4. Season 5 (Jesse Palmer)

The first episode of any new Bachelor season is always the most stressful for me. Twenty-five women attempting to make memorable first impressions is a recipe for great TV — and for me to pick a pillow up off my couch, bury my face in it, and scream. Repeatedly. I’m surprised I’m not hoarse this morning.

Even though I’m sure he’ll hurt me eventually, I am, for now, a big fan of our FIRST INTERNATIONAL BACHELOR, 27-year-old London banker Matt Grant. And not just for his 6’5″ frame (a vision, courtesy of those years rowing and playing rugby, cricket, and football at university). Also for the way he humped that phone booth. The man said he an interesting sense of humor, I hope we get to see more of it.

Since I actually believed Matt when he said he’s looking for love, and that he’d be “gutted” if his 71-year-old father didn’t know his daughter-in-law and grandchildren, I wish producers wouldn’t have set him up with “the craziest girls yet.” There really was no need for Stacey (pictured, with Matt) — what I imagine a Muppet would look and sound like it were to come to life — to be there. Had he kept her, I would have had to turn this Mini TV Watch over to someone else. She’s an insult to anyone who likes bad TV, because you couldn’t even pretend that she was real. Rubbing his leg? Giving him a pair of her panties? Telling him that he’s boring her by talking about where he’d take a woman in London? Saying “I have my bachelor’s in nutrition. And nothing and no one will everstop me. I want to find a pharmaceutical that will cure something thatno one has thought of”? Passing out in a bed before the rose ceremony? As Miss Earth New York Marshana put it, “I don’t want to say anything negative but…. I’m sorry. She is loud, belligerent, tasteless, tacky, classless. She’s riding my nerves like a pony.” The only worthwhile thing that came out of having Stacey step a stiletto into that mansion was that we saw Erin H. is a Mean Girl: “If you’re so into nutrition, why don’t you get rid of those implants and lose a few pounds?… Stacey has nothing to offer him. Except for a bad boob job, a sequin blue dress, and her trashy tramp stamp.” We’ll have to remember that Matt didn’t see that when he starts to really like her.

After the jump, the could-be-crazies we kinda liked, and the seemingly-sane ladies we’re rooting for.

Against my better judgment, I found myself liking a couple of the could-be-crazies. Tin Cup, a.k.a. Carri, thechurch marketer from Oklahoma City who ripped into a tin can with herteeth like Darryl Hannah does that lobster in Splash, seems harmless enough to keep around for the group dates. Ditto Chelsea, the arm wrestling champ from Santa Barbara. (I hope Matt doesn’t mind me saying this, but his clever confessional, “I only arm-wrestle women. Uh, pregnant women, normally,” sounded like something Hugh Grant would’ve said.) I liked Jewel’s Ashlee’s song, but was sad she didn’t rhyme more with, well, you know: “I want you/ No one else could ever want you more/ I’m crazy for you/ Yeah, baby, I’m so crazy I’ll compete with 24 other girls.” Normally, I’m anti-instruments on first dates, but I thought redheaded Michelle P. played the heck out of her clarinet after she got the reed wet and vibrating. (I wonder how many times they made her put her clarinet together, so the camera could catch how truly phallic it was.) And then we come to Shayne, the actress from Malibu, who only falls into the could-be-crazy category because she thought she needed to tell us that it’s really no big deal that her dad is Lorenzo Lamas.

As for the seemingly-sane ladies, I was happy to see Amanda R. get the first-impression rose. Partly because I wanted to see whether she could control her chronic hiccups during a one-on-one with Matt (and damn it, she could), but mostly because it confirmed that Matt is looking for a real mate: She’s 27, approachable, a former four-year resident of the UK, and, apparently, the woman he would’ve sketched had he been asked to draw his ideal specimen. Meanwhile, Noelle, the 26-year-old photographer, came off as a genuine sweetheart. Matt and I both appreciated the composed confidence of personal trainer Kristine, whose face reminded me of LeAnn Rimes. I wrote, “Oh, she’s 32” as a strike against her in my notes. Then remembered that I’m 32. (Waa-waaaaa). Though Matt sent some of the older women packing (30-year-old attorney Rebecca busting a move was somehow less shocking after watching Matt’s dance montage, no?) he kept 33-year-old hot dog vendor Erin S., with whom he shared some laughs. I’m curious to see how he responds when her age is revealed. And also when he learns that 22-year-old Robin didn’t go to any rugby matches when she lived in London for a bit. (Come on, that little nod she gave him when he asked wasn’t at all believable.)

Which bachelorette is your early favorite? And, more importantly, what would have been your strategy on that first night? Knowing myself, if I’d just been introduced to a British rower, I’d have asked him how plausible the end of Oxford Blues was. Which way is the door, Chris Harrison?

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