By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jul 12, 2022 at 6:01 PM

There I was, an hour into watching the premiere of the new "Bachelorette," throwing fewer things at the TV than usual ... when the power decides to go out. So clearly we know fate's stance on my reality television recapping career. But where were you when I needed you last season, fate?! Why not ruin the worst season of "The Bachelor," helmed by the worst Bachelor aka Clayton aka The Unspoken One. And why get in the way of what was actually a very solid start for this it-takes-two "Bachelorette" season?! HAVE MY GOAT SACRIFICES MEANT NOTHING TO YOU, HEAVENS!?

I should note: For all the drama surrounding this "unprecedented" dual-lead season – led by The Unspoken One survivors Gabby and Rachel – it is technically a little precedented. Nice try making us forget season 11 where there was Kaitlyn Bristowe AND Britt Nilsson at the start, only to have the bros vote on which one they wanted to keep. Cool being on a show named after you, only to get rejected on night one by more than two dozen dudes all at once on national television! So I was a little concerned how this version would go down – and to be fair, I still have my worries. But after (finally) getting through one full episode without nature prematurely cutting to black, there's a strong chance this could be the formula shake-up the show's desperately needed, particularly with Gabby and Rachel at the helm.

So about those worries, though. I wasn't exactly thrilled by Jesse Palmer coming out at the start, doing the typical intro by saying – and underlining – that they have no idea how this is going to work. They don't have a plan, apparently; instead Rachel and Gabby will "come in with a plan together and support each other." OK, that's nice that the two have seemingly more control and empowerment in this process than usual – but hold on a second, ISN'T THIS YOUR SHOW, PRODUCERS?! Isn't it YOUR job to come up with a plan for this scenario, not the two NON-TELEVISION PRODUCERS you've cast as stars?! Glad to see the brainstorming session started and stopped with someone saying, "Why not both?" Anyways, Gabby and Rachel better get fiances AND their Producers Guild membership cards after this. 

Before the fun begins, we quick revisit The Unspoken One's season to remember how we got here. As if we all haven't tried our best to forget. (The recap didn't even include all the inner-house drama, like all nonsense with Shanae aka The Other Unspoken One. And remember the couples therapy episode!? GAH, inventing television was a mistake!) But thankfully we truck through all of that quite fast and get to Gabby and Rachel getting prepared for their season.

And right off the bat, it's a breath of fresh air. 

For one, their happy reunion starts with Gabby getting her earring stuck in Rachel's ear mid-hug. Sure, seemingly a small thing – but a small thing that usually would've been edited out and saved for the finale blooper reel, causing me to have a hernia yelling, "WHY DID YOU EDIT THE FUN REALITY OUT OF YOUR REALITY SHOW!?" But the premiere left it in – perhaps because Gabby, one of the most overtly goofy people to be chosen as a lead, gives them permission to actually let their stars have personality rather than a generically attractive cardboard cutout that says "I like that" a lot. 

Speaking of which, the show also had the two ladies talk about what they're particularly looking for in a guy – which I'm sure isn't NEW, but sure felt fresh with the two giggling talking about their preferences and dating histories. After a season of viciousness and toxicity, watching two friends laugh together, share their happy discoveries and guide each other by the hand through this gauntlet – quite literally; the two were holding hands almost every other shot – feels like a miracle. 

And now for the opposite of good vibes: the new, and VERY aggressive promos looking for contestants for the next "Bachelor." Normally, these quick audition appeals are pretty anodyne, normally just polite background noise I barely hear over the sound of either chugging or pouring a glass of boxed wine. Monday night, however, I damn near spit-taked (spit-took?) my vino into the next room as Jesse Palmer firmly told the audience: "YOUR BOYFRIEND'S A LOSER! DUMP HIS ASS AND GO ON 'THE BACHELOR!'"

Well, OK then, Jesse. Starting to wonder if they're a little desperate for candidates since The Unspoken One's season made this show look about as appealing as prison time. 

Anyways, at least Gabby and Rachel are having a good time – and after Palmer asks them a few more times how they plan to run this show, the two giddily ship in their first batch of bros. So let's meet all the Jordans and Justins!

Of course there's the first batch of selfie videos, introducing the guys as they groom themselves and head out to the mansion – nothing much to report on there except there are twins this season as well as a man named Tino whose thing is apparently shimmying. I am concerned – and we haven't even gotten to the magician yet!

The first one out of the limo, though, is a tech exec named Zach. We know that's his name because Rachel and Gabby had to remind him to introduce himself. Nerves, fair enough – plus it made Zach a lot more memorable than any of the planned generic flirtations he introduced himself with. That being said, as the first one out of the car, he probably has a decent life expectancy on the season. (Plus, Rachel was looking at him the whole time with starry eyes.) So here's to his personality arriving fashionably late and introducing itself next week. 

Things don't entirely improve with the next guy: Jason, who announces that he has something in common with The Unspoken One – BAD START! Turns out he too is in love with three women – WORSE START! It evolves into a kinda cute line about how the three women are his sister, his mom and his husky pup – but don't bring up the ex, doofus! Hey, remember that extremely painful breakup you had recently on national television where a guy played with your emotions – LET'S TALK ABOUT THAT MORE, FOR A LAFF! One of these woman is a jokester, and the other can fly a plane – why would you talk about the most boring and annoying aspect of their lives!?

Unfortunately, Jason wasn't the only bro to bring up The Unspoken One on Monday night – indeed, it seems everyone seemed to miss the UNSPOKEN part of his name. A guy named Johnny does it. Hayden – aka Tiny Tony Romo – does it. Ryan does it but while dressed as a clown. Joke's on you: IT IS YOU WHO IS THE CLOWN TONIGHT, SIR!

All these guys are taking a shot at The All-Too-Spoken One so, by the transitive property of bro-dudes, they can assert that actually they're good guys – "I recognize that he sucked; therefore I am the opposite and do not suck." OK, but at worst, the wounds are still open and you're rubbing salt in them – because hey, remember, at one point, these women were in love with him and VERY close to getting engaged to him. At best, they've moved on and are bored relitigating a guy when they're now the stars of their story. And that's exactly how Rachel and Gabby are feeling, yawning and ready to move on. The only one who gets away with it is Alec, who wrote an entire Unspoken One tell-off song and got a children's quartet to sing it – hopefully a nuclear bomb finishing off and wiping out this well-beaten horse. 

Those who don't bring up the ex, honestly, don't fare much better. A guy named Mario dances around a bit – which is fine, but later he talks about himself in the third person so BANNED. We've got Kirk the college football coach who shows up giving everyone jacked-up pep talks like he's Coach Taylor from "Friday Night Lights" – but, like, on a bad Texas high school football team. Clear eyes, full heart, probably gonna lose. A fluffy-haired guy named Logan shows up with a chick in each hand – quite literally, two baby chickens who were apparently mic'd up because they were LOUD. The only thing louder: the four dogs I live with, who let me know they DID NOT approve of Logan's cheep intro – and it didn't look like Gabby did either, especially since one of the birds looked ready to use her hand as a bathroom. Number one rule of showbiz, Logan: Never work with kids or animals. 

Poultry going potty was an alarmingly difficult bar for many of the arrivals to clear, though. Quincy – who calls himself "Prince," which unless you've written "Purple Rain," BOLD – insists that he's so intentional, he hasn't had sex in a whole ... year and a half? I've got boxes of cereal older than this sure-clad commitment, my guy.

More impressive: James and his giant meatball sub sandwich, arriving at the mansion looking like if Subway sponsored a tightrope walker. You see, James is a meatball enthusiast, so much so his nickname is ... Meatball. I guess Prince was taken. His nickname certainly isn't Chivalrous, though, because despite having a Giannis-sized meatball hoagie, he offers NONE OF IT to Gabby and Rachel. YOU GONNA FLASH A GIANT SANDWICH AT THESE WOMEN AND NOT GIVE THEM A SLICE!? Verdict: I send this Meatball back to the kitchen. 

There's another Justin, this one without shoes – a not-so-bold intro so lame that even the juggler is making fun of him. There's English teacher John, who falls into the inevitable trap of mixing up Rachel and Gabby's names, then can barely speak a complete sentence afterward to the camera crew. An English teacher who's bad with words – someone check on those kids' test scores. Tyler, Colin, Matt? All pleasantly bland non-factors. The twins Joey and oh god not another Justin? Same. Roby, a friggin' MAGICIAN!? Have Gabby and Rachel not suffered enough at your hands, show?! Who's next: a guy in an improv comedy group? Oh god, worse – a self-proclaimed "crypto guy" named Termayne who can't even pull off a proper mic drop. Truly the Dogecoin of Gabby and Rachel's contestants. 

OK, I'm focusing on the negative; there were some promising arrivals in the bunch too. Aven impressed the ladies upon his entrance, promising both women that he won't screw up (while smartly not mentioning The Unspoken One). Also: He's handsome. One of the 71 Jordans brings soundproof headphones to talk to Gabby and Rachel individually – an odd approach but weirdly winning. Brandan wasn't off to a great start, bouncing around in a blue body stocking that made him look like the lovechild of a flying squirrel and a Smurf – but then he took the outfit off to reveal a VERY handsome gentleman. Well played. Even better played: Spencer, who kindly brings chairs for the two women to sit in and rest their feet. INSTANT WINNER – and Gabby and Rachel both seem to agree. 

In a stunning twist, shimmy master Tino shows up without a single shimmy – but does show up in forklift in order to make a "forking" joke that ABC subtitled to make sure the censors knew he wasn't saying the actual F-word. Rachel seems particularly into the construction worker – and she hasn't even seen his shoulders in shimmying action yet. A promising start – same goes for Erich, who has the two flirtily attempt to tie his tie. Bad results but good approach. And for the opposite of clothing, there's Jacob who arrives oiled up on a horse like he's Fabio's body double. He kind of botches the intro with a lame "happy ending" joke – but when you're ripped with pecs of steel lacquered in body oil, no one's remembering your words. 

And that's our crew – a new record for the amount of guys to begin a "Bachelorette" season, but unfortunately not exactly a new record for romance off the bat. There is one relationship that's popping on screen, though: Gabby and Rachel. Remember when Tayshia and Kaitlyn hosted that one season, and instead of the show having its typical gauzy formal vibe, with Harrison feeling like an awkward and nudgingly insistent chaperone, it felt like friends trying to date and being playful? That was this whole first episode, with Gabby and Rachel eagerly gabbing about the boys they found cute, laughing together through the clumsy moments, comparing notes in between interactions and having someone to naturally play off rather than feeling stiff and rehearsed. I really hope the show keeps up this great friendly, free-feeling dynamic. (Spoiler alert: The show is not going to keep up this great friendly, free-feeling dynamic.)

So now that we've met all the guys, let's throw some alcohol on the situation and actually MEET all the guys with the cocktail portion of the night. Surely now the romance and flirtation should start cooking, right? Wait – WHY IS THE MAGICIAN TALKING TO THEM FIRST!? WHO LET THIS HAPPEN!? 

Indeed, Roby pulls off his greatest trick yet and steals both women away right off the bat. Damn, call this guy "The Prestige" – and much like "The Prestige," the hopes of a happy relationship at the end are doomed as he does some more neat but dweeby magic tricks then asks the ladies a bunch of thoughtful but overly incisive questions. He may be able to pull off some tricks, but there's no magic forming between any of them. Meanwhile, Jacob is back with the fellas grumbling about guys arriving at the mansion with an attention-grabbing shtick. SIR, YOU ARRIVED GREASED UP SHIRTLESS ON A HORSE; KETTLE, MEET POT.

Sadly, that's the most excitement we get in the early cocktail party interactions. The twins chat with both Gabby and Rachel, revealing that their personality begins and ends with "we're twins." Also they look like they're not old enough to drink. I'd say telling them apart will kill me this season, but judging by Gabby's utterly checked-out expression during their alone time, I doubt they will last long enough for that to be a concern. 

It takes a while, but finally we start sparking some romance as Gabby flirtingly pokes at Ryan, who brings a white board to give lessons about Boston culture. Huh, a Boston guy who insists on loudly talking about Boston – how out of character! But Gabby's into it – as well as Jacob Half Price Books Fabio, who shows up with a whole list of his dream attributes in a partner to read ... not that she hears any of it through his pecs. Rachel, too, starts finding some success with Tiny Tony Romo/Hayden – who recovers from his earlier Unspoken One joke by giving her an adorable belated birthday card. Jordan #171 – who turns out to be an F1 driver – also scores some early points by bringing his whole dang car to the mansion to show off. 

A lot of different and intriguing guys, all with one similarity: No one wants to kiss these women for some reason. Yes, all the guys are playing it very safe on night one, forcing Gabby and Rachel to do their best Sixpence None The Richer impression and belt out, "KISS ME!" They ... do know this is a romantic dating show, yes? About love? Though, in fairness, having two Bachelorettes means they too are making decisions about who they're falling in love with and trying not to lead someone on. The emotional math was always a tricky calculation on this show; now it's dang near calculus, and considering Gabby and Rachel's last boyfriend enraged the entire world by leading people on, I can see why folks are maybe treading gingerly this time around.

But somebody finally figured out this is a dating show and locks lips – and its'a him, Mario! Yes, apparently third person isn't a dealbreaker for Gabby, because after chatting, he finally gives her the first kiss of her "Bachelorette" journey. My third-person gripes aside, though, she seems into it – and their conversation's fairly nice, so much so that Mario actually gets her first impression rose.

It's devastating news to Erich, who nicely builds on his tie lesson introduction with Gabby and Rachel, having cutely flirty convos with both. Gabby's chat even ends with a makeout session. He didn't get either rose, but he'll get a rose in the future I'd bet. Same goes for Chick Magnet Logan, who rebounds from his clumsy bird-based intro to have strong one-on-ones with both Rachel and Gabby, asking clever icebreakers (take notes, Roby the Magnificent!) about greatest fears and movie theater candy as well as busting out some smooth moves. Turns out that fluffy hair part is hiding some impressive game – though not enough to get a first impression rose. Probably because he smelled like bird droppings. 

Instead, while Gabby's rose goes to Mario, Rachel's carnation goes to Tino, who brings Rachel to some stairs so she can make some better memories. After all, the last time she was on the stairs, she was sobbing about The Unspoken One. It's a very romantic and flirty setting – not that Tino can apparently tell, because it takes him approximately the entire "Stranger Things" finale to ask an INCREDIBLY kiss-thirsty Rachel for a smooch. And even then, he awkwardly hedges it by muttering if she'd like one on the cheek instead, and Rachel's like "SHUT UP, MAKE OUT WITH ME DAMMIT!" Better to be polite, though. Plus, he's pulling all this off without a SINGLE SHIMMY – so we might have an early betting favorite in Vegas. 

While Tino has a future, unfortunately it's time to decide who does not with the season's first rose ceremony. But how's this going to go with two Bachelorettes? DAMN FINE QUESTION, according to Palmer, as apparently the producers didn't figure that out. Instead, they ask Rachel and Gabby, who come up with their own particular approach: Since they didn't get to chat with everyone, they nix the rose ceremony to give everyone a fair shot. For their first decision as essentially producers, it's an excellent choice – though they still do nix a few guys who they got private time with but didn't click romantically. Stunner of all stunners: It's Roby the Magnificent and the twins with only enough personality for one. Who could've guessed the magician would only last one night!? In another great move, though, Rachel and Gabby break up with them in private away from the rest of the bros, making it feel more personal and empathetic. 

How about that: One show down, and their joint season's already showcased more personality and sincere heart than the entirety of the last run – and maybe even beyond. The magician may be gone, but Gabby and Rachel are pulling off quite the trick of their own: They might be better at running this show than the actual producers! And surely it'll all be smooth sailing from here!

(*remembers that there are currently two women dating the same 30 men, with everyone having to decide who they're TRULY interested in at some point*) (*then remembers that this is "The Bachelor," aka "Emotional Devastation: The TV Show" with a success rate on par with the Detroit Lions win-loss record*) (*lastly remembers that seemingly no one, the professionals nor the stars, has any plan for how this is going to go moving forward*)

Oh man, I'm going to be wishing for more power outages as this goes along, aren't I?

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.