The day women across the globe (yes, he has international appeal) have been anxiously awaiting since early August, a moment so highly-anticipated that ABC renamed an entire month after it, is finally here. Yes, it’s Monday, Juanuary 6, and The Bachelor has returned.

This season marks the whopping 18th time we will watch some dude take a shot-in-the-dark approach to love, with roughly the same success rate as ABC’s Love in the Dark, during which they actually put a bunch of people together in a dark room and let them feel around to make sure no one was a fatty.

But this season, like none before it, is all about one man: America’s most eligible Venezuelan from Florida. I know what you’re thinking, finding a Latino in Miami is like finding a needle in a giant pile of needles. But this dashing man, this “Juan Pablo,” is different.

Yes, he’s a former professional soccer player and single dad who has appeared mostly naked in male body wash commercials. Sure, his rise was unprecedented, with his previous screentime inversely proportional to his charm and likability. But most important, he’s our first Bachelor of color. Any color, really. After 17 consecutive white guys, we’ve now got one who’s, errr, off-white. Maybe this will start the trend of progressively darker complexions. Only time will tell.

America went nuts over JP, this first suitor who needs not a clever nickname to be remembered. Your heart melted like Icarus’ wings, and now we’ll see if this creature of the gods is worthy of three months of our jaded, yet hopeful, time. It’s all for love, isn’t it? And three of our last four couples are still together.

So on to the cat fights, the drama, the tears, the helicopters, the love, the most awkward rose ceremony mishap in the history of rose ceremony mishaps and, most important, Juan Pablo!

The Bachelor Season 18 Countdown Special: (Re)Introducing Juan Pablo >>>

The Women Learn Spanish and Juan Pablo Learns English

Now, normally we’d need to start off with a dramatic introduction and brief history lesson, but ABC was kind enough to offer an early time-waster in the form of an hour-long The Bachelor: Countdown to Juan Pablo special on Sunday night. You can read my thoughts and concerns for the season, as well as a summary of how we got here and a brief recap of the preview show, by clicking here

One note worth mentioning: while several of the ladies are brushing up on their high school level Spanish (Yo bailo mucho. Su madre tiene pelo grande.), Juan Pablo has decided to be considerate to us and the folks who do the subtitles by working on his English. 

During his very brief time of visibility on The Bachelorette, it became quite clear that this nation’s primary language is not his specialty (see “yodel”). Yet he was pretty upset when Desiree didn’t correctly pronounce his name “Hwan Pablo.” So we’ll see if he’s cleaned it up some, just as long as he doesn’t lose the accent.

And with that out of the way, let’s get right to the action!

Catching Up with Juan Pablo

The introduction is almost identical to the one in the preview episode, but with more gratuitous bare-chesticle shots and more talk about why things didn’t work out with Camila’s mom. Juan Pablo calls himself “El Bachelore,” dances like a robot under a bridge and plays volleyball, which I understand are all everyday things in Miami.

The one thing he’s missing in his life is true love, so he’s willing to take this chance in the hopes of finding a wife and stepmother for his sweet Valentine’s Day girl. In an unusual move (for the show, not for, you know, life), Juan Pablo’s parents and daughter will be joining him for the Los Angeles portion of the show. They’ll offer guidance and support before he flies all over the world to fall in love in the most realistic way television can offer.

Either way, this kid is getting more screentime than any other child we’ve seen, and possibly more time than Juan Pablo got last season. But it still isn’t close to how much time Ben wishes he could plaster his son’s mug across the airwaves.

A Pointless But Traditional Visit from Sean

Just because they have to fill two hours and keep us in suspense for the long-awaited limo arrivals, last season’s now-engaged Bachelor Sean Lowe stops by to prep Juan Pablo on the art of forgetting names, managing simultaneous feelings for multiple girls and not getting so attached to a woman or two that you close yourself off from the rest.

His best piece of advice is to keep kisses private because the other ladies aren’t really fans of seeing that. I’m betting Juan Pablo breaks that one pretty quickly, though hopefully not in Ben Flajnik skinny-dip style (promo spoiler alert: it’s possible he does that specific thing while the other girls are standing on the beach).

I’m glad I was team Catherine because Sean tells a story about cleaning skunk-sprayed dogs with tomato juice at 2am and realizing that even in the real world, she’s the love of his life.

Then Juan Pablo takes off his shirt and showers all that dirty advice off his sculpted upper body.

The Bachelor

“Before the Limo” Gals

There are always a few who get that little bit of time before the limos, just to make us feel like we “know” them and have someone to root for before they move on or go home. The first girl we meet is 24-year-old Chelsie, who I previously pegged as a handful. She’s a “science educator,” which I think is fancy talk for teacher. She is attempting to master JP’s language and has learned how to politely ask for a rose in Spanish.

Then there’s 32-year-old real estate agent Renee, who paddleboards, roller blades and rocks a bikini, all while caring for her eight-year-old son, Ben. Juan Pablo is her type because he’s “super attractive.”

Andi is a 26-year-old gang prosecutor from Atlanta, and she stages some cute mock trials where some guy dresses up like a judge while she reads legal terms off cue cards like a bad SNL sketch. For real, one of the guys with the “defense” is wearing a T-shirt and jeans. Andi loves the courtroom reaction when people realize someone as hot as her is the prosecutor, but she tries to temper that narcissism with talk of being deeply involved in her community.

Amy J. is 31 and a massage therapist, so she knows how to work out Juan Pablo’s kinks. They play the stupid-person music while she describes herself as an artist who heals people, and I’m concerned for her already. She’s only dated men who don’t enjoy massages, which most likely means she’s not that good at it. Oh good god, then she makes breakfast and flies the fork towards the camera to “feed” her man, sound effects and all. Next, she repeats his name until she climaxes and collapses on the floor.

Nikki is a 26-year-old pediatric nurse who loves her job and kids and wants to have a positive influence on someone’s life. She has some unrealistic expectations about love, but she has them in the way that people who haven’t found “the one” imagine it will be when they do. It’s the desire to not settle. Chalk her up as an early favorite. 

Lauren H. is only 25 but seems older, though that might be the deep voice and Oklahoma accent. Her love life sucks because she met a man less than a year ago, fell in love and got engaged before he phoned her at work and called it off. Still, she’s optimistic about finding her soulmate. I’m torn on her, as she might be the “I’ve been hurt before” baggage chick. And this wound seems fresh.

Then it’s off to the farm to meet Valerie, a 26-year-old personal trainer who can always go back to her goats if she’s eliminated. She’s uber-competitive, considers herself a pretty girl, owns a bow and arrows and isn’t afraid to file her fingernails into points and scratch out some eyeballs. Which I’m pretty sure would immediately get her eliminated. It’s not The Hunger Games, Katniss, even if you shoot Juan Pablo’s imaginary paper heart with an arrow. That’s scary, not romantic. 

Lacy apparently owns a nursing home, which seems odd for a 25-year-old, but I’ll go with it. She comes from a family of 13, nine of whom are special needs. It turns out she actually opened her first one when she was 20, and she’s spent her whole life caring for the elderly and the disabled. She’s ready for love, and she’s certainly deserving of it, but it could backfire in that not all men want to be taken care of all the time. Sometimes you have to let someone take care of you, Lacy!

Then there’s Clare, a 32-year-old hair stylist who is part Mexican and can actually speak Spanish for reasons other than impressing Juan Pablo. Her dad passed away from brain cancer and shattered her world, but before he died, he made a DVD for her future husband. She’s never watched it, but she hopes Juan Pablo is the one who does. Now she wants to marry a guy just like her father. It’s a very sad story, but there’s no way she makes it off this emotional roller coaster unscathed. Too much expectation.

The Good, the Bad and the Crazy

Put your cringe hats on, folks, because it’s awkward first impression time! There are five ways these 27 women can meet the Bachelor: memorable-good, normal, memorable-bad, forgettable and memorable-disaster. And we’re ranking each entrance. 

It’s also tough to remember the Who’s Who Among Bachelor Contestants in the early stages, so I’ll help you out by coming up with little nicknames to keep them straight as we go along.

The Bachelor Season 18: First Impressions of Juan Pablo’s Ladies >>> 

Limo #1

The first one out is local Florida news reporter Amy L. The 27-year-old looks stunning, but all she does is mention something about the sunset before hugging him and going inside. 

Grade: Normal but bordering on Forgettable

Cassandra is a 21-year-old former NBA dancer, but that’s not a job, it’s just something people do on the side. It’s like me saying I’m a former work study data entry-er. Just say “student.” Or “slacker.” She barely gets her name out before staring at him over cricket sound effects. (Update: later, she claims to be a makeup artist. This probably means she does her own makeup before going out.)

Grade: Utterly Forgettable

Marketing manager Christy, 24, apparently forgets everything she had planned to say. But that doesn’t matter because she silently left her mark on JP. He tells her she’s gorgeous.

Grade: Memorable-Good

Christine is a police support specialist, and the 23-year-old exits the limo adjusting the sagging top portion of her strapless dress while Juan Pablo mutters “Oh my god” and “Wow.” Doesn’t matter what she says after that, but for good measure, she brings a little name bracelet for Camila. 

Grade: Memorable-Good

Nurse Nikki rounds out the first limo, and she brought a stethoscope so Juan Pablo can listen to her heart and hear how nervous she is. 

Grade: Memorable-Good (Frontrunner, what what??)

Limo #2

Another limo full of screaming women approaches, and 29-year-old medical sales rep Kat is the first one out. She’s from Scottsdale, Arizona, the same hometown as Drew, and man does that place breed hotties. She asks Juan Pablo to teach her how to Salsa, and he tells her she smells very good. 

At this point, I must create a new Juan Pablo-specific ranking for these women: Memorable-Physical. Because these women are all making good impressions, but not with anything they say or do. JP just digs the outer layer. We’ll retroactively apply this to the Salsa Dancing Kat (meow), “Police aren’t the only thing I support” Christine and Simply Gorgeous Christy, meaning Nurse Nikki is the only real Memorable-Good so far.

Moving on…

Because it’s just not a season without a Chantel, this 27-year-old teaches Juan Pablo how to say her name before nailing the pronunciation of his, which he thinks is fantastic. She is also the first to drop some Spanish, saying “Muy bueno” twice before translating “Very good” for the unlearned among us.

Grade: Normal bordering on Memorable-Good or Bad depending on how important the name pronunciation thing actually is.

Victoria, 24, is the next one out, and she is an olive-skinned Brazilian. He speaks a little Portuguese, she speaks a little Spanish, but they’ll both end up speaking the language of love.

Grade: Normal

Lucy, 24, described only as a “free spirit,” exits the limo barefoot wearing an awful Little House on the Prairie-meets-high school luau headband thingie. She’s not wearing heels because she didn’t want to be too tall, and she is an odd little duckie. 

Grade: Memorable-Bad

Danielle is 25-year-old dark-skinned stunner. She is a psychiatric nurse who tells Juan Pablo she “has nothing crazy.” Boom! Bonus! But she does bring him a present that she’ll give him during her one-on-one time.

Grade: Normal, but Memorable-Good if the crazy part is intentional.

Speaking of crazy, cue the dunce music, only this time it’s not background effects. It’s 26-year-old composer Lauren S. riding up on the seldom-seen piano bike. She struggles to pedal up the driveway, and JP sprints over to help. But then she doesn’t need him, so he sprints back before she plays an original song, messes it up and forgets to tell him her name. It’s an introduction with immense potential to fail, but it ends up being cute, particularly after he runs inside to ask her name. And thus, Piano Biker Lauren is born.

Grade: Memorable-Good

Limo #3

Science teacher educator Chelsie is the first screaming girl out of the third limo, and she proposes a little experiment. But instead of practicing chemistry, she wants them to make chemistry. She is my archenemy of the season thus far. Way too over the top.

Grade: Memorable-Bad

Bow-hunting farm girl Valerie is up next, and she’s rocking the cowboy boots. The fancy dress is sometimes, but the boots are always. No thanks.

Grade: Normal

Elise is 27, teaches first grade and can’t wait to get to know Juan Pablo.

Grade: Forgettable

Back-to-back first-grade teachers gives us 25-year-old Ashley. She sounds sexy like Emma Stone and gives Juan Pablo a gold star. See you later, Elise.

Grade: Normal

Next up is a pregnant woman, who I am disappointed to learn is Clare, she of deceased father and fiance-to-be DVD from the beyond. Of course, it’s a fake baby, and she did it because she knows Juan Pablo wants more kids, but I don’t know if it’s too big a reach. I really want to grade this Memorable Disaster, but JP thinks she’s cute and seems to love her with a belly bump. Heck, the wedding dress worked for Lindsay (sort of).

Grade: Memorable-Good?

Nanny Alli, 26, gets out of the limo in some Adidas with a soccer ball and passes to JP, telling him she’s looking for a partner. 

Grade: Memorable-Good

Massage artist airplane feeder Amy J. is next, and she immediately drops an “Hola Juan Pablo” before telling him she is only there because he is the Bachelor. Easy, Lenny. He should immediately dismiss anyone who learned, like, two lines of Spanish. 

Grade: Memorable-Bad

Single momma Renee talks about being a single momma.

Grade: Normal/Memorable-Good

Lauren H. is 25 and coordinates minerals. And as far as first impressions go, “mineral coordinator” is the most interesting thing about her. It’s so unmemorable that I don’t even realize she’s the girl with the depressing love life we met five minutes ago.

Grade: Forgettable

Personal banker Maggie brings Juan Pablo a fish hook because the 24-year-old southerner enjoys angling with the fam and hopes that JP is her big catch.

Grade: Memorable-Good

Okay, Kelly from Atlanta. It’s cute to have a pooch exit the limo before you, even if he completely ignores Juan Pablo. But if “dog lover” is really the only description we’re going to get about you, I don’t care how hot you are.

Grade: Memorable-Good (for now)

Limo #4

The first one out of our final limo is Caretaker Lacy. She brings him Red Hots in a prescription bottle to help him with the headaches caused by 26 other girls. 

Grade: Memorable-Good

Anyone else wondering where all the train wrecks are?

Next up is Alexis, a 24-year-old communications director who apparently speaks competent Spanish. She’s probably the prettiest one we’ve seen so far. 

Grade: Memorable-Physical

Redhead Kylie is 23 and an interior designer, and she’s excited to meet Juan Pablo. That is all. 

Grade: Forgettable, except for the hair.

Sharleen, 29, is up next. She’s a shy Canadian opera singer living in Germany. 

Grade: Memorable-Physical/Forgettable

Last, but not least, mock prosecutor Andi is the final suit-ette to grace our presence, and they have an awkward and flirty back and forth about how good looking they both are.

Grade: Memorable-Physical

The hard part is done, and the nicknames are mostly lacking because no one has really done anything amazing or awful. I can’t believe we didn’t even get one Fifty Shades of Crazy Memorable-Disaster types, but I trust these girls won’t let me down come cocktail time. Now let’s make some bad decisions and nicknames!

The Second First Impressions

Juan Pablo is feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of ladies vying for his affection, and he also has to worry about that First Impression rose (though not as much as the women do). So let’s get to the party, where the girls are gushing over his looks and accent. Sharleen the Canadian opera singer hands him a stiff drink, and we’re on our way.

Juan Pablo urges them all to be themselves, they toast, the referee blows the whistle and the journey officially begins. A dance party breaks out, complete with photo booth, and everyone loosens up.

Frontrunner Nurse Nikki gets the first alone time, and he links her name to her beating heart, a good mnemonic device in a competition like this. Single Momma Renee is next, and she wants to cut right to the chase. So she writes “Do you like me?” on a piece of paper, and Juan Pablo checks “Yes.”

Meet Juan Pablo’s Ladies from The Bachelor Season 18 >>>

Sh*t Gets Weird

Freaky Free Spirit Lucy is up next, and yes, she’s still wearing her flowered head gear in place of shoes. She talks about how confident she is, puts her bare feet up on Juan Pablo and describes herself as a drifter with no real home. I believe that’s called “homeless.” JP doesn’t like her feet.

Massage weirdo Amy J. drops him down on a table and busts out the “essential oils” necessary for a proper rubdown. Why she puts said oils on over his suit remains a mystery. She gets him to take off his coat and shoes, but he is seriously uncomfortable. But for her, it’s love at first whatever that just was.

The First Impression Rose Appears

Chris Harrison shows up and plops the initial Target on Your Back down on the table. All the girls freeze and silently contemplate if they would actually murder another contestant to get it. I mean, there would still be 26 others. It’s all hypothetical until someone spots Valerie quivering her arrows. 

The girls who haven’t gotten that one-on-one time start to freak out, and Lauren H. surmises that she deserves it because her love life has sucked the most. And if there’s anything that pulls a guy in, it’s the tractor beam that is emotional baggage based on previous failed relationships you just can’t let go of. Give me 27 of those girls in a room competing over a professional athlete with an accent, and lives will be taken. 

Over-the-top archenemy Chelsie hangs out with JP in the photo booth, and she’s not warming up to me yet. Then second-best first-grade teacher Elise opens up about her mother passing away a little over a year ago, and it inspired her to take a chance on finding her prince.

The First Meltdown

The aggressive women take the lead over the shy girls, while the girls who tell Juan Pablo to his face how perfect he is and how they’re only there because he’s the Bachelor should be sent home immediately. Who wants to date someone like that?

This is all particularly disturbing to Doomed-in-Love Lauren H., who sheds the first tears of the season while chastising herself for not being more outgoing and pining over how her last relationship ended. 

She loses her cool, begging for the personal time she so desperately craves by whining into the camera about it. First-best first-grade teacher Ashley comforts her and probably sends JP her way, but I think she’s a lost cause. She spills the beans about her engagement and claims to be “so over” the relationship she can’t stop talking about to the guy she just met yet hopes will be her future husband. I can’t deal. 

Who’s Number 1?

The women pull out all the stops in their quest for the first impression rose. There is a teddy bear for Camila, talk of kids and nieces and nephews, first-ever airplane trips and an incomplete Juan Pablo-Camila puzzle. And guess who could be that missing piece?

Mock Prosecutor Andi talks about how she sends people to jail, while Sharleen the socially awkward Canadian opera singer entrances Juan Pablo with talk about how she is trying to not eat meat and loves pea soup. And that’s not hyperbole. He keeps talking about how beautiful she looks and how worldly she is, and he marvels at every word that comes out of her mouth. She’s eccentric, but not weird, which is probably something Juan Pablo isn’t used to. 

In the end, Juan Pablo awards Sharleen the ire of the rest of the pack. The attraction might just be because she poses a challenge, but she get bonus points for admitting that she doesn’t know a word of Spanish. To which he cutely replies that he only speaks a little English.

Then we’re shocked to learn that what I mistook for social awkwardness was actually forced chemistry on Sharleen’s part. She thought the attraction would be more instant, and it gets pretty awkward when he offers her the rose. She pauses, then says, “Sure, thank you, sir.” It’s the “I love you” equivalent of “Thanks, Chief,” but JP doesn’t seem to notice.

He’s so sweet to her, it’s just a shame he has no idea what she’s thinking. It’s my first real sad-for-someone moment, but hopefully she’ll come around in time.

The Best of the Rest

Most of the girls seem okay with the choice, but some notice that Sharleen has her head down and doesn’t seem excited. They’re all panicking ahead of the first rose ceremony, when 27 becomes 18. So who stays and who goes? The roses go to:

Pregnant “DVD from the Beyond” Clare

Frontrunner Nurse Nikki

Single Momma Renee

Mock Prosecutor Andi

Soccer Nanny Alli

“Every Season Has to Have a Chantel” Chantel

Piano Biker Lauren S.

Dog Lover Kelly (and Molly)

Former NBA dancer and “Makeup Artist” Cassandra

“No Crazy” Psych Nurse Danielle

Over-the-Top Archenemy Chelsie

Scottsdale’s Salsa Dancing Kat

“Language of Love” Brazilian Victoria

Simply Gorgeous Christy

Homeless Free Spirit Lucy

Second-Best First-Grade Teacher Elise

And the final rose goes to … News Reporter Amy L. 

That means the girls going home are:

Redhead “Did You Say Kat?” Kylie (FYI, my redhead girlfriend says redheads should never wear pink.)

“Police Aren’t the Only Thing I Support” Christine

Fish Hook Maggie McGook

First-Best First-Grade teacher Ashley

Massage Weirdo Amy J. 

Spanish-speaking uber-hottie Alexis

Bow-hunting Farm Trainer Valerie

Caretaker Lacy

Buzzkill Lauren H.

After the ceremony, we hear from heartbroken Kylie, Amy J. and Lauren H. I’m not one to kick anyone when they are down, but Amy J. is a bit too invested in a guy she met, like, four hours prior. And as for Lauren H. saying she’s sick and tired of people looking at her and feeling sorry for her, well, I’m already sick and tired of you feeling sorry for yourself, and I don’t even know you.

Get your crap together, actually get over your heartbreak and then be open to love without having to talk about it every five seconds. Life’s hard, get a helmet.

The Bachelor Season 18: What Juan Pablo Galavis is Looking For in a Woman >>>

Looking Ahead

Juan Pablo’s quest for love is under way, and I’m certain the producers have put together the most dramatic season yet. (That first season must have been terribly boring for each successive one to get progressively more dramatic.) I’m a bit surprised at some of the eliminations, though, particularly Ashley, Alexis and Christine. 

You can never fault the questionable keepers because you know the producers get some say in chicks like Lucy sticking around. But Christine and Alexis were just super hot, and Gold Star Ashley was clearly the better of the two first-grade teachers. Maybe she spent too much of her night on Lauren H. and not enough time on Juan Pablo.

Either way, my early frontrunner is Nurse Nikki, who I could see taking this whole thing down. Who is your favorite? And what kind of Bachelor do you think Juan Pablo will be? Will he keep his daughter in mind? Will Canadian opera singer Sharleen come around? Should she have accepted the rose to see where it goes? Or bowed out on the first night?

If you made it to the end of this marathon recap (the premiere recap is always the longest!), then I hope you’ll stick with BuddyTV throughout season 18 for all your Bachelor needs. Let the dates begin!

The Bachelor season 18 airs every Monday at 8pm on ABC.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

Bill King

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order