But as we leave the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and the tragedy- and celebrity death-infused 2016 in the rear view mirror, it's time for America to open its real present -- Nick Viall's unprecedented fourth quest for televised love.
The Dawn of the Douchebachelor
Love him or hate him, twice-the-bridesmaid Nick is a welcome break from the mold of choosing the next leading man or woman from the previous season's rejectables. While equally monotone and mundane, Luke Pell and Chase McNary own different sets of matched baggage that would be tough to drag along the course of an entire season.
Chase used his hometown date to subject JoJo to his unresolved daddy issues and only redeemed himself with a last-ditch effort at being a gentleman, while Luke ... well, Luke's luggage is beige.
Meanwhile, those of you who have followed these recaps for years know that I have been on Team Nick since day one, rooting for him over gruff-and-tumble man-babies Josh Murray and Shawn Booth. But Andi and Kaitlyn preferred the insecure-yet-macho gladiator-type who literally fought for a woman's honor, and even though both let him check their oil levels with his dipstick, they left Nick jilted at the altar.
Nick was never a favorite among his fellow combatants, but while there are plenty of examples of me-first narcissists only interested in the game, Nick was hated for a different reason (though it was articulated similarly). He didn't piss people off because he was playing the game, rather because he was winning it. He showed up all the other guys but in ways that were self-deprecating yet endearing to his chosen suitorette.
And yet when it seemed all was lost and that he was destined to find love like every other normal well-endowed man, Bachelor in Paradise came a-callin'. And with Josh playing the role of the woman-stealing prick -- the perfect foil that I still believe was in JoManda's contract -- the 35-year-old elder statesman earned redemption as the wise, mature Mr. Owl (with Jen the obvious third lick before the Tootsie Roll center of the Tootsie Pop) to the group of whiny, petulant children (and whatever Evan is).
Now all those ladies' losses are our gain, with the always-in-love, sensitive-yet-buff man-slut set to take center stage in a journey to whittle down dozens of desperate damsels into his soulmate. But does he have enough Nick juice to go around? Get this man some Gatorade because the tri-annual pilgrimage begins now.
From Bad Boy to Bachelor
Nick's unparalleled three-year journey has taken him from the obscurity of normalcy to perpetual limelight, and at least five of his abs still can't believe he's the Bachelor. A trip through the past reveals his bad traits, which include mumbling his words, being long-winded, resting his head in his hands, avoiding eye contact and, of course, getting his heart smashed to smithereens on numerous occasions.
After some tidbits of advice from the family, he kisses his mom goodbye and heads back to the mansion, where he is greeted by the ghosts of Bachelors past in the form of wily marriage veteran Sean Lowe, ever-in-the-spotlight Ben Higgins and perpetually single-farm boy Chris Soules. Basically, it's like inviting your divorced cousin to spend Christmas with you and your married siblings, and pretending he has something useful to add.
They tout his newfound humility (and the fact that many viewers flat-out don't like him) before more offerings of sage wisdom that include: be yourself, trust yourself, don't freak out, let the fourth time be the charm.
A Vignette in Time
It's time for the intern-acted pre-limo vignettes, and first up is 31-year-old Rachel, a civil litigation attorney from Dallas. She loves her job because her day-to-day is never the same, but afterwards, she chills out by blasting music and vacuuming her apartment. She wants a man, a companion and a family, and she thinks Nick is adorable.
Danielle L. is 27 and owns nail salons in Los Angeles. She rocks the cleavage and lets the wind blow through her hair on the beach.
Vanessa is a 29-year-old special needs teacher from Montreal who learned French and English in school and grew up speaking Italian (because she is "100% EYE-talian"). As the uncle of a 9-year-old with severe autism, she's already ahead in my book.
Josephine is just a baby at 24, but the nursing student is already lonely outside of her kitty cat's company. She seems more interested in the Halloween version of a nurse's uniform, and after a near heart attack and loud scream at learning that Nick was her prize, she consults some pier seals as to her prospects for success. She's either going to be awesome or an absolute nutjob.
Welcome to Hoxie, Arkansas, home to fewer than 3,000 people. But one of them is four wheeler-riding, gun-shooting, boutique-owning Raven, 25. It's family, faith and football in small-town America, and she's probably super stoked for a Trump presidency. She's happy being a business owner, but like the seal whisperer before her, Raven is lonely.
Corinne lives and works with her family (and her nanny) in the lap of luxury, and the 24-year-old is an infinity pool aficionado. She apparently runs the multi-million-dollar business started by her father, and she orders her pops around in a show of authority before describing herself as "a very serious businesswoman" and taking a bikini-clad stroll through the surf. She seems like a peach.
Next up is a trip to the Garden State, where 23-year-old Alexis shows off Secaucus like it's Beverly Hills. She loves dolphins and weird people because she does wild things like walk to CVS in an inflatable sumo wrestler costume. Life is short, right? She's an aspiring dolphin trainer (without any, you know, schooling), and she's certain that Nick is also a fan of doing things on porpoise. At least her dog is cute. And he likes the pool.
Danielle M. is a soft-spoken 30-year-old neo-natal intensive care nurse in Nashville, and I could see her relaxed attitude meshing with Nick's personality. Either that or we'll never hear a peep from her again.
Taylor is a mental health counselor from Seattle, and at 23, she's another who seems out of Nick's age-range wheelhouse. Still, she got her Master's degree from Johns Hopkins, so she may be a bit more mature than, say, Haley and Emily (or Emily and Haley). Her bi-racial parents made it difficult for her to find her identity, but she's learned to both love herself and rollerblade in a bikini top and tiny shorts. So she's go that going for her.
Elizabeth ("Liz") is a 29-year-old doula from Las Vegas, but more important, she was Jade's maid of honor. She cut a rug with Nick at the nuptials before sharing his bed, but she declined his request for her digits at the end of their liaison. Now that he's the Bachelor, she's ready to "take the risk" and get to know him better. You can't say she's not opportunistic.
Ten down, 20 to go.
Nick Meets His Ladies
Despite any preconceived notions, Nick is hoping the women arrive with a clean slate and an open mind, and he vows to be vulnerable and continue to put himself out there. Then the first limo pulls up, and the first of 30 vixens steps out to get this booze-fueled party started. As per the usual, I will loosely rate each of the first impressions in one of five ways: memorable-good, normal, memorable-bad, forgettable and memorable-disaster. And, yes, nicknames are forthcoming.
Nail salon owner Danielle L. kicks things off with her own seal pups fully on display, and if she's not careful, she might end up distracting Alexis. She tells Nick she's excited to meet him as he briefly pulls his gaze from the inner half of each boob to actually look at her face. Verdict: Memorable-good.
Elizabeth is a 24-year-old marketing manager from Dallas wearing a dress best described as half wedding gown, half middle school dance recital costume (kind of like a hairless mullet). She's nervous and is happy he's the man. Verdict: Forgettable.
Next is vacuuming attorney Rachel, who just finished drafting her fantasy team but only wants to make plays for Nick's heart this season. Verdict: Memorable/knows things that straight guys are supposed to like.
Nick solemnly slow-claps 25-year-old wedding photographer Christen, who holds a giant folding hand fan in front of her face before the big reveal. I don't know if I'm more annoyed by her bizarre attempt at theatrical flair, that she asks Nick if he thinks she's crazy (no red flags there) or that her parents chose the common Jesus-related spelling of her name. Though, admittedly, that one's not her fault. Verdict: Memorable-bad.
Blasts from the Past
Bi-racial rollerblading Taylor looks like she's about to cry when she steps out of the limousine, but Nick helps her hug it out before she divulges that all her friends told her not to go on the show because Nick "is complete piece of shit." It does not go over as well as she anticipated. "I cannot wait to meet her friends," he mutters. Verdict: Memorable-disaster.
Kristina, a 24-year-old dental hygienist with a cool accent, has a slightly more successful approach, telling him she wants to get to know Nick for Nick despite anyone else's opinions. Verdict: Normal.
Angela is a 26-year-old model with a bare midriff, and she wouldn't be here for anyone but Nick. Verdict: Normal.
Law school grad Lauren is 30 and shares Nick's curse of a terrible last name. Hers is Hussey, so together they're a disgusting slut. But wait, does "law school graduate" mean she's not actually a lawyer? Verdict: Memorable-good, for now.
While the women inside discuss Nick's past villainry, the trend continues outside as well. Michelle is a 24-year-old food truck owner who hopes to turn his past lemons into lemonade, and 24-year-old "restaurant server" (i.e. "waitress") Dominique reiterates the previous "fourth time is a charm" sentiment. Verdict: Forgettable.
Trust is important to 23-year-old sales manager Ida Marie (is there anyone who's like, "I don't care about trust"?), so she and her bare midriff take a backwards trust fall into Nick's arms. Verdict: Memorable-good/forgettable, depending on how much a guy likes an exposed stomach.
A Grand Entrance
Olivia, 25, is an apparel sales rep from Alaska, so she sports a full fur coat in the moderate California climate and gives Nick Eskimo kisses. Verdict: Memorable-good.
Cue the Flashdance music because 26-year-old grade school teacher Sarah jazzercises up in some sneaks because she's also a "runner-up." Zing! She assures Nick that he's no silver medal in her eyes, and we're off to the races. Verdict: Memorable-good.
Jasmine G. (there are multiple Jasmines?) is a 29-year-old NBA dancer whose bio reveals that she has a tattoo on the inside of her lip. Ouch. She brought Neil Lane in her limo to help Nick with the ring selection process, but I think at this point the dude has it down. Verdict: Memorable-bad.
Canadian photographer Hailey, 23, asks Nick if he knows what a girl wearing underwear might say in this situation. Yeah, yeah, neither does she. Verdict: Memorable-good/memorable-disaster, based on whether you want to tell your eventual kids what their mom's first words were before you cradle-robbed her.
Astrid only speaks German in her introduction, but Nick is pretty sure the 26-year-old plastic surgery office manager said something about sex. It's like what Hailey did but with a touch of harshly-spoken subtlety. Verdict: Memorable-good.
The Salmon of Capistrano
Another limo rolls up with more than a dozen women remaining, and 29-year-old Nick f***er Liz saunters up. He's clearly thinking, uhhh, don't I know you from somewhere? But for the time being, he is seemingly unaware that her bedpost notch is already carved. Verdict: Apparently forgettable.
Chris Harrison wastes no time in questioning the situation, and Nick is roughly 99% sure it's the same girl from Jade and Tanner's wedding. But, you know, that 1%. Chris tells him to get to the bottom of it, and I'm disappointed he didn't quip, "Well, I was already on top of it."
Very serious businesswoman Corinne can't believe this moment is finally here, and she gives Nick a hug token to be cashed in at a later time. Verdict: Memorable-good.
Front-running Italian-Canadian special ed teacher Vanessa is out next, and they pay each other physical compliments before she launches into some French. It's like German but pleasant. Verdict: Memorable-good.
Take Me to Your Wiener
Soft-spoken neo-natal nurse Danielle M. presents Nick with some homemade maple syrup that he licks off her finger ("if things get sticky with the other girls, come find me"), and they both express confidence in their respective abilities at making French toast. At least we know what they'll eat the morning after. Verdict: Memorable-good.
Four wheeler-riding, gun-shooting, boutique-owning Raven starts off with the Arkansas "pig sooie" Calling of the Hogs cheer, and she walks Nick through the routine, complete with spirit fingers. Probably a bit too Josh Murray for his liking, though he digs her accent. Verdict: Memorable-good.
Jaimi is a 28-year-old chef from New Orleans, and she appreciates that he has balls. She does too, in the form of a septum piercing that leaves two little balls at the ends of her hoop figuratively suspended above her upper lip. Like a cow but, you know, sexier? She enters the mansion and screams to all the ladies that she has balls. Verdict: Memorable-bad.
Surgical unit nurse Briana, 28, giggles as she listens to Nick's heartbeat, while 26-year-old accounting manager Susannah offers a beard massage ("and there's more where that came from!"). Verdicts: Memorable-bad.
Lonely kitty cat Josephine is as boisterous as she can be before making Nick Lady and the Tramp an uncooked hot dog she hid in a carved-out novel like Andy's rock hammer. It's supposed to signify his wiener, in her book, though I don't think she understands the symbolism of making him eat it. And it apparently tastes horrible. Verdict: Memorable-disaster.
Travel nurse Brittany, 26, dons a rubber glove and bends Nick over "to make sure he's clean," but the focus for her is that she's, like, the 15th girl wearing a red dress. Verdict: Forgettable.
Similarly-attired 25-year-old flight attendant Jasmine B. also got the memo, as did 25-year-old pilates instructor Whitney. Verdicts: Forgettable, though Whitney might have what it takes to overcome the less-than-stellar first impression.
Twenty-five-year-old digital marketing manager Lacey rides in on a camel because they both "enjoy a good hump," and she and Hailey are likely to be fast friends. Plus, they have the whole red dress thing in common. Verdict: Memorable. Just ... memorable.
Shockingly, more than one woman opines over not thinking of the camel first because, honestly, how can you beat a camel? I'm sure there are ways (a stick, perhaps?), but it's not what CVS sumo wrestler Alexis attempts. The final woman to arrive, with whom I share a home state, gets out of the limo in a full-body shark costume and tells him she "dolphinately can't wait to talk to [him] inside." Still, she insists she's a dolphin and makes dolphin noises to prove it. Verdict: Memorable-dolphinaster.
30 for 30
The champagne and cocktails are flowing as Nick struggles to decipher between red dresses, while the women are smitten with his brooding manliness and on-camera maturation. He urges them to feel as empowered as possible and to make the experience as normal as can be in an abnormal world, and then it's time to kick-start the campaign.
Vacuuming attorney Rachel talks law and football, and he appreciates her presence and that they both have huge families (Nick is the second oldest of 11). She's the early favorite for the first-impression rose, though the claws are not yet out, as the silver platter carrying the flower has not been presented for inspection.
Super fan (get it?) Christen gives him a praise-filled ballroom dancing lesson, while partially bare-chested nail salon owner Danielle L. enjoys a nice chat on the steps. I use the word "chat" loosely, as Nick is overly focused on her dress. Raven asks to know something he wouldn't usually tell people.
Flexing the Paws
The above-mentioned rose arrives on a bronze tray, instantly ratcheting up the tension, and very serious businesswoman Corinne hopes to curry favor with a whole sack of tokens. It has a dollar sign on the side like a cartoon bank robber's getaway bag, and she promises that they're good for more than just hugs. Still, she fights off the urge to inappropriately kiss him.
Italian-Canadian special ed teacher Vanessa was submitted to the show by her friend before she knew for whom she'd be competing, but the stars aligned when Nick was chosen. She's easily my choice for pre-season favorite, though I think the neo-natal nurse could be a sleeper.
Vanessa is hoping for a kiss before Corinne interrupts because very serious businesswomen always go after what they want when they want it. And even though Nick doesn't have his tokens on him, she scores the first smooch sesh of the season, much to the onlookers' chagrin. Still, he didn't feel entirely comfortable and hopes that no one saw. Good luck with that. Villain number one has been identified, and Corinne wastes no time making sure all the ladies are aware of her make-out.
Back to the Future
Having already sampled the goods, Nick f***er Liz does not feel threatened, while Heil Astrid describes the level of feisty in the competition. Several ladies have yet to get any time with Nick, and they're feeling the pressure as the night rolls along.
The interruptions come fast and furious, with roaming packs of females seeking both attention and validation. NBA dancer and Neil Lane companion Jasmine G. is the first to lose her cool, and her anxiety leads to the first tears of the season. And all the while, sharkphin Alexis remains firmly in costume and even hilariously wades through the pool. She also appears a bit tipsy and drops more than a few F-bombs. Corinne surmises, as very serious businesswomen do, that Alexis must be fat.
Nick finally sits down with the Nick f***er, and Liz is impressed that he actually remembers their tryst. She insists that she's not there simply because he's the Bachelor, but he's not buying it since she had perpetual access to his number through her bestie. He brushes off her request for one more question when model Angela cuts in, which doesn't bode well for her chances of sticking around.
And the Rose Goes To...
Commando Canadian Hailey discusses being Canadian, bi-racial rollerblading Taylor clarifies how many of her friends believe Nick is a turd, and model Angela gifts him a framed Carrie Bradshaw quote (not as on-point with straight guy stuff as the fantasy football chick, I guess).
Still, the majority assumes Corinne is going to get the first-impression rose, lest it be assumed that she's only a moderately serious businesswoman. After an endearing conversation with soft-spoken neo-natal Danielle M., Nick stuns the masses by awarding the season's second back target (and second make-out) to vacuuming attorney Rachel.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this the first time the recipient has been a woman of color. Perhaps we are finally turning over a new leaf and setting the stage for a black Bachelorette.
The Crucial Moment Arrives
And just like that, it's time for the first rose ceremony. Nick tells the women they are as intriguing as they are beautiful, even though he's about to send a bunch of them on their not-so-merry way. The flowers go to (and, yes, Alexis is still in the shark costume):
Frontrunner Italian-Canadian special ed teacher Vanessa
T's on the loose nail salon owner Danielle L.
Super fan Christen (solely for religious purposes)
Very serious businesswoman Corrine
Hairless mullet Elizabeth W.
Crybaby NBA dancer and Neil Lane companion Jasmine G.
Four wheeler-riding, gun-shooting, boutique-owning Raven
Dental hygienist with a cool accent Kristina
Other favorite neo-natal nurse Danielle M.
Grade-school flashdancer Sarah
Lonely kitty cat seal-whisperer Josephine (leaning more towards crazy than awesome)
Loves a good hump Lacey
Bi-racial rollerblading Taylor
Sharknado Alexis (because she brought a smile to Nick's face all night, even though they still can't agree as to whether she is a shark or a dolphin)
Commando Canadian Hailey
Pilates instructor Whitney (as predicted, defying the curse of the red dress)
I also have balls chef Jaimi
Travel nurse Brittany
Nick f***er Liz (booooo -- though it appears she has an upper back tattoo, so ... kudos)
That means it's a premature ejectulation for:
Model Angela (proving you can't Sex and the City a guy without prior knowledge)
Law school grad Lauren Hussey (Nick clearly didn't have a chance to Google her because ... damn), who went into it with an open heart but has yet to find a man who appreciates her. She's a self-proclaimed awesome girlfriend and will some day be an awesome wife. But you know what she's not? An awesome lawyer.
Heartbeat-eavesdropper Briana, who reminds us how much it must suck for the girls who leave stone-cold sober after the sun has risen.
Forgettable food truck owner and lemonade-making Michelle
Trust fall Ida Marie
Eskimo-kisser Olivia (this one disappoints me)
Red dress flight attendant Jasmine B.
Beard massaging Susannah
Nick cheers his remaining women on sticking around past the first night of the journey, and then it's time for a preview of the season. Get ready for: Liz not caring about other ladies kissing Nick since she banged him just long enough ago to make a baby, The Backstreet Boys, a former lesbian, a topless Corinne, the Northern Lights and tears -- lots and lots of tears (both of the male and female variety). And is that a Livestrong bracelet Nick is wearing? Is it 2003? Does Lance have as many balls as Jaimi?
And since it's clear that Corinne is the villain, here are a few quotes to anticipate as she desperately attempts to seduce Nick (which, in all fairness, might not be that difficult):
"My sex abilities are definitely top-notch."
"My heart is gold, but my vajeen is platinum." Reminder: Borat came out a decade 11 years ago. Aapparently, I need to remember it's 2017.)
Here's to hoping he can resist for the sake of transparency, but thankfully he'll have Chris Soules' Bachelor survival kit to help him. It has tissues, bandages and a Magic 8 Ball. Seriously, who invited this guy? At least Ben Flajnik can offer up some wine.
On a side note, I was given a dollar-store version of the Magic 8 Ball years ago called "The Orb," and it has never been wrong. There's not much water left in there, so you kind of have to guesstimate what it's trying to tell you, but it's the benefit of not being commercial. The Orb has no choice but to be accurate. The Magic 8 Ball, like Chris Soules, is just recognizable enough to wing it. Let's hope Nick isn't superstitious.
My favorites are clearly Vanessa and Danielle M, but who are your favorites? And what did you think of the premiere? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
The Bachelor season 21 airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC. Want more news? Like our Bachelor Facebook page.