'The Bachelor' recap: Meet Michelle, Madison and the manscaper
Handsome Brad Womack is the first return bachelor ever. The show's first half-hour is spent reviewing his errant "Bachelor" past, in which he failed to propose to either of the two final women. “I watched the finale –- and I feel like a jerk,” he tells host Chris Harrison. As video rolls of Handsome Brad working out, shirtless, we hear a voiceover of his self-recriminations. “I was scared to commit. ... I know what I’m getting into –- it’s going to be tough.”
Cut to: mini-profiles of some of the ladies. We meet Shawntel, a funeral director from Chico. A dentist, a car saleswoman, and a “manscaper” (hair remover). Meghan says: “Finding a boyfriend is like shopping for a great pair of shoes. ... Meeting the man of my dreams would be the perfect accessory. For sure.” Wait, what? But she's rapidly out-weirded by Madison, a model whose perfect accessory seems to be the pair of vampire fangs attached to her upper canines. Temp or perm? Before there’s time to puzzle that out, we meet Emily, a picture-perfect blond with a terribly sad backstory: From her teen years, she loved a racecar driver; he died tragically six years ago –- just before she found out she was pregnant with their daughter. Too much baggage or the perfect heartstring pull?
Then, of course, someone has to pull out the “I’m not here to make friends” line.
Brad sits on the couch and tells host Chris about his dad issues, how he’s changed, how empty he had felt the first time around when he said no to his two finalist ladies Jinny and DeAnna ... who then get trucked out and parked right there, face to face. “Now I feel like even more of an -– idiot,” says Handsome Brad. “As a man, it’s really tough to admit that I wasn’t capable of being who you guys needed. I failed miserably, you know? And I’m so profoundly sorry.”
It’s penance and redemption, all in the first episode! Will it work? Can he be forgiven for his sin of not going through with it last time and also be believed that he's going to go through with it in this round?
His first lady hopeful, Chantal O., slaps him across the face, saying it’s “from every woman in America.” “I like you better already!” says Handsome Brad. Kimberly in purple sequins teeters to him. Allie, in a long green gown, goes in for a hug, and then another hug. Ashley with a Southern belle accent grabs a handful of Handsome Brad butt. Meghan wears look-at-me pink platforms. Marissa tells him that her life revolves around sports. Lindsay is from Dallas. Petite Ashley H. chatters a lot. Stacked Raichel in blue sequins, the professional man waxer, marks herself as a crazy girl by announcing, “You happen to be the perfect guy for me,” before Handsome Brad has a chance to say anything.
More girls, 30 in all. Lacey and Lisa P. both do the strapless tug. Why wear strapless if you’re going to hitch it up on camera? This strapless-tugging disease is contagious, affecting several hopefuls and indicating that, just perhaps, they don’t wander around in strapless gowns all that much IRL.
Oh, and Lacey makes the mistake of pointing a finger. Slappers might get roses for a kind of sexy sass, but pointers? I wouldn’t try it. Brad asks Lauren, in gold satin, for a hug, a defense when he’s got nothing to say. Shawntel does a good job of seeming genuinely awkward with Brad, maybe because she’s the one who works with dead people.
Britnee beckons from the car for him to open the door for her, saying, “I like a chivalrous man” and gets “I like that” in response -- but there will be no rose for you, bossy Britnee. Stacey's from Boston. Tall Jill's opening salvo is, “I’m ready to get married.” Hokay. We’re getting to the set of women harder to remember than a toothsome vampire. Lisa M., with glitter “ruby slippers” from Kansas –- like that other woman from before, with big pink shoes? Rebecca, who says her grandma told her to kiss a lot of frogs to find Prince Charming and then lays one on Brad. A woman whose name is J, just J. Kelti, a Radio City Rockette in a short dress who knocks out a couple of high kicks. Sarah L., whose clever salvo is she can’t snap her fingers. Britt, a chef and food writer, who comes bearing snacks.
And here’s our villain lady: Michelle, with a long, flowy animal-print dress, cut high on the leg, and decolletage so ample that it squeaks when hugged by Brad.
Now it’s time for the bachelor and bachelorettes to get to know one another. “No matter that it’s tough or not, I’ll talk about it,” Brad says of his previous appearance, his refusal to engage, his three subsequent years of therapy, as we heard about, you know, for the first 30 minutes. It may be emotionally tough on Handsome Brad, and it’s also becoming pretty exhausting to watch. “I feel like he’s going to have to have the same conversation over and over and over,” says gold satin Lauren, speaking for the audience. Bring on the rooftop dinners and catamaraning around the Caribbean! Let’s get this dating game started!
Sigh, more one-on-one discussions, stealing Brad from other women, the stirrings of catfight jealousies. But hey, this is something new: Raichel gives Handsome Brad a trial sample of her manscaping trade on his wrist.
Brad seems taken aback by the practice and its other applications. “I don’t want my package waxed at all,” he says to the camera. His surprise at the whole waxing thing might be a tad more believable if we hadn’t seen him so handsomely, hairlessly shirtless already throughout the episode.
Pro tip: Do not watch this season of "The Bachelor" and try to take a drink each time Brad appears shirtless. Your liver can’t take it.
First-impression rose goes to Ashley S. for offering to be a friend, for her casual warmth. Is it real? Who knows. Cue malevolent glare from Michelle. Don’t worry, Michelle, you’ll get chosen first in the rose ceremony. Because what is a "Bachelor" season without a villain lady, sharpening her claws?
Ten hopefuls don’t make the first cut. But true to form, most of those who got screen time, including the slapper and the depilation specialist, will be with us again next week. First, Handsome Brad revisits his bad "Bachelor" past -- maybe, we can hope, so he won't have to for the rest of the season? And then, with Ashley S. holding tight to hers, the 19 other roses go to:
Kimberly, the teetering purple sequin blond
Madison of the vampire teeth, who goes in for a neck bite, saying, “Just kidding.” Ha ha.
Emily, with the (still unknown to Brad) tragic back story
Raichel the manscaper
Keltie, the Rockette
Ashley H., the chatty petite one
Alli, who told Brad she was once dumped for having too much booty, then asked him his opinion of it
Marissa, the sporty one
Britt, the chef-y one
Stacey from Boston
Shawntel, the funeral director
Jackie, the girl who shouldn’t sing
Melissa, the woman who leaps into arms
Chantal, the slapper
Lessons: Snacks and slaps are good. Don't be forgettable, but don't be pointy or bossy, either.
And now the goodbyes, the tears. Sorry, ladies. For those remaining, Handsome Brad says, “I really really do think that my wife is in this room.” Really.
Coming soon: Sports cars! Beaches! And dangling off the side of a skyscraper together!
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Brad Womack surrounded by the bachelorettes. Back row: Lisa M., Jackie, Alli, Jill, Lauren, Michelle, Madison, Rebecca, Sarah L., Shawntel, Keltie. Middle row: Lindsay, Meghan, Marissa, Britnee, Jessica, Britt, Renee, Lacey, Sarah P., Emily. Bottom row: Ashley H., Stacey, Kimberly, Lisa P., Brad Womack, Cristy, Raichel, Melissa, Ashley S., Chantal. Credit: Craig Sjodin /ABC