Let’s examine what changes when 30 new men hop out of limos (and a truck and an RV and a box), but first, one familiar face is noticeably absent.
First off, where is Chris Harrison?
During Matt James’s 2021 season of “The Bachelor,” Harrison defended James’s top contestant Rachael Kirkconnell after she had racially insensitive social media posts come to light. Internet sleuths found that Kirkconnell had “liked” a post of friends posing in front of a Confederate flag; shared an Instagram post whose language echoed the QAnon extremist ideology; dressed in a Native American costume, and attended an “Old South” antebellum-themed party in college in 2018. After apologizing for how he handled the revelations, Harrison announced he would step away from hosting the Bachelor shows, including this season of “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in Paradise.” In nearly 20 years of ABC’s popular reality-dating shows, this is the first season without Harrison coaching the lead through difficult moments or announcing “This is the final rose tonight” at rose ceremonies.
What’s the vibe like without him?
When Katie arrives at the New Mexico resort where this season is taking place, she thinks she’s doing this whole thing alone. Then, in the quiet of the desert, Tayshia and Kaitlyn sneak up on her with smiles and stifled laughs. “Oh, my God!” Katie screams, wrapping the two women in a group hug. “I’m so happy you guys are here,” she tells them.
Every season of “The Bachelorette” begins with past leads giving the newbie advice. So in this sense, Kaitlyn and Tayshia fit right in. It’s as if two girlfriends are playing wing woman for their single friend, cheering her on while helping her stay focused. Both Tayshia and Kaitlyn found their fiances through Bachelor Nation. Tayshia is engaged to Zac Clark, the man she picked during her season. Though Kaitlyn broke up with her final pick, she recently got engaged to Jason Tartick, a contestant from Becca Kufrin’s 2018 “Bachelorette” season.
Tayshia and Kaitlyn know this show can take its leads down winding paths to find love. “Don’t rule any of them out night one,” Kaitlyn tells Katie. Of course, Katie has to eliminate a few during the rose ceremony. But the fact that Kaitlyn and Tayshia have been through this “journey” before makes the whole thing feel far more natural than it ever did with Harrison.
Of course, Harrison’s absence made for jokes on Twitter
One of Katie’s men showed up in a box, and sadly his name wasn’t Jack. Later, the mystery man revealed himself to be James, a 30-year-old from San Diego. And Katie seemed relieved to find him attractive. But some viewers had other guesses on who was inside this giant present.
All the usual lines are uttered, but something feels different
Chomping on popcorn inside as Katie greets her men, Tayshia and Kaitlyn radiate joy in being there. When they say the classic lines “Let the journey begin” or “This is the final rose tonight,” it does not feel as if they’re reading from a script they’ve recited 1,000 times before. It’s refreshing to have women in this role that are familiar to Bachelor Nation but new in the host context.
Who got the first-impression rose?
We had our money on Connor B., the 29-year-old math teacher from Nashville who showed up in a cat costume. But the premiere prize went to Greg, a 27-year-old marketing sales representative from Edison, N.J., who showed up with a gift from his 3-year-old niece: a colorful macaroni necklace.
This article has been updated.