And even though we are sans Husseys and Eskimo kissers after brutal and seemingly arbitrary initial eliminations, there are still 22 hopeful women clamoring to be Nick's bronze medal (or at least secure a follow-up bang).
Before we get to season 21's first dates (and nuptial gowns), I finally had a chance to watch the pre-premiere Countdown to the Bachelor special, which contained some fun nuggets and additional nickname help that didn't make the first episode. So ICYMI...
Christen is not only a wedding photographer who is named after the son of God, she's also a virgin who is withholding flower pollination for religious purposes. Oh, and she takes out her sexual frustration on horseback.
My question is, if you're saving yourself for marriage, are you all that pious if you eventually submit to a man whore? This dude scores more than the New York Giants, and the big man upstairs clearly prefers the Packers. I dub her the Virgin Christ-en (because that's how I insist on pronouncing her name).
Dental hygienist with a cool accent Kristina is now Russian orphan Kristina because if A hasn't led you to B, she was adopted from a Russian orphanage by her American parents. She's also a big fan of Meryl Streep, so one has to wonder if she has a tweetstorm headed her way courtesy of the soon-to-be Commander-in-Chief.
Commando Canadian Hailey is friends with Canadian model and eagle-looking-for-another-eagle damn Daniel, which elevates her at least 163 spots in my season 21 rankings. Did you even consider that she may simply not know what women wearing underwear say? I mean, how could anyone answer such a vague question? Other than Daniel, of course, who likely has many entertaining guesses.
Finally, what the hell is going on with Shawn Booth's hair? He looks like the lead singer of Nickelback.
Going to the Chapel
The marathon first night is in the rear-view mirror, and the surviving suitorettes are waiting with bated breath to see who nabs the first one-on-one date. Particularly anxious is Nick f***er and obvious producer pick Liz, and by "anxious," I mean "anxious for all the other ladies to find out her secret organically."
Sure, she pretends it's weighing heavily on her soul, but she'll eventually kiss and tell. This is a gal who initially "pleaded the fifth" and claimed that a description of the tryst hinged on particular definitions of "spending the night together." Now she is bursting at the back-tatted and nose-pierced seams to blab to all her friends that she bedded their boyfriend. In reality, she wants the ego boost that comes with feigning shock when her competition voices its collective displeasure at her wild one-night stand.
The first date card arrives, and very serious businesswoman Corinne; frontrunning Italian-Canadian special ed teacher Vanessa; Jazzercising grade-school teacher Sarah; sharkphin Alexis (and kudos to Joel McHale for the irrefutable gill proof); commando Canadian Hailey; camel-riding Lacey; travel nurse Brittany; crybaby NBA dancer and Neil Lane companion Jasmine; four wheeler-riding, gun-shooting and boutique-owning Raven; nail salon owner Danielle L. and her generally partially-exposed breasts (seriously, this girl is H-O-T); bi-racial rollerblading-in-a-crop-top Taylor; and half wedding gown/half middle school recital costume Elizabeth W. -- a whopping 12 -- will be "always a bridesmaid." Just like Nick.
And We're ... Gonna Get Married
They arrive at Ascona Mansion in LA for a wedding photo shoot, which Jasmine for some reason believes to be "really a big deal." 'Cause pretend marriages are serious, y'all! Photographer Franco Lacosta has a collection of themed gowns, and he distributes them as follows:
Vanessa is the '80s bride
Alexis is the shotgun bride
Danielle L. is the traditional bride
Hailey is the biker bride
Sarah is the Vegas bride
Taylor is princess bride (not to be confused with Robin Wright)
Corinne is the beach bride
Brittany is the Adam and Eve bride (meaning she only gets an extra small fig-leaf bottom)
The other four girls are the bridesmaids, who Franco insists "make the picture." Somewhere, Katherine Heigl is wondering what happened to her career.
There will be a winner and a prize, and it's off to hair and makeup, with the possibility of added Nick time on the line. Alexis thought she'd be sexily posing with guns and hits the bottle immediately after strapping on her baby bump, which is probably how she got imitation-preggers in the first place.
Corinne won't shut up about getting the first kiss and being the first name on the date card (before making a number two poop reference), and Taylor feels slighted at the attempt to psych her out. The very serious businesswoman giddily assumes she's the sluttiest of all, until she beholds Brittany's biblical getup. "She'd better not steal my thunder," she growls, "or I will literally punch her in the face."
Gee, I Really Love You
Nick dons an outfit to match each bride, and though several steal kisses ("Tastes like Danielle," Elizabeth quips after her smooch), Alexis steals the show with her "Look what you did to me!" berating. Corinne feels the need to one-up Brittany's boob-show, so she strips down in the pool and lets Nick hold her "bare bosoms" (her words), Janet Jackson-style.
"That's so trashy," my wife says, before Franco declares Corinne the winner. Say what? The shark gets the shaft! The winning couple drives off in a "Just Married" convertible, while everyone involved wonders what the hell just happened.
The night portion of the date takes place atop Level Furnished Living, and Corinne immediately steals Nick for multiple rooftop make-out sessions. The other women determine that the 24-year-old is not wifey material, even though she's "falling and falling and falling," "trying to grab him first, first, first, first, first," with "feelings that grow stronger and stronger and stronger." No thanks, lady. I only want to taste my dinner once tonight.
Going to the Chapel of Love
The women continue to ride the Nick carousel, and he's decidedly unexcited when Raven steals him. She walked in on her last boyfriend with another girl, and he talks to her like a high school guidance counselor trying to help a student choose a community college.
Nick is finally getting a proper Alexis introduction (though she continues to insist it was a dolphin costume) when Corinne again interrupts, and as if she wasn't already the villain, she returns to the group with news of a possible nip slip during their conversation.
Then as Taylor discusses getting her psych degree in three years and going straight for her Master's at Johns Hopkins (meaning she's too smart for him), Corinne ... busts ... in ... again. Taylor promptly swipes him back, prompting Corinne to rant about class and dignity before declaring that Taylor has neither.
"She is going to get real old," my wife says. "I would've already gotten in, like, three fights with her."
There's an awkward Corinne-led confrontation and group lecture about staying focused on Nick, and in the end, the date rose goes to Taylor Corinne. WTF? She does a literal victory cheer, and all that Bachelor in Paradise goodwill Nick built up is quickly eroding.
Helicopters, Yachts and Hot Tubs, Oh My
The coveted one-on-one goes to other favorite neonatal nurse Danielle M., as their "relationship is about to take off." In an effort to cram as many Bachelor stereotypes into one date, she and Nick ride a helicopter ride that lands on a yacht, where they sip label-less champagne (the fanciest kind) and lock lips in a hot tub before a romantic dinner on Balboa Island.
They are from the same state, which facilitates a comfort, and she strikes him as a down-to-earth Midwesterner. For the sake of transparency, Nick openly and honestly lays out his past over dinner, but it's the heartbreaking details of Danielle's backstory that forge their connection.
Her fiance died of a drug overdose five and a half years ago, and even though she's reluctant to share, he reminds her to remember the good things about the relationship that made her feel special and hold on to them at times when she's feeling vulnerable. It's the best possible response, not trying to compete with or compare to her ex, and the rose is a formality before kisses atop a Ferris wheel.
Book the hometown date now. And my wife loves her jumpsuit.
I Walk These Empty Streets
Back at the mansion, Nick f***er Liz finally cracks and reveals her secret to the Virgin Christ-en, and once the floodgates are open, she doesn't hold back on the sordid details -- right down to "intermittent sex talk" while they were wasted and making out against a wall in the hallway. The virgin ears listen, but Christ-en isn't so keen on the NSFW aspect of the discussion.
The date card -- "We need to talk" -- goes to Heil Astrid (she's the one who speaks German), the Virgin Christ-en, Russian orphan Kristina, lonely kitty cat seal-whisperer Josephine, "I have balls" chef Jaimi, and Nick f***er Liz.
That means the dateless crew this time consists of vacuuming attorney/Great Black Hope Rachel (who wears a "Rachel" necklace, just in case Nick forgets), camel-riding Lacey, Pilates instructor Whitney and waitress Dominique.
On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
The sevensome heads to Hollywood's Museum of Broken Relationships, which includes a wilted rose and the ring Nick gave to Kaitlyn. Seeing it gives him hope because his path brought about self-discovery and led him to this point, and now he's confident about who he is and what he wants in a mate.
The six women partake in a live-audience break-up symposium, during which they must dump Nick, but the subtle subtext involves Liz and Christ-en being acutely aware that Nick is avoiding his former fling. Then it's showtime.
Astrid breaks a rose over her knee because he's dating all her friends.
Kristina has issues with Nick's oral health.
Jaimi is done with all the dirty dishes and dirtier underwear.
Christ-en accuses Nick of being verbally abusive and calling her fat.
Josephine for-real slaps his face over apparent alcoholism.
It's all fun and games until Liz bares her soul in an overly honest tale of their first meeting and Christ-en's mouth is agape, while the other four rave about her acting chops. Nick is visibly uncomfortable and comes to the conclusion that he should have addressed the topic earlier, even though this is the first round of dates.
Where the City Sleeps
The group heads to an after-party at the Olm Nightclub, where Nick worries that Liz has spilled the beans without ascribing him the same respect he's trying to reciprocate. It distracts him in his interactions, even overshadowing Jamie's confession of a previous lesbian relationship (she promises not to take the one he wants), but his fears are confirmed when Christ-en laments how uncomfortable the break-up game must have been for him on account of all the banging.
He sets out to determine if Liz is in this for him or to be on TV. And even though he has no problem with them having a past, she had every opportunity to reach out to him or simply stay in contact over the past nine months had she so desired. And as a result, he's moved on.
She counters that she's not a phone person and knew he was busy, but as much as he wants to find reasons to keep her around, it's not happening. And considering the impact her presence could have on the other women, he has the clarity he was seeking regarding their future, i.e. that there isn't one.
Walking her to the elevator is the easy part, though, because now he has to come clean about his dirty deeds if he hopes to find honest love. So how will the ladies take the news? To be continued...
The episode plays out with Nick and Alexis celebrating the one-year anniversary of her boob job, though she assures him that her knockers taste better than the terrible cupcakes they share.
She might be firmly in the friend zone after this, but some relationships are clearly progressing faster than others. Neonatal nurse Danielle M. and special ed teacher Vanessa remain my favorites, with partially-exposed Danielle L. and too-smart Taylor rounding out my top four. Though, I must admit that Adam-and-Eve travel nurse Brittany put herself on the map with the photo shoot.
Who are your favorites? Who is climbing and falling in your rankings and who has yet to even register? Do you think Nick's past with Liz is a big deal when everyone obviously knows he also had sex with Andi and Kaitlyn? Finally, will any of the women leave? Or will his handling of the situation ease their nerves? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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