Jason Mesnick's ''journey'' toward true love begins with 25 bachelorettes who have a lot to offer, including terrible poetry, weird theories involving pork, and charming stalker-like tendencies

By Kristen Baldwin
Updated August 04, 2020 at 02:30 PM EDT
Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC

Over the past 12 seasons, The Bachelor has tried a lot of gimmicks to keep fans interested. There was The Bachelor: Former Fat Guy, The Bachelor: An Officer and a Ken Doll, The Bachelor: Who Says Fisherman Isn’t a Real Job?, The Bachelor: Quasi-Famous Brother of Semi-Famous Dude, and of course last season’s The Bachelor: Chicks Dig My Accent. But you know what all of those Bachelors were missing? An adorable toddler sidekick! And that’s why The Bachelor: Tragic Single Dad Edition is, quite simply, the most dramatic Bachelor gimmick… ever. And there’s a lot of drama to cover, so let’s get started, shall we?

Our ”journey” begins with a quick refresher course on Jason Mesnick’s romantic history. The single dad from Seattle fell for a Greek temptress named DeAnna Pappas, and we all know what happened next: he went down on one knee, she let him stay on the ground for a full 20 seconds (yes, I counted) before brutally rebuffing him and choosing a floppy-haired snowboarder instead. (They skipped the part where DeAnna tossed said snowboarder faster than a bargain brand paper towel, but whatever.)

Cut to the Ready to Love Again Montage, featuring Jason hanging around in bicep-hugging t-shirts, spending quality time with his 3-year-old son Ty, reflecting in the rain on the failure of his 7-year relationship with Ty’s mom. Now, after a strict regimen of shirtless training (the first of many gratuitous shots of the Bachelor’s chiseled arms and torso; this show is, after all, an equal opportunity objectifier), Jason is in peak condition and ready for another emotional beating! So it’s off to Los Angeles, and naturally, Ty is along for the ride. Seriously, did you think Jason was going to leave him at home? No way — that kid is a babe magnet. I mean, look at how cute he is, smiling at the camera from the back seat of Daddy’s black SUV! Jason just ”can’t stand being away from him.” (The good news is, 20 years from now when Ty is in therapy, he won’t have to struggle to remember his childhood traumas — he can simply play them back on DVD.) Despite what happened the last time he turned his love life over to ABC, Jason is determinedly optimistic (or delusional, take your pick), about being the new Bachelor. ”I get a chance to meet 25 amazing women, and I know one of them is going to be my wife.”

Now it’s time to head over to the hotel, where the 25 women are burning off their nervous energy in a variety of telegenic ways, like jumping on the bed and jogging on a treadmill. As always happens in the unfair world of the meet-the-”ladies” montage, some bachelorettes get short shrift — Raquel brought 32 pairs of shoes. Next! — while others are lavished with camera time. One of the lucky ”ladies” is Shannon, the dental hygienist from Missouri. Since I always find it hard to remember the women’s names and generally end up calling them things like ”Talking Stick” and ”Boobsy Malone,” I appreciate the fact that Shannon provided us with her own nickname: Tooth Nazi. As she dutifully brushes and flosses for the camera, Tooth Nazi says Jason meets her approval because he has a nice smile: ”It says a lot about a person when they have good hygiene.” In my fantasy, Jason will offer her a rose, and she’ll pull back his lips to inspect his gums before accepting.

NEXT PAGE: What the hell is a ”vision board”?

Stacia from Utah is one of four single moms vying for the Bachelor’s hand, and she explains that she had ”given up on dating” until she saw Jason on the flickering light box in her living room and decided he just might be her single-parent soulmate. Then I think she plopped her 5-year-old son Triston down in front of the camera so he could declare her ”the coolest mommy in the world,” but I’m not 100 percent sure because I was overtaken by a wave of nausea and had to put my head between my knees.

I recovered in time to meet Nikki the pageant queen from Illinois, who was randomly shown polishing a coffee table while wearing her sash and tiara. But there’s more to her than just a desperate willingness to please the producers by doing something stupid for the cameras — she also wants a family, like, now. In fact, she even contemplated kidnapping her own niece — that’s how much she wants to be a mom. Meanwhile Renee, the jewelry designer from Los Angeles, has created a form of single-lady voodoo that involves making ”vision boards” — collages of words cut out from magazines that represent her hopes and dreams. (Imagine a ransom note from a kidnapper whose demands include ”fall in love,” ”diet,” and ”good intuition.”) Things take a sudden and disturbingly morbid turn with Stephanie from Alabama, whose husband died in a plane crash three-and-a-half years ago — or, as she explains to her heartbreakingly baffled four-year-old daughter Sophia, ”Daddy took a flight to heaven.” Typing that sentence made me so uncomfortable, I, like Stephanie, am ready to move on.

Finally, after the tantalizing promise of ”the most awkward moment in Bachelor history” (sorry, but nothing will ever top Jesse Palmer calling the wrong name during a rose ceremony), it’s time for Jason to meet the ”ladies.” The Party Limos start rolling up the drive, and the giggling and strapless dress adjusting and double hugging ensues. Lauren from New Jersey, sheathed in a slinky leopard print gown, pops out of the limo and tells Jason it’s her birthday — and then immediately demands that he guess her age. Ah, the classic lose-lose proposition. Jason tentatively guesses 26, and as Lauren just turned 27, he manages to escape the encounter without being kicked in the nuts. Sharon from New York slouches out of the limo and starts salsa dancing with the befuddled Bachelor, all the while refusing to stand up straight. Naomi (who informed us earlier that she ”handles bitches with a slap”) hits Jason smack in the face with a backhanded compliment: ”You look so much better in person.” Nicole from Canada tries sucking up, telling Jason she chose her citrus-colored mini-dress because orange is Ty’s favorite color, while Tooth Nazi shows the closest thing to an actual sense of humor by stepping out of the limo wearing grotesque false teeth.

Inside, the Biological Clock Bonanza is in full swing, with lots of squealing about how cute Jason is and how ”hot” it is that he’s a dad. The one-on-ones get off to a rough start when Tooth Nazi, completely obliterating the good first impression she made mere moments ago, announces to Jason that she’s been looking at his MySpace page, and to prove it, she rattles off a frightening amount of personal information about him and his family, including the name of his brother’s girlfriend. She feebly tries to salvage the conversation by uttering the five words every man dreams of hearing from his future wife — ”I’m totally not a stalker” — but from the look of nascent panic rising behind Jason’s eyes, it’s pretty clear the damage has been done.

NEXT PAGE: Bad poetry and Jillian’s ”hot dog theory

The Awkward Train continues chugging along at full speed as Dominique from Pennsylvania — whose voice could be the most annoying sound on the planet — spends her one-on-one time squeaking about her job selling ”toe implants,” while Slouchy Sharon informs Jason that she resigned her position as a high school Spanish teacher to come on the show: ”I don’t want to live my life with regrets.” Wow, the only way things could get worse is if someone forced Jason to listen to a clunkily constructed poem she composed especially for him.

Crap — Kari from Kansas, what’s that in your hand? Yep, it’s a poem called ”Is There Such A Thing as Love at First Sight?” and it ups the stalker ante with lines like ”Let’s hope that Kari, Jason, and Ty all agree/ It’s a clear connection for all three.” After enduring Kari’s painful recitation, Jason is dragged into the kitchen by Jillian to test her ”hot dog theory” about men — which has something to do with how a man’s choice of condiment reveals whether or not he’d be a good mate. (Jason’s preference for mustard, according to Jillian, makes him good husband material.) Sure, taking relationship advice from processed meats might seem insane, but is it any less random than choosing a wife based on a few weeks of highly contrived and choreographed ”fantasy dates”? Not really. Good luck, Jillian — may the pork be with you. (Yes, I hate myself for that pun.)

Oh, snap — here comes Harrison with the First Impression Rose. Time to turn the crazy up to 11, ”ladies”! Renee hangs herself with her own New Age rope, as we all knew she would, by attempting to explain her vision boards and the ”law of attraction” and how the ”universe is listening.” Raquel tries to give Jason a seductive salsa lesson (a fact that irks Slouchy Sharon, because, you know, salsa was her ”gig”), but my favorite part was when teacher/birthday girl Lauren got schooled during her one-on-one out on the patio. With the First Impression Rose still up for grabs, Lauren was completely psyched when Jason got up to go fetch something…until he came back carrying a busted-looking piece of creampuff ”cake” with a candle in it. Turns out making a guy feel stupid by quizzing him on the three branches of government (and then snidely declaring ”at least you knew that” when he gets the answer right) does not make a great first impression. (In fact, it was Nikki the beauty queen who scored the first bud, because she impressed Jason with her babysitting experience — and perhaps because he hadn’t seen the video of her polishing a coffee table while wearing a sash and a tiara.)

Seems that bait-and-switch was the theme of the night. At one point, Harrison strolled in with a ballot box and told the ”ladies” that they would get to vote on which bitch they’d like to see leave tonight. At first I was pissed when the woman who got the most votes, Megan from Pennsylvania, was not only allowed to stay, she also inexplicably got a rose for her troubles. But the more I think about it, introducing the ballot box and announcing the three top vote-getters (Jackie from Dallas, Erica from Connecticut, and Megan), was a truly brilliant act of cruelty. The Bachelor has always been a woman-on-woman crime, and having the women publicly blackball each other — and then packing them off to live in a rented mansion together — is sure to provide hours of non-stop catfight fun down the road. Bravo, Bachelor producers! (And Brava, Megan, for calling your fellow bachelorettes a-holes. Classy.)

NEXT: Ten women get the ax

Anyhow, we’ve finally arrived at the pagan reality TV ritual known as the ”rose ceremony.” Who will get a rose and who will ”lose their chance at love forever”? (Really, ABC? Forever? Are you going to have a sniper shoot them in the neck as they exit the mansion to ensure that they won’t live to love another day?) The all-important first rose goes to — WTF — Lauren! And that wasn’t the only surprise. Tooth Nazi and Kari ”I like sushi and cookie dough ice cream” from Kansas also got roses; I guess Jason is looking for romance with a side of crazy. And then there were some not-so-surprising eliminations: Treasure — who seemed remarkably normal — will never get the chance to explain to America how she got that name, Jackie was left standing at the altar at her imaginary beach wedding, and Renee’s vision board technology failed her miserably.

Wow, that was intensely embarrassing for all involved. And I loved it! How about you? Wait, before you answer that, be sure to click on the extended scene below to relive Jackie’s freakishly candid admissions about the lengths she’s gone to in the past to land a guy — and then keep watching to see her imagine what her (never-gonna-happen) first kiss with Jason will be like (hint: there will be tongue). And if that’s not enough Bonus Bachelor for you, check out host Chris Harrison’s exclusive blog over on EW’s Popwatch blog, featuring hilarious behind-the-scenes tidbits.

Okay, Bachelor lovers, time to start posting. What did you think of the bogus ballot-box twist? Don’t you wish Renee and her vision boards could have stuck around a little longer? And why in God’s name did two women choose to wear leopard print dresses?

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The Bachelor

Chris Harrison hosts the romance reality competition series in which a gaggle of women vie for the Bachelor’s heart — and a wedding proposal. Will you accept this rose?

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