Bachelor Nation, get ready for the most dramatic premiere reveal ever: Ali Barthwell will not be recapping this season. No, the prospect of Zach being the Bachelor didn’t scare her off (though he and his deep voice certainly tried). Ali will be taking time off to focus on her health; if you have read and supported her recaps throughout the years, I encourage you to read her Twitter thread on the subject and donate to her GoFundMe. Ali, we wish you the best as you get better and beat this thing.
So, I’m Charlotte, and I’m ready to dive into this mess with all of you. I get it — just like Zach, I’m everyone’s second choice. Just call us Spare!
Let’s get into it.
Everyone who watched Rachel and Gabby’s Bachelorette season knows Zach as … That Guy. You know, the guy whose uncle is Patrick Warburton? The guy who sounds like he swallowed a toad as a child? The guy who clearly has a great eyebrow lady in Austin? Exactly! Thus, the first 15 minutes of this premiere are dedicated to making Zach into a Real Human Boy, not just Mike Fleiss’s Bachelor Ken doll. For example, did you know that Zach was in a middle-school band called Public Disturbance, a musical group I’m pretty positive created no such thing? Did you see him “accidentally” locking himself out of his hotel room? Did you catch him lifting weights with former Bachelor Sean Lowe because Arie Luyendyk Jr. was too busy voting Brandi Glanville off The Traitors to come film? Stars — they’re just like us. Unfortunately, this entire package has the opposite of its desired effect. By trying so hard to give us a personality, Zach comes off more robotic than M3gan (and he probably couldn’t sing “Bulletproof” as well, either).
But now it’s time for the ladies to muster up some enthusiasm for him, even though they were all secretly hoping that Joe Burrow quit his football career to become a Bachelor Nation influencer instead. First up, we have packages from Morning Bailin’, nurse Katherine, family therapist Charity, rodeo dancer Brooklyn, America’s First-Impression Rose Brianna, fellow Austin native Kaity, and Greer, who won’t stop referring to herself in the third person. We also have Christina Mandrell, who, since her mom is famous, has the honor of having her last name onscreen, not just the initial. Eat your heart out, Kit Keenan!
When the ladies pull up in the limo, we hear the typical screams of girlish glee and the clinking of Champagne glasses. But before the first contestant (Jess) can make her entrance, we also listen to them doing an affirmation together: “I am beautiful. I am confident. I am strong.” Unfortunately, that’s when I know that TikTok has ruined this show permanently — because back in my day, Corinne Olympios would have greased the mansion’s rocks on her way in to make this a Bachelor Nation Slip ’N Slide.
Some limo-entrance highlights:
• Greer brings Zach a bodega coffee, which she claims made it all the way to the mansion from New York. Trying to poison the Bachelor on day one is a bold move, but clearly it works because she later gets the first-impression rose.
• Christina Mandrell rolls up in a party bus because I think we’ve officially run through every other kind of transportation.
• At first, I was gonna roast Zach for saying things like “They’re so pretty” when the girls walked off, but, really, what else is there to say after someone forces you to take shots of maple syrup because they’re “from Vermont”?
• You know what I can roast Zach for? KISSING BAILEY DURING HER LIMO ENTRANCE!!! Apparently he felt bad for calling her “Morning Bailin’” on live television, so he thought a quick smooch would make up for it. Luckily the limos seemingly have blackout windows — otherwise all those lovely little affirmations would have been thrown right out of them.
• Cat’s energy kind of terrifies me a little. After saying gabagool so much during her entrance, it feels like she wouldn’t hesitate to Godfather these other contestants.
• What happened to Henry the Pig?
After we’re done with the trying-to-make-it-onto-Paradise portion of the evening, Zach launches into a toast about how he’s just a Regular Guy who likes “family, football and frozen pizzas.” Obviously. He also waxes poetic about how strong his parents’ marriage is, and I’m starting to wonder if that’s why he’s such a boring lead. Just throw some mommy issues in there! Some daddy issues! Some uncle issues! I don’t care! Maybe he’s less like Prince Harry than I thought.
Apparently Morning Bailin’ really woke Zach up, because once he starts kissing the ladies, he can’t stop. He makes out with Kaity under the watchful eye of the house. He smooches Charity the family therapist after learning more about her job. He christens the party bus with Christina Mandrell after she asks him if he prefers dragons or dinosaurs. (His answer? Dragons — since he’s clearly bingeing House of the Dragon.) You know who has a problem with all this kissing? Madison, whose only notable moment thus far has been teaching Zach what the North Dakotan slang word oofta means. Now it’s a kiss she’s oofta, and when she doesn’t get it the first time they speak, Madison makes the Bachelor cardinal sin of pulling the lead aside twice on the very first night. Ladies, if you ever go on this show and they start playing the scary music underneath your confessional, you’re getting a “crazy” edit! Run!
Now, you may be asking, How does Madison plan on impressing America’s most eligible bachelor? A bouquet of roses? A box of chocolates? A well-timed emotional confession? Nope. Ladies and gentlemen, she tries to nab Zach with a poorly executed GRIDDY. Yep, in a deeply, deeply cringe moment, Madison attempts to re-create Justin Jefferson’s signature move with Zach, and it ends up looking like two toddlers trying to play hide-and-seek with each other. And after that embarrassment comes another: Her kiss lasts all of two seconds and clearly goes horribly, causing her to go into a 20-minute-long spiral, in which she asks multiple unnamed blonde women for advice. Now it’s really starting to feel like a Bachelor premiere!
But once Greer gets the first-impression rose, Madison really starts to lose it. She realizes she probably just quit her job to embarrass herself on national television and get out on night one, and that an influencer does not make! So in one final interruption, she pulls Zach to basically ask if he’s planning on keeping her (he isn’t). This causes two equal and opposite reactions in Madison. She starts oscillating between simmering self-empowerment (“He does not know what he’s missing out on”) and crushing self-doubt (“What did I do wrong?”). It’s an interesting thought experiment: The Ten Commandments of The Bachelor are at war with Madison’s third-wave feminism. What will win out? But before we can explore this any further, she’s in a white van, Griddying out of our lives forever.
Rose-ceremony time! Brianna and Greer are already safe, so Zach hands out roses to Christina Mandrell, Charity, Bailey, Jess, Genevie, Davia, Aly, Brooklyn, Kaity, Anastasia, Kylee, Gabi, Katherine, Mercedes, Ariel, Victoria J., Kimberly, and Cat. That means the contestants going home are Sonia, Lekha, Holland, probably the other Victoria (Viktoria), and, like, three other nameless women. Sorry to them!
Now for the best part of any premiere: the season preview. Zach is a snack. Zach has a lot to unpack. Zach is hooking up in a shack. It’s like a Dr. Seuss book. Oh, the places he’ll go! Tropical islands, to and fro! But it’s not all fun and games: A Rachel Recchia dupe is crying on some stairs, and the Ken doll himself sheds a tear after one woman seemingly self-eliminates. Maybe this season won’t be as boring as anticipated? If it is, at least we have Greta Gerwig’s Barbie to look forward to.
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