"Two Bachelorettes, who?"
"Two Bachelorettes. That's the joke."
Those ominous words from Kaitlyn spell out all my feelings about this first episode of The Bachelorette. Basically, The Bachelorette thinks we're all dumb and it can play a big joke on us and we'll just laugh it off.
Host Chris tell us that the men they were interviewing to be contesticles on this season "couldn't decide" which former ladytestant should be the titular bachelorette, so ABC said, "Fuck it." Do you think I'm that stupid, The Bachelorette? Do you think I'm not aware how reality TV works? The Bachelorette right now is acting like my ex Steve when he told me he was "going to medical school" but was actually studying to be an MRI tech. I know what medical school is, Steve, and it's not getting high in your mom's house and reading a textbook on magnets.
So here we are. We have two Bachelorettes to be narrowed down to one. Host Chris tells us that some audience members are downright angry, but change is never easy. This will be awkward and sometimes a little painful, but it's happening. It's Kaitlyn versus Britt. Deal with it, America.
There's a short recap of Britt and Kaitlyn's journey here, and they are framed as "the Funny Cool Girl" and "the Emotionally Overexpressive Hottie." I'm not sure that last one is an easily recognizable archetype, but Britt gets a weepy edit from her The Bachelor highlight reel. She's such a weepy sad-sack that one of the contesticles brings her a packet of tissues ... but we'll get to the arrivals in a moment.
Britt and Kaitlyn are set up as such opposites, they're even wearing black and white dresses and standing on opposite sides of the driveway. Men have to walk up and choose whom they're going to greet first and pledge their allegiance to. Britt is the one who shed tears in the minds of the contesticles, and Kaitlyn is the one who shed clothes. There's some virgin/whore dichotomy to be explored in here, but everybody is looking to mack, so I don't know how much mileage I'd get out of the analysis. What we do get is Britt and Kaitlyn's constant annoyance and self-comparison. Britt thinks Kaitlyn isn't serious. Kaitlyn thinks Britt is too attractive. Britt can't figure out why anyone would be here for Kaitlyn. I can't figure out if Britt will sleep in her makeup again this season.
Britt and Kaitlyn will meet all the men, and after they've all arrived, the men will have the chance to vote for whom they want the Bachelorette to be because sure, that's what we're doing now.
For all the good-natured misogyny and patriarchal thinking of The Bachelorette, I took some solace in knowing that one woman will have her choice of men and they have to do her bidding. But with this new format of this first episode, we're erasing all the "good for the goose"–ness of the show and replacing it with an abbreviated beauty pageant. Kaitlyn wanders around the entire episode hoping to make a good impression and feeling insecure when the contesticles greet Britt first. It's like the last season of The Bachelor was so good (it wasn't) that ABC execs thought we'd want to see a little bit more (we don't), and our favorite part was the female competition (it was Ashley S — I miss you).
But we carry on, we accept the limitations of this world, and we watch the two bright young women compete with each other to make a bunch of men like them. Oh God, this is bleak.
On to the contesticles! My favorite part of revealing the contesticles was their very vague jobs: Spiritual Healer, Amateur Sex Therapist, Aspiring Magic Mike. There is a male stripper in the house, and he takes no time to take his shirt off and force the women to touch his tattooed chest. But he's a romantic at heart; he's surrounded by women all the time but can't find true love. He says this in voice-over as he lifts a woman over his head and gyrates in her friend's face. Romance.
Speaking of romance, Jared, who looks like if Cillian Murphy were a Greyjoy, proclaims to be Loveman, a superhero he created to save the Bachelorette from evil men. He is surprisingly not wearing a fedora when he says this.
The contesticles really brought their A game when it came to props and puns. JJ tells Kaitlyn he can't wait to "puck her" as he hands her a hockey puck. There's the aforementioned packet of tissues that Tanner clearly picked up at CVS on the way to the taping. Bradley has a tennis racquet and hopes he can find a "love-love match." Joe brings moonshine. Shawn E, Amateur Sex Coach, rolls up in a "carpool." It's a car that is ...wait for it ... also a pool. He gets out soaking wet. Another drunk contesticle heckles him from the bushes, and I can't say I disagree. Shawn E does suck.
Mark the Dentist arrives in a cupcake car because he's a dentist? Shouldn't he have been in that tooth wagon from Django Unchained? Are there any tasteful puns to be mined from a movie about a slave killing his former masters and freeing his true love? No? They're all horrific for a white dentist to say on a reality dating show.
And then some other dudes all show up and hug Britt first, and Kaitlyn is sad about it. This is like watching an eighth-grader realize that even though she has a sick Sailor Moon lunchbox, her best friend who got boobs while at Jewish summer camp is going to get a date to Fall Fling and she isn't. This is a very sad thing to realize.
Meanwhile, inside the house, the contesticles size each other up and talk about the Bachelorettes in charmingly masculine ways. "Britt is like your trophy wife and Kaitlyn is like your wife." "Don't vote for the one you like but the one that likes you." "They're looking for our validation."
Someone's best-man toast at the resulting wedding is going to be epic.
Kaitlyn sneaks away to say hi to the guys in between limo arrivals, and Britt is pissed. That's all that really happens with that.
As the evening goes on and the women get to sit down with each guy, Ryan M becomes the Ashley S of this season and gets rip-roaring drunk. He heckles the other contesticles, he straps down and floats in the pool, he slaps Kaitlyn's ass, he sneers at another guy, "Why am I not raping you now?" and then he's promptly asked to leave. Because a drunk chick is funny and sometimes sexy; a drunk man is scary and a sexual assault case waiting to happen. (I said it. Come at me.)
But again, the show thinks we're dumb, and instead of just saying, "This guy is going to hurt someone and he's too drunk," Host Chris comes and tells the group that Ryan M was asked to leave because he's not here for the right reasons. What reason would that be? "I'm not here to make friends. I'm here to have access to alcohol, which is only available everywhere, but I like drinking Fireball on the rocks with my sexual rivals."
The men are asked to place a rose in the box of the woman they want to be this season's Bachelorette because Hans Christian Andersen was hired as this season's metaphor consultant.
Tony, the spiritual gangster, goes into the voting room and places his hands on each woman's box, and Britt's box is just pulsating, so he puts a rose in it.
Her box. Was pulsating with energy. Pulsating. I think Tony's downward-facing dog turned into an upward salute, if you know what I mean.
Well, all the contesticles have voted. Host Chris and a burly PA have counted the roses, and ...
The contesticles sit around anxiously waiting to see if the woman they voted for will have the opportunity to kiss them and then dismiss them. Heterosexual relationships are weird, huh? Some of the guys do admit that maybe Britt and Kaitlyn might be more nervous. Kaitlyn thinks her husband might be in that house. Shawn E, the amateur sex coach, is also in that house, so the house contains multitudes.
Host Chris goes to Britt and tells her that the contesticles have chosen one woman, and she's not that woman. Britt is stunned into silence, her perfectly made-up face contorting into a grotesque beauty that makes Dalí perk up somewhere in twisted weirdo heaven. Host Chris tells her it was a close vote and puts her ass in a limo back to the airport. Britt cries one more time in the limo, and I head to Vegas to put $10,000 on her returning later this season. TV needs more grief-stricken women returning to reclaim what's theirs. Britt might not be the Lady Stoneheart we want, but she's the Lady Stoneheart we deserve.
Host Chris tells Kaitlyn she's the Bachelorette with that annoying, "Unfortunately I have to tell someone to go home ... and it was Britt." I have never liked Host Chris. He seems like a man who has seen jokes happen on TV but doesn't know how they work. Host Chris has the same relationship with jokes that I do with airplanes. (I'm 26, and I'm not entirely sure how an airplane gets off the ground. Torque?)
Kaitlyn walks into the house with the contesticles, and they stand and applaud. Yes. Applaud a woman because most of you decided she was hot enough for you to try to marry. She really achieved something great there.
Now Kaitlyn has to re-meet each man because now they are into her, and she's got a rose ceremony.
One of my favorite games this season will be trying to match each contesticle to his celebrity look-alike. So far I've spotted a faux Ryan Gosling, a knockoff John Legend, and a low-budget Tom Hardy. Who can you spot?
Ian grabs her first, and he reminds her that he whispered in her ear when they first met that he's here for her because that's what romance looks like. Joshua the Welder gave her a steel rose. Is that the sigil for any Game of Thrones houses? Because it should be.
The butcher, the baker, and candlestick maker were all there for Britt, so they left.
A guy named Kupah, who tends to act as the Greek chorus of the show, asks Kaitlyn why she has her guard up. Tony the spiritual gangster sits alone and thinks that now there's one drinking fountain and all the contesticles are in line. JJ tells Kaitlyn that he's coming at her with guns blazing. (JJ looks like Patrick Bateman. Not Christian Bale. Patrick Bateman.)
Kaitlyn's central question in this episode is finding out who is really "there for her." If you drank every time "there for [INSERT NAME HERE]" is said, you'd be drunker than Ryan M halfway through this episode. I can imagine that it feels weird that less than half of the men standing in front of you, so 11 or fewer, didn't want you to attain the highest honor of womanhood, Bachelorette. Eleven contesticles, give or take, are acting like they were into you from the start but are just doubling down on the option in front of them. This is a game of sexual Heads Up Seven Up, and Kaitlyn didn't get a good look at anyone's shoes.
Cupcake Car Mark is the first one to kiss her, and they make out as all the other contesticles gather around a window and peer at them. Clint thinks things are moving too fast. Thanks, Clint.
Seeing the men gossip and spread the news that people are kissing now makes me think ... men and women aren't so different, after all.
Kaitlyn has to present one of the guys with the First Impression Rose, which is a thing. She takes Shawn (faux Gosling) outside and gives him the rose because he looks like Ryan Gosling, I guess. They make out, and Kaitlyn feels like a girl with a schoolyard crush.
Clint is somewhere ruminating that sex is precious.
Now it's time for the first Rose Ceremony. The tables are turned. The men are the ones being judged and deemed unworthy for the first time in Western Society. #Dadbod, am I right?
Kaitlyn feels grateful that these men picked her and feels weird sending them home. So that's another unpleasant effect of the Two Bachelorettes: The sense that this was given to her. This is a privilege that can be taken away. She should feel grateful and somehow in debt to the contesticles. They deemed her worthy. They said she was hot. How could she be mean to them later? She has to be agreeable and nice because they said she was attractive ... Oh my God. We're only on the second episode, and we're already deep in some Nice Guy apologist rhetoric.
Kaitlyn, you don't owe these men anything. Bathe in their tears. Savor having all the power. You're Kaitlyn, for God's sake. You're the cool, funny one.
Kaitlyn worries about giving a rose to someone who voted for Britt, but soft-talker Brady removes himself from the competition. He also says, "I'm going to find Britt," in a terrifying whisper. Host Chris agrees to help. Two men agreeing to track down a woman in hushed tones gives me nightmares.
Unfortunately, every Britt sympathizer doesn't remove himself from the competition and allow himself to get roses. I look forward to the Crucible-themed episode where those loyal to Britt are accused of witchcraft. That episode will be an ABC crossover event, and Viola Davis will play Tituba Keating. Shonda Rhimes really is a genius.
In the end, Kaitlyn sends a few contesticles home, and Shawn E doesn't get the chance to practice his sex coaching and rides off with his hot-tub car and a few other contesticles who didn't get enough screen time. I look forward to learning your names during the reunion special.
In the preview for the rest of the season, we can look forward to the men being territorial over Kaitlyn, and Kaitlyn being shamed for and feeling ashamed of her sexuality.