By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Oct 20, 2021 at 11:31 AM

Matt James' season may have sucked, single-handedly making me wish I could go back in time to make sure no one ever invented the television and maybe also relationships. But at least born from the ashes of one dumpster fire came a glorious phoenix in the form of the following two "Bachelorette" seasons.

Katie's season was a lot of fun with plenty of personality and drama without any of the baggage and bad vibes (Finale? What finale!?), while Michelle's season – only the franchise's third starring a Black woman and hopefully the first to be done right – is now off to a strong, assured start after Tuesday night's premiere.

So assured that it SUUUUURE seems like the show goosed some drama to mix things up – not that it seemed to break Michelle's stride at all.

The premiere started on an inauspicious start: fractions. I was promised there would be no math. HOW DARE YOU, ABC; I WATCH THIS SHOW TO LAUGH AT DUMB REALITY SHOW DRAMA, NOT TO FEEL DUMB MYSELF! Anyways, I didn't understand any of the fraction stuff happening on screen, so I'm going to blame it on that New Math the kids are learning these days.

But back on topic: Here we find Michelle teaching her fifth grade class, ably teaching complicated mathematics while also taking a timeout to answer that common classroom inquiry: "How many boyfriends are you going to have?" The answer: ALL OF THE BOYFRIENDS. And speaking of which, prepare yourself for ALL OF THE BASKETBALL REFERENCES – because Michelle loves basketball, and the producers decided they're going to drive that personality trait into the dirt. If you took a drink everytime they showed her making a hoops reference or shooting a basketball, you would be dead of alcohol poisoning and reading this recap in heaven.

Anyways, after introducing Michelle's parents – who have the kind of strong love she's looking for – and her journey, which almost begins with a car crash in the middle of a windmill desert, we meet some of her potential suitors, starting with Chris. He's a California Cajun who thinks it's QuIrKy to get his eyebrows done and wear floaties while swimming. He's trying very hard to show he has a kooky personality while somehow coming off more basic in the process. I bet you he calls himself a nerd because he likes "Star Wars" and Marvel movies. Eh, he still seems pleasant enough. 

We also meet college football player/sun-blocking monolithic muscle man/general nice person Clayton, Brandon Jones and Nayte, a Texan via Canada who has a great dog – a dog that got far more screentime than he did. Everytime he started talking, the camera ventured off like, "But about this pupper, though." He seems like a good guy – however, that might just be the dog footage talking. We also meet Chris G., another native of America's Hat who works as a nonprofit speaker and makes videos of himself nervously ironing his shirts. 

It's here where "The Bachelorette" throws in a curveball: For the first time that I can recall, hosts Tayshia and Kaitlyn decide they should personally examine and investigate each bro's hotel room and luggage. I guess, I don't know, in case a contestant happened to stupidly bring hard drugs or guns or spider tack or some sort of strange dossier on how to hack "The Bachelorette" OH HOW CONVENIENT LOOK WHAT WE FOUND HERE ON OUR VERY RANDOM SEARCH!

Indeed, while searching the hotel room of generically handsome stubble Ryan – who tractors around his farm shirtless when he's not picking fruit and digging holes in buttoned-up dress shirts like he's running for congress – the two find a folder of notes on the show: how to get more cameratime, what former stars to behave like, what strategy (pardon me: STrategy; if you're gonna have an evil dossier, at least give it a proofread) to bust out and more. I, for one, would not bring my very implicating "Bachelorette" cheatsheet onto "The Bachelorette," where it'll almost certainly be found and broadcast across the nation – but that's just me. Anyways, Tayshia and Kaitlyn quickly report this alarming discovery to ... oh, they don't do that? They just conveniently sit on this information for dramatic effect? OK then. 

While that bomb lays in wait, Michelle finally gets to meet the bros – starting with Nayte, typically a telltale sign for a long run on the show. The two share some flirty banter, he busts out a solid cringe pun ("it's better Nayte than never") and in general, I can support this arrangement. Just once, I'd love the first person out of the limo to be one of the oddballs dressed as a dolphin, just to really throw off the star. Next up is a guy named Romeo who comes out speaking French, naturally, and busts out "You could be my Juliet." Yeah, he's used that line before – probably every weekend, I'd bet. I'd be more intrtigued if he made a Benvolio reference. 

Next up, we have Jack Russell, who may or may not be Jack Pearson from "This Is Us." Is he indeed a ghost? YOU'LL JUST HAVE TO STAY TUNED! Also: His name is Jack Russell. Brilliant – but why did you not bring a little Wishbone-looking dog? Guaranteed final four if he'd brought a corresponding pupper. I don't like that lack of commitment to a bit. We also re-meet Clayton, who flirts with Michelle by saying that she's a teacher and he used to be a student. Well, I'd certainly hope you were educated at some point! To complete his bit, he presents Michelle with a ruler to whack his butt with. Always love to lead with spanking on a first date. Anyways, Michelle seems awkward about it, but she still gives him a polite, barely-made-contact swat – a 2021 Christian Yelich swing, if you will. 

OK, so we've met the anonymously attractive and pleasant fellas – SUMMON ME THE WEIRDOS! Here's Pardeep, who's amped on dopemine. NOT WEIRD ENOUGH! Olu wants to be her number one draft pick? NOT ODD AT ALL! QuIrKy Chris shows up in a full school bus wearing a backpack and shorts, making puns about giving her a D. OK, that's progress. How about Garrett, who broke his foot, conveniently leaving him with an unusually swaggery limp and a wooden pimp cane? NOW WE'RE GETTING SOMEWHERE! Yes, finally, after a slow buildup, "The Bachelorette" starts bringing the bizarre. One of the two Brandons tries to give her Mardi Gras beads complete with an awkward "show me your boobs" joke that 100 percent didn't land how he hoped, followed by yoga guru LT wearing a Speedo tux – a tuxSpeedo, if you will. As one does when going on television, I guess. 

If all of these introductions have made you hungry, you're in luck because we've reached the food portion of the brah-rrivals. Our first course is Rick, who scares Michelle by arriving inside a rolling table and hidden under a cloche, with only his head popping out. Some real creepy "Re-Animator" vibes that I would prefer not to have – but 'tis the season, I suppose. We had James in a Box last season; now we have Rick in a Table. If he turns out to be a villain, we can call him a Douche in a Cloche. (WHAT, IT'S CLOSE ENOUGH FOR A RHYME!) I don't think I'll be able to bust out that nickname, though, because he seems nice enough – though maybe not the smartest because he didn't consider how he was going to drink as only a disembodied head. 

Back to dinner: For the main course, we have a guy pull up in an ice cream truck. Welp, we've got a winner; everyone can go home, the desserts man wins. Oh wait, it's Ryan the weird "Bachelorettte" SparkNotes guy. THERE'S HOPE FOR YOU ALL STILL! If you're going to get betrayed and tricked by somebody, might as well get a Choco Taco and a bomb pop out of it at least. Then, for a much-needed palate cleanser from Ryan, we have Rodney showing up dressed in a Spirit Halloween apple costume. Cute enough – but not only is Michelle a teacher but she's also from Minnesota, where the state fruit is an apple. The woman knows her pomes – so she asks what kind of apple is he, a question Rodney was fully unprepared for. He could've said honeycrisp because he's so sweet or a cortland because basketball courts – a stretch, but better than GRANNY SMITH, which is what he goes with. Not flirty – and also not red! COMMIT TO THE BIT, DANGIT!

We end our meal of overcooked Chads with Peter, who yells a bunch of indecipherable Italian that sounded honestly more like some unfortunate Chet Hanks patois before chucking some pizza dough into the dirt. Apparently he's a "pizzantrepreneur" – though if that's how he treats his ingredients, I imagine the Yelp reviews are unfavorable. 

We near the end of the intros with a duo of firemen: Daniel, who arrives in a little truck, followed by PJ, who arrives in a BIG truck. Honestly, I like the little truck more – shows a sense of humor and self-depreciation. He did, however, use the word "smokeshow," which has banned from "The Bachelor" franchise, please. And after a few more fellas – including a guy named JoMarri who rips the sleeves off his suit to show off his man guns and has an ASMR-esque voice deeper than the Pacific – Michelle finally meets Joe. But ... she's actually already met him. In fact, she's slid into his DMs before to talk about basketball – only for him to totally ghost her and ignore her messages. NOT PROMISING! His selling point is also "I'm already in Minnesota, so I'm convenient." Wow, so flirty and romantic. I see him going sooner than later. 

But before anybody bails, it's cocktail party time, with all the bros wanting some extra time to flirt and get to know Michelle. Peter the Pizza Man continues with the food theme by offering her a pile of cannoli – something Michelle's never actually tried before. You could actually see the mushroom cloud erupting from the area that was Peter's brain. Speaking of food, Rick's still inside his cloche, probably starving and thirsty. With the help of some other guys, he cuts in and chats up Michelle (props to her for having a conversation with a table man with a straight face) before emerging ungracefully from his prison. I hope he wore all the deodorant – or at least there was a fan in there. 

If you thought Rick was sweating, though, just wait for Joe, who doesn't get the fun and flirty chat with Michelle that he thought. Instead, Michelle's still pretty miffed that he ghosted her on Twiter all those months ago. He tries to explain that, due to the murder of George Floyd and all the unrest that followed, he didn't know how to talk about that stuff and wasn't in the right mental place for a relationship. Fair – but Michelle points out that she was a Black woman living in the same city as him, feeling likely the same feelings, sooooo why turn down a conversation with her. Plus, she says, who said anything about a relationship?! She just wanted to talk basketball! (And if she's a Minnesota Timberwolves fan, she'd need to chat and vent more than most I imagine.) Respect and communication are two big keys for Michelle – and Joe demonstrated neither of those things to her back then. He better prove he changed. 

But off to even bigger dumpster fires. Remember Ryan and his evil dossier? Tayshia and Kaitlyn finally did – of course, after he and Michelle have a nice chat over some ice cream that causes some sparks for our Bachelorette. GOOD TIMING! So the ladies arrive to put out those sparks right away, telling Michelle that they found his weird notes about how to score more screen time, who to duplicate, what to say and how to not be a villain. SEEMS THAT PAGE COULD'VE USED A FEW MORE BULLETPOINTS! (And apparently bulletpoint one wasn't "Don't bring these notes to the show." "Button more buttons on your shirt" would've been a useful note too.)

When Michelle confronts Ryan about his notes, he tries to explain through a deluge of sweat that he's new to the show – he's maybe watched two hours in his life – so a friend's wife typed him up some SparkNotes on how the show works and such. And also he wrote some notes too in the margins, I guess. If he was attached to a lie detector test, he'd have broken the needle. Eventually Michelle decides she wants to see these forbidden notes for herself, and wouldn't you know it's not innocent pages of questions like "What is the premise of this show?" and "Where am I?" followed by some printed off Mapquest directions.

So she kicks him and his barely buttoned shirt outta here – and, best of all, when she returns to the rest of the guys to report the news, she seems like she couldn't care less. Most seasons, it feels like the star comes back and talks about how they've never been so betrayed and don't know who to trust anymore – and it all turns into A Thing. But here, Michelle doesn't let a d-bag throw her off. She barely knew him anyways, and she knows that some people come on the show with devious intentions – so she just happily lets that attenion thief wade from everyone's mind, especially hers. She's going to be a great Bachelorette with that attitude, just letting the f-bois slide off her back and off her show – though I'm sure the producers who DEFINITELY DIDN'T ARRANGE ALL OF THIS are a little peeved their big drama didn't result in tears or emotional speeches. 

We'll save those for people and relationships who actually deserve them – like Nayte, who has some really quality time with Michelle despite himself. She wants to know about his family – and despite his initial dodging, he eventually opens up about how his parents were divorced, and now his mom and stepdad are getting divorced as well. Is this perhaps an act? My cynical brain says it sure is convenient that he talked about how he doesn't like to open up about his emotions and personal life before immediately opening up about his emotions and personal life – a clever play to make it seem like their connection is already evolving so fast. But for now, his conversation seems authentic – and Michelle agrees, giving him the much ballyhooed first impression rose. First one out of the limo AND first impression rose? Hmm, I wonder if there's a catch coming here ... 

That's to discover later, though. Now it's off to the first rose ceremony, filmed in a super overlit hotel lobby that looks like it's 10 a.m. (though considering how notoriously long these first night cocktail parties can go, it might've actually been the next morning). It looks less "Bachelorette" and more soap opera – but then again, same difference. A guy I don't remember well named Jamie gets the first rose of this batch, while Joe gets the last carnation – though not after Michelle steps away for a moment to reconsider her decision. He's got his work cut out for him. 

As for those joining Ryan in the rejection pile, there's football player Bryan – who, as it turns out, is from Wisconsin! She probably could sense the Packers fandom on him and eliminated him quick – as well as Brandon with the Mardi Gras beads, pimp cane Garrett, gun show JoMarri and Jack Russell. I TOLD YOU YOU SHOULD'VE BROUGHT A DOG!

Even though she eliminated the Sconnie and the dog man – and even though the first episode is always a delirious barrage of unrecognizable faces and names – I'm encouraged by this start. Our lead has a fun personality and a level head for the show, the cast has plenty of worthy potential loves and landmines, and it appears at some point Pete-za upgrades from chucking dough into the dirt to chucking people's jackets into swimming pools. Aka, welcome to peak television. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.