(Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Season 28 premiere of The Bachelor.)
Break out the champagne and awkward walking-out-of-the-limo jokes, because The Bachelor is back, baby! This time around, we’ve actually got a leading man we can root for—the swoon-worthy, impossibly charismatic, soft-spoken tennis pro Joey Graziadei. (After spending an entire Golden Bachelor season talking about pickleball, I think we’re all more than ready for a new sport du jour.) And if that wasn’t enough, this show kicks off with a devastating flash-forward set to Billie Eilish, signaling that we might just be in for… say it with me… the MOST DRAMATIC! SEASON! EVER!
Shockingly, this season’s introduction hints at a tragic ending for our most eligible Bachelor in history. We open on Joey as he weeps on the beach while a rose sits ominously on its little tray by his side. Wait, we are clearly meant to ask, did someone actually reject this beautiful man? Not for nothing, host Jesse Palmer has called this season’s ending “an unprecedented shocking first in Bachelor history.” Then again, this show has been known to trick us with the flash-forwards, so I’m just going to cover my eyes, plug my ears, and avoid Reality Steve like the devil while manifesting a future in which Joey winds up happy and we have all once again been deceived.
After 28 seasons of The Bachelor, we all know what to expect from a premiere, and as usual, all of the usual attractions are accounted for during this week’s premiere. There’s the sentimental reel about Joey’s new Journey to Find Love after last year’s Bachelorette, Charity Lawson, chose Dotun Olubeko over him. There are awkward jokes as women step out of the limo and onto Bachelor Mansion’s perpetually wet driveway—like the contestant who throws Joey a hunk of dough before saying she’s the one he kneads. Ladies are rolling in on boats, go-karts, and umpire chairs, and one New Orleans native even brought a voodoo doll as insurance. (This is almost as wild as the woman who tossed a giant bra at Joey, proclaiming that she’s “here for the massive support.”) And then, there’s Zoe, who hands Joey a tray of bananas and asks him to pick the one that most “resonates” with him. Woof.
And of course, we’ve got a couple contestants with a gimmick. Just like in Season 20, we’ve got two sisters competing—Allison Hollinger and Lauren Hollinger, who claim they’re going to keep their sibling-hood a secret but don’t even manage to go one night without blabbing. Most mysterious, however, is Lea Cayanan, who met Joey during Charity’s After the Final Rose and received an envelope that she was told not to open until this week’s premiere. It turns out, that little piece of paper was actually a plot mechanism designed to set this whole season on fire.
Lea’s advantage is also a double-edged sword: The card will enable her to steal a one-on-one date from any contestant before Hometowns week. A lesser contestant would have embraced the guaranteed face time with Joey, but Lea immediately starts crying when she realizes what the card really means. As she tells Joey, she’d be robbing him of his autonomy and sabotaging one of the other women “who have put their life on hold to come here” in the process.
“At the end of the day, I can have as many advantages and superficial one-ups as I can, but if I’m not Joey’s person at the end of this, then I’m not,” Lea tells him. “… It’s not gonna matter if I get a little card.”
Lea is absolutely right about the card; sure, it would give her a little leg up if she used it, but it would also make her life utter hell in the house, where the other women would resent her for the rest of the season. Sure enough, you can practically see the envy beaming off the other women as soon as Lea tells them what’s on the card. Wisely, she decides that a temporary advantage is not worth the cost and throws it into the fire instead. “That’s really sweet,” says another contestant named Jess with a “couldn’t be me” look on her face. “I would take it.”
Based on her actions throughout the premiere, Jess’s comment is far from surprising. Right after she gets a kiss from Joey, she makes sure to come back and tell all the women about it—which naturally ruffles a couple feathers. (As Kathy Swarts would have said last season on The Golden Bachelor, “Zip it!”) If that wasn’t enough, Jess also cut into another contestant’s time just as she and Joey were bonding over the fact they both come from blended families. Needless to say, the women of the house are not huge fans of Jess, who of course makes sure to tell us that she’s not “here to make friends.”
Convinced as Jess might be that she’s going to win the coveted First Impression Rose, that honor goes to Lea—a well deserved reward for her smart and empathetic call with the envelope. Other frontrunners for this season include Allison, much to the chagrin of her older sister; Maria, a 29-year-old Canadian executive assistant whom Joey instantly recognizes as a “firecracker”; and Daisy—a charming children’s book author who uses a cochlear implant and, like Taylor Swift, grew up on a Christmas tree farm. Naturally, Daisy wants a man who can bring that same “storybook” energy, and from the premiere, at least, it seems Joey is very into her.
Like every Bachelor before him, Joey is far from eager to send any of these women home, but alas, it must be done. Lauren is furious when Joey calls her sister’s name first—“you did not get the first rose,” she murmurs to Allison before throwing in a “go fuck yourself”—but ultimately, they both make the cut. Instead, it’s Chandler, Edwina, Kayla, Kyra, Lanie, Natalie, Sam H., Sam W., Talyah, and Zoe who go home. If I may drop just one bad pun of my own: Every woman on this season might want to marry this tennis pro, but only one can be his perfect match.