*** Just a reminder that this is a SPOILER-FREE ZONE. As much as I love Reality Steve, at this time of year I go out of my way to avoid spoilers. If you know what happens, there are plenty of forums out there to discuss the show from that perspective. Comments containing spoilers will be deleted. ***
I was really on the fence over whether to recap this season or not. I couldn't help but think of all the things I could learn and accomplish in the hours it takes to recap a whole season. Take sewing lessons, attempt to learn Mandarin (again), learn a new opera role...? But no, you wonderful people guilted me all over social media until I caved. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. As a happy-medium, I'm going to go with shorter recaps, but I figure shorter is better than none at all.
I was in LA for the premiere, along with about 45 other members of the Bachelor family. Frankly, as fun as it was and as cool as it is to be flown out and put up there, I wasn't quite sure why I was there. They've never done a "live" viewing event for a premiere before, and the girls and I were sure there would be some special, top-secret announcement. They kept stressing the "red carpet" dress code (something they never do; If you want to show up in a burlap bag and no makeup, you truly can) and providing so little information, I was half-expecting to walk into a surprise-filming of Lacy and Marcus' wedding. (Not that I'd ever be invited to that anyway)
Turns out there was no surprise, other than several fantastic fans who were far too kind. (Remind me to write a blog post about the strangeness of D-list celebrity.)
Anyway, on to the premiere. I'm finding it hard to dislike (and therefore mock) Chris as the Bachelor, which somewhat surprises me. It's not that I had any issue with him, I just thought he came off a bit goodie-goodie and one-note on Andi's season to carry a whole season himself. Considering he got the Bachelor edit (read: a flattering edit) on his season, this is a very feasible problem. However, while not electrifying television gold, I thought he was endearing. He's manly and rugged, with an appropriate "I have no idea what I'm doing here" vibe to him. He's not a metrosexual pretty boy who seems to want to parlay this fleeting fame into some entirely different life of showbiz. These are good things.
Arlington, Iowa, though? Hoo boy. A slower-paced life surely has its upsides, but a population of 416 is hard to fathom. And while I appreciate that it probably is indeed tough meeting ladies in his world, it's not likely that the average girl who applies to be on the Bachelor is interested in that lifestyle. It's safe to say they cast about half the girls as legitimate, feasible options for Chris, and the rest are for entertainment value.
LIMO EXIT STANDOUTS (FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE)
As with last season, here's my disclaimer: Before I offend anyone, let me just say that some of my biggest peeves are overt attention whores. Yes, I realize everyone on this series (myself included) did not end up there by accident. But believe it or not, I think this show is a fascinating study of human interaction and relationship development, and it detracts from the authenticity of this when someone is obviously there to chase the spotlight.
Britt, 27 - They always start with someone strong, and Britt's no exception. I have a few reservations about her, though, the main one being I feel she's a bit affected. I don't doubt her sincerity, but I do feel like she knows how to play this game. (Plus, she's a waitress in LA, so she's very likely an aspiring actress... nothing wrong with that, but is a 27-year old aspiring actress going to be willing to move to Arlington, Iowa for farm life? Just sayin'.) That said, she is SO pretty. Like, ridiculously pretty. And has amazing hair. And good style. And I want to be her friend.
Whitney, 29 - I wrote: "Bubbly yet mature. Seems grounded." People have been mentioning her speaking voice but it hasn't really bothered me so much. More importantly, there's no point in criticizing someone for something they can't control.
Side Observation: Some of Whitney's ITMs from this episode were filmed later on. Notice the change in earrings, makeup, and ITM background. (both of the latter photos are hotel suites-turned-ITM rooms) It might not mean much, but it would indicate at the very least that Whitney sticks around for awhile.
Kelsey, 28 - She seems particularly "normal", which I consider a good thing.
Ashley I, 26 - Really beautiful girl, oozes confidence. Fun fact #1: I met Ashley and a friend of hers in a deli in Manhattan back in the summer. She was in the semi-final round of casting at that point (where Casting has expressed interest but not yet flown you to LA to meet producers) and wanted to know if I had any advice for her. My main piece of advice was to "think twice about doing it". (I'm glad she didn't listen to me since she later wrote me that it was an amazing experience.) Fun fact #2: When I told producer Élan Gale that I said this, he called me an asshole. :)
Reegan, 28 - The bloody heart? No. When contestants give in to doing these stupid gimmicks, they're pretty much locking in their Night One departure. (Reegan was no exception.)
Tara, 26 - I didn't actually mind the cutoffs and denim shirt, but the changing outfits and re-exiting the limo was too much of an attention-grab for me.
Amber, 29 - Wow, this girl is pretty. Could have done without the teddy bear, though; she doesn't need it to stand out.
Ashley S, 24 - The only thing I wrote about her was "crazy eyes". (She later proved me right with her pomegranate episode.)
Kaitlyn, 29 - Bestill my heart, I am in love with this girl. I'm jealous of her nerve and quick-wittedness. She is chewing up this show and spitting it out. How many people do you know who could pull this off in a VERY nerve-wracking situation?
Samantha, 27 - At this point, anyone who says the following without any irony is not to be trusted:
Carly, 29 - She sang first thing out of the limo, and you know how I feel about that. Just look at poor Chris' face, straining to remain polite.
Jade, 28 - Very pretty and soft-spoken. She had the coveted last spot in the limos, so it's safe to say she's not going anywhere for awhile.
For my Top 4 predictions, head over to my weekly Flare recap here.
Fun Fact #1: The girls are sent in by producers to interrupt each other for their one-on-one time. Whenever you see a girl cut in on another girl's time, that was producer-driven and even timed. Interestingly, not every girl gets a chance to even have one-on-one time, which speaks more to who the producers believe are front-runners rather than who the Bachelor does. (Of course, he can always speak up.)
Fun Fact #2: This episode takes upwards of 10 hours to film, hence the extreme inebriation and teary sunrise ITMs:
My runner-up for best dressed was Becca:
Her navy sequin mini dress was a gutsy choice for Night One and was sexy without being R-rated. Plus, I love that she offset the shortness of the dress with open-toe booties. She looked fierce.
My best-dressed was Tandra with her gorgeous french lace gown (which didn't get nearly enough airtime):
There's a lot going on but it still comes off simple and elegant. Also, she wore this dress, not the other way around. She hopped off a motorcycle and floated around the mansion effortlessly. Plus, I'm always a sucker for an open back.
I hate to jump on the bandwagon in hating Brittany's dress, but it really was a poor choice for Night One:
Really, it was a poor choice for television in general. I actually love the brand For Love and Lemons—their stuff really is gorgeous in person—but the sheer fabric just looks like no fabric on TV, making this dress look downright NSFW. Sorry, Brittany.
Until next week, fellow pandas!