Sharleen Joynt on Episode 1 of The Bachelorette

The former Bach contestant, podcast host and FLARE columnist shares her insider's POV on the season premiere

Presented by SkipTheDishes

As many of you might know, I began a podcast about two months ago, where my husband and I discuss relationships and answer dating questions. It has been very interesting to observe which questions have become true “FAQs,” frequently-asked enough to warrant their own tangents (or even episodes!). So far, those FAQs have been regarding finances, jealousy and “knowing.” A lot of people want to know how you know, if there is such a thing as “just knowing.” Thus, it was with some amusement that I found myself watching Clare declare that she would “know” her husband the second she met him, that she “knew” Dale was her husband having just met him, after a minute-or-so long conversation (and I’m being generous).

Now, not to rain on any soulmate or love-at-first-sight parades, but I just don’t believe in it. I have as good a relationship as I ever could have dreamed (certainly, I doubted if I could be completely 100% content with any partner), but I cannot claim to have “just known” the second I met Andy. Andy is a tad more romantic, claiming he “just knew” within five minutes of speaking to me, but I tend to chalk that up to his age and experience. And, hey, it makes a nice story.

In Clare’s case, one can’t help but make the connection between her words and the fact that hers was the first season in history where filming was delayed after her cast had been announced. In other words, she had all the time in the world to stalk her men’s online presences. (And I’m not judging here—who in their right mind wouldn’t??) Certainly, it was enough time for Blake Moynes to break the rules and slide into her DMs. (Such a disobedient Canadian!) This is a crucial detail. We live in a time where our social media presence has the distinct ability to turn one on or off; a face-to-face first impression can easily be stolen by an Instagram profile. And I’m not saying Clare didn’t go into her experience with an open mind—as she surely did—but I do think this is worth mentioning. Do I still think it’s a bit extreme to know Clare felt this strongly about Dale despite (allegedly) never having spoken to him? Sure. But again, I fall squarely in the skeptic column. I’m the type to wonder: If the concept of “soulmates” and “The One” and “fate” weren’t so romanticized in our culture, would any of us even care so much? What does it matter if you met cute or swiped right, if it took you five minutes or five years to “know?” If the end result is still a stable, happy partnership that fulfills you, I don’t think the choose-your-own-adventure taken to get you there matters all that much.

But don’t get me wrong: I LOVE this about Clare. Her conviction in such things—especially knowing how unbelievable it might sound to us skeptical types—is precisely what makes her great to watch. This isn’t someone who hedges her bets, who wonders if the grass is greener. Her gut is her gospel. Upon meeting Dale, most women—even the more romantic types—would get an extra flutter in their heart, would maybe make some comment about how she especially liked him. But few would have the guts to declare the man her future husband. Even Chris Harrison shared that such a declaration was a franchise first. (More on that in a bit.) It’s such a level of audacity that I almost—almost!—feel inspired to believe her. The analyst in me cannot imagine one saying such words many times before realizing they would lose their gravity. Besides, it is far more interesting (not to mention, entertaining) to watch someone who chooses to believe than it is to watch someone who is incredulous and reticent (*raises hand*).

What I do appreciate is the refreshing change Clare’s approach is to the usual rigamarole—the lead perpetually “unsure,” their pretend hemming and hawing, how they only “just realized” who they were picking the night before a proposal. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Speaking of “knowing,” on this show, the lead does know their pick relatively early on. (Can you imagine how much easier it would be to “just know” if you were choosing from a pool of 30 or so candidates?!) Certainly, they have their favourite two or three men or women based on Night One alone. It has become increasingly patronizing to be told otherwise, so with my patience wearing pretty thin in that regard, Clare’s declaration that Dale was IT for her was welcome. Sure, it may be a massive pendulum swing in the opposite direction, but we know by now The Bachelor and its spinoffs do nothing halfway.

What is worth observing is the fact that we were shown Clare saying this. Consider the great lengths to which production typically goes to level the playing field and add confusion (versus clarity) as to who ends up down on one knee. I’ll take Chris Harrison’s word for it that no one has ever said these exact words, but other leads have surely revealed who they think they’ll marry, whether on Night One or halfway through their “journey.” But instead of being buoyed in their excitement and pursuit of their favourite, just the opposite would seem to happen: Colton has famously revealed that he felt he had to downplay his interest in Cassie in order to even get time with her; after his season, Peter revealed he was told by production Kelley wasn’t that into him. Not only is a lead’s favouritism not shown to us, but production appears to use every tool at their disposal to throw everyone—even the lead—off the scent.

With that in mind, isn’t it a bit suspect that we heard Clare say she’d just met her husband? And further, that Chris Harrison trotted over to ask her to repeat herself? And further still, that it was a moment that evaded the editing room floor and made it into the episode?

I already had my suspicions about this season and I feel no less suspicious having seen this premiere. It’s no secret this season is fraught with rumours that Clare was “difficult” to work with (which, after living with her for six weeks during Juan Pablo’s season, I highly doubt—Clare may be emotional but she’s not a diva), that she runs off into the sunset with one man, that another Bachelorette is flown in to replace her. (I’m very anti-spoilers but you’d have to be living under a rock to not know about these rumours!) With the few puzzle pieces we have so far, one must wonder who most benefits from a scenario in which Clare doesn’t remain the lead of her own season. You could argue the heart wants what it wants and Clare just had the come-to-Jesus moment of fairytales. You could also argue an entire season’s worth of drama comes perfectly packaged if she were to leave. Notably, they’re not mutually exclusive arguments.

I’ll keep with my tradition of singling out my Night One standouts. For the most part, Clare’s crop of men are shockingly good-looking (and you know I never say this)! Jordan M and Brandon both stood out to me in terms of looks—supported by the fact that they were blissfully drama-free. It’ll come as no surprise that the two Canadian men stood out to me; I loved that Mike brought flat sandals for Clare (brilliant!) and I found Blake Moynes incredibly expressive and endearing. Eazy was an obvious favourite for everyone, I think. I look forward to his comedic moments and commentary as the season progresses. Zach J gave me possibly my only true LOL of the episode, with his whoopee cushion ring. (Call me immature.) I really didn’t see that coming, and his deadpan face as he opened it repeatedly was hysterical.

My Episode 1 frontrunners are…

Dale, 31

Well, no surprises here. Clare did not come close to hiding her preference for Dale. After meeting him, she declared he was her future husband. At this rate, my ranking system will be rendered useless. For tradition’s sake, though, Dale did also have his full limo exit shown, his full conversation with Clare shown, and he nabbed that First Impression Rose. It’s hard to imagine a world in which Clare and Dale don’t run off into the sunset together.

Blake Moynes, 29

An Ontario boy is a frontrunner! Calling anyone a “frontrunner” in a race that includes Dale seems a bit pointless, but nonetheless it was clear Clare was very into Blake. She went out of her way to express gratitude that he’d “broken the rules” by reaching out to her online. She reciprocated his kiss (I believe the first kiss of the season). These two have major chemistry and he has a certain je ne sais quoi that makes him lovely to watch.

Ivan, 28

This might be the first time in six and a half years of recapping where I have a contestant in my Top 4 who didn’t actually get Night One time with the lead. But Ivan’s other moments (not to mention the overall lack of guys’ individual stories and airtime in this episode) make me feel like he could be a major player down the road. He is understated, quietly confident and adorable. I feel like this combination of traits won’t be lost on Clare.

Ben, 29

I was debating between Ben and Jason for this fourth spot, but ultimately decided to go with Ben because he had distinctly less Night One airtime than Jason, which makes for a good dark-horse potential. (That said, when you’re first out of the limos, you’re not exactly a dark horse.) Ben hit all the right notes in his Night One showing. He struck me as calm and in control, worldly and gentlemanly. I see him going far, if not with Clare specifically, then in this franchise.