“Now THAT Is What I Call a Bachelor Premiere!”: Sharleen Joynt on The Bachelor Episode 1

Bach alum Sharleen Joynt shares her insider POV on the first episode of Pilot Pete's season

(Photo: ABC)
(Photo: ABC)

Now THAT is what I call a Bachelor premiere! Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but it would seem the show I’ve harped on for years for being too repetitive, too same ol’, has officially evolved. I think this change has been developing over recent seasons, but last night marked new territory. First, there’s a distinct difference in how contestants are being painted—more like accomplished, confident young women and less as desperate and love-deprived. Over the last two or so years, gimmick limo exits have gone from feeling like a contestant is missing her marbles to simply like she’s goofy and fun. Whenever a woman cried in last night’s episode, notice how we were given a little context for those tears—issues like unmet expectations for the experience itself, or being on the receiving end of unfair treatment—when in the past, a woman’s edit would show her crying over being rejected by the “soulmate” she’d known for a few hours. Perhaps the simplest, most obvious indicator of this evolution: the lack of BS occupations. Long gone are the “Chicken Enthusiast” days. I feel this—it was the most expendable of bells and whistles, too unbelievable to insult our intelligence, yet not clever enough to be funny. There will be plenty of poor decisions and suboptimal behaviour down the road for unflattering edits to be earned, not assigned. From flight attendants to nurses to realtors, every woman last night was given the respect of being introduced to millions of Americans with a legitimate job or career to her name.

I’ll be the first to admit I was a bit indifferent to Peter’s crowning as Bachelor. I just never felt like we got to know who Peter really was on Hannah’s season, other than he’s a nice guy from a nice family, he got severely heartbroken (as many do), and he’s capable of exceeding expectations in the bedroom. But while every Bachelor premiere paints a perfect picture of our leading man, I have to admit that by the end of last night’s episode, I’d at least sipped the Peter Kool-Aid. It’s not so much that I think Peter’s got such charisma and star quality (though I’ve heard from those who know him that there is a je-ne-sais-quoi to him, an in-person magnetism), but I appreciate his blissful low-key-ness, how unassuming he is. I love that he doesn’t have a ripped six-pack—his quiet confidence transcends needing to compensate for anything. Unlike Colton, you don’t get the sense Peter remotely planned (or even hoped) to wind up at the helm of his own season. (In fact, you very much get the sense that had he and Hannah reconnected, he might have turned down being Bachelor altogether—but more on that later.) Peter mentioned during his 1-on-1 time with Madison on Night One that, when one gets to know him, they’ll learn he’s actually quite shy. This explains a lot, and his being the star of his own season gives him the opportunity to shine in his own understated ways. A great example was the sweet moment he picked flowers for Victoria P, who had previously told him she’d never been given flowers. I’m impressed by his courtesy, by how much about Kelley he remembered the instant he saw her (despite the world currently revolving around him), by how he said farewell to every woman he sent home Night One BY NAME. But most importantly, I dug how he could straight-up admit he couldn’t remember Victoria R’s “dry humor” joke—wouldn’t we all rather know a guy just can’t remember what we said, rather than him pretending? Peter mumbled “that was bad” at himself after misreading Alayah’s letter from her Grandma Rose, saying Alayah liked “good looks”, not “good books.” He’s never defensive, but quick to take ownership, to admit he can’t remember or doesn’t know something, to laugh at himself, and THAT is what makes a good catch.

The format was very different last night. In order to squeeze in an extra near-full episode, a lot of traditional content was left on the editing room floor. The viewer in me loved it; it’s necessary to keep things moving, to hold onto our ever-waning interest, and I was appreciative when I realized I wasn’t bored for one second of that three-hour (!) episode. However, the recapper in me wasn’t thrilled with the changes. I almost don’t know where to start. I’ve lost track of how many ladies our Bachelor has kissed, who my frontrunners based on Night One were. Hannah Ann was on the cusp of that Night One villain edit, stealing kisses from Peter, using time that belonged to other women and being rewarded with the season’s First Impression Rose for it. Yet by the end of the episode, or mid-first week, she had grown quiet. (Rather, she didn’t disturb enough shit to stay at the forefront of her Group Date.) Based on Night One, I might have dismissed what Kelley and Peter shared, having met prior to the show, and I saw her lasting until about Week 6 or so. But their time together on the Group Date felt so familiar and established, she may be more of a frontrunner than I initially thought. Crucially, we missed substantial amounts of 1-on-1 time. Even if many of these women aren’t frontrunners, it’s an opportunity to get to know them, their stories. Every season has its share of “invisible” contestants, the ones who leave after weeks of filming and you struggle to remember their name. I suspect this season may have even more of those than usual.

That said, whether or not they end up departing without enough airtime, I always have my personal Night One favourites. Victoria P stood out not only because of her heart-wrenching but inspiring intro video, but for being so elegant and kind throughout the premiere (she really was the nicest “stealer” of all time). Despite the Group Date cheating debacle, I like Kelley a lot—there’s the combination of her having a solid life and career and not needing to do this. You get the sense she’s constantly wondering what she’s doing there, all the while getting enough affirmation from Peter to justify it. I was sad to see Maurissa go home but I appreciate that even in her short time, they touched on her history with an eating disorder and body image issues—this affects so many and should be highlighted. Lauren seems down to earth and cool, and I want to be friends with Katrina, who pulled off the hysterical “hairless pussy cat” line with an impossibly straight face and perfect comedic timing. Victoria F won my heart when she said, “I don’t want to be Victoria F” (what Lauren or Hannah hasn’t thought this in the past?) and Madison seems so chill, so confident and wise beyond her years.

But as always, the real star of the show: Hannah Brown. Hannah continues to be TV gold. She steals the spotlight wherever she goes, but not for reasons or in ways that are irksome. We’ve always had former leads return and given the show that “wait, is he/she coming back?” twist, but this is the first time ever where it feels like it could (and maybe should?) legitimately happen. The attraction and tension between these two seeps out of our screens at us, wrenches our hearts, and it’s for moments like Hannah’s tearful, regret-laden conversation with Peter that we watch reality TV at all. Hannah cannot fake it, and that is where her magic lies. I honestly think she’s the best thing to happen to this franchise in many years. In the Instagram model era and how airtime now begets so, so much more than 15 minutes of fame, it’s only natural that the potential gain would change how people behave on this show. Thus, it’s endlessly refreshing to watch someone who cannot be bought, for whom there’s no prize big enough to dictate her choices or behaviour. (And, almost defiantly, she has more followers than anyone!)

Some might have had their fill of Hannah or not wish for her to return or to stay involved, but I say bring it on. Peter was hurt Hannah had asked out Tyler at After The Final Rose and not reached out to him, meanwhile Hannah thought Peter wanted his own season and didn’t want to take that from him. They were two ships in the post- and pre-filming reality TV night, and production was as brilliant as it was calculated to have captured such a momentous conversation on camera. It was a gut-wrenching scene, and given the obvious chemistry still there, it would be difficult to watch this season ignoring the looming “what if” it left us with. And though it might not be considered “fair” for Hannah to return, as shown with consistency throughout last night’s premiere, so little about this show is.

My frontrunner predictions based on this premiere are…

Madison, 23

I REALLY like Madison. She’s got that “it” factor where men want to date her and women want to be her friend. She’s as cool and grounded as she is striking. She’s confident without ever veering arrogant. She handled her high-pressure 1-on-1 with grace and respect, and she really feels like the true product of loving and consistent parenting. None of this appears to be lost on Peter, who looks at her as though he’s won the lottery. If Madison doesn’t “win” this whole thing, I can still see her going VERY far, becoming prominent in the franchise long-term.

Hannah Ann, 23

Ahh, Hannah Ann. I’m torn on her. She is gorgeous, seems whip-smart and oozes self-assuredness. However, the way she handled Shiann’s (respectful and gentle) confrontation about stealing time from others rubbed me wrong. There’s a difference between “being bold” and “going after what you want,” and treating your time and experience as more valuable than others’. After all, this is every bit the once-in-a-lifetime experience for Shiann that it is for her. It’s about being courteous, the very trait we’re witnessing and appreciating in Peter, and which he himself appears to appreciate in others. This caused me to bump Hannah Ann to my second spot. Nevertheless, Peter is obviously taken with her, happily enjoying her aggression and bestowing her with the coveted First Impression Rose. Hannah Ann is a frontrunner if we’ve ever seen one.

Alayah, 24

We don’t know much about her past beyond her being beautiful, super sweet and close with her grandmother, but Alayah is perfectly positioned to make it VERY far this season. In the old days, not having an intro video might indicate a contestant isn’t one to watch, but in order to throw us off the scent, this has changed in recent years. In short, the fact that Alayah DIDN’T have an intro video tells me she’s perhaps purposely being kept from too prominent, too at the forefront. Alayah was first out of the limos and had some of her conversation with Peter shown, but not too much. Her ITM commentary was featured throughout the episode, but not too often. I have high hopes for Alayah and see her going very far.

Victoria P, 27

I was thisclose to having Kelley in this spot but after that Group Date, I wonder if Kelley is too obviously at the front of the pack and too early in the season for her to end up “winning.” Meanwhile, Victoria P, like Alayah, is better positioned, behind the front lines. Genuine and soft-spoken, Victoria P gives me major Danielle Maltby vibes. The fact that her 1-on-1 time with Peter was the only time other than Kelley’s shown on that date, over even Hannah Ann’s, secures her spot in my Top 4.