Ben Higgins seems to have been put on this earth to become The Bachelor—the franchise’s 20th anniversary crown jewel, no less. He’s tall, dark (but not too dark, God forbid!), and so conventionally handsome I doubt any of us could draw a more perfect Bachelor specimen. (Except maybe Clint.) I like that he’s effusive and not stingy with his words—I think he managed to sincerely compliment every single lady last night—a big plus. Oh, and he’s also kind; his seeking out Lace after delicately sidestepping her attempt at a second kiss was beyond the call of duty. (Frankly, she didn’t deserve it, but kudos to him for being ultra-sensitive.) My one, only, long-standing beef: his age. For a man seeking The Woman He Wants To Spend The Rest of His Life With, 26 to me seems, well, young. But, meh. Is this show really about finding “The One” anymore?
Correspondingly, this is the youngest batch of women we’ve ever seen. They were mostly around my sister’s age (she’s 24) and, in that big sister way—just as I’ve found myself in slight awe of watching my baby sister go to college, get promoted, move in with her boyfriend—I found myself struck by how confident these girls were. They may have spoken of being nervous, but I spied a ton of maturity and ambition, not to mention eye-on-the-prize (the prize not necessarily meaning Ben) strutting out of the limo. There were also several college graduates and for every requisite joke occupation, there was a legit impressive career, especially considering the median age. My first impression stand-outs were Jubilee, who is pretty much as badass as 23-year-olds get, and Jojo, who I see as the all-around cool girl you want to be friends with. Caila had the just-right amount of Night One airtime, and she’s bubbly and adorable. (Plus there’s some half-Asian kinship there.) Mandi is clearly there for entertainment purposes, but the girl is a 28-year old dentist for Pete’s sake, and have you seen her epic audition video? I’m a fan.
In the long-standing and, entertainment-wise, absolutely necessary tradition of Night One drunkards, Lace really bore the torch with gusto. Lace reminded me a bit of Victoria from my season. I remember seeing Victoria for the first time and just thinking, WOW. She was a total knockout. And then as the night progressed, with each drink making her bawdier, her intimidation factor waned to non-existent. Lace is very pretty and seems to have her ducks in a row, yet in her 25 years clearly hasn’t befriended anyone honest enough to tell her she’s a terrible drunk. Obviously, on this show we know drama equals airtime and airtime equals D-list fame, but I’ve never understood how D-list fame at the cost of your reputation is a good trade.
After 20 seasons, nine of which I’ve seen, It’s impossible to watch this show without the analytical breakdown. First and last girls out of the limo are usually a major players. (Case in point, Britt and Jade were Farmer Chris’ respective first and last.) They sandwich the gag entrances; the piano-bikes, wedding dresses, and rose headpieces (I actually loved this and thought it was wonderfully meta) are accompanied by jokey, clownish music. Tinkly chimes usually indicates a reasonable contender. We know by now that girls whose Night One conversations with Ben are not shown are generally not going to the end. (Can you imagine if they didn’t air the first real conversation between Ben and his now bride-to-be? Me neither.) With all that in mind, my Top 4 predictions are as follows…
1. Joelle “Jojo,” 24: I never thought my top pick would be the girl who came out with a unicorn head, but I’m very into Jojo. Beyond being oh-so-pretty, she seems easygoing, ambitious, and wonderfully not cray. I liked her creative Pictionary-themed time with Ben and love that she has a real career. (And house flipping?! Dream job.) Above all, Ben seems at ease with her, something not easy to obtain on grueling Night One.
2. Olivia, 23: Last limo exit, check. First Impression Rose, check. Olivia has “frontrunner” written all over her. Oh, and she’s a legit news anchor. And she’s stunning. Like, Cameron Diaz circa The Mask stunning. She also has a star quality to her, like she’s meant to be on elevision. Oh, wait.
3. Lauren B., 25: First limo exit, check. Lauren B. isn’t going out of her way to stand out, but she just does. It’s how Ben responds to Lauren B. which has my eye on her. Their doorstep conversation was particularly sweet and full of natural getting-to-know-you banter. And did you see their body language?! I actually thought Lauren B. would get the First Impression Rose based on their time together.
4. Becca, 26: It’s hard to have an unbiased opinion here, but knowing from last season how reasonable Becca is, I doubt she’d return if she didn’t think she’d make it reasonably far. (No former runner-up would sully their Bachelor resume by getting eliminated Night One on a different season!) This makes me wonder if she and Ben knew each other already. Which makes me remember Nick on Kaitlyn’s season. Which makes me think she has a bit of a leg up. Plus, well, it’s Becca. She’s lovely and so gosh darn likeable. Methinks Ben might think so, too.
For more on this season of The Bachelor from Sharleen Joynt, visit her blog, All the Pretty Pandas.
The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Omni 2.
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