Sharleen Joynt on The Bachelorette Season 14 Premiere!

Sharleen Joynt—FLARE columnist and former Bachelor contestant—shares her insider POV on the first episode of Becca Kufrin’s season

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Last night I had the pleasure of kicking off this season with 100 or so Bachelor Nation fans in Toronto! We drank bubbly, noshed on Maltesers, and laughed and groaned our way through what I think was a pretty great premiere. Thank you all for being such fantastic readers and now, viewing buddies:) FYI, this week’s The Morning After—watch it above—is last night’s post-episode panel discussion, including a solid question-and-answer session!

After a Bachelor finale that left us all feeling a bit sick, we’ve finally been granted the female-driven counterpart to take that bad taste out of our mouths. A season of fresh starts, new beginnings and female empowerment! Yeah! And what better way to launch such a #GirlPower season than with… tears? Lots and lots and lots of the empowered woman in question’s tears. Now, I know a Walk Down Memory Lane bit is par for the course at the start of every season, but instead of serving as a reminder of Becca’s worthiness as Bachelorette (which she unquestionably is, with or without heartbreak!), it rather reemphasized that no “reward,” not even the reward of lead, can make up for what she went through. Think about it: that breakup and heartbreak was not limited to the bubble, to filming, to a temporary space. It had to have infiltrated her real life, her real relationships, and, in some capacity, must have irrevocably altered her ability to trust. I’m not suggesting Becca is not in a position to find her own Mr. Right—she’s likely better equipped than anyone from her season—and of course, a consolation prize is better than none at all. But being crowned Bachelorette is not some magic Band-Aid that negates the trauma she experienced last season, and the up-close shots and amplified audio of her sobbing for the first five minutes of last night’s episode confirms that.

One thing that stood out to me as very refreshing about this premiere was the conspicuous lack of (obnoxious) drunkards and villains. Rather, there were two major mini-dramas. First, there was the story with Chase, who apparently is so upsetting to even casually date that two years after the fact, women in his wake are still holding grudges. There were major plot holes with this story! As Becca rightfully zeroed in on, if this was such a casual dating scenario and it was so long ago (both of his claims), why and how could this woman still be so resentful? My favourite moment was when he attempted to sidestep this by saying, “I thought it if was going to be anyone it’d be one of my two exes.” Oh, dude… no. Don’t suggest that two of your actual exes would be the ones you’d expect to have a bone to pick with you—no girl wants to date that guy.

Next was a very shifty-eyed Jake, an acquaintance of Becca’s. According to Becca (whom I unequivocally believe over anyone this shifty-eyed), they’d met several times and ran in approximately the same Minnesota social circles. Jake only remembered having met Becca once (yikes), at a Christmas party. Becca’s main concern was that, regardless of how many times they’d met, if he were interested, why hadn’t he made a move earlier? Somehow, Jake thought a good defense would be to reiterate that he only had “one conscious recollection” of having met Becca. First, this doesn’t even answer her concern. Second, how is this an excuse? Third, why on earth would any woman want a guy who didn’t even remember having met her?! This guy’s a real Casanova.

As it became increasingly clear that this conversation was heading towards Jake being sent home, he grew less charming, more condescending and dismissive, and he proceeded to unapologetically steamroll her polite attempts to interrupt him. Now, he should have simply said he’d been through a lot and had turned a new leaf. (I’m still not sure how this adds up to him not remembering people he’d met, but whatever. It would’ve still been a million times better than what he unfortunately did say.) Instead, he turned the onus on Becca: “I don’t know what you’re hanging onto from prior to the Christmas party that I remember, but it sounds like you might be hanging onto a different me from when I was at a different point in my life. And I want you to know, I’ve had a very transformative year.” Um, how is it her business to know what “point in his life” he was at those other times they’d met, and how is she the one “hanging onto” anything? THEY ARE TWO HUMANS WHO HAVE MET X NUMBER OF TIMES. This is fact, not something that is up for debate or that can be altered by excuses.

Look, what Jake was getting at may well have been reasonable (maybe he had a drinking problem and didn’t remember half the people he met while on the sauce?), but it’s the tone with which he explained this to her that I couldn’t stand. It was as though she were an idiot or a young child, as though she was the one who should somehow know HIS story, when he’s the one who showed up on HER season. There was no sense of: “Oh gosh, I’m embarrassed and sorry I don’t remember meeting you. I was actually going through a rough time then. What impression do you have of me and how can I remedy this?” Rather, he took no responsibility and went on the offensive, à la: “I don’t know what impression you’ve decided to have of me but here’s why you’re WRONG.” This guy was the worst, and I was downright thrilled when Becca sent him packing.

Oh and my new go-to excuse for all former failings is that I’ve had a very transformative year.

Now onto a sunnier topic: my Night One stand outs! My hands-down favorite of the season so far is Blake, who manages to come across as self-deprecating and self-aware while still possessing the right amount of swagger and confidence. While Jean Blanc’s intro video (mostly about his expensive taste and obsession with colognes) wasn’t super flattering, it did seem like he was in on the joke and this shows he’s able to laugh at himself. I really enjoyed Joe, the Chicago grocery store owner, and was both shocked and disappointed that he was sent home so soon. Though we didn’t get a ton of concrete conversation from him, I have no shame in admitting I was swooning over the specimen that was professional basketball-drunker ChristonLeo, the stuntman with all the hair, won me over quickly with his pan-faced, bone dry ITM commentary. Garrett is just delightful. He’s got one of those smiles that’s infectious and can light up a room. The best part is he’s got the ruggedness to offset that prettiness—you get the impression he spends more time outdoors than indoors grooming himself (versus, say, Jordan, who for all the smack he was talking, was actually very entertaining). Clay was a total teddy bear. I found him ADORABLE; he clearly had a lot of lines and moves planned but was so nervous that they all came off a bit robotic (which, of course, endeared him to me). Finally, David, in the chicken costume, proved that wearing a costume doesn’t make you desperate or uncool—rather, he almost seemed cooler for it, and he definitely has game.

As for who I think caught Becca’s eye…

A photo of Bachelorette season 14 contestant Garrett in a white shirt and dark blazer

(Photograph: Courtesy City)

1. Garrett, 29: Garrett’s Night One showing went about as well as one can hope for. He ticked off every major box and with flying colours. He had an intro video that managed to be kitschy and goofy yet legitimately funny—he’s the one making the jokes, not the one at the butt end of them (though he does seem very capable of laughing at himself). His limo exit was pretty darn perfect (the minivan was very much a “How has no one thought of this before?” gimmick). Oh, and he got the First Impression Rose (and we know by now that when a Bachelorette—versus a Bachelor—doles one of those out, he will be lasting a very, very long time). But what stood out to me the most, even among these accolades, was the ITM of Becca saying that Garrett reminds her of home and that he’d fit in with her family really well. In light of Rachel Lindsay’s advice at the beginning of the episode—where she stressed focusing on what could work in real life, outside of the fantasy—these statements have major weight.

A photo of Bachelorette season 14 contestant Blake in a maroon shirt and grey pants

(Photograph: Courtesy City)

2. Blake, 28: Something about Blake really stands out to me. He has an old school sort of good looks, like he could come from a different time. Like, I can totally picture him in a 1950s diner as depicted in a Norman Rockwell painting… Ahem, more importantly, Becca is a major fan. His “limo” exit, or rather, his entrance on an actual ox, was adorable (and shown!) and we got a substantial chunk of his 1-on-1 conversation with Becca, accompanied by romantic frontrunner music. They bonded over having learned from their former relationships that they have a lot of love to offer (“If I can love the wrong person this much, imagine how much I can love the right person”), and Becca said they’re on the same wavelength: “We just get each other and we don’t even know each other.” He may not have gotten that FIR, but he’s a major contender.

A photo of Bachelorette season 14 contestant Colton in a pink shirt and black leather jacket

(Photograph: Courtesy City)

3. Colton, 26: If I’m completely honest, Colton didn’t stand out to me as much on first watch, but when I watched the episode with a room of 100 women, with the oohs and ahhs he received, I realized he’s a force to be reckoned with this season. Intro video, check. First out of the limos, check. His 1-on-1 time was brief, but it was shown. He has All-American good looks, an athletic background, a bit of a sob story (his injury) and he now runs a charity. Honestly, I don’t see him going until the very end based on the conversation that was shown between him and Becca—he was also way too prominent in the previews to be the winner—but this guy has Bachelor written all over him. And if I’m right about this, he will definitely go far based on this show’s formula.

A photo of Bachelorette season 14 contestant Conner in a navy gingham shirt and blue suit

(Photograph: Courtesy City)

4. Connor, 25: I was torn between putting Chris and Connor in this spot but Chris getting called last at the Rose Ceremony bumped up Connor. Connor looks almost disturbingly like the love child of several former Bachelorette contestants (particularly Jordan Rodgers and JJ Lane) but I should probably get over that because I think he could be lasting awhile. His full limo exit was shown, and after being the aggressive one who “stole” Becca first, their conversation was shown, accompanied by frontrunner music (really, though, it was more like sexy-time music). I find Connor a tad too suave, like he knows what he’s doing to make it far, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt… for now. Regardless, based on Night One, this race is between Garrett and Blake only.

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