Cue your favorite Ben puns, Bachelor Nation (ABC sure has), because after a four-month layoff in the perpetual search for televised love, The Bachelor is back with an action-packed 20th edition.
And this time, it’s all about the Benjamin. Who is a perfect Ben. And you’d better pack an umbrella, because it’s raining Ben. Hallelujah. And as The Weather Girls promised so many years ago, all the women are gonna let themselves get absolutely soaking wet.
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That’s right, 26-year-old Ben Higgins, who earned a bronze medal in the Kaitlyn sleepstakes, now has his pick of several dozen women (including some familiar faces) who will vie for his considerable affections.
The software salesman from Colorado, who I dubbed Buble Ben and named as my pre-season favorite, is certainly likable enough, but there are questions as to whether he can fill the spotlight that comes with being the center of attention. He’s a bit on the reserved side, and his tendencies once prompted Kaitlyn to ask him if he was a virgin. He is not. (Cue the slut shaming. Anyone?)
Still, many who preferred Ben Z., twice-the-bridesmaid Nick Viall or even patchy-bearded and possibly-devirginizing Jared predict that Ben will be one of the franchise’s more boring protagonists. Luckily for us, there are plenty of crazy bitches ready to fill the void.
Dinner at Ben-Agains
The real question plaguing Ben’s season is whether or not a 26-year-old dude who looks like this guy (even I’m impressed by how much handsome stock this guy owns. Dancing skills aside, he’s the Mark Zuckerberg of tall, dark and dashing) is ready to settle down.
And as a recently married man (what did you do during your fall break?) roughly a decade his senior, I have serious reservations about whether he can take that plunge. I certainly wasn’t ready at 26, and I only have a handful of shares in the TD&H club.
He claims all his friends are starting families and that he is looking for a wife, which, of course, he must, otherwise the show becomes an even bigger waste of time than it already is. Heck, even Juan Pablo was “ready” to find a step-mom for that adorable lady lure of a daughter.
And, like, America just became aware that this greedy bastard monopolized the market and was available to render services. Can he really look past all those lady boners and hone in on that one special gal? Only time will tell, but at least he seems like a sincere and genuinely nice person, and there is an excellent chance the he is much more mature than I was at 26.
That Magnificent Ben in His Flying Machine
Ben kicks off his season with a photo shoot in California, even though he’s just a small-town boy from Indiana. On the playground is where he spent most of his days, chilling out, maxin’ relaxin’ all cool, and shootin’ some b-ball outside of the school. All Hoosiers are expected to be able to ball, so he strove for a healthy balance between sports and chasing girls.
After a trip through Ben’s childhood in Warsaw that includes his elementary and high schools, the movie theater where he had his first kiss and a turn as grand marshal of the homecoming parade, it’s time to get down to business.
He’s from the heartland, an all-American guy through and through, and finding someone who shares his small-town values is important to him. Also, he has known heartbreak and rejection that, as seen last season, has prompted him to question whether he is unlovable. He just wants a relationship like his parents have, where he can say I love you, hear it back and have faith that it’s true. Luckily for him, his parents are every bit as adorable as he is, and they want happiness for him, as well.
He and his fresh haircut drive a sweet Mustang to the mansion, where he is greeted by the ghosts of Bachelors past in the form of wily marriage veteran Jason Mesnick, back-on-the-prowl Chris Soules and expecting papa Sean Lowe.
They offer tidbits of sage wisdom about keeping kisses private, compartmentalizing interactions to keep your head straight and realizing that each relationship will move at a different speed.
While the married guys talk about real life, Prince Farming mostly just nods along, his only real contributions being suggestions to kiss everyone, make the women feel comfortable and give 110%. Thanks, coach.
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Hens in a Benhouse
It’s time for the intern-acted pre-limo vignettes, and first up is 25-year-old flight attendant Lauren. She’s from Portland, but she was born to be a Southern California beach bunny. And everything would be great if she wasn’t so super single.
Caila is a 23-year-old software sales rep from Ohio who has fallen in love with her adopted town of Boston. She met her last boyfriend through a chance meeting and thought it was fate, but then she saw Ben get out of the limo on Kaitlyn’s season, and the butterflies she felt made her realize it was time to end things. So she’s either super cute or super creepy.
Jubilee is a 24-year-old bad-ass war veteran who shoots a pistol, does push-ups and flips a pretend drill sergeant while discussing her time in Afghanistan. Now she’s on a mission to win Ben’s heart, and she expects casualties of war.
It’s time for our first circus music of the season, as 28-year-old dentist Mandi admits that she “embraces the weird” while a fire-breathing bagpipe player circles her on a unicycle. Then she tries on various hats.
Emily and Haley are The Bachelor‘s first twinsies to compete on the same season, and the 22-year-olds read each other’s minds, finish each other’s sentences and have their own cool-kid handshake. And they are apparently Las Vegas cocktail waitresses. Double trouble fo’ sho’.
Divorced 25-year-old single mom Amanda is an esthetician who, like most parents, thinks her two kids are the most awesomest in the world. She hasn’t dated since she and her baby daddy parted ways two years ago, and the SoCal gal is hoping Ben is the horse she can get back on and who will be a solid role model for the tykes.
Cue the bonkers music again because 26-year-old Tiara is a chicken enthusiast. The bird is the word for sure, even though there is nothing fowl about this little lady. Sheila, though, is the cock of the walk, as that one particular piece of poultry is the love of Tiara’s life and is constantly by her side. Or on her shoulder.
Family is the most important thing to 26-year-old recent law school grad Samantha, whose father died after years of battling ALS when she was just 13. As anyone who has experience with Lou Gehrig’s disease knows, it is heartbreaking to watch someone you love deteriorate before your eyes. It changed her perspective and gave her a new appreciation for life, and she thinks her dad would be proud if she ended up as Mrs. Higgins.
Look Kids, Big Ben, Parliament
After a bro hug from Chris Harrison, the first limo pulls up and the first of 25 (or so) vixens steps out to get this champagne- and wine-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.
Super single flight attendant Lauren B. exits in a long and flowing gown, and “You look beautiful” are Ben’s first words of the season to a member of the opposite sex. She gifts him a pair of wings in hopes that he is ready to “take off” together. On the wings of love, perhaps? Or did Jake the pilot trademark that? They share a nervous hug before she saunters inside. Verdict: Normal.
Possibly crazy Caila sprints to Ben and leaps into his arms, which he calls the best first impression ever. So I guess the I-broke-up-with-my-boyfriend-for-you red flag is on hold for now, but how long can she keep that fact to herself? Verdict: Memorable-good.
Jennifer is a 25-year-old small business owner, and if Ben is tall, dark and handsome, she is his counterpart. Like he’s looking into a mirror, he correctly surmises that she is stunning. She forgets to tell him her name, then insists that he remember it because “Ben and Jen is kinda too cute to forget.” Bleh. Bennifer is so 2003. And then again from 2004 through 2015. I really though they were going to make it, too. Sniff. Verdict: Forgettable.
Jami is a 23-year-old bartender hoping to capitalize on Ben’s fondness for Canadians, even if it was just that one time. And she claims to actually know Kaitlyn, who told her that he has a “really, really, really big … heart.” Verdict: Memorable-good or memorable-bad, depending on how Ben feels about Canadians who know Kaitlyn.
Samantha and the spirit of her dad are the next out of the limo, and she wows him with the news that she just passed the bar exam before offering a cheesy “Boxers? Or legal briefs?” Yuck. Verdict: Forgettable.
Jubilee’s skin-tight white dress, which shows off all her assets, front and back, immediately catches Ben’s eye. She drops a super awful pickup line about her dress being tight, but he’s distracted and enamored enough to let it slide. He says he liked it, but he didn’t. Verdict: Memorable-good.
Single mom Amanda joins the party, and I get the vibe that there is a kind of unspoken connection between them. She tells him she’s glad it’s him and that she can’t wait to talk to him more. Verdict: Forgettable, unless I’m right about that vibe.
Lace is a 25-year-old real estate agent who also fits the tall, dark and handsome mold. She asks him to close his eyes before happily planting the first kiss of the season on his unsuspecting lips. Verdict: Memorable-good, but with a touch of potential “giddy crazy.”
Lauren R., a 26-year-old math teacher from Houston, elicits an ear-to-ear smile from Ben. She feels like she has an unfair advantage because she has been stalking him over social media for months, ironically failing to realize that telling him that puts her at a decided disadvantage. Plus, she gazes at him lovingly the whole time and refuses to tell him her name despite repeated inquiries. Verdict: Memorable-disaster, but he thinks she’s gorgeous. And obsession sex is always good the first time.
Shushanna is a 27-year-old mathematician who is also the show’s first Shushanna. She only speaks in Russian and tells him they were created for each other. He has no idea what she’s saying but likes that her red dress makes her look like a rose. Verdict: Memorable-good.
Event planner Leah, 25, hikes up her dress so she can hike him a football, and he reveals that tossing around the ol’ pigskin is his calming mechanism. Insert ball joke here. She winks and heads inside. Verdict: Memorable-good.
Joelle aka JoJo, a 24-year-old real estate developer, exits the limo in a rubber unicorn mask to prove that the mythical creatures do exist and that she thinks she’s his. Is that even a thing? Are people looking for their particular unicorn? Verdict: Memorable-bad.
Twenty-five-year-old kindergarten teacher Lauren H. (our third Lauren and second teacher Lauren, grrr) tosses him a bouquet she caught at a wedding last week, and she might as well have sprinkled lava on him. No one likes the woman who catches the bouquet, so I hope for her sake that her friend handed it right to her as opposed to her clearing out the dance floor with flailing elbows. Verdict: Memorable-bad.
Laura is a 24-year-old account executive who tells Ben that her friends call her “Red Velvet” on account of her hair, which sounds super dirty. So even if he forgets her, she reminds him, her carrot top will stand out in the crowd. She might come across as a bit self-absorbed, but what can I say? I’m partial to redheads. Verdict: Memorable-good or memorable-bad, depending on Ben’s taste in cake.
Embracer-of-the-weird dentist Mandi wears a giant flower on her head, and if things go well, maybe Ben can pollinate it later tonight. Ew? Sexy dress, though. She enters the house and informs everyone that she is the first-impression rose. Verdict: Memorable. Just … memorable.
After a brief spout of Caila expressing anxiety over her ability to stand out, based on praise for the flower hat and unicorn mask, it’s time to unveil the twins. As Emily and Haley exit the limo, Ben has the usual male reaction of being both excited and kind of scared/grossed-out at the possibilities. So he asks for a group hug. It’s weird for them because they’ve never dated the same guy before, but — news flash — sisters aren’t supposed to effing date the same guy! And it’s weird to even suggest it! Verdict: Memorable-good, though the other women are less than enthused regarding the Stepford Taylor Swifts.
The next arrival is too rustic for an automobile, and so 30-year-old cowgirl Maegan saunters up with a pony named Huey in tow. She’s all about trail rides, beer and barbecue with her trusty steed, and she wanted to offer Ben immediate insight into what dating her would be like. In a nutshell, weird, unless you’re a rancher. Verdict: Memorable-bad.
Nutritional therapist Breanne, also an ancient 30 compared to Ben, brings a picnic basket filled with carbs. She wants them to break bread, but since she’s gluten free, they just smash it on the fountain. Verdict: Memorable-bad.
Isabel, aka Izzy, is a 24-year-old graphic designer wearing footie pajamas who is under-dressed because she is determined to find out if Ben is the “onesie” for her. And his eyes scream, “Daaammmn, that was stupid.” First-kiss Lace, who has spent the night hilariously judging everyone, offers a hearty “Next” when Izzy enters. (Full disclosure: my wife laughed hysterically because she would totally wear a onesie and drop a line like that. One of her favorite entrances.) Verdict: Memorable-bad.
Rachel is 23 years old from Arkansas who is unemployed and probably has a hundo grand in student loans, which makes her a prime candidate to be Chris Soules’ Podunk, Iowatown, housewife. She rolls up in a dress and sneakers on a hoverboard, which unfortunately does not go up in flames like her chances of winning once she reveals she has no job and probably lives in the basement. Verdict: Memorable-good, for now.
Jessica, a 23-year-old accountant, steps from the limo and tells Ben she feels like the luckiest girl in the world. Verdict: Forgettable.
Cock lover Tiara gets a nice smile and kind words from Ben, and she’s just excited to be there. Verdict: Normal, for now, until she reveals her love of chicken wings.
Next up is yet another Lauren, this one a 23-year-old fashion buyer who will be going by the initials LB. Seriously? Four Laurens and a Laura? You’re killing me, producers! Looks like nicknames are going to be extra important this time around. Anyhow, she’s a looker who left an impression on me, at least. Verdict: Normal.
The 25th and seemingly the last woman to meet Ben is 23-year-old gerontologist Jackie, who hands him a save-the-date for March 14, 2016, with the hashtag #ToHigginsAndToHold. The fact that she studies aging might be the most interesting thing about her, but Ben doesn’t even know that. Verdict: Normal/forgettable.
As expected, there are some extras thrown into the mix because 25 is for guys and gals who are entertaining enough on their own. Enter Olivia, a 23-year-old news anchor from Texas who, while a stone-cold stunner, seems most concerned with pointing out her dimple (by asking Ben if he has one. He does not, so she decides he has a baby dimple). She strolls inside babbling incoherently. Verdict: Memorable-bad, but she’s so hot it just doesn’t matter.
It’s time for Ben to head inside, but we first have to mention two notable exceptions from the arrivals. According to the “Meet Ben’s Ladies” info, we are still absent returning contestants Amber and Becca. The former is a 30-year-old teddy bear-loving bartender from Chicago who competed for Chris Soules’ heart before appearing on Bachelor in Paradise, while the latter is the virgin runner-up from the same season. So stay tuned for some added tension.
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Into the Lion’s Ben
While the girls muse about Ben’s smoking hotness and husband potential (news anchor and dimple queen Olivia has elevated him to god status), admitted social media stalker Lauren R. attacks Lace for being familiar with Ben’s Instagram and Twitter accounts. Then after a totes adorb late-night call to his parents, it’s time for the man of the hour to make his grand entrance.
He arrives to a standing ovation of cheers and neighs (thanks for the contribution, Huey), and he thanks all his suitorettes before rose-hat Mandi interrupts his welcome speech for the first steal of season 20. As you can imagine, it does not go over well, and several saucers of milk are ordered.
Mandi conducts a full oral examination to make sure Ben flosses, and by that I mean she literally lays him down, puts one of those napkin bibs on him, whips out her tools and inspects his chompers. She determines that he is, in fact, kissable, and a dental emergency has been averted. Does anyone else wonder if they screen for mouth herpes? That could derail an entire season.
Olivia gets the next one-on-one time, and it turns out she left her news anchor job to pursue Ben, because like Fifth Harmony, he’s worth it. And she needed more “zest” in her life, anyway. Though I don’t think gorgeous female journalists with dimples struggle all that much to find work. Either way, she certainly has Ben’s attention, and he appreciates her put-togetherness, making her a prime candidate to take that rose right off Mandi’s head.
Caila tries to play up the fact that they’re both software salespeople, the twins make a Ben sandwich and creepily talk about the fantasy of dating twins (uhhhh, you’re not supposed to be actually trying to date him at the same time), and Ben’s personal unicorn JoJo busts out flashcards for a version of Heads Up! offering deets about her life. Then another limo pulls into the driveway…
Portuguese Ben of War
Becca and Amber exit together, each nervous yet excited for another shot at the elusive dream of fairy tale love. Amber is rocking a totally backless dress, while Becca’s has square cutouts all down the front. Both are sure to turn heads, especially from a group of catty ladies who know these two have a leg up in the experience department (even if one has zero experience in the literal sense of that phrase).
First-kiss Lace, whose aggressiveness has rubbed some the wrong way, had been feeling a lack of competition among the mostly younger crop of girls than we usually see. But now, she clearly views Becca as a major threat and vows to not let that sexy sexless princess get in her way. Oh, and Lace is wasted. Yaay!
(On a fun side note, my best man, who is waiting to watch on DVR, just texted asking how the premiere was, and I wrote back: “It’s OK. The two surprise suitors just arrived and pissed off the drunk girl.” The Bachelor, ladies and gentlemen!)
Lace eavesdrops on Becca and Ben’s first conversation, and after Amber joins the group, she decides she must act. But instead of interrupting the trio, she waits until Ben is sharing a couch with Jubliee, who is probably the wrong person to cross. But the vet surrenders Ben’s attention, and Lace, who looks like a cross between Ashley Williams and Sarah Silverman (you see it now, right?), slurs her way through a request for a second, better kiss.
He explains that he really wants to get to know the women instead of getting caught up in the physical aspect of things, and before she can respond with her tongue, they get interrupted by Mandi.
“That bitch,” Lace mutters after Ben’s parting hug, before taking up the task of whining behind Mandi’s back about what she has determined is a backstab. Even though she just did the exact same thing to Jubilee. Pound wine, honey, not faces.
“I’m gonna go call someone out,” Jade announces as she stalks off to where Mandi is putting her rose hat on Huey. “I’m gonna punch her in the face. Like, seriously.”
But before the confrontation can evolve, Ben seeks out Lace to continue his explanation for why he will not be sucking face with her at this time. Thanks to his proactivity, a hug is more than enough compensation, and all is right again in this batshit crazy Bachelor world.
A Few Good Ben
Chris Harrison stops by to deliver the real first-impression rose, and you’d have thought he dropped an anvil on a roadrunner. The mood instantly changes, but Ben doesn’t let the anxiety linger for long.
First-out-of-the-limo super single flight attendant Lauren B. might take his breath away and “Ben and Jen” Jennifer may be his gorgeous name-recognized counterpart, but the star of the show thus far is Madam Dimple herself, and thus, the first rose of season 20 goes to ex-news anchor Olivia. And jealous bitches be sad, yo.
To his credit, though, Ben snacks on some humble pie before the rose ceremony. He claims to have realized that all these beauties are out of his league, but he just hopes they don’t pick up on that.
And now, decisions, decisions…
GentleBens Marry Brunettes
No one has really jumped out as my pre-season favorites, but in keeping up with obligations, I’ll go with Madam Dimple (I don’t think I’ve ever picked the recipient of the first-impression rose before) and super single beach bunny flight attendant Lauren B., though we haven’t really seen much of anyone but Lace and Mandi. Those are my two picks to at least reach the final four.
But in the meantime, the roses go to:
Super single beach bunny flight attendant Lauren B.
Fourth-Lauren “LB” (does that stand for “pound”? Linebacker? Lauren Beth? Tell meeeee)
Possibly-crazy boyfriend-dumping Caila
Teddy-bear bartender (and repeat performer) Amber
Canadian Kaitlyn acquaintance Jami
Tall, dark and handsome Jen-and-Ben Jennifer
War vet Jubilee
Divorced single mom Amanda
Ben’s personal unicorn JoJo
Football- and dress-hiking Leah
Jobless Rachel on a hoverboard
Dad-in-spirit attorney Samantha
Save-the-date gerontologist Jackie
Stepford Taylor Swift Haley
Stepford Taylor Swift Emily
Third-Lauren kindergarten teacher Lauren H.
And the final rose goes to…
Drunk first-kisser Lace
That means it’s the end of the line for:
Red velvet Laura
Second-Lauren stalker Lauren R.
Onesie pajama Izzy
Cock lover Tiara (back to the chicks, I guess)
Apparently unluckiest-girl-in-the-world Jessica
There are no crazy reactions, but we get standard tearful goodbyes from Laura and Breanne. The post-ceremony fireworks, however, come at the hands of drunk first-kisser Lace, who pulls Ben aside to accuse him of not making eye contact with her during the rose ceremony. And he’s like, “I gave you a rose and kicked seven other women to the curb! Be happy!”
Save the drama for your momma, and I’m sure he wanted to send her home on the spot. But crazy is as crazy does, and even though Lace won’t win, she’ll be sticking around for a while. If not for Ben’s sake, for ours, because if Ben ends up with Becca, watching paint dry will be an entertaining alternative. But, man, those would be some good-looking and wholesome kids.
You can watch The Bachelor every Monday at 8pm on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)