I sometimes feel a bit of dread heading into a new season, like a fear of being bored, or worse, that I’ll find myself opinion-less and unable to find anything to talk about. I’m happy to report, though, that the Powers That Be haven’t lost their magic touch. This was the funniest, most entertaining premiere I’ve seen from this franchise in years.
First of all, it doesn’t hurt that Rachel is freaking perfect. Yes, she’s beautiful, but it’s her every witty quip, quick comeback and reaction to even the strangest of stunts that has me swooning. As someone with an admittedly chronic case of l’esprit d’escalier (Google it), I recognize and appreciate Rachel’s ability to deliver appropriate, sassy yet kind responses—especially when there’s pressure and nerves are running high. When Jonathan rather awkwardly “tickled” her midsection (men, I don’t know a single woman who would welcome or enjoy this from someone they’d just met), Rachel laughed kindly even though it wasn’t remotely funny. When Lucas first introduced “a glimpse” of his trademark “Whaboom,” I laughed out loud at her “That’s just a glimpse?” She didn’t pretend to be thrilled to see Fred, the “bad kid” she was camp counsellor to, and I loved how frankly she said to his face, “You always remember the bad ones.” She also remembered not only the four men whom she’d met at Women Tell All but also specifics about their introductions. She’s just sharp and classy and wonderfully not fake or annoying in any way, which bodes very well for the season as a whole. Whew!
Now onto the men! My one issue with this season’s crop of men was their age. Rachel is 31, knows what she’s looking for, and is ready. Look, I’m all about age just being a number, but there were simply a few too many 26- to 28-year-olds for me to find them all believable candidates for Rachel, and a few seemed more like early Paradise cast members in that regard. Evidently Rachel agrees with me on the age thing, as when Bryan revealed his age (37), she said, “I love that.” However, age and legitimacy as a candidate for Rachel aside, some of my personal standouts—which are a separate thing from my season’s predictions—include: Alex, whose intro video won me over (his mom time was too cute). However, his vacuum-heavy Night One showing combined with the fact that no 1-on-1 time with Rachel was shown unfortunately lowered his stock. I love Kenny and think he’s a great mix of sentimental and funny. (I’m always a sucker for a contestant with good ITM commentary and I was laughing hard when he said he’d burn AJ, the creepy doll, if it began moving from room to room.) I’m torn on Blake E as I dug his (seriously well-played) marching band entrance, but his intro video’s one-note focus on his sexual prowess combined with his later angry obsession with Lucas had me raising an eyebrow. I’m not sure I see a real connection with Rachel, but Diggy‘s facial expressions to the house happenings are hilarious and his fashion sense is reminiscent of Season 10’s Marquel. Above all, my hands-down favorite limo exit of the night was Brady‘s “ice breaker,” but unfortunately that seemed to be all we saw of him.
Now onto my Top 4 predictions. I honestly don’t know a single spoiler for this season (so far, anyway; if you listened to my Reality Steve interview you might recall I said I always start out “pure”… I’m currently still in that pure state. Let’s try to keep it that way around here, shall we?) My frontrunners are as follows…
1. Bryan, 37: It’s hard not to automatically put the First Impression Rose recipient up top. Bryan was already light years ahead of the other men based on the kiss alone, then after adding the FIR in the mix, plus that second kiss, his major frontrunner status was sealed. From an analysis standpoint, the one thing Bryan’s missing is an intro video, but as I said in my The Morning After video, I’m not positive that makes or breaks his last-man-standing potential. Bryan’s chemistry with Rachel is through the roof and there’s the right mix of seriousness and “trouble.” Bryan won Night One.
2. Kenny, 35: Have I mentioned I love Kenny? His macho wrestler side, his sense of humour, and his soft side (which shone through when he spoke of his daughter, and I love that he didn’t downplay this) come together to create a very appealing, intriguing candidate. He had an intro video, his limo exit shown, and not only was his 1-on-1 time shown, but it was quality, which is huge for his “winning” potential. I confess at first I didn’t take Kenny super seriously based on his career, but by the end of the episode I was rooting for him hard, which is a testament to how charming he is.
3. Peter, 31: Peter may not have had an intro video, but he was first out of the limos and that entire limo exit was shown. His 1-on-1 time was sort of steamrolled (from our perspective) by megaphone-happy Lucas, but that 1-on-1 time was still shown. (We learned Rachel’s one of those weirdos who doesn’t like chocolate.) After meeting him, Rachel said he was cute and in general seems interested. I do also like how effusive he is about her in his ITMs. I’m guessing Peter makes it pretty far.
4. Josiah, 28: This prediction is based mostly on airtime; Josiah was undeniably omnipresent last night. His backstory is unbelievably tragic and I was moved by his reasoning behind becoming a prosecutor (Rachel, too, loved the “full circle” of it). Thus, it’s a bit of a shame Josiah is so insistent on being overconfident among the men because it makes him less likable on the whole. That said: Intro video, check. Limo exit shown, check. 1-on-1 time was shown, check.