fretted about not getting enough time with Matt ahead of the rose ceremony—and many were not pleased with their more brazen, time-thieving counterparts. But in the end, James’ Night One eliminations were pretty expected—including, unfortunately, keeping Victoria around, almost certainly at a producer’s urging.
Ahead of this season, some Bachelor diehards wondered how Matt would perform, given that he, unlike most recent Bachelors, has never appeared on any of the franchise’s programs—or anywhere on television, for that matter. (Matt’s friendship with Tyler Cameron, a fan-favorite contestant from Hannah Brown’s Bachelorette season, likely allowed him to skip participating in Clare Crawley’s season, as initially planned, straight to Bachelordom.) Some spectators understandably wondered why the show’s producers would overlook Mike Johnson, another beloved contestant from Hannah’s season who seemed like a more obvious choice to star as the franchise’s first Black Bachelor. And as with any less seasoned contestants, there’s a distinct possibility that Matt could be excessively swayed by the show’s producers.
But so far, Matt has exhibited all the traits of a solid Bachelor: Unlike our last Bachelor, Peter Weber, who seemed compelled to create and exacerbate drama among his contestants, Matt seems to have a clearer idea of what he wants. (At least for now.) He seems serious about finding love, and concerned about finding a relationship that will actually last. At worst, Matt might be the kind of Bachelor whose season is relatively boring compared with villains like Juan Pablo Galavis, whose seasons are akin to slow-motion car crashes. But as the season preview reveals, there’s plenty of drama—and some new contestants—coming up ahead.