If you think about it for one minute, the premise of The Bachelorette is pretty scary. Dozens of 20-something straight men descend on one resort (in this case, the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico) in order to compete with one another for the affections of one woman (in this case, a 30-year-old marketing manager named Katie). Should that many straight guys be allowed to gather in the same room, with unlimited access to hard alcohol, for a singular purpose? I think not. But here we are, at the premiere of the 17th season of The Bachelorette, populated by the ghost of Chris Harrison and also 30 contestants who frightened me to varying degrees.
As regular watchers of the Bachelor franchise know, the premiere episode always features the contestants stepping out of black limos and introducing themselves in creative ways to the lead. Last night’s episode was no different: All 30 men got a chance to introduce themselves, and some were more menacing than others. There was one guy who presented Katie with a watch, which he claimed was a 200-year-old family heirloom. Katie was understandably nervous to accept such a gift from a complete stranger, but then the guy was like, just kidding, I bought this at the airport on my way here. Okay.
Then there were a lot of guys who tried to make sex jokes, considering the fact that Katie is vocally sex-positive. (On the last season of The Bachelor, she introduced herself by showing off her baby-pink vibrator.) Were the guys’ attempts to match Katie’s energy scary? In most cases, yes. Cody, a 27-year-old “zipper sales manager” from San Diego, brought along a blow-up doll to show his potential new girlfriend. He said the doll’s name was Sandy, but he didn’t say why. Another contestant brought a “magic lamp” and said he hoped he and Katie could “rub one out” together. There was also a man named Jeff who invited Katie to take a tour of his RV, which he declined to spruce up for the occasion. (It was covered in dirty laundry and other straight male detritus.) His job: “surgical-skin salesman.”
And then there was Conor B., a math teacher and fledgling musician from — where else — Nashville, Tennessee. During his introductory clip package, Mr. B played a song he had written for Katie on the — what else — ukulele, which included the following lyrics: “A song for someone I’ve never met / That I can’t wait to meet.”
I thought that was about all we were getting from Conor B., so I rated him medium-scary because of the seriousness with which he performed his original tune. Then he got out of the limo dressed, inexplicably, in a cat costume. “It’s mice to meet you,” he said, licking his “paws.” Ahh!
Lucky for Conor B., Katie is a self-described cat person, so she loved the costume. She even made out with him later and got his cat makeup all over her face. This goes to show that one woman’s medium-scary is another woman’s for sure. I have to respect it.
Who scared me the most? That would be Gabriel, a 35-year-old “entrepreneur” from Charlotte, North Carolina. When he first graced the screen, I thought, Ooh, he kind of looks like Hayden Christensen. And then he told Katie that he doesn’t think people are hugging enough these days, so he wanted to show her one of his “favorite hugs.” RING THE ALARM.
Gabriel’s “favorite hug” involved him embracing Katie for a really long time while deep breathing. At one point he almost cracked her back. When the exercise mercifully came to an end, Katie was like, “That’s nice!” And Gabriel replied that he hoped his terrifying embrace would “calm things down” for Katie during an otherwise stressful evening.
At least on the topic of Gabriel and his favorite hug, Katie and I agree. She sent him right home during the rose ceremony, along with the surgical skin salesman and a Criss Angel lookalike who didn’t speak throughout the entire episode. If the trailer for the rest of the season is any indication, there are many horrors ahead: mud wrestling, male body waxing, the return of a previous Bachelorette contestant who gets Katie’s attention by holding a boombox over his head. Twenty three suitors remain!