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I’m one of those people who was pleasantly surprised by the Bachelorette casting choice of Hannah. I frequently found myself beguiled by her self deprecation and awkward charm last season. That said, truthfully, I didn’t really know what to expect with her as the lead. It felt to me like this could either end up being one of the more inspiring, feel-good seasons of recent memory, or that things could end up swinging deep into hot mess territory—with little potential for much in between.
I’m happy to report this season already seems to be falling in the former category. Of course, we’re surely destined for Hannah’s signature awkward tongue-tiedness, but she’s come such a long way in that department (more on that in a bit) that those moments to come already feel like the exception, not the rule. Her natural way of breaking “character” and her inability to be anyone but herself is so compelling. How many B-rolls did she render useless (yet also somehow useful!) by self-consciously smirking or by exclaiming, “I don’t know what to do with my hands!” Anyone who can poke fun at the absurdity of one of this show’s building blocks (in this case, cheesy wheat field B-rolls), even if unintentionally, is a winner in my eyes.
Best of all, it feels like we’re watching more than another cookie-cutter season of a tired, old, set-in-its-ways reality show about love. Don’t get me wrong: many things about this season already do and certainly will feel tired and old and done. But there’s a twist: It feels as though we’re witnessing a young woman come into her own. It seems that, in the short time we’ve known her, Hannah has made leaps and bounds in terms of her confidence, personal worth, and ability to articulate her thoughts. I found myself legitimately moved listening to her thoughtfully-prepared speech about honesty and worthiness. It wasn’t only a good delivery of a good speech for her, it would have been a good delivery of a good speech for anyone on this show. Hard to believe this is the same woman who nearly crumbled trying to string together a toast last season.
Now, I don’t know how conducive this moth-to-butterfly development is to that same butterfly finding her future mate. It very well may not be. But in terms of watching a show—more seasons of which I’ve seen than I’d like to admit—it’s not only refreshing, but even inspiring.
Last night’s premiere changed its usual spots. Instead of production depending on the go-to Night One formula (relying on the contestants throwing back too many drinks and encouraging one in particular to fuel discord by repeatedly stealing the lead), a different tactic was used. I almost—almost!—felt bad for Scott when it became clear that an example being made out of him (his having a girlfriend and all) was going to become a major Night One plot point. Think of all the moving parts to set this up: Demi receiving this information and relaying it to production (assuming that really is how it happened), Demi NOT mentioning it to Hannah despite seeing her earlier that same day, all the equipment, the van…. Would Demi and Katie even have had this cameo if it weren’t for Scott? Given there are a couple of alternates every season, most of whom never actually go on the show, I would go so far as to say that having a girlfriend very well may have been what secured Scott’s position on the official cast list.
As for the rest of them, I’ll keep with my tradition of singling out my early non-frontrunner favourites. I don’t care what anyone says, I thought Joe (The Box King) was hysterical. Grant stood out to me as someone you’d want to hang with, especially with his bone dry delivery of condiment puns while stuffing his face with a hot dog. I got a kick out of Tyler’s Flashdance moves in the bones of a house being built. (Best intro video “work” scene ever.) Finally, it was hard not to fall for Matt Donald, who strikes me as goofy yet sincere. The sign language in his family was fascinating to me and really made him stand out. I was FLOORED to see him go home (especially to John Paul Jones!) and would love to see him granted an extra life on Paradise, à la Grocery Joe.
As for the frontrunners, here are my Final 4 based on the premiere…
1. Peter, 27: “He’s delightfully normal”
Peter has a great Night One resume, boasting an intro video, a full limo exit, and solid 1-on-1 time. I must say, I really like Peter. In his intro video, he struck me as intelligent and well-spoken. He’s delightfully normal, he’s understated and he’s believably intrigued by Hannah without being suspiciously over the top about it. Hannah seems intrigued right back, but I like how this feels slow, steady, and sincere—as though they know a kiss is on the way and there’s no need to rush things on Night One. I see Peter going VERY far this season.
2. Luke P, 24: “The Bachelorette was this man’s destiny”
To me, Luke is the type who appears to have been bred to appear on The Bachelorette. Everything about him, from his Southern twang, to his backstory as a former playboy who found God (in the shower—where else?), his Nice Guy affect, his impossibly smooth hair fade… Being on The Bachelorette was this man’s destiny since the womb. My problem with Luke P is that my patience for too-perfect, too-earnest, too-rehearsed candidates is wearing thin these days. Everything out of Luke P’s mouth feels like a stock line designed to advance his position in this race. For now, however, Hannah seems to be buying what Luke is selling (despite the fact that he alarmingly won’t lend her his jacket when she’s freezing cold!). Intro video, check. Full limo exit, check. 1-on-1 time, check. First Impression Rose, check.
3. Connor S, 24: “It feels very natural between these two”
Connor S may not have gotten an intro video but his full limo exit was shown (rather, his fence jump—I loved this and am so glad someone claimed this stunt!), plus he got one of the season’s first kisses. It feels very natural between these two and while we don’t know a ton about Connor S as of yet, I have a hunch that’ll change.
4. Mike, 31: “He oozes established, quiet confidence”
Mike won me over very early in the episode with his intro video; he said that spending time with strong women taught him to listen, pay attention to small details, and know you’re going to be wrong. The observations here, as well as the fact that he can list them, say a lot about him. (One thing’s for certain: he sure as hell would have lent Hannah his jacket when she said she was freezing cold!) In Mike’s 1-on-1 time with Hannah, he quickly proved a good listener when she mentioned in passing having struggled with worthiness, and he said, simply and kindly, “Tell me about that.” Mike’s a bit older than the other guys here and I see that as a great thing—he oozes established, quiet confidence.