The Bachelor deems Nick Viall "the most controversial Bachelor in history," because ABC is characterizing the show's choice to serve us thrice-reheated leftovers as a bold one. We’ll see about that, but after a montage of Nick’s misadventures from two seasons of The Bachelorette and a stint on Bachelor In Paradise, we meet Nick again for the very fourth time at the top of the Season 21 premiere. The producers also film Nick stripping down and taking a shower, in case his mumbled meditations on Bachelorhood aren’t holding you in thrall yet.

After Nick promises that he’s going to "give America a happy ending," previous Bachelors Ben Higgins, Sean Lowe and Chris Soules gather to reflect on that fact that, as Lowe points out, "a lot of people see [Nick] as this giant tool bag that they don't like," but his nuanced turn on Bachelor in Paradise presented a more "likable" and "humble" guy. In the rich tradition of the franchise’s first episodes, Nick soon arrives to receive wisdom from the Bachelor alums (the gist is "be yourself").

And then, after Sentient Bowl of Vanilla Pudding Chris Harrison provides yet another explanation for why Nick was chosen as The Bachelor — Nick's Bachelor in Paradise journey "resonated with us, and with viewers everywhere," so stop wishing it was Bachelorette fave Luke Pell already, basically — we finally meet the featured contenders in a flurry of pre-taped intros:

  • Rachel, a lawyer who loves to dance while vacuuming and seems too smart for this show
  • Danielle L., a nail salon magnate who talks like a baby
  • Danielle M., a neonatal nurse who talks like a baby
  • Vanessa, a trilingual French Canadian special needs teacher (getting strong Final Three vibes from Vanessa)
  • Josephine, a nursing student who wants to be The Funny One
  • Raven, an ATV-riding southern boutique owner
  • Corinne, a self-described “very serious businesswoman” who refers to herself in the third person and is still tended to by her childhood nanny
  • Taylor, a mental health counselor
  • Liz, who already slept with Nick when she was maid of honor at Bachelor In Paradise couple Jade and Tanner’s wedding (???!)
  • Alexis, an Aspiring Dolphin Trainer who, like Josephine, aims to be The Funny One

Alexis has clearly made dolphin fetishism her shtick, but fellow contestants Angela, Astrid, Briana and Lauren’s bios maintain that they, too, wish they were dolphins. Prior to the season premiere, it was fun to imagine that the Bachelor producers found all of these women in the same dolphin cosplay chat room and recruited them to find out how many episodes it takes Nick to get weirded out by constant mentions of dolphins.

But there’s no need for long-con practical jokes here, because the limo introductions are weird enough without that. Taylor immediately tells Nick her friends told her Nick's a "total piece of s---," while another points out that she and Nick were both "blessed with terrible last names" (Viall and Hussey), so together they’re a "disgusting slut!" A third woman demands the two of them do a trust fall immediately, and Nick obliges. As he meets more possible future finalists, the women inside Bachelor Manor drive home the talking points about how Nick’s fourth televised shot at love is, in fact, brave, and not at all weird. But then with some visual punnery, contestant Sarah runs up to Nick in her Easy Spirits to tell him he's "by no means a runner up" in her eyes (GET IT?). Does the show want us to view Nick as a flawed yet evolved Prince Charming in the making, or the perpetually awkward butt of a joke?

ABC Press
ABC Press

Nick doesn't appear to remember Liz, with whom he had post-wedding sex, but Liz keeps it Cool Girl and claims to "kinda like that, I like a little mystery." Meanwhile, the editors give us footage of Nick’s eyes darting about as the Liz-related gears supposedly turn in his head.


Chris Harrison then comes over to further gaslight Nick, pretending to be surprised when he mentions he’s met Liz at the wedding of fellow Bachelor franchise alums. "Huh? You think you met her? A wedding? Weird." Please don't make me feel bad for Nick, Bachelor string-pullers.

Nick meets the remaining dozen-plus women vying for his affection. The Funny One contender Josephine pressures Nick to "Lady and the Tramp it" with a cold hot dog, while another straight rolls up riding a camel, because "I hear you like a good hump, and so do I." About ten of the women are shocked to realize they weren’t the only one to think of wearing a red dress, while Raven and Dominique are both disappointed that they didn’t think of the camel thing. This Insecurity Stew is meaty!

Alexis, unsurprisingly, goes the costume route and refuses to acknowledge that she’s dressed as a shark and not her spirit animal: “I dolphin-ately can’t wait to talk to you more inside.” Alexis seems genuine and I’ll be sad when she goes.


After some mixin’ and minglin’, Chris Harrison places the First Impression Rose on the table — which often points to who’ll go the distance in the competition — and of course everybody stares at it like they’re Gollum and the red bloom is their Precious. Corinne, who has yet to inform Nick that she’s a grown woman still cared for by a nanny, gives Nick a sack of doubloons ("hug tokens"). She also nabs the first kiss of the night, though in a confessional he later says he didn’t feel “totally comfortable” about it and hopes the other women didn’t see them (they were watching from the window).

A whirlpool of Corinne-judging ensues, despite the fact that everyone here has already referenced previous Bachelor seasons and knows as well as I do that the coveted First French is a Bachelor/Bachelorette near-inevitability — just ask Jordan Rodgers, who was the first to kiss JoJo Fletcher on last season’s Bachelorette and eventually won. The stepped-up competition launches several increasingly-contentious rounds of "'scuse me can I steal you for a minuuute?" The pressure causes Jasmine G., Pro Basketball Dancer, to melt into frustration tears and elicits Xena: Warrior Princess-like "dolphin calls" from Alexis, which keep Nick just long enough to inform her that it's definitely shark costume.

Nick and Liz re-meet to discuss their previously unaddressed wedding sex, and it’s about as awkward as you’d expect. Nick is sketched out by the fact that she refused to give him her number in real life yet wants to date him on network television, and I have to agree with Nick here.

Nick’s choices continue to win me over when he picks Rachel as winner of the First Impression Rose. Vanessa’s reaction to being passed over is truly the face of the Oscar nominee who thought she had it in the bag. I’m firmly Team Rachel for now — in addition to seeming kind and levelheaded, she's in the general neighborhood of Nick's age (31, he's 36) in a sea of 23-25 year olds still laying the groundwork for their lives and careers.

ABC Press
ABC Press

And then, the main event: It's the first Rose Ceremony of Season 21.

Nick chooses Vanessa (obviously), Danielle L., Christen (a little unexpected?), Astrid, Corinne the Walking Red Flag, Elizabeth, Jasmine G., Jaimi, Raven, Kristina (who, in a bit of cross editing, is made to seem on the verge of losing her goddamned mind before her name is called), Danielle M., Sarah, Josephine, Lacey (who?), Taylor, Alexis (thank god), Hailey, Whitney, Dominique, Brittany and surprisingly, Liz!

Olivia, Angela, Lauren and Briana are among those who make weepy departures — but if Nick's proven anything, it's that anyone can set a second, third and even fourth shot at the franchise, so don't count them out.

The Men of The Bachelor: Then and Now

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